Grand Prix Classic




Round 1 - Brazilian Grand Prix
Jacarepagua, 23-25 March, 1984

Rio's Jacarepagua track retained the position of season opener in order to avoid Kyalami having to host back-to-back rounds. The Brazilian track has long been a favoured off-season testing venue for most of the teams, which would theoretically mean the race would give a good representation of the shape of the season, although this wasn't the case in 1983.

Most of the off-season talk had resolved around the new fuel regulations, and there was much speculation as to whether drivers would actually be able to pace themselves well enough to finish the race.


Entry Notes

27 cars would be contesting the series. Since the end of 1983, the Theodore team had finally completely disappeared, while Osella had slimmed down to a single entry. RAM, meanwhile, had expanded to fielding two cars again. This would mean that one driver would be eliminated from the entry after the Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions to leave a grid of 26 cars.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Nelson Piquet was the pre-race favourite - but the new barely-tested Brabham BT53 was beset by niggling problems, with an engine problem on Saturday taking him out of the battle for pole. Instead, the fight was between Ferrari, Renault, Lotus (now on Goodyear tyres) and the impressive new McLaren-TAG.

In the end, de Angelis won out after team-mate Mansell span out of the second session and ended up 5th. Alboreto would start his Ferrari debut from the front row, ahead of Warwick and Prost. Behind Mansell came Lauda in the second McLaren ahead of Piquet, Tambay, a disappointed Rosberg, Arnoux, Patrese and Cheever. Five drivers would be aiming to make their Grand Prix debut, and in the end all qualified safely - the most impressive being Senna, 16th in the Toleman, despite trouble with the Pirelli tyres.

One driver would be the odd one out and not qualify, and for much of the weekend Jonathan Palmer in the old RAM seemed to be the luckless one. However, in the Saturday afternoon session Manfred Winkelhock's ATS stopped at the pit lane entrance (having set a time good enough for 15th on the grid), and his enthusiastic mechanics took advantage of a stoppage (caused by Teo Fabi's Brabham crashing) to retrieve the car. This was against regulations, but it would seem the marshals had resolved to simply fine the team until principal Gunther Schmidt unleashed an expletive-ridden rant in their direction, at which point the German car was excluded, allowing Palmer to move up to 26th.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

The season got off to a somewhat stuttering start. Firstly, de Cesaris stalled his Ligier, and the start was aborted. After a half-hour delay, during which the Italian strapped himself into the spare car in the pitlane, things got going again, but as the lights went out both Piquet and Cecotto stalled. This time it was too late for the start to be delayed, and the Brazilian crowd's hero got going in 24th with help from the marshals.

Alboreto, meanwhile, had headed into the first corner in the lead, while de Angelis' Renault turbo began to misfire almost immediately and he dropped behind Warwick, Mansell and Lauda before the end of the lap. Following de Angelis were Tambay, Arnoux, Rosberg and Cheever, with Prost next having made a bad start after letting the engine's revs drop too low. Making a good start, however, was Stefan Bellof in the Tyrrell, who contrived to finish the first lap in 14th place from 22nd on the grid, and the German sliced past Senna's Toleman on the next lap.

Alboreto was looking comfortable in the lead, edging away from Warwick with the pair of them pulling out a gap over Mansell. The McLarens were on the move, however. They had topped the timesheets in the morning warm-up and reaping the rewards of working on their race setup throughout practice sessions rather than aiming for pole position. Lauda disposed of Mansell on the second lap and then hunted down Warwick, shoving past at the end of the straight on lap 10, making contact with the Renault.

A lap later Lauda was in the lead. Alboreto had span off on the last corner, and then span again the next time he applied the brakes. After gingerly making his way back to the pits, the mechanics located a problem with the callipers and sent Alboreto on his way, but the repairs made no difference and after another slow lap he pulled in to retire.

This left Lauda leading in some comfort from Warwick, who was under no real threat from Mansell in 3rd. The Lotus, however, was being reeled in by Prost in the second McLaren. Then there came another gap to Tambay, Arnoux, de Angelis, an understeering Rosberg and Fabi. Piquet, having charged through the field, would pass his team-mate on lap 17. Laffite, Bellof, Senna and Baldi had already retired, soon to be joined by Cecotto.

