#371 1982 Swiss Grand Prix

2021-04-11 00:00

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#1982, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Marianna Molinaro,

#371 1982 Swiss Grand Prix

Exceptional public, with more than 30.000 people who paid a 3.000 Italian lira ticket for each row of seats, unrestrained cheering for Ferrari, a few


Exceptional public, with more than 30.000 people who paid a 3.000 Italian lira ticket for each row of seats, unrestrained cheering for Ferrari, a few problems with public order and a brief suspension of practice to avoid dangerous exuberance of the spectators: in this setting, on Wednesday 18th August 1982 the Monza circuit experiences the first day of free practice. There were four main contenders for the world title, Prost's Renault, Lauda's McLaren, Rosberg's Williams and Tambay's Ferrari. Drivers tried both in the morning and in the afternoon, but it was Tambay, at the wheel of Ferrari, who in the late afternoon snatched 1'32"29 that pulverized the official record, obtained in practice in 1981 by Arnoux with 1'33"467. The second chronometric time was set by Prost, with 1'32"50, then Lauda 1'34"84. Slower Rosberg with 1'36"50, but Williams took care of the car tuning. On Thursday, 19th August 1982, 40.000 people attended the tests, and such a massive presence of spectators evidently gave the drivers a boost, as Alain Prost was unleashed and with his Renault turbo lowered the unofficial record of the track obtained the day before by Tambay with Ferrari. The French driver turns in 1'31"47 at an average speed of 228.196 km/h.


Even Tambay, who is suffering from shoulder pain caused by the cars without suspension and who has been forced to receive treatment from the Inter massager, Della Casa, drops below his previous limit with 1'31"79. For the occasion Ferrari sent an almost completely new single-seater onto the track: a modified chassis, more rigid and stronger, new suspension mountings and a longitudinal gearbox. Lauda in the McLaren lapped in 1'34"27 too, Rosberg in 1'36"40, and Arnoux, who only tried in the afternoon, got 1'32"77. After the tests at Monza, on Monday 23rd August 1982 at Maranello everyone is busy working, from the engineer Enzo Ferrari to the technicians to the mechanics, in view of the Swiss Grand Prix, scheduled on Sunday 29th August at Dijon. Everyone except Patrick Tambay. The French driver was suffering from a tedious muscular ailment of rheumatic origin, and couldn't test the cars for the race, which left for Dijon without being tested in Fiorano. In the meantime, good news about Didier Pironi arrived from Paris: the French driver improved day by day, with a recovery that left us astonished. But bad luck accompanied Ferrari this year. After Villeneuve's tragic accident and Pironi's terrible injury, the House of Maranello runs the risk of being unable to field a single car in the Swiss Grand Prix on Sunday, as Patrick Tambay is in pain and fears he will not be able to drive.


"I thought that the pain would go away if I rested. That is why I avoided the usual test session in Fiorano, but the inflammation, probably caused by the vibrations of these cars without suspension, still hasn't gone away. I am so sore that I have lost all feeling in my right hand. I can't sleep too, which is another problem".


The French confessed on his arrival from Cannes. After the tests in Monza, Tambay underwent all possible treatments, from acupuncture to thalassotherapy, anti-inflammatory ointments and compresses, but, at the moment, no positive results have been recorded.


"This morning I will check my reactions during practice. I'm willing to get an injection of Novocain so that I don't feel this terrible twinge in my back and arm. But, in any case, I won't be one hundred percent, and above all I'm afraid I won't be able to compete".


