#382 1983 British Grand Prix

2022-08-28 00:00

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#1983, Fulvio Conti, Maria Ginevra Ferretti,

#382 1983 British Grand Prix

The last Formula One race is on June 12th, a gap of five weeks in mid- season being an eternity for the enthusiast to wait, but for the teams it is a

The last Formula One race is on June 12th, a gap of five weeks in mid- season being an eternity for the enthusiast to wait, but for the teams it is a welcome break to get stuck in and catch up on the build and design programmes. Apart from continual tyre-testing sessions, new cars are built, new cars designed and the new McLaren-Porsche project sees the first experimental car doing some trials on the Porsche research test- track. When practice for the British Grand Prix begins on Thursday morning there are new cars from Brabham, ATS, Lotus, Renault, Ferrari, Arrows, Osella and Toleman, while the Spirit-Honda is making its first appearance in a Grand Prix, after its tentative run in the Race of Champions. The July heat-wave is still at its height and while it is splendid for the spectators and the party-goers, it is hell for the team personnel, the drivers and the mechanics and worse still for tyres, engines, turbochargers, oil and water systems. On a racing car everything runs very hot anyway, for horsepower is work and work develops heat, and on a high-speed track like Silverstone horsepower is the name of the game. During the first hour and a half, which is for test and practice purposes in readiness for the hour of qualification timing in the afternoon, there are all the usual troubles of engine electrics failing (Tambay-Ferrari), turbo- chargers failing (Winkelhock-ATS), constant misfiring due to a fault somewhere in the electrical system (Mansell-Lotus-Renault), engine failure (Giacomelli-Toleman-Hart), and (Watson-McLaren), a petrol fire in the engine compartment (Alboreto-Tyrrell), while others go through all the fiddling-about processes involving changing springs, anti-roll bars, brake pads, aerofoils, damper settings and no on as well as continual juggling with tyres, whether they be Goodyear, Michelin or Pirelli.
When all the testing is done there is a new name at the top of the list. E de Angelis (Lotus-Renault V6 t/c), for the new 94T Lotus is proving very successful, easy and light to drive and more adaptable to the Pirelli tyres than the 93T has been. At the front with the Lotus are the Ferraris, the Renaults and the Brabham-BMWs, the Alfa Romeos and Warwick’s Toleman-Hart. It is a good start to proceedings but it is only a test-session suit is not important, though it can be significant. It is the hour between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. that is going to count. Having made their choice as to tyres, each driver has two sets marked with his number and we are off into the lap times that count for the grid. Not only for the kudos of being on pole-position but also for the large sums of money that FOCA pay out from their £450.000 they get from the race organisers, for the higher up the grid you are the more qualifying money you get. With 29 drivers entered the last three are going to be unlucky as only 26 are allowed to start the race. The results of the qualifying hour do not provide anything startling, apart from de Angelis and the new Lotus still being up near the top, in third place, which is heartening for Team Lotus followers. While everyone is messing about during the morning a time of 1 min 11 sec is considered good, but in the afternoon when things get serious you have to be under 1'11"0 to be in the running. The first four are Prost (Renault), Arnoux (Ferrari), de Angelis (Lotus-Renault) and Tambay (Ferrari) all in the 1'10"0 bracket with Prost fastest in 1'10"170. This is a staggering average of 150.423 mph. While the Brits all feel about in disbelief at an average of 150 mph round the Silverstone airfield the Europeans look on slightly bemused for in their book the average was 242.082 kph which is no sort of historic landmark. Noteworthy among the Thursday afternoon times are those of Warwick with the new Toleman in eighth place and Rosberg in eleventh place with the first of the obsolete Cosworth-engined cars.
The Spirit-Honda qualifies quietly in 23rd position, while Mansell is lucky to scrape in with his misfiring new Lotus-Renault t/c. When it is all over Jarier’s times are scrubbed as he has failed to obey the red light on entering the pit-road, which requests that his car should be checked for weight. On Friday morning the action starts up again with all the usual problems and while de Angelis is right up at the front with the new Lotus his team- mate Mansell is in despair as the misfire is still there in his Renault turbocharged engine and although he keeps going out to try it he never manages a full flying lap so he never records a lap time. While there is elation in the garage of car number 11, there is gloom in that of number 12. It is indeed testing-time. The Renault team are quietly confident, the Ferrari team are more than happy with their new cars but the Brabham team are not as fast as they feel they should be. In amongst all these big teams is the singleton ATS-BMW of Manfred Winkelhock, so Gunther Schmidt’s little team is more than happy, while Warwick’s Toleman is at the tail end of all these turbo-powered teams, So Brian Hart isn’t too depressed with the way his twin-plug 4-cylinder engine is going. On a circuit with a 150 mph average lap speed potential there is little hope for anyone using a 3-litre Cosworth V8 engine to do more than collect some mid-field starting money and even then they need the smoothness of a Niki Lauda or the flair of a Rosberg. The Longines timing people issued some interesting figures from a speed trap situated at the start. finish line which is not far from the exit of the Woodcote chicane, in fact, about at the point where the drivers have everything straight and lined up for the burst of acceleration past the pits. The speeds of the turbocharged cars vary from Patrese’s Brabham at 146 mph to Warwick’s Toleman at 142 mph, with the Renaults, Ferraris, ATS and Alfa Romeos in between.
