Grand Prix Classic

1983 Season Review

89 Wins: 4 Pole Positions: 7 Fastest Laps: 3
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 21 Points Finishes: 17

As in 1982 Ferrari won the constructors' cup through having the most balanced team. Unlike their rivals, they were capable of fielding two genuinely competitive 'Number 1' cars, and while their policy contributed to Tambay and Arnoux losing out on the title (though there were few occasions when they actively stole points from each other) it ensured the team was never far from the front.

It was Goodyear's limp finish to the season which really finished off the French pair's challenge, though without the American company's rubber they might not have done as well early on. The engine remained the most powerful and reliable turbo in the business, even if it did let both drivers down on the odd occasion, while Postlethwaite's revised 126C2 and (much delayed) composite material 126C3 were fine chassis. Indeed, the big rear wing saw the British teams ape Ferrari for once, rather than vice versa.

The shame was that after a season largely free of farce and controversy that Mario Piccinini fired Tambay in such an insulting fashion (Tambay found out from an Italian journalist after the team had been unable to contact him, and just announced it anyway), and it seemed a strange decision anyway. Arnoux started the season badly, and while his mid-season form was stunning, the main reason Tambay wasn't keeping pace with him was misfortune (back to back engine failures in Germany and Austria) - and that's without considering Tambay's fantastic development skills. With pitstops largely out for 1984, Tambay's sympathy for tyres and fuel consumption might have been a better choice.

Nevertheless, Ferrari continued to show that while their drivers come and go, they remain one of the most powerful teams on the grid. Their cars were always competitive - even on circuits that favoured Michelins, only Prost and Piquet were much of a match - and their results impressive. They scored points in 12 of the 15 races, and accumulated 11 rostrum finishes between two drivers. It wasn't domination, but it was very impressive.

79 Wins: 4 Pole Positions: 3 Fastest Laps: 3
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 21 Points Finishes: 15

Renault finally cracked their reliability problems in 1983, but still didn't win either title. The RE40 was a good machine, and the engine was arguably better than ever, finding a nice compromise between speed and not blowing up somewhere around mid-distance. The statistics say it all - ultimately meaningless pole positions were down, finishes were up.

It still didn't work. The team paid the penalty for fielding the RE30C when the new RE40 had been thoroughly tested pre-season, granting their rivals two races' head start. When the RE40 at the European races, all seemed to be going well - when the car worked, Prost won handsomely. When it didn't, it was still coming home in the points by and large. However, by mid-season the Brabham and the Ferrari were faster, and Prost was making up points through reliability, despite an ongoing intercooler problem. He warned the team that they needed to find more speed before their competitors overcame their runs of bad luck, and was ignored. The result was Prost went to Kyalami with a points lead without ever really looking like landing the title.

After unsuccessfully trying to juggle first Arnoux and Jabouille and then Arnoux and Prost, Eddie Cheever was hired to drive alongside Prost in 1983. His brief was to back Prost up rather than challenge him, but he had the bulk of the team's serious mechanical problems, and never really looked like intervening in the championship battle by taking points from Piquet or the Ferrari drivers.

Ultimately Renault seemed to be hapless prisoners to fortune in the last few races, and it was a credit to Prost rather than the somewhat bureaucratic organisation of Renault Sport that he stayed in contention despite the team's complacency. That Renault turned around and sacked him for speaking out after Kyalami said it all about the organisation.

72 Wins: 4 Pole Positions: 2 Fastest Laps: 5
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 16 Points Finishes: 12

In only their second year racing the BMW turbo, Brabham took the drivers' title at the expense of the dreaded Renault. The feeling was that the team realised early on they wouldn't be able to match either the French concern or Ferrari by backing both drivers, and Gordon Murray's near-telepathic relationship with Nelson Piquet saw Riccardo Patrese slide back in the team's attentions as the year went on.

