On Tuesday, May 10, 1983, Ferrari, involving both drivers, tested four cars that would be used in the consecutive double-header for the Monaco Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix. Parallel to the racing department, the prototype of the new edition of the 126 C3 was set up, which would soon be taken to the wind tunnels in Turin. At the Fiorano circuit, modified with two variants, Ferrari tested the cars, encountering some electronic issues. Despite this, at the end of the tests, Patrick Tambay remained optimistic:
"The victory at Imola has already been archived. It's something we need to forget, to look towards another victory, towards future results. The Monaco race will be uncertain; we hope for a pleasant surprise. The city circuit could be favorable to naturally aspirated engines. Gilles won in 1981, and last year Arnoux with Renault was on pole position. However, this year, less powerful cars should have an advantage".
The Monaco Grand Prix was supposed to be contested. Bernie Ecclestone, backed by Frank Williams, had threatened to request the invalidation of the race for the World Championship. However, everything was normal, and nothing had changed. Luxurious yachts in the harbor, Ferraris and Rolls-Royces on the streets, glamour, and engines. The usual crowd of fans, especially Italians, gathered. Ferrari brought four cars to Monte Carlo because they would go directly to Spa, Belgium, without returning home. There were no significant technical innovations. Behind the 126 C Turbo, large silver pipes were installed, not very aesthetic but intended to provide better cooling for the entire electronic system and the battery. Patrick Tambay explained:
"The most challenging issue in these situations is to forget what happened at Imola. We start from scratch. We have parameters to rely on; it might go well, but we're not sure. At Long Beach, where we started on pole, we made a mistake in choosing race tires. Now the tires have changed a bit; we should be making progress. It will be important to start at least in the top three rows and have reliability to finish the race. We need to score points while waiting for the new car, which will start testing shortly".
The Monaco Grand Prix also lived on the challenge between turbo and naturally aspirated engines. Last year, Patrese won with the Brabham-Cosworth, but Renault and Ferrari with the turbocharged engine came close to success. Those without turbos aimed to shine in this race. This was the case for Rosberg and Lauda. Reports from England indicated that both had been hit by viral hepatitis and would not be able to compete for three months. However, it seemed that Rosberg had recently suffered a non-serious poisoning, and Lauda had intestinal problems. However, something unusual circulated among the drivers: on Wednesday, May 11, 1983, in the evening, Elio De Angelis felt unwell, and Pier Carlo Ghinzani went to bed claiming to have a fever of 40°C. It was hoped that everyone could recover to start the show. On Thursday, May 12, 1983, a great battle unfolded for the Monaco Grand Prix. Between Ferrari and Renault, Arnoux and Prost, former teammates engaged in a fierce competition on the streets of the Principality, a track made of concrete and guardrails. In the midst of screeching brakes, the detonations of turbo engines, the deafening noise of naturally aspirated engines endangering eardrums, half-shafts rotating at the brink of breaking, and pieces of rubber flying on the track, the duel between these giants of the steering wheel with jockey-like physiques resolved, for the moment, in favor of the French team's driver. In the first qualifying session, Alain Prost clocked 1’24"840, and René Arnoux recorded 1'25"182. Prost's time was only 1.559s slower than the previous year's record, held by Arnoux with ground-effect cars. The head-to-head battle between the two drivers, divided by both ancient and recent rivalries, also involved Ferrari and Renault. Behind Prost and Arnoux, Eddie Cheever and Patrick Tambay inserted themselves, alternating perfectly and leaving no space for others, securing third and fourth positions, respectively. Behind these four turbocharged cars, Keke Rosberg, always pushing the limits in a hopeful and courageous drive to compensate for the lesser power of his Williams-Cosworth. He was seen releasing the accelerator ten meters after his rivals in the most challenging turns and pressing the accelerator ten meters ahead of everyone, aided by a car that, in terms of chassis, seemed to be second to none. Nelson Piquet and Andrea De Cesaris followed, then Jacques Laffite and Jean-Pierre Jarier. Riccardo Patrese was far behind because his Brabham stopped after half a lap due to an electrical issue.
The Italian driver had to rush back to the pits, covering two kilometers on foot before getting into the reserve car, which didn't allow him to set a good time. If Patrese, last year's winner, had the chance to recover positions on Saturday (assuming there was no rain, as predicted by meteorologists), there were famous names at risk of not qualifying. Niki Lauda and John Watson, with the twenty-second and twenty-third times, were temporarily outside the lineup, which could accommodate a maximum of twenty cars in Monte Carlo. Like in Long Beach, where Watson later achieved a sensational victory ahead of Lauda, McLaren reported noticeable stability issues. Lauda, in a precise analysis that was also a bit accusatory, said:
"Michelin's radial tires are designed to withstand the tremendous stresses of turbo engines. We have significantly lower power, and the tires don't heat up. We're at 40 °C when we need 80 °C. In short, we lack grip; we can't handle the asphalt with adhesion and acceleration problems. I'll do my best, but if I can't qualify, it means I'll enjoy watching the others from the stands".
