Someone says he's the new Jackie Stewart. But he, Michele Alboreto, 28 years old, Italian, calms the enthusiasm of his fans. Modesty is already a good quality. If it's accompanied by a unique character that comes out at the right time, so much the better. A European Formula 3 title in 1980 with March Alfa Romeo, debut in Formula 1 the following season, and a victory, the first one, in the last race of the championship in Las Vegas last September. These are just the beginnings of what could be a splendid career. There are those who believe blindly in this driver. For example, Ken Tyrrell, a somewhat rough but shrewd English constructor (nicknamed the lumberjack), who, among other things, has taken Alboreto away from Enzo Ferrari, at least for the moment. So much confidence has also convinced an important sponsor to venture into Formula 1, putting their name on the sides of the cars. Since January 14, 1983, on Tyrrell's single-seaters, repainted in a beautiful dark green, there is the Benetton brand (knitwear and related), a large expanding industry that aims to reach more distant markets and increase its current turnover of about 400 billion. Ken Tyrrell says:
"If last year, with almost no money, we achieved good results, now we can aim for the victory of the World Championship, both for Drivers and Constructors. The contract with the sponsor is enticing, based on results. The more we win, the higher the earnings. This is also an incentive to work hard".
Tyrrell then reveals some previews.
"We will have the new car around April, with the unprecedented Cosworth DFY engine. In my opinion, this engine will win the World Championship. In any case, at the end of the season, we will have a turbocharged engine. As for the second driver of my team, we haven't decided yet. I have always implemented a policy of young talents, but this time I wouldn't mind an experienced man. I would like Watson, but the old John is too clever: he prefers to compete with Lauda rather than face Alboreto".
Another compliment for Michele, who, however, doesn't blush. And, speaking of the color red, a necessary question for the Italian driver: how are your relations with Ferrari after the Modena manufacturer announced its interest in Alboreto?
"We haven't talked about it anymore. Maybe we'll see in September. Right now, I'm focused on racing. It will be a very demanding season. The first victory in Las Vegas gave me a bit of tranquility. Now, however, everyone expects more success from me. So, I'll have to give my best. Tyrrell says we can go for the world championship. Let's hope he's right".
Who will be the men and machines to beat in 1983?
"Ferrari, Renault, Brabham, then Williams, McLaren, and Tyrrell. At least ten of my colleagues are capable of hitting the target. Even the Italians, if they have suitable means at their disposal. Our school now has nothing to envy the others".
Who would you like as a teammate?
"The fastest of all. Someone who helps me set up the car and is a stimulus for me. Honestly, I'm not afraid of being put at a disadvantage if there's someone stronger. In any case, I would really like Piercarlo Ghinzani, a good guy with whom I have a great relationship; with him, for now, I'll race with Lancia. I'll do five races in the Sports Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Between tests and races, I won't have a free Sunday until November. But I love driving, and it won't be a sacrifice to try to win many times".
One of the strongest opponents, Niki Lauda, in the meantime, has fully recovered from the plastic surgery on his eye, and on Wednesday, January 19, 1983, he agrees to participate in a debate. Speaking about the upcoming championship, Lauda shows, as usual, very clear ideas:
"The change in regulations was necessary. I'm not saying that accidents will be eliminated because it's impossible, but we can drive again in acceptable conditions. We got rid of those stupid skirts. As for my chances, I believe I can do much better than I did in 1982, which was essentially my comeback year. I don't think the turbo engines will have a clear supremacy. The new Cosworth should be competitive. However, McLaren will have the turbocharged Porsche engine from June".
The marriage with Lotus has certainly not softened Renault. The primary goal of the French team remains the conquest of the Formula 1 World Championship. If anything, the transfer of engines to the English team (and possibly, later, to Ligier) is considered a useful move to increase the chances of success. It is true that if De Angelis's car arrives before Prost's and Cheever's, Renault runs the risk of raising some doubts about the efficiency of its team. But it is equally true that in this case, it will still be a turbocharged engine to win. Moreover, with several cars on the track, the chances will increase proportionally, and opponents will be put in difficulty. The presentation of the new Lotus 93 T has given Renault officials the opportunity to take stock of the situation about a month before the start of the championship. The general manager, Gerard Larrousse, says:
"We have eleven victories and twenty-seven pole positions to our credit. Last year, if Prost had not stopped three laps from the end of the race in Zeltweg, we would be talking here about the reconquest of the world title. In any case, we know very well in which direction to work: it's not the performance that our cars lack, and we have demonstrated it. We just need to find reliability. And it is in this direction that the 1983 season has been prepared".
Renault is already well underway. The new RE 40 set the fastest lap in the Rio tests. But the technicians, led by Bernard Dudot, do not want to take risks. The first races will be contested by the old cars updated with the new regulations, while the one under study will debut with the European tests.
"We have created a new electronic injection ourselves, controlled by a computer operating on five basic parameters, ranging from pressure to temperatures to consumption control. The adoption of a water system in the fuel supply will also allow us to use higher powers, between 600 and 640 HP in the race, without problems. Our engines, currently pushed to the maximum, last about 1000 km, and a Grand Prix is less than a third of this distance".
The strength of the team is not only in the cars. Larrousse is convinced that he has a homogeneous team.
"Prost is the best in the world, absolutely. A very fast and serious guy, whose skill is demonstrated by the fact that, with the same performance, he saves the cars more. He will be the first driver. This must be clear. Alain and Eddie Cheever will have the same equipment, but if necessary, Prost will be the flagship".
