Grand Prix Classic




1985 Season Team Review

1. McLAREN
Points:
90 Wins: 6 Pole Positions: 2 Fastest Laps: 6
Attempts:
31 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 16 Points Finishes: 15

While McLaren never quite approached the dominance they had shown in 1984, in some ways their triumph in 1985 was even more impressive. There had been a lingering sense that the previous year's victory had been at least aided by the lack of opposition, but with Ferrari, Lotus and Williams all providing strong challenges this can be dismissed.

The car wasn't the fastest and the engine wasn't the most powerful, but what won out time and again was McLaren's meticulous preparation. TAG/Porsche weren't going to be drawn into the battle for pole position, with the team instead once more focusing on race set-up. The car was good enough that Prost only missed the top six on the grid once, and twice took pole from the qualifying specials.

The races were another matter, as the white and red cars inevitably rose steadily up the order. Lauda's rarely lasted, but Prost's finishing record (12 finishes, 11 of them on the rostrum) and canny ability to take victory when it was on offer or a healthy points haul when it wasn't fitted the team like a glove. Only the Imola disqualification was a black mark against McLaren's organisation, though there are strong signs 1986 will be harder again.


2. FERRARI
Points:
80 Wins: 2 Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 2
Attempts:
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 21 Points Finishes: 18

Ferrari looked set to bounce back strongly from the difficult 1984 season early on, with Alboreto taking two wins and other good placings and Johansson providing solid support. However, for the third time in as many seasons the Scuderia's form disintegrated in the second half of the season.

That the team and Alboreto still finished 2nd in their respective championship was something of a surprise as after the fortuitous win in Germany, the cars were rarely a factor up front. Ferrari simply didn't keep up with their rivals, both in terms of the chassis and the engine. The Ferrari V6 just couldn't match the power of BMW, Honda or Renault, while the chassis was no McLaren. Even the usual reliability deserted them in the second half of the year.

The F185's ride-height problems were never sufficiently addressed, and on any uneven track the car was difficult to set up. As in 1984, Ferrari seemed to be revising the car at every race with little idea as to whether it was making any positive difference. Once more the resources were there, but the organisation was absent.


3. WILLIAMS
Points:
71 Wins: 4 Pole Positions: 3 Fastest Laps: 4
Attempts:
31 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 19 Points Finishes: 16

After a disappointing debut season with Honda in 1984, Williams were back on form by the second half of 1985. The chassis was better, and once Honda had reliability and power delivery ironed out, the cars were a serious threat, even if niggling problems limited them. Rosberg was in a position to win two or three more races in the second half of the year, while Mansell's speed at Monza suggested he would have been a factor there without problems.

The team did benefit a lot from Mansell's determination and speed. While his relationship with the Finn was frosty at times, he was more of a challenge for Rosberg, who responded with arguably his finest season in Grand Prix racing to date. And early on when the car wasn't good, Mansell stuck with it and brought home minor placings when the team just needed to finish races.

1985 saw the team return to the front rank after a couple of difficult transition seasons, and by the end of the year they were looking ominous. The departure of Rosberg could well be compensated for by the signing of Piquet, while Mansell has finally shown he can win races.


4. LOTUS
Points:
71 Wins: 3 Pole Positions: 8 Fastest Laps: 3
Attempts:
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 20 Points Finishes: 17

Lotus had by far their best season since 1978, including their first wins since Colin Chapman's death in 1982. However, there was a sense of disappointment to their achievements in 1985 - they really should have done better.

Senna showed himself to be one of the best three or four drivers in the sport, and probably should have put together a title challenge, if not an outright win. In his hands, the Lotus wasn't just an intermittent challenger as it had been in 1984 but one of the fastest cars on the track, and he led more laps than anyone else. However, reliability was shocking and a run of mechanical failures after his Estoril victory meant he never looked like being a championship contender.

Curiously, when he started finishing races in the second half of the year, de Angelis started having problems, raising questions about the team's ability to run two front-running cars. The Italian, after five years with the team and experience that dwarfed Senna's, was roundly obliterated and looked completely disinterested by the second half of the year.


5. BRABHAM
Points:
26 Wins: 1 Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 1
Attempts:
31 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 16 Points Finishes: 8

Brabham slipped further from the front in 1985, something that would ultimately cost them the services of Nelson Piquet. Much of the blame was laid at the door of Pirelli, but then it was Brabham who developed the tyres. The colossal mileage logged at Jacarepagua and Kyalami resulted in tyres which were great in hot conditions and on smooth surfaces, resulting in a win at Paul Ricard.

