Grand Prix Classic




Round 5 - Belgian Grand Prix
Zolder, 7-9 May, 1982

After the majority of the FOCA teams boycotted the San Marino Grand Prix the latest political struggle seemed set to escalate. However, instead it seemed to peter out. While the FIA didn't reverse the Brazilian Grand Prix disqualifications, other considerations were coming to bear and preventing the boycott from continuing to the Belgian Grand Prix.

The San Marino Grand Prix had been a success without them, producing an enthralling race with a high attendance and the usual world-wide TV coverage. Sponsors, drivers and teams had seen competitors get exposure and points on the board - Lauda had been present in the paddock at Imola voicing his discontent at not being involved in the race. The likes of Marlboro and Parmalat were not happy that cars they were funding had been sitting in factories in England during all this, while the bigger Cosworth teams such as Williams and Lotus were trying to find manufacturer-based turbo engines themselves, while Ligier and McLaren were well down the line and Brabham had one already. The other factor was that the Renault walkover feared after the South African Grand Prix hadn't materialised, with double retirements in the last two races. Zolder, like Imola, was a "mid-speed" circuit - while it had straights where turbo power would help, the more nimble Cosworths would be better through the slower corners. The circuit had a rebuilt (at a cost of $1.2m) and expanded pit lane after previous complaints had been brought home by the death of an Osella mechanic at the 1981 meeting.


Entry Notes

With all 17 teams back on the entry list, there were some changes. After being linked with numerous drivers, including Nigel Mansell, Derek Warwick, Jean-Pierre Jarier, their test driver Jonathan Palmer and, more tenuously, Emerson Fittipaldi, Williams would finally settle on hiring Derek Daly to take over Reutemann's seat. Teddy Yip wasn't going to stand in his driver's way, and hired ex-Shadow/ATS/Ensign driver Jan Lammers in his place. Williams also introduced the new much-tested FW08 car. Alfa Romeo also arrived with the narrow body 182B development of their latest car.

The RAM March team also expanded to run a third car for well-sponsored Spaniard Emilio de Villota, who had driven for them in the British Aurora AFX Formula 1 series, and had also driven various private entries since 1976, albeit with no real success. The third car was allotted the number 19 and ran under the banner of LBT March in deference to his sponsors. Elsewhere Surer would finally make his competitive for Arrows, while Brabham were once again running their BMW turbo-powered BT50 cars and ATS had switched from Avon to Michelin tyres, unhappy with Bernie Ecclestone's interference at the previous race.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Shoving the FISA/FOCA bitching to one side in terms of paddock gossip was the fallout between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi after the team orders confusion at the end of the San Marino Grand Prix. The Canadian had said he would never speak to his team-mate again, a promise he was keeping thus far. While most insiders were keeping their own counsel, including the steadfastly neutral Ferrari, public opinion fell heavily on the side of the charismatic daredevil Villeneuve, as opposed to Pironi, who was seen as cool, aloof, calculating and somewhat ruthless (not entirely inaccurately).

Eight minutes from the end of the qualifying session, Villeneuve was flying round the track when he came upon the slow-moving Jochen Mass going through Butte. The experienced German moved over to the right outside line to let the Ferrari pass, but Villeneuve had already moved over to the right to pass. Mass attempted to switch back towards the middle of the track while Villeneuve moved further to the right, but for once his reflexes let him down and the Ferrari's front left tyre mounted the right rear wheel of the March at around 160mph, sending Villeneuve somersaulting through the air. It struck the sandy ground nose-first and was hurled into a cartwheel, breaking off the front of the car and throwing the unfortunate Villeneuve out and across to the other side of Terlamenbocht, his helmet falling loose in the process. Mass, Mansell and Warwick were all on the scene, pulled up and headed over to where Villenerve lay against the catch-fencing, with a broken neck. Villeneuve was airlifted out to a nearby hospital, where after lengthy consultations with surgeons around the world, artificial life support was turned off and the Canadian was declared dead at 9:12pm. He was 32 years old.

There was some postulation that he had been purposefully trying to beat Pironi's time (at the time of the crash, the Ferraris were 5th and 6th, the Frenchman a tenth quicker). However Mauro Forghieri, who had no reason to lie about his great friend and was more likely to know than most, said he was on his in-lap at the time and that Villeneuve was just doing what he liked best - driving a Ferrari as fast as possible. Everyone had the sense to realise that neither Pironi nor Mass were to blame for the accident, which was largely a result of Villeneuve's usual ten-tenths driving and a hefty slice of bad luck.

