With a high probability, there will be five Ferraris made available to Arnoux and Tambay for the Austrian Grand Prix, which will take place on Sunday, August 14, 1983, at the Zeltweg circuit. This opportunity will be confirmed on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 10, 1983, when René Arnoux arrives for the testing of the third specimen of the 126 C3. If this test yields positive results, and the car, assembled at a brisk pace, encounters no issues, it will be transported to the Austrian circuit on Thursday morning. It should not be an upgraded version, the 126 C3B, which will debut at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. These upgrades are expected to be visible, probably, during the tests on August 18 and 19 at the Italian circuit. If the third specimen of the C3 is usable in Zeltweg, it is easily understood that certain strenuous tasks, such as replacing the engine on Tambay's car a few hours before the start of the German Grand Prix, will no longer be necessary, providing more assurance to the team and the drivers. Meanwhile, Formula 1 is reaching its decisive moment of the season. In a Grand Prix that resembles the one in Italy, with red-white-green banners and Ferrari flags, and thousands of Italians already gathered in the vast park that is the Osterreichring, there is an expectation of a clarifying word in the World Championship standings. Four drivers in contention for the title and three top teams: Ferrari, Renault, and Brabham. The Austrian track has a tradition of surprise results. In 1982, Elio De Angelis won amid general astonishment driving for Lotus. The previous year, Laffite's Ligier emerged victorious. All this, beating turbo engines that, on a fast track, should have had an advantage. This year, things have changed; perhaps turbocharged engines have achieved greater reliability, and there should be no major interferences. But who can win this eleventh race of the World Championship? It's a difficult question to answer. Ferrari has prepared everything to support its two drivers Tambay and Arnoux. Four cars, three new 126 C3s, and an old one as a backup. Brabham and Renault, on the other hand, rely on Michelin's radial tires, which, like at Silverstone, proved to be a winning factor. In the recent free practice sessions held in July, Prost set the fastest time with 1'30"43, while Tambay clocked in at 1'31"95, approximately 1.5s slower than the French team's rival. But everything can change at this point.
Predictions are futile before the practices that will kick off the competition. Between Ferrari and Renault, there has been a kind of game that has created some confusion, perhaps the sports director of the French team wanted to engage in pre-tactics. On the occasion of the free tests a month earlier, the Maranello team left the Austrian circuit after a day and a half, in the early afternoon. It was in the hours that followed that Prost set the best time. Later, Jean Sage called Maranello to say that the time recorded (1'30"43) was false, that the timekeepers had made a mistake. Since then, there has been a play on ambiguity, but Prost's result is real. Renault should, therefore, start with a slight advantage, even though it is not yet known how the updated 126 C3 will react with many modifications compared to its debut. The only significant novelty concerns Tyrrell. The British team will finally debut its 012 model presented on Thursday, August 11, 1983. It is a singular car, aesthetically odd (it looks like an ugly duckling) but should be quite effective. Extremely lightweight, with a chassis made of 50% carbon fiber and 50% aluminum panels, and innovative aerodynamics. Especially at the rear, where the wing is an arrow turned upside down, with the tip pointing backward. It's not clear what result this aerodynamic appendage will produce, especially in fast curves. In any case, Tyrrell technicians assure that wind tunnel results have been very good. Indeed, Alboreto, on the Silverstone track, lapped a second faster than with the previous model. In any case, it's already a step forward for the Italian driver, who had so far had a car that seemed only a collage of old pieces. It is predictable that the same chassis could accommodate a turbo engine at the end of the season. On Friday, August 12, 1983, Ferrari seems to have returned to the golden days, those of Niki Lauda as World Champion when the Austrian conquered pole positions and results one after the other. No opponent can, at this moment, put the wheels of their car in front of those of the Maranello cars, at least in qualifying. Even on the first day of practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay share the provisional front row. Arnoux sets the best time with a lap time of 1'29"95 (average speed 237.663 km/h, just 2.3s more than the track record set in 1982 by Piquet with the Brabham equipped with side skirts), narrowly ahead of his teammate. Behind, with increasingly heavy gaps, ten turbocharged drivers are lined up, led by Prost.