The reference to Arnoux and the rebellion of the current Ferrari driver last year is evident. While acknowledging the abilities of the driver from Grenoble, Larrousse does not hide implicitly the feeling of tranquility he feels by not having him on the team anymore. On Cheever, the judgment is positive:
"A very regular driver with a constant performance in the race. Not very flashy but very profitable".
Renault does not hide - and, moreover, did not do it badly - its ambitions. However, Larrousse is cautious:
"With the new regulations and many new cars, the championship will be very tough. But we fear above all Ferrari. It will be with the Italian team that we will have to fight, and the struggle should be exciting. If we manage to defeat Maranello, it will be a double victory for us".
On Tuesday, March 1, 1983, in a generously named location called the city of Woking, 30 kilometers from London's Heathrow Airport, McLaren presents its new car and its old drivers for the Formula 1 season, which starts in Brazil, Rio, on Sunday, March 16, 1983. The car is of a new chassis and a slightly more powerful engine - Cosworth, of course, aspirated - the HP is from 520 to 550, against the 600-640 of the turbo (Ferrari, but above all Renault). The chassis and then the driver must count. It will be driven, as last year, by Niki Lauda and John Watson, who should guarantee sensational quality with methods, more than old, ancient. In fact, 1983 is the year of the cancellation of the ground effect, after five years of pushed skirts and assorted obscenities, and according to many, it will be the year of the driver, the restoration of the man on the car. Now, the two McLaren drivers, Watson 36 years old and Lauda 34, are among the few who have driven Formula 1 - Lauda, then, with two world titles - before the Great Heresy. Already good last year, Watson third and Lauda fourth in the World Championship standings, two Grand Prix victories each, they could dominate this year. Niki Lauda says:
"I really think so. Both for general reasons of returning to an old and effective type of driving, and for personal reasons of mine: that is, the past year I only tested myself, returning to races and dealing with a way of driving that I considered stupid, too dominated by ground effects. This year, I'm taking the plunge, taking risks, and winning. The circuits in the first part of the season are all for McLaren and for me, except Paul Ricard, which is for pure speed: I say Brazil, Long Beach, Imola, Monaco, and Spa; I feel good, I've forgotten the accident while cross-country skiing, the vertebrae no longer hurt, I leave for Rio soon to practice".
The car models and hopes of Lauda are these: MP 4/1C, already tested in Rio and Le Castellet, until about a third of the season, then MP 4/2 always with the Cosworth. From August, perhaps MP 41/D, with the turbo built by Porsche, on behalf of Tag initially reserved for McLaren.
"The turbo has already been tested on the bench, and from April, I think in England, we will test it on the track. This is the most important year after 1975, the year of my first world title. It's really about starting another life. I haven't neglected anything to be perfect: even the eye surgery is part of a search, of a plan".
Watson says almost the same things. He signed with McLaren only on Tuesday, March 1, 1983, two and a half hours before the presentation: exclusively details, economic. Watson goes even further than Lauda:
"I fear that in the first races there will be big accidents. Drivers too accustomed to ground effects will brake late, not understand the cars returning to the old ways".
"Nonsense, driving is easier, it just requires concentration. And meanwhile, it's easier for the champion to prove himself, there are fewer cars and more man".
Lauda of Parmalat has kept only the cap. Around his belly, on the blue suit, a red band rotates:
"It's free, whoever pays can write whatever they want on it".
It's $350.000. Watson speaks as a leader, so does Lauda. How will the two fare in the race? Lauda is asked if there are agreements, and they reply verbatim:
"I don't give a damn, I push it all, for myself".
The main opponents?
"It's all new, so everyone. But especially Ferrari".
In two hours of coexistence under a tent, Lauda and Watson don't speak, don't look at each other, and don't cross paths. Lauda laughs a lot, Watson remains serious, masked by a stubble. All in the warmth of a reception, with old ladies offering olives and white wine, without the usual models generally present at these parties. The red and white car on a podium, fitted with Michelin tires. The big news, apart from the engine with a few more horses, is an aerodynamic appendage in black graphite, two horizontal planes, one on each side, which go from the middle of the narrow bodywork to, rising, to the base of the rear wing support. The French have dubbed them "sidewalks." They should make the nostalgia for miniskirts less felt. However, Lauda says that the only thing that matters is to return to driving with the seat, experiencing the road. On Thursday, March 3, 1983, in a very modern facility in canary yellow, the color of the city of Modena, with red windows, located next to the Fiorano track, there is the new Ferrari Scuderia, inaugurated just over a month ago (6000 square meters covered, 200 people, advanced equipment for research and design). From here, Ferrari will direct the strategy of the 1983 Formula 1 World Championship. Enzo Ferrari himself does the honors. A man whose just-turned 85 years seem to have given him only new vigor, the same aggressiveness of the past. The first question is almost obligatory. What will happen in the first race in Brazil, in nine days? The answer is immediate:
"I am looking forward to the start of the World Championship with great curiosity. I am convinced that surprises will not be lacking. I feel great. What is my secret? I know how to use the expectations of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when racing. We have worked a lot. The car you have seen is the result of the research we have been able to develop with the new regulations. A completely new car, of which I still know nothing because it will be designed in the wind tunnel, will probably be ready for the Imola Grand Prix in May".
Enzo Ferrari, as usual, is very cautious in his predictions. Many years of racing have taught him to speak after the results.
