Grand Prix Classic

1983 Season Preview

After a 1982 season marred by heavy crashes, the FIA chose to drastically lower cornering speeds by forcing through heavy changes to the regulations for the new season. These were mostly inspired by Rene Arnoux's crash at Zandvoort and Jochen Mass' crash at Paul Ricard, where spectators had been placed in danger by cars suddenly losing adhesion and flying through the air considerable distances. Serious injuries to spectators had been avoided by pure luck, and the FIA weren't going to wait for another Le Mans disaster before acting.

The changes mainly revolved around the ground effects aerodynamics. Skirts were outlawed, as were aerodynamic effects on the underside of cars - instead making 'flat-bottom' cars. The changes were so drastic that 1982-spec cars could only run with heavy modification, and most simply chose to work for a new car. In order to allow more time for this to be carried out, the teams and the FIA agreed to have the South African Grand Prix postponed and moved to the end of the season.

Several teams had to go back to the drawing board for an expensive replacement - both Arrows and Toleman had began running their intended 1983 cars towards the end of 1982, and would now have to expensively revise them, while Gordon Murray's Brabham BT51 among those reaching completion.

Along with this the FIA also limited the regulation number of wheels to four, banning the Williams FW08D, as it was believed six-wheel cars would generate the same sort of high-speed cornering as ground effects had. To appease Cosworth runners somewhat, minimum weight was reduced to 540kg. Also, having been tactically introduced by Brabham in 1982, refuelling stops would be banned in 1984, but allowed in 1983.

Front-runners were expected to be Ferrari, with their new driver line-up of Patrick Tambay and Rene Arnoux, the Renault of Alain Prost and the Brabham-BMWs of Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese. With the turbo cars getting all the more powerful, the Williams of reigning champion Keke Rosberg, the McLarens of Niki Lauda and John Watson and the Tyrrell of Michele Alboreto were not given much chance unless the turbo cars were unreliable. Derek Warwick was hoping Toleman could pick up where they left off in 1982 with their Hart-engined car.

Most non-manufactuer teams had given up trying to beat the turbos, and were now hoping to join them. McLaren's TAG-funded Porsche was expected mid-season, Lotus had already signed a customer deal with Renault, as had ATS with BMW. Williams were actively sounding out manufacturers for a deal, Ligier were trying to persuade Renault to supply them, and Arrows were in talks with BMW. The Munich company had rejected Ken Tyrrell's overtures, and he was now trying to talk old enemy Renault into supplying him.

Cosworth were planning to battle back with the short-stroke DFY engine, a lightened higher-revving version of the long-serving DFV engine. There would be two fewer teams competing, as Fittipaldi had folded in October 1982, while Theodore and Ensign had merged a month later. There were rumours that the Honda turbo utilising Spirit Formula 2 squad would be entering mid-season, but the attempted participation of two further F2 squads, Maurer and Onyx, had been put on ice for financial reasons.

Williams had been intending to run the FW08D six-wheeler, but were forced to drop these plans when the FIA outlawed the car. Instead, Patrick Head radically revised the FW08 as the FW08C. Frank Williams was still searching for a turbo deal after reportedly being turned down by Renault, but in the meantime would use DFVs which had been specially tuned by independant John Judd. World Champion Keke Rosberg would lead the team, with Jacques Laffite returning to Williams after eight years at Ligier.

Michele Alboreto's exploits for Tyrrell in 1982 had attracted much attention, and brought their reward in the shape of lucrative sponsorship from Italian leisurewear company Benetton. In lieu of a turbo deal, the team would be persevering with the Cosworth DFV, and the DFY when that became avaliable. Maurice Philippe would rework the 011 chassis for new regulations, with the new 012 expected mid-season. For the second seat, Tyrrell signed the American Indycar driver Danny Sullivan.

The new regulations had forced abandonment of the Brabham BT51 just as it was nearly ready for its' first test. In its' place came the dart-shaped BT52, which featured very small sidepods. New sponsorship came from sportswear company FILA, though Parmalat remained involved in a reduced capacity. Gordon Murray intentionally designed the car with a small tank after the team's experiments with planned fuel stops in 1983, while both Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese remained on the driving strength, hoping for improved reliability from the powerful BMW 4-cylinder turbo engine. The team also switched to Michelin tyres.

Having persuaded TAG to fund a new Porsche-built turbo engine, McLaren were very much playing the waiting game until the V6 was ready - it was expected for the Belgian Grand Prix, subject to testing and supply. The team fielded a further evolution of the 1981 MP4, named the MP4/1C, for John Watson and Niki Lauda, using Cosworth DFV engines for the start of the season. Teddy Mayer had left the team over the winter, leaving Ron Dennis in sole control.

The German-owned, British-based ATS team slimmed down to a one-car entry for 1983, with Manfred Winkelhock driving. The all-new composite material D6, designed by ex-Maurer engineer Gustav Brunner, would be powered by a supply of BMW turbo engines thanks to Winkelhock's links to the Munich firm, and run on Goodyear tyres.

