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#388 1983 South African Grand Prix

2022-08-21 00:00

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#1983, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Alessia Andreoli,

#388 1983 South African Grand Prix

On Monday, September 26, 1983, Scuderia Ferrari revealed its future and at the same time disclosed a historic decision, that is the hiring of an Itali

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On Monday, September 26, 1983, Scuderia Ferrari revealed its future and at the same time disclosed a historic decision, that is the hiring of an Italian driver after eleven years.

 

"Enzo Ferrari has welcomed in Maranello the drivers René Arnoux and Michele Alboreto, who will drive the Ferraris in the 1984 World Championship. Engineer Ferrari wishes to express to Patrick Tambay the grateful appreciation of the House for his intelligent and competent work as a test driver".

 

The last one was Arturo Merzario, in 1973. Since then, the Modenese manufacturer, worried by the pressure and the controversy that had personally involved him, had been unwilling to open the doors of Maranello to Italian drivers. Ferrari thus fulfilled a promise made last year. Then he had said: 

 

"When Alboreto will ask us for a car, we will be happy to give one to him".

 

The contract signed by the 26-year-old Milanese driver also puts an end to the thousands of rumours about the various names that had been made for a while. Alongside Alboreto remains René Arnoux, who perhaps has on his side the advantage of still being in theoretical contention for the world title. Instead, Patrick Tambay must leave, with many greetings and a lot of gratitude. He was logically removed because of the negative results in the latter part of the season (and perhaps also due to the deteriorating relations with sporting director Piccinini). Patrick is an excellent driver and above all an intelligent, open and sincere man. Probably, given the ties of friendship between Ferrari and Renault, Tambay should almost certainly move to the French stable alongside Alain Prost, replacing Cheever (who did not renew his contract). Michele Alboreto is going through a very difficult task, just for the fact that he is becoming a Ferrari driver, but he will finally have a chance to fully express his potential and fight for the world title as he has dreamed of for years. The competition with teammate Arnoux will be challenging and interesting. Meanwhile, Ferrari seems to be willing to forget the defeat suffered on Sunday at Brands Hatch. Enzo Ferrari always described himself as an agitator of men and ideas. He acted promptly on this occasion too. The Maranello team's aim in the last race of the season is to win the World Constructors' Championship, it is currently leading the ranking, 11 points over Renault. At Kyalami on Saturday, Oct. 15, 1983, Arnoux will also have his only chance to try to win the drivers' title over Prost and Piquet.

 

"I know very well that it is an almost impossible challenge. But I will not say I’m a loser until the last meter of the race. I must win and hope that Prost does not get more than the sixth place, and Piquet does not go any further than the fifth place. I hope that the fight between the Brabham driver and the Renault driver will give me some chances to get in. They will also be in trouble".

 

About the relationship and the coexistence with Alboreto, the Frenchman has expressed his opinion more than once.  

 

"When you get into a Formula 1 car, nothing matters. Our sport is an individual one. I know Michele is a fast driver, who drives with intelligence and also with a good dose of aggressiveness. He will possibly be an extra motivation for me".

 

As for the Italian, who formed himself in Tyrrell, the opinions are more or less the same. 

 

"The important thing is to get to Ferrari, to have a chance to fight for the title. Of course, having good relations with everyone in the team is an advantage. And I do not want any problem. When you put your helmet, however, you have to forget everything. If I've done anything in motorsports so far, it's because I've been able to concentrate on driving".

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Who is the driver who managed to win Enzo Ferrari over? Michele Alboreto was born in Milan, on December 23, 1956. His father is from Friuli Venezia Giulia and his mother is from Lebanon. He studied as a technical expert and worked, in the beginning, as a delivery man. His passion for motors came out early, watching the Monza races, but it was not until he was 20 years old that he was able to make his debut, precisely with a Formula Monza, built by some friends. The car was not competitive, but he was quickly noticed for his character. And since 1976 Alboreto's growing has been unstoppable. First in Formula Italia, then in Formula 3, where in 1979 he reached second place behind Ghinzani in the Italian championship. In 1980 he took part to Euroracing, which is, the European championship: he got four wins and finally won the title. The British constructor Ken Tyrrell, famous for being a great discoverer of talents, got his eyes on this young man, with curly hair and frank eyes. He made his debut in Formula One with Tyrrell, at the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix, and got a three-year contract. Alboreto proved to be trustworthy during the following season, when he won the last race (Las Vegas). This year he came out on top in Detroit. City tracks are the only ones where Michele has a chance of success, with his naturally aspirated engine car. He went to Maranello once and met Enzo Ferrari. Then he sent the Modenese manufacturer a letter of thanks. It was the beginning of his approach to the Maranello team. The engineer described him as a sensitive, polite boy. Since then, Alboreto had the hope to be hired by Ferrari, but he did not forget his duties and continued to work hard with Tyrrell and Lancia. Among his qualities there are precision driving, temperament, and sensitivity to the car. Everything that it takes to become a champion. 

 

"It is the goal of my career. I think that racing with Ferrari is every driver's dream, but I have always had a special attraction to the Maranello team. I am fascinated by the preparation of the whole team, by the technological possibilities, it is the best of the sporting environment, and we shouldn't forget the charisma of this name. And I won't keep secret that the perspective of finally being able to fight for the world title is stimulating, which with Ferrari is very probable".

 

Michele Alboreto is very close to his partner Nadia Astoni. He is a serious, lonely man if compared to other drivers, and spoke often about his chance to drive for Ferrari.

 

"Until I sign the contract, I will not believe it. Words are not enough for me, indeed".

 

Basically, the driver from Milan had blocked up the driver's market to wait for Ferrari's response. He had several offers, from McLaren and Brabham, even Tyrrell was willing to give him a seat. They would have given him $1.000.000 and promised him a turbo engine to make him stay. At the same time, Patrick Tambay was disappointed. Once he reached at his home in Switzerland, the French driver is surprised and very sad because of Ferrari's decision not to renew his contract. 

 

"I gave my best, and I hoped that this would receive some recognition. I honestly did not think I would remain without a car. I don't understand why they chose Arnoux and not me. I think I worked well at Ferrari, both as a driver and as a test driver. I must still be grateful to the Italian team for the prestige it has given to my image, although I cannot hide the bitterness of this moment".

 

On the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 4, 1983, Scuderia Ferrari test the three 126 C3s cars that would leave for South Africa on Wednesday, where they would take part to the free practice starting from Monday, Oct. 10, 1983. This is the last time Patrick Tambay will enter Fiorano and Maranello as the team's official driver. Once the practice is over, the French driver takes some time with the considerable crowd of fans: then he gives some interview, for about ten minutes, inside the Maranello racing department, with the Ferrari engineers. When he finishes this interview, in which he was always very polite, there's a surprise for Patrick Tambay, prepared by the mechanics and managers of the racing department. They put a big cake inside the car chassis, to thank him for his technical collaboration. 

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"I saw Engineer Ferrari, we had quite a long chat. We talked about so many things: we took stock of a year and a half of collaboration, of our human and sporting relationship. Ferrari explained to me why he made his decision, I understood the situation".

 

Later this month, if Ken Tyrrell gives him permission, he will test a Ferrari for the first time. For now, he has only been photographed next to car number 21, which was Gilles Villeneuve's number. Currently, it is Patrick Tambay's number, for this last race, and will be Alboreto's number starting from next year. Michele Alboreto's attitude has not changed since his move to Ferrari was announced. After a few days of news blackout, (he was up to his neck in phone calls and requests for meetings), the Milanese driver regained his usual composure, correctness and professionalism. Alboreto is certainly not an eccentric driver: he maintains distance and coolness in all circumstances. If he had moments of great joy, he only showed it in private, for no one to see. In the South African Grand Prix, he will battle again with great determination, even if the prospects are not good for the drivers of aspirated-engine cars. On Monday, October 10, 1983, the Italian driver sets the penultimate time, only his teammate Sullivan is slower. it is Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) who sets the fastest time on the first day of free practice if the South African Grand Prix. The Frenchman did his lap on qualifying tires setting a time of 1'07"18, just 0.9 seconds faster than the pole position achieved last year by Arnoux (Renault) equipped with skirts. Elio De Angelis ended up second, he lapped in 1'07"38 (Alboreto and he were the only two drivers to use qualifying tires). The sixteen cars that took to the track have completed numerous laps, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tambay almost ran two Grand Prix, covering 93 laps. There were several problems, and someone even got off the track, but no damage. Meanwhile, there is a small case about gasoline. The regulations state that in countries where each team cannot use its own fuel, locally produced fuel for airplanes can be used. 

