#401 1984 Dutch Grand Prix

2021-09-11 00:00

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#1984, Fulvio Conti,

#401 1984 Dutch Grand Prix

When Niki Lauda's McLaren triumphantly crossed the finish line in Zeltweg, accompanied by hundreds of Austrian flags waving in celebration, many Ferra


When Niki Lauda's McLaren triumphantly crossed the finish line in Zeltweg, accompanied by hundreds of Austrian flags waving in celebration, many Ferrari flags were also seen fluttering in the festivities. The fans of the Maranello team, halfway through the race when Piquet was still leading followed by Prost, had already folded their banners and were preparing to sadly leave the circuit. The Frenchman's off-track excursion and the successful attack by the 35-year-old Salzburg driver on the Brazilian Brabham reignited the enthusiasm of the Ferrari team's supporters. Disappointed by the poor performance of their beloved team during the season, despite acknowledging the skill and dedication of Michele Alboreto and the courage of René Arnoux, the numerous fans of the Ferrari team found in Lauda the man to believe in, the champion to embody their great passion. At this point, many would like to see Lauda return to Ferrari. If Niki, in the times when he won two world titles, was loved for his skill but hated and opposed for certain unpleasant attitudes, now the vast majority considers him a possible remedy to solve the current crisis of the Maranello team. They remember the past. In the early 1970s, Ferrari went through a dark period from which it seemed unable to recover. It was with the signing of Niki Lauda, starting in 1974, that the red single-seaters returned to the top, achieving success under the sporting direction of Luca Montezemolo. The Austrian proved to be a fast and skillful driver with uncommon sensitivity. But his greatest attribute was his ability to fine-tune the cars. With his help, with the advice and interpretations of the driver, the technicians had the opportunity to build cars that contributed to strengthening and reviving Ferrari's prestige. Then came the inevitable divorce for many reasons. Lauda is a demanding character, very attentive to money. Some tempted him with a staggering salary, and he did not hesitate to divorce, rather abruptly, from the team that had launched and consecrated him as a champion. Now the question is - given the rumors circulating - is a return of the Austrian to his old loves, namely Maranello, possible? In theory, yes. The same sponsor that pays his salary at McLaren (Marlboro) could be willing, with enormous advertising returns, to make the operation happen. It remains to be seen what Enzo Ferrari thinks and how the transition can be made without stepping on too many toes. The only certain thing is that Niki's testing skills would be of considerable utility to the Maranello team at this time. Lauda is a driver who, in practice, can provide a unique contribution with his experience, a feeling, an affinity with the mechanical means that allowed him to become a standout without being the fastest overall among Formula 1 champions. The prospect of a new marriage is fascinating. However, we will have to wait for the outcome of the championship, which sees Niki poised to win his third title.


"I haven't signed with any team yet; I'm waiting to see how the challenge with Prost will end".


But it is certain that negotiations are already underway these days, and we will have to wait to see if Ferrari intends to compete to have such a character back in its ranks. Meanwhile, Alain Prost has found peace for the stinging defeat suffered in Zeltweg.


"I don't want to repeat the mistakes of last year. In 1983, when I had strokes of bad luck, I agonized, read all the newspapers, suffered criticism. This time I did the opposite: as soon as the race was over, I went home. I isolated myself, took care of everyday things to distract myself, without thinking too much about Formula 1. Now I return to the track charged, ready to attack to close the gap between me and Lauda. Four and a half points to recover are not too many, but with a man like Niki, it's always difficult. It is still difficult to predict how the race will go. I think it will be a three-way battle between me, my teammate, and the Brazilian Piquet, who could be a real party pooper in every sense".


The McLaren driver does not believe that there can be substantial changes in the balance of power in Zandvoort compared to the last races of the World Championship:


"It is highly unlikely that the situation will be overturned, especially because there was no time to do anything on the cars. Much will depend, as always, on the tires. In any case, we will always be among the best, and I will try to win".


The fact of having to fight against a clever and skillful opponent like Lauda does not seem to disturb Prost.