The show was guaranteed. Already on Thursday, it was clear that the dominant themes of the race would be diverse, from the Renault-Ferrari showdown to the undoubtedly aggressive attack by Rosberg. As usual, the choice of race tires and the aerodynamic and chassis setup of the cars would be crucial. According to the stopwatch data (increasingly interesting numbers), Rosberg gained in chicanes, Renault was faster in steep curves, while Ferrari consistently had the best accelerations thanks to its fantastic engine. Within the swimming pool variant, the Finnish Williams reached 163.9 km/h compared to Warwick's (Toleman) 162 km/h, Cheever's 157.0 km/h, Arnoux's 151.3 km/h, Serra's 153.3 km/h, and gradually down to the slowest, Elio De Angelis, who passed at 137.3 km/h with a Lotus-Renault that didn't seem to hold together. Slower still (124.4 km/h) was Ghinzani, but the Osella driver took to the track with a fever, just for the sake of participating. Cecotto and Guerrero with Theodore were absent, having been excluded in the morning pre-qualifications. Cecotto experienced a scary moment with a spectacular accident (without harm to him). On the pit straight, at the finish line, Arnoux was the fastest, with his Ferrari reaching over 240 km/h. A significant speed considering the launch was only 300 meters: 10 km/h more than everyone else, 35 km/h more than Rosberg's Williams. In short, there were several differences among the cars. But in Monte Carlo, the importance of the drivers was felt more than elsewhere. A slight mistake could be costly, as happened last year with Prost and Arnoux. Friday, meanwhile, was a rest day for Formula 1, awaiting the decisive attack on Saturday with the second qualifying session. In the meantime, Mauro Forghieri, technical director of Ferrari, said:
"We are satisfied; if only it were always like this, with one car in the front row and the other in the second. Considering the work we have in progress with the tuning of the 126C2 cars and the construction of the 126 C3, the result is excellent, especially if there are no changes on Saturday".
René Arnoux agreed:
"It's a matter between us and Renault. I can improve a little more, but not much. However, the car is well balanced".
The only problem for Patrick Tambay was adapting to the circuit.
"I haven't driven in Monte Carlo for two years, and that's a problem. The circuit is challenging, very demanding. You have to be very precise".
There was a mysterious object in the Ferraris - a small knob on the left of the driver, with which adjustments could be made while driving through a cable. The technicians at the Maranello team refused to reveal what it was.
It seemed to be a tool for adjusting turbo pressure, but it wasn't certain. Others said it was used to eliminate irregular fuel supply issues, commonly known as vapor-lock, i.e., an air bubble. At Renault, there was euphoria. Alain Prost said:
"The time I set is not exceptional. I can do better. We have made significant progress with the new Re 40".
The French team underwent several tests at Le Castellet. The technicians discovered and resolved an issue that had limited performance in Imola. The exhaust gases, rumored to reach temperatures in the hundreds of degrees Celsius, were excessively heating the rear tires. To address this, the exhaust pipes were widened and lengthened. A small secret that could be the key to solving a serious problem. Despite Friday the 13th, May 13, 1983, halting Formula 1, there was no peace: the entire Principality woke up at 6:30 a.m. due to Formula 3 trials. Traditionally, the Monaco Grand Prix on Friday grants Formula 1 drivers a day off and reflection. A nice thought, one might say. However, there is suspicion that it's a way to extend the event and keep tourists for an extra day. Tourists sleep in their cars because hotels are full, not only in Monte-Carlo and Menton but also in Ventimiglia, Bordighera, and up to Sanremo. In the harbor, sailboats with two or three berths offer accommodation for 200.000 lire per night. In Monte-Carlo, racing cars and millions of dollars are in action. An American reportedly offered $5.000 to anchor his yacht in a privileged spot, front row at the swimming pool turn, for three days. Monte-Carlo is almost bursting, and people continue to arrive, especially from Italy. Ferrari's victory in Imola fuels hopes and enthusiasm. Moreover, of the last eight Monaco Grands Prix, Ferrari has won four (two with Lauda, then Scheckter and Villeneuve). The road to the Rock is crowded with people using binoculars to spy on the Ferrari pit, trying to understand the atmosphere and gather auspices. Around two bodyless cars, mechanics perform delicate and mysterious operations. They seem satisfied enough. It is known that Ferrari came to Monte-Carlo with an innovation: a small knob placed to the left of the driver, attached to a cable. Something secretive? Mauro Forghieri explained the mystery, but among rival technicians, there is talk with a certain unease or an ostentatious indifference. They say, "Some believe in God, some in Providence, some in that thing there." How much the small innovation prepared by Ferrari will be worth will probably be seen on Saturday in the battle for the best positions on the grid. In a city circuit where overtaking is more difficult, starting at the front is crucial. Tarnbay says,
"At Monte-Carlo, you have two races in one: Saturday for pole position, Sunday for the nine points".
