Grand Prix Classic

1985 Season Preview

The rules and regulations of Formula 1 remained largely the same for 1985 as they had done in 1984, the only significant change being the outlawing of oversize rear wings, and the banning of cooling fuel before races.

The main question was whether anyone would be able to stop the dominant McLarens this year. Lauda and Prost start the season as favourites, having won five and seven of 1984's races, respectively. Their main challengers were expected to be the Lotus cars of Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis, both of whom had impressed in pre-season testing, as well as the Brabham of Nelson Piquet presuming the Brazilian's car was more reliable. Also expected to feature strongly are Keke Rosberg in an improved Williams-Honda and the Ferraris of Michele Alboreto and Rene Arnoux.

Three new teams will be joining the championship at various points - the Italian Minardi outfit, the German Zakspeed concern and Carl Haas' Beatrice-Lola team (who will also be bringing former World Champion Alan Jones back to the sport after a two-year absence). Tyrrell also return to the series after their controversial mid-season expulsion in 1984. On the other hand, ATS have closed down following their failure to find a replacement engine after BMW cut off support, and the participation of the Toleman team is in doubt after their failure to find a tyre contract.

This was caused by the withdrawal of Michelin, who left the sport on a high after winning 14 of the 16 races in 1984. Of their former clients, Goodyear have signed up McLaren and Renault, while Pirelli have gained Brabham and Ligier after handling only minor teams in 1984.

The ominous news for everyone else in 1985 was that McLaren were largely as in 1984. World Champion Niki Lauda and runner-up Alain Prost would be driving the latest version of John Barnard's MP4/2 chassis, with the Porsche-built TAG V6. The only significant change would be Goodyear tyres in place of the Michelins they had ran when winning 12 out of the 16 races in 1984, but few believed the smoothly-oiled operation would be derailed by this.

Tyrrell's troubles with FISA had continued over the off-season, and after a long legal wrangle a compromise was reached - the team were not allowed to retain their 1984 results, but were readmitted for 1985, with FOCA ensuring Tyrrell received the travel expenses avaliable to points-scoring teams. FOCA also greased the wheels and arranged for a supply of Renault V6 engines. The new 014 would not be avaliable for the start of the season, so for the first few rounds Martin Brundle (recovered from his Dallas injuries) and Stefan Bellof (after legal troubles with manager Willi Maurer had been solved) would persevere with the Cosworth DFY-engined 013 car.

After a troubled debut season with Honda power, Williams were hoping for a return to success in 1985. The team had high hopes for the new FW10, and were working with Honda on improved response from the engines. Keke Rosberg would continue to lead the team, with Nigel Mansell signed from Lotus as second driver.

Despite a disappointing 1984, Nelson Piquet remained at Brabham for a 7th season, with BMW hoping to provide more reliable engines for Gordon Murray's new BT54 chassis. The big unknown factor was the teams new deal with Pirelli, whose results in Formula 1 had been disappointing to date. However, Brabham had completed rigorous testing at Rio and Kyalami in the off-season in conjunction with the Italian company, with encouraging results. The departure of Parmalat as sponsor gave the team more freedom in signing their second driver, but the shock choice for the seat was Francois Hesnault, who had experienced a steady but unspectacular debut season with Ligier.

Despite a horrible 1984, RAM retained the backing of Skoal Bandit and had reason to be more optimistic for 1985. Gustav Brunner replaced Dave Kelly in the design department, and his new RAM 03 had looked good in testing. Philippe Alliot continued with the team, while Manfred Winkelhock would take over the other after three difficult years at ATS (working alongside Brunner).

Lotus had been one of the pace-setters in pre-season testing, with new signing Ayrton Senna immediately impressing in Gerard Ducarouge's 98T chassis. Like Williams and Ferrari, the team were hoping experience with Goodyear tyres would give them the edge. Elio de Angelis remained in the other car for his sixth year at Hethel - the Italian hadn't been able to match Senna's pace in testing, but was looking to match his 1984 consistency.

Renault had endured a difficult winter, with continued rumours of their withdrawal, and the departure of team manager Gerard Larrousse and designer Michel Tetu. In place of Larrousse came the inexperienced Gerard Toth, while the Renault Sport Design Office completed Tetu's work on the new RE60. The team switched to Goodyear tyres, with Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick both spending a second year with La Regie.