"With cars without ground effects, drivers will be able to better exploit their driving sensitivity. From Tambay and Arnoux, I expect a performance that confirms the confidence we have placed in them".
There is no lack of polemical remarks, and they concern safety.
"Now I hear that the cars are not better, as far as the safety of the drivers is concerned, than those of last year. But it is the same drivers who have contributed to the extension of the new technical regulations, expressly asking for the abolition of miniskirts".
The team is known: René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay will compete for the World Championship. Will there be room for Pironi if he fully recovers? And the promises made to Alboreto?
"I believe I have demonstrated more than once that I can keep my word. There will be a car for Didier if he is able to drive it. As for Alboreto, the day he asks me for a car, I will be happy to give it to him".
The questions become insistent. Who will win this World Championship? Who are the drivers candidates for success? The answer is always the same:
"The title can only go to a driver who has good mechanical weather, who is an excellent tester, who has a moderate personal life, who puts the anxiety of victory before any occasional calculation. In short, he must be morally upright, feel at ease".
René Arnoux says in one breath:
"I think I can win the World Championship. My most dangerous rivals will be Prost and Piquet; as teams, I see Ferrari, Brabham, and Renault on par. I hope to win the hearts of the fans. It's difficult, impossible to replace Villeneuve, but I'll try. We had the same way of thinking, driving, living. At the beginning of the championship, I will focus mainly on scoring points. No madness, no exaggerated risk. We are waiting for the new car".
And he adds:
"I was a simple mechanic, I dreamed of races. I was lucky, I managed to become a Formula 1 driver. I raced for Martini-Ford, for Surtees from 1978, then I stayed four years at Renault. Now I'm almost 35 years old, I've competed in 64 Grands Prix and won four races. At this point, I have only one ambition, to win the world title. For this reason, I came to Ferrari. Renault had offered me excellent chances, but at the same time had relegated me last year to a role of the second driver, preferring to support Prost globally. And so, when they called me to Maranello and made me clear, precise proposals, I accepted. With Ferrari, I will play all my chances, on par with Patrick Tambay. If he is better and faster than me, I will bow, no problem. But I want to fight until mathematics, that is, the score, puts me with my back to the wall".
Therefore, he concludes:
"I have already said several times what it means to be at Ferrari. It is the pinnacle. It's not an unbeatable team, it doesn't have a magic wand to win races, otherwise it would be too easy. The great strength lies in preparation, seriousness, and experience. The new racing department in Fiorano will allow us to conduct research and studies more quickly. We have an exceptional engine, the best of all. We need to work on aerodynamics and chassis. If we achieve positive results in these areas, there won't be any more problems. On a sporting level, I want to tell Ferrari fans that I cannot and do not want to make them forget my great friend Gilles Villeneuve. However, I will try, with all my strength, to be his spiritual heir, to put all my ability, courage, and will at the service of the Scuderia. Without forgetting the personal goal of winning the World Championship".
The prospects are good. On Thursday, March 3, 1983, in the final tests at Fiorano before sending the cars to Rio, Tambay completes a lap in 1'08"35, an absolute record for this flat-bottomed car.
Ferrari starts the World Championship with a car that retains the chassis from the previous year but with numerous modifications required due to the abolition of the side skirts. The bodywork is completely different, more tapered at the front, higher, with two rear fins that look like ears. The radiators have been moved backward for more weight on the driving wheels, and the suspensions, now regaining significant importance for road holding, have been modified. In fact, with the absence of ground effect, it is estimated that aerodynamic load is only 30% of what it was last year. Much work has been done on the engine to have a more responsive and pilot-friendly performance. Ferrari remains faithful to the honeycomb aluminum chassis: exotic materials like carbon fiber still have some dark sides and are only used for reinforcement zones. At the same time, Brabham and BMW also present their 1983 teams. However, only technicians and executives (with Bernie Ecclestone at the forefront) are present, as drivers and mechanics are already in Rio for a series of pre-race free practices. The new Brabham car has an arrow-shaped appearance, with the driver's seat moved back (also for safety reasons). The car, of course, complies with the new Formula 1 regulations. For aerodynamic reasons, BMW has modified the turbo and exhaust layout. In 1983, the British team will once again be sponsored by Parmalat, a surprise, considering that the Italian company had announced its withdrawal from the world of Grand Prix in recent months. Bernie Ecclestone says:
"We will continue to eat cheese".
Twenty kilometers from Rio, at the scorching Jacarepaguá circuit, Formula 1 experiences moments of anxiety and hope. On Friday, March 11, 1983, at 10:00 a.m., the World Championship begins. The first day of testing is a true leap into the unknown, with new cars and revamped teams. There are also three debutant drivers: the very young Italian Corrado Fabi with Osella, the American Danny Sullivan with Tyrrell, and Johnny Cecotto. The former Motorcycle World Champion tries to follow the path taken in the past by John Surtees and Mike Hailwood driving an Ensign-Theodore, already nicknamed ET like the movie extraterrestrial. A double leap into the unknown. First, because the new regulations have imposed radical changes on the cars; second, because the storm clouds of controversies, protests, and disputes that have troubled the last years of racing are already gathering. The possibility of silencing those who still intend to cheat lies only in the hands of the Federation. The intentions of the FISA executives are good: maximum severity, exclusion from the race for anyone who cheats even in testing. But theory and practice are worlds apart. Also because technical regulations still lend themselves to various convenient interpretations. And then there is always someone, to create smoke screens and mind their own business, trying to cause problems and unnecessary discussions. Thursday, March 10, 1983, is dedicated to technical checks. Apparently, nothing irreparable is found, or at least some teams that are not perfectly in order (like Toleman?) are given time to modify their cars. Problems, if any, will arise on Friday with possible complaints against turbo engines, against Ferrari's water cooling system with an emulsifier, and so on.