Given the expected battle, Saturday's day off and relaxation seem appropriate. It seems that Formula 1 drivers undergo nervous exhaustion comparable to that of combat fighter pilots. In the two hours of the race, the heart rate varies from 180 to 200 beats per minute. Some drivers take advantage of this break to meticulously inspect every meter of the three-thousand-meter track, stopping to study some turns for a long time. Meanwhile, in the evening, people continue to arrive, but it's now impossible to find a place to leave the car. Joanna Villeneuve, who has a house on the hill, finds Ferrari's friends. It is the first time since the Zolder tragedy that she gets closer to the racing world again. She seems to be looking for someone. She finds a sympathy that moves her. She didn't want to come, fearing memories. The children, Jacques and Melanie, insisted and convinced her to take them to the trials. For a while, she stays with them in the stands, but she cannot resist and goes down to the Ferrari pit. What does she feel to find herself here?
"It's a bit empty; it's too empty for me. Here, two years ago, Gilles achieved one of his most beautiful victories".
For a day, Mauro Forghieri wears a jacket and tie. A working lunch at the Hotel de Paris, then a visit to the stands where mechanics led by Tornami and Carletti prepare the cars for the second qualifying session. Calm and relaxed, Mauro Forghieri, one of the most prestigious technicians in international motorsport, always associated with Ferrari, seems more open than usual to the interview. Normally, he is engulfed in a thousand problems, from meetings with drivers to preparing cars on the track.
It is a good opportunity to analyze the situation, to draw a balance.
"We tried to refine the cars to achieve the best starting position in the race. Starting in front is more important on this circuit than anywhere else. But it will be very difficult to displace Prost and Renault from pole position. Our drivers will do their best, however, we are already content because until now, we haven't had the slightest inconvenience. And that's not a small achievement".
On your single-seaters, a new mechanism has been noticed: a small knob that the driver can operate from the cockpit. There has been talk of a technical secret...
"A secret that I reveal without fear. It's just a fuel regulator. In case of difficulties, the driver can try to improve the engine's performance. It's nothing exceptional. I can say, however, that electronics are becoming crucial for cars. In the future, there is increasing space for control units, computers, highly sophisticated systems that are still in the evolutionary stage".
Speaking of sophistication, in a recent interview, Bernie Ecclestone, president of FOCA, hinted that the battle against turbo engines is not yet over. There will always be attempts to make turbocharged engines less competitive.
"In the face of such an attitude, I become bitter. They look for excuses, claiming that the turbo is too expensive for teams that don't have many resources. The truth is different. The turbo requires technical knowledge and preparation that many teams do not possess. It is too easy to buy a Cosworth engine and then build a car around it. When Renault took this path, many smiled. Then, when Ferrari arrived two years ago right here in Monte Carlo and showed that the turbo was competitive even on slow tracks, they began to worry, and the battle began. It is too convenient to try to change regulations when an opponent makes progress. Now we can no longer afford to make certain gifts".
Last year your team did not win the Drivers' World Championship due to a series of negative circumstances. How does this season look?
"I would say we are on the right track. We have a cohesive team. Arnoux and Tambay are friends; they respect each other, exchange ideas and advice. For the moment, there is only modest and fair sporting rivalry between them. They remind me of the times when Scheckter and Villeneuve were racing. Of course, we all have flaws, but who doesn't? I think, barring surprises, we can achieve the results of the work done by the entire team".
You are counting a lot on the new car that is about to come out of the Maranello workshops?
"Obviously, when you build a more advanced model, you always hope to progress. It's something we will see in the short term. It will be an interesting car. But don't make me say how it will be. Engineer Enzo Ferrari will make it known to everyone. We will take it to the track and develop it. It is not said that it will be the absolute winning weapon. However, without immodesty, I can say that Ferrari may have had ups and downs, but successes have always outnumbered defeats".
