Once again the Austrian Grand Prix follows hot on the heels of the German Grand Prix and while part of the Circus flies back to England on Sunday evening after the Hockenheimring race, to return to Vienna on the following Thursday, the rest loads up their transporters, drove to the Osterreichring, unloads and sets up camp in readiness for the start of practice on Friday. The Brabham team salvages what they can from BT52B/3 which has caught fire under Nelson Piquet in the closing laps in Germany, and ships out BT52/1 to replace it as the spare car. The Tyrrell team tests their new 012 design in England and then rushes it out to Austria in time to show it to people on Thursday afternoon and have it ready for Friday morning testing. Ferrari rebuild their C3 cars with new engines and supplemented them with a brand new car (068) which is given to Arnoux, and his German-winning car (066) becomes Tambay’s spare car. Arnoux’s spare car is Tambay’s old C2 model (065), Tambay himself retaining his usual race car (067). If all goes according to plan with the McLaren-Porsche project the Woking-based team are preparing their Cosworth V8-engined cars for their last race and the Williams team are fast approaching a similar situation as Frank Williams is announcing a tie-up between Williams Grand Prix Engineering and the Honda Motor Company of Tokyo. The first sighting of a Patrick Head-designed car powered by the V6 Honda turbocharged engine is to be expected at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch on September 25th. Even that stalwart of Cosworth power Ken Tyrrell is heard to say that the new Tyrrell 012 design is intended to accept a turbocharged engine next year, though he gives no indication of which engine. The Cosworth V8 engine has been a long time a-dying and will go down in history as an engine that fights bitterly to its last gasp, but if any indication is needed that the last gasps are with us it is only too clear on Friday morning.
Testing is barely under way in the warm sunshine when Laffite in a Williams-Cosworth V8 and Giacomelli in a Toleman-Hart come out of the Rindt curve together, run nose-to-tail down the hill past the pits and as they go up the steep hill towards the Helle-Licht chicane the turbocharged 11/2-litre Hart-powered car pulls out and steams by the 3-litre Cosworth-powered car with almost arrogant ease; and the Hart engine is the lowest powered of the turbocharged brigade. The Ferraris and Renaults are really on song past the pits and a speed trap at the finishing line is recording 175 mph and more from both teams, whereas the Cosworth-powered cars are struggling to break 160 mph. Some day it will make a change to record something different or unusual in the way of troubles and reasons for cars or drivers not to be at the top of the lists, but at the moment it is the same old stories. The turbocharged Honda V6 breaks the top gear pinions in its Hewland gearbox, so Stefan Johansson has to revert to the older car, Alboreto does a few laps in the new Tyrrell 012 and then a water leak sidelined the car, de Angelis flies off the road in a big way which puts his Lotus-Renault V6 out of action for the rest of the day and forces him into the unloved 93T Lotus, and Patrese is forced to use the spare Brabham when his own car breaks its BMW engine. Renault are worried about high temperatures on their engines, and Cheever’s car ruins its turbochargers. The Ferrari team are in good form and are squeezing all the air out of their Goodyear tyres and refilling with nitrogen, as Williams have been doing for a long time now. This is to give a more controlled rise in temperature and pressure as the tyre heats up and allows the driver to start off at 14 psi instead of 11 psi, which means the tyre is much more stable during its initial running. Although one half of Team Lotus is in despair, with a lot of repair work to do, the other half are elated for Mansell’s Renault turbo-engine is running perfectly and the Birmingham lad is really flying, right up with the Renaults, Ferraris and BMWs.