"I prefer to compete with an honest and fair driver like the Austrian than face certain characters. I am convinced that Niki will try to engage in a competitively open and above all sportsmanlike duel. In the meantime, I must be careful not to make mistakes".


Last year, on this track located on the North Sea shore among sand dunes, Ferrari achieved the last en plein before starting a long period of crisis. René Arnoux, starting tenth, achieved an exciting and easy victory, while Patrick Tambay, who started in second place, maintained his position. Since then, excluding Michele Alboreto's surprising victory in Zolder, the Maranello team has not shone, achieving some results, like the one of the Italian driver on Sunday in Zeltweg, thanks to a car that, good or bad, remains one of the most reliable in Formula 1. To say now that the Maranello team, ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix, the thirteenth race of the World Championship, is capable of returning to the top would be at least daring. However, there is a sense of revolt in the paddock against the McLaren dominance that could also involve Ferrari. Everyone is determined to stop the English team, heading towards an absolute record of first places in a season, after equaling the record of Lotus in 1978 with eight victories in Austria. To validate this impression, to at least fuel hopes, there is a rather favorable tradition (in the last ten years, Ferrari has won four times on this circuit, McLaren only once, like Renault, Brabham, Williams, Lotus, and Hesketh) and the results of the free practice sessions at the end of July, during which the best lap time was set by Rosberg, followed by De Angelis and Patrese. It is true that the tests were hampered by bad weather, with rain on the second day, but it remains a fact that the three fastest cars were all equipped with Goodyear tires, like Ferrari. It is also true that in a month, everything can change, especially the tires and the weather conditions, as it is very hot here these days, the beaches are full, and people try to sunbathe in humid but suffocating sunshine. But if one does not cling at least to these data, one would have to take for granted another McLaren victory. Piquet, in particular, opposes this too easy prediction. Even if he no longer thinks about the title, he always thirsts for success. The Brabham should be very suitable for Zandvoort, a spectacular, mixed-fast track, where averages hover around 200 km/h. Lotus, Williams, and Renault should also be competitive. In short, without talking about a revolt against the champions of the championship, Lauda and Prost, let's say that there are the conditions to make life difficult for the two contenders for the World Championship. Ferrari brings to Zandvoort two long-wheelbase cars; the second, obviously, is for Arnoux, who did not have it in Austria. The Maranello team did not carry out pre-tests, and this is certainly a problem, so we will have to wait for the outcome of the free practice sessions to check its true strength. Arnoux, with a hint of melancholy, says on the eve of the Dutch Grand Prix:


"Last year, I won here and fought at the top of the standings. Twelve months have passed, and I have remained without victories. It would be time to become familiar with the highest step of the podium again, even if - of course - I'm not deluding myself. I would be satisfied with a slightly more competitive car than I have had in the last races".


On Friday, August 24, 1984, the atmosphere at the Ferrari box was more relaxed. The results of Arnoux and Alboreto are less difficult to accept than those of the previous races, and there is an improvement, especially in the performance of the cars. The adoption of the long wheelbase brings advantages, and now it is only a matter of working on this solution to move forward. On Saturday, perhaps there will be further improvement, at least by a second, and the cars can position themselves in the top positions of the starting grid for the race. What makes the technicians of the Maranello team more optimistic is above all the better functioning of the tires, which could guarantee a more than decent race. However, it should be noted that another rumor has circulated in the paddock, according to which an agreement should be reached between Ferrari and Pirelli, which would work exclusively for the Maranello team. It seems, in fact, that Arnoux and Alboreto could soon test the new four-cylinder engine designed in the Fiorano workshops and tested on the bench, and it is even claimed that a prototype could make its debut on Wednesday, September 5, 1984, or Thursday, September 6, 1984, in Monza, for a first track test.


These news are not officially confirmed but seem reliable enough. As for the drivers, both the Italian and the French driver claim to be comfortable with the new car and to be able to have a good race. René Arnoux says:


"I hope to be able to demonstrate once again how much I'm worth. I am convinced of staying in Maranello next year, and with this team, I want to finally try to win the world championship. I am well aware that these are just words, but it is my deepest intention".