Lauda is the fastest of the naturally aspirated engine drivers, confirming his magical moment. However, Ferrari remains calm. Mauro Forghieri says:
"The race can always be something else".
But it is clear that morale is high. The two drivers, at least seemingly, appear calm and relaxed. Tambay jokes, in front of the photographers, pretending to strangle his teammate, then says:
"I did the second time, so I won't let him pass me at the start of the race".
Arnoux declares that he has already spoken with the Commendatore to negotiate the 1984 contract. Arnoux is very happy with the 126 C3, which has always taken the first and second positions on the grid (for Ferrari, this would be the fifth consecutive pole position).
"It is very balanced, powerful, and in terms of road holding, it's no joke. We have kept the larger wing, usually used on twisty tracks because it doesn't make us lose anything in speed. I could have done even better if, in the best lap, I hadn't found slower cars on the track".
Tambay, on the other hand, is not yet completely satisfied with the setup. The engine installed on Patrick's car has fuel pickup problems in certain curves, and, as has been happening for some time, he lacks the lucky moment. When the French driver takes to the track to seek the result, he has to slow down because the marshals display yellow flags. A small deer, evidently frightened by the noises, has come out of the woods and, jumping through a gap in the safety fences, has entered the circuit, crossing the track several times. Mauro Forghieri states again:
"We have done productive work in the morning; if Goodyear wants it, we will test the radial tires, which are slightly different from those seen at Hockenheim. Anyway, I hope not because if they give positive indications, we won't sleep tonight, gnawed by the doubt".
In essence, Ferrari's only real uncertainty lies in the choice of tires because there is a fear that a situation similar to Silverstone might occur, where they dominated qualifying but were beaten in the race. And indeed, Alain Prost counts on this:
"We knew that in qualifying, Ferrari would probably go faster. But I have confidence, I believe that in the race, our radial tires will give us a small advantage".
On Saturday, everyone will try to challenge Ferrari's position. Brabham will try, facing many problems during the first practice session (a broken engine, the reserve car with a detached exhaust, overheating issues), so much so that Patrese is forced to qualify with Piquet's car and surpasses him with the sixth time against the eighth of the Brazilian. Good chances also for Lotus, currently fourth with Mansell. Elio De Angelis is only fourteenth, but this placement obtained with the old single-seater is already a miracle. The Roman went off the track in the morning: a frightening series of spins and pitching. Elio hit his head against the top of the cockpit. Dr. Bartoletti diagnosed a minor head injury. After returning to the track, Elio loses a piece of the bodywork. Saturday, August 13, 1983, Patrick Tambay and René Arnoux spare no effort. The two exchange pole positions, surpass each other, fight in qualifying with breathtaking braking that makes the sports director of Ferrari, Marco Piccinini, turn gray.
But Enzo Ferrari will not be displeased; he will see his cars on the front row of the Austrian Grand Prix on the television screen for the third time since their official debut at Silverstone. It is a result, that of qualifying, which obviously offers good hopes for the race, although - as always - all the uncertainties of motorsports remain. As in Germany, it is Patrick Tambay who sets the best time with a lap time of 1'29"871, at an average of 238.021 km/h. The French driver precedes his teammate by 0.064s, a slight gap, just over four meters calculated at the average speed per lap. But Arnoux, it must be said, does not have the opportunity to defend himself. René breaks the engine of his car after 30 minutes of practice, just when he is about to use his second set of tires. The French driver would like to take to the track with the reserve car, the third 126 C3, but the car is adapted to Tambay's driving, and it would take too much time and effort to modify it. Thus, the Grenoble driver is forced to watch the attempts of his friend-rival to surpass him. Patrick Tambay says, beaming:
"I could have done better if I hadn't spun at the double S after putting the wheels off the asphalt. In any case, this is my third pole position of my career, the third with Ferrari. The race? They ask me if I will fight with Arnoux for the victory. I hope so; that would mean finishing first and second".