The group of rule-abiding constructors has a meeting with representatives of FOCA and FISA to reach an agreement. But it is clear that rivalries will emerge during qualifications and the race. No one wants to allow tricks like those of last year, when - according to many - Tyrrell won in Las Vegas with a car lighter than allowed and with an oversized engine. Or equal to those used by other teams that achieved pole positions by injecting a particular oxidizing gas into the engine from the canister that should contain oxygen for the driver's survival in case of an accident. To stay on the sporting side and not continue talking about these sad events, let's say that the Brazilian Grand Prix presents many uncertainties. The heat will play a decisive role, as will the tires. Michelin radials should favor cars like Renault, which is the favorite. There is also much anticipation for the Pirelli tires, also radials, which equip a competitive Toleman and Lotus, but the latter seems to have chassis problems due to the excessive power of the Renault engine installed on De Angelis' car. Among the Italian teams, Ferrari appears cautious but confident. Arnoux and Tambay hope to start in the front rows. Then they will try to conduct a regular race and finish in the points. Alfa Romeo, managed by the Euro Racing team, seems to have high ambitions, but the reliability of De Cesaris and Baldi's cars is still uncertain. Eneo Osella is silent: both Corrado Fabi and Ghinzani will try, but only for contractual reasons.
The real debut of the second driver will be in Imola when there will be the new cars with the Alfa Romeo 12-cylinder engine. On Friday, March 11, 1983, Keke Rosberg starts his season very well. The defending champion from last year sets the fastest time in the first qualifying session of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Behind his Williams and the new Cosworth DFY engine (the old naturally aspirated eight-cylinder with a few more horsepower), all the feared turbocharged engines finish. In order: Prost's Renault, Tambay's Ferrari, Warwick's Toleman, and then two Brabhams, first Piquet and then Patrese. It can't be said that it wasn't a surprising result. Keke Rosberg says:
"I expected a third or fourth time, at least a couple of turbos in front. Instead, I was the fastest. It's clear that the driver is good and that Williams knows how to build good cars".
Rosberg's presence in pole position, albeit provisional, dismays the other teams a bit. Also because electronic weight checks, randomly performed at the entrance to the pit, should have prevented the presence of irregular cars on the track. A secret adjustment has been made to Keke's Williams, aerodynamic or suspension-related, which, among other things, has already worried Jacques Laffite, the new teammate of the Finn.
"They always made me run with a full tank of gas, and they hid some modifications made to his car. I hope not to be considered a second-rate driver all the time".
Much concentration and work, on the other hand, are noticed in the other teams. Ferrari, until a few minutes before the end of the tests, has the second time thanks to Patrick Tambay. Only at the last moment does Alain Prost manage to do better. A third time should satisfy the Maranello team, but neither the technicians nor the drivers are satisfied. Patrick Tambay says:
"We do very well with qualifying tires, but there are several problems with a full tank of gas and race tires. The car pitches and seems to lack grip at the front".
For Ferrari, the free practice sessions on Saturday will be crucial, during which different solutions will be attempted. The difficulties are likely related to either aerodynamics or the chassis. This is evident from the lap times provided by Olivetti: in his record lap of 1’34"526, Keke Rosberg crosses the finish line at 199.488 km/h. Arnoux with the Ferrari passes at 217.826 km/h, while the fastest of the other cars is Piquet's Brabham (209.630 km/h). This indicates that the Maranello engine is exceptional in terms of power and acceleration, but the car lacks grip and stability in other parts of the circuit, likely in curves. The fact that Tambay is faster than Arnoux (ninth fastest) is due to a spin by René, who misjudged a braking point. On Saturday, Arnoux will attempt to improve. Alfa Romeo will also make an attempt, with Mauro Baldi outperforming Andrea De Cesaris. Baldi is eighth, and De Cesaris is twelfth. De Cesaris is furious because the turbo pressure in his car is lower, and he says he will try to compete with the front-runners on Saturday morning. Similar intentions are shared by Michele Alboreto, who breaks the engine after just one lap in free practice and then struggles with an intermittent Tyrrell. Good debut for Johnny Cecotto (seventeenth), decent performance by Corrado Fabi, whose Osella needs improvement before becoming competitive. During the practice sessions, there is a kind of spectacle related to the weighing of cars at the beginning of the pit lane, during the Brazilian Grand Prix. A traffic light placed about a hundred meters from the sports commissioners' station signals to cars whether they can continue their run or must stop for weighing. The red light indicating the obligation to stop is randomly activated by a computer. All competitors are compliant. After deducting the weight of the drivers, the checked cars exceed the minimum allowed 540 kilograms. The technical commissioners of FISA express great satisfaction, believing they have found a method to prevent any deception. However, the trick is there, even if not visible. Unfortunately, cars will continue to be underweight, especially in races if not in practice.
