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.
Maria Ginevra Ferretti