Murray's BT52 was the best-looking car on the grid, and showed very well early on - notably a fine win first time out in Brazil despite being virtually untested. However, the team were smart enough not to rest on their laurels, and mid-season saw the definitive BT52B arrive in response to the Renault RE40 and Ferrari 126C3. As their rivals peaked Brabham still had something in reserve, and by the end of the season the feeling of momentum was palpable.

BMW deserve a lot of credit too. While not as bullet-proof as the Ferrari V6, the production-based engine produced a massive amount of power and generally lasted races in 1983, even when more powerful fuel and greater boost were used towards the sharp end of the season. This reliability was vital to Piquet's title, as when the chassis was outclassed before mid-season he was still able to score points.

Patrese didn't have a good year, and most of his problems were caused by overdriving. The Brabham wasn't unreliable, but it was fragile, and he was too hard on it. On other occasions, such as Imola, he was simply stupid, but at least he was there when Piquet needed him - bottling up de Angelis at Brands and then acting as tail gunner in Kyalami, even if Prost's challenge faltered before getting that far. However, by the end of the year it was clear he would be moving on - Brabham is Piquet's team, and it's not difficult to see why.

36 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 0
31 Starts: 29 Finishes: 19 Points Finishes: 13

Williams went into 1983 with high hopes that the flat-bottom regulations would make the Cosworth competitive again, and after the first couple of races (with Rosberg a delayed 2nd in Brazil and fastest man at Long Beach until he collided with everyone going, with Laffite also leading at the latter and finishing 4th) it looked like they might have been right. However, the turbos obliterated them at Ricard, and from then on it took a miracle to get them on the same footing.

Rosberg provided one at Monaco with an astonishing drive, and Laffite should have finished 2nd too. However, for much of the rest of the season both were forced to live off scraps when the turbo runners failed. Thanks to Williams' excellent preparation they did this very well, and before Silverstone Rosberg was within five points of the title lead.

However, then Michelin came to the fore. Laffite faded badly, while Rosberg was frequently unable to hold off the McLarens, or even - on occasion - Jarier's Ligier. Things got worse towards the end of the season, though at least the deal with Honda was done. The new combination's debut at Kyalami showed there was nothing wrong with the chassis or the drivers, and with turbo power Williams will be a real threat once again in 1984.

34 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 1
30 Starts: 28 Finishes: 14 Points Finishes: 10

McLaren knew 1983 would be a year of transition while they waited for their new TAG-funded Porsche-built V6 turbo engine. As it was, the waiting went on for rather longer than expected, and they suffered some highs and lows along the way.

The highs included Watson's tigering drive in Rio, the astonishing 1-2 at Long Beach and some fine drives at the start of the second half of the season when the Michelin tyres started to work for them, and Williams were knocked off the top spot as far as the Cosworth class was concerned. Low points were some embarrassing practices as the MP4/1C failed to get any heat into the French company's qualifiers (made with turbo cars in mind), culminating in both cars humiliatingly failing to qualify at Monaco.

Watson had the more eye-catching drives, but there was a sense that Lauda - with his future assured - wasn't risking things quite as much. After the TAG engine was running properly (an operation that took a little longer than most involved were expecting), it was Lauda who put in the stunning drive at Kyalami while Watson was busy getting disqualified in a fashion which belied his experience, and Lauda announcing himself as a challenger in 1984.

18 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
30 Starts: 29 Finishes: 11 Points Finishes: 5

It was difficult to discern if Alfa Romeo actually made any solid progress in 1983. It was clear that de Cesaris had, while Baldi was less accident prone than predecessor Giacomelli, but once again it was the same old story - lots of resources, plenty of promise, relatively few results.

Paolo Pavanelli's Euroracing outfit didn't do as bad a job as many were expecting, but there was still a lot wrong with the team on an organisational level. The farcical fire extinguisher situation at Paul Ricard was bad enough in itself, but that Gerard Ducarouge, the team's real ace, was fired as a result was gob-smacking. The French wizard's absence will be more keenly felt in 1984 than it was for much of 1983. The team's pitstops were often terrible too, especially under any sort of pressure, but the Alfa V8 was so thirsty they were a necessity.