While René Arnoux says:
"I don't care about not having had a second car to try to improve. Here, we are fighting for the world title, and what matters is the race. I promise you a good race".
Mauro Forghieri comments on the one-two with moderation. In the morning, Ferrari had completed three-quarters of a Grand Prix (37 laps for Tambay, 35 for Arnoux) to test aerodynamic and tire solutions.
"We have two options, if it's hot, we'll use the harder tires, if it's cold and overcast, the softer ones. There's no team strategy. In the Austrian Grand Prix, there have always been many retireals. We will try to finish, preferably ahead of Prost and Piquet".
In practice, the two title contenders don't shine particularly. The Brazilian, however, drops from eighth to fourth place, while the Frenchman is one of the eight competitors who fail to improve. Both are optimistic, nonetheless. Nelson Piquet says:
"I really like this track; I'll have an attacking race".
Alain Prost explains that he saved the race car:
"The other car always had engine overheating problems. So, I preferred not to take risks with the engine that gives me more confidence. I hope our radial tires prove as effective as they were at Silverstone".
Qualifying was delayed by half an hour due to an inconvenience: a military jet landed on the track. After a long display, a Sea Harrier with vertical take-off landed to refuel with the tanker on the circuit. The Formula 1 cars remained stationary in the pits. Niki Lauda took advantage of the situation to talk to the bomber pilot, unconcerned about the qualifying that was about to begin. In third place, for the first time this season, will start the Pirelli-shod Lotus. Nigel Mansell achieves this feat as De Angelis's car has problems with the Renault turbo not reaching full revs. The two cars from the British team could be dangerous customers for those seeking victory. It is unquestionable that the challenge will be limited to the turbocharged cars because it's unlikely to repeat last year's incredible series of retirements.
There are thirteen cars with turbocharged engines in the top thirteen positions. The best among the naturally aspirated engines is on Niki Lauda's car, who is 1.5s ahead of Keke Rosberg. Alfa Romeo plays the role of outsiders, with Baldi in ninth and De Cesaris in eleventh. The Roman breaks a turbine and has to drive with the reserve car. Toleman seems to have made a leap in quality, with Giacomelli in seventh place and Warwick in tenth for the first time this season both Osella cars qualify, albeit with the last two times. A small satisfaction for the Turin-based constructor who feared the fast circuit. Alboreto, eighteenth, will race with the old Tyrrell; the new one has yet to be fine-tuned. The circuit is filled with Italian fans; it's almost another Italian Grand Prix. Needless to say, everyone is convinced of a Ferrari victory. Meanwhile, Keke Rosberg announces that he will decide in the week following the Austrian Grand Prix whether to continue racing with Frank Williams. The situation of the World Champion, who wants to sign a favorable contract, partially blocks the driver market. In compensation, many rumors circulate. For example, it is whispered that Alain Prost has reached a preliminary agreement with Ferrari. The reason for this rumor: a long conversation between the Frenchman and an executive of the tobacco company (which sponsors the drivers of the Maranello team) and a half-sentence from Prost himself, who appeared particularly euphoric:
"If I win the world title, I have fulfilled my duty; if I lose, I have one more reason to change".
If Prost were to arrive in Maranello, Arnoux's departure would be certain. The two, after what happened last year in Le Castellet, don't speak to each other. It is also said that Michele Alboreto will move to Brabham. Is it true? On Sunday, August 14, 1983, at 2:00 p.m. the pit lane is opened and the 26 six cars stream off up the steep hill to make a lap round to the grid, or dive into the pit lane to make a last minute adjustment or merely snatch another lap. As the Spirit- Honda 201C/5 goes along the top straight Johansson feels the V6 engine seems to tighten up and he switches off on the downhill bit and coasts down to the grid where he hurriedly gets out and runs across to the older car that is in readiness in the pit lane. While he roars off up the hill to do another lap, the car he has abandoned is wheeled off the grid. However, it is not as easy as that for a rear wheel bearing has seized solid as he arrives on the grid and the car has to be taken away on a trolley-jack. The Spirit 201/4 takes its place on the grid and everyone is ready to go. Tambay and Arnoux lead them all away on the warm up lap and there is excitement in the air as the two red Ferraris lead the field back on to the starting grid before the light gantry. Prost pulls up on the right, realises he has made a mistake and moves half over to the left and then everyone is ready. The red light shines, then the green and Piquet makes a meteoric start, aiming the arrow-like blue and white Brabham at the tiny gap between Arnoux and the pits wall. The two Ferraris surge away, Mansell’s Lotus hangs momentarily, Prost is alongside and then the whole pack storms off up the hill to the chicane.