The first qualifying hour starts on schedule, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, and the two Ferraris dominate the scene, the only spirit of competition being between the two Maranello drivers Arnoux and Tambay. No one else gets a look in, even for a brief moment. Arnoux sets a standard by just getting under 1'30"0 while Tambay comes close, but Prost is half a second away. Speeds are not as high as last year in the ground effect era, but they are not far off and the casual observer would not notice much difference, for a lap average of over 147 mph is pretty spectacular motoring on the daunting Osterreichring. Mansell is repeating his morning performance and finishes up a strong fourth behind Amoux, Tambay and Prost and once again Lauda is fastest of the non-turbo cars, but down in 13th place. Alboreto tries the new Tyrrell 012 again, this time with a conventional rear aerofoil in place of the bizarre one that Maurice Philippe has conjured up for the new car. It looks as though someone has thrown a Brabham delta-wing front aerofoil at the current Ferrari rear tea-tray aerofoil and produces something from the resultant mess. However, the Tyrrell does not do much running, even with the conventional rear aerofoil, for the brakes are playing up, so the car is put away until more testing can be carried out and Alboreto returns to his trusty Tyrrell 011. The Spirit-Honda team are in dire trouble for after repairing the gearbox the new car then breaks its engine and the spare car misfires continually, so that Johansson finishes up at the bottom of the list, never having done any serious laps. The Toleman team is looking quite good, with both drivers up at the tail of the big manufacturers’ teams and apart from Laffite being down in 23rd place, everything is looking fairly normal and healthy. The Williams number two driver just can’t get into the rhythm of the Osterreichring and there is nothing wrong with the car, he blames himself entirely.
It has been a warm and heavy day and by the end of the afternoon the sky darkens and the rain comes pouring down, but happily not for too long, just long enough to lay the dust. Next morning all is well again, but the skies are grey and seems uncertain whether to give may to warm sunshine or stay dull and herald some more rain. Now and then the sun would break through the clouds and it would be blazingly hot, but then it would dull over again. The ravages of Friday are all repaired or rectified and the 94T Lotus is ready again for de Angelis, while Warwick has a new Hart 415R engine in his Toleman containing some internal modifications and a new type of turbocharger is being tried, one made in England instead of California. Ferrari are still very confident and trouble-free, while Renault are still worried by high running temperatures. The Brabham-BMW team are well on the pace, but the Alfa Romeo team are not fast enough. Team Lotus has not looked so good for a long while and both drivers are making the most of the black and gold cars. In the afternoon qualifying hour it is Ferrari all the way with Arnoux fractionally faster than the day before and more than content with only a few laps, but Tambay is still working away with Mauro Forghieri to make his car even better. This crucial hour has begun 25 minutes late due to the RAF Harrier Jump-Jet having problems after its lunch-time air display, and as there is every sign of rain returning everyone is a bit twitchy about the delay. All is well, however, and it stays dry so while the two Ferrari drivers vie for pole position on the starting grid the rest of the field sorts itself out. Within four laps Johansson gets the Spirit-Honda well into mid-field, but Laffite still cannot find the rhythm for a good lap, even though the Osterreichring is one of his favourite circuits. Mansell is still holding his form, his Lotus-Renault sounding superb and while he cannot match the red cars he is ahead of everyone else. Prost is using the spare Renault, his own car being all ready for the race with a new engine installed, and Piquet is in the spare Brabham.
Tambay gets closer to breaking the 1'30"0 barrier and joining Arnoux in the elite class, and after experimenting with different rear springs Forghieri makes some detail aerodynamic changes and Tambay responds with 1'29"871, to snatch pole position on the grid from Arnoux in the closing minutes of the qualifying hour. He goes on for one more very fast lap, well aware that the Goodyears might not last the distance, and as he comes down into the centre part of the circuit he has an enormous spin as the tyres lose their adhesion. He keeps it all going and returns to the pits - nothing ventured, nothing gained. The two days end with a very satisfactory result for Ferrari, first and second on the grid for the third race running, and this time really in a class of their own. Most heartening for the Brits is Nigel Mansell in third place, albeit half a second down on the leading Ferrari, and, of course, using a French Renault engine. Just behind the Lotus driver is a quiet and confident Nelson Piquet, well pleased with his Brabham-BMW and then Alain Prost carrying the worries of the Renault team in the form of engine temperatures still running too high. A radiant little Bruno Giacomelli can be seen in the Toleman pit for he has not only gone faster than Warwick, but is in seventh place on the grid. In the morning Warwick’s new engine has been extremely sharp, but in the afternoon it has lost a bit of power and the Hampshire driver can only manage tenth place, but even so, well among the turbocharged runners. Lauda’s best time of the previous day keeps him at the head of the Cosworth V8 brigade, but now down in 14th position on the grid. Just scraping on to the grid are the two Osella-Alfa Romeo V12 cars, which pleases Tony Southgate who designes the cars and also gives great encouragement to Enzo Osella who puts so much personal effort into the team. Failing to make the grid are Boesel (Ligier), Cecotto (Theodore) and Acheson (March).
