F1 Blast from the Past: Lauda wins on final visit to Old Zandvoort
For the 30th – and to date final – time, Zandvoort played host to the Dutch Grand Prix. This was round eleven of the 1985 Formula 1 World Championship.
The battle for the driver’s crown was intensifying. Alain Prost and Michele Alboreto were tied at the top of the standings with 50 points apiece. Prost had taken his fourth victory of the year in Austria a week earlier.
Double World Champion Nelson Piquet took his first pole position of the season in qualifying. This was the first time a Pirelli shod car started as the fastest qualifier.
The Brazilian was over half a second faster than Keke Rosberg’s Williams. Prost’s McLaren was third ahead of Ayrton Senna’s Lotus with the impressive Teo Fabi in the Toleman qualifying fifth.
Patrick Tambay in the Renault lined up sixth. The Frenchman was lucky to escape unhurt after a huge crash in the Sunday morning warm-up session. Meanwhile, Ferrari had a disastrous session with Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson languishing down in 16th and 17th.
Rain on Saturday meant that Friday’s Qualifying times determined the grid.
On Sunday, Zandvoort was greeted with its traditional winds but sunshine nonetheless for 70 laps of racing.
Piquet wasted his qualifying efforts by stalling on the grid and eventually ending up a lap down. This left Rosberg in the lead ahead of Senna, Fabi, Prost and Marc Surer in the second Brabham.
Both Alfa Romeo’s had an extremely short afternoon when Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever both retired with turbo failures after just one lap. Pierluigi Martini also had a half day when he had a heavy shunt in the Minardi, fortunately he was able to escape without injury, but his race was run.
On Lap 6, Niki Lauda, who had started tenth, was climbing up through the field. He soon overtook Fabi for fourth place. Johansson became the next retiree on Lap 9, when the Ferrari’s engine blew, ending a miserable weekend for the Swede.
The mood on the Ferrari pit wall was not helped by Patrick Tambay passing Michele Alboreto for ninth place at Tarzan corner on Lap 15, with Alboreto only just staying in control.
Rosberg had been opening up a small lead, but on Lap 21 his Honda engine cried enough. At the same time, Niki Lauda made a stop for fresh tyres.
Lauda’s final great tactical drive
A lap later, Senna also headed for the pits and re-joined just ahead of Lauda, but the Austrian had more momentum and beautifully drove round the outside of the Brazilian.
On Lap 33, Alain Prost decided to make a tyre stop, but it would be a bad move. The Frenchman was stationary for over 18 seconds, an eternity even in the 80s.
The delay would drop him behind Lauda and Senna. On Lap 48, Prost finally got past the Lotus and moved into second position, but Lauda was still ten seconds ahead.
The closing stages of the race saw Prost reel his team mate in. By Lap 68, he was right on the Austrian’s tail.
As the pair came up to lap Huub Rothengatter in the Osella, Prost tried to take advantage and went for the inside line but the wily Lauda was wise to that move and firmly shut the door.
It was nail-biting contest to the end, but Lauda successfully held Prost off to take his 25th and final career victory and some recompense for the Austrian after a disappointing season.
Prost took six important points, leaving him three points clear of Alboreto in the driver’s championship. Senna took his second podium finish in as many weeks in third place. Alboreto managed fourth place after a difficult weekend with compatriot Elio de Angelis again in the points in fifth. The final point was taken by Nigel Mansell in the Williams.
It would prove to be the great Niki Lauda’s last victory in Formula One and the last Dutch Grand Prix for 36 years, only returning this year in 2021.