Alain Prost loses all reserve. The little Frenchman is convinced this time of victory in the Monaco Grand Prix. Last year, victory slipped away from him due to a spectacular exit when the situation was favorable. Even today, there remains a doubt: was it a driver error or a break in the car? The Renault champion disclaims all responsibility.
"Something broke in the car, I'm sure".
This time, Prost has another great opportunity. His Renault seems to have made enormous progress.
"I really like the circuit; it's the only city circuit that I find interesting. As for my car, it is practically perfect. Only if Ferrari manages to start in front of me will I have a problem. But I have the advantage of being able to use tires that, in my opinion, are superior for the race. Between our qualifying and race tires, there is a difference of 3-4 tenths, while those of our opponents probably have greater variations. Also, it is impossible to overtake here if you don't have a significantly superior car. So, I am optimistic both for the race and for the championship. I already have 15 points, and I think I can accumulate many more".
Alain Prost and René Arnoux will face each other at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday when the Monaco Grand Prix kicks off: whoever keeps their cool, whoever seizes the moment when the green light comes on, might already have the game in their favor. Starting ahead of everyone on this narrow and twisty circuit is a decisive advantage, although 76 laps of the race can bring any surprises. The reference to the roulette wheels of the Casino, in front of which the twenty drivers will pass lap after lap, is probably expected. But experience teaches that any prediction can be contradicted. The fifth race of the Formula 1 World Championship also faces the threat of bad weather. On Saturday, it rains precisely during the second, decisive qualifying session, and the lineup remains the same as on Thursday. And so, in a truly surprising turn of events, Niki Lauda and his teammate John Watson are left out for the first time in their careers. The wet asphalt prevents anyone from improving. It's a shame: without the Austrian and the Northern Irish McLaren driver, the Grand Prix loses two protagonists, especially since the English team had solved the problems that had prevented qualifying the two cars in the initial trials. Now the likely dominant factors in the race expand, taking on tones that also depend on uncertain weather conditions. If it rains, the fight will be more open, and it might be less difficult to displace four turbo cars from the top positions, two Renaults, and two Ferraris. Courage and skill in certain conditions, the agility of the Williams, and the quicker response of aspirated engines are particularly worth considering. Without forgetting that overtaking in the wake of water is even more challenging. In the case of a sunny afternoon, especially Renault and Ferrari will be hard hares to catch.
Then, the precision of the front drivers will matter, and the battle will certainly unfold between Arnoux and Prost, while Tambay and Cheever will vie for positions with their consistency and more reasoned driving. In the role of dangerous outsiders, we would place two other turbocharged cars, the Brabham of Piquet and the Alfa Romeo of De Cesaris. In 1982, the Italian driver was winning and was among those stopped at the last moment due to a lack of fuel. For the others, barring dramatic turnarounds, there is not much hope. A particularly challenging task falls on Riccardo Patrese, who has to chase from the seventeenth starting position. Everyone knows the skill and determination of the Italian driver, but his chances are really limited. It is certain that in this Grand Prix, a good portion of the world championship title is at stake. If Renault and Ferrari score high, or even if Nelson Piquet is among the leaders, the battle in the upcoming races on fast circuits might be limited to a few names. A race, therefore, entirely to be seen, full of suspense. Ferrari hopes for a positive result while awaiting the release of the new model, now imminent. For Renault, this is one of the best opportunities to achieve the goal it has been pursuing for years. This is the first time that two major manufacturers, politically allied, find themselves engaged in such a direct clash. There is a lot of fair play between the two teams, but now competitive rivalry takes precedence. With the onset of rain, Alain Prost is no longer so sure of an easy victory.
"On the wet, my Renault was not as perfect as on a dry track. I have to admit that Arnoux knows how to take risks better than me under the rain. If there is a storm during the race, I will be forced to play a recovery race, maybe settle for a second place".
René Arnoux, on the other hand, is more cheeky. Behind the sly smile, the Ferrari driver hides a good dose of bravado.
"Rain? I like it".
On Saturday at Ferrari (and also for other teams supplied by Goodyear), a technically historic event occurs. For the first time, the American company officially enters the track with radial tires. These were rain tires that prove to be competitive. However, the team in Maranello remains cautious. Mauro Forghieri states:
"We are always satisfied because radial tires have proven to be very good. Even conventional ones have made progress compared to Imola. If it rains, we will be ready. However, we prefer good weather; it's less dangerous".
Patrick Tambay remains calm. The French driver makes no boastful statements. It's in his character; he will speak after the race. However, he is involved in a quarrel with Patrese during free practice.