 

Everyone seemed to accept this arrangement when Brabham brought in the gasoline he normally uses in the championship. But a problem arose on the evening of the last race of the year, which concerns gasoline itself. As early as July, the South African government had banned the import of hydrocarbons, thus forcing the teams to use the rather shoddy local 93-octane fuel. However, this would result in a real disaster, with an abnormal number of broken engines. The teams thus requested and obtained from FISA a waiver clause, allowing them to use another type of gasoline, namely aviation gasoline, with an octane rating of 104, which is higher than the regulation rating (102.51). A few days before the start of the weekend, Ecclestone discovers that the government has recently begun to allow hitherto prohibited imports again; he wastes no time and has 1500 litres of fuel produced by IG Farben brought to Kyalami, all without saying anything to FOCA (Formula One Constructors Association). Only later he informs the stewards that the waiver to use aviation gasoline is no longer necessary. His purpose is to make the other teams use 93-octane gasoline. The brilliant move almost succeeds. Ferrari and Renualt do not stand by and immediately have the necessary gasoline taken to the circuit by their respective suppliers, Agip and Elf. The other teams get permission from FISA to use aviation gasoline. Ecclestone is against this choice, but the British manager chooses not to take action, as soon as a rumour spreads that the Grand Prix may be not considered valid, and consequently Piquet might lose his opportunity to win the World Championship. Speaking about the end of the season, Michele Alboreto talks about his first direct contact with Ferrari and at the end of the practice he says:

 

"In three weeks, the situation will change. Now I have to adapt to the circumstances, be a spectator to the great fight for the title".

 

This statement opens up the talk about the race scheduled for Saturday, in which the whole season will be decided. The Milanese driver has a favourite for the final win:

 

"In theory Prost and Piquet have practically the same chance of winning, both of them must aim for a victory to be certain of winning the championship. But I am convinced that the Brazilian driver has the most chance to win. Piquet is a fantastic driver, mature, experienced, sensitive, certainly the best in Formula One at the present time. There is no doubt about it, at least in my opinion. I would like to be as good as him already. Moreover, Nelson is racing with Brabham, that in the last races has proved to be clearly superior to all the others. So, I think he can win the World Championship for the second time".

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And Arnoux has no chance?

 

"René still has some hope, it depends more on the result of his rivals than on his own. He must try to finish first, and I think he will do everything he can. However, if I were Piquet and Prost, I would try to control the first half of the race and then try to attack in the final. We will see what strategies the three protagonists will adopt. I am convinced that Nelson will aim to put some distance immediately to avoid any fight".

 

Who will Michele Alboreto root for in Saturday's race? The answer is not surprising, but it gives the exact idea of the great self-control and self-esteem of the Lombard driver.

 

"I will cheer for Tyrrell, and then for Ferrari".

 

There was no doubt about this answer, he did not mean to get out of line nor displease anyone. After all, he has good relationships with everyone. Niki Lauda admires him, and so does Piquet. The Austrian champion says:

 

"It's about time Ferrari got an Italian driver. I think Michele has the qualities to do very well. However, he has to be careful: driving for a small team is very different from driving for Ferrari. There is a great pressure there, both internal and external. In addition, he will have to drive a turbocharge-engine car. To sum up, a new apprenticeship period is beginning for him. It's all about knowing how to deal with it".

 

Talking about Alboreto, Piquet remembers his career: 

 

"My path has also been long and complicated as Alboreto's one. During my first year, I gained experience, in the second one I got stronger, in the third one I made mistakes, trying to go beyond the limit of my car. The same thing did Michele, who perhaps this year, in some circumstances, asked too much of his Tyrrell. However, the quality is there, and I don't think there will be any disappointment. I'd better win the title this year, because next year there will be an extra opponent to contend with".

 

On Tuesday, October 11, 1983, René Arnoux looks tired, his beard is long, his stare is glazed because of the fatigue of eight hours spent in his Ferrari 126 C3 in a series of interminable tests. He seems to have lost his shine and sympathy. Why? Perhaps it is due to the stress of testing on the track, or to the responsibility he has in this decisive moment of the championship, or to some difficulties he is having in the second session of free practice that changed his attitude. He went out of the track several times, and twice he made everyone stop so that the officers could remove his Ferrari from dangerous places. We can make two hypotheses: either the Frenchman is trying to concentrate, looking for the competitiveness necessary to fight to the limit on Saturday, or he has been psychologically affected by the responsibilities he has in this situation, or by the fact that Tambay was faster than him in both FP sessions. Also, someone claims that he is not satisfied with the work done by his team's technicians. The fact is that Arnoux looked quite happy in in the morning, but in the break between the test sessions, he turns rather nervous and grumpy. In the last half an hour of free practice session, drivers and teams want to check their actual chances for the South African Grand Prix. Tambay (Ferrari) sets the top time, 1'06"90 followed by Arnoux, 1'07"56. Ferrari seems not to have any particular problems: the Maranello team decides the set-up, the tires, the aerodynamics and the type of turbines to be adopted. Renault, on the other hand, finds it difficult to find a top speed on the straights. Only in the final part of the session, Prost gets close to the best times, he was in the middle part of the provisional standings for a rather long time. The English driver Warwick (Toleman) goes off the track in one of the tightest corners of the circuit. As a result, his car ends up half-destroyed, but fortunately he gets out unharmed. 

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This is the race that will award the Formula One World Championship. At the end of the practice session, René Arnoux says:

 

"It is difficult to prepare a strategy for this race, as it is for most of the Grand Prix. I could either attack straight away or stay behind my rivals, and wait for Prost and Piquet to collide and eliminate each other, as has already happened, or to have mechanical problems. However, it is absurd to hope that the other drivers get in trouble: the only thing to do is to try to win. Shall there be any chance to get the World Championship, it will be quite a coup. Physically I feel really fit. At Brands Hatch, after the second qualifying session, I had a doctor check on me: I had 48 pulsations per minute, as if I had just got out of bed".

 

Does Arnoux expect any help from Tambay? 

 

"Honestly no, I am convinced that my team-mate will fight for himself and possibly for Ferrari, to win the Constructors' World Championship. Of course, it would take a lot of courage to deny me the chance to win the title, if the circumstances were to be really favourable. For example, shall he be first and I be second, with Prost and Piquet out of the race. In any case, I never had any problems with Patrick".

 

This answer introduces the topic of the great rivalry between Arnoux and Prost, who are fighting (together with Piquet) for the World Championship. René explains it away in a few words:

 

"Prost wants it written in the contract that he is the first driver and the other driver just a reserve: he must have some complex, something wrong in his head. It is the track that shall decide whether a driver is the first driver or not, and it should be decided only later in the season. I will never ask anything like that of my teams, and I hope no one does that to me anymore. On Saturday in the race, I will fight with Piquet and Prost, and I think the Brazilian is the man to beat. The Renault driver, on the other hand, will have to beat Arnoux, Piquet and his own superiority or inferiority complexes".

 

It looks certain now that Patrick Tambay has signed for Renault. It seems that there has already been a verbal agreement in recent days, an agreement that will be confirmed as soon as he returns from South Africa. It also seems that non everyone in Ferrari is happy about Tambay's leaving. Someone thinks that they have lost a good and consistent driver, and above all a great test driver. Tambay was the first to drive with Goodyear radial tyres with McLaren in 1979. Hiring the French driver, Renault could have an extra weapon against Ferrari itself. At the same time, in Italy, the mayor of Rome, Ugo Vetere, announced in the evening that a request would be made for a city Grand Prix to be held in Rome as part of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1985. The race should take place in the Eur area, and also Enzo Ferrari seems to be in favour. For this reason, technical surveys have already been carried out and everything seems in order. There are no negative opinions from part of the municipal administration, on the contrary the intention is to bring Formula 1 to the streets of Rome. However, FISA announced in Paris the general schedule for the next Formula One racing season. The season will start on 26 February 1984 with the Brazilian Grand Prix, and will finish on 7 October 1984 with the European Grand Prix. So, it is the decisive moment. Starting from Thursday 13 October 1983, on the South African circuit of Kyalami, located at 1760 metres of altitude, the Formula 1 World Championship title is to be disputed between Prost, Piquet and Arnoux, and the constructor's one between Ferrari and Renault. The qualifying session will establish the starting grid, which is very important for the race on Saturday on a tactical level, but perhaps not really relevant for the actual race, given that the track offers good overtaking opportunities in several points. The track is 1.044 metres long, with a long straight, some ups and downs and at least three corners where the braking is always thrilling. By now, all the possible hypotheses have been made, the combinations that can lead one of the three candidates to victory. 

