Grand Prix Classic




Round 3 - French Grand Prix
Paul Ricard, 15-17 April, 1983

The European season began at the searingly-fast Paul Ricard circuit, the French round having been moved forwards in response to a disappointing number of spectators in 1982.

With its' long straights and relatively cool ambient temperature (not to mention the Mistral winds) the circuit was perfect for turbo cars, and all the major teams had carried out rigorous testing programmes at the French circuit. More than any other race on the calendar it was likely to show the year's status quo.


Entry Notes

With his drives at Long Beach and the Race of Champions having not attracted the necessary sponsorship to pay his salary, Alan Jones stood down from the Arrows team, who recalled Chico Serra. Jones was still present in the pits and made it clear he considered himself back from retirement and available to drive for a top team if Arrows were unable to find the finance to run him again in 1983.

After its' tentative debut, Renault had new RE40 cars for both Prost and Cheever which had done many miles in the recent tests at Ricard, while RAM March provided a second car for Jean-Louis Schlesser, a veteran of junior formulae who had finished 6th in the Race of Champions. Elsewhere, Lotus had removed the heavy active suspension system from both of the Cosworth chassis provided for Mansell.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Once again pressure was growing on Renault after their failures in 1982 and now a slow start to 1983, so it was a relief for them that the RE40 continued its' promise from testing. The yellow and white cars always pulled something special out of the bag for their home race, and this was no exception. Prost took pole with a time 2.3s faster than team-mate Cheever, who was next on the grid.

Andrea de Cesaris should have split the Renaults, but was found to be running with an empty fire-extinguisher on Friday in a scrutinising check, and had his times for the day disallowed. His Friday time put him 7th, just ahead of team-mate Baldi. Between the Renaults and the Alfas came Patrese, Arnoux, de Angelis and Piquet, with Warwick and Winkelhock completing the top 10.

Tambay was 11th after technical problems in both sessions (Ferrari blew a total of eight engines across practice), while Lauda was 12th and the fastest Cosworth runner, nearly five seconds off pole. Down the back, Serra just squeezed in at 26th despite a huge crash on Friday when he rolled the Arrows into the catch-fencing, condemning both RAM March cars and Ghinzani's Osella to non-qualification.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

The talk before the race was mainly about pit-stops. On the fast circuit most of the front-runners were planning to make a fuel and tyre stop midway through, and in order to avoid any hazardous situations the teams came to a gentlemen's' agreement that they would all stop on separate laps. It was a welcome victory for common sense and co-operation (coming just under a year after the FOCA boycott of the San Marino Grand Prix), even if it did deny spectators from seeing two crews competing directly.

At the start Prost was away like a rocket, with Patrese getting the jump on Cheever, Piquet up to 4th and Tambay making a great start from 11th to 6th behind team-mate Arnoux. Cheever soon regained second while Tambay swapped places with his team-mate, but no-one seemed to be able to do anything about closing on Prost. Rosberg had jumped from 16th to 9th, and on the second lap was past Warwick too, while further back Watson ran into the back of Baldi and would stop for a replacement nosecone as the Alfa limped around with a puncture.

Rosberg was very much the man to watch in the early stages as he got past de Angelis and Arnoux in rapid succession, but with his disadvantage in straight-line speed couldn't begin to close on Tambay. Prost was now beginning to edge away, and soon had a comfortable cushion of 8 seconds back to Cheever. The American couldn't quite shake the attention of the pair of Brabhams, with Piquet taking over the assault from Patrese. Some distance behind that group came Tambay in a safe but lonely 5th - to solve their grip problem, Ferrari were running a lot of wing and despite having half tanks weren't finding it easy to close the gap to Renault and Brabham. Rosberg was tigering away in 6th, keeping ahead of Arnoux in the second Ferrari.

Behind them came a group consisting of the slower turbos and faster Cosworths. It was headed by de Angelis, who had Winkelhock (with the ATS-BMW finally running well), de Cesaris, Warwick, Laffite, Alboreto, Lauda and Jarier behind him. The two Pirelli-tyred turbos would gradually drop back with their tyres wearing badly, though for many it was rather a protracted effort to get by the Lotus, which was fast enough in a straight line to build up enough of a gap to fend off the nimbler cars through the corners. One by one they managed it, but Winkelhock had a big slide and damaged an exhaust, letting de Cesaris and Laffite get by.