While fuel stops were off the itinerary, the teams were all planning tyre stops, having started on soft compound tyres. Warwick was the first in on lap 29 along with Mansell, and both had textbook stops from their well-drilled mechanics. Prost was next of the front-runners to stop, and was not so lucky - a wheel nut refused to tighten and he was stationary for some thirty seconds, with more confusion caused when Lauda pulled in behind him to retire with an electrical failure.

The lead was thus handed to Warwick. Prost set off after him, but with a deficit of half a minute would need to gain about a second a lap on the Renault. While the McLaren was faster, it wasn't that much faster. They were the only two really in contention - third-placed Tambay was too far behind, Arnoux had stopped with electrical failure and Mansell had slid off with brake failure and both Brabhams retired. Warwick seemed to have everything in hand, despite a vibration from the front of the car.

However, with ten laps to go a wishbone in the Renault's front suspension - the cause of the vibration and a result of his earlier contact with Lauda - snapped entirely, and Warwick was sent into a slow spin before limping around to retire. This left Prost to canter home to win on his second debut for McLaren. Rosberg was forcing the Williams to do what he wanted it to do and moved past Tambay into second with a few laps to go, but it turned out he may as well have not bothered as the second Renault ground to a halt two laps from the end out of fuel and dropped to 6th, leaving a dogged de Angelis to haul his misfiring Lotus into a disappointed 3rd.

In 4th came Eddie Cheever, who had driven a carefully measured race for Alfa after predictions they would struggle the most to meet the new fuel regulations, though he was helped by the fact the three cars behind him were all Cosworth runners. In the closing stages he matched his pace to that of the excellent Martin Brundle, driving smoothly and with astonishing maturity in the Tyrrell, but lacking the horsepower to seriously challenge the Alfa Romeo. Nevertheless, fifth place on a Grand Prix debut is nothing to be sniffed at.

Attrition had been high, and there were only three non-scoring finishers - the trusty Arrows A6 cars of Boutsen and Surer taking 7th and 8th, with Palmer 9th and last in the surviving RAM. Arrows protested Brundle's late stop for water ballast, claiming Tyrrell had actually added fuel instead. The Tyrrell mechanics gladly stripped down the 012 and showed scrutineers there was no link between the water tank and the fuel tank, and Brundle's excellent result stood.

While the loss of so many front runners, the race wasn't the most exciting, but hadn't been the boring fuel-saving exercise doom-mongers had been predicting. Tambay was the only driver to run out of fuel, and even this was later traced to a faulty injection system. However, many had been running close to the bone, and the front runners were aghast to hear rumours that Prost's McLaren-TAG had been so efficient that several litres of fuel remained in the tank after his victory...


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
61
1h 42m 34.492s
4
2
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
61
+ 40.014s
9
3
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
61
+ 58.631s
1
4
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
60
+ 1 lap
12
5
Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Cosworth
60
+ 1 lap
18
6
Patrick Tambay Renault
59
+ 2 laps/Out of fuel
8
7
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-Cosworth
59
+ 2 laps
20
8
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
59
+ 2 laps
24
9
Jonathan Palmer RAM-Hart
58
+ 3 laps
26
R
Derek Warwick Renault
51
Suspension
3
R
Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault
42
Gearbox
14
R
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
41
Gearbox
11
R
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
38
Electrics
6
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Renault
35
Accident
5
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
32
Engine
7
R
Teo Fabi Brabham-BMW
32
Turbo
15
R
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
30
Electrics
10
R
Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo
28
Gearbox
21
R
Francois Hesnault Ligier-Renault
25
Engine
19
R
Philippe Alliot RAM-Hart
24
Electrics
25
R
Johnny Cecotto Toleman-Hart
18
Boost
17
R
Jacques Laffite Williams-Honda
15
Electrics
13
R
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
14
Brakes
2
R
Mauro Baldi Spirit-Hart
12
Ignition
23
R
Stefan Bellof Tyrrell-Cosworth
11
Throttle
22
R
Ayrton Senna Toleman-Hart
8
Boost
16

Fastest Lap: Alain Prost (McLaren), 1:36.499s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
9
2
Keke Rosberg
6
3
Elio de Angelis
4
4
Eddie Cheever
3
5
Martin Brundle
2
6
Patrick Tambay
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
9
2
Williams
6
3
Lotus
4
4
Alfa Romeo
3
5
Tyrrell
2
6
Renault
1