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There is no doubt that the favourite is Prost, who has a two-point lead over Nelson Piquet and eight over René Arnoux. The Renault men, in chase of the title for seven years, did their best to achieve victory. He is isolated, does not speak, his team-mate Eddy Cheever has done nothing but try out useful solutions for Prost's car. The French team has four cars at its disposal (Ferrari only has three), they've got a new, more powerful engine and nine tonnes of replacement equipment have been brought. It cannot be excluded that Renault will try a surprising solution. The rumour is that they may not refuel the car on the run, so as to gain an advantage of 30-40 seconds over the cars that will instead stop as usual in the box to change tyres and add fuel, considering the delay before and after the stop. This strategy is possible because at high altitude, due to the lower atmospheric pressure, the engines generate less power and therefore should consume less than usual. We will see. It remains to be seen whether Brabham and Ferrari, as in the rest of the season, have also filled the gap at Kyalami. As for the British factory, everything seems to be in order, and also for this reason the majority of experts indicate Piquet as the most likely winner. Regarding Ferrari, the goal which seems closer is the constructors' championship, with an 11 points advantage over Renault. It is a title that gives prestige to a factory, but it is a little less prestigious and less publicised than the drivers' one. The technical manager of the Maranello team, engineer Forghieri, does not feel like making any predictions. On the contrary, he claims that the race is open to any outcome, to any possible surprise. 

 

"This time the outcome of the race is really unpredictable, even more than in any other circuit. We are racing in unusual conditions, different from those found throughout the season. The race will be determined by the altitude, it will be like racing at the Sestriere pass. There is less aerodynamic load, less air resistance, less power. Even the tyre pressure has to be adjusted differently. After two days of testing, we still don't know exactly how our cars will behave. To give an example: with tyres of a certain kind, we set the time of 1'08"0, with another kind of tyres, with a completely different compound, we set 1'10"0. In the following tests, with the first kind of tyres we set the time of 1'10"0, with the second one, we set 1'08"0. This may give an idea of the difficulty of the choice. As in all races, the result will be conditioned also by any mechanical problems or by the particular circumstances that arise from the first lap. All it takes is a small accident and one of the protagonists could be put out of the race".

 

Forghieri also does not exclude the possibility that the victory could go to some outsider: 

 

"There are at least ten drivers who will be looking for a victory. I was pleased to see that Lotus and Williams are back at the top, and this is good because the more competition there is, the greater the motivation to improve. The turbo-charged engine in the Honda of Rosberg and Laffite is certainly the most interesting development of this championship ending".

 

What is happening at Ferrari? The Italian team is, as always, working hard, everyone is working non-stop, to give Arnoux and Tambay every chance of winning. But the mood is odd, tense, as if something had psychologically upset the team. Perhaps Tambay's leaving has upset the Maranello team more than expected. Obviously, everyone is happy for the arrival of Alboreto. However, someone claimed that the choice between Arnoux and Tambay could probably have been made considering that, besides the points in the championship, Patrick is more capable as a test driver and also more consistent in racing. The French driver himself says:

 

"I feel so angry right now, that I think I will have the most aggressive race of my entire career. Of course, I am thinking above all of Ferrari, which is still my team, which is aiming for the constructors' championship. But as for the rest I absolutely don't care. If I get the chance, I will try to finish first, without any mercy. When I have been too kind, when I have tried to be wise, I have been accused of being a weak driver, incapable of attacking. Now I will prove the opposite, that I am still a capable driver, that I can still push hard".

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A bitter outburst from Tambay: by the way, everyone in the Maranello team likes him, especially the mechanics and the technicians. Sure, Tambay has made mistakes, he has been naïve sometimes, and perhaps for this reason he lost his seat. For instance, the two false starts that costed him precious points, especially the one in Detroit and the one in Hockenheim. Despite this, he is convinced that he is worth something, that he is a driver capable of fighting for the world title. Likely, next year he will race with Renault, he has already a verbal agreement with the team. It will not be easy for him there either, because Prost does not allow any rivalry in the team, and he has a contract as the first driver. But Tambay has accepted it, and in the meantime, he knows very well that on the track things can change if good results come. For the moment, however, he has only focused on the South African Grand Prix, that concludes the season. One more rival for everyone, a man to beat, a guy who knows how to drive fast, as he has shown in these days by setting exceptional times. Ferrari seems to be unlucky. Although they dominated the first qualifying session of the South African Grand Prix with Tambay, they risked something with Arnoux, the only driver that still can fight for the world title. A trivial accident, half an hour after the start of qualifying, the Frenchman risked being partially out of action. The incident occurred at Club house Bend, a bend in the lower part of the circuit. René went out on track with the second set of timing tyres, in an attempt to catch up with his team-mate and with Piquet, who both were ahead of him in the temporary ranking. Suddenly, the #28 Ferrari slowed down dramatically on the straight, as if the engine had failed; instead, it was a short-circuit in the dashboard that cut power to the car. Arnoux stopped at the edge of the track and immediately got out of the car. He probably wanted to have the car moved to a safer place and eventually have the tow truck bring it back to the box to continue the practice. But while he was pushing the car, dragging it by the roll-bar, helped by two stewards, René took a false step and the left font wheel hit him on the right ankle.

 

"I didn't feel much pain immediately, but when I tried to walk, I realised that the hit must have been quite hard, because I couldn't put my foot on the ground".

 

Arnoux is immediately helped and examined by Renault's masseur Pierre Baledier, who noticed some swelling and declared it might be a sprain or even a fracture. The Frenchman was taken to the hospital in Johannesburg, underwent a series of X-rays and gets a check by specialists. The examination revealed only a slight strain, so the ankle was bandaged after the application of a cream. The doctors said that Arnoux would be able to drive on Friday with some caution, i.e. without forcing the ankle too much, and on Saturday in the race he would not be too affected by the accident.

 

"This is such bad luck, I still could have improved a lot. In any case, I am not giving up. I will fight until the end, even if I have to take an anaesthetic in order not to feel the pain".

 

This episode is an upset for the Ferrari team, in spite of the satisfaction of getting the best time with Tambay. He set the time of 1'06"554, at an average speed of 221.991 km/h, an exceptional result, only 0.203 seconds slower than the track record (set by Arnoux with the Renault equipped just with skirts). Practice is a real thrilling whirl. The most eagerly awaited protagonists of the World Championship battled a lot. Piquet got the second place and was leading the ranking until five minutes from the end, when Tambay took the first place. Prost got P3 (1'07"186) ahead of Arnoux, who finished in a good P4. Rosberg (William-Honda) finished P5. Someone was surprised by this result, but we must say it was fairly predictable, considering the driver and the team. With the turbo-charged engine, the Anglo-Finnish duo will certainly be back among the protagonists. Tomorrow Rosberg will also be a contender for the race. At the end of the tests, both Piquet and Prost are satisfied with their results. The former is satisfied because his car proved to be competitive and faster than the other ones on the straights; the latter is happy because he had never managed to drive so fast in qualifying in recent times. It should be noted that both the Brazilian and the French drivers used special engines with oversized turbines for qualifying. 

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Lauda (McLaren-Porsche) and Watson did a good job as well. The Alfa Romeo, on the other hand, did not outstand, as they did not have as big turbines as Brabham, Renault and Ferrari. The Goodyear tyres performed rather well, it seems that they work properly on the rough asphalt of Kyalami. However, we should wait to have the definitive proof in the decisive practice round, that will determine the starting grid for the most eagerly awaited Grand Prix of the year. Now Ferrari is in a paradoxical situation. They can win the race, they can win the Constructors' World Championship, but they have to solve a difficult sporting-ethical problem. What would they do if something unlikely but possible were to happen? Which is, that at the end of the race Tambay was to lead the race, with Arnoux in second place, so he could win the championship if Piquet and Prost were in trouble. Would they have the courage to ask Patrick to let his teammate pass, after not renewing the contract of the driver from Cannes? In this regard Tambay is still very clear:

 

"I will leave this team and this car on Sunday with a lot of sadness. I am a professional, I want to bring Ferrari the points that they need to win the Constructors' Championship. However, they can't ask me, in such a situation, to stop and let someone else pass. I came to South Africa to prove my worth, even though I don't think it's necessary after what happened during the championship. Up until now I have only been asked to think about the team. We didn't have a meeting to decide on the race strategy. If nothing unexpected happens, I feel that I can win, maybe without difficulty, considering the quality of the car I have been driving recently and the tyres I have at my disposal here in Kyalami. I hope it will be easy, I even think I can lead by 30 seconds".

