In its wanderings in the United States, looking for a stable venue for a Grand Prix, Formula 1 arrived on Sunday, July 8, 1984 in Dallas, where the ninth round of the World Championship was scheduled. In the capital of Texas, sadly made a name for the assassination of President John Kennedy, known for his extravagant and very rich oil tankers, relaunched worldwide by the television series starring the Ewing family of the popular, loved and hated J.R., the automotive circus is awaited with much curiosity. And of course, as a major business, it expects a significant financial return, after an investment exceeding, globally, 5.000.000 dollars. Not for nothing, a grandstand ticket for the ride costs up to 150 dollars.
Obviously none of the protagonists of the world championship knows the Dallas track. So much so that - first and only time in the season - will be allowed to make a series of free workouts on Thursday. All teams are concerned, as the lack of indications, and references, may provide any surprise. Although it is not difficult to predict that the fight will still be limited to the teams that dominated the first part of the season, McLaren and Brabham, with Lotus and Ferrari in the role of outsiders. The biggest enemy for everyone, however, will be the heat. In Dallas the average temperature is close to 40 degrees with a very high humidity. Not for nothing, the race will be held at 11:00 in the morning, while the warm-up will take place at 7:00 a.m. and will force drivers, mechanics and technicians to a raise that, at least the first, they are not used to.
In a similar climate turbo engines will certainly not be comfortable and will be able to prevail who will adopt special measures for cooling. On a competitive level, the challenge in Dallas is based on the pursuit that Nelson Piquet is successfully implementing against Prost and Lauda. If the Brabham driver, after winning consecutively in Montreal and Detroit, manages to do three of three, McLaren rivals will start hard times.
"If I don’t get a hit yet, I can kiss the title fight goodbye. I have to hook Prost and Lauda to the top of the world ranking, and try to recover the margin of detachment that I have inflicted in the first races of the year. It won’t be easy, but I’ll try. I know very well that everyone here wants to win, that McLaren hopes to inflict the decisive blow on opponents, that many teams believe they can achieve a prestigious result for a relaunch. But I can’t give anything because time plays in favor of my opponents. Consequently I will be forced to attack deeply".
The circuit (3.901 metres) is located in the fairgrounds. After Watklns Glen (permanent circuit), Long Beach and Detroit (city tracks) and Las Vegas (a huge car park), this time a new group of organizers followed a different path to prepare the track. The specially made asphalt tape was placed in Fair Park, the fairgrounds, where among others there are the famous Cotton Bowl, the football stadium, and several museums. This unique circuit has been approved by experts in the International Automobile Federation.
In a city where the unit of measurement is the million dollars, it’s no surprise that two people have invested large sums of money to host Formula 1. Nor is it any wonder that Donald R. Walker, a 40-year-old real estate agent, and Larry Waldrop, 38-year-old, president of a construction company, to which Carroll Shelby is associated, all advised by Chris Pook, the organizer of the US race, turn in Long Beach, in less than one hundred and forty days they set up at Fair Park a track of 3.901 meters and all the facilities needed to run the Formula 1 cars.
It is typical of Dallas and Texas to act quickly and without limitations of means: time is money. No one wants to hide the truth. The arrival of the world championship is considered a bargain, an investment that must give its results, even in terms of image, to one of the richest communities in the world. For this reason everything was done quickly. And the circuit, forged with asphalt, iron and concrete, was built among the existing structures. A pond, museums, exhibition halls and even the Cotton Bowl, the famous stadium of the Cow-boys football team, are surrounded by the track.
The figures are impressive, especially when you consider that the idea came to Walker and Waldrop, immediately nicknamed W&W, in the spring of 1983, that the announcement of the candidacy as world proof was given in August last year, and that work began on February 16, 1984. Twenty-five thousand tons of asphalt, two hundred people at work for two and a half months without stops (cost $ 1.500.000), hundreds of concrete blocks weighing four tons each for a total length of 8 kilometers, 30.000 meters of guardrail, and 7.000 tires used as protection.
Apparently the track seems rather edgy, but the technicians say that you can get averages around 150 km/h, that is higher than those of Monte-Carlo and Detroit. It is difficult to say, a priori, if it is a valid and interesting circuit. Only the drivers who will take to the track on Thursday, July 5, 1984 will be able to express a judgment. For the moment it is better to abstain, even if it is clear that some problems may emerge. Formula 1 in the city is spectacular, but its natural home is in racetracks. However, smiling Donald R. Walker says:
"I was excited to see these cars running through the streets of my city, and then I thought you could try. I’ve always liked motorsport. I’m president of the Can-Am Association of Dallas Motorsport, I have a team and I’m a member of an IMSA team. My dream, however, is to come to Italy to participate in the famous historic Mille Miglia with my Ferrari 340 spider, identical to the one that was brought to the race in 1953 by Giuseppe Farina".
It is to be hoped - but the counter-test will unfortunately take place only when the cars will go on track - that the mistakes of Detroit have not been repeated, and that above all we have taken care to arrange the emergency vehicles (especially the cranes) in crucial points, to intervene quickly and avoid dangerous interruptions. In drawing the track the American experts have tried, to the limit of the possibilities, to imitate some traits of the most known European aerodromes, placing at the end of the straights faster than the appropriate escape routes. Meanwhile, Tuesday, June 26, 1984, from Maranello, at 6:30 pm, a sudden communiqué arrives:
"Upon returning from the first two North American races, I received my collaborators for an examination of the situation in the middle of the championship. And, as a first decision, I announce that Alboreto and Arnoux will drive for Ferrari also in 1985".
Enzo Ferrari reacts to the controversy and the negative results of the last races. And he does it in the best way, giving confidence to his drivers. This first measure will allow the two drivers to engage peacefully in the second part of the world championship. The constant rumors of contacts with other drivers by Ferrari certainly did not put the Italian and the French in the best mood to express themselves to the maximum. Now Alboreto and Arnoux will have to answer with facts. It is also to be hoped that their confirmation coincides with the restoration of normal relations with journalists, as press silence is not useful on either side.