There is a big cloud of dust at the top of the hill and Giacomelli finds de Angelis in the second Lotus-Renault crossing his bows sideways and in dodging he hits the guard rail and wrecks the left radiator in the wide nose. The Lotus is off the road and out of the race and in the chicane Surer’s Arrows and Sullivan’s Tyrrell collide and are both out, while Watson bends his nose fins on someone’s rear wheel. Not unexpectedly the two Ferraris lead the opening lap, followed by Piquet, Prost, Mansell, Patrese, Cheever, Warwick, Baldi, de Cesaris and Johansson. Down at the back is the unusual sight of the two Williams cars, Rosberg having made an awful start and Laffite being at the back of else grid anyway. After they have all gone by to start lap 2, the unfortunate Giacomelli limps his damaged Toleman into the pits to retire and Watson arrives with his nose fins drooping. A new front assembly is fitted and Wattle roars away to start a rather lonely drive. At times like this, with four cars out and only one lap run it makes you wonder whether the non- qualifying competitors should not be allowed to start the race one lap in arrears, to keep the numbers up. Hardly have these thoughts crossed the mind than the second Toleman comes creeping into the pits to retire ignominiously with turbocharger trouble. By the end of the third lap a pattern is forming, with a long line of manufacturers’ cars pulling away from what is left, with Winkelhock’s ATS not able to keep up with them, but able to stay ahead of the Cosworth-powered cars.
It is Ferrari, Ferrari, BMW, Renault, BMW, Lotus, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Alfa Romeo, all with turbo-charged engines, then the ATS-BMW, the Honda and Lauda leading the rest in 12th place. his high speed procession settles down until lap 10. no-one gaining or losing very much, but further back there is a little excitement for Lauda has passed the Spirit-Honda and now Alboreto is trying to do the same thing. Johansson thinks he has allowed the Tyrrell sufficient room to pass but underestimates the amount of understeer that Alboreto is suffering and the Tyrrell slides across the front of the Honda and they both span off into the barriers. The Tyrrell is out with the left rear wheel hanging off, but the Honda is still in one piece even though the engine is stalled and the nose-cone and fins have been broken off. Johansson climbs out to survey the damage, thinks it doesn’t look too bad, so gets back in again and lets the car roll down the slope and manages to bump-start the engine and carry on round to the pits where his mechanics fit another nose and fins and send him on his way again. Mansell and Cheever, though the Lotus driver’s Pirelli tyres seem unable to match the Goodyears or Michelins, and behind them are de Cesaris and Baldi in the Alfa Romeos that have never been much of a challenge all weekend, and Baldi is soon to retire with engine trouble anyway. Rosberg has worked his way through the back-markers to take station behind Laud, bathe can make no impression on the wily Austrian who is driving with all his old style and precision. The routine pit-stops for petrol and tyres are due to start around 20 laps, and Laffite is the first to come in, but his real reason for stopping is that the car is vibrating badly and getting worse. In the first lap fracas at the chicane he has banged wheels with someone and bounces over the kerbs and the chassis must have suffered damage somewhere, which is now manifesting itself. With new tyres and more fuel he sets off again, but is back at the end of the lap, this time for good. Meanwhile there is great drama at the front of the field for Tambay, still in the lead, has caught Jarier and is about to lap him, but the Ligier driver is most unhelpful to his compatriot and refuses to concede room, baulking the leading Ferrari all along the far side of the circuit, along the top straight and down through the Bosch Kurve. This lets Arnoux and Piquet close right up and as Tambay is about to go by the Ligier on the short straight after the Bosch Kurve Arnoux flashes by and boxes his team-mate in.