Fastest Cosworth user is Lauda at 139 mph with Laffite and Alboreto down at 133 mph. While this in itself is significant enough, the important thing is the acceleration from that point onwards. Leaving the chicane at 145 mph would mean passing under the Motor bridge at something like 165 mph and nudging 170 mph before standing on the brakes before Copse corner. The heat of the day is fantastic, almost reminiscent of those races at Reims, Albi, Avignon and Angouleme in the 1950s when summers used to be really hot. But the heat of the day fades fast when the big boys turn on the heat (bhp) for the final qualifying hour. The target is 1 min 10.170 sec set by Prost the previous day. It is not a question of the big bag of money you get for being on pole-position, nor is it a question of pole-position being vital as at Monte-Carlo, it is a question of national pride; it is Italian engineering against French engineering against German engineering from Munich. At the far end of the pits the Japanese are watching closely, and more than one German engineer from Stuttgart is paying close attention, for in a one-lap sprint such as is about to happen you can put everything you have on the line, nobody is going to hold back. In a 67 lap race there are all sorts of variables that can upset things which are out of your control. Renault has set the scene with 1'10"170. Any lap worth considering has to be well under 1'11"0. As the average lap among the also-rans is around 1'14"0 you can see how serious it is up at the front. Cheever has a go but cannot break 1'11"0, Patrese has a go and scored 1'10"881, Piquet can only do 1'10"933. Tambay goes out and does 1'10"588, fastest so far, but not fast enough, Prost goes out and does 1'10"808 and the feeling is that the track is slower than yesterday. Then Tambay goes out on his second set of marked tyres and does 1'10"145 and there is joy in the Ferrari pit, they are on pole position. Prost goes out again, but doesn’t break 1'11"0. It is all over. Or is it?
Tambay is back in the pits and the Ferrari team takes the tyres off the left side and replaces them with those from the right side used on the first run, and are craftily going to get three runs out of two sets of Goodyears. Cold air is blown through the intercoolers, water is poured over the aluminium radiators, and over the tyres and everything else that looks hot so that you begin to think we have just had a rainstorm! Out goes Tambay again, with enough rubber left for one flying lap, and he flies - 1'10"104. We all feel about gasping and the debonair Frenchman is applauded loudly when he comes back into the pits. But Arnoux, we’ve forgotten about Arnoux. He has gone out early and done a leisurely 1'12"0 and then Mauro Forghieri has hidden him away in the shadows of one of the garages. We are all smiling contentedly at Tambay’s performance when we become aware of another red car being wheeled out onto the pit apron with little Rend Arnoux sitting in the cockpit quite unmoved. There are eight minutes of qualifying time left to run as he sets off down the pit lane. Round he goes on his warm-up lap and then he gives it his all, not smooth and elegant like Tambay or Lauda, but harry flatters and devil take the hindmost. He crosses the line at 147 mph on his exit from the chicane and the Longines timer records 1'09"462 an average of 151.956 mph. We all feel about in paroxysms of joy, despair, amazement, bewilderment, or disbelief depending on whose side you are on, and little Rene climbs out of the new Ferrari 126C3 grinning from ear-to-ear and looking almost embarassed about the whole affair. The Regie Renault people have a pretty steely look in their eyes, the Munich men are looking on coldly, the Japanese are inscrutable, Brian Hart is looking on in admiration, and the Porsche people. We should record that Acheson (March), Fabi (Osella-Alfa Romeo V12) and Cecotto (Theodore), fails to qualify.
Ghinzani scrapes his Osella-Alfa V12 onto the back of the grid with 1'17"162, seven and a half seconds slower than the Ferrari, while Rosberg’s Williams is the fastest Cosworth powered car with 1'13"755 nearly four and half seconds down on the Ferrari on one lap, and he has been really trying. In passing it must be mentioned that Frank Williams has withdrawn Rosberg from the official timing in this final session, in order to carry out some Goodyear testing with unmarked tyres. He is quite content with his Thursday time which gives him fastest Cosworth time, for what it is worth, and while the big guns are firing off their one-lap specials, Rosberg puts in 19 flying laps with a best in the region of 1'12"0 unofficially. All that is left now was to run the 67 lap British Grand Prix, one lap shorter than the last one held at Silverstone, but it isn’t as simple as that. There are races for Formula 3 cars, Saloon cars, Historic cars, MG Metros, and flying displays, circuit rides, parades of old cars and new cars. tributes to Colin Chapman, tributes to Tony Vandervell and his cars, parades of flags, music and chat over the loud-speakers, Royal visits to the pits, helicopters, and all the fun of the fair and Hampstead Heath. It isn’t until 2:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon that signs of the British Grand Prix becomes apparent, though there have been a 30 minute warm up session at 11:30 a.m. which cause quite a bit of havoc. Between 12 noon and 2: p.m. Ferrari changes the engine in Tambay’s 126C3, its brand new one fitted overnight having shown signs of failing. Williams changes the Cosworth V8 in Laffite’s car and Brabham changes the BMW engine in Patrese’s car, none of which is on schedule. Overnight Lotus has fitted a complete new wiring loom to Mansell’s Lotus 94T and the misfire disappears instantly and the amount of work being done in the two hours before the track is due to open is enough to keep a small factory running for a month.

