Grand Prix Classic




Round 3 - United States West Grand Prix
Long Beach, 2-4 April, 1982

As the teams headed out to California for the first of three American Grand Prix on the 1982 calendar, the political struggle with the sport was as bitter as ever. Brabham and Williams were still waiting for a hearing against their disqualifications in Brazil, and decided not to use the controversial water-cooled brakes. Ken Tyrrell had launched a counter-protest against the legitimacy of turbocharged engines full stop, claiming they had been effectively outlawed along with turbines in 1971, though this drew little support. Other FOCA teams either realised this was a silly angle to take (Renault had, after all, been running them since 1977), or were hoping to follow Brabham's lead and secure turbo engines for themselves. On the FISA side, Ferrari arrived with a bizarre double wing in what was little more than tit for tat - the wings were laid side-by-side rather than in tandem, a loophole in the regulations which gave little aerodynamic gain. Ferrari were, in fact, playing politics, hoping to get appealed against to show the absurdity of following the letter, rather than the spirit, of the regulations.

It was ironic the teams would arrive at Long Beach at loggerheads, given that an average lap speed of around 85mph would negate the turbo teams' power advantage. The circuit's layout had been extensively revised since the 1981 race thanks to the efforts of Chris Pook's Long Beach Grand Prix committee, with a new section of tight corners leading up to Ocean Boulevard, a lengthened straight at Linden Avenue and a new chicane just before the main straight. Indeed, the temporary street circuit's punishing pair of hairpins and sequence of 90° corners, the lag of the turbo engines would most likely be a handicap, favouring the sharp throttle response of the atmospheric engines.


Entry Notes

As if there wasn't enough drama, Carlos Reutemann had unexpectedly announced his immediate retirement five days after the Brazilian Grand Prix. After his disappointment at losing the 1981 title Lole had considered quitting over the off-season, but the departure of bitter rival Alan Jones from Williams had helped convince him to continue. However, he clashed repeatedly with Frank Williams and Patrick Head over the start of the reason, and decided to quit the sport altogether.

Williams attempted to persuade Alan Jones to return on a one-off basis with a view to permanently returning, but Jones opted to stay on his farm in Australia. Instead, Williams hired Mario Andretti, who had a gap in his IndyCar schedule and agreed to drive the car for the race, before the team hired a permanent replacement from San Marino onwards.

Elsewhere, Ligier had been working at upgrading the ageing JS17 chassis into the JS17B, stung by their abysmal showing in Brazil, while Brabham decided that the Cosworth BT49D would be a better choice than the unrefined BT50-BMW on the street circuit.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

The Michelin runners found that their race tyres actually worked better than the qualifiers, which were too soft for the rough surface and went off within a couple of laps. However, with only two sets of race tyres allotted to each driver, they faced a choice between only having one real go at setting a practice time or only having used tyres for the race itself.

The practice sessions were full of the usual scrapes; Cheever smashed his Talbot Ligier into a wall at one point (but recovered to set a respectable 13th best time) and Patrese wrote off his race car after a freak accident destroyed the suspension mounts, forcing him into the BT49C T-car and only 18th on the grid. Niki Lauda seemed set for pole in only his third race since coming back, but was pipped by the Alfa Romeo of Andrea de Cesaris, the Italian looking atypically calm and precise on the way to taking his first pole position, despite breaking a wheel against the concrete blocks on Saturday.

Behind them came Arnoux and Prost in the Renaults, suggesting the turbos might not be quite as unsuitable as the opposition had hoped. On row 3 came Giacomelli in the second Alfa, proving that de Cesaris' time was no fluke, just ahead of Piquet, who had clouted a wall on Saturday. Villeneuve would start from seventh ahead of Rosberg (fastest on Friday, but one of the few not to improve on Saturday after breaking the Williams' clutch out on the circuit), with Pironi in 9th. Completing the top 10 was Jean-Pierre Jarier in the Osella, a remarkable performance from the French veteran. Andretti would start from 14th, having not sat in the car before the first practice session, while Watson was 11th in the second McLaren.

Both Tolemans once again failed to make the grid (Warwick actually being eliminated on Friday morning as only the 31st fastest, plagued by a misfire), and were joined in non-qualification by Serra, Baldi and Paletti. There was better news for Roberto Guerrero, though, who placed 19th on the grid for his first start.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

After his solid attempt to write off a McLaren at every circuit in the 1981 calendar, there was much speculation as to how Andrea de Cesaris would react to starting from pole. Consensus was that he would either drop down the order rapidly or put the Alfa in the wall at the earliest opportunity. Instead, he made an excellent start, and it was the experienced Lauda who got jumped, Arnoux slipping between them in his Renault. Giacomelli moved past Prost to run 4th, with Villeneuve, Pironi, Rosberg, Alboreto, Watson, Andretti, Cheever, Jarier and Laffite following back. Amazingly everyone made it through Queen's Hairpin though further back there was a minor farcical incident - de Angelis had apparently been ordered to the wrong grid slot. As he tried to get into place team-mate Mansell slipped into reverse to give him space, only for the lights to go out anyway, and most of the backmarkers to shoot past him.

