Grand Prix Classic




Round 5 - French Grand Prix
Dijon-Prenois, 18-20 May, 1984

After mounting a Swiss Grand Prix in 1982, and having to cancel a 1983 edition due to organisation problems, Dijon-Prenois reclaimed the French Grand Prix for 1984. On Thursday ahead of the race there was a meeting among the team owners to discuss the fuel regulations - according to the FIA's 1982 ruling, capacity was to be reduced to 195 litres in 1985. Renault and Alfa Romeo argued for an increase to 250l, while most of the teams argued to keep the current 220l for another year. Only Ken Tyrrell, enjoying a fine season with his low-consumption Cosworth-engined cars, argued that the teams should reduce capacity in line with the original agreement, and without the constructors' unanimous agreement there was no way the teams would be able to bring any pressure onto the FIA.

Renault, after a difficult start of the season, were as usual at the centre of several rumours in their home race, mainly to the effect that the works team would be withdrawn at the end of the season. The team went as far to threaten a temporary withdrawal for both the works and customer teams while they sorted the V6's fuel consumption problems, but many believed this was simple brinkmanship.


Entry Notes

Toleman's new TG184 was finally entered for Senna and Cecotto, with the team now on Michelin tyres - and issuing a bitter press release defending itself from reported accusations levelled at them by former supplier Pirelli.

Elsewhere, Boutsen was back in the Arrows-BMW, while Osella reverted to entering a single turbo car for Piercarlo Ghinzani.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

As well as bringing rumours, Renault's home race often brings an improved performance, and thus it was the case again with Patrick Tambay taking the team's first pole position of the season, despite suffering a turbocharger failure after setting the best time. Alongside him was de Angelis in the much-improved Lotus (with a revised rear wing), with Piquet 3rd, Rosberg 4th, Prost 5th and Mansell 6th.

Tambay's team-mate Warwick was 7th in the spare car after his race car's engine blew, Winkelhock 8th, Lauda 9th and the Ferrari cars only 10th (Arnoux) and 11th (Alboreto). Senna had the new Toleman in 13th, greatly enthused by the Michelin rubber, but de Cesaris had his 9th-fastest Friday time disallowed when his fire extinguisher was found to be empty (he had, coincidentally surely, been censured for this at the previous French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard).

His hopes of qualification were dashed when Saturday was soaking wet. Despite recording 4th fastest time, de Cesaris was 11 seconds from ousting Ghinzani from the grid. However, 10 minutes from the end of the session his team-mate Francois Hesnault, who had qualified well in 14th (and was still faster than de Cesaris in the wet at the first track of the season he had driven at before), apparently voluntarily withdrew so his team leader could start. Few believed that the decision was Hesnault's, especially after the young Frenchman issued some contradictory statements before towing the party line, admittedly with less enthusiasm than Guy Ligier would have everyone believe.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

Race day was dry, but gloomy and overcast, representing a somewhat restless mood. This evaporated almost as soon as the race started. Tambay didn't have a great start, at least not as good as the Lotus cars, and briefly looked like going into the first corner in third, but somehow scrabbled around with his lead intact. Behind him were the Renault-powered de Angelis and Mansell, and by the third lap Warwick would be past Rosberg, making it Renault engines in the first four places, closely bunched together, with Tambay and de Angelis moving almost as one.

Mansell maintained a watching brief with a small advantage over Warwick, with Rosberg and Piquet losing ground on the second Renault. However, behind the Brabham came Prost and Lauda, their McLarens looking potent. The configuration of Dijon, with its' main straight and first corner the only real passing point, slowed their progress a little, but nevertheless the pair were metronomic, drawing up to the back of cars with ease - and once they were there, it very much seemed like a case of if rather than when. On lap 3, both moved past Rosberg. Prost then took Piquet and Warwick on successive laps, and positively strolled into Mansell's slipstream. The Lotus driver defended with his usual determination, delaying the inevitable for six laps, but the McLaren finally got through, and three laps later was past de Angelis into second.

He reeled in Tambay with the same ease, but his compatriot proved even more resolute than Mansell had. Tambay used all his experience as they lapped traffic, including a neat use of Brundle's Tyrrell, but once again it looked like a lost cause. Prost's speed was best summed up when he was badly baulked by Palmer, losing a couple of seconds, but was back with Tambay again before the end of the lap. However, on lap 28 suddenly Prost ran wide on the final corner and dived into the pits, suffering from a bad vibration. His arrival took the McLaren crew by surprise, but they recovered to change all four wheels and send Prost back out, albeit in 11th place after the driver was a little too hasty with the clutch.

By now, though, Lauda was able to take up the battle, with Tambay having barely time to draw breath between the challenges. It was the same constant pressure, and on lap 40 Tambay cracked, sliding wide at Bretelle. The small mistake was all Lauda needed, and he dived through and immediately pulled away. Everyone else had faded by now - Piquet's turbo had blown spectacularly on lap 12, making it zero points from five races for the defending champion; Ferrari were once again nowhere, Alboreto briefly reaching 9th before a stop for tyres and a broken engine, Arnoux sitting in the lower placings without really threatening; the Lotus cars just didn't have the grip to quite match the front-runners, while Rosberg and Laffite once again found their Williams cars to be understeering drastically, doubly punishing on Dijon's sweeping fast corners.