At 2:00 p.m. the timekeepers give a prolonged blast on the Lucas horns, which must produce the most vulgar and nauseating noise in motor racing, to indicate that all is ready for the count-down to the 2.30 pm start. This vast multi-million pound extravaganza is at last about to begin, to run for every bit of one hour and 25 minutes. Only 25 cars assemble on the grid as Ghinzani’s Alfa Romeo V12 engine dies on him on the warm-up lap and he has to take the start from the pit lane. The two red Ferraris lead the field round on the parade-lap, they all pause back on the grid and then they are off, scrabbling into Copse Corner in what looks like a multiple pile-up from behind, but which proves to be clean and concise and away they stream on the opening lap led by Tambay’s Ferrari. It is Ferrari all the way, or so it seems. with Tambay comfortably ahead of Arnoux, followed by Prost, Patrese, Cheever, de Angelis, Piquet, de Cesaris, Winkelhock, Warwick, Johansson, Mansell and Baldi, all turbo powered, with Lauda leading the Cosworth brigade in 14th place, hotly pursued by Rosberg. That is lap 1. On lap 2 de Angelis stops in a cloud of smoke as his Renault power unit expires, and Giacomelli is into the pits with turbo trouble and one more lap and Cheever is into the pits with his Renault engine failing fast. The Honda quietly disappears on lap 5 and on lap 9 Patrese comes into the pits with enough white smoke coming out of the exhaust to proclaim finis. Those two red Ferraris are beginning to look majestic out in front but by 12 laps it is obvious that Arnoux is slowing, and in doing so he is holding up Prost who is in third place. In any activity but Formula One this can be seen as team-tactics allowing Tambay to get away to a commanding lead, but Formula One isn’t like that. Arnoux is in tyre trouble, and Prost wears him down and takes second place on lap 14 and begins closing on Tambay.