At the same time, Enzo Ferrari’s statement suggests that this is only the first of a series of actions that will be implemented shortly, to try to overturn a situation that is certainly not brilliant, or that is still lower than expectations. It seems that, as soon as possible, in Fiorano, or on July 17, 1984 in Zeltweg free practice, a 126C4 car modified in aerodynamics and other details can make its debut. It is not even excluded - but this is an inference - that Ferrari will be able to hire a test driver in the next few days so as not to burden Arnoux and Alboreto, and to have further indications on his cars in a series of tests carried out even when the team is engaged in races.
Waiting for the start of the first tests for the United States Grand Prix, Wednesday, July 4, 1984 the streets are deserted, as we celebrate the independence day. The wealthy Texians sip their drinks-by the pools, and on ranches that are true oases in the countryside surrounding Dallas. Others seek shelter from the heat, next to the air conditioners that work continuously. Only at Fire Park there is animation. Mechanics and technicians work to prepare the cars that will take to the track on Thursday from 9:00 am to 11:00 am for a free practice session. Even the drivers who, with large private cars, travel the circuit for a first contact come to the point. Niki Lauda also arrives, coming from Tucson (Arizona) where he has taken a course of qualification to fly a Lear 36, the new jet that he intends to buy for over $ 5.000.000.
"I had a terrible accident, but luckily I was only on the flight simulator".
The Austrian tests the track at the limit of the possibilities of the rented American car, that is at a very slow pace. But he only does a couple of laps before being chased and blocked by a police car, with sirens deployed. The sheriff, a man with a gun in his cowboy holster, quotes the former World Champion:
"What do you do, because you travel 30 miles an hour? Don’t you know that the limit is 20?"
Lauda is embarrassed, surprised:
"Actually, I’m a Formula 1 driver. I’m testing the circuit".
The policeman’s face gets dark:
"Give me your license".
Niki touches the back pocket with his hand, and then admits:
"I left her at the hotel".
The man seems not to believe his ears:
"Without a license? I have to arrest you, let’s go to the judge right away".
Lauda turns red:
Fortunately, however, some characters of the organization intervene, and the policeman, albeit reluctantly, is reassured:
"All right, she gets away with it this time, but remember: 20 miles per hour, otherwise I’ll take her to prison immediately".
The pilot bows, then nods:
"Okay, I’ll go 18 miles".
And it starts again traveling at no more than 30 km/h; a banal, but significant, episode that happened to the McLaren rider (even Arnoux, as it happened in Lauda, will be stopped by the police twice, while trying the new track of Dallas with a rental car). Here in Texas, as in all the United States, you don’t mess with speed limits and with the police. Not even if you’re a pilot. From what happened we can also understand how the World Championship has arrived in a country where some sports are unknown, where Formula 1 is considered as a novelty, a curiosity, at most like the show of a famous singer. Yet, starting from Thursday, the protagonists of the championship will have to launch themselves on a track that seems very dangerous, where an important part of the world title is at stake.
The day before is spent chatting: the questions are different. The first concerns Piquet. Will the Brazilian be able to repeat the exploits of the first two North American races? Or will it be the McLaren of Prost and Lauda turn again? Or will it be Lotus or Renault? The focus is also on Ferrari, which has developed three cars with Magneti Marelli-Weber integral electronic injection. The confirmation by the Modena manufacturer of Arnoux and Alboreto for 1985 has caused a lot of dissatisfaction in many drivers, who aspired to the possibility of an engagement in Mannello. These include Niki Lauda.
There is also talk of a possible departure of Mauro Forghieri and the assumption of the Frenchman Ducarouge as a possible substitute for the technical summit, there is mention of internal struggles in Maranello. But it’s always like this when things aren’t going well. Of course there is that Ferrari is working to get positive results. It now seems certain that next Wednesday, in the free practice of Zeltweg (Austria), 126 C4 modified aerodynamics and cooling systems will debut. Will this be the occasion for the Ferrari rescue? Difficult answer to this question, but the team of Maranello is playing in this American Grand Prix many of its cards for the championship 1984.
After a season spent halfway through the ups and downs, with the only joy to Zolder thanks to Alboreto, the Maranello team must definitely get a positive result. And a positive result is a victory. You don’t need to place. The track is unknown, but McLaren, and the Brabham - which mounts a new oil cooler, smaller than the previous, which involves a new design of the front of the car, and leading to Dallas Corrado Fabi, replacing his brother, Teo Fabi - go strong, Lotus and Renault are contemplating revenge, but Ferrari cannot fail. Nobody talks, nobody wants to say exactly what will happen, make predictions, because these are the team orders. Only René Arnoux, tanned, after a holiday in Mexico, admits half-heartedly that he has belligerent intentions.
"I will certainly give it my all, even if this has been my commitment from the beginning. The opponents are good, the other cars are strong, but I have to say that on the city tracks I’ve always been pretty good. So I think I can fight for victory, at least as far as I’m concerned. In Detroit I made a stupid mistake, it was foolish to attack immediately from the beginning. But how could I know that the race would end with only six cars at the finish line?"
Arnoux, therefore, wants to launch himself in the fight for the world title, opposing Piquet, Lauda and Prost. Di Alboreto does not speak at all. The two Ferrari drivers are quite friendly, they exchange information, they put the cars together, to the limit of their technical knowledge and their sensitivity, but it is clear that they are also rivals with regard to the score in the world ranking. Arnoux, however, thinks only to make his own way, not to hinder the team’s plans, to try to deserve the trust that Enzo Ferrari has granted him, confirming it for 1985.