Lotus had been badly shaken by the death of founder Colin Chapman in December 1982. However, reasoning that it was what Colin would have wanted, Peter Warr and Peter Wright took over leading the team. For the first half of the season the team would be running two different cars - a Renault turbo powered 93T for Elio de Angelis, and a Cosworth powered 92 (based on 1982's 91 design, and with the team's new 'active' suspension system installed) for Nigel Mansell. Both drivers would be running Renault engines in the second half of the year once the French manufacturer's engine pool had grown sufficiently. The team switched to Pirelli tyres, as their contract with Renault reportedly forbids them from running on Michelin tyres.

After a disastrous 1982, Renault had spent the off-season working on their reliability in exhaustive test sessions, with the new RE40 car expected to debut at the start of the European season. The heavily modified RE30C would be used for the first couple of races, in the hands of Alain Prost and new team-mate Eddie Cheever.

1982 had been another horror season for John Macdonald and Mick Ralph, so there were big changes in store for 1983. The team took greater independance from March, with Dave Kelly's new design named the RAM March 01. Rothmans had left, but Rizla remained as sponsors, while new driver Eliseo Salazar brought loyal sponsor Copec with him. RAM planned to run a second car at selected events, most likely to local paying drivers. The team also reverted to Pirelli tyres.

Over the end of 1982 there had been significant talk of Alfa Romeo withdrawing from Formula 1. They did, but only partially. The F1 operation was handed over to Paulo Pavanelli's Euro Racing team, along with support and use of facilities, not to mention Gerard Ducarouge and Carlo Chitti, and would still run under the Alfa Romeo name. They would start the season with the new 183T car, powered by the much-tested V8 turbocharged engine. Marlboro Italia remained on as title sponsor, and saw to the retention of Andrea de Cesaris and the signing of Mauro Baldi to replace the sacked Bruno Giacomelli.

After their dreadful 1982 season, Ligier lost Talbot, Matra, Jacques Laffite, Eddie Cheever and Jean-Pierre Jabouille. In their place came Jean-Pierre Jarier, the paying Raul Boesel and Cosworth engines, as well as Herve Guilpin's new JS21 chassis (with small sidepods in the style of the Brabham BT52, and pneumatic suspension designed by Citroen) and, hopefully, simplified internal politics. With Matra aborting their troublesome V6 turbo programme, Guy Ligier was turning his attention to Renault for a supply of engines, but as yet nothing was agreed, and considering the manufacturer's extant deal with Lotus it seemed unlikely to before the end of 1983.

Ferrari entered 1983 in strong and confident form after their acheivements in difficult circumstances during 1982. Rene Arnoux joined Patrick Tambay in the driving line-up, with Enzo Ferrari pledging to enter a third car for Didier Pironi as soon as the latter had recovered from his leg injuries suffered in practice for the previous season's German Grand Prix. Harvey Postlethwaite had come up with a flat-bottom version of the 126C2 which would be used for the first half of the season, and would use the latest evolution of the sturdy 126CK turbocharged V6. Ferrari were also reportedly working on short-life high-boost "qualifying" engines for use in practice sessions.

Arrows were one of the teams to suffer most from the regulation changes, with their intended 1983 contender having already ran three races, designed to 1982 rules. Dave Wass was forced to rework the car, coming up with the A6 - basically a flat-bottomed A5. Sponsorship was proving a major problem, with Ragno Ceramica departing and no-one coming in. On the driving front, Jackie Oliver had intended to retain both Marc Surer and Mauro Baldi, but the latter signed for Alfa Romeo instead. Since then Oliver has been engaged in protracted negotiations with Alan Jones, who belatedly signalled he wanted to come out of retirement. With terms looking unlikely to be agreed in time for the start of the season, the team hired Fittipaldi refugee Chico Serra to drive in the opening Brazilian Grand Prix.

Enzo Osella had spent the winter considering withdrawal after a traumatic 1982 season, but was persuaded to continue by friends. The team then linked up with Alfa Romeo, who offered Osella the 1982 V12 units to run for free, as well as some technical support. The Auto Delta's handover with Euro Racing slowed these plans, with Tony Southgate's definitive 1983 FA1E not expected until the start of the European season. In the meantime, the team will field a pair of updated Cosworth-powered FA1D cars for reigning Formula 2 champion Corrado Fabi and sportscar driver Piercarlo Ghinzani (who had driven for the outfit a few times in 1981).

After both struggling in 1982, Teddy Yip and Mo Nunn joined forces for 1983, with the Theodore banner remaining in place. With Nunn came the impressive Roberto Guerrero and designer Nigel Bennett, who designed the new Cosworth-powered N183 chassis. A second car would be fielded for Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto, a former motorcycle champion who brought sponsorship from Segafredo.

Like Arrows, Toleman were severely inconvenienced by the rule changes, having had their 1983 contender ready for the last two races of the previous season. Rory Byrne substantially reworked the car as the TG183B, with distinctive nose-mounted radiators and a double rear wing. The car then posted very impressive testing times. Brian Hart continued to provide engines, while Derek Warwick remained as team leader. Candy returned on the sponsorship front, and suggested Bruno Giacomelli as the second driver, to which Toleman agreed.