A bit of confidence doesn't hurt, and we'll see what will happen. Meanwhile, the protagonists of the Dutch Grand Prix are battling, always in words, for victory. Piquet is confident that he can aim for success this time, as it happened in the American races.


"My Brabham behaves very well on this track. I should be able to have an attacking Dutch Grand Prix, and this gives me great satisfaction. We are also working for the future, and another victory will serve the team to stay motivated".


Meanwhile, Lauda continues to blend in. The Austrian was not very fast due to the previously mentioned problems, but he thinks he can conduct a very careful race to stay ahead of his teammate in the World Championship standings. Perhaps the Austrian dreams of another victory, although he does not hide the difficulties McLaren faces on this track.


"Our car is always very well balanced. We need to work hard today to achieve better performance and try to make the final push tomorrow".


In short, the anti-McLaren coup is underway. It is difficult to predict if it will have a positive outcome, but in the first qualifying session of the Dutch Grand Prix, Prost and Lauda face several attacks from their opponents. Not only does the phenomenal Nelson Piquet manage to stay ahead of the two English cars powered by Porsche engines, but also Elio De Angelis with his Lotus goes faster than the Frenchman, while the Austrian can only manage the sixth-best time, preceded by Rosberg and Warwick. A small step forward also for Ferrari, with Arnoux in seventh and Alboreto in eighth. The data confirmed what emerged from the free practice sessions at the end of July, with six Goodyear-equipped cars among the top ten. Only Piquet, with his great skill and a car that is very fast on this circuit, manages to outpace the Lotus. The Brazilian clocks in at 1'13"872, at an average speed of 207.212 km/h, once again breaking the track record set by Arnoux in 1982. This is a clear sign that the current single-seaters have achieved incredible performances, despite losing some of the ground effect that provided greater grip in corners. It is clear that the secret to these results is mainly in the evolution of the turbo engines, which have reached unimaginable power. The McLaren, however, equipped with different technical solutions (smaller turbines) at Zandvoort, is currently less fast than usual. Moreover, both Prost and Lauda have problems with the engine rev limiter that kicks in earlier than expected. The Frenchman also breaks a heat exchanger with the second set of qualifying tires.


"I don't think we can catch Brabham in qualifying. We hope to have made the right choice for the race. In any case, I won't base my race on Piquet. If Nelson wants to attack, I will let him go. I'm interested in staying ahead of Lauda. If Niki were to gain another advantage here, it would be difficult for me to recover".


Many drivers could theoretically enter the fight for victory. De Angelis, who was not too optimistic before taking to the track, certainly has every chance of being a protagonist, as well as Rosberg and Warwick. Tambay, with the second Renault, remains distant. However, it should be noted that the French driver is forced to use the reserve car as he broke the engine in the better one. Positive, though not brilliant, signs for Ferrari, which, while remaining far from the best in terms of lap times, is more competitive in race trim. If Alboreto managed to finish third at Zeltweg thanks to the car's reliability, further progress can be expected now. 


The two Maranello cars with a longer wheelbase (12.5 centimeters longer than the previous model) seem to have a decent grip, giving more confidence to the drivers. For the rest, nothing new on the horizon. Alfa Romeo is always in the usual back positions, full of troubles (Cheever breaks two turbines on race cars and a piston on the reserve car), while Patrese continues to struggle. On Saturday, August 25, 1984, the battle for the Formula 1 World Championship victory rages on all fronts. Alain Prost counterattacks and shows all his courage and class. With an impressive lap, his McLaren again passes everyone. And, of course, the circuit record is lowered once again, with a time of 1'13"587 at an average speed of 208.071 km/h. Alain Prost seems to have no fear of the number thirteen, as he has achieved his thirteenth pole position and wants to win the thirteenth race of the World Championship after obtaining as many victories since he started racing in Formula 1.


"I don't believe in superstition: I just do my duty. I am paid to go fast, so this time, wait for me at the finish line because I will pass first. It's not a response to Lauda's attack in Zeltweg but a necessity. It is true that for the team, I have to think mainly about the championship, but I also think that winning is the best tactic to bring McLaren to the title".