"It is clear that the fact of staying in Mannello for at least another year gives me a charge that maybe I did not have before. I will do my best to repay this confirmation, and I am convinced that you will not regret having me on the team for another year. The car can be competitive, we shouldn’t have big problems. In Detroit you could get a great result. It went badly, we closed the chapter, let’s think about the future".
Starting from the United States Grand Prix, the Arrows definitively abandoned Ford Cosworth engines, to switch to BMW engines (Marc Surer was also given the A7 model, instead of the A6), while the Spirit returned to the use of the Hart engine, and RAM changes the geometry of the suspension. In this Grand Prix, Niki Lauda will celebrate his 150th race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, while Michele Alboreto will touch fifty.
Everything seems ready to start a new race weekend in the United States. And, instead, Formula 1 enters again in chaos: Friday, July 5, 1984 you come to create the possibility that the Grand Prix in Dallas is not carried out. In fact, a real tug of war between the organizers, headed by Don Walker, and the Constructors' Association, which has the support of the FIA. The reason for the war is the decision-making power for the Grand Prix. Texas executives say that the law is theirs, while the Builders Association responds that the organizers must simply manage the event, but that all initiatives regarding entry permits and safety are up to those who own the world championship. A real problem, even lawyers get into.
Bernie Ecclestone, the Foca representative, asks all the teams if they are willing to desert the race and gets an affirmative answer. If no solution is found to the problem by Saturday, the Grand Prix will be canceled. In addition to this problem, the free practice held during the morning began with over two and a half hours of delay, as the organizers are still struggling with the arrangement of the track. Some escape routes are too narrow and in the roads used to create the circuit there are manholes, which cars take away from their headquarters: it is therefore necessary to ensure that they are welded. He admits Elio De Angelis:
"I feel ridiculous running on this circuit. We are really like the beasts performed in a circus. But what do you want? A strike, a resounding protest? We would like again to put the image of Formula 1, that is of our work. But it is time to finish it. They no longer have to put us in front of the facts. For next year, before drafting the calendar of the championship we will try to make us feel".
The opinion of Michele Alboreto is identical:
"I am one of those who came to see the circuit. I was invited to Dallas, they showed me the area where the track was going to be, they put a beautiful drawing before my eyes. What could I do? On paper it looked like an interesting track. And then we trusted Derek Ongaro, the Federation liaison for these operations. But it’s worse than Detroit, because at least there if you hit a wall, you did it at 150 km/h. Here are straights where in the fifth you get to 280 km/h. What will happen? How many cars will be destroyed? An incredible situation".
Alboreto hopes, however, that the Grand Prix held in Dallas will close positively for him and Ferrari. The Italian driver is more serene regarding the situation in the team: the confirmation for next year has given him the charge. The same goes for René Arnoux. The Frenchman received a telex from the House of Maranello, while he was on vacation in Mexico.
"I had to read it five times, because I didn’t believe my eyes. I am very happy with this decision, which allows me to race without any other thoughts on my mind. I want to thank the engineer Ferrari as soon as possible, in person. But the best way to repay the trust gained would be to bring home a good result in this ninth round of the World Championship. I don’t want to make any predictions, but the car in Detroit was fine, and that gives me hope. On the circuit I agree with all my colleagues: it’s crazy".
While Formula 1 lives other hours of anguish, since it is not known if the race will be held, a terrifying heat - 42 degrees in the shade, 60 on the asphalt - heavily affects the first day of qualifying. A difficult day for everyone, full of accidents and interruptions. The circuit proved to be dangerous, so much so that Martin Brundle, who finished against the protections with his Tyrrell after just four minutes from the start of the timed tests, seems to report the fracture of his left ankle and was admitted to Baylor Hospital. The car is practically destroyed, since it moves a block of heavy concrete in the impact of some tons.
They are also victims of accidents Niki Lauda, who reports a contusion to the calf and almost destroys his McLaren, Alliot that seriously damages his RAM, and for this he will not be able to take part in the race, and Arnoux. The Frenchman, however, only breaks the rim of the right rear wheel and the spoiler of his Ferrari. Lotus dominated the first races, placing Mansell in first place and De Angelis in second. Ferrari did well with Arnoux in third, while Alboreto got the ninth time. Ayrton Senna also made an excellent finish, with Toleman in fifth position. Brabham was in trouble with Piquet in twelfth place, behind Corrado Fabi. Piquet, in particular, is unable to cope with this heat, which prevents him from driving to the maximum of his abilities.
In the second qualifying round there will be an even more intense duel, with the Lotus always in the role of more competitive cars. McLaren, on the other hand, are in a back-up position, together with Ferrari. Alain Prost, world leader, with three wins to his name, also hopes to overtake the United States Grand Prix at least with a finish that allows him to maintain a reasonable margin of advantage over his opponents in the fight for the title.
In the second qualifying round there will be an even more intense duel, with the Lotus always in the role of more competitive cars. McLaren, on the other hand, are in a back-up position, together with Ferrari. Alain Prost, world leader, with three wins to his name, also hopes to overtake the United States Grand Prix at least with a finish that allows him to maintain a reasonable margin of advantage over his opponents in the fight for the title.
"After a brilliant start to the season, our team, as expected, has perhaps suffered a small drop. We are not in crisis at all, but we cannot delude ourselves that we are always dominating. For this reason, also in Dalfas I will try to get the maximum result, that is to get in the points. Not even another first place is excluded, but I would be content to get to the finish line among the best''.
The McLaren driver does not underestimate the return of Piquet, and the possibility that the Brazilian could once again become his number one rival.
"I knew very well that sooner or later someone would assume the role of direct antagonist of me and Lauda. It is natural that this is Nelson, a World Champion with a very competitive car. Of course I fear it, but at the same time I must make my way, without looking at others. It is clear that if I am in the ideal position, I will try to strike a decisive knockout. It is however difficult to make predictions for a race that takes place on a track that none of us knows deeply. It will be problematic to exploit the car one hundred percent, there will be physical problems: driving here is tiring, and the environmental conditions are terrible for the heat. In short, a race that once again is a lottery".