On the other hand, the weather forecast doesn't look good; it seems that the rain, which has already hit the Dijon area with several thunderstorms on Thursday, could continue. If qualifying were to take place on a wet track, Keke Rosberg would have the biggest advantage, as he would be able to offset his handicap against turbo engines and, above all, make the most of his ability to drive on water. The Finn is a true champion of stunts on slippery circuits and won his only Formula 1 race - not valid for the world championship - at Silverstone three years earlier in a thunderstorm. The Williams driver, on the other hand, is now considered by everyone to be the favorite in the fight for the title, as he only needs two good placings to overtake Pironi. His main rivals can only hope if they win at least two of the three races on the calendar. Only one day passes, and on Friday, 27th August 1982, the chances of Ferrari competing in the Swiss Grand Prix fade. Or, at least, it is unlikely that Patrick Tambay will be able to complete the race. In fact, the Frenchman's condition hasn’t improved for the moment and a decision will be taken in extremis. But, barring a miracle, there is no material time to hope that the 33-year-old Parisian will be able to eradicate the vertebra-cerebral inflammation that struck him during free practice in Monza. Tambay took to the track for both the morning's test and the first qualifying session wearing a special protective collar to prevent the helmet coming into contact with the painful part of his head and then even using tie rods attached to the chassis to keep his head still, and he achieved, with great difficulty, the ninth fastest time.


"Unfortunately I am not up to the performance of the car. The car is going very well and could have been further ahead. But I don't feel right, I can't drive with ease and, above all, I'm afraid I won't be able to resist the stress of the race".


The Frenchman has been examined by several specialists, one from Paris, one from Lyon and another from Cannes, but the diagnosis is unanimous: it is a crushing between the sixth and seventh vertebrae, which, when lowered, have involved the radial nerve of the right arm. In addition to severe pain, the driver also felt numbness in his limb, especially in his thumb and index finger:


"It isn't serious, and I'm not in danger of aggravation. The only problem is that in order to heal I have to remain at absolute repose. I'm really sorry for Ferrari, who deserved to end the season in another way. I'm going to do everything I can to try and race, but I won't be one hundred per cent physically anyway".


It's obvious that this situation, with the impossibility for the Maranello factory to defend itself, in order to try to get to the world title in some way, or to maintain Pironi's first place, gave rise to uncontrolled rumors that Ferrari had tried to sign some drivers for this season finale. English sources assure us that a big offer has been made to Alan Jones - they talk of half a million dollars - to take part in some races, but the Australian hasn't accepted. There is talk of Mario Andretti too, who could be used at Monza, but Marco Piccinini, the sporting director, denies it. To tell the truth, Piccinini had also claimed to have never had talks with Alain Prost, but he admitted, after signing the contract for Renault, to having had talks with the Ferrari representative. The little French driver, having solved the problem for the future, having signed a contract as first driver with the right of choice of the second driver, attacked hard in qualifying and got the best time ahead of his teammate René Arnoux. There is still bad blood between the two, and the second round will certainly see a family battle for pole position. No one, in fact, seems able to threaten the supremacy of Renault, which uses this track for most of its tests and on which Michelin radial tyres prove more competitive than Goodyear tyres. The fact that the American tyres were in trouble was demonstrated by Niki Lauda's sensational third position, ahead of Patrese's turbocharged Brabham. The Austrian was very good and the circuit was perhaps more suitable for the aspirated engines thanks to the many curves in support, but it was unthinkable that the cars equipped with supercharged engines could be beaten only for their driving ability.


"At this point I think I'm in the fight for the world title. I'm not far behind Pironi, and not far behind my other rivals either. If it goes well, after winning two races this year, I could win the third. In this case, I am convinced that in Monza and Las Vegas I will be able to fight for the title with some placements".


On the other side it was sufficient to look at the provisional classification to realize it: behind Lauda we found Patrese, then De Cesaris, Piquet, Rosberg, Giacomelli, Tambay and Watson, in the first ten positions. In any case the Alfa Romeos seem to have improved the car level too, and this can predict the possibility of a good race. On Saturday 28th August Tambay took a day off, participating only in the morning's free practice during which he recorded one of the latest times. Then, at 12:00 a.m., the French driver goes back to the hotel to rest and continue the therapies with which he hopes to fight, at least partially, the consequences of the injury that hit him.


