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#386 1983 Italian Grand Prix

2022-08-23 00:00

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#1983,

#386 1983 Italian Grand Prix

Invariably practice days is accompanied by the sound of Italian enthusiasts screaming and yelling with delight and the stands are a sea of waving Ferr

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Invariably practice days is accompanied by the sound of Italian enthusiasts screaming and yelling with delight and the stands are a sea of waving Ferrari flags, but this year both Friday and Saturday ends in an eerie silence, the whole atmosphere is flat and as we leave the circuit the crowds seem to be wandering about aimlessly or drifting off home. Friday had ended up with Nelson Piquet with fastest time and Riccardo Patrese with second fastest time, both driving Brabham BT52B cars powered by turbocharged BMW engines from Munich. The result had been greeted with an air of disbelief, but there is always Saturday afternoon qualifying, then it will be different. But Saturday is little better, though there is a moment of joy when Patrick Tambay beats Piquet’s best time, but it is short-live for Patrese goes out and beat them both to take pole-position on the grid. The disbelief when qualifying is over is something tangible. Ferrari not on pole-position at Monza! It is like saying there is no Father Christmas. The mood matches the weather - gray. But an Italian driver is on pole-position. Well, yes but he is a traitor, he drives for the hate Bernie Ecclestone who tried to get rid of Monza a year or two ago, and he drives a German BMW, well a Brabham-BMW. Throughout Friday morning testing, and qualifying in the afternoon, it is Brabham and BMW all the way, all three cars using larger turbo turbines and Brian Hart boost control valves, as he has tried at Zandvoort. Piquet does a best of 1'30"202, and Patrese does 1'30"253, and only Arnoux managed to break into the 1'30"0 bracket, but he is half a second slower, and there are four of the C3 Ferraris in the pit lane, the three seen at Zandvoort and a brand new one. Not only is the Brabham of Piquet fastest on lap time but it is also fastest through the speed trap by the finishing line with 190 mph and Arnoux can only record 185 mph. That is bad, but there is worse to come, for Lauda and Watson with Porsche power McLarens both recorded 188 mph.
 
Il Tedeschi are undermining the very morale of Italian motor racing and the only redeeming fact is that the McLaren part of the Anglo-German cars from Woking is find wanting, for what is basically an MP4 car is very short on braking and road-holding to match the power of the Porsche engine so that lap times are three seconds off the pace, but next year when the MP5 Porsche-power by McLaren appears, who knows. And the Alfa Romeos aren’t giving Ferrari much support in their hour of need. Thankfully the dread frogs are in trouble with their engines not performing properly so the despise Alain Prost is behind the Ferraris, and even behind his Americana team-mate, but those Brabhams And what about next year when Rosberg has Honda power in the new Williams. The whole world could come crashing down around our ears. Friday had been bad but Saturday morning is worse, for testing had only been under way for thirty minutes when it all stop and there is the mortifying sight of Arnoux’s Ferrari being tows back to the pits, its turbochargers having fail and then the worst sight possible, a Ferrari dangling from the hook of a breakdown lorry. Tambay tried an out-braking maneuver into the first chicane and came off second best with a trip into the sand and a bent front suspension. It is fortunate that both drivers had spare C3 Ferraris at the ready, Arnoux going out again in 068 while his regular 066 is repaired and Tambay taking out the brand new car 069, while 067 was put away round the back of the pits. In the final hour of qualifying the Brabharn team were nothing short of insolent. They just stand there and watch everyone else go out and try to beat the times Piquet and Patrese had recorded on Friday afternoon. Tambay and Arnoux are soon out there trying hard, but to no avail, Cheever tries and fails, the Alfas try, Prost tries, the Lotus-Renaults try but still the Brabharns are first and second with their Friday times. It is depressing.
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Thirty-minutes have gone, then thirty-five and Arnoux repeat his 1'30"8 of Friday, but it isn’t good enough. Then he does 1'30"7, but still a long way off. Still no Brabhams appear and Prost isn’t in the running with the Renault. Tambay goes out again and then the packs' grandstands explode. Oh joy, 1'29"650 for car number 27, Patrick Tambay is the hero of the day; that’s shown by those Brabham-BMWs. But Patrese is now out on the track, and Piquet as well. 1'29"8 for Patrese. A nice try, but not good enough and Arnoux is down to 1'29"9, now we’ll see something. Follow 1'29"122 for car number 6, that’s Patrese! Mamma Mia! And Piquet? In trouble, the demon-tweaker's spare car has given trouble and he is out in his own car and 2:00 p.m. is approaching. He does 1'30"4 and comes in, the engine isn’t right, and as the final minutes tick by he goes out in Patrese’s car but it’s too late, the chequer flag is out, it’s all over. Patrese on pole with the Brabham-BMW, Tambay second, Arnoux third and Piquet fourth, Prost fifth, de Cesaris sixth. A lot of teams will love to end up with second and third fastest times, but for the tifosi it is an afternoon of total defeat. A Brabham-BMW on pole position. Yes, we know Riccardo Patrese is a good Italian boy, but a Brabham-BMW we may as well go home, there isn’t much to hang around for. In truth there are 29 drivers hard at it for the two days, all endeavoring not to be among the three non-starters with only 26 of them allowed on the grid. For most drivers there is no problem in being in the select 26, it is just a matter of where you finish up in the list, but for some the qualifying hours are traumatic. On Friday the Honda engines in both Spirit cars give trouble and Johansson is dead last and if it rains on Saturday he will be in real trouble. The Spirit team has a brand new car with them and are hoping to finish it off at the circuit, but two broken engines in the other cars put their work schedule all out of order. On Saturday afternoon Johansson got out on the track very smartly and before any more trouble intervened he qualified comfortably in mid-field.
 