The Frenchman is straightforward. But neither Niki Lauda hides his intentions. The Austrian seems very nervous, even though he explains his tension only by being hindered in his attempt to achieve a better time.


"Starting in sixth position will be a tough test for me. I will have to work like a mule. And it will be more difficult than in Zeltweg where, all in all, I could act with some surprise. I will do everything possible. If Alain wins, I will try to be at least second. I won't step back. Unfortunately, Rosberg blocked me unfairly while I was trying to insert myself among the best. Also, Alliot and Winkelhock contributed to slowing me down".


Between the two quarrelers (even if Prost and Lauda are formally friends and fair with each other), there will certainly be Nelson Piquet as a third wheel, at least in the first part of the race. Lauda fears him, as well as the Renaults equipped with the same Michelin tires as McLaren.


"Maybe I could have kept the pole position, but I made a mistake by pushing too hard at the beginning of the lap and went off the track. I knew I could go faster, and Prost was very fast. It doesn't matter. I'm still in the front row".


In an attempt to regain the pole position, Nelson Piquet performs a spin and risks destroying his Brabham against the barriers. Elio De Angelis, in turn, approaches the Brazilian, getting within 0.011 seconds. Alboreto slips to ninth place, Arnoux in eleventh. Once again, Prost is in the spotlight. The determined French driver achieves a double objective. His race will be facilitated by starting at the top of the grid. At the same time, Alain Prost distances himself from Niki Lauda, a great rival in the fight for the top of the championship standings. Despite the concentration, the Austrian cannot climb above the third row. He will have to chase. Between Prost and Lauda, there is a 1.3-second gap. A distance that is also too high considering the recent performances of the two rivals. It is true that Alain is faster in qualifying, but it cannot be thought that Niki has been overtaken by four other competitors. There is, therefore, the impression that McLaren is mainly aiming for a final victory for the Frenchman. The shadow of the driver market also looms over the challenge. Ron Dennis does not seem to have any intention of guaranteeing Lauda the same salary next year unless he becomes the World Champion. At this point, beyond the on-field values, a political factor with a decisive weight could come into play. In this sense, Lauda is forced to fight an uneven battle. The whole discussion is related to the changes that will occur next year in the most important teams. The pieces that can be moved are precisely Lauda and Rosberg (willing to leave Williams) and their potential replacements. The latest rumors confirm some possibility of the Austrian going to Ferrari. In this case, the Finn could end up at McLaren. Or one of the two could be of interest to Renault. 


The only certain thing is that much will depend on the outcome of the Dutch Grand Prix. Prost's McLaren is favored for its ninth seasonal victory, an absolute record for the modern era of Formula 1. Lauda will try to reach his teammate, take advantage of any mistakes by Prost as happened in Austria, or of a mechanical failure that is always lurking in these races. In the midst of the two, however, the opponents will not stand idly by. Piquet and De Angelis must seize the last chance to cultivate a minimum of hope for a recovery in the fight for the world title, while Warwick and Tambay could make the balance of a negative season for Renault less burdensome. Rosberg is a type who never refuses a battle. Ferrari remains. The Maranello cars in race trim are not bad. Who knows, maybe there will be a small, happy surprise. Alboreto could have been more or less in Lauda's position if he hadn't found Cheever at Tarzan corner, while he was at full speed:


"I had to go to the outside because he didn't see me. And I risked going off the track. We hope to have a well-balanced car in the race; we will try to defend ourselves".


