Grand Prix Classic




Round 15 - South African Grand Prix
Kyalami, 17-19 October, 1985

The penultimate round of the 1985 season took place under something of a cloud, with some quarters of Formula 1 belatedly developing a conscience regarding the apartheid system in South Africa, which had been operating since 1948. Lauda and Mansell were among the drivers who expressed unease at racing, while the French government leant on Renault and Ligier to skip the event. Despite FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre stating that politics had no place in the sport and that the race would go ahead, the French teams withdrew (though Renault would still provide engines for Lotus and Tyrrell at the event). Prost was much criticised in the French press for not boycotting the race when his compatriots had done the same.

Most drivers were of the opinion that if their team was racing, so were they - with much of the championship table still to be decided behind newly-crowned winner Alain Prost and with many drivers still to secure a seat for 1986, pragmatism won out. There was much cynicism about Renault's decision coming as the team was winding down rather than in its' pomp (Kyalami had often been a stronghold for the manufacturer), but overall the race went ahead as usual. Marlboro (McLaren and Ferrari), Barclay (Arrows) and Beatrice (Beatrice Lola) all asked for their decals to be removed from the cars for the meeting, though their names remained in the entrants' list - and the McLarens also still carried the distinctive Marlboro chevron.


Entry Notes

Aside from the withdrawal of Renault and Ligier, Zakspeed were absent as planned (having finished their 1985 programme with the final European round), while RAM had withdrawn in order to regroup for 1986. Despite being one of the most vocal critics of the race, Niki Lauda returned to McLaren having recovered from his wrist injury - amid strong rumours he had been offered $5.5m to defer his retirement and return to Brabham in 1986.

With Ligier absent, Philippe Streiff was hired to drive alongside Brundle in the Tyrrell team - the Frenchman was reportedly under consideration for a full season with the British team in 1986 in return for reduced Renault engine bills.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Having broken his duck at the preceding European Grand Prix, Mansell promptly scored his first pole position of the season (and the second of his career), despite 2nd-placed Nelson Piquet being the fastest in a straight line. Rosberg and Senna filled the next two places, the top four covered by less than half a second.

Over a second further back was Surer in 5th, with de Angelis, Fabi (who had been fastest in the Thursday morning session), Lauda, Prost and Boutsen completed the top ten places. Ferrari, still with a chance of winning the constructors' cup, had another disaster, with Alboreto 15th and Johansson 16th.

Alan Jones had set a time good enough for 18th on the grid, but had struggled with a fever on both days of practice. Sid Watkins, official Formula 1 race doctor, advised his withdrawal on Friday night when it was clear the Australian wasn't going to recover in time for the race on Saturday, leaving just 20 starters for the race.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

A crowd of 85,000 turned up for the race in the usual South African blistering heat - which many predicted would suit the Pirelli runners, especially as much of their testing had been undertaken at Kyalami. Surer did indeed make a great start to move into 3rd behind Piquet, but even with BMW horsepower neither was able to match Mansell, who shot off and was unchallenged going into the first corner. Also making a good start was de Angelis, 4th into Crowthorne and past Surer before Sunset Bend. Senna soon followed past, and after Senna came Rosberg, Boutsen, Lauda, Prost, Fabi and Alboreto.

Further back Alfa Romeo's diabolical season got even worse as both Patrese and Cheever got involved in a shoving match with Ghinzani - the Toleman survived, the Alfas didn't, ending up parked nose-to-tail on the grass verge. The world's most harmonious team-mates had an animated discussion about the incident before seeming to reach the conclusion that the blame laid with Ghinzani. Rosberg gathered himself up and got back past Senna at the first corner on lap 3, a gap already developing between the front five and 6th-placed Lauda, Surer having disappeared into the pits with a sick engine.

Rosberg was really motoring, blasting past de Angelis on lap 4 and then making it past Piquet next time around, both with textbook slipstreaming moves down the long straight and into Crowthorne. Piquet was soon to slow with an engine ailment, and by the time he had called it a day both Tolemans were also out with the same trouble, Ghinzani's Hart having detonated in an impressive fashion as he came down the main straight and accounting for Pirelli's last competitive runner. The Italian company's sole survivor at this early stage was Martini, who span his Minardi harmlessly just to emphasise what a disappointing outlook this was.

Senna had moved past de Angelis after just about winning a committed late-braking duel going into Crowthorne, while the Williams cars were relatively unthreatened at the front. Rosberg had caught and passed his team-mate at the start of lap 19. But the Finn's lead lasted just a single lap as both Williams cars hit oil from Ghinzani's car. Mansell just about held his car, but Rosberg span backwards into the sand trap. He kept the engine running and regained the circuit in 5th. It would have been 6th, but Senna was in the pits having his engine seen to, and Alboreto also trickled in.