Friday morning had seen two cars eliminated via the prequalifying system because of the 32 car entry, with Paletti and de Villota unsurprisingly the pair who would go no further. Further reductions came when Ferrari withdrew Pironi as a sign of respect. They had provisionally qualified 6th and 8th, but to avoid leaving two gaps in the grid (and giving an advantage to the man starting 10th) all the remaining teams agreed to simply move up and let the 27th and 28th fastest men, Mass and Baldi, start the race.

The Renaults had once more dominated the practice sessions and locked out the front row of the grid for the second successive race, Prost taking the pole from Arnoux by under three hundredths of a second. However, the DFV runners progressively closed the gap behind them, with Rosberg only a tenth behind Arnoux in the new Williams, followed by Lauda. The ever-improving Alboreto was 5th, ahead of de Cesaris in the Alfa. Mansell was well-up in the Lotus in 7th, ahead of both Brabhams (Piquet and Patrese struggling with the power delivery of the BMW engines), with Watson rounding out the top 10.

Further back, Winkelhock gave a good performance with 12th, just ahead of Williams new boy Daly; both Tolemans made the cut again, this time on genuine merit, and Surer got in on his Arrows debut. Mass and Baldi were both promoted to the grid by the Ferrari withdrawal, leaving Guerrero and Lammers as the only non-qualifiers. Both were unlucky, as their teams had no spare car available and they both had to miss chunks of the timed sessions due to problems.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

There was little melancholy come Sunday. There was a Grand Prix to run, and Villeneuve's death, while very sad, had been from a simple racing accident. It happened, and the other 26 drivers still had a job to do. The start was simple enough up front, Arnoux leaping into the lead with Rosberg getting off better than Prost and taking 2nd, followed by Lauda, de Cesaris, Alboreto, Patrese, Piquet, Watson, de Angelis, Daly, Winkelhock and Jarier. Behind them, though, there was chaos. Mansell's clutch had slipped on the formation lap and he had used his brakes to stay in place for the start. However, he then stalled when the lights went out. Most avoided him easily, but Giacomelli, carrying some speed from 15th, left his move late and shoved Laffite into Salazar. The Ligier was essentially unharmed, but the ATS ran onto the grass and slid back across the circuit taking Giacomelli out. Mansell and the similarly-stalled Warwick were given pushes by the marshals and then got going.

The ATS team finished business before the end of the lap, Winkelhock having broken his clutch. Mansell caught the tail of the field rapidly and was already past the March cars and sizing up Baldi when his clutch fell apart altogether. Back at the front, Arnoux and Rosberg were pulling out a lead, with Prost, Lauda and de Cesaris also moving clear of Alboreto and the rest.

The Renaults' race would soon fall apart. Lauda slipped past Prost with a precision out-braking move, and when de Cesaris followed by it was clear something wasn't right there. Then, a lap later, Rosberg sliced inside at Canalbocht, with the Frenchman finishing the lap coasting into the pits with his arm raised. One bank of his Renault V6 wasn't firing, and after a long repair stop he continued for a couple of laps before the problem was pronounced to be terminal. He would soon drop behind Patrese and Watson too, pitting from 6th on lap 10 with a queue of cars waiting to pass. The Renault team fitted fresh tyres and sent him on his way. Both de Angelis and Jarier would call in for fresh rubber soon afterwards.

Something of a stalemate set in up front, with Lauda slowly closing on Rosberg and de Cesaris keeping pace with the McLaren nicely. Patrese and Watson were running well, with Alboreto holding well in 6th. The most interesting scrap on the circuit was between Piquet and the Ligiers, but even this broke up when Piquet decided he needed fresh rubber and dived into the pits. Up front, Lauda came down the main straight to find Chico Serra's Fittipaldi span in front of him, and had to slam on the brakes, allowing the following de Cesaris nipped past into second. Further back Alboreto's Cosworth began smoking, expiring on lap 30 to end his run of finishes; Henton's followed suit a lap later to complete a miserable day for Ken Tyrrell.