According to Prost, however, the decisive turning point will be the return of Formula 1 to Europe.
"The Dallas Grand Prix can be considered an atypical race, during which you can also have surprises. But starting with Brands Hatch no mistakes will be allowed. I think that McLaren will still have some superiority in the classic circuits, unless some other team makes remarkable progress. However, we are also working to develop our cars. I hope that in the next races there will be many competitive cars and that Ferrari, Renault and Lotus will return to the top. They could be valuable allies against Piquet, preventing him from continuing the series of victories".
At the top of the ranking of the first qualifying day, as mentioned, there are the two Lotus, with Elio De Angelis, second, behind team-mate Migel Mansell. The Italian driver could also record the best time, thus obtaining the pole position: but, just in the last laps he found himself in front of the Ferrari of Arnoux, which travels slowly due to the puncture of a tire.
"I don’t understand why the Frenchman didn’t give me the way. I had let it pass just a few minutes before. This is not how you do it, you should respect the other riders and especially look in the mirrors. There was the risk of an accident for both of us, the point where Arnoux blocked me was very dangerous. We hope that he realizes what he has done, and that he will not repeat such an action".
Elio De Angelis dreams of the first win of the season. He has come close several times to achieving success, he has always placed himself, but he has never achieved the satisfaction of repeating Zeltweg’s feat when he beat Rosberg. The Roman driver knows he has a perfect car, the Lotus with Renault engine developed by the French technician Gerard Ducarouge, and does not want to miss the opportunity. But the risks are many, everyone wants to fight, Prost tries to take advantage to continue his march towards the world title. So, aiming for success will be difficult for everyone.
While the first round of tests ends, the battle between Don Walker and Bernie Ecclestone has a positive end: the Texan businessman has the better of the president of the Seal in the argument that Thursday had even questioned the dispute of the race. The two have found an agreement but the loser is Ecclestone, as the organizers manage to maintain all the decision-making powers, especially with regard to the issuance of entrance passes to the circuit, at the origin of the dispute.
Don Walker, through his lawyers and his insurers, demonstrates to Ecclestone that the management of the coupons belongs to him by right because, otherwise, if they were administered by the Seal as it happens in all other circuits, insurance taken out to protect the public and professionals would not apply. The organizers speak of total victory, while the president of the Foca declares that he has found a compromise.In fact, for the first time, Ecclestone had to bend to the will of others. The threat of not contesting the race then fell.
For the first time in the season, everyone can win in Formula 1. This is the only valid prediction that can be exposed, at the end of the qualifying held Saturday, July 7, 1984, relative to the ninth round of the World Championship. The United States Grand Prix has no favorites: it is a race conditioned by environmental factors, that is, by the torrid heat and the danger of the track. There is a further demonstration in the second day of practice, because only three drivers - Warwick, who goes down with the Renault from sixth to third place bypassing Arnoux, Boutsen and Surer, manage to improve their performance. The two Lotus cars of Nigel Mansell and Elio De Angelis, which start in first and second position, do not even get on track.
It is clear that this time the black British cars could make the big hit in this lottery of risk, but there are too many unknowns on their path. The Italian driver, among other things, in an exit of the track in the free practice session of the morning, ends up against a low wall and brings a bruise to the right foot. Niki Lauda is better. The Austrian wanted to hold a meeting of the drivers to decide to reduce the length of the race or even not to race, but after doing some polls with colleagues is forced to give up.
Too many interests at stake, too many drivers in discord with each other, ready to take advantage of the possible defection of some adversary. Meanwhile, the doctors of the hospital in Dallas report that Martin Brundle has suffered not one, but two fractures to both ankles, so he will have to stay still at least until the Italian Grand Prix. However, the United States Grand Prix is likely to be one of the most tormented races in the history of Formula 1, due to the environmental conditions and the difficulties of the track. For men and cars it will be an incredible stress. There is a fear that some drivers will faint or feel bad about the heat. In this connection, Nigel Mansell stated:
"We measured the temperature of the cockpit of my Lotus as I launched into the circuit: it reaches and exceeds 55 degrees. A Grand Prix like this can lose even three or four pounds of body weight. I think it will be a terrible race".
Riders look for remedies, ingesting drinks with mineral salts, taking liquids from special thanks with a straw attached to the helmet to prevent dehydration. Keke Rosberg does even more: starting from Detroit, the Williams driver tests a refrigeration system in the helmet (in a serpentine passing icy water). In addition, the technicians install additional air intakes on the cars in order to ventilate the interior.
Problems that will not touch the rich Texians, who can enjoy the spectacle of Formula 1 in their suites located in the most interesting points of the path. Some people rented tents with air conditioning for $25.000. The service also includes a meal, with different menus every day. Friday Texas lunch with grilled meat and corn, Saturday spicy Mexican food, Sunday fine French cuisine. In memory of those who follow Formula 1, since 1950 there has never been a race in these conditions. Not even in Brazil and South Africa, where besides there is the advantage of racing in permanent racetracks. Says Leo Mell, Head of Racing at Goodyear:
"In over twenty years we had never recorded such temperatures. The tires almost boil on the asphalt, which reaches and exceeds 60 degrees. The qualifying tires degrade in less than a lap. They will all be forced to use very hard compounds".