"Tambay was examined by Professor Devic of Lyon, who confirmed the previous diagnosis. It's a cervical-brachial inflammation that gives him severe pain in his neck and shoulder, and considerable insensibility in his right hand and arm. We made all the necessary considerations and preferred to leave him inactive. In the meantime, changing a place or two on the starting grid on this circuit isn't decisive. We will do a test in the morning and then make a decision".


Ferrari's sporting director, Marco Piccinini, also admits that there have been, and are currently contacts with some drivers to try and sign them for the last two races in Monza and Las Vegas, but he doesn't mention names, specifying that some of those interested are currently working with other teams. The usual rumors persist, but the only fixed point is that the chosen person must have some experience. Of course, it is very difficult for a solution to be found, as there are contracts to be fulfilled with the teams and sponsors. A lot will depend on the result of the Dijon race, which, if it gives a miraculously positive result, would intensify the efforts. The second qualifying session doesn't substantially change the starting grid. The Renaults don't even try to improve their times, and only try the racing tyres. On the other hand, in the free practice Arnoux destroys a car by crashing into a guardrail. Patrese overtook Lauda entering the third place: the Austrian didn't go down on the track because he didn't think there was any chance to defend himself. The longest leap forward was made by Derek Daly, who passed from the thirteenth position to the seventh, preceding his teammate Rosberg. One more headache for Frank Williams: the Irish driver, not reconfirmed for 1983, will perhaps enjoy taking away precious points from the Finnish driver, who tried to overtake Pironi in the World Championship. Sunday, 29th August 1982, 10:00 a.m. is just a few minutes away and the Formula 1 cars are ready to enter the track. Half an hour to set up the cars for the race, to try out the set-ups, the tyres and the last details. The engines are already roaring deafeningly with the drivers on board, their helmet visors lowered, and a crowd of interested onlookers is laying siege, as usual, to the Ferrari stand. The red single-seater is ready to take to the track, surrounded by mechanics, but the cockpit is empty. Engineer Carletti gives the orders:


"So, get ready to do a very fast tyres change as if you were racing: the car enters the pits and you rush in with the air pistols".


The words fall silent on the Tuscan coach's lips, leaving room for an exclamation. Everyone is waiting for Patrick Tambay, but Marco Piccinini, the sporting director of Maranello, arrives. He's holding a pile of papers, copies of a press release. It's immediately obvious that the news isn't good. And in fact this is the text of the document:


"As a result of persisting right cervical-branchial neuralgia, Patrick Tambay has asked to not participate in the Swiss Grand Prix. Ferrari has therefore informed the sporting authorities that its number 27 car will not be able to start the race. Tambay will receive further medical treatment over the next few days and the team's technical programmes will be modified accordingly".


Piccinini explains again:


"Patrick is a professional, he didn't want to take risks for himself and especially for others. He wasn't in good condition, the pain is persistent and he thought it was best to give up. He will now have further tests and try intensive therapy. In all probability, he will be able to be present in Monza in two weeks. On this point we have information to be quite optimistic".


In the meantime, Tambay leaves for Lausanne, where he is admitted to the cantonal university hospital. Professor Regli, a neurologist specialist of Italian origin, will take care of him. One more race without the Ferrari. The team managers are doing everything possible to line up two cars in Monza, one with Tambay and the other with a driver whose name is currently difficult to predict. There is a rumor about Keegan, but every inference is made in the air, time is short and within a few hours decisions will have to be taken. The Tambay case, however, raises a number of considerations. The Frenchman had already experienced similar problems in 1973, after a serious accident in a Formula Renault race. Since then, however, his vertebrae haven't given cause for concern. It is likely that the stresses to which drivers are subjected nowadays, with impressive centrifugal forces, with the very strong shocks due to the almost complete absence of shock absorbers on the cars, caused the illness, which occurred ten days ago after two days of testing at Monza. Since then, the French driver has passed through the hands of his personal homeopathic doctor, massagers and a number of specialists. Perhaps it would have been better to take radical action now and not come to a sportingly painful decision at the last moment, because giving up has probably cost the Maranello company the chance to fight for the world title. If there was still a glimmer of hope, it is now surely over. Especially because The Flying Finnish, as Keke Rosberg is called by his fans, surprisingly won the Swiss Grand Prix and jumped to the top of the world ranking, overtaking Didier Pironi, who was unable to defend himself. 