Sunday is a superb day and the huge crowd is installed in the circuit bright and early, a very large proportion of them having camped overnight. The organisers call this race the Holiday Grand Prix, happening as it does in mid-August and there is indeed a holiday atmosphere about the place. But not for the drivers or the team personnel; Sunday is work day and very serious work at that. Overnight the Renault team has traced their erratic temperature problems to calcium build-up in the intercoolers which is reducing the flow and they strip them off all three cars and give them a thorough clean out. The Toleman team finds the slight loss of power in Warwick’s engine, and everyone prepares for the 30 minute warm-up period in which the cars are run exactly as they will be raced, especially as regards fuel load, boost pressure, tyre specification and so on. Just when everything is looking good de Cesaris has his Alfa Romeo engine blow-up and there is a rush to install a new one. Prost is now very confident but Cheever feels that his Renault is not handling quite so well as it might have done. Piquet is quietly confident, the two Ferrari drivers have no problems at all and the newer of the two Honda-powered Spirit cars is all ready to race. Rosberg is satisfied, as far as he can be, with his regular Williams and Lauda has no complaints at all about his McLaren, apart from a depressing lack of power compared to the turbocharged cars. Mansell is really looking forward to a competitive drive from his
excellent third place on the grid and Warwick records the second fastest lap of the warm-up session, behind the Renault of Alain Prost. An air-show fills in the lunch break while final preparations are made, star of the show being the Harrier from RAF Guteslohe in NW Germany. The usual large contingent of Italians, 90% of them Ferrari fans, have invaded Austria and under the warm sun everything is simmering nicely for a good race.
At 2:00 p.m. the pit lane is opened and the 26 six cars stream off up the steep hill to make a lap round to the grid, or dive into the pit lane to make a last minute adjustment or merely snatch another lap. As the Spirit- Honda 201C/5 goes along the top straight Johansson feels the V6 engine seems to tighten up and he switches off on the downhill bit and coasts down to the grid where he hurriedly gets out and runs across to the older car that is in readiness in the pit lane. While he roars off up the hill to do another lap, the car he has abandoned is wheeled off the grid. However, it is not as easy as that for a rear wheel bearing has seized solid as he arrives on the grid and the car has to be taken away on a trolley-jack! The Spirit 201/4 takes its place on the grid and everyone is ready to go. Tambay and Arnoux lead them all away on the parade lap and there is excitement in the air as the two red Ferraris lead the field back on to the starting grid before the light gantry. Prost pulls up on the right, realises he has made a mistake and moves half over to the left and then everyone is ready. The red light shines, then the green and Piquet makes a meteoric start, aiming the arrow-like blue and white Brabham at the tiny gap between Arnoux and the pits wall. The two Ferraris surge away, Mansell’s Lotus hangs momentarily, Prost is alongside and then the whole pack storms off up the hill to the chicane. There is a big cloud of dust at the top of the hill and Giacomelli finds de Angelis in the second Lotus- Renault crossing his bows sideways and in dodging he hits the guard rail and wrecks the left radiator in the wide nose. The Lotus is off the road and out of the race and in the chicane Surer’s Arrows and Sullivan’s Tyrrell collide and are both out, while Watson bends his nose fins on someone’s rear wheel. Not unexpectedly the two Ferraris lead the opening lap, followed by Piquet, Prost, Mansell, Patrese, Cheever, Warwick, Baldi, de Cesaris and Johansson. Down at the back is the unusual sight of the two Williams cars, Rosberg having made an awful start and Laffite being at the back of else grid anyway.