The stratagem has already been studied and is very simple: refuel during the race. Some teams' cars will start with 40-50 kilograms less and refuel approximately three-quarters into the Grand Prix. With the remaining fuel at the end of the race, they will reach the required 548 kilograms. At least if the calculations are accurate. The same old story: a method to prevent some teams from cheating cannot be found. In any case, the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship, starting at Jacarepaguá circuit, will not only be a car race but also an African-style raid, a test of endurance for both drivers and cars. On Saturday, March 12, 1983, the temperature is scorching: 43 °C in the air, 60 °C on the ground. The forecasts for Sunday are not better, so with such weather, one can imagine the torture for drivers, vehicles, and tires. The signs of a truly fiery Brazilian Grand Prix are evident in the final qualifying session: the most affected are the turbocharged engines, with turbines failing, causing smoke clouds and problems even for naturally aspirated engines, like the one in Niki Lauda's McLaren. With these environmental conditions, there is also the possibility that some teams adopt the tactic of refueling during the race (almost certainly Brabham and Williams), with all the risks of quickly filling the tanks in such temperatures. In short, if there was uncertainty in making predictions, with the new regulations and many new cars, it becomes almost impossible to attempt a forecast. The only one who seems relatively calm is Keke Rosberg, who, despite not improving his time, maintains pole position. The positions of Alain Prost in second place and Patrick Tambay in third place also remain stable. Nelson Piquet (fifth) and René Arnoux, climbing to sixth place, make progress. Keke Rosberg, rather surprised, repeats essentially the statements from Friday:
"I thought at least a couple of turbos would pass me, and yet here I am still in pole position. Obviously, my Williams, which is easy to drive despite being less powerful, gains in the curves".
Certainly, the Finn has given a good demonstration of skill, confirmed this time by teammate Laffite, much further down the grid.
"I wanted to try Keke's car, and I couldn't drive it. Obviously, he is an excellent balancer and has great courage".
The World Champion is, therefore, the man to beat. Behind him is a group of seven cars with turbocharged engines. Will the Finnish driver manage to escape? Alain Prost is confident but does not hide some concerns. Among the turbocharged cars, the Renault shows fewer problems, but the Frenchman hoped for a performance superior to Rosberg's.
"This shows that it is not true that the flat bottom advantages the turbos".
As for Ferrari, some small improvements are noticeable. Patrick Tambay says:
"Now the cars are slightly more balanced; we will probably have to base our race on pace without worrying about what the others ahead will do if they start with less fuel and therefore with softer tires".
Ferrari faces multiple challenges. Engineer Forghieri will have to prepare a cocktail of tires, hoping that the cars will not have to stop at the pits to change them. In addition, the temperatures of all liquids, water, and oil, rise to the maximum level, and anything can happen. On Saturday, Arnoux, while chasing the time and having the fastest intermediate sector, breaks a turbine. The Toleman cars of Warwick and Giacomelli do not even complete a lap, and De Cesaris, before facing disqualification, breaks two turbines. In short, there are uncertainties for everyone. Among the Italian drivers, Patrese is the best-placed (seventh), with Baldi in a good position and Alboreto less unlucky than on Friday, also because Tyrrell finally decides to give him a decent engine. Corrado Fabi with Osella achieves his only goal, that of qualifying, even with the second-to-last time. However, those who are behind in the grid can still do well with careful driving.
There will be many retirements and eliminations. Niki Lauda states:
"The practices have been very tough, but the race will be different. I am convinced I can achieve a good result. They will fight at the front, and I will try to take advantage of that. My car works very well with a full tank and race tires. It is true that with the new regulations, in terms of driving, we are all more or less equal. If before we braked fifty meters from the beginning of a turn, now we slow down at 150 meters. But this is where a driver's skill lies".
The first victim of the new electronic weighing system for cars is Andrea De Cesaris. The Alfa Romeo driver is disqualified at the end of the second qualifying session and will not take part in the race, which he should have started in sixteenth position. The disqualification is not due to Alfa Romeo being underweight. De Cesaris simply ignored the sports commissioners' invitation to go to the weighbridge with the car and went straight to the pits, leading to automatic disqualification.
"I didn't notice the red light. Everything happened due to an incredible coincidence. My car had been weighed the previous lap. Then I broke a turbine and got on Baldi's car. I had more trouble, and when I came back, I didn't think they would stop me again. I'm really down; everything happened to me".
In fact, De Cesaris's day is not one of the brightest. Engineer Carlo Chiti accuses him of not knowing how to manage turbo usage and breaking the turbines due to his excessive eagerness.
"Baldi's turbines never broke".
The driver sadly replies:
"I don't think I'm responsible. I'm not an engineer, and I can't say why the turbines break".
The episode deeply disappoints the young Andrea, who, however, does not give up talking about the future, saying he will try to redeem himself immediately in the next race in Long Beach.
"I believe in De Cesaris because I realized, racing with such celebrated champions, that I have nothing less. Of course, I can still learn a lot, gain experience, but I don't think I lack talent. It's not presumption, just an observation".
Where do you think you can finish this year?
"I hope to win a race. However, making predictions, especially at the beginning of the season, is useless. I prefer facts to words".
After the scaring heat and blazing sunshine of the two practice days, Sunday dawns slightly cooler and overcast, something which is keenly welcomed by the 26 young men who are preparing to strap themselves into confined F1 cockpits to race for just under 200 miles. Williams and Brabham are preparing to run Rosberg, Piquet and Patrese light from the start, stopping for fuel and tyres during the race, while all the other turbocharged cars are filled up to the brim with fuel and plan to go through without a stop.
