Grand Prix Classic




Round 11 - French Grand Prix
Paul Ricard, 23-25 July, 1982

As the teams arrived in France just a week after the British Grand Prix, there were rumours circulating about the health of one of their number - not Ensign, Theodore or Fittipaldi, who had all been struggling financially so far this season, but Renault. Rumour had it that the higher echelons of the company felt the team's poor form in recent races, not to mention their surrender of the early initiative, were reflecting badly on them, and unless success came soon the Formula 1 project would either have its' budget cut severely, or even face being withdrawn altogether. Similarly, a deflated Prost was being linked with a move to another team for 1983, with Williams having reportedly already tabled an offer.

However, France's home race was at Paul Ricard this year. While Dijon-Prenois (which would be hosting the Swiss Grand Prix later in the season) was a fast circuit, Paul Ricard was laid out in such a way as to be tailored for the turbo cars thanks to the 1.1 mile long back straight meaning horsepower was king here.


Entry Notes

After returning for his home race, Mansell had aggravated his wrist injury and wouldn't drive for Lotus. This time the shell-shocked Roberto Moreno was spared, with Geoff Lees hired on a one-race contract to drive alongside Elio de Angelis. Elsewhere, with LBT withdrawing their sponsorship in light of poor results, Emilio de Villota and the Mike Earle-managed March disappeared too.

In terms of cars, Fittipaldi had their new F9 along (with the F8D retained as a spare), while Ligier had finally bitten the bullet and to devote their time solely to the difficult new JS19 chassis.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

With the entry down to 30 cars, there was no need for anyone to be ejected after the Friday morning session. The practice sessions stayed bright, but with a cooling breeze - ideal weather conditions for the turbo engines, and as many predicted it was these which prospered. That said, Brabham did get through six £35,000 BMW engines in practice. Despite a tense atmosphere in their garages, Renault once again proved the fastest, Arnoux taking pole from Prost by around two tenths of a second. A full second slower was Pironi, narrowly ahead of Patrese and Tambay, with Piquet 6th. Next came the V12 Alfa Romeo cars, de Cesaris and Giacomelli, with Lauda the fastest DFV in 9th, 3.3 seconds off pole and 1.8 seconds slower than Piquet, with Rosberg rounding out the top 10. The turbo cars were hitting as much as 15mph more down the Mistral straight.

Further back, Watson was 12th, seeing his championship hopes fade, while Warwick was a disappointed 14th in the Toleman amid much attention after his heroics at Brands. Lees did well to qualify the Lotus 24th with minimal preparation, but Guerrero and Lammers were non-qualifiers once again.

Joining them were Serra, who'd abandoned the F9 on the circuit after transmission troubles and was unable to get in with the old car, and Boesel, who had tried running with a bare minimum of wing, going around 10mph faster than any other non-turbo down the straights but finding the car undriveable in the corners.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

The only thing standing in the turbo cars' way seemed to be reliability. Ferrari had this in spades, but still lacked outright speed from the hefty 126C2. Renault didn't, having barely gone a race yet in 1982 without some sort of problem for one or both cars. Brabham didn't either, but were once again planning to use a mid-distance pit stop. Aside from Jarier pulling to the side of the track immediately with a broken driveshaft, the start was clean, Arnoux heading Arnoux. Next came Pironi, Patrese and Piquet, followed by Tambay, with Daly making an excellent start to head into 7th.

It swiftly became clear that the lighter Brabhams had a straight-line speed advantage. Patrese moved past Pironi before the end of the lap, and on the second lap simply outpaced Prost down the Mistral straight, Piquet following through at Virage du Pont. Patrese then zapped straight onto the back of Arnoux, and on the third lap ducked into the Renault's slipstream on the Mistral. Arnoux swerved to the left and then to the right trying to break the tow, but to no avail as Patrese slipstreamed past before the end of the straight. Piquet repeated the measure next time around.

The race was now down to two factors; firstly, whether the Brabhams would last, and secondly whether they would build the advantage they needed to make their pit stop strategy work. Arnoux and Prost simply ran their own race and waited to see what would happen. They didn't have long to do so - on lap 8 Patrese was crawling through the complex of corners at the end of the lap, and his team-mate and the Renaults passed. A turbocharger was burning in the back of the car, seemingly unbeknown to Patrese, who parked his Brabham neatly in front of the pits before glancing in the rear view mirrors, noticing the blaze that was now building up and evacuating rather sharply.

This left Piquet with a five-second lead on Arnoux, though the Brabham was pulling away. Further back there was a big accident when Baldi collided with Mass when battling at 180mph over 18th place at Signes. The left-hand side of the Arrows was ripped away, but the March came off worst, getting airborne, vaulting the catch-fencing and tyre barriers and landing on the edge of a spectator enclosure before catching fire. Mercifully no serious injuries were caused, but after being helped from the cockpit by Baldi and a group of marshals Mass was clearly shaken.