Has he done this on a rival competitor it would have been a neat bit of traffic driving but on his own team-mate it is unruly and unnecessary. In the kerfuffle Piquet also nips by and a furious Tambay finishes lap 22 in third place. Prost peels off into the pit lane for new tyres and more petrol, leaving fourth place to Patrese, and rejoins the race in seventh place The smooth-driving Thierry Boutsen arrives unexpectedly at the Arrows pit, his Cosworth V8 running on only seven cylinders and a broken sparking plug is discovered. With a complete change of plugs he is back in the race but has dropped to the back of the field. At the end of lap 26 Cheever comes in for his routine stop, the Renault mechanics making one of their best ever times with the car being stationary for 10.77 seconds, and two laps later he is followed by Arnoux and Patrese. The Ferrari stop for 11.24 seconds and the Brabham team excel once again with Patrese being stopped for only 10.24 seconds; it would have been a sub-10 second stop has not the left rear wheel baulks slightly on going onto the hub. At the end of lap 30 Tambay is seen heading for the pit lane, but not for a quick fuel and tyre stop, he is in trouble and the stop is terminal. All the oil pressure has disappeared and the Ferrari engine has succumbed, but the red cars are not alone in trouble for Patrese has pulled off the track with his BMW engine blown-up, so now the order is Piquet (yet to stop), Arnoux, de Cesaris (yet to stop), Prost, Cheever and Mansell (yet to stop), with the rest a lap or more behind. Mansell makes his routine stop without losing his place and Johansson refuells and re-tyres the Spirit-Honda. When de Cesaris makes his pit stop it is terminal for the Alfa Romeo clectrics has gone up the slot at the end of lap 31. Piquet at last makes his routine stop, nine laps later than the rest, employing the same tactics as at Hockenheim. He is away in 10.51 seconds and roars off up the hill as Arnoux flashes by the pits. Although Arnoux gets by briskly there is no holding Piquet and he is back in the lead again before the end of the lap. Of all the top drivers making routine pit stops the little Brazilian can get back on the pace quicker than anyone. All things being equal the Brabham-BMW looks to have it made, but things are not equal for the fine edge has gone off the BMW engine and it is showing signs of being 200 RPM short at the top end. Normally that isn’t much to worry about, but with a very healthy Ferrari and a very healthy Renault pounding along behind it is critical.
By lap 36 the two pursuers are up with the Brabham and on lap 37 they are lining up to go by. As the two head up the hill towards the chicane Arnoux makes his move and takes the lead and a very determined Prost follows him through. It isn’t so much a question of getting by the Brabham as not losing contact with the Ferrari, especially as it is Arnoux at the wheel, for there is no love lost between the two Frenchmen. Realising he can do nothing about the Ferrari or the Renault Piquet eases off and settles for third place, turning down the boost control to ease the load on the engine. Alain Prost is showing a very aggressive side to his nature, which is unusual for him, and he is hounding Arnoux unmercifully. There is no question of settling for second place and a nice sale collection of points for the Championship, Prost is out to win and to defeat Arnoux in the process. Weighing it all up from behind Prost knows exactly when to pounce on the Ferrari and on lap 48 he takes the lead with ease and immediately begins pulling away and there is nothing Arnoux can do about it. With four laps to go it is all over as far as the winner is concerned for the Ferrari gearbox is failing and Arnoux no longer has fourth gear available. In third place Piquet is beginning to sweat for Cheever is closing on him rapidly, so he turns the boost control back up again, but nothing happens, there is no more power and he is driving as hard as he can go. A very happy Alain Prost gets the chequered flag, his fourth win this season, and a rather disgruntled Rene Arnoux comes home second. Piquet scrapes home third, ahead of Cheever arid has the race run for one more lap he would not have kept his third place for Cheever is going splendidly. Also, if the race was one lap longer Arnoux would have lost second place for the Ferrari gearbox broke on the slowing-down lap. The yellow flags began to wave, numerous, among the crowd that literally invaded the hills of the Austrian circuit on lap 48 when Alain Prost made his move. The small Frenchman, the calmest, most determined, and luckiest driver of the season, claimed victory. This is his fourth win of the season, and it practically secures the world championship title. His lead over rivals is now 14 points ahead of Nelson Piquet and 17 ahead of René Arnoux, who finished second. Prost built his path to the world title through years of hard work, enduring disappointments in past seasons without flinching.