Elsewhere the car could be competitive, but it was rarely reliable - the team's record wasn't significantly improved from the disappointing 1984 season, even if BMW had improved their own record. Murray's chassis was plagued by handling problems which only exacerbated the Pirelli trouble as well, and on slower tracks the cars were often also-rans.

Piquet still gave his all, and his efforts warranted more than a single victory. How the team will fare without their team leader of the past six seasons is one of the big questions of 1986. Francois Hesnault began the season in the second car, but seemed out of his depth, and was replaced mid-season with Marc Surer, who put in some useful performances and seemed to help the car develop. Like Piquet, though, he was let down by the machinery too often.


6. LIGIER
Points:
23 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 2nd) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 5th) Fastest Laps: 1
Attempts:
30 Starts: 30 Classified Finishes: 15 Points Finishes: 7

The return of Jacques Laffite inspired Ligier to their best season, well, since the veteran was last driving for them. The JS25 was a bulky machine, but arguably made better use of its' Pirelli tyres than the Brabham did - while they were never quite in the search for a win (though at Brands it would have taken a brave man to bet against Laffite), but they were more consistently reliable.

It was heartening to see the team back in some sort of form, with de Cesaris and later Streiff also turning in good showings - the Italian looked especially good at Monaco and Silverstone, but was eventually fired after a series of crashes, culminating in his lurid barrel roll in Austria. Streiff managed to equal this with his brainless attempt to pass Laffite in Adelaide, but both cars lasted to score a solid ten points.

There was a general sense that a corner was being turned thanks in part to the arrival of Gerard Larrousse and Michel Tetu, and with helpful continuity for 1986 (Larrousse, Tetu, Laffite, Renault and Pirelli will all remain) the signs are encouraging.


7. RENAULT
Points:
16 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 3rd) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 6th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
31 Starts: 31 Classified Finishes: 15 Points Finishes: 7

While Lotus gave Renault what was their first victory in any form since the 1983 Austrian Grand Prix and fellow customers Ligier occasionally mixed it with the front runners, the factory team did little but embarrass themselves. From the early stages it was clear that Gerard Toth's inexperience was a problem, and the car was a lemon.

It meant that Tambay and Warwick were largely wasting their time in a car that was neither fast nor reliable, and no-one was surprised by the company's mid-season announcement that the team would be closed at the end of 1985.

That came after the non-event of the updated RE60B and the degrading half-tanks runs at Zandvoort, just two years after the team seemed destined to take the world title. It was a sad decline for a team that had changed the face of the sport over its' nine-year participation.


8. ARROWS
Points:
14 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 2nd) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 5th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 21 Points Finishes: 6

Arrows finally began making good use of their customer BMW engines in 1985, and on occasion were close enough to Brabham to cause the works outfit some embarrassment.

With a respectable car and two decent young drivers, there were some good showings from Jackie Oliver's cars. The best was undoubtedly Boutsen's showing at Imola, where the canny Belgian's style suited the circuit, and his diligence resulted in a welcome 2nd place.

Berger was somewhat more ragged, and between his injuries and inexperience it took him a little while to consistently match Boutsen's pace. However, once he did both Arrows cars were a solid presence in midfield, and the team can be proud of its' progress.


9. TYRRELL
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 4th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 14th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
30 Starts: 28 Classified Finishes: 19 Points Finishes: 3

After beginning the season with the venerable Cosworth DFY, Tyrrell finally switched to Renault turbo engines mid-season. Much like Arrows and RAM had done before them, the team found turbo power wasn't a quick fix, and the new 014 generally suffered from a lack of development.

Stefan Bellof scored points twice in the old car but was killed in a sportscar race at Spa, further disrupting the season as first Ivan Capelli and then Philippe Streiff filled in - though the Italian held out in the Australian heat to score the team's first turbo points.

Martin Brundle suffered from chronic bad luck and ended up without points, most notably being taken out by Alliot when well-placed at Detroit. He also undertook the bulk of the development for the 014, which largely took place on race weekends. However, as transition years went, Tyrrell have had worse, and could be in a better position for 1986.


10. OSELLA
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 7th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 21st) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
16 Starts: 14 Classified Finishes: 5 Points Finishes: 0

After knocking on the door of midfield the previous season, a shortage of funds to keep up dropped Osella back into the doldrums for 1985, and it is beginning to look like the team will never make any lasting progress.

Their enthusiasm to take part was difficult to fault, but with so few resources it was the limit of their realistic ambition for 1985. The team began with the stalwart Ghinzani driving for free, before finances got even tighter and the seat was rented by Huub Rothengatter.

The ever-smiling Dutchman enjoyed himself despite the car becoming even more outclassed as the season ground on, and his determination to finish was rewarded with a 7th place in the final round.