The United States Grand Prix has other questions. The circuit measures exactly 3901 meters and the race has been programmed on 77 lamps plus the reconnaissance one. This means that we will have to cover more than 304 kilometers, with the 220 liters of petrol allowed. This means that some cars may not reach the finish line, because of the high consumption. On the contrary, it is not unlikely that the race will be interrupted before the limit set, as provided for in the regulation, at the end of the two hours from the start. At a hypothetical average of 1'40"0 per lap, in fact, it would take longer. And it is not even excluded that the record of negative cars reached the end (five, for competitions with twenty-six competitors): consumption, breakages, any accidents will most likely turn this pseudo Grand Prix into a dramatic elimination test.
Sunday, July 8, 1984 the pre-race heating is fixed for 7:30 a.m., since the estimated time for the start of the race is 11:00 a.m. But the track situation is extremely critical, even worse after the dispute of a Can-Am race; some workers therefore try to fix the track with quick-setting cement.In the meantime, to ensure that these works can take place, the warm up is canceled, and the drivers, with Lauda and Prost in the lead, ask for the cancellation of the Grand Prix. Bernie Ecclestone, however, refused the proposal but agreed to reduce the race to 68 laps, against 78 laps, and the race director allowed the drivers three warm-up laps, before positioning themselves on the grid. Just in the morning, Bernie Ecclestone tells Niki Lauda, trying to relieve him of his concerns about the extreme heat that affects the temperature of the asphalt:
"I’ll fix it".
After that, he calls several trucks, containing ice cubes, which are deposited along the entire road of the circuit, with the only result that the latter completely moistens, without solving the problem.
"Bernie, your stupid ice cubes won’t solve the problem".
He exclaimed Niki Lauda, who obtained as the only solution, from Ecclestone, the spilling of hot water along the asphalt. Nervous and tense for the numerous discussions in the morning with the organizers, the drivers lined up regularly. Arnoux was supposed to start in fourth, second row. Instead, before the reconnaissance lap, the car doesn’t start. This is because, during the ignition phase, the driver leaves the gear in gear and the pneumatic gun, which must start the engine, loosens, forcing the mechanics to take another one to the pits. This operation causes, of course, a delay that forces the pilot to start in last position, when later will be given the start. Arnoux, however, did not lose courage and immediately began his pursuit.
At the start Mansell managed to keep the lead of the race, followed by teammate De Angelis, Warwick, Senna, Lauda and Prost, and Rosberg, Alboreto and Tambay. In the first lap Rosberg passes Prost, while on the second lap Senna bumps a wall, puncturing a tire, and is forced to return to the pits, after having to make a very slow lap, which takes him away from the leading positions. The race direction sends the safety car on track, to allow the recovery of the car of François Hesnault, also a victim of an accident, but the race is not neutralized or suspended.
During the fourth lap, Warwick gets rid of De Angelis and leads behind Mansell. On the seventh lap Lauda also passed De Angelis, who had a technical problem with the injection. Warwick approaches Mansell, while behind him Lauda precedes De Angelis, Rosberg, Prost, Tambay and Piquet. On the eleventh lap Warwick tried to overtake Mansell, but, due to cold brakes, his Renault spun, and hit the barriers. The Briton is forced to retire.
On the twelfth lap Elio De Angelis resumes the second position, and begins to menacingly chase his teammate, Nigel Mansell, who is suffering from problems with the gearbox. Lauda, with engine problems, gave the third place to Keke Rosberg. De Angelis leads to the attack of Mansell, who resists the lead; on the nineteenth lap the Roman driver must, in turn, suffer the attack of Rosberg, who conquers the second position. Meanwhile, Prost passes Lauda.
Keke Rosberg attacked Mansell on lap 20 and 21, but the Englishman defended himself, closing every gap. The Finnish driver is waiting for a few laps, trying again to attack Mansell, but he is still very hard in his defense, so much so that Rosberg complains about the obstructionist tactics of the Lotus driver. In the thirtieth lap Alain Prost passed De Angelis, for the third position. After three laps the Frenchman, taking advantage of another unsuccessful attempt by Rosberg, managed to pass the Williams driver. Prost, due to a driving error, after a couple of laps he again gave up the second position to Rosberg.
During the thirty-sixth lap Nigel Mansell touched a low wall with the rear wing, finally allowing Rosberg to take the lead. The Englishman still tries to brush up on the Finnish, almost touching the collision, and still causing the protests of the Williams driver. After only one lap Mansell gave up the position also to Prost, De Angelis and Lauda, due to very deteriorated tyres. On lap 39 he was forced to pit, returning to the race in seventh place. On the same lap René Arnoux took fifth place at the expense of Nelson Piquet.
On lap 42 Niki Lauda passed Elio De Angelis who, after four laps, was overtaken by Arnoux. In the same lap Nelson Piquet retired, due to an accident. Shortly afterwards, on lap 47, Senna also withdrew due to contact against the wall. During the 49th lap Prost overtakes Rosberg, after a mistake of the Finn, while, on lap 51, Arnoux gains the third position, passing Lauda. During the fifty-fourth lap a driving error cost the withdrawal to Michele Alboreto, recently entered in the top six. The Italian driver, started in ninth place and forced to stop at the pits because of the choice of tyres, is forced to leave the car in turn 6, after touching against a low wall.
On lap 57, Turn 6 also became fatal for Alain Prost, who ended up against the barriers, breaking a suspension, and parking his McLaren alongside Alboreto’s car. Keke Rosberg returned to lead the Grand Prix. At turn 6 the two Arrows also stopped, both Marc Surer (lap 54) and Thierry Boutsen (lap 55), both by accident. Even Alain Prost, also forced to retire due to a collision against the wall, during the fifty-sixth lap did not spare the Dallas street circuit. Four laps later, Niki Lauda, third, also hit the wall of turn 6, retiring.
During the last laps René Arnoux tries to recover Keke Rosberg, but at the moment when the reports of the box point out that the gap from Williams does not decrease, the Frenchman decides to slow down and settle for second place. It is also curious what happens during the last lap: while Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michele Alboreto, Thierry Bousten, Eddie Cheever, Riccardo Patrese and Marc Surer, all sitting on the wall with the suits rolled up and shirtless watch Keke Rosberg pass by, The latter in the cockpit of his Williams, with his hand signals to his colleagues to... masturbate!