 

Patrick is optimistic and seems determined not to give up, to have a moral revenge for his firing. And it will be unlikely to change his mind, even though he is a good guy at heart. Certainly, seeing the two Ferraris fighting for the victory would be thrilling and at the same time embarrassing, given the circumstances. The most difficult task is certainly that of Marco Piccinini, the Maranello team sporting director, who will have to make the decisions for this intricate affair. Before all that, however, it will be necessary to see the performance of the rivals, who certainly do not start off beaten, especially Prost and Piquet. They are smart and careful and could win with a surprising move. In short, hardly ever has a Grand Prix eve been so troubled, uncertain, and intricate in recent seasons. The betting is quite high, also here in South Africa, where gambling is a passion. Someone has risked millions, betting on a fight with only three numbers, the #5 of Piquet's Brabham, the #15 of Prost's Renault and the #28 of Arnoux's Ferrari. But there are some drivers, hungry for a victory, who do not want to give up and consider that the race that closes the World Championship can be won only by the three protagonists. Two of them are famous champions. The first one is Keke Rosberg, who is the reigning world champion, but will have to leave the title, the other one is Niki Lauda, two-times word champion. Rosberg showed his skill with Williams Honda: the car is completely new, but the engine has already been tested for half a season by the Spirit team. Someone was surprised, they did not expect such a progress in such a short time. But Rosberg is certainly not a man who stays behind for a long time. As soon as he had a power unit adequate to his possibilities, he immediately proved that he can still succeed this season, after the good result he obtained in Monte-Carlo with the naturally aspirated engine car. He is P5 now, behind Tambay (a good performance from him) Piquet, Prost and Arnoux.

 

"Of course, it is unlikely that nothing will happen to us. The car has not been tested a lot, so we do not have any certainties yet. However, in the tests we didn't push hard with the boost pressure, so we have a margin to work on safely. Of course, I want to win, I have never been discouraged, I am back on a winning car. I am preparing for next season when I will definitely be back among the protagonists. I will do everything I can to win again the world title that I had to leave this year. But it would be a great satisfaction for me to be decisive in this championship with a success in South Africa". 

 

Niki Lauda too is optimistic. The Austrian driver is only P9, but the car performed very well: that is a promising result. 

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"There are some simple reasons why I can make a favourable prediction. I didn't push hard, and with race tyres we did very well. My car is really competitive, it has a very good top speed and I really hope I can bother all the top drivers. You better put me among the possible winners, and you'll see that you won't go wrong. We are like lions in an arena, forced to eat each other. There are no strategies, there is no certainty. At the beginning we must all try to win, Prost Piquet and me. Then whoever will drive better, whoever will be luckier, whoever will make the best technical choices will win the title".

 

This is what René Arnoux says at the end of practice, with some exasperation. These words sum up the leitmotif of a race that is expected to be ruthless. And this is precisely the charm of Formula 1: a good fight with several risks for the three protagonists and for all the other twenty-three contenders. Patrick Tambay will start from pole position. The Frenchman, who will no longer be racing for Ferrari next year, got the best time also in the second qualifying round. The best time is the one set on Thursday (1'06"5549) at an average speed of 221.991 km/h. Nelson Piquet is still P2, while Riccardo Patresei brilliantly got P3. Arnoux is still in P4, but has overtaken Alain Prost, who is now P5. The brilliant placing of the Italian driver could be decisive for the final result. Patrese openly declared that he was ready, as far as possible, to help his team-mate Piquet, protecting him from the other drivers. Prost is in a quite different situation: he theoretically cannot count much on Cheever's help, who is only P14 with the other Renault. On the opposite, Arnoux is alone against everyone else. Tambay confirmed that he is only racing for the team and for himself, that is, to eventually win to get to Ferrari the points needed to win the constructors' championship. In this intricate psychological and tactical game, the potential performance of the cars is playing a decisive role. Brabhams were faster than the other cars: Piquet and Patrese set the best times, followed by Tambay, Arnoux, Rosberg and Mansell. Prost had to accept a P10, due to a wrong choice of qualifying tyres. The day has been very hot and, in this whirl, only ten drivers improved their times. In the morning's free practice, under a hot sun, Michelin's radial tyres seemed better than Goodyear's, as was almost always the case in the hot races of the season. And precisely the tyres will once again be fundamental for the fight. Whoever will not make mistakes, whoever will have the most suitable equipment for the Kyalami track, will be the winner in the end. No one dares to make a prediction, and it is rather understandable. Prost, Piquet and Arnoux do not release any particular declarations. They simply say that it will be very hard for everyone, starting from the Ferrari driver, who promptly recovered and drove without too many problems.

 

 "My foot still hurts a little, especially when I have to brake and accelerate suddenly, but I don't think that will be the biggest problem. The situation is complex and clear at the same time: there are 77 laps to go, it's hot, there will be some grip difficulties for the cars. We are all in the same situation: one can be faster for ten laps and then find himself with the car oversteering or understeering. So, he will lose everything. I have already said that I don't expect any help from Tambay, and it seems to me that Patrick has a point there".

 

When asked about this, Tambay is very clear: 

 

"I only did two laps because it was impossible to improve. So, I saved a turbo and an engine, which was a gift to Fiat and the Commendatore. I don't feel anything special about being in pole position. I have led other races before, such as Long Beach and Zeltweg. Before I leave Ferrari, I want to try to lead a race from start to finish. But I am less optimistic than in the past few days because we have had some grip problems".

 

Hence, he concedes nothing to his team-mate. The Maranello team, after all, is still a very competitive environment. Ferrari's sporting director Marco Piccinini explains:

 

"The drivers have been given the usual rules, thinking about the team, racing with common sense, and a sense of responsibility to win the Constructors' World Championship. We don't believe in miracles, but if the opportunity arises to win the Drivers' Championship too, we will try to make the most of it".

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The only one who can lean on any help from outside is Piquet. Patrese declares:

 

"We will both try to overtake Tambay, and then I will try to protect Nelson. I will only be free to race if Piquet and Prost retire".

 

However, Alain Prost thinks that it will not be the teamwork that will decide the title: 

 

"We will have to race alone. Piquet seems to be faster. Renault's only regret at the moment is that they have arrived at the decisive race with a car that has a lower top speed than its rivals. So I am starting with a disadvantage, but I am not beaten yet".

 

While Prost, Piquet and Arnoux are starting their last and decisive fight, Formula 1 is already thinking about the future. The drivers' market is getting more and more interesting. It is time to take stock of the season, so as to prepare for the next championship. What is already clear is: Rosberg will remain at Williams, Prost will stay at Renault, Ferrari will hire Alboreto and Arnoux. The Maranello team doesn't seem to need anything else, after choosing not to renew Patrick Tambay's contract. Even if in the last few hours, an incredible rumour is spreading, Supposedly, Enzo Ferrari had offered the French driver a third car for next year, probably a whole team all for him. The car would apparently be sponsored by the world-famous jewellery company Cartier, which recently signed an agreement with the Maranello team to exploit the prestigious brand of Ferrari itself in a line of products ranging from watches to fountain pens. This rumour, however, is immediately denied by Ferrari and by the French driver himself. It is unlikely that Ferrari has any intention of hiring him back immediately, after giving him a farewell and thanking him for his work as a driver and test driver. And, after all, the Modena manufacturer had always refused sponsors of any kind other than technical ones. Tambay, therefore, will have to look for another team, and it must be said that many teams have asked about him. There has been a rumour about Renault, and it seemed that they already found an agreement, but something unexpected happened. The French team was also interested in Dereck Warwick because Patrick has a partnership contract with the Goodyear tyre company. As is well known, Renault uses Michelin tyres instead. Thanks to his relationship with Goodyear, Patrick could then be redirected to another team, such as Williams. It would be possible to do an exchange, with Laffite moving to Ligier. This team, in fact, will use Renault turbo engines in the next championship. 