"Riccardo tried twice to push me off the track by closing the road".
A gesture was made from the red car towards Patrese. The Italian, in turn, passing through the pits, replies by waving his hands. Then he goes to meet Tambay. The two drivers, however, calm down and engage in a heated conversation.
"Nothing strange; he told me he hadn't seen me in the rearview mirrors".
Niki Lauda, the damage and the irony. It had never happened to the Austrian ace not to qualify. Out of 131 Grand Prix races from 1971 to today, the two-time World Champion had never experienced such bitterness. It's not his fault: on Friday, the combination of McLaren and Michelin tires didn't work due to incorrect setup of the car. On Saturday morning, during free practice, Michelin brought a new type of tires, and John Barnard, the designer of McLaren, had the settings changed. Lauda stormed onto the track like a fury, and the stopwatch immediately vindicated him: 1'27"59, thirteenth. Niki returned satisfied, radiant, confident. Then, around noon, black clouds rose in the sun, and the first raindrops wet the asphalt. With wet tires, Lauda takes to the track. He performs a Grand Prix almost by himself. When he returns to the pits, the Austrian finds a crowd waiting for him. He takes off his helmet and gives an enigmatic smile. His eyes betray bitterness, disappointment. But class still counts for something, and the former World Champion confirms that he is a gentleman.
"It's the game of races, one day for others, this time for me. We made a mistake; it was foolishness. If we can't understand that the car is not right, it means we deserve exclusion. I will make up for it in the next races".
While everyone surfaces on Sunday morning the rain pours down and as all the grandstands around the circuit are uncovered it is a very wet and miserable crowd that assembled to watch a race that is going to bear little relationship to reality. By 11:00 a.m. the rain have stops falling. The Formula One warm-up starts at 12:30 p.m. for 30 minutes, but continuous spatterings of rain keep parts of the circuit damp so that even though treadless dry weather tyres are being used by most of the twenty starters it is impossible to do much in the way of fast laps, and as the rain returns after the warm-up is over nobody really knows where they are going. The Alfa Romeo team knows where they are not going, for the engine in de Cesaris’ car springs an oil leak underneath, which takes a fair time to cure, and the Toleman team stops going anywhere when Warwick comes to a stop just past the pits with a damaged turbocharger, so they are soon hard at work fitting a replacement one. The 76 lap race is due to start at 3:30 p.m. and at 3:00 p.m. when the pit lane is opened it is still spitting with rain and the circuit is very damp in places, no nobody knows what is going to happen.
A weather specialist says the rain would return because the wind is coming from east, while another looks at the clouds and says they are rising so the weather would clear up and it would be dry. Not surprisingly none of the teams know what to do as their cars go off on the warm-up lap. As the twenty cars sit on the grid awaiting the signal to start up and prepare for the parade lap final decisions have to be made as to whether to start on heavily grooved rain-tyres with all the springs, shock-absorbers and anti-roll bars adjusted to soft conditions for rain, as Renault decides. Whether to start on rain-tyres but with dry settings, so that if it dries up a stop can be made for dry tyres and the car would then be well set up, as Ferrari and Brabham decide to do, or whether to gamble on it drying up and start on dry tyres, hoping that the drivers can keep out of trouble in the opening laps. The Ferrari team decides that both of their drivers would start on wet-weather tyres, in spite of Tambay coming back from the warm-up lap and offering to take a chance and start on dry-weather tyres. Both Renaults are on wets as are both Brabhams, but Rosberg has the same feeling as Tambay and wants to start on dry tyres, which suits Frank Williams and Patrick Head, as they have seen that all the front-running turbocharged cars are starting on wet tyres. If they start both their cars on wet tyres the outcome is obvious, they would not keep up, but on dry tyres it is a fair gamble. If it dries up they are in with a chance while the others stop to change, if it rained they would have to stop and change tyres and all hope of getting anywhere would be gone. There are three possibilities, two of which are dead-cert losers and the third is a gamble that could pay off. They gamble, as did most of the others who are not in the front-rank turbo race, including Warwick with the Toleman, the Tyrrells and Surer with his Arrows. Alan Rees hedges his bets both ways and puts his second car on wet tyres. As the twenty cars go off on the parade lap behind Prost it is all up to the controller of the heavens. The constant spits of rain are not enough to penetrate through the trees, but enough to dampen the road where they fall, so on the starting grid those on the right like Prost, Cheever, Rosberg and de Cesaris have a dry surface and those on the left like Arnoux, Tambay, Piquet and Laffite have a damp surface on which to start. As the grid line-up bears little resemblance to what it would have been had it not rained on Saturday afternoon, the whole affair is a bit of a joke.
