1984 South African Grand Prix

National Panasonic Grand Prix of South Africa

Saturday, April 7, 1984
Hot, dry and sunny
Fastest Lap:
Tambay, 1m08.877
South Africa
1984 season:

From the Motor Sport Archive

Kyalami, Johannesburg, March 7th

Early season Formula One form can frequently be misleading, but be that as it may the McLaren International team caught all its rivals off guard in the first two events of the 1984 Championship calendar. Two weeks after Alain Prost opened the year with victory in the Brazilian grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro, the Porsche-built, TAG-engined McLaren MP4/2s enacted an even more convincing demonstration, but this time it was Niki Lauda who returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since the 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. There were a couple of question marks hanging over the McLaren-Porsche performance in Rio, not least their ability to shape up in a straight fight against Formula One’s established pacemaker, the Brabham-BMW team. In the Brazilian race reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet had a troubled time in qualifying at the wheel of his revised BT53, an evolutionary design developed from the very successful 1982 BT52, but at Kyalami the Brazilian ace was bang on his customary scintillating form and qualified convincingly for pole position.

Piquet demolished Patrick Tambay’s previous pole position time with a stupendous lap in 1 min 04.871 sec, beating the Frenchman’s best time on his last outing at the wheel of a Ferrari 126C3 last October by almost two seconds. If this had reflected technical progress over a complete season it would have been quite remarkable, but the fact that the Formula One fraternity’s last appearance at Kyalami was for the final race of the 1983 season and they were now back at the South African circuit barely six months later, was astounding. Piquet, of course, wasn’t in the least surprised. He made the very valid point that most people seemed to have unrealistically high expectations from the team in Rio: after all, in 1983 they’d won the race with an untested BT52 on its race début, and bearing in mind the pace of Formula One technical development it was a little much to anticipate a repeat performance with the BT53. Also, one should remember that the latest Brabham hadn’t made an appearance at the week-long Rio test session in January, so it was to be expected that it would take a short time to get in “the groove”.