 

it is rather difficult to keep up with everything, and last-minute surprises are not to be excluded. It seems in fact that even Nelson Piquet is not sure to remain at Brabham. The Brazilian driver has not yet signed the contract, although he has reached a verbal agreement with the team. On the other hand, Patrese's seat seems certain, especially if he will help his team-mate in the fight for the world championship. Alfa Romeo should not change drivers, keeping De Cesaris and Baldi, while a place is still available at McLaren together with Niki Lauda. McLaren will use the turbocharged Porsche engine, and there was a rumour that they could sign Tambay, but there is also the possibility of hiring the young driver Boutsen. As for the Italian drivers, De Angelis is sure to remain at Lotus, while Bruno Giacomelli risks to lose his seat in Formula 1. He still doesn't know if he will be confirmed by Toleman. Osella will also be staying in the World Championship but will probably start with just one car. Talks are going on with Piercarlo Ghinzani, the current driver of the Turin manufacturer, together with Corrado Fabi. However, the driver from Bergamo is also in contact with Tyrrell. As can be seen, the situation is still uncertain and surprises are not to be excluded, as already mentioned. Everything will get clearer in a fortnight's time, when the team managers will have time to think about matters concerning the next season, and above all when they will have concluded or at least started the talking with old and new sponsors. It is a multi-million-dollar business for a sport that is constantly growing and for which, unfortunately, the costs are increasing year by year. There will probably also be an economic crisis, because many teams no longer have the money to stay in Formula One. Theodore, which will race in America in the Indy races, has practically disappeared from Formula One, while those who do not have a turbo engine will have a lot of difficulties. 

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In the morning warm-up session before the race, in which everyone runs in full race trim, Lauda records the fastest lap with his McLaren-Porsche V6, which doesn’t go unnotice by the other teams. This very hot weather effectively spelt finis to the hopes of the Goodyear-shod runners at Kyalami, such conditions favoring Michelin’s radials. The first positive indication of this come in the morning warm-up session in which Niki Lauda’s McLaren-Porsche turns a very impressive 1'09"504 on race tyres and almost full fuel load. Patrese, Piquet and Prost are next up, with Goodyear’s best runner, Tambay’s Ferrari, some 1.2 sec slower than Lauda. Watson is still suffering engine problems in his McLaren, the newly install V6 still demonstrating a mysterious loss of power at the top end, and it’s decide that he will start in the spare MP4 1E. Winkelhock’s ATS flew off the road at Crowthorne after a rear suspension failure, while the Williams lads has their work cut out replacing the failed Honda V6 in Rosberg’s car in the two and a half hours available between the end of the warm-up and the start of the race. Sometimes an unlikely or insignificant driver or car makes a fast time in the race-day warm-up and it is not important, but Niki Lauda can never be overlooked, nor can Porsche. From the moment the green light come on Piquet has it all his own way, his start is exemplary and he really gives it all he has got in the opening laps, pulling out an enormous lead even on the first lap. There is little doubt that you need to be on Michelin tyres for this race for the dust of the start has barely subside before the two Brabhams takes charge with Tambay unable to match their speed, nor that of Prost in the Renault, de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo) and Lauda (McLaren) who has rocket through from the sixth row. His team-mate Watson in the second McLaren-Porsche is left behind as the grid moves off on the parade-lap and though he’s push-start he retakes his place in the parade thus infringing the rule forbidding overtaking by anyone once the parade-lap has begin. He is black-flag and disqualify on lap 18. Piquet simply drives away from everyone, so much so that when he makes his routine pit-stop for new tyres and more petrol, he rejoins the race just as his team-mate comes into view and continues to lead the race even while on his standing-start lap from the pit-lane. The Brabham mechanics do a superb job in getting him out in 12 seconds, even though the television count-down made it 9.2 sec. From the very start of the race neither Prost nor Amoux are any challenge at all to Nelson Piquet and they barely figure in the race as such, let alone as challengers for the outcome of the World Championship points-scoring game. 

 

Arnoux has never figure among the frontrunners from the start, his Goodyear tyres demoralizing him until he gives up when his Ferrari engine overheat, while Prost is taken aback by being pass with ease by Lauda in the McLaren-Porsche and when the unhappy little Frenchman arrives in the pit lane it’sn’t for petrol and tyres, but to retire from the fray with turbo-charger trouble to quote the Renault team. Apart from Piquet’s domination, Lauda’s progress is the big feature of the race, for after charging up from his position of twelfth on the starting grid, he got into a strong third place a few feet behind Patrese’s second-place Brabham. There is nothing he can do about the Italian, but equally Patrese can’t shake him off and it’s with some relief that he sees Lauda heading for the pit lane for new tyres and petrol. As can so easily happen in these fast pit stops something can go wrong, and the right-rear wheel balk keeping Lauda up on the jacks for more than 23 sec, but he rejoins the race at undiminished speed and set about making up the lost time, the McLaren-Porsche looking very impressive in only its fourth race. Although Tambay’s pit stop with the Ferrari goes smoothly, it’s slow in comparison with the Brabham team, for Patrese is service in just over ten seconds, and the Ferrari lost a place to the Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris as it left the pits. Warwick is running well in mid-field in the opening stages and as others like de Angelis (Lotus-Renault) and Laffite (Williams-Honda) retired he moves up until he is in sixth place, ahead of Cheever (Renault) and Rosberg (Williams-Honda). He moves up another place when Tambay retires, the Ferrari having run slowly for a lap with falling boost pressure before expiring out on the circuit and this put Warwick in fourth place. Team-mate Giacomelli isn’t so lucky, a turbo failure causing a merry little fire at the back of the car as he drowns off to retire. With Prost gone, Piquet has the 1983 World Championship in his grasp, but he can still lose it if Brabham leaves him down or he makes a mistake, for his retirement will leave Prost ahead on points, even though the Frenchman has long since retire. However, Piquet is more intent on winning the Championship than winning the race, so he ease right off and drive carefully to the finish, letting Patrese, Lauda and de Cesaris all go by for those three were still racing to win the South African GP, especially Lauda who has the bit between his teeth and is hounding Patrese once more. 

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Fourth place is quite sufficient for Piquet to finish the season ahead of Prost on points, so he cruises around and lets the others get on with the racing. With only four laps to go Lauda’s car suddenly slows as the boost pressure drops and he pulls off on the left of the circuit after the Clubhouse Comer, his race run and an impressive second place gone. The McLaren suffers an instant loss of power from its Porsche engine as a result of an electrical systems malfunction. Patrese win the South African GP, with de Cesaris in second place. The wily Piquet finishes third. A lap behind comes Warwick in another good fourth place for the Toleman team, follows by Rosberg in fifth place in a very impressive debut race for the new Honda powered Williams. Nelson Piquet is the new World Champion, Riccardo Patrese wins the South African Grand Prix, the last race of the season, ahead of Andrea De Cesaris' Alfa Romeo. Two Brabham drivers and two Italian drivers. This is how Formula One ended an exciting, uncertain, spectacular, and technically very good championship. Ferrari also won the Constructors' World Championship, which is equivalent to the world championship for the teams. A deserved success for the work done at Maranello, but a little bit overshadowed by the negative performance in the two final races, Brands Hatch and Kyalami, where no Ferrari managed to finish the race. Arnoux immediately quit the race due to an unusual engine failure, and Tambay was also stopped at three quarters of the race, due to a supercharger problem, while he was trying to enter at least the points zone. A bad performance from Renault, badly beaten, Prost has been unable to fight off his rival-friend Piquet. The Brazilian is currently the best driver on the grid, the most complete and fastest. And his car, the Brabham-Bmw, proved to be competitive thanks also to the good performance of the Michelin tyres. Piquet won his first word championship in 1981. With this title, he truly enters the Hall of Fame of Formula One, just behind Fangio (five titles), Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart (three titles). He's got the same number of titles as Ascari, Graham Hill, Ciarle, Fittipaldi and Niki Lauda. In a sense, there has bever been a real competition in this race, even though it was full of exciting moments. Brabham dominated the race, not only technically but also tactically. The strategists of the English team had Piquet start with limited amount of fuel. 