It was a gambler’s paradise, so suitable for Monte-Carlo. When the green starting lights shines Arnoux’s Ferrari hangs with wheelspin, Prost makes a good start but Rosberg simply rockets off the line, diving down the middle into second place, managing to miss everybody this time. Up the hill it is Prost, Rosberg and Cheever with the rest hard behind and no spray coming up from the tyres, for the wind is drying the track rapidly, even though the downhill hairpins are still damp. At the back Mansell is trying to force his Lotus 92 into gaps that don’t exist as they disappear into the Casino Square, so it is no surprise when he tangles with Alboreto’s Tyrrell before the end of the opening lap and they are both out of the race. Before the end of the lap Rosberg has dived past the leading Renault and leads the field as they start lap two, and there is already a fair sized gap between these two and the others led by Cheever. Already the conditions are changing visibly and it is not going to rain, so all those who have started on rain tyres are in trouble. Rosberg makes the most of the clear road ahead by reading the changing road surface and running on the dry patches, changing his line each lap as conditions improve. Piquet is the first in, at the end of lap four, and with a set of dry tyres on his Brabham is back in the race, but down in fifteenth place as a lot of time is lost on the slow entry and exit of the Monte-Carlo pit lane. On the next lap Patrese is in for a tyre change, and Jarier is in with the Ligier, followed by Arnoux, but the Ferrari is in for a different reason. On lap six there have been a collision between the Ferrari and Laffite’s Williams as they descend to the sea-front before the tunnel, and the Ferrari has come off second best. While Arnoux’s car is in the pits being attended to Tambay wants to come in for a tyre change, but he is kept out until the end of lap 10, by which time he has dropped a long way back from the leaders. Prost has been in and out at the end of lap seven, but has dropped back to eighth place, and Cheever’s stop has put him back to 12th place. At 10 laps the order is Rosberg well ahead of Laffite, with Surer a long way back in third place, followed by Warwick, all four having start on dry tyres and the gamble has paid off, for though the afternoon is not bright the rain is holding off. Behind Warwick come Prost, de Angelis, Piquet, Cheever, and Jarier, with Baldi leading the rest. Arnoux has done one more slow lap and then retires and Winkelhock has eliminated himself and Boesel’s Ligier in a collision.
It is now all over, the gamblers have succeeded and the two Williams cars are uncatchable, but there is a good scrap going on behind. Surer is third in his Arrows, but it is not a secure third place for Warwick is pressing on in the Toleman-Hart, which is behaving itself for the first time in a long while, and its Pirelli tyres are performing well. The reason the Hampshire driver is pressing on is not so much that he is trying to catch Surer, but that he is being chased hard by Prost and Piquet, though they both are a bit handicapped, the Renault by reason of being too softly set up for the dry conditions and the Brabham by having its BMW boost-pressure held down in the interests of fuel economy. With refuelling forbidden and the BT52 tank being below the maximum permitted capacity, Piquet is having to run on restricted boost and power to make the fuel last the distance. Nonetheless both he and Prost are driving hard and Warwick is doing a good job staying in front of them. Rosberg is driving brilliantly and has settled into a very consistent rhythm once the track has dried out all round, and Laffite is holding station some thirty seconds behind. After being passed by Cheever’s Renault, de Angelis stops at the pits for more Pirelli tyres, pretending they would make an improvement to his poor progress, which they don’t do, and meanwhile Warwick’s Pirellis are working admirably. Patrese in the second Brabham is still working away to overcome his initial starting-grid position handicap and Tambay is making fastest race laps in his endeavours to make up for the time lost while the Ferrari pit keeps him out on his wet tyres on the dry track. Everyone’s handicap, self imposed or acquired by chance, is too much to affect the overall result of the race, and provides Rosberg doesn’t throw it away victory is there for the Williams team to take as the result of a good gamble; and second place as well. Cheever stops out on the circuit when his Renault engine breaks and Jarier’s Ligier sits down like a broody hen when the drive-belt to the hydraulic pump for the suspension breaks, and without oil pressure the Citroën suspension units collapse. At just over half distance, on lap 43 to be exact, Rosberg has an anxious moment when his Cosworth engine misses a beat three or four times and then cuts out momentarily as he dives into the swimming pool corners on the harbour front. The engine cuts in again and runs perfectly for the rest of the race.