At the stroke of the two hours of the race, with a lap to go, Keke Rosberg wins for the third time in his career. The Finn brings success to the Honda engine, whose last triumph dates back to the 1967 Italian Grand Prix. René Arnoux, who started last, and Elio De Angelis complete the podium. On the last lap Mansell, fifth, hit a wall, damaging his gear. His Lotus stops a few meters from the finish; the Briton goes down from the single-seater, trying to push it to the finish, but faints from the heat. This allows Piercarlo Ghinzani to close fifth, and enter his first world points. For Osella this is the first arrival in the top six since the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix.
The drivers didn’t even want to get on track, yet they gave life to the most beautiful race of the season, conquering Texas and the whole America with an exciting race, full of twists, emotions, tension. A slaughter race, but breathtaking. At the start, given by actor Larry Hagman, no one would bet a dollar on the United States Grand Prix. In the end, on the podium, while the beautiful Sue Ellen, also the protagonist of the famous TV series named after the Texan city, kisses the drivers, it seems that they have all won. The success of Rosberg, the placement of Arnoux and De Angelis, together with the elimination of McLaren, also relaunched the fight for the title.
Now Prost is not far behind in the standings, even if the French driver’s car still showed an effective superiority until it went out of the scene. The ninth round of the championship, I mean, did not disappoint. Disputed the track, with the riders almost deciding in the morning not to take off because the organizers had been forced to redo the asphalt in the corners after a few laps, the race has touched very high peaks of show and combativeness.
Absolute featured actor of the race is Nigel Mansell. The 29-year-old English driver was in the lead from lap one to lap thirty-five, he dueled at the limit of fairness with everyone, from Rosberg to Prost, to team-mate De Angelis. Then, on the last lap, when he was struggling like a madman to keep the fifth position, he ended up with his Lotus against a wall, causing the breakage of the gearbox.
So he arrived up to a hundred meters from the finish, but the single-seater stopped and the driver fell among the cries of a crazy audience (as the Americans liked this scene that reminded the heroic times of motoring) and began to push the car. A few feet and Mansell collapsed, passed out from fatigue, stress, heat. They rescued him immediately, and an ambulance came. And little by little, the Englishman recovered. His is an epic gesture, which shows how these protagonists of motor sport are driven not only by the hunt for money, but also by a deep love for their profession.
But the Finnish driver, Keke Rosberg, is back on track. With the car sideways, and the counter-steering as his job, the Williams driver thrilled the 108.000 spectators who attended the ninth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Williams-Honda champion had not had any satisfaction this year: some placement and nothing more. Not even he hoped for a success, in a victory that, all in all, relaunches him in the world ranking, even if the hopes of final success are very few, given the contenders.
"It is clear that it will be very difficult to fit into the battle at the top. Unless the car changes face. In Dallas I was able to win the race for the mistakes of others, and because I fought like an animal. But I did not expect such a result. Our Williams is currently a difficult car to drive, very challenging and easy to betray. We are working seriously, already the day after tomorrow in Austria we will try new solutions. A different aerodynamics of the jammed suspension. We hope that everything goes well, because in this case I would really be able to say my word in the fight between Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Arnoux and De Angelis. These are the candidates for the final victory".
Keke Rosberg is the fifth winner of races, after Prost, Lauda, Piquet and Alboreto, in the current season. The Finn gave a show, he was clearly a protagonist up to the situation. But he certainly did not get his head up, although it led to the first success the Williams-Honda:
"I’m fine with such a result. With the car we have you couldn’t ask for more. It wasn’t on the road, it didn’t have grip, and it wasn’t a very good engine, either. So I could have gone a lot harder if I had been in a competitive car like we had in the past. In any case, I thank the luck that helped me. I must give a serious warning to Mr Mansell: he cannot let an opponent stay behind him for ten laps, when he realizes that the rival is faster. You saw when Prost showed up behind me and was faster, I immediately let him go. It was useless to resist and try to put out both machines. I can’t even make world speeches, because this may have been the last chance in the season to win a race. Now will come the regular and fast tracks".
The Nordic driver is an extremely sincere character. Arnoux’s finish behind him with a competitive Ferrari made him thoughtful. If the French had not had that famous problem at the start that forced him to start in last position (rupture of the pneumatic gun for starting the engine)probably would have won and by now Rosberg would have had to settle for second place.Arnoux was very good too. A mature driver, always combative but attentive and precise. He led the Ferrari as if it had been teleported, trying to ruin it as little as possible on the terrible track in Dallas, full of jumps and debris. He also touched several times against the walls, not because of him, and bent a front suspension. In the last laps he lowered the pace and settled for what he could take. But this was not only a favorable fate: the placement behind Rosberg was wanted, sought and taken by force.
Although Ferrari’s record in the long American trip is not brilliant (in three races two placings with Arnoux, fifth in Montreal and second in Dallas), there has been some progress in terms of competitiveness. Only occasional drawbacks and small troubles that, however, have affected the overall performance of the French driver and Michele Alboreto. In Dallas, for example, Alboreto could have taken a good fourth place if he hadn’t touched a wall, and Arnoux would also have been able to win if he had regularly started in the second row. Instead, the late start forced him to an incredible recovery behind Keke Rosberg and Williams-Honda. It is precisely with this argument that Arnoux opens his analysis of the situation, saying:
"I don’t think I had the gear engaged when the car was started with the pneumatic gun. After the tool was changed, the start was normal and I did not touch the gear lever. In any case it is useless to get bitter. This is just a clarification. I lost the race. Starting last gave me an unbridgeable handicap. This was a race that I could win very easily. I had only a small problem of vapor-lock, that is, difficult carburetion, due to the heat. For the rest the car proved to be perfect, as well as the tires. The track was terrible, as I had already said in the previous days. But you could not leave, the drivers must organize themselves better, discuss their issues before arriving on the circuits. It was absolutely not possible at 11:00 in the morning to refuse to run. We would all look ridiculous together. In any case, I want to issue a warning to my colleagues. Either from now on we will all act together for the common good or I, when the meeting of our association, I will go quietly on track in Fiorano to try my Ferrari".