Soon de Cesaris had disappeared as well, the Alfa's gear linkage coming apart. However, his tyres worn after avoid Serra, Lauda was in no condition to challenge Rosberg, who now led by around fifteen seconds. Watson was having more luck, however, with his tyres in fine condition, and on lap 34 tucked inside Patrese at the first corner to take third. He caught Lauda at a rate of knots, and realising Watson was running faster the Austrian allowed him to move into second.

Further back, not much was happening, the field becoming more spread out. Everyone was preserving their tyres and holding on, with the exception of Watson and the battling Cheever and Daly. Patrese slid off into the tyre-wall on lap 53 and out of 4th, with the anonymous Piquet spinning yards later in sympathy. Prost hadn't ran much better on his second set of tyres, nor a third set after a second stop, and span off from well down the order on lap 60. Laffite had moved up to 6th, but damaged a skirt running over a kerb, and pitting for a replacement cost him three laps. On lap 61 Daly ended his Williams debut in the catch-fencing under heavy pressure from Cheever, while Watson was reeling Rosberg in.

The Finn had been troubled by tyre wear and a spongy break pedal since about half-distance, but with everyone behind having problems had been largely unbothered. However, with three laps to go Watson was within a second of the Williams (having briefly eased off when he mistook Daly's retired car for Rosberg), and a grand stand finish seemed likely. It wasn't to be, though. With Watson still sizing things up, Rosberg asked a little too much of his brakes and slid wide at the Kleine chicane, allowing the McLaren to slip through to the lead without a fight.

Watson completed the last two laps with relative ease, with Rosberg over seven seconds behind. Lauda was a minute back in third place, while Cheever's 4th place opened Ligier's account for the season. Fifth fell to de Angelis, delayed by an early tyre stop but ahead of Piquet, whose own stop hadn't helped his speed. The only other cars running were Serra, Surer, Boesel and Laffite. The post-race weigh in revealed Lauda's machine to be 2kg underweight (Watson's was only 1kg over the limit), and he was disqualified, without particular protest, from 3rd. So the others all moved up a place, handing Serra an unexpected but thoroughly welcome point in the Fittipaldi.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
70
1h 35m 41.995s
10
2
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
70
+ 7.268s
3
DQ
Niki Lauda McLaren-Cosworth
70
+ 1m 08.137s/Underweight
4
3
Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra
69
+ 1 lap
14
4
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Cosworth
68
+ 2 laps
11
5
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
67
+ 3 laps
8
6
Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Cosworth
67
+ 3 laps
23
7
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
66
+ 4 laps
22
8
Raul Boesel March-Cosworth
66
+ 4 laps
24
9
Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra
66
+ 4 laps
17
R
Derek Daly Williams-Cosworth
60
Accident
13
R
Jochen Mass March-Cosworth
60
Engine
25
R
Alain Prost Renault
59
Accident
1
R
Riccardo Patrese Brabham-BMW
52
Accident
9
R
Mauro Baldi Arrows-Cosworth
51
Throttle
26
R
Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Cosworth
37
Rear wing
16
R
Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo
34
Gear linkage
6
R
Brian Henton Tyrrell-Cosworth
33
Engine
20
R
Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Cosworth
29
Engine
5
R
Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart
29
Driveshaft
19
R
Teo Fabi Toleman-Hart
13
Brakes
21
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth
9
Clutch
7
R
Rene Arnoux Renault
7
Engine
2
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Cosworth
0
Clutch
12
R
Eliseo Salazar ATS-Cosworth
0
Collision/Giacomelli
18
R
Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo
0
Collision/Salazar
15

Fastest Lap: John Watson (McLaren), 1:20.214s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
18
2
John Watson
17
3
Keke Rosberg
14
4
Niki Lauda
12
5=
Michele Alboreto
10
5=
Didier Pironi
10
7=
Carlos Reutemann
6
7=
Gilles Villeneuve
6
9
Elio de Angelis
5
10=
Rene Arnoux
4
10=
Nigel Mansell
4
10=
Eddie Cheever
4
10=
Riccardo Patrese
4
14
Jean-Pierre Jarier
3
15=
Manfred Winkelhock
2
15=
Eliseo Salazar
2
15=
Nelson Piquet
2
18
Chico Serra
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
29
2
Renault
22
3
Williams
20
4
Ferrari
16
5=
Tyrrell
10
5=
Lotus
10
7=
Tyrrell
6
7=
Brabham
6
9=
Ligier
4
9=
ATS
4
11
Osella
3
12
Fittipaldi
1