Most of the time, though, de Cesaris showed well, even if the car was fairly unreliable. He should have scored more points than he did, and while the fiery Roman was still capable of errors, the 184T let him down more often than he let it down. Baldi was somewhat anonymous in the second car, occasionally turning a good grid position into a respectable early stint, but he never really looked like being genuinely competitive.

12 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 15 Points Finishes: 3

Tyrrell won another race in 1983 thanks to Alboreto and a slice of good fortune, but the year was a step back from the heroics of 1982. Despite sponsorship from Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton (who also supplied the mechanics with lovely pink and green uniforms...), the team never got tooled up for fast refuelling, which meant that both drivers started on full tanks and hard tyres when would-be rivals McLaren and Williams were using softer compounds and had lighter cars.

The combative Sullivan made a good impression, while Alboreto was still fast on some occasions but seemed to be running down his contract on others. Too often he seemed happy enough to settle for a place in the midfield, running just ahead of his team-mate.

Ken Tyrrell spent most of the year scurrying from manufacturer to manufacturer trying to get a supply of turbo engines, which was a pretty thankless task considering the protests and the like he had lodged against them in the previous two seasons. It seems likely that Tyrrell will instead be stuck with the DFY, though the revised fuel regulations might not make this a bad thing.

12 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 1
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 10 Points Finishes: 5

The death of Colin Chapman hit Lotus hard and most expected it to affect the team's performance. Few were prepared for the team's truly horrible start to 1983. Renault power had arrived, but it was put in the back of a truly dreadful chassis, and by mid-season de Angelis looked to be at breaking point, spooked by an evil-handling car and pilloried by all.

The arrival of Gerard Ducarouge saved the team's season. In the extended break between Montreal and Silverstone, he worked ridiculous hours, and married the 91-derived, Cosworth-powered Lotus 92 (which handled well with a flat bottom) to the French V6, resulting in the 94T. The drivers loved it, and at Silverstone suddenly Lotus were back.

It was a bit of a false dawn, as Lotus then experienced the problems they should have been sorting in the first half of the year, partly with reliability and partly with tyres. Chapman had landed a three-year deal with Pirelli, rightly wanting radials and reportedly forbidden from signing for Michelin as part of the Renault deal. The Italian company's qualifiers were excellent, their race tyres dreadful and aside from the British races, the Lotus cars slid back down the leaderboard on Sundays. There was a fractious atmosphere within the team - with de Angelis and Mansell continuing to feud and both falling out with Peter Warr at one point or another - which didn't help matters even when the new car arrived, but overall Lotus had managed to avoid outright humiliation in 1983.

10 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 31 Finishes: 12 Points Finishes: 5

Toleman had a strange winter. The TG183, which had shown promise at the end of 1982, was effectively outlawed, and Rory Byrne was forced into an expensive redesign. When the TG183B arrived, it looked like nothing else with its' nose-mounted radiators and double rear wing, but set devastating times at Rio testing.

Come the start of the season proper, Warwick qualified well, but was overcome by Pirelli race rubber. And then it became clear Rio was something of a freak track, and the car wouldn't qualify as well again. Things were much better than they had been, with qualification virtually ensured (only once would a Toleman miss the grid, when Giacomelli was 21st overall at Monaco), and usually in a good midfield placing. However, reliability wasn't there, and there was a feeling that the elusive first points were never coming - especially after Warwick crashed out of 4th in Monte Carlo.

However, a switch to Holsett turbos remedied the reliability problems almost instantly, allowing Warwick to take an emotional 4th at Zandvoort, followed by three more top six finishes in the final three races. On Michelins, it could have been even better. Sadly, it seems Warwick has outgrown the team, and he is almost certain to be tempted away in 1984. Also unlikely to remain with the team is Bruno Giacomelli, who showed the odd flash of talent but was generally second to Warwick in both the team's attentions and on the timesheets, though at least he scored a point at Brands.