The huge Brazilian crowd which fill the vast grandstand on the back straight can obviously sense the possibility of a home win and cheer madly for Piquet as the field comes slowly past on the warming-up lap prior to taking their places on the grid. Already Elio de Angelis’ Lotus is in dire trouble, belching smoke from one exhaust pipe to herald a turbocharger failure. The Italian stagger round two warming-up laps before being pushed from the grid, de Angelis then strapping himself into the spare 91/92 before starting from the pit lane after the grid has departed. When the starting light turns green the field gets away to a clean start, Prost edging alongside Rosberg into the first right-hander, but Keke gently eases ahead under braking and by the time the field streams out onto the long back straight the white and green Williams is pulling confidently away from the yellow French machine. Going down to the hairpin Mauro Baldi’s Alfa Romeo gives Alboreto’s Tyrrell a hefty shove which results in the British car spinning wildly in the middle of the pack. Fortunately everybody avoid the wayward Tyrrell, but the impact has damaged its oil cooler and Alboreto eventually pulls in after seven laps to be posted as the 1983 season’s first race retirement. At the end of the opening lap Rosberg has an amazing 2.5 sec. advantage over Prost, but the Brabham BT52s of Piquet and Patrese are third and fourth with the Ferraris of Tambay and Arnoux next in line. Then come Cheever’s Renault, Warwick’s Toleman, Baldi, Lauda, Watson, Jarier and the impressive Guerrero. By the end of the second lap Piquet has sliced past Prost into second place and it is becoming clear that the Brabham BT52 is easily the quickest car on the circuit. Within another lap the Brazilian has reduced Rosberg’s advantage to only 2 sec. and, as they went down the long back straight on lap seven. Piquet pulls confidently out from the Williams’ slipstream and moves decisively ahead as they brake for the long left-hand curve that follows. Patrese is moving closer as third place while Prost, heading the rest of the pack, is already dropping away significantly in fourth place. With the status quo established at the head of the field, it is the battle for secondary positions which helds the crowd’s attention. Watson is really flying in his McLaren, disposing of teammate Lauda on the second lap and moving through to take Baldi, Warwick and Cheever almost as if they aren’t there by the end of lap seven. By lap 11 he’s account for both the Ferraris in no position to fight back against the agile Cosworth-powered machine at this early stage in the race, and then he goes after Prost.
His whirlwind progress finally gets him through into third place by lap 17 where he settles down, easing steadily away from both his pursuers without making an impression on Piquet or Rosberg who are now several seconds ahead of him. Patrese, meanwhile, has moved right up onto Rosberg’s tail by the end of lap 10, but just when it looks as if he would pounce on the World Champion, his Brabham suddenly slows up and begins to drop back again. By lap 18 he’s slipped back through the field to ninth, the BMW engine obviously not running properly, and then comes into the pits to investigate the problem. An exhaust pipe has broken, so the engine’s turbocharger pressure has dropped dramatically: there is nothing more for him to do but complete another slow lap, just in case, and then pull in for good. Thus, by lap 20 the order is firmly established as Piquet, Rosberg, Watson, Prost, Tambay and Baldi, with Lauda moving up to challenge Warwick’s Toleman for seventh. Baldi’s enthusiastic progress in the Alfa Romeo V8 is beginning to worry Warwick, for no matter how much he tries to find a way through, the Italian counter by taking distinctly unhelpful lines through the corners, and the British driver eventually decides to let Lauda through quickly to see if he can do anything about the problem. Sticking closely to the McLaren’s gearbox, Warwick tries to follow Lauda through when a gap presents itself to the Austrian, but while Baldi sees the MP41C, he doesn’t see the Toleman coming through behind. In a trice, the Alfa Romeo is riding over the Toleman’s left front wheel, spinning to a halt in the middle of the track as Lauda and Warwick go on their way. His car’s rear suspension damages, Baldi limpd back to the pits and retires, later to be retrospectively disqualified for the push-start he has received as he recovers from the spin. On lap 28 Rosberg pulls in for fuel and fresh tyres. Everything seems to be going well, the wheels have been refitted and the mechanics are just pulling the fuel line away when a few drops of petrol drip out of a leaking valve onto the hot engine bay. There is a brief burst of flame, quickly killed by an ever-present fire extinguisher, but not before Rosberg has unfastened his harness and prudently shoots out of the car like a rocket. Almost immediately he is helped back into the Williams, his harness refastened and he accelerates back into the fray. But this unexpected drama has dropped him to ninth place and he goes back on the track exactly a lap behind Nelson Piquet’s leading Brabham.