Laffite is not so lucky, for he misses a gearchange as he ends lap 53 and as he starts on his next lap he knows it is not his fault, for something has broken internally and though he gets back to the pits his race is run. Meanwhile the battle for third place has become very heated for Warwick and Piquet have caught Surer, and the Arrows, Toleman and Brabham are nose to tail. Prost is having trouble finding fourth gear and has dropped back, while Rosberg’s slight hesitation in his rhythmic progress has allowed Patrese to get by the Williams and on to the same lap, though Tambay is still a lap behind, but going very fast and smoothly. A piece of the complicated rear aerofoil on the Ferrari has broken off, which changes the trim of the car slightly, but Tambay is easily able to allow for it. As Surer is completing lap 49 Warwick is looking for a way by and Piquet is watching the two of them. Both drivers are driving hard with more at stake than ever before, and the inevitable happens. Surer inadvertently squeezes Warwick over to the left as they pass the pits and then when braking for the St. Devote chicane from 130 m.p.h. the Toleman hit the Arrows and punt it into the guard rails. Surer is out on the spot while the Toleman bounce off into the rails and wreck its left rear suspension. While a smiling Nelson Piquet go by into third place, soon to become second place when Laffite retires, Warwick limps round to the pits to retire from his moment of glory. As he does so de Angelis is back in the pits with the Lotus-Renault for more Pirelli tyres and as he sets off again a drive-shaft breaks which saves everyone a lot of embarrassment. Meanwhile the Pirelli engineers are looking at the tyres on the Toleman, which have been driven hard, and are delighted with their condition. Patrese has recorded fastest lap of the race, improving on Tanabay’s times, but then has to stop for a tyre change and this let the Ferrari by into fourth place for the Frenchman’s speed has carried him by Rosberg, to be on the same lap as the leader. After his stop Patrese’s BMW engine coughs and dies, then picked up again, and then dies altogether with a malfunctioning in the fuel system. With the end in sight Piquet wounds things up for a couple of laps and snatches the fastest lap from his team-mate, but cannot make any impression on the flying Rosberg, so settles back in second place a comfortable few seconds ahead of Prost. Only four cars complete the full 76 laps, Rosberg winning in 1 hr. 56'38"121 having driven hard the whole way, so much so that he has blistered his hands and is very relieved to be able to stop, but it is a fine example of his tenacity and enthusiasm and a well deserved gambler’s win. He is followed home by Piquet, Prost and Tambay on the same lap so it is Williams-Cosworth V8, Brabham-BMW, Renault V6 and Ferrari V6.
Keke Rosberg, with a radiant face, enjoys an unexpected victory. The Finnish driver shakes hands on the podium with Prince Ranieri and the beautiful Caroline, holding the golden cup to his chest, a trophy he never thought he could add to his collection.
"I owe everything to the eye of Frank Williams. It was he who decided to put on slick tires after I told him it was a risk. During the reconnaissance on the track, I noticed that the car had good grip on the asphalt. It worked out well. Everyone was expecting the turbo, but instead, we got the Cosworth engine with the old Keke".
The Finn reveals an episode that perhaps no one noticed:
"At a certain point, my car's engine started misfiring. It was lacking a bit of power. On lap 53, in the swimming pool chicane, the engine suddenly shut off. The car swerved. I managed to shift to a lower gear, and thankfully, it restarted. However, I risked hitting the guardrail and ending badly. It was a close call. Then everything went smoothly. I just focused on maintaining the lead, trying not to make mistakes, especially during overtakes".
Frank Williams, with typically English calmness and a certain cheekiness, explains his winning decision.
"The track wasn't wet. We only put on wet tires when it's pouring. Those were just a few drops".
When asked why he started both cars with slick tires, he replies:
"Because I had to sacrifice one when I was sure of my decision".
Impeccable. And so he achieved his 17th victory in Formula 1. Rosberg on the podium is once again booed by Ferrari fans. But the Finn is certainly not the type to be impressed. The crowd also erupts in joy when Tambay overtakes the struggling Patrese. Among the happiest faces of the day is American Danny Sullivan, who, thanks to the elimination of many competitors, secured a good fifth place and the first two points of his still short Formula 1 career. Mauro Baldi earned the first seasonal point for Alfa Romeo. A decent result formally, but certainly below expectations. The Italian driver drove consistently, but the car was never competitive, at least compared to other turbo cars. Not to forget that the points man, Andrea De Cesaris, didn't go beyond the thirteenth lap. Alfa Romeo also started with rain tires. The Roman driver immediately had gearbox problems and was forced to retire. Many promises, but few concrete results. The rain betrayed the turbo engines. A victory that seemed assured turned into a defeat. Renault and Ferrari only scored a few points. Piquet did better, not being among the favorites. Engineer Mauro Forghieri explains:
"It was too dangerous to start with slicks. The turbocharged engine is more powerful than the naturally aspirated one. The wheels slip even in high gears, and we risked going off track at the start of the race because the asphalt was slippery. Tambay did very well; Arnoux practically couldn't race".