4 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
30 Starts: 30 Finishes: 23 Points Finishes: 4

Arrows had a lot to be proud of in 1983. Like Toleman, they had introduced a new car in late 1982 - the Williams FW08 copy A5 - which then had to be revised for the new regulations. They didn't have a title sponsor either, with backing being found on a race-by-race basis, often from local companies.

However, for the first half of the season it was behind only the Williams among the Cosworth cars, and Surer was often right with them. The Swiss driver was combative without unduly risking his car, and a couple of times was on the cusp of something really special. Initially he was partnered by the solid Chico Serra. Then came Alan Jones' ultimately abortive comeback, before Thierry Boutsen took over the car for the rest of the year, and proved a good match for team and team-mate.

In the second half of the year, without the money for refuelling equipment and stuck on cross-ply Goodyears, the Arrows were only up to midfield placings, but both drivers kept going and finished races, and the team survived once more.

1 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
27 Starts: 22 Finishes: 10 Points Finishes: 1

The merger of Ensign and Theodore seemed to be a perfect combination at first. Nunn had the staff and experience, Yip had the funds. The former brought with him the impressive Roberto Guerrero, and Johnny Cecotto signed up to drive the second of the new N183 cars. The chassis was an obvious successor to the promising Ensign N181, even without the name tipping everyone off.

At the start of the season it was clearly a useful machine, even if reliability wasn't there. Cecotto scored the team's first point since 1981 at Long Beach, and Guerrero might have done better had his superb 8th best practice time hadn't been disallowed for an inadvertent, pedantic technical fault.

However, Yip's pockets were not bottomless, and he began to tire of pouring money into the team for few results. The car was never quite sorted and slipped down the order, and when Goodyear began to lose the tyre war and the series switched to faster tracks, the Theodores turned from promising midfielders to backmarkers. Both drivers' sponsors pulled the plug before the end of the year, following Nunn out the door after he fell out with Yip, and it would be a surprise if the team is present in 1984.

0 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
30 Starts: 28 Finishes: 16 Points Finishes: 6

Having fallen from race winners to occasional points scorers in 1982, Ligier completed the decline in 1983 by failing to score a single point. With Renault not able to provide turbos until 1984, Guy Ligier rapidly lost interest in what was going on in front of him.

It was a shame, because the strange-looking JS21 wasn't as bad as it looked. Indeed, Jarier would have won in California but for his collision with Rosberg, and showed good speed in Monaco too. In the second half of the season his Michelin-shod car was a match for the Williams drivers, and the team never had problems with qualifiers like McLaren.

However, the hydropneumatic Citroen suspension was of little use, and in the second half of the season a dispirited Jarier turned truculent. Occasionally he still drove with the same vigour, but more often he just took his dark mood out on anyone else. It's not really worth mentioning Boesel, a limited driver to begin with who was rendered completely anonymous by the team basically ignoring him as soon as they had his sponsor money banked.

0 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
6 Starts: 6 Finishes: 3 Points Finishes: 0

Much anticipated, ultimately Spirit's entry into Formula 1 with the returning Honda fizzled. In retrospect it was difficult to see why the Japanese manufacturer had wanted to tie themselves to an inexperienced team in the first place, and it wasn't that much of a surprise when, after a difficult half-dozen races dogged by technical problems, they switched allegiance to Williams.

The Spirit car was actually quite effective in the hands of the underrated Johansson when it ran reliably. The problem was it never seemed to be able to string more than a dozen laps together without something going wrong, and that the engine ran so much better in the Williams was interesting.

As it is, John Wickham's team now face up to F1 in 1984 without the manufacturer who had inspired them to graduate to the series in the first place, and it will be an uphill struggle for the small squad.

