Grand Prix Classic




Round 3 - Belgian Grand Prix
Zolder, 27-29 April, 1984

Much to the chagrin of nearly everyone involved, after the successful and popular return of Grand Prix racing to Spa in 1983, the Belgian Grand Prix instead returned to the Zolder circuit for 1984, as the Zolder owners had organised an alternating contract after spending considerable money upgrading the facilities at the FIA's behest.

McLaren had dominated the first two races of the season, but their rivals Brabham, Ferrari, Renault and Lotus had all suffered from reliability issues and it remained to be seen if Prost and Lauda were as far ahead of the rest of the field as the opposition made them seem.


Entry Notes

Arrows had two of the new A7 chassis with BMW turbo engines available. In the interest of simplicity, they decided to allocate both to a single driver. On this occasion, Thierry Boutsen would drive the new car in deference to the event being his home race. RAM had also built a second 1984-spec 02 car for Palmer.

It had seemed likely that ex-RAM driver Jean-Louis Schlesser would take over the lone Spirit-Hart, but at the 11th hour Mauro Baldi found the funds to continue for at least the next two races. Similarly, Piercarlo Ghinzani recovered sufficiently from his Kyalami injuries to drive the Osella, scotching the hopes of reserve driver Jo Gartner.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Surprisingly considering their poor performance in Kyalami, it was the Ferraris of Alboreto and Arnoux who topped the timesheets in practice, locking down the front row. Behind them came Rosberg, after hurling the Williams around in his customary style. Warwick in 4th, the only Michelin runner in the top six, followed by de Angelis and Winkelhock.

The ATS driver had hit on the idea of using the less-worn right hand tyres from his two allotted sets of qualifiers, fitting in a third flying lap. Patrese, Prost, Piquet and Cheever filled out the top 10, with Tambay 11th, Lauda down in 14th place and Fabi only 18th. Williams and Brabham both had recurring engine troubles throughout both days of practice.

Boutsen had the new Arrows in 17th, while Ghinzani - his hands still bandaged - qualified well in 20th place. The one non-qualifier was Alliot, who had suffered a blown engine in his own car, then a broken turbo when he commandeered Palmer's machine.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

Ahead of the race, no-one seemed especially confident. The Michelin runners were acutely aware that their tyres were being outclassed, while Goodyear freighted out much-improved compounds on Sunday morning, only for their runners to largely demur and stick with tyres they knew. Indeed, the only man who looked that confident was Winkelhock, who topped the morning warm-up with his Pirelli-shod ATS. A bizarre interlude happened ahead of the forming of the dummy grid where the FIA had the idea of sending the top six in the championship table out for a couple of laps for the crowd to see. Warwick and de Angelis decided to have an impromptu drag race on the straight, and were nearly hit by Lauda...

At the race start, Alboreto leapt away confidently, closely followed by Warwick, Arnoux, Winkelhock, de Angelis and Patrese. Rosberg's car juddered and stalled, requiring a push, while Cheever slickly moved past Prost at the first corner. Prost moved past his former team-mate before the end of the lap, but the front four were beginning to break away - Alboreto looking comfortable in the lead, Arnoux nipping at Warwick's heels and Winkelhock keeping ahead of de Angelis with few problems. Patrese dropped out shortly with ignition trouble, while Cecotto also retired with a broken clutch. Next to go was Prost, out of 6th with electrical problems, and Boutsen's Arrows-BMW would be in the pits with a misfire by the eighth lap.

Warwick was trying to press Alboreto, while Winkelhock was closing up on Arnoux, and Piquet was attacking de Angelis for 5th, making an action-packed top six early on. Piquet was soon able to use the Brabham's straight-line speed to blast past the Lotus on the start straight. Alboreto managed to get away from Warwick's attentions within the first ten laps, and the front four began to spread out. By lap 11, Rosberg had charged up to 10th place from 21st at the end of the first lap, and was looming in Lauda's mirrors, the pair of them closing on Tambay's second Renault. The Finn would pass both in successive laps, and promptly set off after 7th-placed Cheever, who in turn had closed right up to de Angelis.

Alboreto had built a nine-second lead over Warwick by lap 18, the Ferrari and its' Goodyear tyres working wonderfully in the Italian's hands. The Renault's Michelins were proving less of a match, but Arnoux behind was unable to escape Winkelhock, while Piquet had caught the pair of them. The German's brave drive began to fade with his Pirellis around lap 22, with Piquet moving past. The Brazilian was then past Arnoux within a couple of laps, with the ATS dropping back towards de Angelis. Arnoux would pit shortly for his routine tyre stop, but was stationary for far too long, while Cheever dropped out of 5th place when his Alfa lost a turbo.

