As the 26 starters line up on the dummy grid just prior to the start, there is something of a major panic surrounding Prost’s McLaren on the inside of the third row. The bodywork is taken off and mechanics are swarming all over the car, desperately trying to coax it into life. Eventually the whole project is abandon, the race car pushes to the side of the circuit and Prost sprints over the pit lane where he’s immediately strap into the team spare. The problem seems to be a reluctance on the part of the engine to run when the electric fuel pump is switch off: the speculation is that the pre-cool fuel might have frozen in the fuel lines, but there isn’t time for a detail and thorough diagnosis. Prost cruises down to the end of the pit lane while the remainder of the grid goes off on its parade lap. The Formula One regulations state that any car failing to take its proper position on the dummy grid must start from the pit lane after the rest of the ﬁeld has start. Unfortunately, a well-meaning official waves Prost onto the circuit and he chases round to join up the main grid proper: seeing this, the officials indicate that the start will be delayed as Prost is sent back into the pit lane once again and the whole countdown begins again. When the green light is ﬁnally given, Piquet’s pole position Brabham brieﬂy goes off the boil and for a few agonizing seconds it seems as though the World Champion is about to stall his car for the second successive race. Rosberg’s Williams goes charging away down the hill towards Crowthorne as Mansell’s Lotus 95T zig-zags through from the second row, brieﬂy snatching second place as the ﬁeld goes under the bridge beyond the pits. Mansell’s machine suddenly hesitate, dropping back into the middle of the seething pack, while Piquet got his BMW engine on cam and simply rocketed back into second place, amazingly, by the time the ﬁeld has arrive at the ﬁrst corner. Rosberg knows full-well that he’s handing an unexpect bonus, but he can’t have imagine the way in which Piquet’s Brabham gobbles up his advantage as they sped round that opening lap.
Up into Leeukop, the climbing right-hander which leads out onto the start/ﬁnish straight, the Brabham-BMW is crawling all over the Williams and Piquet pull out and surge through into the lead as the two cars crest the rise just beyond the pit entrance as they complete their ﬁrst tour. On the second lap Teo Fabi’s sister Brabham BT53 surge through into second place and Ecclestones’s two sleek blue and white cars quickly pull away from the remainder of the ﬁeld, Rosberg holding up the remainder of the ﬁeld in tight formation. Lauda’s McLaren is a strong fourth at the end of the opening lap and only takes until lap four before he streaks ahead of Williams to begin chasing the two Brabhams at the head of the ﬁeld. By the end of lap 10 Lauda has close in on Fabi’s BT53, relieving the Italian of second place as they run down towards Crowthorne: the speed of Fabi’s car is such that he almost has sufficient impetus to nip back ahead of the Austrian as they rush down to the ﬁrst corner. But the eagle-eyed Austrian isn’t having that and gently eases over to the middle of the track in an effort to dislodge the second Brabham from his slipstream. Once he has successfully arrive at the corner ahead, Lauda is so much quicker than his rival down the hill through Barbecue and Jukskei that he hasn’t further trouble from the new Brabham recruit. Both Brabhams have start on a marginal choice of Michelin rubber, bearing in mind the fact that they are both running with a full fuel load and setting a very fast pace in the race’s opening stages. Initially it seems as though Piquet may be able to sustain his advantage, but as Lauda got into his stride it quickly become clear that the Porsche-engined McLaren is every bit a match for the BMW-engined Brabham. Slowly but surely the 35-year old Austrian veteran eases his way up onto Piquet’s tail and, as the World Champion realizes that his tyres are ﬁnish, he pulls off into the pit lane for fresh Michelins at the end of lap 21. From that point onwards Lauda is never challenge as Piquet last only another eight laps on fresh tyres before succumbing to a turbocharger malfunction.
