Grand Prix Classic

1984 Season Team Review

143.5 Wins: 12 Pole Positions: 3 Fastest Laps: 8
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 22 Points Finishes: 20

No team has dominated a season quite like McLaren did in 1984. The statistics tell the tale - they won 12 out of the 16 races (with four 1-2 finishes), and scored more points than the next three teams put together. It was a perfect show of synergy, everyone involved working to the same end.

McLaren had two of the finest drivers in the world who managed to work together despite being title rivals. Sure, they both wanted the championship for themselves, but as both Prost and Lauda had similar needs from the car and were mature enough not to bicker. Ron Dennis' professionalism ran through the team, which meant superb preparation - even on the spare car, which was always capable when pressed into service.

John Barnard's chassis was superb, especially the rear-end aerodynamics which everyone belatedly copied. The chassis was also, in the hands of its' careful drivers, very kind to its' Michelin tyres. Not only was the car fast, but it handled wonderfully, while fuel consumption simply wasn't a factor. While Renault were running dry and BMW were blowing up, the TAG Porsche was reliable and, thanks to Bosch, ran comfortably on 220l - when being preparing for weigh-ins, the McLaren frequently had several litres still in the tanks when rivals had finished on fumes, and still not beaten the McLarens. The bar has been set very high for 1985, where the only change to the overwhelming package will be Goodyear tyres.

57.5 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 3
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 20 Points Finishes: 16

After being in and among the pace setters for the past two years, including having two drivers in the hunt for the title in 1983, it was not a good season for Ferrari. It started off well, with Alboreto leading in Brazil, and then dominating at Zolder after a difficult weekend in Kyalami. It was the latter, though, which set the tone for the season.

The team lost their way badly as the season went on. The car wouldn't handle well without a lot of wing, which negated the power of the engine, and made them hard on the Goodyears. The electronic fuel injection was a disappointment, and was removed mid-season before eventually returning. Every race there seemed to be something new on the C4, and it was difficult to tell if any of it was making any difference.

Alboreto's season was derailed by reliability problems for much of the first half of the year, though he showed why he was signed when the car was running. Arnoux was less impressive, making use of his better luck to build up a decent amount of points in the first half of the year before basically disappearing during the second. Neither driver could develop the car, meaning the engineers were left guessing. With Mauro Forghieri moved aside towards the end of the season, Ferrari seemed ready to lapse back into turmoil once again.

47 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 2nd) Pole Positions: 2 Fastest Laps: 3
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 16 Points Finishes: 15

Lotus made a return to being genuine front runners in 1984, but it's still difficult not to see their year as something of a disappointment. Both drivers had their best seasons yet, but somehow it failed to come together, and there was a feeling the team was less than the sum of its' parts.

Gerard Ducarouge's chassis was superb (allowing Lotus to thumb their noses at the works Renault outfit), and the switch to Goodyears hugely benefited them too - though often Lotus had to start on the hardest compounds to make them last, at least they lasted better than the Pirellis had done. The Renault engine, despite the fuel consumption, was still a decent unit.

There were races when they looked like the real deal - in Rio, where de Angelis finished first despite having a misfire for the whole race; Mansell's bravado in Monaco and Dallas; in Germany, were de Angelis briefly took on Piquet and Prost. The problem was neither driver was consistent (perversely, considering de Angelis' run of 10 straight finishes, 9 of them in the points), and both were disheartened too easily. There was a sense there were too many grudges within the team, and the rivalry between the driver was always simmering, resulting in de Angelis' blocking tactics in Canada, and then Mansell's rejoinder in Dallas. The team needs new blood to move forwards, and the presence of Senna next year could well bring out the best in de Angelis.

34 Wins: 2 Pole Positions: 9 Fastest Laps: 3
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 13 Points Finishes: 9

Brabham's presence behind Ferrari and Lotus in the tables is not a fair reflection on where they really ranked. Piquet was the only man who could live with the McLarens on a regular basis, and while he was running they had to work for it. He drove superbly for nearly the whole season, and was the only driver to beat them in a straight fight (at Montreal). Gordon Murray's chassis was as fast as it was good-looking, but the car rarely finished races - Piquet retired from the first six Grand Prix.

BMW shouldered a lot of the blame, Paul Rosche admitting to poor quality control. However, even then the car still wasn't reliable. BMW deserved credit, though, for the sheer power of their motors, notably the formidable high-boost unit deployed in practice. The Brabham was generally the fastest car in a straight line, even if the handling wasn't quite up to the same level as the McLaren-TAG.

Brabham's other problem was they were a one-car team for much of the season. For one reason or another neither Teo nor Corrado Fabi were much of a challenge to Piquet, and often seemed to be more of a complication for the team. The elder brother occasionally proved his speed, but it was clear that Brabham was very much Piquet's team by now.

30 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 2nd) Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 1
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 13 Points Finishes: 9

However you looked at it, Renault's 1984 was a disaster. They started the season among the favourites, with two top-line drivers. Warwick then led in Rio and scored well early on, but then the team found themselves rapidly left behind. They didn't win a race for the first time since 1978, only managed one pole position and were outscored by one of their own customer teams.