The speech continues on the real possibility that the Frenchman can have in the fight for the world title, with his fourth place in the standings, behind Prost, Lauda and De Angelis, 12 points from the leader of McLaren. It says Arnoux:
"It will not be easy to recover. McLaren and Brabham will be the cars to beat in the next races, on very fast circuits. Prost could also win in Dallas, and in this case the hopes of overcoming him would be reduced to a minimum. The fact that Alain has retired has been a great fortune for all of us".
Six placements on nine world races, but Arnoux refuses to qualify as an accountant:
"It is clear that a driver, with the passage of time, matures and acquires experience. In this race, however, I had to attack deeply and I took many risks. I think I touched the protective walls at least five or six times and I also slightly bent the front suspension. But when I came in second position I realized that it was useless to insist, also because Rosberg was ahead and not Lauda or Prost. I settled for placement.I haven’t changed, I like to attack if the car allows and within the limits of responsibility that it entails to be Ferrari. We also need continuity. Ferrari has huge technical potential. We all have to work together. Some people say that there are internal differences, that we don’t get along. It’s normal for a team to have different discussions, different opinions. But the unique intent of my team is to win. And this is the common catalyst. If there is no criticism, if you do not try to find solutions in every direction, you remain firm. And then the commander will arrange for everyone".
Arnoux points 22.5, Alboreto at 9, with a win and eight retirements. This will bring problems in the team of Modena?
"No, Michele and I have a great relationship. It is true that everyone has their own interests and it is right that it should be so, but we are not two imbeciles making war. On Sunday, when I reached him, Michele signaled me to pass. I didn’t lose a single tenth of a second. I’m sure he’ll help me as much as he can, as I would with him in terms of sportsmanship. I do not hide that my only goal is to win the world title. I run for this and I will do what I can".
Less fortunate, however, Michele Alboreto, once again left without glory. The Italian driver, however, does not have excessive responsibilities. He went off the track, where champions like Lauda and Prost came out. A small slip and the race for him is over. But he was in trouble, he was forced to make a choice for tires that were not the most suitable. Tires are too hard, hard to keep track of. The pit stop had taken him from ninth to thirteenth place. Then he climbed up to sixth, when he had to retire. Michele promises revenge, he will try to find success, if Ferrari will allow him, in one of the next races. The Maranello team is not happy with the second place of Arnoux, does not make statements neither in the short term nor in the long term, but just waits to repeat the results. The watchword is always the same, don’t make predictions, don’t say anything challenging. It must be the races talking. Some speech, however, can be made:
"Arnoux made a wonderful race, more could not be asked after the start in last place. I must say that he was very good, both in attacking and in defending the position. A real applause for him".
Says the engineer Mauro Forghieri. For Michele Alboreto still a bad day, despite himself:
"I had tires that were not suitable for the track. For the sake of the team we had to make a different choice. René had hard tyres in the back and soft tyres in the front. I had all very resistant compounds and this caused me problems, so much so that I had to stop at the pits to change them. Then I was catching up when I made a mistake caused by a missed gear change. I basically stayed in neutral".
Alboreto was very hard with the organizers of Dallas and with the International Automobile Federation before the start. Agreed with Lauda and Prost not to run, he was forced by circumstances. But the Milanese certainly did not keep his mouth shut on this occasion and clearly said what he thought:
"They want us to run on a track like this and film us killing ourselves against a wall, and then sell the tapes to audiences who love this kind of chill. We are not in this game and we will try to take measures, even if it is difficult to have the agreement among about thirty drivers".
Alain Prost also appears very black in his face at the end of the race. The Frenchman begins to feel concern about the missed successes when they are at hand. The McLaren driver tries to blame a puncture at first, but then corrects himself at the last moment and admits:
"I touched the wheel before drilling".
Much clearer the explanation of Niki Lauda:
"I went out like a fool, I touched against the wall, it was my fault. I could take a big advantage from the fact that Prost was already out of action and instead I put myself on the same level as him".
Elio De Angelis was also not happy at all, who, once again, obtained a place but could not fight for the victory.
"I can’t be satisfied, because my car was not competitive. We put too cold gasoline, and the contrast with the ambient temperature caused some inconvenience. At the beginning the engine was running on five cylinders. I also had the wrong tyre choice. I have to accuse my teammate Mansell of having committed some - let’s call it that - naivety. He slowed me down, while he could let me pass because I was slightly faster than him. Instead he held me back and the others hit me".
Nelson Piquet was also disappointed, forced to retire due to an accident that could also have bad consequences for the driver. Fortunately, the Brazilian was able to support the car against rubber protection.
"My throttle suddenly froze; the car set off on a tangent. I had problems already in a few laps, so much so that Arnoux had been able to pass me very easily. Too bad because I interrupted a positive series. I don’t think I would have been in any case in the conditions to get a win. However, I would have settled for a placement".
Fourth after the start, Ayrton Senna, who had already managed to put himself in the spotlight in the Monaco Grand Prix, let himself be involved by the possibility of winning the third place occupied during the first laps by Warwick, exaggerating and crashing against the barriers. The Brazilian then managed to restart, but during the forty-seventh lap he was forced to retire due to an additional contact against the wall, which led to the break of the semi axle:
"The wall has moved".