As well as showing once again how dangerous ground effects cars could be, the incident also served as a reminder that there were Cosworth cars running in the race. Daly had headed the bunch following Tambay at an ever-growing distance until lap 13, when he pitted with a puncture. He had been followed by a gaggle of cars containing Lauda, Giacomelli, Watson, Rosberg and Alboreto. However, Lauda followed the Irishman's example by pitting on lap 15, and his place was taken by Rosberg, who had tigered past the Alfa and Watson on lap 10 with a couple of textbook overtaking moves. The latter would soon disappear with a flat battery. Further back, Warwick was showing none of the speed seen at Brands, running 14th/15th with a slipping clutch.

In the pits excitement was building as the Brabham mechanics assumed their positions for the fuel stop, and all eyes were on this tactic, curious as to whether it would work or not. Piquet hadn't built up enough of a lead to stay ahead of the Renaults, but given his clear speed advantage it would be interesting to see whether he could catch them again in the second half of the race. It wasn't to be, however - as the Brabham came down the Mistral for the 24th time a puff of smoke came from the back as Piquet braked for Signes, followed by a few more and the Brazilian parked the car on the side of the track with another BMW failure.

This left the Renaults circulating comfortably ahead of the Ferrari cars, and then a long gap to Rosberg being pressed by Alboreto, then another gap to the recovering Daly and Giacomelli. With the Ferraris no threat, Renault decided to order Arnoux to let Prost past to take the win and resuscitate his championship challenge. However, Arnoux didn't slow - indeed, he continued to steadily pull away from the other Renault, Prost suffering from a handling problem. The pit board bearing the order was hung over the side repeatedly as Arnoux came past, generating a fair bit of excitement - more than the other cars were at this stage, anyway, despite Alboreto's valiant chase of Rosberg.

Many seemed to think Arnoux would wait until the last possible moment and make it as obvious as possible that he was the fastest man and had been forced to relinquish the lead. Arnoux was leaving it mighty late, though, entering the last lap with a 16 second lead. He finished it with a 17 second lead, taking his third Grand Prix victory, much to the delight of the French crowd and, to be fair, most of the Renault team. There was a general air of relief - Renault had scored their first ever 1-2 at their home Grand Prix and alleviated a lot of the pressure on the team; that the wrong car had won was something which could be sorted out later. Indeed, there was no Imola-style drama on the rostrum here.

For the rest, they finished as they had ran for most of the second half, Pironi a comfortable 3rd to further increase his title lead, Tambay a similarly untroubled 4th to make it two points finishes out of 3 races for the Scuderia. Rosberg just about staved off Alboreto for 5th, both a lap down and followed home by Lauda, Giacomelli and Henton. Further back came Winkelhock (for his first finish since Rio), Lees, Surer, Laffite, Warwick and Cheever, to make an impressive 16 classified finishers.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Rene Arnoux Renault
54
1h 33m 33.217s
1
2
Alain Prost Renault
54
+ 17.308s
2
3
Didier Pironi Ferrari
54
+ 42.218s
3
4
Patrick Tambay Ferrari
54
+ 1m 16.241s
5
5
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
54
+ 1m 30.994s
10
6
Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Cosworth
54
+ 1m 32.339s
15
7
Derek Daly Williams-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
11
8
Niki Lauda McLaren-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
9
9
Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo
53
+ 1 lap
8
10
Brian Henton Tyrrell-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
23
11
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Cosworth
52
+ 2 laps
18
12
Geoff Lees Lotus-Cosworth
52
+ 2 laps
24
13
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
52
+ 2 laps
20
14
Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra
51
+ 3 laps
16
15
Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart
50
+ 4 laps
14
16
Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra
49
+ 5 laps
19
R
Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo
25
Accident
7
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
23
Engine
6
R
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Cosworth
17
Fuel pressure
13
R
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
13
Electrics
12
R
Jochen Mass March-Cosworth
10
Accident/Baldi
26
R
Mauro Baldi Arrows-Cosworth
10
Accident/Mass
25
R
Riccardo Patrese Brabham-BMW
8
Engine
4
R
Eliseo Salazar ATS-Cosworth
2
Accident
22
R
Teo Fabi Toleman-Hart
1
Electrics
21
R
Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Cosworth
0
Driveshaft
17

Fastest Lap: Riccardo Patrese (Brabham), 1m 40.075s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Didier Pironi
39
2
John Watson
30
3
Alain Prost
25
4
Niki Lauda
24
5
Keke Rosberg
23
6
Riccardo Patrese
19
7
Nelson Piquet
17
8=
Elio de Angelis
13
8=
Rene Arnoux
13
10
Michele Alboreto
11
11
Eddie Cheever
10
12=
Nigel Mansell
7
12=
Derek Daly
7
12=
Patrick Tambay
7
15=
Carlos Reutemann
6
15=
Gilles Villeneuve
6
17
Andrea de Cesaris
5
18
Jean-Pierre Jarier
3
19=
Manfred Winkelhock
2
19=
Eliseo Salazar
2
19=
Marc Surer
2
22=
Jacques Laffite
1
22=
Chico Serra
1
22=
Mauro Baldi
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
54
2
Ferrari
52
3
Renault
38
4
Brabham
36
5
Williams
36
6
Lotus
21
7=
Ligier
11
7=
Tyrrell
11
9
Alfa Romeo
5
10
ATS
4
11=
Osella
3
11=
Arrows
3
13
Fittipaldi
1