Grand Prix Classic




Round 2 - United States West Grand Prix
Long Beach, 25-27 March, 1983

The teams arrived in California for what looked likely to be the final Grand Prix held at Long Beach. Organiser Chris Pook was finding the event was running at a loss, despite its' popularity. The main factor was that the Long Beach Grand Prix Association were required to pay freight costs to get the teams to the circuit. Pook had long lobbied that all organisers should pay the same fee into a central fund, but had been overridden by the majority of European organisers, happy to pay less for freighting the Formula 1 over a relatively small distance. The LBGPA enjoyed hosting Grand Prix, but were now reportedly looking into the more financially viable alternative of hosting a CART race instead.

The circuit had also been substantially remodelled, eliminating the Ocean Boulevard section in order to reduce disruption to the city, and completing the relocation of the start/finish straight to Shoreline Drive. This shortened the track, and was expected to drop lap times despite the reduced cornering speeds of 1983 cars.


Entry Notes

Despite it being only a fortnight since the Brazilian Grand Prix, there was a change in the driver line-up. 1980 World Champion Alan Jones returned with Arrows after spending 1982 in retirement in Australia, albeit nursing bones broken in a horse-riding accident. Jackie Oliver had negotiated a deal with Jones after a lot of effort, the arrangement being that the Australian would drive the car at the US West Grand Prix and the Race of Champions, in the hope of attracting enough sponsorship that Arrows could afford to hire him for the balance of the season.

Also due to their dreadful showing in Brazil, Renault rushed out the prototype of their new RE40 for Prost to drive.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

The new configuration caused problems, notably a pair of bumps on the top straight caused by the camber of the regular streets. Most drivers were worried about the effect this would have on suspension in a full race - both of the hard-sprung Toleman cars suffered suspension failures after crossing it. Softer-sprung cars - notably the Ligiers, Tyrrells and Theodores - had no such problem, and Ken Tyrrell pointed out that it was simply a feature of street circuits, and no more unfair than the long straight at Paul Ricard would be on his cars. However, the organisers bowed to pressure from the bigger teams - and were fearful of having a race with only half a dozen finishers - and on Friday night the bumps had quick-drying cement put between them, turning them into a single bump. Most felt it was not enough of an improvement, though Johnny Cecotto opined that it was fun.

All of the Michelin runners were in trouble with their tyres in qualifying, with Goodyear and Pirelli dominating the timesheets. After a disappointing showing in Brazil, Ferrari locked out the front row, with Tambay scoring his first-ever pole position, almost 0.8s ahead of Arnoux. Next up were the Williams cars, Rosberg ahead of Laffite. Guerrero had qualified 8th, but had his times for the day disallowed when his car was found to be a centimetre too wide, despite the stewards having previously cleared the unintentional defect to be okay. Yip and Nunn tried to get a petition going to reinstate the Columbian, but Renault, Ferrari and Toleman refused to sign it.

Then came a pair of Pirelli runners, de Angelis' Lotus ahead of Warwick's Toleman (despite the latter missing Friday's timed session with a suspension collapse courtesy of the twin bumps). Alboreto's Tyrrell was 7th, with Prost the fastest Michelin runner in 8th, ahead of the impressive Sullivan and Jarier. Alan Jones was a respectable 12th, with Cheever 15th in the second Renault, Piquet 20th, Watson 22nd and Lauda 23rd - a disaster for Michelin. Neither Osella qualified.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

With the exit from the pitlane controlled by a marshal with a red light instructed to hold cars until there was a gap in traffic, no-one was planning on stopping, the turbo runners instead opting to turn down their boost on a slow circuit. The weather remained bright and hot for the race. Also running hot was Keke Rosberg, feisty even by his own standards. From 3rd on the grid he made a dynamite start, very nearly running into the back of Tambay. The presence of the Ferrari meant he had to lurch sideways, the back end of the Williams kicking out and hitting Arnoux, and he reached the first corner in second. By the end of the Seaside Way straight he was in a position to have another go at Tambay, but got over on the marbles, looped around in a 360° spin and kept going, having only briefly lost 2nd to Laffite and regaining it the following lap.

Behind them came Alboreto, who had swiftly disposed of Arnoux and soon moved up to Laffite, Arnoux himself, Patrese, Sullivan, Prost, Cheever, Surer and Warwick. Tambay was pulling clear at the front, but eased off to conserve his tyres and fuel once he realised he had things in hand. Rosberg was generally around a second behind, snapping and gnashing at the Ferrari but not, as yet, looking like he had a way past. Sullivan slipped down behind the Renaults, while Jarier found his Ligier working perfectly, setting fastest lap on lap 8 and beginning to move through the field.

The first four were beginning to pull away from Arnoux and the rest, with Patrese having closed up to Laffite. The former's Ferrari wasn't handling quite right after his contact with Rosberg, and Jarier and Cheever would soon get past. The Frenchman then almost immediately began to close on the front five, where Alboreto was pressing Laffite hard. Tambay and Rosberg were starting to pull clear a little, though the Finn was lunging at the Ferrari driver every chance he got, and often cost himself a few tenths when trying to outbrake the cool Tambay from too far back.

