Grand Prix Classic




Round 7 - French Grand Prix
Paul Ricard, 5-7 July, 1985

After the pair of North American races, the series returned to Europe and the French circuit of Paul Ricard. The track was one of the primary testing venues for the major teams, and as such with fine conditions was likely to produce something of a form guide for the forthcoming races. In the Mistral Straight, the circuit also boasted the longest and fastest straight on the calendar, with speeds of 220mph predicted by many.

The focus remained on the Ferrari and Lotus teams, though Keke Rosberg's win at Detroit suggested Williams might yet play a part, and few were prepared to write off Alain Prost and McLaren.


Entry Notes

The meeting saw the competitive debut of the Renault turbo-powered Tyrrell 014. The car had only been tested briefly; two examples were on hand, but both were placed at the disposable of Martin Brundle, with Stefan Bellof continuing in the Cosworth DFY-engined 012.

As expected, Zakspeed and Jonathan Palmer also returned to the series after a two-race absence. Renault, meanwhile, had the first example of their much-revised RE60B on hand, given to Tambay for the team's crucial home race.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Rosberg emphasised that his win at Detroit was no fluke with a blistering pole position - drawing much admiration as he took the Signes kink coming off Mistral near-flat. Senna was alongside, making his sixth successive front-row start, ahead of championship leader Alboreto and Prost's McLaren, with Piquet an encouraging 5th and Lauda 6th - the reigning World Champion's best grid position of the season thus far.

Behind de Angelis, Berger showed well in 8th, with the Renaults of Tambay and Warwick rounding out the top 10 amid rumours the French company would be withdrawing from the sport at the end of the season. Brundle only had the Tyrrell-Renault in 20th as he adapted to the turbo engine; team-mate Bellof was last despite a determined showing, some 12 seconds off pole.

Absent from the grid was Nigel Mansell, who had suffered a tyre deflation on Mistral, ploughed into catch-fencing and been thumped on the head by one of the fence posts. While physically intact despite the speed of the incident, Mansell sustained a concussion and returned home, missing the race.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

By race day, the circuit was incredibly hot. The morning warm-up saw Prost and Lauda top the timesheets in race trim, showing once again that while the McLaren-TAG cars weren't a factor in the battle for pole, they could never be discounted in the race. However, Prost got off the line badly, and the battle for the first corner was between Rosberg and Senna, the Finn just holding out. Piquet, optimistic as the majority of the team's off-season testing had been done on hot circuits, was a threatening 3rd, ahead of Alboreto, de Angelis, Lauda, Berger and Prost.

Prost would soon move past the Arrows, as would the flying de Cesaris - though the Ligier would soon disappear with a broken driveshaft; Laffite in the second car had already dropped out with a broken turbo. The McLarens were closing on Alboreto and de Angelis, who were unable to keep the pace of the leading trio. Rosberg was edging away slightly at the front, while Senna behind was beginning to come under pressure from Piquet. Behind, Alboreto's engine let go in a plume on smoke halfway down the Mistral on lap 6, spraying the fast kink with oil - and meaning one unfortunate marshal had to stand out on the road with the striped oil flag.

Piquet was looking very dangerous with tyres that were finally working and all that BMW power, and on lap 7 he blasted past Senna and pulled away, immediately eating into Rosberg's three-second lead. Senna was soon to drop into the pits, stuck into gear, while Piquet sailed on, slicing up the inside of Rosberg just after Signes and sitting out the Finn's counterattack on the outside of the following right hander. Lauda and Prost, meanwhile, had passed de Angelis and were also gaining on the Williams, Rosberg's soft tyres beginning to fade. He had enough left to summon a determined defence against the McLarens in a thrilling three-corner battle as Piquet rolled back the clock to 1983, easing into a comfortable lead without ever looking like he was flat-out.

Lauda dropped out with a broken gearbox, leaving Prost to attack Rosberg alone. Behind, Surer had risen to 5th, from Tambay, Johansson, Boutsen, Warwick (after a tyre stop) and Brundle. Berger's fine drive had ended when he was taken out by Martini, the Italian once again having a calamitous weekend.

Rosberg's solid defence of 2nd place was finally ended on lap 39 when Prost got past, and the Finn headed to the Williams pit for fresh tyres. The stop was good, less than ten seconds stationary, and Rosberg returned having lost out only to de Angelis. Prost made some progress towards the leading Brabham, but Piquet kept things under control, and while his lead got smaller there was never any sense of it collapsing.

The Brazilian scored Pirelli's first win since 1957 in considerable style, ending his and Brabham's nightmare start to the season. Rosberg was racing back on fresh tyres, tearing past de Angelis, and on the last lap suddenly began looming in Prost's mirrors, squeezing past into second place. Johansson had mastered his understeering Ferrari and also made a last-lap move on de Angelis' down-on-power Lotus to seal 4th. The final point had seemed to be Surer's until his Pirellis went off in the closing stages, necessitating a stop which let Tambay's unimpressive RE60B into the points, ahead of Warwick. Surer instead had to settle for 8th ahead of Boutsen, the Alfa Romeos (both finishing for once) and Winkelhock. After the Ferrari versus Lotus battle which dominated much of the early season, the message of the race was that Prost and Piquet were back, while the ever-improving Williams couldn't be discounted.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
53
1h 31m 46.266s
5
2
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
53
+ 6.840s
1
3
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
53
+ 9.285s
4
4
Stefan Johansson Ferrari
53
+ 53.494s
15
5
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
53
+ 53.693s
7
6
Patrick Tambay Renault
53
+ 1m 15.167s
9
7
Derek Warwick Renault
53
+ 1m 46.212s
10
8
Marc Surer Brabham-BMW
52
+ 1 lap
13
9
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW
52
+ 1 lap
11
10
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
52
+ 1 lap
17
11
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
52
+ 1 lap
16
12
Manfred Winkelhock RAM-Hart
50
+ 2 laps
19
13
Stefan Bellof Tyrrell-Cosworth
50
+ 2 laps
25
14
Teo Fabi Toleman-Hart
49
+ 3 laps/Fuel pressure
18
15
Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo
49
+ 3 laps
23
R
Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Renault
32
Gearbox
20
R
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
30
Gearbox
6
R
Ayrton Senna Lotus-Renault
26
Engine
2
R
Gerhard Berger Arrows-BMW
20
Accident/Martini
8
R
Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Motori Moderni
19
Accident/Berger
24
R
Philippe Alliot RAM-Hart
8
Fuel pressure
22
R
Jonathan Palmer Zakspeed
6
Engine
21
R
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
5
Turbo
3
R
Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault
4
Driveshaft
12
R
Jacques Laffite Ligier-Renault
2
Turbo
14

Fastest Lap: Keke Rosberg (Williams), 1:39.914s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Michele Alboreto
31
2
Elio de Angelis
26
=
Alain Prost
26
4
Keke Rosberg
18
5
Stefan Johansson
16
6
Patrick Tambay
11
7
Nelson Piquet
10
8
Ayrton Senna
9
9
Thierry Boutsen
6
10
Nigel Mansell
5
11
Stefan Bellof
4
12
Niki Lauda
3
=
Andrea de Cesaris
3
=
Rene Arnoux
3
15
Derek Warwick
2
=
Jacques Laffite
2

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
Ferrari
47
2
Lotus
35
3
McLaren
29
4
Williams
23
5
Renault
13
6
Brabham
10
7
Arrows
6
8
Ligier
5
9
Tyrrell
4