With less than 10 laps completed, this left just 11 runners remaining. As de Angelis had his hands full with Prost and Lauda, this left Mansell with a clear lead while most drivers switched firmly to reliability mode, realising that endurance and mechanical sympathy would reap rewards. Both McLarens moved past de Angelis when the Lotus was forced to brake on the oil, letting both Prost and Lauda through when he locked up. By lap 18 Rosberg had repassed de Angelis as well, while Streiff span out of 10th.

Rosberg's various adventures had ruined his tyres, and on lap 20 he stopped for a fresh set of Goodyears - dropping only one place, as 6th-placed Johansson also pitted. This let Brundle into the top 6, while both McLarens (having raced together from the start) had tagged firmly onto the back of Mansell. Lauda was soon into the pits for fresh tyres too as both drivers picked up on the way the lapped Johansson was easily hanging on to the back of the leading trio, Prost following a lap later - the Frenchman was delayed by a jammed left rear, however, dropping him to 3rd behind his team-mate. Mansell was the last of the front-runners to stop, and slick work by the Williams crew saw him resume without losing the lead. He was helped in this regard by Lauda coming into the pits seconds after he departed, a blown turbo causing another retirement for the outgoing champion.

Prost nearly caught Mansell, but was almost immediately obliged to drop off when an electrical problem caused his engine to begin playing tricks. Rosberg looked set to take up the cudgels, but had pushed so hard on his second set of tyres he had to stop for a third. Any hopes de Angelis had of taking advantage disappeared when his engine also failed (taking with him Lotus' slim chances of winning the constructors' title), while Johansson was suffering excessive fuel consumption and had to focus on keeping Berger behind him rather than catching anyone else.

Despite another hard charge from Rosberg (who roared past Prost at Clubhouse on lap 70, and set fastest lap on his penultimate tour), Mansell kept cool to score his second victory in as many races after waiting 71 starts for the first. Prost's engine was in serious trouble come the last few laps, and he crawled over the line in the end, but with enough in hand to secure 3rd place - despite having his final lap disallowed due to taking so long. Johansson just about held off Berger to take 4th, but Boutsen's 6th place made it a happy day for Arrows regardless. The only other man still running was Brundle, who had slipped behind the BMW-powered cars when a wheelnut jammed at his second tyre stop.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Nigel Mansell Williams-Honda
75
1h 28m 22.866s
1
2
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
75
+ 7.472s
3
3
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
74
+ 1 lap
9
4
Stefan Johansson Ferrari
74
+ 1 lap
16
5
Gerhard Berger Arrows-BMW
74
+ 1 lap
11
6
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW
74
+ 1 lap
10
7
Martin Brundle Tyrrell-Renault
73
+ 2 laps
17
R
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
52
Engine
6
R
Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Motori Moderni
45
Engine
19
R
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
37
Turbo
8
R
Philippe Streiff Tyrrell-Renault
16
Accident
18
R
Ayrton Senna Lotus-Renault
8
Engine
4
R
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
8
Turbo
15
R
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
6
Engine
2
R
Piercarlo Ghinzani Toleman-Hart
4
Engine
13
R
Teo Fabi Toleman-Hart
3
Engine
7
R
Marc Surer Brabham-BMW
3
Engine
5
R
Huub Rothengatter Osella-Alfa Romeo
1
Electrics
20
R
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
0
Accident/Cheever
12
R
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
0
Accident/Patrese
14
DNS
Alan Jones Beatrice Lola-Hart
-
Driver unwell
18

Fastest Lap: Keke Rosberg (Williams), 1:08.149s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Alain Prost
73
2
Michele Alboreto
53
3
Ayrton Senna
38
4
Elio de Angelis
33
5
Keke Rosberg
31
=
Nigel Mansell
31
7
Stefan Johansson
25
8
Nelson Piquet
21
9
Niki Lauda
14
10
Patrick Tambay
11
=
Thierry Boutsen
11
12
Jacques Laffite
10
13
Marc Surer
5
=
Derek Warwick
5
15
Stefan Bellof
4
16
Andrea de Cesaris
3
=
Rene Arnoux
3
18
Gerhard Berger
2

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
90
2
Ferrari
80
3
Lotus
71
4
Williams
62
5
Brabham
26
6
Renault
16
7
Ligier
13
=
Arrows
13
9
Tyrrell
4