Arrows' first year with turbo engines had been a disappointment, but the team hoped for more success with the new A8 chassis - the team's first carbon fibre model. Nordica had departed, but DeLonghi joined Barclay in providing funds. The promising Thierry Boutsen stayed on the driving strength, with Gerhard Berger taking over the other - despite breaking his neck in a pre-season road car crash.

Toleman were another team to have a turbulent winter. The team had the new T185 chassis and the services of Stefan Johansson, but no tyre contract - Michelin had withdrew, Pirelli were still sore after their bitter row with the team in 1984, and Goodyear refused to supply them for undisclosed reasons. The team also had no significant sponsors. They nominated John Watson as second driver, and did limited testing on borrowed tyres and old Avon stock, but when exactly they would join the series was unknown.

Spirit survived the off-season, and updated their 101 chassis to become the 101C. Mauro Baldi would continue to drive the single entry for at least the opening few races, though his ongoing participation was dependant on financial concerns.

Despite poor results in 1984, much of the Euroracing Alfa Romeo operation stayed the same - Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever would continue to drive, and Benetton continued to sponsor the team. The team had a new 185T chassis designed by John Gentry, but bigger question marks remained over the fuel consumption of the V8 turbo engine.

Osella would begin the season with a single example ofGiancarlo Petrotta's new FA1G, with the 1984 FA1F enrolled as a spare to start with. Alfa Romeo would continue to provide engines, while Kelemata remained as sponsors. For a while Jo Gartner seemed set to be the driver, but the Austrian instead tried to get the second Toleman drive, and instead Osella retained Piercarlo Ghinzani.

Ligier had some major arrivals over the winter - in addition to switching to Pirelli tyres, Renault refugees Gerard Larrousse and Michel Tetu joined, the former hoping to sort the team's chaotic organisation and the latter designing the new JS25 chassis. The other arrival was the returning Jacques Laffite, who would drive alongside Andrea de Cesaris, making for the strongest Ligier line-up for some years.

Ferrari finally abandoned the 126 chassis as outmoded after a terrible (by their standards) 1984. Instead, Harvey Postlethwaite designed the new 156/85. Michele Alboreto was hoping for more reliability after showing some good form towards the end of 1984, with Rene Arnoux hoping to recapture the speed he showed in 1983.

One of three new teams contesting the 1985 season (and the only one intending to complete the whole season), Minardi had experienced some success in lower Formulae, especially in their native Italy. The Faenza-based team's new M185 was designed by Giancomo Caliri, and the single entry would be driven by Pierluigi Martini (who had tested for Brabham, and also made an unimpressive appearance for Toleman in 1984) on Pirelli tyres. The team's first choice had been Alessandro Nannini, who they had ran in Formula 2, but he was denied a superlicence despite much experience with the Lancia sportscar team. Minardi would also have exclusive use of the new Motori Moderni V6 turbo, designed by ex-Alfa Romeo engineer Carlo Chitti; this would not be ready for the opening rounds, Minardi using a Cosworth DFY in the meantime. The car had actually been designed to take an Alfa Romeo V8 before the Motori Moderni offer came in.

Erich Zachowski, who had made his reputation customising Ford saloons for races in Germany, was another new entrant for Formula 1. The Goodyear-shod Zakspeed 841 would be powered by an in-house 4-cylinder turbo, and had already completed a lot of testing - Zachowski had actually entered the car for the 1984 European Grand Prix before deciding it wasn't ready. The sole entry was to be driven by Jonathan Palmer, and would only be entered for the European rounds (therefore being ineligible for points).

The third new team, Beatrice-Lola, would not be appearing until much later in the season. Hugely successful IndyCar team owner Carl Haas would be running the team, and the chassis bore the name Lola - despite having no input from Eric Broadley's Huntingdon operation (instead being a mark of Haas' association with the marque). Instead, the car would be built by the FORCE group, under the eye of Neil Oatley. Beatrice will provide finance for the Hart-engined, Goodyear-tyred chassis, with Alan Jones to drive once the package is ready.