Rosberg was the next to pass Winkelhock, and was soon pressing Piquet to boot. The Brabham slid wide after a few laps, allowing the Williams through to 3rd, and then 2nd when Warwick pitted for tyres. Further back, the Tyrrells were causing something of a stir, with Bellof in 7th and Brundle 9th - living up to Ken Tyrrell's promise his DFV-engined cars would be competitive here. Astonishingly, Alboreto slid off when coming up to lap the leading Tyrrell and ploughed through a sand trap, but was lucky enough to survive with only a few seconds lost, and enough of a lead to stay in front when he made his stop three laps later.

Winkelhock's race came to a sad end after 40 laps with engine failure after a poor tyre stop had dropped him out of contention, while South African Grand Prix winner Lauda followed with a broken radiator, having never reached the top 6. The superb Bellof was now all over de Angelis on the corners, but the Lotus had enough straight-line speed to keep ahead of the normally aspirated Tyrrell. Rosberg's stop on lap 43 was as much of a disaster as Winkelhock's had been, and he rejoined down in 6th behind Bellof, with a recovering Arnoux hot on his heels. In an astonishing sequence, the Williams and Ferrari went by the Lotus and the Tyrrell right after each other, and then set off Piquet, struggling on unsatisfactory Michelins.

The Brabham was caught six laps from the end, but the duo were too far back to challenge Warwick, let alone provide any sort of threat to the majestic Alboreto. Rosberg pushed Arnoux so hard the Frenchman ran wide and span down to 5th, but the demotion was short-lived. Firstly, Piquet's BMW engine suddenly blew up mid-corner, sending the Brabham ploughing into the barriers three laps from the end. Then, on the last lap Rosberg's petrol tank ran dry (the first real instance of someone simply running out of fuel under the new regulations), dropping him to 4th.

Alboreto's first victory for Ferrari had been peerless, admittedly on a slow track which seemed to suit Goodyears, while second place was a good solid effort for Warwick, putting him up to 2nd in the championship. Behind Rosberg came de Angelis and Bellof, finishing a few lengths apart after battling for most of the second half of the race. Senna was a useful 7th for Toleman, ahead of Tambay's ill-handling Renault. The only other cars running at the end were Surer in the old Arrows and Palmer in the difficult RAM.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
70
1h 36m 32.048s
1
2
Derek Warwick Renault
70
+ 43.386s
4
3
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
70
+ 1m 09.803s
2
4
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
69
+ 1 lap/Out of fuel
3
5
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
69
+ 1 lap
5
6
Stefan Bellof Tyrrell-Cosworth
69
+ 1 lap
21
7
Ayrton Senna Toleman-Hart
68
+ 2 laps
19
8
Patrick Tambay Renault
68
+ 2 laps
12
9
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
68
+ 2 laps
24
10
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
66
+ 4 laps/Engine
9
11
Jonathan Palmer RAM-Hart
64
+ 6 laps
26
R
Mauro Baldi Spirit-Hart
53
Suspension
25
R
Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Cosworth
51
Loose wheel
22
R
Teo Fabi Brabham-BMW
42
Spin
18
R
Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault
42
Accident
13
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-BMW
39
Engine
6
R
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
35
Radiator
14
R
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
28
Turbo
11
R
Jacques Laffite Williams-Honda
15
Spin
15
R
Francois Hesnault Ligier-Renault
15
Radiator
23
R
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW
15
Engine
17
R
Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo
13
Differential
20
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Renault
13
Clutch
10
R
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
5
Electrics
8
R
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
2
Ignition
7
R
Johnny Cecotto Toleman-Hart
1
Clutch
16

Fastest Lap: Rene Arnoux (Ferrari), 1:19.294s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
15
2
Derek Warwick
10
3=
Niki Lauda
9
3=
Michele Alboreto
9
3=
Keke Rosberg
9
6
Elio de Angelis
6
7
Rene Arnoux
4
8=
Eddie Cheever
3
8=
Riccardo Patrese
3
10=
Martin Brundle
2
10=
Andrea de Cesaris
2
12=
Patrick Tambay
1
12=
Ayrton Senna
1
12=
Stefan Bellof
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
24
2
Ferrari
13
3
Renault
11
4
Williams
9
5=
Alfa Romeo
6
5=
Lotus
6
7
Tyrrell
3
8
Ligier
2
9
Toleman
1