Arnoux was truly unlucky. For the first time in five years with his Ferrari, a heat exchanger broke. He almost always stayed in the pits, and when he could drive, the previous problem had disrupted the engine. Too bad, because there seemed to be a sign of slow recovery for the Maranello team, and now they will have to start over. A serious incident, which could have turned into a tragedy, disturbs the hours before the Dutch Grand Prix. Shortly before noon, when the free practice sessions are supposed to begin, a crash is heard in the last row of the pit, where the ATS team is located. A metal walkway where about forty spectators had crowded collapses. They fall from a height of 4-5 meters. Terrifying screams are heard, and rescue efforts arrive immediately. People are bleeding on the asphalt, some have fainted, others are in shock. Nurse and medical teams intervene promptly along with ambulances. About thirty people are forced to seek medical attention for the fractures suffered in the fall. Fifteen of them are admitted to the Haarlem hospital, a few kilometers away. Two are in serious condition due to fractures to the back and legs. Others are kept under observation. About twenty spectators, who only have some scratches, are treated in the circuit's infirmary. It is likely that the walkway collapsed due to excessive weight. Among the injured is also Jackie Oliver, a former driver, manager of Arrows, who suffers a shoulder bruise but will still be able to carry out his work in the pits during the race. The younger son of the English manager, who suffered a sprain, is also involved in the incident. A few hours later, serious problems arise on the grid trying to start Niki Lauda's McLaren. The car has to be push-started by the mechanics a minute before the green light. The maneuver would not be legal, but no one files a complaint. 


At the start, Nelson Piquet is faster than Alain Prost and overtakes him at the first corner. Patrick Tambay, Elio De Angelis, and Keke Rosberg follow. During the fourth lap, Rosberg overtakes De Angelis. In the next lap, the Finn also passes Patrick Tambay, who is also approached by Elio De Angelis. Niki Lauda, starting poorly, gains several positions and is already seventh by the fifth lap. During the eighth lap, Niki Lauda also overtakes Elio De Angelis, while Michele Alboreto is forced to retire due to an engine failure. In the next lap, the Austrian also passes Patrick Tambay. On the 11th lap, Nelson Piquet's race ends as he retires due to a constant oil leak that started in the early minutes of the race. Alain Prost takes the lead, followed by his teammate Niki Lauda, who has also managed to pass Keke Rosberg. Patrick Tambay is fourth, still threatened by Elio De Angelis. The Italian tries to take advantage of lapping to overtake the Renault driver on the 19th lap, but Patrick Tambay defends vigorously. In the next lap, the Italian Lotus driver collides with Manfred Winkelhock's car while attempting to lap him but manages to stay on the track and continue the race. On the 21st lap, Jacques Laffite overtakes Derek Warwick and moves up to sixth position. However, during the 24th lap, the Williams driver is forced to retire due to an engine failure, causing oil to spill on the track. Both Derek Warwick and Manfred Winkelhock, who arrive shortly after, slide on the oil and are forced to retire. During the 37th lap, Patrick Tambay, in fourth place, stops at the pit to make a tire change. The French driver returns to the track in ninth place. René Arnoux, who moves up to sixth place, is later overtaken by Teo Fabi and Patrick Tambay. Keke Rosberg, who has reduced his turbo pressure to save fuel, is approached by Elio De Angelis and Nigel Mansell, with the Brit constantly attacking his teammate. 


On the 52nd lap, Patrick Tambay overtakes Teo Fabi. On the 54th lap, Nigel Mansell finally overtakes Elio De Angelis just as Alain Prost is approaching to lap the two Lotus cars. Another lap later, at the first corner, the Briton also overtakes Nico Rosberg. Meanwhile, Alain Prost, in an attempt to lap the Finn, almost spins but manages to regain control of his car. Shortly after, Teo Fabi overtakes Patrick Tambay, who is having gearbox problems, and returns to sixth place. During the 61st lap, René Arnoux, in eighth place, decides to return to the pit to change tires. The maneuver surprises Thierry Boutsen, who is behind the Ferrari driver: the front of Boutsen's Arrows hits the rear of René Arnoux's car, takes off in the air, and lands back on its wheels at the edge of the track. Arnoux, however, continues the race, even setting the fastest lap before retiring with an ignition problem. During the 70th lap, Keke Rosberg also stops, having run out of fuel. Alain Prost wins the Dutch Grand Prix. Niki Lauda is second, followed by Nigel Mansell, on the podium for the first time this season. The two Formula 1 rivals share the honors equally. Just a week earlier, Niki Lauda triumphed at Zeltweg. Now it's Alain Prost's turn to win the Dutch Grand Prix. Lauda now has 54 points, and Prost has 52.5: a point and a half between them. Nothing for the others to do. This is McLaren's year: nine victories seal a season of clear dominance, an absolute record that sets the benchmark. The only interesting theme for the championship remains the battle between the two teammates. A battle that, in words, is based on chivalry, on sportsmanship. But on the track, it ignites passions in an unrelenting rivalry, with the emerging champion, Alain Prost, fiercely determined to assert his greater freshness and speed. Lauda acts in defense, trying to take advantage of his rival's mistakes, to keep him at a distance. Alain Prost, with a big smile on his face, says at the end of the race:


"Now let's start over. Winning wasn't particularly difficult. I had a good start, even though Piquet got away from me at the first corner. I let the Brazilian go; I knew he wouldn't hold on for long. Then, when I took the lead, I tried to focus to the maximum. I was calm. Only one thing scared me. There was a wrong signal from the pits. The lap before, they had indicated that Rosberg was behind me, 17 seconds away. In the next passage, I saw the sign with Rosberg at 17 seconds and Lauda at 4 seconds. I thought the Austrian was 21 seconds behind. Instead, shortly after, in the rearview mirrors, I saw the silhouette of his car, I got scared. I no longer understood anything. I held on. I forced the pace even more, and Lauda fell behind. From that moment, I had no more problems".


Prost is genuinely happy. He was afraid of repeating last season when he lost the title in the final races. Now he knows he is strong, able to count on the support of the whole team.


"Of course, I still have to catch up, but I feel confident. In any case, the final victory will be between the two of us. I regret that it's my teammate, but that's how it went. This time I made no mistakes. I was very careful. Some lappings worried me because it was difficult to pass between four cars without risking. But on this circuit, staying behind for a lap means losing precious seconds. So I always passed whoever was in front of me with the utmost determination. It went well".


Niki acknowledges being defeated.


"He was stronger; there was nothing to be done. I made a mistake again. Prost chose harder tires, which gave him more security throughout the race, while I opted for a different solution, with soft tires on one side and hard ones on the other. And this caused me significant damage. I also started poorly; I let the engine revs drop. Then I recovered, gave my best in the first laps. Overtaking one after another. When I got behind Prost, the tires started to deteriorate, and he pulled away inexorably. I had to settle for second place. There are still three races. In Monza in fifteen days, we'll see about playing for this title. I know the Italian track well. I hope to build up a good lead again: but Alain - I must admit - is a difficult man to beat right now".


Niki Lauda's statement is not a surrender. The two-time World Champion has certainly not raised the white flag. He still hopes, absolutely wants to win his third world title. But with Prost, with the Prost of these days, there is little to be done. He is truly the fastest driver in Formula 1. While McLaren celebrates, Prost rushes to call home, and Lauda is already thinking about a quick comeback, all the others are complaining. Few words from Ferrari. René Arnoux is abruptly attacked by Boutsen for the incident he was involved in ("Tomorrow I will call the Federation to have the Frenchman disqualified. A maneuver like the one he pulled on me is criminal".


The French driver does not seek excuses but at the same time suggests that the episode was accidental and certainly not deliberately provoked. However, few comments are made about the race. But it must be said that the season is a failure. Sports director Marco Piccinini leaves immediately. Technical manager Forghieri remains silent. Only Alboreto makes a statement:


"The car was going great, I was turning well, and I was happy when the unexpected happened. That's how races are; we shouldn't make dramas. We work, try to recover".


A few meters away, tension is felt between the Toleman and Lotus teams. The English team, which currently has De Angelis and Mansell, announces that it has signed the young revelation of the championship, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna, for the next season. A contract that will be valid for 1985 and 1986, for which the South American will receive a total sum of $800.000. The signing of Senna was wanted by the sponsor. The fact is absolutely not accepted by Toleman, which has a contract with the Brazilian that expires at the end of next year. The British team immediately issues a statement announcing legal action against Lotus and the driver himself. But Senna does not appear particularly worried: his previous contract specified that, by paying a penalty, he could free himself from the engagement. It is not uncommon in Formula 1 for a team to steal a driver from another. It happened when Prost moved from McLaren to Renault. The English team rebelled and threatened legal action. Then everything was resolved. Now, the hiring of the young Brazilian Ayrton Senna by Lotus creates a real case. The current team of the South American driver, Toleman, protests vigorously against this sudden action by the rival team.