He managed to grow, learn, and become one of the best. For this reason, no one would object if the 28-year-old French driver finally manages to clinch the coveted and prestigious title. The race was thrilling, intense, with many drivers pushing to the limit. There was an initial group of four, with all the contenders for the world title lined up, separated by a space of 1.5 seconds. It seemed like it would finally be Ferrari's decisive day. Tambay and Arnoux seemed capable of withstanding the attacks of their rivals, and the tires were working well, dispelling all doubts and uncertainties from the eve. However, in the end, Prost managed to take the lead and headed towards a victory that is almost a consecration. At the start, a terrible pileup occurred with multiple incidents, fortunately without causing harm to the drivers, although some of them were visibly shaken by the impacts. More attention should be paid to the start because, sooner or later, even though the cars seem to have become safer, something serious could happen. Tambay was quick to escape; behind him, Arnoux took second place. Piquet and Prost immediately followed, and Riccardo Patrese also made his way forward. The group of turbocharged cars quickly pulled away from the rest, indicating that the victory would be contested among these drivers. Nothing changed at the front until the pit stops for refueling. Meanwhile, Alboreto disappeared from the scene due to an incident with Johansson, Warwick due to a turbine failure, and Baldi, halted by the engine failure of his Alfa Romeo. On lap 22, the first twist occurred. Jarier was about to be lapped. Tambay, leading the race, hesitated. The Ligier driver abruptly shifted to block the pass, and the Ferrari driver remained flexible. Immediately, Arnoux and Piquet took advantage and passed him in a sprint. Arnoux was now in the lead, followed by the Brazilian, with Tambay attempting a comeback. When the pit stop carousel started, Prost was the first to enter, slightly lagging behind but recovering vigorously and determinedly. Then it was Arnoux's turn, and the Ferrari mechanics' pit stop was perfect. When everything was ready for Tambay to make his stop, having meanwhile passed Piquet, who seemed to be in crisis, perhaps due to too noticeable widening of the fastest corner of the circuit, the Ferrari driver was eliminated. He arrived at the pits with the engine off, immediately got out of the car, and it was over for him.
Consequently, Brabham took the lead. Arnoux, with Prost now shadowing him closely, set out to chase Piquet. A pursuit that was perfectly executed on the 36th lap. The Brazilian explained:
"I had an engine drop, and at that point, I knew I just had to save the car. For this reason, I let Arnoux and Prost pass me".
Indeed, the leading duo pulled significantly ahead. Several attacks by Prost were fended off by the Ferrari driver. However, on lap 47, René could do nothing more, as he had been struggling for some laps. And it was Prost's victory. It should be noted that the Frenchman was very lucky in the early part of the race when, on lap 16, he touched Piquet. It was a chilling scene, with the Renault jumping over the curbs at the edge of the track; there were fears that both cars would go off the track. However, both Nelson and Alain had the chance to continue the race. Nigel Mansell finished fifth with the Lotus, and Niki Lauda, the first driver with an aspirated engine car, finished sixth. Once again, the Austrian demonstrated his skill and tenacity. But it is uneven to race in this way. Next year, those without a turbo may not bother showing up for Formula 1 races. In fact, the top three finishers, Prost, Arnoux, and Piquet, lapped everyone. At the finish, neither of the two Alfa Romeos that had given hope at Hockenheim made it. Baldi's engine broke, and De Cesaris ran out of fuel. Ferrari accepts Prost's victory philosophically. However, Arnoux's second place is not enough for the Maranello team to balance the day positively. There are too many troubles: first Tambay's elimination while leading the race; then Arnoux's defeat, precisely in the last laps, the bitter disappointment after absolute dominance in qualifying. Tambay returned to the pits just when he had to refuel. His car arrived with the engine off, and it was immediately clear that something irreparable had happened. The technicians quickly realized that a distribution gear had broken. Patrick is, all in all, rather resigned. Not that he has lost the desire to fight, but it is clear that the Frenchman cannot even stomp his feet.