After they have all gone by to start lap 2, the unfortunate Giacomelli limps his damaged Toleman into the pits to retire and Watson arrives with his nose fins drooping. A new front assembly is fitted and Wattle roars away to start a rather lonely drive. At times like this, with four cars out and only one lap run it makes you wonder whether the non- qualifying competitors should not be allowed to start the race one lap in arrears, to keep the numbers up. Hardly have these thoughts crossed the mind than the second Toleman comes creeping into the pits to retire ignominiously with turbocharger trouble. By the end of the third lap a pattern is forming, with a long line of manufacturers’ cars pulling away from what is left, with Winkelhock’s ATS not able to keep up with them, but able to stay ahead of the Cosworth-powered cars. It is Ferrari, Ferrari, BMW, Renault, BMW, Lotus, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Alfa Romeo, all with turbo-charged engines, then the ATS-BMW, the Honda and Lauda leading the rest in 12th place. This high speed procession settles down until lap 10. no-one gaining or losing very much, but further back there is a little excitement for Lauda has passed the Spirit-Honda and now Alboreto is trying to do the same thing. Johansson thinks he has allowed the Tyrrell sufficient room to pass but underestimates the amount of understeer that Alboreto is suffering and the Tyrrell slides across the front of the Honda and they both span off into the barriers. The Tyrrell is out with the left rear wheel hanging off, but the Honda is still in one piece even though the engine is stalled and the nose-cone and fins have been broken off. Johansson climbs out to survey the damage, thinks it doesn’t look too bad, so gets back in again and lets the car roll down the slope and manages to bump-start the engine and carry on round to the pits where his mechanics fit another nose and fins and send him on his way again. The race is being run over 53 laps and by quarter distance the four number-one drivers have asserted themselves and the number-two drivers are showing signs of not being able to keep up, so it is Tambay, Arnoux, Piquet and Prost with little to choose between them. then Patrese.
Mansell and Cheever, though the Lotus driver’s Pirelli tyres seem unable to match the Good years or Michelins, and behind them are de Cesaris and Baldi in the Alfa Romeos that have never been much of a challenge all weekend, and Baldi is soon to retire with engine trouble anyway. Rosberg has worked his way through the back-markers to take station behind Laud, bathe can make no impression on the wily Austrian who is driving with all his old style and precision. The routine pit-stops for petrol and tyres are due to start around 20 laps, and Laffite is the first to come in, but his real reason for stopping is that the car is vibrating badly and getting worse. In the first lap fracas at the chicane he has banged wheels with someone and bounces over the kerbs and the chassis must have suffered damage somewhere, which is now manifesting itself. With new tyres and more fuel he sets off again, but is back at the end of the lap, this time for good. Meanwhile there is great drama at the front of the field for Tambay, still in the lead, has caught Jarier and is about to lap him, but the Ligier driver is most unhelpful to his compatriot and refuses to concede room, baulking the leading Ferrari all along the far side of the circuit, along the top straight and down through the Bosch Kurve. This lets Arnoux and Piquet close right up and as Tambay is about to go by the Ligier on the short straight after the Bosch Kurve Arnoux flashes by and boxes his team-mate in. Has he done this on a rival competitor it would have been a neat bit of traffic driving but on his own team-mate it is unruly and unnecessary. In the kerfuffle Piquet also nips by and a furious Tambay finishes lap 22 in third place. Prost peels off into the pit lane for new tyres and more petrol, leaving fourth place to Patrese, and rejoins the race in seventh place The smooth-driving Thierry Boutsen arrives unexpectedly at the Arrows pit, his Cosworth V8 running on only seven cylinders and a broken sparking plug is discovered.