11. MINARDI
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 8th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 19th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
16 Starts: 14 Classified Finishes: 3 Points Finishes: 0

Giancarlo Minardi was the latest successful junior chassis builder to join Formula 1, and he didn't make it easy for himself. Initially the plan was to enter Alessandro Nannini in an Alfa Romeo-powered car, but problems saw Pierluigi Martini driving, with Carlo Chitti's Motori Moderni turbo to come later in the year.

The engine initially showed promise, but the programme stagnated, not helped by Martini's inexperience limiting the car's mileage. It all made for a difficult baptism.

Little progress was made, and the Minardi was largely left battling with Rothengatter's Osella at the tail of the field, often coming off worse even before Martini span the thing.


12. ALFA ROMEO
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 9th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 4th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
32 Starts: 32 Classified Finishes: 8 Points Finishes: 0

If Renault went out of Formula 1 in an embarrassing fashion, Alfa Romeo went out almost unnoticed. The season was a waste of resources, much in line with the general operation since 1977.

Aside from a couple of heroic street track showings from Eddie Cheever, the green and red cars only caught the eye with their regular turbo failures and the odd dramatic accident.

The team's complete inability to get on terms with the ill-handling 185T lead to a reversion to the 1984 car for the second half of the season, a measure which slightly improved reliability and allowed the drivers to get a few finishes on the board, but did little to actually make the team any more competitive.


13. RAM
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 9th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 14th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
26 Starts: 23 Classified Finishes: 3 Points Finishes: 0

Not for the first time, the RAM outfit began the season with great hopes and ended it with those hopes dashed. This time the optimism had seemed well-placed - the combination of Manfred Winkelhock and Gustav Brunner's neat RAM 03 was the best RAM had fielded to date.

However, the reliability - not helped by Hart's early-season state of limbo - was never there, and a lack of results soon saw the car drop back. Winkelhock's tragic death then doomed the team to the back of the grid. Philippe Alliot tried hard, but he wasn't a team leader.

By the end of the season RAM were largely going through the motions, and it was sadly little surprise that the team first slimmed down to a single car and then missed the final long-distance rounds altogether.


14. ZAKSPEED
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 11th) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 17th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
10 Starts: 10 Classified Finishes: 1 Points Finishes: 0

In contrast to Minardi, Zakspeed showed how to make a start in Formula 1 with a brand new package. Their results might not have been superb, but Palmer was ideally suited to developing the car, and in his hands the machine made steady progress.

The decision to enter only the European events was a sensible one on the whole, meaning the team was never trying to get the combination work in extreme conditions.

They looked a little lost after Palmer's injury, with Christian Danner largely going to show the Englishman's technical skills, but overall as a water-testing exercise the team could be fairly happy with 1985.


15. TOLEMAN
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: 12th) Pole Positions: 1 Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
20 Starts: 18 Classified Finishes: 2 Points Finishes: 0

One of the biggest might-have-beens of 1985 was how well Toleman might have done had their early season not been disrupted. The TG185 was one of the finest chassis on the circuit, while intended driver Stefan Johansson showed his talent when he moved to Ferrari.

As it was, the team spent most of the year catching up from their late start, and reliability problems were never sorted. Brian Hart had effectively suspended engine development with his main customer out, and also had to catch up.

Nevertheless, in the hands of Teo Fabi the car was competitive while it ran, often shaming the other Pirelli runners. Sadly, the decision to enter a second car for Ghinzani helped no-one, largely just doubling the amount of mechanical problems the team encountered.


16. BEATRICE-LOLA
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: N/A) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 17th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
4 Starts: 3 Finishes: 0 Points Finishes: 0

Carl Haas' big-money entry did little more than testing at races in 1985. With backing from Beatrice, a works Ford engine and Alan Jones all set for 1986, this was merely a chance for the team to get a feel for the rhythm of a Grand Prix weekend.

As it was, numerous problems with the Hart engines badly reduced the running of the car, and doubts remain about Jones' speed and fitness after his layoff. However, a good run in Adelaide will have raised hopes that the team can bring the ingredients together given time.


17. SPIRIT
Points:
0 Wins: 0 (Best Result: N/A) Pole Positions: 0 (Best Grid Position: 24th) Fastest Laps: 0
Attempts:
3 Starts: 3 Finishes: 0 Points Finishes: 0

Spirit continued in 1985 very much as they had been in 1984 - underfinanced and with little sign of being able to make any progress. Mauro Baldi once again drove the car, but with both Hart and Pirelli suffering a difficult start to the year there was little he could do.

As it was, they only lasted three rounds before the money Benetton were offering for the Pirelli contract was too good to turn down. Wickham vowed at the time that Spirit would be back for 1986, but as yet there are few concrete signs this will be the case.