However, Mansell found himself 3rd, but under attack from Warwick's Renault. As the pair came up to lap Surer's Arrows, Mansell dived past, but Warwick smacked into the Cosworth car and skated off into the catch fencing. Surer and Mansell both blamed Warwick, and Warwick - with a badly bruised leg - blamed Mansell. The accident promoted Prost to 4th, but two laps later he was in the pits again, the vibration still present. An inspection traced it to the disc bell, which was promptly fixed, though the stop dropped Prost back down to 10th. Undaunted, he charged again, going a second a lap faster than anyone else.

By then, Tambay had made a neat stop for tyres, and returned at such a pace that he retook the lead after Lauda made his own late (lap 54) stop. However, on fresh tyres Lauda's speed was more impressive again, and Tambay's second stint in front lasted only six laps before the McLaren caught and passed him in clinical style. The Frenchman realised he was beaten, and settled for six points, thankful that at Dijon at least the V6's fuel consumption was manageable.

Lauda's victory put him back in the championship battle, preventing him from falling too far behind Prost, while Tambay's second place hopefully drew some sort of a line under his wretched start to 1984, and would go some way towards putting upstart Warwick in his place. Third went to Mansell, delighted to break his duck, with Lotus also getting de Angelis home in 5th - disappointing maybe after their practice pace, but a welcome result after a difficult 18 months at Hethel. Between them came Arnoux, who took 4th through lapping consistently, but never really looked in the picture. Rosberg took the final point in his reluctant Williams, while Prost was a frustrated 7th, having just ran out of laps after a gallant late charge.

Behind him came Laffite, happy to record a first finish since the previous year's German Grand Prix, while even Brabham had something minor to celebrate by coming home 9th. With so many of the big guns finishing, it was slim pickings for the rest. In a lapped 10th came de Cesaris, who had made up seven places on the first lap tearing past the tail-enders but thereafter been largely anonymous in a far from perfect car, making many wonder if it had been worth the fuss of forfeiting Hesnault's entry. Behind him came Boutsen in the Arrows-BMW, which was another car suffering chronic understeer and hadn't ran much better than the old Cosworth anyway. To cap things off, a turbo broke just as he was crossing the line.

Also finishing were Brundle in the sole surviving Cosworth car (his team-mate Bellof having pressed Laffite early on until pulling off, mistakenly believing his engine had failed), Ghinzani and Palmer, gaining more mileage and ire from fellow drivers as he struggled around in the clumsy RAM. Of the retirements, Senna had ran in the top 10 with the new Toleman before a turbo failed, neither Alfa impressed before dropping out (Cheever after a rear wing failure), and Winkelhock's ATS had suffered more niggling mechanical problems after once again showing some good speed.

The race's early excitement had largely dissipated by mid-distance as it became clear that everyone else had been largely holding the McLarens up courtesy of a tight circuit rather than matching them, and once again the competition were left scratching their heads, trying to work out how to match the Porsche-engined cars. At least the result meant that both drivers were clearly in the chase for the title, even if circumstances had once again conspired to prevent them from running head to head.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
79
1h 31m 11.951s
9
2
Patrick Tambay Renault
79
+ 7.154s
1
3
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Renault
79
+ 23.969s
6
4
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
79
+ 43.706s
11
5
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
79
+ 1m 06.125s
2
6
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
78
+ 1 lap
4
7
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
78
+ 1 lap
5
8
Jacques Laffite Williams-Honda
78
+ 1 lap
12
9
Teo Fabi Brabham-BMW
78
+ 1 lap
17
10
Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault
77
+ 2 laps
26
11
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW
77
+ 2 laps
14
12
Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Cosworth
76
+ 3 laps
23
13
Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo
74
+ 5 laps
25
14
Jonathan Palmer RAM-Hart
72
+ 7 laps
21
R
Mauro Baldi Spirit-Hart
61
Engine
24
R
Derek Warwick Renault
53
Accident/Surer
7
R
Marc Surer Arrows-Cosworth
51
Accident/Warwick
19
R
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
51
Accident
16
R
Ayrton Senna Toleman-Hart
35
Turbo
13
R
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
33
Engine
10
R
Johnny Cecotto Toleman-Hart
22
Turbo
18
R
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
15
Turbo
15
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
11
Turbo
3
R
Stefan Bellof Tyrrell-Cosworth
11
Stopped
20
R
Manfred Winkelhock ATS-BMW
5
Brakes
8
R
Philippe Alliot RAM-Hart
4
Electrics
22

Fastest Lap: Alain Prost (McLaren), 1:05.257s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
24
2
Niki Lauda
18
3=
Derek Warwick
13
3=
Rene Arnoux
13
5
Elio de Angelis
12
6
Keke Rosberg
10
7
Michele Alboreto
9
8
Patrick Tambay
7
9
Nigel Mansell
4
10=
Eddie Cheever
3
10=
Riccardo Patrese
3
10=
Stefan Bellof
3
13=
Martin Brundle
2
13=
Andrea de Cesaris
2
15=
Ayrton Senna
1
15=
Thierry Boutsen
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
42
2
Ferrari
22
3
Renault
20
4
Lotus
16
5
Williams
10
6
Alfa Romeo
6
7
Tyrrell
5
8
Ligier
2
9=
Toleman
1
9=
Arrows
1