Up front Piquet passed Cheever but made no great impression on Prost. Brabham had struggled to get heat into the front tyres all weekend, and had resorted to simply bolting lead ballast into the nosecone to create extra downforce, but was still getting too much understeer. Patrese would retire the second Brabham in the pits on lap 20 with an overheating engine, moving the rest up a place, while de Cesaris dropped out of 8th with a long stop to fix a broken gear linkage.

The next big event was the pit-stops, and Arnoux was the first in having just lost 6th to Laffite, and resumed 11th after a neat stop by Ferrari. Cheever was next to stop, with Renault also performing well so that only Tambay passed him before the American rejoined. Rosberg then came in two laps later from 5th, but Williams had trouble fitting one of the wheels and he slipped to 8th place. Prost was next in, but the stop was also poor thanks to Prost releasing the brake pedal too early, though his lead was such that only Piquet got past. On returning to the circuit the Frenchman swiftly got his tyres up to speed and easily regained his lead when Piquet stopped. despite the Brabham team's pit work being much better. Tambay and Laffite both also stopped with good times, Laffite actually leapfrogging his team-mate Rosberg without passing him on the track.

Piquet was actually within a few seconds of Prost for a few laps when he resumed, but the understeer problem meant it took longer for his tyres to bed in, and Prost simply eased away once more. The order was by now fairly static - with the top 7 all stopping the only position changes were Laffite getting out ahead of Rosberg, which didn't last long as the Finn passed his team-mate while the latter's tyres were still coming in; and Arnoux resuming behind the non-stop Alboreto and Jarier, both of whom he made short work of.

The midfield battle had disintegrated - Winkelhock had briefly been 6th during the stops but had almost immediately collided with the lapped Baldi and would retire with suspension damage; de Angelis and Warwick both suffered engine failures, and Lauda dropped out with locked transmission. All of which left the seven refuellers, who were all comfortable in their positions but unable to do much in the way of closing up to the man in front of them, and the second half of the race petered out as they all circulated to the finish.

It had been a dominant home win for Alain Prost, while Piquet was reasonably happy in 2nd considering the car's handling problems. Cheever was delighted with 3rd after a difficult start with Renault, though Tambay was disconsolate at not being able to challenge in a healthy but cumbersome Ferrari. Lapped fifth and sixth places were about the best Williams could hope for with only one major turbo retirement, and that both cars had kept ahead of Arnoux was a plus. Alboreto, Jarier and Surer filled the top 10, having not expected much without refuelling equipment or turbo engines, while the only other finishers were the delayed Cecotto and de Cesaris. Three races, three winning cars, but if Ricard was any indicator it looked like the bulk of the season would be a battle between Prost and Piquet.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Alain Prost Renault
54
1h 34m 13.913s
1
2
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
54
+ 29.720s
6
3
Eddie Cheever Renault
54
+ 40.232s
2
4
Patrick Tambay Ferrari
54
+ 1m 06.880s
11
5
Keke Rosberg Williams-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
16
6
Jacques Laffite Williams-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
19
7
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
53
+ 1 lap
4
8
Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
15
9
Jean-Pierre Jarier Ligier-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
20
10
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
53
+ 1 lap
21
11
Johnny Cecotto Renault
52
+ 2 laps
17
12
Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo
50
+ 4 laps
7
13
Bruno Giacomelli Toleman-Hart
49
+ 5 laps/transmission
13
R
Raul Boesel Ligier-Cosworth
47
Engine
25
R
Corrado Fabi Osella-Cosworth
36
Engine
23
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-BMW
36
Suspension
10
R
Niki Lauda McLaren-Cosworth
29
Wheel bearing
12
R
Mauro Baldi Alfa Romeo
28
Accident/Winkelhock
8
R
Chico Serra Arrows-Cosworth
27
Engine
26
R
Roberto Guerrero Theodore-Cosworth
24
Engine
22
R
Danny Sullivan Tyrrell-Cosworth
22
Clutch
24
R
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
21
Electrics
5
R
Riccardo Patrese Brabham-BMW
20
Overheating
3
R
Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart
15
Engine
9
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth
7
Injury
18
R
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth
4
Throttle linkage
14

Fastest Lap: Alain Prost (Renault), 1:42.695s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Nelson Piquet
15
2
Niki Lauda
10
3=
John Watson
9
3=
Alain Prost
9
5
Jacques Laffite
7
6
Patrick Tambay
5
7=
Rene Arnoux
4
7=
Eddie Cheever
4
9
Marc Surer
3
10
Keke Rosberg
2
11
Johnny Cecotto
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
19
2
Brabham
15
3
Renault
13
4=
Ferrari
9
4=
Williams
9
6
Arrows
3
7
Theodore
1