The McLaren-Porsches are well in, on the tail of the factory turbos and are indisputably fast in a straight line but are still a long way off on the rest of the requirements for front runners. There are some problems with the Bosch Motronic electrical engine management systems and at one point a systems-check instrument is plug into the electronics installation on Lauda’s car and no matter what is done the read-out panel lit up with the word Error. On another occasion there must be six engineers and mechanics looking at every part of the wiring and electronics system with a frantic air as if they had lost a micro-chip. Lauda is in the car he had driven at Zandvoort and Watson had tested at Brands Hatch, while Watson’s Monza car is the second interim car built from the bones of a Cosworth-powered MP4. In spite of small problems with the electronic management systems both engines run very reliably, and as already mentioned the cars can match anything for sheer speed, which indicates that there isn’t much wrong with the Porsche part of the car, and both drivers qualify comfortably in mid-field. While there is consternation at the front of the grid there is bewilderment at the back, for Alboreto with the new Tyrrell is in the next to last row and Jacques Laffite fails to qualify his Williams-Cosworth. The Tyrrell team got themselves in a muddle by starting off on the wrong foot as regards the initial set-up of all the available variables, and never got themselves sorted out as far as Alboreto is concern, so that Danny Sullivan ends up ahead of the Italian. In the Williams camp Rosberg is in his usual dynamic form, leading the few remaining Cosworth engine users which mean he is in sixteenth position at the end of qualifying, but Laffite has spent a lot of time testing radial-ply tyres for Goodyear and when it comes to making a serious qualifying run he simply isn’t quick enough. While the Italian fans suffer at not seeing a Ferrari on pole-position, the British fans suffer at seeing a Williams car not even in the race.
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On Sunday morning we see the sun for the first time, but it isn’t very strong and the blue sky gradually disappears behind a thin haze. It’s impossible to say whether the crowd is any less because of the outcome of practice, for whatever it’s a large crowd. Overnight some of them have expressed their disapproval of Brabham-BMW and Renault, and Piquet and Prost in particular, by painting some very obscene signs on the starting grid in front of the positions for both Frost and Piquet, while there are words of encouragement for Tambay, Arnoux and de Cesaris. There is nothing for poor lonely Riccardo Patrese on pole-position, neither encouragement nor admonition. During the break between warm-up time and the assembly on the grid Romolo Tavoni, the Autodromo director, had the rudder erased from the grid, but left the encouragement. As the cars left the pit lane there are cheers for the red ones and whistles and jeers for the other leading runners and unanimous cheering and appreciative whistles for the 26 Italian beauties that Marlboro produces to hold the assembly marker boards. Every one of the long-leg shapely girls is enough to take the mind off motor racing for even the hardest misogynist racing driver, not that there are many of those these days. While lining up on the dummy grid Goodyear people are concerne about the look of one of Arnoux’s rear tyres, so both of them change and slowly the minutes ticks by towards the 3.30 pm start. Patrese leads them all round on the parade lap, they all line up in their correct positions, the red light comes on, engines soare to high revs, the green is on and Cheever makes another meteoric start, like he had done in Holland. He swerved right, aiming down between the two rows, and nearly collected Piquet’s Brabham which is swerving to the left of Tambay’s Ferrari. Everyone got away and got through the first chicane and the two Brabhams of Patrese and Piquet are streaking away, follow by the two Ferraris.