Everything runs to the normal rules, with the normal Formula One entry and after the usual morning sessions of testing and afternoon qualifying sessions, on Friday and Saturday, a grid of twenty-six cars is sorted out, with very little that is unusual about it. Renault dominates the scene, as they so often do, the Brabham-BMWs are nothing like so competitive as they have been in Austria and all the usual people are in the usual places. Lauda is outstandingly quick, the McLaren MP4 being as good here as it was bad in Austria and the Toleman-Harts are not as quick as expected, though they both qualify, which shows some progress from last year. Mansell is on the back of the grid by reason of falling over Henton’s Tyrrell during practice and then not really getting going. They have a bit of a shout-up about the incident and it makes a change to know that both drivers know what the other is saying, even if one has a Brummie accent and the other a Derbyshire accent. That sort of shout-up you can take seriously, in contrast to two foreigners trying to have a row without a mutual language, other than poor English. In the Renault pits there is no row at all, rather the opposite, a deathly hush, for Rene Arnoux is known to have agreed to join the Ferrari team for next year. Not that Renault want to keep him after the disobeying of orders during the real French Grand Prix, but if he is going to the opposition there is no point in letting him take more information with him than is necessary. He does not help matters during Friday morning testing when he crashes RE38B very extensively and has to spend the rest of the time, as well as the race, in the T-car.


Luckily, Prost does not need it and Renault do not send back to Paris for a replacement. Prost is fastest on Friday afternoon, and Arnoux is second and they are both so much faster than the rest that it is almost embarrassing. On the second afternoon of qualifying the team opt out officially from using qualifying tyres and get on with some race preparation testing. For once the BMW engines are proving reliable but the Brabham chassis are not working too well, there being an imbalance of all the variables which Gordon Murray cannot sort out. On the second afternoon both drivers use the super-light T-car to record their times, and Patrese is fastest of the day, but still a long way behind the Renault times of the day before. With a number of downhill corners that fall away it is not surprising that many of the drivers are whining about too much understeer. There would have been something very wrong if they have had too much oversteer. Canard fins on the nose cone are back in fashion, having been gradually discarded in the interest of speed on the straight and unimpeded air-flow to the underneath of the side-pods. Lauda is so satisfied with his Friday performance (fourth place on the grid) that he does not bother to do any practice on Saturday afternoon. There is another blank space on the grid when the race starts on Sunday afternoon, for the Ensign has engine trouble during the morning warm-up and the engine change takes too long and Guerrero misses the assembly procedure and has to start the race from the pit lane after everyone has gone. It does him little good for the engine that has been put in is a tired old nail (it is all the team have left) and it expires within a few laps.

On paper the Renaults are going to run away with this race, but that has been the scene on paper many times this year. The Brabham-BMWs cannot match their pace, not even Piquet who is on half a tank of petrol and preparing for the pit-stop routine. Patrese is not even in the picture for he is with a full tank and planning to go through non-stop, providing the BMW engine permits it. In Austria the Williams team have shown clearly what they have been up to. By a process of trial and error and some calculation and measurement they have come up with a set-up for the FW08 whereby they sacrifice a bit of potential in the early stages of the race in return for having the car in really cracking form in the latter half of the race. It is all tied in with weight-distribution, ride-height, under-car ground-effects, tyres choice and a balance of numerous variables. A car can never be perfect all the time, for conditions and variables must change throughout the race, with petrol being used up, tyres wearing down, brakes wearing out and so on. They have devised a formula for the FW08 whereby it is at its racing best towards the end of the race, and for this they must have a driver who can guarantee to be in a similar state. This they have in Keijo Rosberg, for the stocky little Finn has remarkable durability and can go as hard on the eightieth lap as he can on the first lap, which not many of the drivers can guarantee to do. While Prost cruises round in the lead, looking totally unassailable, Rosberg is speeding up as the race goes on. He is battling with Lauda and they both have a bad time when they come to lap de Cesaris, for the Alfa Romeo driver refuses to let them by and causes a lot of ill-feeling among his associates. They get by eventually, and in the closing stages Rosberg is really flying and hauls in the two Renaults in a most impressive manner.