With a complete change of plugs he is back in the race but has dropped to the back of the field. At the end of lap 26 Cheever comes in for his routine stop, the Renault mechanics making one of their best ever times with the car being stationary for 10.77 seconds, and two laps later he is followed by Arnoux and Patrese. The Ferrari stop for 11.24 seconds and the Brabham team excel once again with Patrese being stopped for only 10.24 seconds; it would have been a sub-10 second stop has not the left rear wheel baulks slightly on going onto the hub. At the end of lap 30 Tambay is seen heading for the pit lane, but not for a quick fuel and tyre stop, he is in trouble and the stop is terminal. All the oil pressure has disappeared and the Ferrari engine has succumbed, but the red cars are not alone in trouble for Patrese has pulled off the track with his BMW engine blown-up, so now the order is Piquet (yet to stop), Arnoux, de Cesaris (yet to stop), Prost, Cheever and Mansell (yet to stop), with the rest a lap or more behind. Mansell makes his routine stop without losing his place and Johansson refuells and re-tyres the Spirit-Honda. When de Cesaris makes his pit stop it is terminal for the Alfa Romeo clectrics has gone up the slot at the end of lap 31. Piquet at last makes his routine stop, nine laps later than the rest, employing the same tactics as at Hockenheim. He is away in 10.51 seconds and roars off up the hill as Arnoux flashes by the pits. Although Arnoux gets by briskly there is no holding Piquet and he is back in the lead again before the end of the lap. Of all the top drivers making routine pit stops the little Brazilian can get back on the pace quicker than anyone. All things being equal the Brabham-BMW looks to have it made, but things are not equal for the fine edge has gone off the BMW engine and it is showing signs of being 200 rpm short at the top end. Normally that isn’t much to worry about, but with a very healthy Ferrari and a very healthy Renault pounding along behind it is critical.
By lap 36 the two pursuers are up with the Brabham and on lap 37 they are lining up to go by. As the two head up the hill towards the chicane Arnoux makes his move and takes the lead and a very determined Prost follows him through. It isn’t so much a question of getting by the Brabham as not losing contact with the Ferrari, especially as it is Arnoux at the wheel, for there is no love lost between the two Frenchmen. Realising he can do nothing about the Ferrari or the Renault Piquet eases off and settles for third place, turning down the boost control to ease the load on the engine. Alain Prost is showing a very aggressive side to his nature, which is unusual for him, and he is hounding Arnoux unmercifully. There is no question of settling for second place and a nice sale collection of points for the Championship, Prost is out to win and to defeat Arnoux in the process. Weighing it all up from behind Prost knows exactly when to pounce on the Ferrari and on lap 48 he takes the lead with ease and immediately begins pulling away and there is nothing Arnoux can do about it. With four laps to go it is all over as far as the winner is concerned for the Ferrari gearbox is failing and Arnoux no longer has fourth gear available. In third place Piquet is beginning to sweat for Cheever is closing on him rapidly, so he turns the boost control back up again, but nothing happens, there is no more power and he is driving as hard as he can go. A very happy Alain Prost gets the chequered flag, his fourth win this season, and a rather disgruntled Rene Arnoux comes home second. Piquet scrapes home third a few lengths ahead of Cheever arid has the race run for one more lap he would not have kept his third place for Cheever is going splendidly. Also, if the race was one lap longer Arnoux would have lost second place for the Ferrari gearbox broke on the slowing-down lap. These four are the only ones to complete the full 53 laps, Mansell being a lap behind in fifth place, while Lauda comes home sixth but two laps behind the winner, such is the pace of turbocharged Grand Prix racing today.
Maria Ginevra Ferretti