 

At the end of the lap there is a confusion of noise for the two blue and white BMW power cars are already a long way ahead of Amoux, and Tambay in the red cars, with Cheever, de Cesaris, Prost, de Angelis and Mansell following. At the first chicane on lap 3 de Cesaris passes Cheever and promptly spin off into the sandy run-off area and out of the race, and before the leaders reappear the confine noise from the crowd burst into a unanimous roar as it’s reported on the loudspeakers that Patrese’s car is pouring out smoke. Sure enough Piquet goes by on his own and as the others follow a cloud of smoke can be seen heading for the pit lane. Car number 6 is in the middle of it but the engine expires completely before it reaches the pits. Patrese’s glory is short-lived. Seeing the demise of his team-mate, all Piquet’s mechanical knowledge and feel is put to good use and he winds down the boost pressure just enough to maintain his lead and give the engine a slightly easier time. Tambay’s Ferrari engine is a bit down on power anyway and Cheever pass him to take third place, with Prost and de Angelis not far behind the Ferrari. On lap 5 Johansson pulls the Spirit off onto the grass as the Honda engine suddenly dies with some form of electrical failure and Baldi arrives in the pit lane with smoke belching from one of the exhaust pipes of his V8 Alfa Romeo, indicative of a turbocharger failure. By this time a Piquet is firmly out in front, Arnoux is second with Cheever in third place, hanging on to the Ferrari. Tambay is fourth with Prost and de Angelis uncomfortably close behind him. Then comes Warwick in the Toleman with Watson close behind in the second of the Porsche-power McLarens. Lauda is in the pits with the Bosch people trying to cure a chronic misfire. Mansell is just managing to fend off Winkelhock who has Rosberg and Giacomelli behind him and then there is a big gap before the remainder follow in the order Surer (Arrows), Alboreto (Tyrrell), Jarier (Ligier), Boutsen (Arrows), Guerrero and Cecotto (Theodores), Sullivan (Tyrrell) and Fabi and Ghinzani (Osellas).

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In the serious part of the race are eleven 11/2-liter cars boost by turbochargers with a line 3-liter Cosworth power car hanging on to tenth place by sheer grit, but it’s a useless endeavor for Rosberg is about to be penalized a minute for disobedience at the start. At the drivers’ briefing just before the start they are told not to cross the white line that marks the track-width in the wide starting area and Rosberg has infringe the rule blatantly. The scene develops into one of a procession, head by the blue and white Brabham-BMW so there is little joy for the crowd and when de Angelis passes Prost, and then Tambay to put the Renault power Lotus 94T into fourth place there is even less joy. Lauda has joins in again on lap 9 but Watson starts lap 14 with his Porsche engine suddenly going flat as if the ignition or injection timing has gone wrong and coast to a halt, which is a pity as Wattie is getting into his stride and has whistle past Warwick’s Toleman-Hart with ease, and is lapping only half a second slower than Piquet’s leading Brabham. While lapping the tail-enders Tambay has a moment off on the grass, but it doesn't lose him any time and as half distance approaches the routine pit stops begin. Cheever is stationary at the Renault pit for 11.59 seconds at the end of lap 24 and de Angelis is at the Lotus pit for 14.24 seconds on the same lap, which drops them both back a bit, temporarily. Then Arnoux came in at the end of lap 25, for an 11.99 second stop which drops him to third place behind Tambay and Prost is in the pits at the end of lap 26, which is half-distance. His stop is a long one, of 15.78 seconds, and when he got away it’s obvious that all isn’t well for his engine don’t pick up cleanly and two laps later he is back in the pits with a loss of boost pressure, for a turbocharger unit is about to fail so that is the end of his race.

