Grand Prix Classic

1982 Season Preview

Seventeen teams would be contesting the 1982 season, across sixteen Grand Prix. While the long-running FISA versus FOCA political war which had marred the 1981 season seemed to have abated, it was still lurking in the background. On the track, it was clear the idea of turbocharged engines had caught on, with Brabham following Renault and Ferrari's example, but instead turning to an outside manufacturer - BMW - to provide their supply. However, considering the unreliability of turbos in general thus far, the remainder of teams still running normally-aspirated engines were still optimistic.

Nevertheless, Ferrari and Renault were both expected to put their experience forward and mount a serious title challenge, especially as both had impressive driver line-ups. The fortunes of Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese were very much in the hands of the speed and reliability of their Brabham-BMWs, however.

Leading the DFV brigade would be Carlos Reutemann, hopefully recovered from losing the title at the final hurdle the previous season and with capable support from Keke Rosberg; and Niki Lauda, tempted out of retirement by McLaren, and his team-mate John Watson.

Alfa Romeo were expected to finally out together a consistent, reliable season with their massive budget, with the fast but wild Andrea de Cesaris joining their driver line up, while Talbot backing gave Jacques Laffite and Eddie Cheever reason to be optimistic in the Ligier. Lotus were something of an unknown factor, forced to abandon the innovative 88 and design a more conventional car.

Those planning on running 1981 cars for at least the start of the season had to modify them to meet regulations. Changes included a higher minimum width for the cockpit section surrounding the pedals and a new minimum lower weight of 580kg. Better news came for smaller teams when starting grids were expanded to 26 places, with the exception of Monaco, which remained at 20. Teams would only be permitted one driver change across the season, except in cases of force majeur such as injury, death or retirement.

Brabham, with reigning champion Nelson Piquet, would be running Gordon Murray's new BT50, powered by BMW's 4-block turbo engine - a development of the Munich company's production sportscar motor. In an attempt to improve the team's Constructor's Cup standing, Riccardo Patrese was signed for the second car after four years at Arrows. The Cosworth-powered BT49 would remain on strength as back-up, despite initial claims that the team would only be running the BMW car. With Piquet looking to continue his fine form from 1981 and Patrese widely expected to be a front-runner now he was in a top team, hopes were high for a very successful 1982, providing the BMW turbo kept up the reliability seen in testing.

Things weren't looking as good at Tyrrell, however. Finances were restricted, and the 1981 011 chassis, powered by the Cosworth DFV, were notably bare of sponsorship at the start of the season. The promising Michele Alboreto was in the first car after an encouraging debut year, while Ken Tyrrell decided to give ex-ATS driver (and former ABBA session drummer) Slim Borgudd the second seat.

After the Las Vegas title showdown, there were considerable doubts as to whether Carlos Reutemann would even be driving in 1981. However, he duly decided to continue. Williams were less successful in convincing Alan Jones to reverse his decision to quit (which at least cemented Reutemann's participation, the Argentine having stated he would never drive alongside Jones again), so in his place came the Finn Keke Rosberg, who had impressed with limited machinery in previous seasons. The team would begin the season with the latest evolution of the highly successful FW07 as their six-wheeler FW08 (which had set highly impressive testing times in the hands of Keke Rosberg and Jonathan Palmer) was experiencing driveshaft troubles; a conventional four-wheel version of the FW08 was also being developed should the problems prove insurmountable. Williams were in no hurry to race the six-wheeler variant, preferring to sort the various mechanical challenges the configuration posed in testing before using it in races.

McLaren caused the biggest stir of the off-season when Ron Dennis' reorganised outfit convinced Niki Lauda to come out of retirement, helped by Philip Morris' millions (a reported $3 million annual retainer) as the latest part of Dennis' plan to take the team back to the front. John Watson was retained alongside him, the pair continuing with John Barnard's space-age MP4 chassis and DFV engines. Dennis already had one eye on 1983, working on persuading sponsor TAG to fund an exclusive V6 turbo engine built by Porsche.

Gunther Schmidt's ATS outfit, managed by Englishman Peter Collins and based in England, upgraded Herve Guilpin's HGS1 as the D5 and expanded to a two-car outfit, the Cosworth-engined machines in the hands of the paying Eliseo Salazar (with loyal sponsor Copec, and first call on any new equipment) and ex-BMW junior driver Manfred Winkelhock (who had previously failed to qualify an Arrows at Monza in 1980). The car had ran well in testing, and the team seemed a lot more organised and professional than in previous seasons, and were now running on Avon tyres.

Team Lotus upgraded the mediocre 87 to 87B spec, and retained both Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell as drivers; there was some talk the Italian would be dropped after a couple of petulant outbursts in 1981 and rumours he wanted to defect to Alfa Romeo, but his friendship with Chapman and family money helped him retain the seat. Chapman had been forced to finally abandon the revolutionary 88 twin-chassis car despite numerous appeals to the FIA, and had were working on the new conventional 91, expected for the second round in Argentina. While JPS stayed onboard as title sponsor, Essex had left, which meant less money, but at least a cleaner-looking colour scheme.