"We have a three-year contract with Senna, and we intend it to be respected. If Senna leaves our team, we will suffer incredible damage. We have contracts with some sponsors. If they give up financial support, we may be forced to leave the racing world".


It is said that the British team will turn to lawyers, both against Lotus and Senna. The spontaneous question that arises is: why did Senna and Lotus announce the signing of the Brazilian so early? Why did Senna, who was linked to Marlboro as a driver, agree to move to a team supported by a direct competitor, John Player Special? These are genuine mysteries. In any case, Senna will have to pay a penalty. The exact amount he will have to pay to Toleman is not officially known, but it is rumored to be around a hundred thousand dollars. As mentioned, Senna will receive a salary of $800.000 from Lotus. He will thus be forced to contribute a portion of his earnings to his former team. The only truly negative aspect concerns the situation of the driver within his current team. With what attitude will Toleman prepare Ayrton's cars for the upcoming races? It is known that at the Nürburgring, the team's second car will be taken by Englishman Brundle, who was injured in Dallas, but after these events, it is not excluded that Senna might be left without a car. While waiting to understand how this situation will unfold, the Dutch Grand Prix leaves only two more questions in the Formula 1 World Championship. The first obviously concerns the title fight between Lauda and Prost, increasingly uncertain and thrilling. The second is related to McLaren's situation, which at Zandvoort secured another one-two finish, despite the hopeful expectations of the rivals. To answer the first question, we will likely have to wait until Sunday, October 21, 1984, when the season will conclude at the Estoril circuit. 


The challenge, however, captivates and divides the Formula 1 community itself. Lauda, who, after Zeltweg, enjoyed the overwhelming majority of support in predictions, continues to be indicated as the driver with the best chances of success among colleagues. But it must be said that these responses are more out of sympathy than a serious analysis of the situation. At the moment, therefore, it is a fairly balanced situation, with McLaren likely to play a decisive role, possibly favoring one driver over the other. However, with the title already secured, the British team can also impartially watch the battle. The one-and-a-half-point advantage of the Austrian driver is not much, but Niki will certainly do everything to take advantage of it. The other question concerns McLaren. Does the championship need a team that consistently places its cars in the top positions with exasperating monotony? If Lauda had not sparked a great chase at Zandvoort, many people would have left the circuit before the end of the race, or as many spectators at home would have turned off the television or tuned in to another program. It is not, however, McLaren's fault that everyone else, from Ferrari to Renault, Lotus, Williams, and Brabham, cannot react this year. It is rather a merit of the English team, which, with the help of Porsche (which dared to send engineer Metzer, the engine designer, on vacation during this period), has managed to create a car and an engine that have an extra gear and significant reliability. 


The fact remains that the show suffers, and one must be content with watching De Angelis and Rosberg perform high acrobatic maneuvers to stay on the track with cars that seem to prefer the grass and guardrails to the asphalt. And it is better to be silent about Ferrari, which is not really a protagonist. McLaren has thus mathematically won the Constructors' World Championship with three races to go. An achievement they already accomplished in 1974 when Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme were at the helm. Ron Dennis's team seems, however, on track to shatter numerous records in Formula 1, after already breaking the one for seasonal victories (9) held by Lotus (8). Now, with 100.5 points, McLaren can aim for the absolute record of results achieved in a championship (120 by Williams in 1980). But it would still need a clean sweep on Sunday, September 9, at Monza, as with Jones and Reutemann, the team scored them in fourteen races, while this year there are sixteen races available. Prost and Lauda may also attempt to equal another record, held by Ferrari: that of consecutive victories. The Maranello team achieved seven in 1952 and 1953 (actually, there were fourteen victories in a row, one after the other, but in two different seasons). For now, the Frenchman and the Austrian are at four (Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands) and should continue in the Italian, European, and Portuguese Grands Prix. Will this feat also be accomplished? At this point, anything is possible.


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