Reliability was shocking, the chassis was soon thoroughly shown up by the Lotus and the engine's fuel consumption was poor, leading to the embarrassing threat to withdraw while it was sorted out - this from the turbo pioneers while newcomers Porsche were providing an engine which was winning races with a surplus of fuel.

There were even some serious safety considerations when drivers suffered leg injuries in three consecutive race meetings, the low speed impact at Monaco just when Tambay was finding some form being the most damning. The Frenchman did his best, and by the second half of the season was the brighter of the pair, but the truth was Renault looked somewhat lost and peripheral without Prost leading the charge.

25.5 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 2nd) Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 11 Points Finishes: 7

Before the season began, Williams were seen as title contenders - all that Honda horsepower in a Williams... The combination's debut at Kyalami seemed to point that way too, as did Rosberg's second place in Rio. However, the chassis was probably the worst Patrick Head has yet produced, always prone to understeer, and however much the team tried they couldn't sort the handling.

The Honda was powerful, but the delivery left a lot to be desired, which meant both drivers were fighting both understeer and throttle lag through corners. Reliability wasn't brilliant, strangely getting worse as the season went on rather than better. However, the relationship with the Japanese company was good - everyone realised the problems and worked at them, even if visible progress was sometimes difficult to spot.

Rosberg drove his heart out all year, winning in spite of rather than because of the car on the streets of Dallas, dragging the thing into places it didn't deserve to be on numerous occasions and pulling out numerous epic qualifying laps. Laffite wilted, unable to fight the thing like Rosberg did, though his personality was vital to the team's morale. It was a frustrating year for all concerned, but few doubt a combination so potent will not have learned a lot from 1984.

16 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 2nd) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 3rd) Fastest Laps: 0
29 Starts: 26 Classified Finishes: 8 Points Finishes: 6

In a word, Toleman's season was eventful. Things started off in a slow fashion - new signing Ayrton Senna proved fast and determined, but with the old car and Pirelli tyres this was never going to be realised. Then came the acrimonious split from the Italian company - this was ugly, and cost the Brazilian a start at Imola.

However, armed with the neat TG184 and Michelin rubber, Senna then made the car a genuine force. The highlight was, of course, his stunning drive at Monaco, but elsewhere in dry races and on fast circuits he was a competitive proposition, but was frequently let down by the usual fragility of the Toleman cars. Cecotto, having been shorn of much attention within the team right from the pre-season tests, had a huge accident at Brands to boot.

Then there was Senna's defection to Lotus, which did nothing for the moral of the team. His suspension, and the one-off drive for a perplexed Pierluigi Martini, disrupted things further, though it did put Johansson in the car. At Monza (and later Estoril) he proved the basic speed of the car wasn't just down to the lightning fast Brazilian, while Senna also gave a great final performance for Toleman in Portugal. The year was definitely a reaffirmation of the team's growing potential, even if it was messy in places.

11 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 3rd) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 7th) Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 12 Points Finishes: 5

No team suffered as much from the new fuel regulations as Alfa Romeo, not even Renault. For the bulk of the teams, it was a problem solved by mid-season, but at the end of the year Alfa Romeo looked no closer to solving the thirst of their V8 turbo. It was no coincidence that when most of the constructors were angling to retain the 220l limit for 1985, Alfa Romeo were pushing for 250l.

On the face of it, 1984 was looking good. Euroracing had a year's experience of Formula 1, Benetton provided good money (and a fine colour scheme), Gustav Brunner's 184T looked gorgeous and two fine drivers had been signed up. There were plans for a mechanical fuel injection system to be added as soon as the series reached Europe, and in the meantime economy runs brought points in the first two races.

However, the injection system was rarely seen, and didn't work when it was. Cheever and Patrese were left with a choice of racing or finishing, and often managed to do neither. Where possible, Cheever went for the former option, and his car pulling off the circuit a few laps from the end was almost as regular as a McLaren taking a chequered flag. Patrese, on the other hand, seemed uninterested and happy enough to coast around with minimal boost, at least allowing a couple of points scores later in the season.

6 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 5th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 11th) Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 29 Classified Finishes: 12 Points Finishes: 4

Having spend the second half of 1983 seeing their neat, well-driven cars left behind by the turbos, Arrows got an object lesson in being careful what they wished for. They had a turbo at last, but it was a BMW, and the German units were seldom reliable in 1984.

They scored as many points with DFVs as they did with the 4-cylinders, and in short spent a lot of money to remain in roughly the same place. Of course, if they hadn't they'd have been left behind entirely, but the advent of turbo power wasn't the solution expected.

Not all the blame was on the powerplant, though. Whereas Dave Wass' A6 had been well-balanced, the A7 started off understeering horribly, before changes switched it to oversteering horribly. While it gradually got better, the machine never looked more than a midfielder. Boutsen remains a man to keep an eye on, but Surer seemed to become disheartened as the year went on, unhappy with the A7 and Grand Prix racing in general.

3 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 5th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 7th) Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 12 Points Finishes: 2

The excuses ran out for Ligier in 1984. They had the turbo engine Guy Ligier had wanted, and were even allowed to keep their deal with Michelin thanks to his political muscle. They had a fast driver in Andrea de Cesaris, and a decent budget.