Mo Nunn's Ensign team would field the new N181 for Roberto Guerrero, a highly-rated Columbian who had impressed in Formula 2, and also brought considerable personal backing from Cafe de Colombia. Money was, as ever, still tight though, with the team employing just 12 people at their Lichfield factory. Nunn admitted in an interview that his team had ran in 1981 with a total budget of £315,000 (around a tenth of the annual outlay of the likes of Williams and Brabham), and it seems unlikely there will be much more available in 1982.

Renault were finally hoping to mount a successful title challenge with their turbo-engined cars, having been undone by reliability alone in 1981. They chose to upgrade the impressive RE30 to 'B'-spec (with the engine consistently generating 550bhp in winter testing) and aim for greater reliability. With Alain Prost having grown into a front runner the previous season with three victories and Rene Arnoux also on fine form, the turbo pioneers hoped their greater experience compared to Ferrari and BMW would bear fruit. They were very much the title favourites ahead of the season.

After a pointless 1981, John Macdonald's RAM operation regrouped for 1982. The team had an all-new Adrian Reynard-designed March 821 chassis, with experienced German Jochen Mass leading the team, at least for the first race while the team looked for sponsorship. Raul Boesel brought money and some consistent form from F3 to the second car. The cars would run on Pirelli tyres.

Less optimistic were Fittipaldi, the team still bereft of a major sponsor and hovering on the brink of insolvency after an unsuccessful 1981. As a result, the unsuccessful F8C was modified to become the F8D (the only changes being to satisfy the new regulations) and the departing Rosberg wasn't replaced, Chico Serra staying on to drive the single entry. The new F9 was on the drawing board, but more funds would be needed to actually get the thing built.

After three seasons full of the odd flash of promise but largely disappointing results, Alfa Romeo were hoping to finally bring their large budget to bear. The largely unsuccessful V12 179D would start the season, with the new 181 (which would be the first design to feel the influence of technical director Gerard Decarouge) expected for the second round in Rio. Bruno Giacomelli was retained, while Andrea de Cesaris took the second seat (with the help of Marlboro Italia, after a largely shocking debut season with McLaren) in place of the Indycar-bound Mario Andretti. Work would continue in the background on their new turbocharged V8 engine, but as ever the team were secretive, to the extent that it was not entirely clear whether the new car would have the turbo or the regular V12 over the winter.

Ligier had been partially taken over by French manufacturer Talbot in 1981, though for now their participation largely extended to title sponsorship. The now-retired Jean-Pierre Jabouille would be carrying out the day to day management of the team at race meetings, and also working as engineer on Laffite's car. For now the team would continue with the upgraded JS17 with the trusty Matra V12 engine, in the hands of Jacques Laffite and the promising Eddie Cheever, signed after an impressive season with Tyrrell. The new JS19 with Matra's turbocharged V6 was expected for the start of the European season.

Ferrari would be fielding the new 126C2, designed by Englishman Harvey Postlethwaite, hoping that the more refined chassis (the first Ferrari to use carbon fibre) would allow them to make more consistent use of the powerful 126C V6 turbo engine which had debuted the previous season. Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi remained as the drivers after a character-building 1981. The team also switched form Michelin to Goodyear tyres, hoping to find an edge on the American rubber after finding themselves behind Renault on the French company's pecking order.

Arrows prepared to roll out the all-new ground effects A4 for 1982, with their loyal sponsors Nordica and Ragno staying onboard despite the departure of star driver Riccardo Patrese. In his place came the capable Marc Surer, and Mauro Baldi, who had impressed in F3 but came into a seat mainly on the insistence of Ragno (who had also provided the unsuccessful Siegfried Stohr for 1981). However, the Swiss driver broke two bones in his feet while testing at Kyalami a few days before the start of the season, and so Patrick Tambay was hired to drive until Surer was fit again.

After a difficult second season in F1 where their cars had often struggled to qualify, Osella at least had the experience of Jean-Pierre Jarier to call upon, the French veteran signing on for a full year after some respectable showings of the combination in the second half of 1981. Bringing funding into the team via Pioneer Italia was moneyed ex-Onyx F2 driver Italian Riccardo Paletti. The team switched to Pirelli rubber after a difficult 1981 on Michelin tyres. The new FA1D was expected near the start of the European season

Hong Kong enthusiast Teddy Yip would run a single Theodore, initially starting with Tony Southgate's 1981 TY01 before the new TY02 was ready. Initially the team had hoped to once again run Patrick Tambay, until he announced his retirement, unhappy with the knife-edge handling of ground effects machines - only to then pitch up as substitute driver at Arrows. Instead, Derek Daly - after a reputation-destroying year with the RAM March - would drive the single entry, on Avon tyres.

Toleman were just hoping to get on the grid a bit more often after a horrible debut year which saw them accrue just two starts. Candy were considering leaving the team and taking their funds elsewhere, so fast improvement was needed. Derek Warwick and new recruit Teo Fabi (insisted on by Candy, after a deal for Mauro Baldi fell through) would have to persevere with the unsuccessful TG181 (modified as the TG181B) for the first part of the season, though hopes were high that Brian Hart would make progress with the four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which was now producing 30lb of boost on the test bench. Testing in December at Paul Ricard had shown improvements, but everyone else will be going faster too.