 

So, he was able to take the lead immediately, distancing Tambay. And nobody was really able to catch up with Nelson, except at the end, when he slowed down, so as not to take any risks, and settled for third place. De Cesaris was also very good at the race star: he moved up from ninth position to third, behind the two Brabhams. It was clear from the morning that Ferrari, unless there were some surprises, would not be able to keep up the pace. It was so hot (29 °C) that the Goodyear tyres showed up some problems in the practice sessions: they do not keep up with the radial tyres at high temperatures. And so it was. While Tambay managed to defend his position, Arnoux immediately began to struggle. On lap 5, the Frenchman, who was in P8, lost his position to Niki Lauda, author of a brilliant performance and the absolute protagonist of the race. The McLaren-Porsche made incredible progress and the only thing that prevented the Austrian driver from winning was an electrical problem on lap 71, when he was in P2 and could have attacked Patrese to fight for victory. The Ferraris, however, had to withdraw due to failures in both cars. Arnoux's car suffered a water leak from the cylinder head, and Tambay's car broke down due to a progressive lack of pressure in the supercharger system while he was P5. Piquet in the meantime got an enormous gap (over 40 seconds on Patrese). The Brazilian driver still had a huge advantage after the pit stop and did not even have to push hard, as Prost withdrew after thirty-five laps. It seemed that the Frenchman, who was in P3, returned to the box to refuel, and the mechanics were busy changing tyres and refuelling. Instead, Alain got out of the car, because the engine broke down. Prost sat in the box: a sudden withdrawal of Piquet would have given him the title in any case. He saw his rival slowing down, letting Patrese and then Lauda overtake him. he had some hope, but then Brabham won, and the celebration started noisily at the finish line. 

 

"We do not believe in miracles, and miracles did not happen".

 

This is Marco Piccinini's comment on the result of the race. And the satisfaction for the Constructors' World Championship is mild. The sports director says no more: he postpones everything to a press conference that Enzo Ferrari will hold next week. Mauro Forghieri also talks very little. 

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"We are happy that we have proved to be the best team overall. But at the same time, we are sorry that we were not competitive in the last two races".

 

And what about the drivers? René Arnoux says:

 

"I have nothing to regret or reproach myself for, I only regret that I did not finish the season with at least one good result. I realised immediately that there was nothing I could do. Our season has been strange, divided into different parts. We had a difficult start, with the old car. Then, when the C3 was released, we improved a lot, we had hope, we had a chance to win the World Drivers' Championship. And then we had a disappointment, also because the others, i.e. Brabham, were honestly faster. There were several teams that were very fast on the straights and also in the corners. Certainly, next year it will be tough and very challenging to be at the top level all the time. In any case, I am ready to work, in a few days we will go to Fiorano, we will try with Goodyear radial tyres over winter and try to fix what we did not do this season".

 

Arnoux and Tambay shake hands. There is no resentment between the two drivers. Patrick explains: 

 

"Initially, René and I were not very close, we distrusted each other. Then, as we got to know each other, working together, we became friends. There have never been any problems. I have to confess one thing: I said I wouldn't let him pass in the event that it was me first, and him second. Last night I had a phone call with the Commendatore. He explained a few things to me, he made me understand that we are professionals, that we also have to accept certain things that don't seem too fair. There are industrial interests to be safeguarded, we should also drive for the team. I thought about it all night and in the end, I made up my mind: I will accept the orders. Unfortunately, it was no use".

 

Tambay thinks about his next team; but he does not reveal the name of the team he will race for in 1984:

 

"Now everyone is going home, it is time to take stock of the season, to prepare budgets, to look to the future. I have a week or maybe even ten days to decide". 

 

One hundred thousand fans are attending the South African Grand Prix. It had never happened before that so many people attended this race: a warm, passionate cheering crowd to surround the last race of the season. When Patrese, De Cesaris and Piquet appeared on the podium, a cheer went up. Then lots of champagne and hugs between the drivers, forgetting even old grudges. Nelson Piquet says, when the race is over:

 

"I just want to drink, to get drunk for this success, this success is for me, for my perseverance, for my trust in my abilities and in the team even in the most difficult times. Of course, I am sorry I did not finish first, because that would have been the best way to win the title. But it is just fair that Patrese won, he helped me a lot, he was unlucky throughout the season. When Riccardo came alongside me, we looked at each other. He was puzzled, maybe he thought I was in trouble. I gestured him to go. He didn't understand, he still made a questioning gesture to me. I gestured him again to pass me and to go to the finish line. Then I started to drive just like at the driving school, without taking any risks, without challenging the car. I lowered the turbo pressure. Only when De Cesaris got close to me, I increased the pace a little. Fourth place was enough for me, but I didn't want to take any risks. In the end it was all easy, with a car that was perfect. I had started the race with a little quantity of fuel for two reasons: to be faster and to be the first one to do the pit stop, on lap 28. We didn't want to do the pit stop together with all the other cars. It turned out to be a good strategy".

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Riccardo Patrese is happy as well:

 

"I had to help Nelson and I think I did that in the best way. I think this victory is just fair. I deserved this satisfaction, at the end of a championship during which I always drove properly, even at Imola, where everyone criticised me. I was always unlucky. Now I have a small advantage: by winning the last race I can be happy for four months, everyone will remember who won the last race of the season".

 

Patrese also recalled a historical fact: it was 21 June 1952, in the Belgian Grand Prix, the last time that two Italian drivers finished first and second in a Grand Prix, namely Ascari and Villoresi. Alain Prost could have been the first French driver to win the Formula One World Championship, but instead he missed the goal once again. After 33 laps his dream vanished and Prost was forced to follow the race from the box, witnessing Nelson Piquet's triumph. Alain Prost looks calm and says:

 

"I immediately realised that it was impossible to fight on equal terms with Nelson. He was one second per lap faster than me, and there was never really a fight. I don't think this was a defeat caused by a psychological condition. Instead, I think this is due to the grip and to the engine power. Brabham was clearly superior to us, and we were outclassed on a technical level. Maybe they took some risks, but they were lucky. Next year I will be more relaxed. There will be no problems. We thought that the engine would be reliable, but it wasn't enough".

 

Prost does not think about this race anymore, he is already thinking about the future, as he had said in the past few days. Renault, on the other hand, is really in trouble. They almost succeeded, but it turned into a huge failure. General Manager Gerard Larrousse says:

 

"It was a big disappointment, especially for the people who worked with us. We lost by just two points, which makes the result even more bitter. We also dominated one part of the season, but not the right part. We must recognise that we were beaten by opponents who were better than us. They developed a new generation of engines. Worst of all, we have been beaten by a team that uses a turbo engine, the BMW one, managed by Bernie Ecclestone's team. The English manager was the one who was openly against the new type of turbocharging, and now he is benefiting from it".

 

Nelson Piquet has not changed. He remained the easy-going, humble, straightforward guy who had left Brazil in 1977 to try his luck with motor racing in Europe. And he celebrated his second Formula 1 world title, just as he had celebrated his first one two years ago in Las Vegas, at the end of an absolutely thrilling duel with Carlos Reutemann: which is, a dinner at a restaurant with his partner Silvia, his brother Gerardo, a few friends and all the Brabham mechanics. A photo of the whole team to remember the moment, and a lot of drinks. He does not usually drink, but this time he made an exception and actually he had already started in the afternoon with a bottle of champagne, which he shared on the podium with Riccardo Patrese, the brilliant winner of the South African Grand Prix, and Andrea De Cesaris, surprisingly in P2. He got a little bit drunk, also for the happiness of this moment, but nothing more. The following morning, before returning home, to Monte-Carlo, he is perfectly lucid, cheerful, without an ounce of arrogance, he is not pompous like some other drivers, champions only in words.  Nelson Piquet says:

 

"It was beautiful, I am as happy as a university student who has obtained a second degree. Also in our job, you never stop learning. What I liked the most about the victory is exactly this: in the last race, the decisive one, I managed to force myself not to try to come first at all costs. It's not easy to slow down when you have the chance to be ahead of everyone. Everything I thought was that I needed only three points to beat Prost. That helped me to use my brain and preserve the car".

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The first quote that comes to mind when talking about a driver who has won two world championships is a well-known statement by Enzo Ferrari on the path of a champion. Can Nelson Piquet, too, feel like other drivers, fulfilled, and slow down (Jody Scheckter's example is striking), thinking about earning money and profiting from what he has already earned?