For the remainder of the race there are two distinct aspects to consider. Firstly, the McLaren-Porsche performance, both in the hands of Niki Lauda and his team mate Alain Prost. Lauda’s performance is a copy book demonstration of precisely why the Austrian has won so many races in his decade-long Grand Prix career: he is smooth, and predictable to the point of boredom, whilst at the same time tremendously quick. It’s worth considering that while Prost starts from the pit lane, some twenty seconds or so behind the main grid, at the end of the race he is more than a minute (and the best part of a lap) behind Lauda. Even allowing for the fact that Prost has to ﬁght his way through the ﬁeld, passing cars with smooth precision on every lap, one is bound to speculate that he will have a hard time matching Lauda even if he is able to start from his original grid position on the third row. Behind the two victorious McLaren-Porsches, the rest of the grid is left to scrap over the remaining positions. Rosberg’s Williams is gradually worn down by the opposition and eventually retire with a fail driveshaft constant velocity joint, leaving Derek Warwick’s Renault to run through to third place, despite one schedule stop for tyres and a second when he has a puncture rear Michelin on that replacement set. Despite all these tribulations, he races determinedly with Alboreto’s Ferrari C4 (which is intent on running the race non-stop) and actually passes the Italian car twice (after each of his pit stops) under hard braking for Crowthorne corner. Towards the end of the race it seems as though Alboreto may take a steady fourth, but with 70 laps complete he coastes to a standstill with the same fuel evaporation problems that has sideline his team mate René Arnoux much earlier in the contest. Behind Warwick the ﬁnishing order is very much a question of survival: Riccardo Patrese’s Alfa Romeo 184T ﬁnally emerges fourth, but he is over ﬁve miles behind the winner (two laps down).
Andrea de Cesaris last to ﬁnish ﬁfth after an unimpressive showing in his Ligier JS23, while young Brazilian rising star Ayrton Senna kept his head down at the wheel of his Toleman TG183B and emerged sixth, despite losing part of his car’s nose section in the heavy traffic on lap three. Elio de Angelis’s Lotus 95T is hanging on to the leading bunch in the early stages and brieﬂy runs as high as second before making his schedule pit stop, only to return to the pits with a derange throttle linkage a lap after stopping for new tyres. The problem is eventually sortes out but there is no way in which the Italian driver can regain his lost ground and he ﬁnally ﬁnishes a very disappointing seventh. Nigel Mansell’s similar car never feature after his early loss of places on the opening lap and eventually retire when the carbon ﬁber plenum chamber crack and his engine lost turbocharger boost pressure. One of the biggest disappointments occurs when Jacques Laffite’s Williams FW09 shed its right rear wheel as it negotiates the Esses on lap 61, the wheel securing nut coming off and leaving the Frenchman to slither to an indignity halt at the side of the circuit. At this juncture Laffite, another driver intending to run non-stop, is well place behind the McLarens and is displaying more ﬂair than we are for some time. Behind de Angelis the only other cars running at the chequered ﬂag were Mauro Baldi’s Spirit-Hart, the Arrows A6s of Surer and Boutsen, Hesnault’s Ligier JS23 and Martin Brundle’s Tyrrell. Stefan Bellof’s Tyrrell had skated off into the dirt at Crowthorne after encountering a braking problem, while Brundle had charged into the right rear wheel of Hesnault’s Ligier at Leeukop as he tried to ﬁnd a way past the obstructive Frenchman. The English novice lost a lot of time in the pits having a new nose section ﬁtted, but at least he was still running at the ﬁnish. Small consolation, one might think, being four laps behind those impressive McLaren-Porsches. But on the other hand, at least he managed to keep running: something that Brabham, Williams and Ferrari singularly failed to do out of the leading teams, not to mention RAM and ATS.
Patrick Tambay’s Renault RE50 ground to a halt in the closing stages as well, the French driver apparently stricken with a repeat of his Brazilian frustration: this time, however, the problem proved to be a faulty fuel metering unit which was consuming his precious Elf petrol at a dramatic rate, preventing him from lasting the full 75 lap distance. He wasn’t amused, but then neither were Piquet, Rosberg, Laffite or Fabi. At the other end of the scale, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost looked quietly content, their demeanour shared by their colleagues from McLaren, Porsche, Bosch and Michelin.