 

Warwick stops for 13.24 seconds and then the Lotus lads do a superb job when Mansell comes in and he is stationary for a mere 11.04 seconds. All this time Piquet is forging away ahead, running to Gordon Murray’s late-stop plan and on lap 29 Lauda makes his routine stop in 13.59 seconds and as he restarts he stalls the engine and roll to rest right by the Brabham pit, where they are waiting for Piquet. Many hands push the McLaren-Porsche out of the way unceremoniously to get rid of it and as Piquet ends lap 31 he is heading for the pit lane. The Brabham team’s pit work leaves everyone gasping, 10.15 seconds for four wheels and about 100 liters of petrol, and Piquet roars away back into the race before the next car is in view. The order before any pit stops is Piquet, Arnoux, Cheever, de Angelis, Tambay, Prost, Warwick, Winkelhock, Mansell, Giacomelli, and now Prost has gone and Tambay is ahead of de Angelis so it’s BMW, Ferrari, Renault, Ferrari, Lotus-Renault, Toleman, ATS-BMW, and then the ATS engine goes sick and Winkelhock retires. Piquet has everything well under control and he turns the boost down even further and settles into a comfortable cruise to the finish, regulating his pace to that of his followers. It’s all over, Ferrari isn’t going to win this Italian Grand Prix so it’s just a matter of hanging around until it’s all over. When Piquet laps Giacomelli’s Toleman-Hart the tubby little Italian latches onto the tail of the Brabham and sits in the slip-stream. At first there doesn't seem to be much point in this, but Piquet is heading towards lapping Mansell’s Lotus-Renault and Giacomelli can see the chance of picking up a place, so he hangs on splendidly. With two laps logo Piquet eases right up and lets Giacomelli go by to put himself on the same lap as the leader, but more important is the fact that he is now within striking distance marcof Mansell’s Lotus. When Piquet crosses the line to win the 54th Italian Grand Prix there are a few sporadic hand claps, even though he has driven a beautifully judge race and is the winner all the way.

 

When Arnoux crosses the line some ten seconds later the crowds erupt and by the time Tambay arrives in fourth place the crowds are flooding across the track, having to scale a 12 ft high wire fence as if it isn’t there. Cheever has finish a very worthy third and de Angelis is lucky to finish fifth as his gearbox has begin to break up in the last two laps and the Renault engine has be on the rev-limiter as he peaks in what gears are available. Warwick is a lonely sixth, but happy to have another trouble-free run in the Toleman-Hart and down the back straight Giacomelli is in the slip-stream behind the 4-bladed rear aerofoil of the Lotus. By the time the two cars appeare out of the Curva Parabolica for the flat-out run to the checkered flag there are spectators all over the track and the situation looks very nasty. Mansell panicks and lifted right off the accelerator, but not little Bruno Giacomelli, he keeps his head down and his foot hard on it and snatch seventh place from the Lotus within sight of the flag as he weaves his way through the stupid spectators at 170 mph. There isn’t hope of anyone doing a slowing down lap and they all pull off to the right and switch off to disappear under the milling throng, but an angry and chasten Mansell does a u-turn and drives through the crowds the wrong way into the pit lane. The Italian Grand Prix finish in total chaos, the wide finish area a sea of happy flag-waving Italians all very orderly and friendly just waiting to cheer Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay. They are only second and fourth, which makes the mind boggle to think what will happen if they are going to be first and second. Slowly the crowds drift away, the 1983 Italian Grand Prix is over and Nelson Piquet knows he has driven the Ferrari team into the ground and stamps on them. It is a fine victory to complete the Brabham-BMW domination that began on Friday morning.

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Rebecca Asolari

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