By this time Prost is in a bit of trouble with the handling of his Renault as a side-skirt had broken up and the all-important down-force is leaking out. More to the point, he is getting near the end of the life of his Michelins so can do little to stave off the approach of Rosberg and the Williams FW08. Arnoux has had a long spell in third place while Piquet is making up time before his pit stop, but once the Brabham goes in for petrol and tyres, Arnoux is back in a safe second place. As Rosberg is catching the Renaults in the last ten laps of the race it looks as though Arnoux might catch the ailing Prost, but then Arnoux’s fuel injection system goes on the blink and after a quick stop for some more petrol he goes on again only to have the engine die on him half-way round the next lap. On lap 79, with one to go, Rosberg catches the leading Renault and dives through on the inside of the downhill left-hander on the back of the circuit, in the most beautiful maneuver and leads the Renault for the remaining lap and a half, much to the consternation of the partisan crowd. Actually he leads the Renault for two and a half laps, for after nearly stopping the race at 78th laps the organizers then miss the leader at the end of lap 80 and give him the chequered flag at 81st laps! The Swiss have not run a full Grand Prix since 1954. This is Rosberg’s first Grand Prix win, and is thoroughly deserved, not only because he has looked like winning a race all season, but because he played the Williams tactics to perfection and his driving in the closing laps was a joy to watch. Those drivers who know about these things will tell you that you must drive ground effect  cars without sliding them, otherwise you wear out the rubbing strips on the side-skirts and ground effect will not work if the car is sliding, they will also tell you how you cannot allow the modern tyres to reach break-away point, for cornering power is so high that you would never regain control.

Obviously Rosberg has not been listening to them, for he gave a superb exhibition of old-fashioned driving over the limit of adhesion and yet not losing control. In fact, he was in just such a situation when he took the lead from Prost who had run a bit wide. It was stirring stuff. He has now won his first Grand Prix and he won it well, but he is still 18 wins behind Niki Lauda, who comes home a shrewd third, only Rosberg, Prost and Lauda completing the full distance. If heroes are made from non-winners, then Nigel Mansell does well to climb up from last place on the grid to eighth place and Piquet finishes fourth after making a very quick pit stop for petrol and new tyres, but Patrese’s fifth place is not very inspiring. To say that Watson was not inspiring would be to upset his many followers, but an early charge past a number of lesser lights saw him ruin a side-skirt and he had to make a long pit stop for repairs and new tyres, so he finishes well down in 13th place. Daly has all the usual excuses as to why he didn’t beat Rosberg, especially having beaten him by a gnat in qualifying and the Talbot-Ligier-Matra lot are their usual shambles, Laffite giving up in disgust at the poor handling of his JS19. Neither of the Tolemans finishes, Fabi stopping when the water temperature begins to soar and Warwick coming to a stop with a dead engine. The Arrows team produced a brand-new design called the A5, which they freely admit is an orange and white Williams FW08 (why copy the wrong car when you can see that the FW08 is a good one to copy) and Marc Surer pedalled it round quite effectively on its debut, but Baldi did not qualify his A4. The second French Grand Prix of 1982, called the Swiss Grand Prix, was not an earth-shattering affair and on reflection Renault would have been better off without it, but it put new heart into the Williams team and gave Rosberg the win he’s been deserving all season, for he has been driving his heart out ever since Frank Williams first let him sit in one of his cars.