Unfortunately, during the hurry to get the Williams back in the race, Rosberg has received a push-start for which he is to pay dearly later in the afternoon. Of course, Piquet’s pitstop is yet to come, but on lap 40, the leading Brabham rolls into the pit lane to refuel and take on fresh tyres. Unlike last year’s BT50, the new BT52 isn’t fitted with an onboard air jacking system, so the Brabham mechanics must use normal manual jacks when Piquet rolls to a halt. But everything goes without a hitch, the car is only stationary for just over 16 sec., and the Brazilian tears back into the race with a 40 sec. advantage still intact. Rosberg’s progress through the field is predictably quick, racing as he is on fresh tyres against rivals who’s run non-stop from the start. By lap 34 he is up to seventh, on lap 36 fifth and on lap 44 he is fourth ahead of Tambay’s Ferrari. Prost’s Renault succumbs on lap 46 and Rosberg finally races past Lauda’s McLaren to take second place ten laps from the finish. Effectively, it is all over bar the proverbial shouting. Confident and completely in command, Piquet wounds down the cockpit turbocharger boost control in the closing stages and allows his lap times to lengthen as he cruises home to a convincing first-time victory for Gordon Murray’s new Brabham BT52, making up for his disqualification from last year’s event when his Cosworth-engined Brabham BT49C falls foul of the minimum weight limit. Nelson Piquet wins the fiery opening round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Brabham driver finishes ahead, at the end of an unexciting but equally spectacular and eventful race, of the reigning World Champion, the Finnish driver Keke Rosberg. However, immediately after the conclusion, the race is marred by controversy. Rosberg is disqualified because his car was pushed by mechanics to exit the pits, where the Finn had entered halfway through the race for refueling. The same fate befalls De Angelis, guilty of maintaining the same position on the starting grid after changing the car. His Lotus-Renault had broken down during the reconnaissance lap. In the third race position, a great Niki Lauda, ahead of Laffite. The first Ferrari finishes fifth, driven by the skillful Patrick Tambay, while the Swiss Marc Surer takes the sixth position, earned by fighting from start to finish. All these drivers, after Rosberg's disqualification, move up one place in the standings but do not increase the points valid for the World Championship, according to the regulations. Even though second, Lauda has four points, as if he had finished third.
René Arnoux was never competitive. He had tire and grip problems, and his final ranking sees him in tenth place. With this victory, Nelson Piquet regains Brazil. Considered an unsympathetic champion because he lives away from his homeland and is a grumpy nomad who doesn't like to smile on television and give long interviews to newspapers, the Brabham champion did not enjoy local fans' favor until now. Two years ago, he was not forgiven for choosing the wrong tires when rain threatened; last season, he caused great disappointment by being disqualified for being underweight after crossing the finish line first. It should be noted that Rosberg also finished second at the finish line last year and was disqualified for being underweight. Now, the talented Nelson achieves an undisputed victory, in style, in front of an ecstatic crowd. It is the second success for Brabham powered by the BMW turbo engine (after last year's in Canada) and the first victory obtained with the in-race refueling trick. Winning justifies everything. However, it must be noted that the system is very dangerous and complicates things to the point of making them incomprehensible with pit stops. Moreover, refueling will be prohibited starting from next year, so it will have a short life unless there are reconsiderations. It is still a way to gain advantages that others do not have, and this distorts the balance of the races. Starting with a full tank halfway, the cars weigh less and can also change tires during the pit stop. In the upcoming World Championship races, there will almost certainly be a proliferation of this system. It is a double-edged sword. While it allowed Piquet to win the Brazilian Grand Prix, it practically cost a possible first place to Keke Rosberg. Everything went perfectly for Brabham. The refueling and tire change were completed in about 16 seconds. The Brazilian, considering the slowdown to enter and exit the pits, went from an advantage of about 76 seconds to about 61 seconds after the operation, allowing him to control the rest of the race. Rosberg, on the other hand, experienced dramatic moments. His usually well-organized Williams team seemed unprepared. When the fuel tank cap was opened, the leaked gases immediately ignited due to the heat of the engine. The driver felt the fire behind him and quickly jumped out. Firefighters intervened with extinguishers, Rosberg got back on the car, and he resumed his race. To start the car, Williams' mechanics had to push it. Franck Williams argues that the regulations allow the use of external energies to restart the car.
According to him, the mechanics' legs were considered external energies. However, the sports judges do not share this opinion. The race itself did not provide particular thrills, but from a competitive standpoint, there was a spectacle with some of the protagonists.
"I had many scores to settle; I think I settled them all in just one day".
Says Nelson Piquet, smiling, tired, with sweat drops on his forehead but very happy, on the podium. The Brazilian comments on his victory with extreme simplicity:
"If I have to be honest, I had some fears. The car was completely new, and there was the fear that something unpredictable might happen. Instead, everything went very well, including the refueling and tire change in the pit stop. At the beginning of the race, I let Rosberg go because I saw that he was sliding all over the place, seriously compromising the effectiveness of his tires. Then, when I returned to the track immediately after the pit stop, everything was quite easy. I just focused on controlling, tried not to lose concentration, and made overtakes in extreme safety. A victory that bodes well for the World Championship. Physically, I feel very good; maybe being in the mountains for several months before the start of the season helped me".
There is also some satisfaction at Ferrari for Patrick Tambay's fifth place. The Frenchman raced intelligently, without significant chances of joining the fight for victory, to save tires and the car. The cars from Maranello had reported - as seen in recent days - problems with grip, adhesion, and tire wear. Indeed, Tambay finished the race practically with the rear tires completely worn out.
"For me, it was a very important test. I had to check my physical condition. I didn't have any problems except for a bit of hand pain from vibrations. We will have to work a lot, but I am convinced that these few points earned will be useful later in the year".
Arnoux's speech is less optimistic; he practically had a race as a follower. Indeed, the small Frenchman was often overtaken by cars that were potentially much inferior to his. All the problems came from the tires right from the start:
"It was a great suffering; I couldn't keep the car on the road. The engine continued to have power and ran wonderfully, but I was often in trouble, especially in the corners. I could do some good laps, but many times I was very slow. Let's hope for the next race".
The problem of the weight of the cars is certainly one that Ferrari still needs to solve. Engineer Mauro Forghieri says:
"Starting with half-empty tanks and with lighter cars to drive, our opponents achieve a double result. They can use softer tires, allowing better performance, and change them halfway through the race. This means having a fluctuating advantage between 12 and 2.5 seconds per lap".