Ayrton Senna says as he puts his helmet and gloves in the box, sitting down for the debriefing. Those present look at him stunned. Senna looks them in the eyes, and without indulging in repeats what he said:
"The wall has moved".
An apology made by a driver in an attempt to justify his mistake, most likely, the mechanics and men of the English team have already heard many. So original, however, probably none.
"Sure, he definitely moved...".
Pat Symonds, the track engineer of Ayrton Senna. The Briton perhaps thinks that, by agreeing with him, the Brazilian can desist from supporting the thesis of the wall, really too imaginative and absurd to be credible. The young Brazilian, however, does not want to hear the reason: that wall he hit is not in the same position as it was during the previous lap, otherwise he would certainly have avoided it by following his usual trajectory.
Convinced by the insistence of Senna and convinced of the exceptional abilities of this Brazilian guy, Symonds then decides to carry out a check: together with other men of Toleman, after the Grand Prix, The English engineer walks along the track until he meets the wall that had betrayed his pilot, and it takes only a moment to identify which is the block of cement to have caused the withdrawal of Senna. Because it is the only one that, compared to all the others, has advanced a few millimeters inside the circuit.
"It was really hot, it was a terribly difficult race. For Ayrton it was proving to be a Grand Prix with a bitter-sweet taste: qualifying had gone according to our plans, but a mistake in the race had forced him to make a comeback from the rear. He would have also hit a good result if he had not had that accident: touching the wall, he had damaged a wheel and broken the transmission shaft.At the end of the race he was literally upset, he couldn’t understand how he could touch the wall. I remember it as it was yesterday: we were sitting, we were talking during the debriefing, and he said, There’s no way I hit the wall. He moved. What do you think I said to him? Yeah, he definitely moved. It was all made of huge blocks of concrete, it was impossible. Yet he was so insistent and I had such confidence in that guy that I said: ok, to understand if what you say is true, all we have to do is go to the track and check if the wall has really moved".
Then he continues:
"I admit I thought he was bullshitting even then, but he really seemed to need to prove to me that he was right. So we went out, we got to where he had hit the wall and guess what? The wall had really moved. They had outlined the limits of the circuit with heavy concrete, but one of the drivers who had passed in that point before Ayrton had touched on one side one of the blocks making the opposite margin protrude towards the inside of the circuit by just a few millimeters.Ayrton at that stage of the Grand Prix was driving with a similar precision that those millimeters, and believe me when I tell you that we talk about at most ten, were enough to make him hit the wall rather than avoid it along its usual trajectory. That episode really opened my eyes. I had a sense that that guy was good, but in that circumstance I realized how special he was. It was unique not only his driving style, but also the conviction in his own means, the analysis of the situation and the ability with which he was able to draw conclusions: I can’t be wrong, so it must have been the wall that moved. Anybody else would have said, man, but how on earth did I make a mistake like that? But he was unmovable".
While circumstances have affected the young Brazilian driver, the Dallas Grand Prix has finally been rewarded for once even a small team like Osella. It is remarkable that, hopefully, it is not occasional. The merit of this fifth place goes also and above all to a serious driver prepared as Piercarlo Ghinzani. The Bergamasco carried out the entire race without having any indication from the onboard instruments, due to an electrical failure. Without tachometer, speed limiter, instruments to detect pressure and temperature, he drove by ear. And when he entered the box to change a rim ruined by a small bump against the guards, he had a bucket of water thrown into the cockpit to cool off the terrible heat. Even without so much sophistication, only with human qualities can good results be achieved.
The team of Ken Tyrrell is the one who will not go through a happy moment, because at the end of the race the British cars are tested. The weight of the Tyrrell is regular, but the technicians of the federation also control the water tank, inside which an unknown liquid is discovered, in which lead pellets float. Following further investigations, the Federation will find that on British cars, during the race, a topping up is carried out with this liquid containing lead pellets, which serves to enrich the air put on the aspiration trumpets, in order to delay the detonation of the engine, thus making it possible to use a greater compression ratio, obtaining greater power. After this sensational discovery, the FIA will gather to decide how to proceed against the team of Ken Tyrrell.
The success of Formula 1 in Texas has been enormous. The race was attended by 108.000 paying spectators, and in the three days of the Grand Prix almost 200.000 spectators were reached for a collection of over $ 3.000.000. The organizers realized, however, that in the coming years (an agreement had already been signed until 1987) they would have to change the track. Two dates were requested for 1985, in March and June, in order to avoid the scorching heat of July.Alain Prost paid heavily for the precarious conditions of the track and, if he had won, he would have placed a serious mortgage on the world title. It has been known that the puncture of a tire on four cars in the same curve (Prost, Lauda, Alboreto and Surer) was probably caused by an iron tube protruding from the concrete wall that delimited the roadway.
Paradoxically, the men who have benefited the most from the Dallas Grand Prix, in particular the winner Keke Rosberg and René Arnoux, will be the ones who should have the most difficulties in the upcoming races. With the arrival of permanent circuits and fast tracks, McLaren - along with Brabham, Lotus and Renault - will be the cars to beat. And this is confirmed by the fact that Ferrari and Williams begin to test today in Austria modified cars to counter the overwhelming power of opponents in terms of speed performance. The fight, therefore, will light up on all fronts, because at this point also Elio De Angelis, always very good, always regular, and Rosberg, feel part of the battle for the title. Everyone will try to take advantage of any failure of Prost, which so far has demonstrated (as happened last year) a certain psychological fragility with a drop in performance in the final season.
All these rivalries will not facilitate the work of the Drivers' Association, which on July 18, 1984, the day the Formula 1 Executive Committee meeting was convened in Paris, will have to make its voice heard after what happened in Dallas, where some drivers wanted to boycott the race. At the head of the protest movement Lauda, Prost and Alboreto, the drivers with greater sense of responsibility who do not rightly want to do the acrobats.