Patrick Tambay responds:
"A real shame. I lost valuable points compared to Piquet and Prost. But the car was good. I could have won. The vibrations caused by the uneven asphalt also broke the rear wing, and it wasn't possible to achieve more. I am still on track, according to the plan I devised after Imola. In Spa next Sunday, we should do well, and also later in Montreal. I won't comment on Detroit; we'll see".
Arnoux is tempted in the box with the detached control unit, as if to prove that he was not at fault.
"If we hadn't made the mistake of starting with rain tires, it would have ended differently. That's racing".
Alain Prost didn't complain even though his race was a ordeal.
"I stopped to change tires, but the car had the rain setup and was too soft, difficult to control. Also, I had problems with the gearbox; the fourth gear wouldn't engage. I should be happy with the result, but it could easily have been a victory".
Cheever fared even worse; he was having a good race and had even passed his teammate, then he was betrayed by the engine. The same applies to Piquet, as Prost explains:
"We made a mistake, but we couldn't predict if the rain would continue or not. I got angry with Rosberg, who in a TV interview said he knew the track would dry up. Did he take a meteorology course? I would like to know how he could predict such a change a few minutes before the start. Our Bmw engine is now very competitive. It's not as powerful as the Ferrari, but the car handles very well. However, I thought I would only get a few points, and I got a good second place. A win and two times six points are an excellent balance to start. In Spa, we can still aim for success".
Jacques Laffite is furious. The Frenchman could have secured second place behind teammate Rosberg, but the gearbox on his Williams broke.
"A real disaster. Now I could even be in the running for the World Championship victory".
With the dispute of the Monaco Grand Prix, stunningly won by Keke Rosberg, a third of the Formula 1 World Championship has concluded. The initial phase of five races served to clarify positions and ambitions. The roles for the teams now seem defined, although the competition appears very uncertain. The drivers of Brabham, Renault, and Ferrari are favorites for the world title, while those of Williams and McLaren are outsiders due to the lack of turbo engines. In any case, the candidates for the final success are (or should be) Piquet, leading the championship with 21 points, Prost at 19, and Tambay third with 17. Brabham and Renault have likely made their choices: in the English team, the unfortunate Patrese has yet to score, and in the French team, young Cheever was considered a valid support from the start. Ferrari, as usual, started with two equal drivers, not knowing the performance of newcomer Arnoux and with uncertainties about Tambay's physical condition after last year's troubles. But now, the situation at Maranello should be clearer. Tambay has shown greater consistency, being the only driver to secure four valid placements in the first five races. René Àrnoux has confirmed himself as a very fast driver, aggressive, rich in temperament, and a tireless tester. However, as the races have shown, similar to what happened with Renault, he still lacks something to be reliable. It is clear that a victory in Spa, Belgium, could relaunch him, but in Formula 1, results in the long run reward, with few exceptions, those who can use not only the accelerator but also their brains. That's why Tambay, at this point, should have better chances against his teammate. Moreover, there must be some uncertainty at Maranello about the team composition for the next year, possible confirmations, or the signing of new drivers. Usually, Ferrari announced the names of its drivers for the next season during the Monte-Carlo period, and this did not happen this time. It is said that sports director Marco Piccinini has contacted Keke Rosberg. The news, of course, has not received direct confirmation. However, both the driver and Frank Williams hint that something is in the air. Says Frank Williams:
“A champion of Keke's caliber is tempting for all teams. For now, I haven't been able to renew his contract. It depends on whether my sponsors will give me the necessary money to keep him. However, I am confident that I will manage not to let him slip away”.
Keke Rosberg makes it known that he wants to compete as soon as possible with a car equipped with a turbo engine. This could be the case with Ferrari, provided Maranello is willing to pay the required amount, which is not small, certainly close to a million dollars per year. Williams could also use a turbocharged engine by the end of the season. The English team has an agreement with Honda, which will soon debut in Formula 1 with its own car (the Spirit-Honda recently debuted in a non-championship race at Brands Hatch), so it's not excluded that the Finn could be satisfied there. However, many other teams are interested in Rosberg. A real battle could ignite around the World Champion. For example, McLaren (with the Tag-Porsche turbo) is also interested in him, targeting Elio De Angelis. If Ferrari were to make changes, a thought for Alan Jones is not to be excluded. In short, the driver market is in turmoil.