F1 Blast From the Past: Scintilating Race Produces Ultra-close Finish
Round 13 of the 16-race 1982 Formula 1 World Championship was at the ultra-fast Osterreichring, the home of the Austrian Grand Prix. These were long before the days of the modern Spielberg circuit, but some sections of this track are comparable to today’s.
In the driver’s championship, Didier Pironi was top of the standings with 39 points. However, the Ferrari driver wouldn’t compete in Formula 1 again after his horror-crash at the Hockenheimring. That meant that McLaren’s John Watson was in the de facto lead of the championship on 30 points.
Behind Watson, it was very close, with Keke Rosberg on 27 points, Alain Prost on 25 and Niki Lauda on 24.
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The turbocharged Brabham BMWs really showed what they were made of in qualifying, with reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet taking pole position, three tenths of a second clear of team mate Riccardo Patrese.
Prost’s Renault was third, over a second shy of Piquet’s time, with Patrick Tambay fourth. The Frenchman being Ferrari’s sole entry after Didier Pironi’s horrifying accident at Hockenheim the previous week.
There was drama right from the start of the 53 laps. Andrea de Cesaris in the Alfa Romeo was over-zealous in his getaway and swerved into the side of teammate Bruno Giacomelli, eliminating both of them on the spot. Derek Daly in the Williams was also caught up in the melee, ending the Irishman’s race scarcely before it had begun too.
Piquet led away while Prost had made a good start to move ahead of Patrese. Although, the Italian quickly rectified the situation and re-took Prost for second midway through the opening lap. Patrese then overtook Piquet to move into the lead on Lap 2.
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Patrick Tambay’s Ferrari suffered a puncture which dropped the sole Ferrari right out of contention as the Frenchman toured back to the pits. This left the two Renault’s of Prost and René Arnoux behind the Brabham’s. The dramatic opening continued when Michele Alboreto spun his Tyrrell into the wall, ending what could have been a promising race for the young Italian.
Brabham make history
The two Brabham’s appeared peerless as they stormed away into the distance. Throughout the latter half of the 1982 season, the team had run the opening stints of the races on half tanks of fuel. With the plan being to make a refuelling stop at half distance. This was at odds with the usual strategy of doing the entire race without a fuel stop.
The unreliability of the BMW engine and some bad luck had prevented the team from achieving their goal thus far. But, in Austria, the plan finally came to fruition as Piquet made the first fuel and tyre stop in modern Formula 1 history, re-joining in fourth place behind Elio de Angelis’ Lotus.
Riccardo Patrese was on his own at the front and made his stop shortly after Piquet. The Brabham mechanics completed the turnaround in 14 seconds to ensure the Italian re-joined without losing the lead.
But Brabham’s mechanical gremlins were not far away, three laps after his stop, Patrese suffered an engine failure and spun spectacularly onto the grass, coming to rest on the banking. Prost inherited the lead from de Angelis with Piquet third. However, the Brazilian’s pace was dropping, and on Lap 32, he suffered his seventh retirement of the season with an electrical failure.
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Prost led by over half a minute from de Angelis, while Keke Rosberg in third began to close rapidly on the Lotus after Piquet’s demise. On Lap 49, just four laps shy of the chequered flag, the Renault ground to halt with an injector problem. Prost rued his ninth retirement of the season as he sombrely walked back to the pits, his title chances slipping even further away.
Frantic Final Laps
At the front, de Angelis took the lead with Rosberg behind, both drivers looking for their first Grand Prix victory. The Italian started the final lap over a second ahead of the Finn, but Rosberg was not ready to throw in the towel and clawed the deficit back.
The Italian was having to watch his fuel consumption, allowing Rosberg to close right onto his gearbox as the pair entered the Jochen Rindt Kurve for the final time. Rosberg took the inside line coming out of the corner onto the start finish straight to pull alongside the Lotus but de Angelis just held on by a mere 0.050 seconds. One of the closest finishes in Formula 1 history.
Elio de Angelis was ecstatic with his first victory, despite just missing out Rosberg nonetheless boosted his title chances with second place, the Finn was now just six points behind the stricken Didier Pironi the World Championship after moving ahead of John Watson who was suffering a run of poor form.
The Ulsterman had now gone five races without scoring points. Third place was Jacques Laffite in the Ligier, a welcome boost for the Frenchman after a miserable season, while Tambay recovered to fourth. Niki Lauda came home fifth on home soil after a low-key race for McLaren, with the final point been taken by Mauro Baldi in the Arrows.
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The Austrian Grand Prix of 1982 was the great Lotus team’s 73rd victory, but sadly it would prove to be the last for legendary founder Colin Chapman before his untimely death four months later.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more content to preview your Styrian Grand Prix weekend? Never fear, the Grid Talk crew are here with their 2021 Styrian GP preview! George Howson hosted Louis Edwards and Garry Sloan in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below:
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