 

"Money is important, and I like to spend it. Now perhaps, if I have time, I will take the licence to pilot a plane and maybe even a helicopter. But that doesn't mean I feel like I have already made it to the top. Let me tell you something. The world title I won on Saturday is already history. The fight was exciting, thrilling, uncertain. But everything is over now. I am already thinking about the next season, and I will try to win for the third time, a third world championship. I like driving in Formula One, I would do it even if I were less successful. I don't think that I will never leave it because I have had enough. Only if I found something that interests me more, or if physically I was no longer able to deal it, I will leave, maybe when I am over forty".

 

What did Piquet like the most about the championship that has just finished?

 

"Following the development of my car in terms of technology. Seeing step by step the advances of the Bmw turbo engine, which has become, little by little, the best one. If we think about it, it is quite logical that we have won, because nobody in Formula One has such good engineers and designers as Brabham. I am not saying this out of flattery but because I am convinced of it. Besides, I know very well, by saying these words, that I am making many enemies in the other teams. But it is the truth. Ferrari, on the other hand, lost in the final sprint when they came out with the new car, the C3. They didn't believe that we would do any better, that we would improve even more. I must say that the radial tyres helped us a lot, and we were favoured by the fact that most of the races were held at very hot temperatures. As for Arnoux, I just want to make one point: he is a very fast driver, but I don't know to what extent he is able to test and fine-tune the car he drives".

 

A lucid analysis that is the result of strictly personal opinions. A final question concerns the immediate future. What will the two-time World Champion do now?

 

"It's easy: a few days of rest and then we will start testing again. On 18 December I will do some tests in Brazil. I am curious to see what extraordinary car our designer Gordon Murray will prepare for me this year, to try to win a third title".

 

More generally, the Formula One World Championship turned out to be a success: never before had there been 100.000 fans at the South African Grand Prix, and 60 countries broadcasted it live and deferred, with an audience estimated at hundreds of millions of people. Among all the elements that contributed to increasing the interest, we shall mention the uncertainty of the races, the alternating results now in favour of one team or the other, the great final battle between Piquet, Prost and Arnoux, the entry of new constructors such as Honda and Porsche, in addition to Renault. Even if during the season the show was not always up to the mark, and some races were even rather boring. But things are not all positive about the future. The teams' costs have grown enormously and as early as 1984, barring any surprises, there will be some crisis. Fittipaldi, Ensign and Theodore were already forced to leave Formula One for this reason, and hard times lie ahead for other teams too. The main condition to be able to continue in the activity will be to use a turbo engine. For the teams that do not use it will be difficult to get success, and there's even the risk of not qualifying. In addition, the team would not find any sponsors, as a non-competitive car will not be appealing for advertising. A turbo engine can cost around $100,000, and at least five are needed for each car (also because they break down more frequently). This means that, including overhauls, a racing team must budget at least $1.000.000. But having the necessary funds will not be enough. 

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The car manufacturers that currently produce supercharged engines (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Bmw, Porsche, Honda, Hart) are either unwilling to cede them (Ferrari) or are planning to change. Brabham, for example, required to have all the material free of charge, plus an advertising contract, to use the Bmw turbo. Now Bmw, like the other car manufacturers, does not want to go on in the same way, those who want their engines will have to pay for them or at least give up the funding. The same goes for tyres. Michelin has already made it known that in 1984 it will officially supply three teams, Renault, Brabham and McLaren. If other teams want their tyres, they will have to buy them, provided that there will be enough material. Moreover, they are not guaranteed to have the material developed for each race, as is the case of the three teams that they are officially providing. Goodyear and Pirelli follow the same approach. Only a few car manufacturers like Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo can guarantee first of all more marketing and then the commercial use on the ordinary cars. So, there will be big fights this winter to get the best engine and tyre suppliers, but it is likely that the 1984 World Championship will have fewer contenders. Some drivers will have to leave Formula One, except for a few cases (Piquet, Lauda, and Prost), their salaries will drop, more or less about $1.000.000 a year. Some young drivers who are eager to get into Formula 1 are prepared not only to ask for less money, but even to pay, perhaps through their sponsors, in order to get a seat. The last positive news is about FOCA and FISA. The two organisations agree on trying to bring American motorsport into Formula One. It would not be a surprise if one or more US teams entered within a year or two. After the removal of Long Beach and Las Vegas from the schedule, the United States is proposing New York and Dallas, with Detroit and Montreal (Canada) still confirmed. Bernie Ecclestone, in order to boost interest, is working to prepare a sensational challenge between Formula 1 and American Indy cars. A duel that should take place at Indianapolis with the top teams representing the two different categories. An ambitious programme that could be fundamental for everyone. Ferrari is turning over a new leaf. Once again, the Maranello team played a leading role in Formula 1, closing the season with another title, the eleventh Constructors' World Championship since 1950. 

 

They also won four races, three with Arnoux, one with Tambay. Is all this enough to consider the 1983 season a success? For any other team the answer would certainly be yes. But for Ferrari it is not possible to say the same. Certainly, someone in Maranello agrees with that, and is already preparing the way for an immediate revenge, to win the Drivers' title that has been missing since 1979, when the South African driver Scheckter had won it. It is difficult to understand and explain why Ferrari did not manage to get the Word Championship with one of their French drivers. In theory, there are certainly at least three reasons. The first one is the delay in the development of the 126 C3, which only came out midway through the year, at Silverstone. All the main adversaries (Brabham and Renault) had started the season with cars designed specifically according to the regulations: the six-cylinder engine, apart from the negative results and the breakdowns at Kyalami, is certainly powerful. On the contrary, its power could not be fully exploited because of the tyres or because of a weight distribution of the car that was not yet excellent. If one were to believe that the engines were less powerful, it would not explain that Tambay and Arnoux achieved so many pole positions, also in South Africa. After the South African Grand Prix, Ferrari's engineers, starting with engineer Forghieri, made no comments and preferred to leave the floor to Enzo Ferrari himself, who will provide a statement in the coming days, so as to better understand the Italian team's season. Someone, including some drivers, has however hypothesised that the Maranello team has been defeated in the last races also because the engine lacked some power, and now it would be less powerful than others, such as the BMW one. In any case, Ferrari will probably be forced to prepare a new engine, the four-cylinder that has been rumoured about for some time. This is almost mandatory considering that fuel consumption will have to be reduced next year: the fuel tanks will be allowed to hold a maximum of 220 litres of fuel, instead of the current 250 litres, and refuelling during the race will be prohibited. In addition, a less fractioned engine will allow the potential use of a single (larger) turbine, with a reduction in weight, overall dimensions and a better performance in certain conditions. In short, you have to start from scratch. 

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Michele Alboreto, who will drive alongside René Arnoux, must also start again. The driver from Milan, although he has experience with a Lancia turbo in the Endurance Championship, has never driven a supercharged Formula 1 car. This won't be a big problem, because with the Fiorano track at his disposal Alboreto will be able to test for thousands of kilometres before actually racing. Michele has enough talent in racing and ability to succeed. However, it should be noted that the opportunity missed this year may well be regretted. The arrival of real motorsport colossi in Formula 1 is changing all the values of the last few years. In any case, for Ferrari it will always be a more difficult challenge. They will have to fight against at least six Renaults (two official cars, plus four cars by Lotus and Ligier, with Renault engines; against Williams-Honda, which has already shown its strength; against McLaren-Porsche, with a new turbo engine that will probably be entrusted to other teams; against Bmw, which equips Brabham and which may also have another team born from the fusion between Arrows and ATS. Not to mention Alfa Romeo which will no longer be just an outsider, but a protagonist, shall the second place of De Cesaris at Kyalami be confirmed. After the disaster of Kyalami, also Renault is ready to turn over a new leaf, and they could let Alain Prost go free. Eric Bhat, spokesman for the French manufacturer, says:

 

"After our defeat in the South African Grand Prix on Saturday, an analysis is underway. There are several solutions under consideration, the leaving of Prost is not to be excluded".