Jarier had got past Patrese and attempted to get past Alboreto, only for the pair of them to touch at the end of Seaside Way. Both slid into the run-off area, letting Patrese past to 4th, with Alboreto limping into the pits for new tyres and a suspension check. Jarier then soon caught the front four and passed Patrese again, the Michelins running beautifully on the ugly Ligier. By now Rosberg was getting visibly frustrated by his inability to quite get close enough to Tambay, and it all came to an inevitable head on lap 25.

At the hairpin Rosberg dived for the inside from too far back, and Tambay had committed to the corner. The Ferrari was bumped up into the air on the nose of the Williams, spinning around backwards and stalling. Rosberg ran wide going through the hairpin, and sliced back across in front of the following Laffite and Jarier (Rosberg claimed Laffite moved over on him, but the Frenchman didn't really have chance). The Ligier was left with few options other than running into the back of Rosberg, bumping him into retirement. A furious Jarier would retire a lap later with broken front suspension from the contact. In a stroke, three potential winners were out.

This left Laffite leading, but struggling with his tyres, with Patrese keeping him in sight but unable to challenge due to the economy settings of his Brabham. Next up were Sullivan and Surer, and then astonishingly the McLarens of Lauda and Watson. The Michelins were running superbly in the race after being awful in qualifying, just as in Brazil, and a mixture of good grip and the self-destruction of others had seen them carve through the order. Within a couple of laps they had picked off Sullivan and Surer, and the pair traded fastest laps before Watson outbraked Lauda at the end of the straight. Within another couple of laps they were with Patrese, who made their job easier by spinning, and on lap 45 they simply caught and passed Laffite, and began to pull away. Watson had caught the Williams at a rate of a second a lap.

It was a remarkable turnaround for McLaren after a dire qualifying, and once through into first and second both drivers simply drove smoothly and precisely, easing away from everyone else completely unchallenged as everyone else self-destructed. Further back, Patrese got past Laffite, while Cecotto had his Theodore in 5th. Chasing him down were Cheever and Arnoux, both on fresh tyres and running well.

They passed the Venezuelan and set off after Laffite together. However, the Williams pits had incorrectly informed the Frenchman that he was running more than a lap ahead of Arnoux, and so when the pair came up in his mirrors, Laffite smartly moved over, not wanting to get caught up in their battle and unwittingly costing himself two places. He got one of them back straight away as Cheever briefly repassed the Ferrari, only to pull off with a broken gearbox. Meanwhile Watson pulled away, Lauda's different tyre compound leaving him in no position to challenge, and happy to settle for 2nd place.

It all seemed settled when a couple of laps from the end Patrese dropped out of a safe 3rd with engine problems, promoting Arnoux to 3rd, Laffite back into 4th, Surer to 5th and a delighted Cecotto to 6th. The big story, though, was the amazing McLaren 1-2 from 22nd and 23rd on the grid (a new record), which no-one seemed to quite believe, let alone stunned winner John Watson. It was a staggering turnaround, and even allowing for the retirements ahead of them the McLarens had ran around a second and a half faster in race trim than they had in qualifying. Of the rest, Boesel came through to a worthy 7th from last on the grid (Michelins again), while the Tyrrells were a disappointed 8th (Sullivan, passed by Boesel on the last lap) and 9th (Alboreto) with worn Goodyears. Jones had retired, exhausted, after brushing a wall early on. Prost and Mansell, who'd both suffered problems and treated the race as an extended test run for their new cars, were the only other drivers running at the flag.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
75
1h 53m 34.889s
22
2
Niki Lauda McLaren-Cosworth
75
+ 27.993s
23
3
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
75
+ 1m 13.638s
2
4
Jacques Laffite Williams-Cosworth
74
+ 1 lap
4
5
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
74
+ 1 lap
16
6
Johnny Cecotto Theodore-Cosworth
74
+ 1 lap
17
7
Raul Boesel Ligier-Cosworth
73
+ 2 laps
26
8
Danny Sullivan Tyrrell-Cosworth
73
+ 2 laps
9
9
Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Cosworth
73
+ 2 laps
7
10
Riccardo Patrese Brabham-BMW
72
+ 3 laps/distributor
11
11
Alain Prost Renault
72
+ 3 laps
8
12
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth
72
+ 3 laps
13
13
Eddie Cheever Renault
67
+ 8 laps/gearbox
15
R
Alan Jones Arrows-Cosworth
58
Exhaustion
12
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
51
Accident
19
R
Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo
48
Gearbox
20
R
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
29
Tyres
5
R
Roberto Guerrero Theodore-Cosworth
27
Gearbox
18
R
Jean-Pierre Jarier Ligier-Cosworth
26
Accident damage
10
R
Bruno Giacomelli Toleman-Hart
26
Electrics
14
R
Mauro Baldi Alfa Romeo
26
Accident
21
R
Patrick Tambay Ferrari
25
Accident/Rosberg
1
R
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
25
Accident/Jarier
3
R
Eliseo Salazar RAM March-Cosworth
25
Gear linkage
25
R
Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart
11
Accident
6
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-BMW
3
Accident
24

Fastest Lap: Niki Lauda (McLaren), 1:28.330s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Niki Lauda
10
2=
Nelson Piquet
9
2=
John Watson
9
4
Jacques Laffite
6
5
Rene Arnoux
4
6
Marc Surer
3
7
Patrick Tambay
2
8
Johnny Cecotto
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
19
2
Brabham
9
3=
Ferrari
6
3=
Williams
6
5
Arrows
3
6
Theodore
1