At the same time Piquet in fourth place begins to close up on Arnoux and as the Renault (Prost) and the Brabham (Piquet), are on Michelin tyres and the Ferraris are on Goodyears, it is pretty obvious that the French tyres are adapting to the conditions better than the American ones. These four cars are out on their own, with de Cesaris leading the mid-field pack which comprises Winkelhock, Mansell, Warwick, Lauda, Baldi, Watson, Rosberg and Jarier, with Laffite leading the tail-enders. One thing that Tambay can do, that Arnoux cannot do, is to adapt his driving to the conditions prevailing, so when he finds that the Michelin- shod cars are getting better traction than the Goodyear ones, he doesn’t panic, but plays it cool. Arnoux is much less sensitive to such race subtleties and tends to make a had situation worse, rather than nursing it so while Tambay bows to the inevitable and relinquished his place first to Prost and then to Piquet, he hangs on in third, while Arnoux feels right away. Everyone of importance is planning on making a pit stop for new tyres and another half a tank of fuel. even the McLaren team joining in. When Warwick appears in the pit lane after 27 laps it is assumed he is stopping early from his eighth place, but not so, his stop is terminal with gearbox trouble. Winkelhock starts the refuelling stops, followed by Watson who loses time through being in neutral instead of first gear when they drop him off the jacks, and then the leaders begin to come in. Arnoux is in and out quickly, as are Prost and Tambay, the Renault pit work being very good, though naturally Piquet has gone by into the lead until it is his turn to stop. Alfa Romeo loses a lot of time for de Cesaris, and on lap 41 Piquet is into the pits. The Brabham team are superb and have the wheels changed and the air jacks up in 10 sec, while 21/4 more are needed to complete the refuelling. Piquet is stationary for 12.26 sec according to Longines and the Brabham lads receive a well-deserved round of applause, but what a pity that none of the 85.000 paying customers can see it happen, for the pits are holy ground now.


Two laps later the Lotus team does a superb job on Mansell, refuelling and changing wheels in 13 sec exactly and then we are all back to square one, apart from de Cesaris. Before the stops the order has been Prost (Renault), Piquet (Brabharn), Tambay (Ferrari), Arnoux (Ferrari), de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo), Winkelhock (ATS), Mansell (Lotus), Lauda (McLaren, and now it is Prost, Piquet, Tambay, Arnoux, Mansell, Winkelhock, Lauda. Apart fronm Mansell passing the dispirited Arnoux, much to the joy of the partisan crowd who overlooks the French engine in the British Lotus driven by the British driver, nothing changes through to the end of the 67 laps. The quiet, shy Alain Prost cruises round in his usual unimpressive fashion, his Renault never missing a beat, followed by the sleek BMW-powered Brabham of Piquet and the red Ferrari of Tambay. From his starting position in 18th place Nigel Mansell has made full use of his new Renault- powered Lotus 94T to come steadily up to a well-deserved fourth place. As he said last year, when he was struggling along with a Cosworth- powered Lotus, and before Colin Chapman had done the deal with Renault. He obviously finds the right knob in the Lotus cockpit this time. It has not been an exciting race, or even an enthralling one, and I’m not sure it is worth spending three days on the Silverstone airfield as far as the British Grand Prix is concerned. The pleasant grass and garden party atmosphere has gone from Silverstone, to be replaced by a mixture of industrial estate. housing estate and prison camp, not unlike Brands Hatch. I would not miss the qualifying hour on Friday for anything. The whole thing is completely spoilt by that British sportsman Ken Tyrrell lodging an official protest about the petrol being used by the Renault and the two Ferraris, in respect of the water-injection on their engines. Strangely, the Lotus has not protested, even though it has the same water-iniection system as the works Renault and runs on the same ELF petrol. Tyrrell would appear to be challenging the mighty Agip concern of Italy and the ELF concern of France. which seems a very brave thing for a Surrey ex-timber-merchant to do. The Stewards have to deliberate over Tyrrell’s protest, and finally they throw the protest out and pocket his fee and we all go home.



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