If some of the other drivers drove hard and fast like Rosberg, even with uncompetitive cars, we would have some good racing. But through it all the polished style of the real professional still shines brightly - and who is that, Niki Lauda of course, he is the only standard we have left at the moment. With one opponent less, Keke Rosberg drove a spirited and fortunate race. He risked ending up off the track by overtaking De Cesaris, who had already been lapped, and then attacked without sparing himself. The Williams car responded perfectly to his demands and proved to be an extremely reliable machine. Besides, it's enough to do the calculations: Rosberg has nine placings to his credit so far, considering that he didn't take part in the San Marino Grand Prix and was disqualified in Brazil for the famous underweight issue. Out of the fourteen races run, therefore, a more than flattering balance, which justifies his position as leader. It can therefore be said that Keke Rosberg has put a big gamble on the 1982 world title. The Swiss Grand Prix not only brought the Finnish driver to the top of the classification with 3 points lead over Pironi, but also reduced to four, including himself, the number of drivers who still had a chance to win the title. Now that the injured Ferrari driver is out of the way, only Prost, Lauda and Watson have a theoretical chance of overtaking their Williams rival. Theoretically, not even a second place at Monza would give Rosberg mathematical success if one of his direct rivals wins the Italian Grand Prix. Only if the Finn were to retire in a fortnight time on the Monza circuit, or if he did not collect any points, the title could be put back in play. On the opposite case, Prost, who is currently the best placed of the pursuers, will have to hope for two successive victories in as many races still to be run in order to get into first place. Everything, in short, plays in favor of the new leader of the world classification. The winner gives out smiles to everyone, but his statements is very calm:


"I haven't won yet, because there are two races left. I won't feel comfortable either at Monza or Las Vegas. I don't really care about finally winning a race, but I do care about the world title. I knew I would get there one day or another".


Frank Williams' commentary is particularly interesting:


"Rosberg may become World Champion, but he will only be a terrible champion next year. He is indeed maturing, and I believe he has the skills and talent to go down in motor racing history".


René Arnoux, who had just returned to the pits, was very angry and made not very flattering statements about his team:


"They told me it was the fuel pump's fault; but I couldn't verify that. The only thing I know for sure is that if the car had worked to the end I could have won nine points because Rosberg would never have overtaken me. If Prost had stayed in the race, though, I would have let him win, because that was the terms of the agreement".


His teammate, Alain Prost, made a laconic comment:


"I had a problem with a miniskirt right away. Then, towards the end of the race, I spun on the track because of these problems. The action damaged the aerodynamics of the car even more and it became undrivable. I had to give away to Rosberg without being able to defend myself. Anyway, second place is better than the misses".


If Rosberg didn't take it easy on De Cesaris ('When he obstructed me in the overtaking move he did a foolish thing and I was prepared to push him off the track'), there was no lack of lively exchanges between the Italian drivers either. In fact, Alboreto accused Patrese of obstructing him for a long part of the race.


"He never let me pass, and in the end he even threw me off the track. He's always the same, he only thinks about himself and can even be incorrect".


And Patrese replies saying:


"Alboreto couldn't pass me and tried to do so in an irregular way, wrongly. He ended up off the track, spinning, and it was all his fault".


Before the start of the race, around midday, all Ferrari's men left the circuit: it was a sad, almost painful departure. After removing the tents and loading the vans, the Modenese team left Dijon with a load of sighs and regrets. There will be a lot to do in the next few days, but the goal of the season, the world title, is now definitely gone; at most you can still fight for the constructors' title, but it isn't quite so prestigious. Those in charge of the Italian team are now faced with a very challenging task: finding a driver to contest the last two races. In fact, it isn't one hundred percent certain that Patrick Tambay will be able to complete the season, although there are reasonable hopes. Obviously, the search for a temporary substitute wasn't easy, and the last name mentioned was the English Rupert Keegan, who was currently racing with March. He is a driver with a certain experience, but certainly not a champion; co-owner of an airline company, Keegan has been occasionally active in Formula One. However, there aren't many other possibilities left. It seems increasingly difficult to reach an agreement with Carlos Reutemann, the only driver still available who can guarantee a certain level of professionalism, and it is not even excluded that Ferrari, given the result of the Swiss Grand Prix, may decide to give up, for reasons of majeure force, the last two races.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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