 

Bhat doesn't hide the fact that the two parties are exchanging mutual blame. If Renault wants to get rid of Prost, they will have to do so with the driver's consent, as he has already signed the contract with the French company for another season. The question will be answered on Wednesday, 19 October 1983. Renault, meanwhile, let Eddie Cheever free. Warwick and Laffite are candidates to replace him. Prost's substitute could be Patrick Tambay, who was not confirmed by Ferrari. In short, the defeat suffered at Kyalami in the last Formula One race of the year shook Renault and, after the first rumours, the official confirmation came: Alain Prost will leave the French team and Patrick Tambay, dismissed by Ferrari, will take his place. But the drivers' market is not over. Prost is going to McLaren, as John Watson is leaving. A true upheaval. Renault released a statement on the affair.

 

"Alain Prost asked Renault to let him go for the 1984 season. Gerard Larrousse agreed, considering that it was not appropriate to rely on a driver who no longer fully shared the goals and resources set to achieve them. The Renault team wishes Prost the best of luck for his brilliant Formula 1 career".

 

Larrousse, general manager of Renault Sport, also announced the hiring of Tambay. It was the logical consequence of the disagreements and controversies erupted between Prost and Renault after the South African Grand Prix and after the victory of Nelson Piquet and the Brabham-Bmw. The driver accused the engineers of not being able to properly develop the car and the engine. On the other hand, the team blamed Prost for the big mistake at Zandvoort and his incorrect behaviour. Thus, although an agreement had already been found, the two parties decided to move on after three years of working together. While Tambay can be delighted to have joined a great team, Watson is the unfortunate victim of the affair. The news is not yet official, but it is known that McLaren let the Irishman go to hire Prost. And now it will be difficult for him to find a team. In the coming season McLaren will race with Lauda and Prost, Renault with Tambay and probably Derek Warwick, who showed himself with Toleman-Hart. The future of Eddie Cheever, who raced for Renault this year as second driver, is still uncertain. The Formula One World Championship is over, and the teams take stock of their season. Some do so in a turbulent manner, like Renault, that let Alain Prost go, with a controversy between the driver and the factory. Some others, in line with long-standing habits, provide the audience with news and explanations. This is the case of Ferrari and Enzo Ferrari. On Friday 21 October 1983, in the new Sports Management headquarters, in a very modern hall with blue walls, and aluminium pillars, next to his office, Enzo Ferrari tells his report on Ferrari's season. He also confirms that a new 4-cylinder turbo engine will be used next year. 

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Three hours of intense conversation with his lifelong friend-enemies, the journalists: he denies certain rumours, he announces some other news, he clarifies some behind-the-scenes details. The Ferrari truth, in short, dressed up with some jokes, but also a bit of polemical verve. Pretty impressive for an 85-year-old man who is now a living legend, and who still likes to fight and aim towards the future.

 

"Determination is the only thing I have left".

 

Says Ferrari with a touch of coquetry. And at the end of the meeting, he is genuinely amused.

 

"Certainly the results at Brands Hatch and Kyalami made me furious. But we won the Constructors' World Championship ahead of Renault and Brabham, for the second year in a row. In the three years with the turbo engine, we have achieved a real advantage. The important thing is that Ferrari has lost nothing. We take all responsibility: the drivers are out of the issue".

 

Ferrari analyses, one after the other, the sixteen races of last season, the results of René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay (by the way, there are four wins, four P2, four P3, three P4 and two P5) and the reasons for the withdrawals. In addition, he gives an opinion on the performance of the Goodyear tyres: in nine races they performed well, in six races they failed. Goodyear, the American company with its conventional tyres, lost the challenge to Michelin and the radials tyres: 

 

"We chose Goodyear because they were willing to enter into a three-year cooperation programme, as we had requested, and because Ferrari, which exports 40-50% of its production to the USA, needed to equip its cars with American tyres measured in inches".

 

This explanation is a bit perplexing. Ferrari repeats that he receives a contribution of 500.000.000 lire per season from Fiat, not indexed, given that he feels honoured to be part of the Fiat Group and proud to see that the small artisan business has become a factory with 1.600 employees, a production of 3.400 units per year and a credit balance. Speaking of technical support ("Fiat knows what they give me, and I know what I give them"), Ferrari throws a dig at Lancia. He recalls his contribution to the five World Rally Championships (the Dino engine on Stratos cars) and his collaboration for the volume compressor.

 

"Cesare Fiorio was wrong to say that no one had ever won so much, not even Ferrari".

 

Many drivers offered themselves to Ferrari (from Piquet to Lauda, from Rosberg to Prost), Ferrari did not seek any. In particular, no offer was made to Prost, partly out of fairness to Renault, whom Ferrari seems to hold in high esteem. The leaving of Patrick Tambay had some consequences. Ferrari has described the Frenchman as:

 

"A great test driver, a man who reminds me of Amon: he can test a car and tell you everything about it. I am happy to have worked with him, and I am aware of what I am losing".

 

After recalling the two years together, the Modenese manufacturer reveals that he never asked Tambay to help Arnoux in South Africa, as could be understood from certain statements made by the driver. It was Patrick, who had taken pole position at Kyalami, who offered his support to the team in exchange for a seat.

 

"It is the price of overtaking".

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Enzo Ferrari goes on:

 

"With Alboreto a promise made in 1982 came true. He is a decent man, a driver I consider to be good for Ferrari. When he came here, he told me: if you have difficulty giving me a car, I will explain to people that I had already made other commitments. I preferred Arnoux to Tambay because he doesn't have the traffic light syndrome, because he lives nearby and is more ready to work with us".

 

Assuming that he will not sell his engines to other teams, Ferrari announces that a lighter and more efficient version of the 6-cylinder turbo (called 126 B) and a new 4-cylinder (the 154), 1500 cc, will be used in 1984: the design is already complete. This engine, more compact and lighter, will allow a lower fuel consumption. Next year, race refuelling will be banned, and the tank capacity will be reduced to 220 litres. Ferrari is also working on an even better chassis, a new body and a new electronic injection system. Ferrari tells other news: a book about the drivers he has known will be published in December (about 1.000 copies). He compares the costs of the cars in the past to the present times: in 1936, he could buy three Alfa Romeos and some replacement parts for 1.300.000.000 Italian liras. Then the closing, somewhat romantic, in answer to a question: what is Ferrari's style?

 

"It is the style of a small-town handicraft company devoted to motoring. It is about exploiting the little education we have received, without any sort of diplomacy, because we consider that the best agreement is a handshake".

 

So much news in just a few hours for Formula 1. After the recent changes in the drivers' market, on Monday 24 October 1983 Ferrari resumes testing at Fiorano with René Arnoux (77 laps and he even went off-track once, but without any damage). Michele Alboreto is in Fiorano as well: he was supposed to drive the 126 C3 for the first time. The Milanese driver, however, surprisingly did not drive. It seems that the sponsor Benetton, to whom Alboreto is bound until 31 December 1983, did not allow the driver to get into the Ferrari with a different suit, as the Maranello team would have wished. The negotiations are underway, that could solve the situation in the next few days. If no agreement is reached, however, the Italian driver would have to wait until the end of the year to start testing, which would mean a serious delay in his training schedule. A very complicated affair that gives an idea of how the world of Formula 1 is increasingly linked to commercial interests. But there's a new affair entering the game. Should Alfa Romeo change sponsors and leave Marlboro, as it seems, the new sponsors would be willing to replace Andrea De Cesaris. The driver to replace him is Eddie Cheever, the American from Rome. In this case it would be a shocking departure because De Cesaris would have to look for a new seat. Patrick Tambay smiles as he carries a bit of Ferrari on his new car, the Renault. The seat, to be precise, is the same one built for him in Maranello, in hazelnut-coloured suede. 

 

"This way I feel like I haven't changed car. Seriously, Ferrari has a piece of my heart, but now I've moved on. A new adventure is about to begin. And I'm not here to play around. When you've reached a high level, you can't go back. Also with Renault I will race for the title. But now my time at Ferrari has come to an end. The experience with Ferrari was unique, on a human, technical and professional level. But it's over, I race with another team, one of the best teams ever, competitive in every sense. It is true, they lost the World Championship. However, in motor racing, these things can happen, and you must not think too much about it. You have to find the energy to continue, to improve further".

 

This is just another way of making it clear that the rivalry, sportingly speaking, with Ferrari is open. Renault has changed almost everything, starting from the drivers, to gather new forces. Alongside Tambay they have hired Derek Warwick, considered to be the year's surprise, not only for the good results he has achieved with Toleman, but also for the talent, character, and attitude he has shown. The 29-year-old Englishman is delighted for the opportunity: 


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