Up at the sharp end, Villeneuve went past Prost with ease before the end of the first lap, while Andretti had ran wide, letting Cheever and Jarier through. Winkelhock had already hit the wall, and three laps later team-mate Salazar repeated the trick, bringing a dire weekend to an end of the German ATS outfit. Meanwhile, de Cesaris was pulling out a bit of a lead over Arnoux, whose unwieldy Renault was keeping Lauda bottled up. The McLaren was clearly the faster car, weaving all over the back of the turbo Renault, but Arnoux was able to use his better straight-line speed and sheer bloodymindedness to be in exactly the wrong place whenever Lauda sized up a passing move. Then Giacomelli in the second Alfa intervened. Like his younger team-mate, the Panda found his 182 was running beautifully, and easily pulled away from Villeneuve and up to the back of the battle for second. Almost as soon as he arrived on the scene Lauda was sent running wide after missing a gear, and Giacomelli sliced past him beautifully. Less impressively he left his braking for the next corner far too late and simply ploughed into the back of the Renault, pushing Arnoux into the wall and ending both their races on the spot.

It was something of a double disaster for Alfa Romeo, as not only had Giacomelli's impetuosity removed one of their cars from the race, it also freed Lauda. Watson proved the potency of the McLaren chassis by setting fastest lap and was now running a strong third after the Giacomelli/Arnoux collision. By lap 11, de Cesaris' lead was down to 2.8s, with Lauda visibly closing. Within a couple of tours he was in the Italian's mirrors. For a couple of laps de Cesaris resisted well, but when coming up to lap Raul Boesel's March he panicked, and tried to force his way past at the last chicane. The surprised Brazilian then proceeded to get in the way through the Toyota corner, while Lauda had no such problems and tucked himself inside the pair, got on the power faster and took the inside line down to Cook's Corner, securing the lead. Gamely de Cesaris fought back down shoreline drive, but Lauda kept the door shut and began to move away.

By now Prost (troubled by a brake problem) and Pironi had exited after running wide and clipping the concrete running around the circuit, with Andretti soon to join them from 9th, while 4th-placed Villeneuve found himself under severe pressure from Rosberg. The Finn tucked past Villeneuve (whose double wing was wobbling obscenely over the bumps) in the twisty complex, only for the Ferrari to eat up the gap down Ocean Boulevard and retake the place at the first corner. Unbowed, Rosberg tried again the next lap, and this time got a good enough exit from Toyota to negate the turbo power advantage. Villeneuve wasn't giving up easily and tried to hang on around the outside of the first bend, only to run onto the marbles off-line and skate on sideways into the long run-off area. Barely missing a beat Villeneuve slammed on the power and regained the track without even losing fifth place to Piquet, to wild cheers from the 82,000 strong crowd.

Rosberg then chased down Watson at a rate of knots, catching the McLaren within five laps of passing Villeneuve, tucking in the McLaren's slipstream and taking the inside line at Cook in a textbook manoeuvre. Lauda had extended a comfortable lead over de Cesaris and had now settled into a respectable rhythm, trying to make his Michelins last. His biggest worry were the wayward tow trucks. Firstly, after Piquet ended a fairly anonymous race by slamming his Brabham into the wall, Lauda came flying around the corner to find a truck parked on the racing line trying to remove the Brazilian's stricken car. A few laps later, he (and de Angelis) nearly ran into the back of another, merrily towing Roberto Guerrero's Ensign out of harm's way. While the absurdity of it was amusing, the truth was that the blind corners (with the yellow-flag waving marshals on top, both above the drivers' usual line of sight and often lost in the colour of the crowd) and tow trucks made a dangerous combination, and if a driver had hit one, the consequences would most likely have been fatal. Indeed, when Jacques Laffite span out of 10th there was general relief when the Frenchman pushed his own car through a gap in the concrete rather than waiting for the truck to arrive.