"It's true, there's no need to cry. Races are like that. I always experience a different kind; we don't even have the chance to make adjustments. If it were always the same part breaking, maybe it would be easier. In any case, the trouble in the Austrian race is very serious for my position in the standings. I haven't permanently lost hope, but it's clear that now it will become much more difficult. I will try at least to help the team".
This statement is indirectly addressed to Arnoux. The small René may find, perhaps, a precious ally in the upcoming races if a favorable circumstance occurs.
"I could have resisted well if, fifteen laps from the end, the fourth gear hadn't broken. I had to fight to the maximum, but I couldn't prevent Prost from overtaking me. The fourth gear is crucial on a track where many fast corners must be faced. It was still good that I could finish. Just after crossing the finish line, the gearbox pinion must have come off, and I had to stop to avoid destroying everything. As for the title fight, Prost's victory becomes a real blow for us. I don't give up; I will try to fight with all my might, but it's not easy. Now my rival just needs to score points a few times to finish the season successfully".
Engineer Forghieri hoped until the last moment for a victory. While at the pits, the technician encouraged his drivers as if watching a football game. But even he, in the end, had to endure a small disappointment.
"We could have been luckier with Tambay, but evidently, something is playing against us. In the critical moment of the race, we had a lot of problems and weren't even helped by good luck".
A paper cup in hand, a sip of champagne, bare-chested. Alain Prost goes to speak to the television. The French driver is evidently satisfied.
The victory in the Austrian Grand Prix has brought him very close to winning the World Championship. He is cautious, not wanting to shout for joy yet, but it is clear that he is barely holding back. However, he remains calm and relaxed. It's not for nothing that they call him 'the professor' for his seriousness, his ability to analyze the situation, to race with determination. He is 28 years old, born in St. Chamot, near St. Etienne. He is a fan of the local football team but also of Platini. He always reads about the exploits of the French player in Juventus. But the topic of the day is his victory.
"What do you want me to say? It was a beautiful race. I never had the slightest problem. The car performed wonderfully. I could implement my favorite tactic, running conservatively at the beginning to save the car and then attacking at the end. I noticed that Arnoux had some problems, and indeed, I overtook him when it seemed to me that he had missed a gear".
But is the world title now in your hands?
"It cannot be said yet. There are four races left. I am very close, getting closer and closer. But motorsport is like this: until you have mathematical certainty, you cannot say that you are the World Champion. Of course, if things continue like this, the championship helmet will hardly escape me. I believe I have shown that I am a driver who can aim so high. I have known how to suffer and also how to keep calm. I think I deserve this position".
At this point, who is your most dangerous rival?
"I don't know. Tambay now seems particularly unlucky. But he too can turn things around in the final part of the season".
The start of the Austrian Grand Prix, as mentioned, was characterized by a spectacular and very dangerous series of incidents. Two essential events occurred immediately after the green light. On the uphill stretch leading to the first chicane, Watson rear-ended De Angelis. The Roman's Lotus went sideways and was hit by Giacomelli, who couldn't do anything to avoid it. The black car slammed violently into the guardrail. De Angelis recounts, very frightened:
"I hardly noticed anything, but I was immediately out of the race. It's the second bad accident I've had in two days; I hope the series is over".
A little further ahead, another pileup occurred. Laffite collided with Ghinzani's Osella. The Frenchman also went sideways with his Williams, and Surer, to avoid him, completely changed his trajectory. At that point, Sullivan's Tyrrell arrived, went into a spin, and crashed into the outside barriers.