But the chassis was never any good, and saddled with de Cesaris (yet to show much developmental skill) and Hesnault (a novice, and seemingly a bizarre choice) it never looked like getting any better either. Much time was wasted on the JS23B development, which de Cesaris felt was a backward step and never used.

It was frankly more embarrassing than the barren 1983, as there really was no excuse. Guy Ligier lost interest and was rarely seen at races from mid-season onwards, while de Cesaris also lost motivation and was happy enough to tool around in midfield. It took the controversial Tyrrell disqualification to move ahead of the impoverished Osella in the standings, and that said it all.

2 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 5th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 18th) Fastest Laps: 0
24 Starts: 22 Classified Finishes: 9 Points Finishes: 1

It was nice to see the enthusiastic Osella team make some real progress in 1984. The car was heavily based on Alfa Romeo's 183T and had the Autodelta's V8 in the back, so perhaps that was to be expected, but the small team coped with the problems turbo power brings to a unit of their size and resources well.

The cars were never that far up in qualifying, but occasionally ran very well in races, especially in Ghinzani's hands, where it often upset more fancied opponents. His day of days came at Dallas, where he might have finished even higher but for a puncture, while it would have been difficult to begrudge the likeable Italian another helping of points at Monza. As it was, Gartner came home 5th, but couldn't score points due to the part-time nature of the second car.

However, while the Alfa V8 brought speed, it also brought unreliability and poor fuel consumption - though Osella's finishing record was actually better than it had been in 1983. There were even positives to Ghinzani's huge smash in South Africa, where the survival cell held up very well to a massive impact much against Osella's reputation for making unsafe cars.

12. ATS
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 6th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 6th) Fastest Laps: 0
19 Starts: 16 Classified Finishes: 6 Points Finishes: 0

ATS' season started off with a touch of autocratic farce as Gustav Schmidt talked the Brazilian marshals into excluding Manfred Winkelhock in Rio, and went on like that.

There were high points along the way. Gustav Brunner's legacy was the fast D7, and Winkelhock was often fast - including a superb performance in Belgium. However, the car never ran for long without something breaking, and there was always a question mark over the Pirelli tyres.

The increasingly rapid staff turnover as Schmidt grew ever more dominating didn't help - his decision to engineer the cars himself after Stefan Fober's departure probably being the best one, though it was closely followed by the decision to expand to two cars. Considering the madhouse he was walking into, Gerhard Berger did rather well, but Winkelhock lost patience when it was clear none of the problems were going to be solved. By the end of the year the team were such a shambles that it was no surprise when BMW withdrew their engines for 1985.

0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 8th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 20th) Fastest Laps: 0
16 Starts: 14 Classified Finishes: 6 Points Finishes: 0

Despite Honda switching their support to Williams at the end of 1983, John Wickham's team decided to press on with Hart engines, no money and only 15 staff in 1984.

It was remarkable that they made it through the season, even going to the extent of running in Detroit with a DFV when Brian Hart ran low on engines. The problem was on their resources they couldn't do much more than survive.

Both drivers did well in the circumstances, and the neat little 101 was a decent chassis. With money to test and a better engine, the car would probably go rather well, but Spirit had neither, and it's difficult to see where they'll get either from. As it was, they had to be content with beating the RAM cars and making it through the series on a shoestring budget.

14. RAM
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 8th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 20th) Fastest Laps: 0
32 Starts: 28 Classified Finishes: 9 Points Finishes: 0

After a dire 1983, John Macdonald and Mick Ralph regrouped over the winter. They managed to secure some decent money from Skoal Bandit, Hart turbo engines and the services of F2 champion Jonathan Palmer.

However, once more Dave Kelly's chassis was left wanting. The bulky RAM 01 was slow and didn't handle well, and the team arrived in Rio only to find the engine cover upset the airflow. The cars then ran without them until a resculpted cover was ready in Canada. It was the last thing the two inexperienced drivers needed, and both would receive brickbats when trying to keep the unwieldy thing out of the leaders' way.

The cars were frequently embarrassed by the Spirit, especially when Baldi was driving it, and there wasn't so much as a glimmer of hope all season. Like Arrows, they found turbo engines did little to move them up the order, as everyone else had them, and in better cars to boot.

0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: N/A) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 11th) Fastest Laps: 0
26 Starts: 21 Classified Finishes: 0 Points Finishes: 0

The season looked like being a return to form for Tyrrell. In the hands of two fine drivers, the nimble DFV-powered cars were having a wonderful season, finishing in the points in three of the first four races. Then things got better - Bellof might have won at Monaco, Brundle came second in Detroit.

A downturn was expected for the second half of the season as the series reached the faster circuits, but nothing could have prepared the team for FISA's draconian reaction to the lead ballast controversy.

Needless to say, the punishment far outweighed the crime, especially as there was very little evidence a crime had even been committed. Regardless of feelings for Ken Tyrrell, FISA's handling of the whole matter was a disgrace, and if nothing else robbed the season of two fine drivers.