Watson had now dropped to 6th, and having been passed by Villeneuve and the pressing Alboreto in a single lap decided it was time for a tyre stop, which dropped him to 8th, a lap behind Lauda. This moved Eddie Cheever into the points, the American putting in a fine drive after a difficult start to the season for Talbot Ligier. Up front it was stalemate until lap 34, when de Cesaris, in a safe second, got off-line and wiped the right-hand side of his Alfa out on the wall. This took any remaining pressure off Lauda, who now had a sizeable lead over Rosberg, and had lapped everyone up to Cheever. The experienced Austrian then simply kept circulating at a respectable speed. When Rosberg decided to have a go in the last quarter of the race, he found that whenever he gained a second or so Lauda would simply take it back the following lap. Smart enough to realise he was being toyed with, Rosberg concentrated on maintaining his Goodyears and finishing second.

Next up Villeneuve was being tormented by the hugely impressive Alboreto, but when the Italian took a knock after a typically committed Villeneuve defensive move he too backed off to ensure a finish, especially after second gear went missing. The main mover now was Patrese. The Brabham driver had qualified badly, and then lost his left-front wing after overshooting at Cook and needing to undertake a three-point turn. The lost wing didn't seem to slow him down, though - if anything he seemed to be running faster, skating past de Angelis at Pine Avenue to take 6th place. He was up to fifth when Cheever's race came to an unfortunate end with a solid gearbox, and hunted down and passed the wounded Alboreto two laps from the end, eventually only finishing slightly behind Villeneuve.

But the real drive of the day was undoubtedly Lauda, who had given a perfect demonstration of how to win a Grand Prix with the bare minimum of fuss. In only his third race since returning to Grand Prix racing, Lauda had thrown down the gauntlet. Rosberg was happy enough with second, hoping to keep the points this time, Villeneuve - as last turbo standing - was delighted with third on a circuit which was DFV territory, Patrese had opened his account for Brabham with some forceful moves late on, Alboreto had scored in the old Tyrrell again, and de Angelis had given the Lotus 91 its second top-six finish in as many starts.

However, the weekend finished on a sour note. Predictably, Ken Tyrrell protested the Ferrari's twin-wing, and as expected by all the stewards disqualified Villeneuve. Ferrari didn't appeal, their gamesmanship having achieved the desired result of drawing one of the FOCA teams into objecting against a similar grey area as the water-cooled brakes, but it seemed a poor reward for Villeneuve after spending two hours dragging his car around in the Californian heat. With Brabham and Williams due to appeal against the Brazilian disqualifications in a few days, it looked like Formula 1's political problems were set to overshadow the racing for some time to come.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Niki Lauda McLaren-Cosworth
75
1h 58m 25.318s
2
2
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
75
+ 14.660s
8
DQ
Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari
75
+ 1m 04.288s/Illegal Rear Wing
7
3
Riccardo Patrese Brabham-Cosworth
75
+ 1m 19.143s
18
4
Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Cosworth
75
+ 1m 20.932s
12
5
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Cosworth
74
+ 1 lap
16
6
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
74
+ 1 lap
11
7
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth
73
+ 2 laps
17
8
Jochen Mass March-Cosworth
73
+ 2 laps
21
9
Raul Boesel March-Cosworth
70
+ 5 laps
23
10
Slim Borgudd Tyrrell-Cosworth
68
+ 7 laps
24
R
Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra
59
Gearbox
13
R
Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo
33
Accident
1
R
Brian Henton Arrows-Cosworth
32
Accident
20
R
Roberto Guerrero Ensign-Cosworth
27
Accident
19
R
Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra
26
Spin
15
R
Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Cosworth
26
Gearbox
10
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-Cosworth
26
Accident
6
R
Derek Daly Theodore-Cosworth
25
Accident
22
R
Mario Andretti Williams-Cosworth
23
Accident damage
14
R
Alain Prost Renault
10
Accident
4
R
Didier Pironi Ferrari
6
Accident
9
R
Rene Arnoux Renault
5
Collision/Giacomelli
3
R
Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo
5
Collision/Arnoux
5
R
Eliseo Salazar ATS-Cosworth
3
Accident
26
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Cosworth
1
Accident/Borgudd
25

Fastest Lap: Niki Lauda (McLaren), 1:30.831s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
18
2
Niki Lauda
12
3=
John Watson
8
3=
Keke Rosberg
8
5=
Carlos Reutemann
6
5=
Michele Alboreto
6
7=
Rene Arnoux
4
7=
Nigel Mansell
4
7=
Riccardo Patrese
4
10=
Manfred Winkelhock
2
10=
Elio de Angelis
2
11
Didier Pironi
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
Renault
22
2
McLaren
20
3
Williams
14
4
Lotus
7
5
Tyrrell
6
6
Brabham
4
7
ATS
2
8
Ferrari
1