14. ATS
0 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
15 Starts: 14 Finishes: 3 Points Finishes: 0

That ATS found themselves without even a single point in 1983 was both a surprise and not a surprise. Just for the resources they squandered, the German-owned British-based team were arguably the least impressive outfit to contest the series - at least RAM had reasons for being uncompetitive.

Whereas ATS had the engine that won the drivers' championship, in very close to the same spec too - they didn't have the rocket fuel Brabham were feeding the thing, and that was the only difference there. They had Manfred Winkelhock - not the most refined driver on the grid, but certainly fast enough for any respectable midfield outfit, as his practice placings and - when he was allowed to show it - race pace would attest. They had Gustav Brunner's all-new D6, a neat chassis once the early handling problems were ironed out.

What they didn't have was reliability, because they just couldn't get the basic preparation right. Gunther Schmidt was loathe to replace parts until they broke, so they stayed on until they did - often in races, and often when Winkelhock was in with a chance of a decent placing. Only once did the German have an untroubled race, and sod's law said it was at Brands, where Goodyear were beaten not only by Michelin but also by Pirelli. The team should have scored half a dozen points minimum, who knows how many more, but they ended up with zero. A waste.

0 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
30 Starts: 16 Finishes: 3 Points Finishes: 0

After a horrible 1982, Osella were almost starting again in 1983. Throughout the year their goal was to get into races and try to impress Alfa Romeo enough to be allowed a supply of turbo V8s in 1984. It wasn't the loftiest of ambitions, but it was probably the best they could hope for.

The year started with the modified DFV-powered FA1E which had shown some promise in late 1982 when it wasn't breaking. In the hands of Corrado Fabi it wasn't a particularly bad motorcar, even if it still remained fragile. The real problems started at Imola, when the team switched Ghinzani to the new Alfa Romeo V12-powered FA1F. Tony Southgate's design looked great, but thanks to the heavy, ageing engine wasn't much faster than the FA1E, and running both cars was a logistical nightmare for the small team. However, the team had to get in Alfa's good graces, and the V12s were free, so for the second half of the season both drivers had the thing, which at least simplified the job for the mechanics.

At that point Ghinzani started qualifying, while Fabi stopped for a little while - until Austria, when they both got in and then both finished. Next race out in Holland Fabi got in again, and finished once more, while both cars started at Monza and Kyalami, albeit due to others' problems, and the car was embarrassingly slow in South Africa. Progress it wasn't, but they have their Alfa turbo deal for 1984, and with it the only chance such a small outfit has of ever making progress.

0 Wins: 0 Pole Positions: 0 Fastest Laps: 0
15 Starts: 3 Finishes: 2 Points Finishes: 0

And RAM thought 1982 was bad. It's difficult to find anything positive for Ralph & Macdonald's team in 1983 - about all that leaps to mind is that not once was one of their cars catapulted into a spectators' enclosure, and that's about it.

Dave Kelly's RAM March 01 (the Bicester company had next to no involvement in the design) just didn't look right from the start, and was also on Pirelli tyres - which were tailored for the Lotus and Toleman teams. Osella struggled on Pirelli qualifiers, but RAM full-out floundered. The car lacked mechanical grip, and failed to get any heat into the one-lap practice compounds - their various drivers were frequently faster on race tyres in free practice.

The first to have a go was Eliseo Salazar, who stared and finished in Brazil, and then qualified in Long Beach only to retire. He was joined by Jean-Louis Schlesser in France (after a run-out in the Race of Champions), but neither made the cut, and the Frenchman was promptly dropped when his sponsorship money didn't appear. Salazar didn't make the grid again and his sponsor pulled out after Spa, causing the team to miss Detroit altogether. Jacques Villeneuve then tried and failed in Canada, before Kenny Acheson took over from Silverstone onwards, finally getting a start by default in South Africa. Once again RAM had managed to perform even worse than the previous disappointing season, and there's a big question mark over whether they'll be back for more in 1984.