To clarify the difference between Arnoux's race and Tambay's, the engineer says:
"The tires on René's car deteriorated immediately and forced the driver to a considerable physical effort, also reducing its effectiveness. Patrick finished the race with the right rear tire completely worn out".
The turbo engine's bulk and its numerous accessories prevent achieving results comparable to other teams that have already reached, or perhaps even exceeded, the 500-kilogram limit.
It is interesting to note, however, that during the official tests on Saturday, the Tambay's Ferrari set a record of 606 kilograms (obviously including the 20-30 liters of fuel in the tank). The lightest was Alboreto's Tyrrell (547 kilograms). This means that, considering a minimum amount of fuel, the car is under the 540 kilograms allowed by the regulations, which now include fuel weight from this year onward. In Maranello, work is underway on the new car, which should be ready by May and, according to some rumors, is built with a chassis that also serves as the body. The goal is certainly weight reduction along with the search for aerodynamic solutions to achieve better grip and better utilization of the power to be delivered to the ground. Research also addresses the problem of tire deterioration, attributed to the high horsepower of the turbo engine. Goodyear is conducting studies to develop radial tires that have already been tested and need further refinement. Returning to the protagonists of the Brazilian Grand Prix, at the end of the race, Niki Lauda is happy, although the Austrian could have possibly aimed for second place.
"At the beginning, there was an incident between Baldi and Alboreto; the Alfa Romeo driver collided with the Tyrrell of the Milanese. To avoid them, I went onto the grass, and I probably compromised the effectiveness of my tires for a few laps. Then I started chasing, and as the race progressed, my car was getting better and better. Unfortunately, I couldn't hold back Rosberg, whose Williams was clearly faster. Nevertheless, I believe I achieved a very positive result under these conditions".
Keke Rosberg is visibly upset, not only for losing second place. The Finn explains that the decision to refuel during the race was based on tests conducted in recent days.
"We understood that the car with a full tank of gas was not perfect, so we opted for starting with half a tank. Unfortunately, we lacked experience, and it cost us a lot. I had a big scare. When you see fire behind you, the situation becomes risky. I jumped out of the car, and then the situation came under control. But what good did it do me?"
There is great disappointment at Renault, which failed to materialize even the slightest of the pre-race ambitions that saw them among the favorites. Prost finishing seventh and Cheever retiring are certainly not positive outcomes. An shock absorber on Prost's car immediately locked, and the Frenchman couldn't drive the race as he could have and had to let several opponents pass. Cheever's race was even more challenging; he started with the wrong, very hard tires that didn't allow him to have grip, and then towards the end, he was betrayed by a turbine. As for Riccardo Patrese, the Paduan was really unlucky: right from the start, an exhaust pipe of his Brabham broke, and immediately the turbocharger lost power and came to a standstill. He was essentially racing with a lower displacement car and had to retire after a few laps. There is already a storm brewing in Formula 1. Despite the proclamations of Balestre, president of FISA, who, wearing the moderator's hat, preaches peace among the teams, Nelson Piquet's victory and Keke Rosberg's exclusion from second place, along with the entire course of the Brazilian Grand Prix, are causing controversy and protests. Williams is filing a complaint against the disqualification of its driver. At the same time, there is much skepticism about the decision of the race commissioners to remove the Finn from the standings without moving up the drivers behind him. It is clear that Niki Lauda and all the others are quite upset about this unprecedented system that ends up depriving them of points in the World Championship. The regulations, in Article 168, leave it to the discretion of the race commissioners to decide based on the severity of the infractions. The push start given by the Williams mechanics was prohibited, as the rules stipulate that cars must start from the pit with their own means (but no use of compressors for starting) or with external energy (pneumatic or electric systems). There is no doubt about this. Rosberg should have been stopped. However, a serious mistake was made by the same race commissioners, who should have immediately prevented Rosberg from leaving the pit or shown him the black flag on the next lap. Allowing the Finn to continue, exposing him to risks, and then eliminating him later was an injustice.
Moreover, why have the same sports officials decided (for the first time) not to award points for the second-place when in the past, the opposite had always been done? Just last year in Brazil, Piquet and Rosberg's disqualification for underweight cars had allowed Prost, the third-place finisher, to gain valuable points. The episode of the Finn's pit stop and the dramatic flying fueling that could have turned into a tragedy has caused further repercussions. There was a quarrel between Rosberg and the Williams designer, the unyielding and in this case, inhuman Patrick Head. When the driver, with flames behind him, jumped out of the car, Head called out to him:
"Stay in the car, bastard".
Rosberg, who is not the type to be easily impressed, replied:
"I don't want to burn my mustache".
It is a situation that could cause problems in the team in the future. All of this was determined by this new trick of in-race refueling. Not satisfied with achieving the reduction in the weight of the cars, Brabham and Williams have devised this system to gain advantages over other teams. It is clear that in the upcoming races, many teams will adapt, as it is impossible to compete under conditions of manifest inferiority. Probably, even Ferrari and Renault, which are philosophically opposed to these interventions, will have to follow the path of their rivals. And when there are about twenty cars in the pits for refueling and tire changes, the dangers will increase, and the confusion will be total. It will be difficult for everyone to understand the course of the race. Not to mention that it has already been established that in-race refueling will be prohibited in 1984. All the work and research carried out to find better and safer systems will be in vain. Currently, the races feature competitors at the start divided into three categories: those with light cars practicing fuel top-ups, those with turbo engines that can benefit from more power, and those with nothing, forced to play a mere supporting role.