When the pit lane opens for the cars to drive round the circuit to the dummy-grid, the two Brabhams lead the way to the accompaniment of whistle, and cat-calls, for the tifosi have no time for -little Bernie’s cars - nothing personal against Piquet or Fabi. Normally when a Ferrari appears the whole grandstand by the start-line erupts in sheer boy, but this time there is silence, knowing that Alboreto is going to line up on 11th position and Arnoux on 14th. As de Angelis leaves the pit lane seven people clap rather unenthusiastically, but at least it is a small show of appreciation of him being Italian. Mere boos and whistles as Prost appeares, but overall the scene is very quiet. After a lap Winkelhock returns to the pits and when he goes off again, with only 15 seconds before the exit is closed, the A’S is in dire trouble in its gearchange department. Long after everyone is lined up the ATS took its place on the grid, Winkelhock gets out, says some terse words to the team owner and stalks off never to be seen again. He has had enough of the shambles. The car is wheeled off the grid. Piquet leads the field round on its parade lap, they take their positions, all except Surer whose Arrows-BMW is pushed into the pit lane, and then the starting signal is given. From pole position Piquet do not make a perfect start and Prost is alongside as they get going, but de Angelis has made a real screamer and is between them as they disappear down to the first chicane. Nobody does anything stupid and the 55th Italian Grand Prix is underway for 51 laps of the 5.8 kilometre circuit. It is the old familiar one-two of Piquet leading Prost, but hard after them is Patrick Tambay who has made a terrific start from the fourth row, and he is followed by Fabi in the second Brabham.
For a brief moment de Angelis has held third place, but as things settle down the Lotus drops back into fifth place. By the end of lap 3 Piquet, Prost and Tambay are out on their own and nose-to-tail, with Fab, Lauda, dc Angelis, Mansell, Alboreto and Cheater following. Johansson has muffed his start and is last into the first chicane but then starts forceful climb up through the tail enders, while Surer has been forced to start from the pitlane after everyone has completed the first lap and i s also striving to make up lost time. The first three have hardly gone out sight on their fourth lap when loudspeakers scream hysterically and the whole crowd stands up and cheers. Frost has pulled the McLaren off onto the grass after the first chicane with clouds of smoke coming from a very blown-up Porsche engine. As the dejected Frenchman climbs from the car the crowd hurls abuse and handfuls of gravel at him, not so much in their objection to him and the car, but to give vent to their feelings at the Ferraris being so outclassed. For a time it is all over, for Tomboy could make no impression on Piquet, but he could not relax because he has Fabi behind him, so he is the meat in a Brabham sandwich. The quiet little Italian is giving it all he has got, for this is his great moment of truth before his home crowd, and he is doing fine. Arnoux disappeares with gearbox trouble, hardly having featured, and de Cesaris goes out when his Renault engine blows up and his team-mate Francois Hesnault spins off on the oil. Then Rosberg’s Honda engine blows up as he passes the pits and he pulls off on the right and while he is walking back to the pits the same thing happenes to Laffite. The attrition rate is getting embarrassing, and it is not over. Mansell spins off into retirement while braking for the second chicane and almost at the same time de Angelis almost stops opposite the pits as he stirs around with the gear lever to try and find another gear, and next lap he is into the pits and out of the race with gearbox failure.
As Piquet starts lap 16 his BMW engine gives out a strange brrrp noise and by the time he gets back to the pits it is all over, another wrecked BMW engine, well and truly cooked due to all the water leaking out through a radiator fault. So now Tambay is firmly in the lead, but he has Lauda and Fabi behind him. The little Italian has performed a remarkable spin, which drops him from third place to eighth place, on lap 8, has gathered it all up without losing his momentum and within five laps is back up with Lauda, passing him on lap 17 to put himself in second place behind the leading Renault. Warwick in the second Renault is trailing along in mid-field, eventually scratching his way past Cheever’s Alfa Romeo and Johansson has pulled right up to seventh place and is now having a good race with Cheever. On lap 25 Tambay comes up behind Boutsen’s Arrows, which has been delayed by a pit stop, and the Belgian is about to pass Gartner’s Osella, so things get a bit crowded for a while and this allows Fabi and Lauda to close right up on the Renault, but once by Tambay re-asserts himself in the lead, but even so he could not relax as the other two were not that far behind. Warwick’s miserable run came to an end when his oil pressure warning light shines brightly, due to IOW pressure, and before disaster streaks he switches things off. Lauda now feels it is time to do something about little Teo Fabi and the red and white McLaren begins to pressure the Brabham, no much so that Fabi’s mirrors must have both been full of the dreaded number eight on the nose of the McLaren, here lie is unperturbed and stands up to the pressure splendidly. Twice Lauda makes a pass at going by as they raced for the first chicane at 175-180 mph, but Fabi would not give in, and twice Lauda has to drop back in behind the Brabham, but as they end lap 39 with the run down the back straight to the Curva Parabolica Lauda makes his move in a very determined manner and is by the Brabham as they go into the braking area.
With 10 laps to go Tambay has lapped Patrese’s Alfa Romeo, which is cruising around in seventh place, trying to conserve fuel, while Cheever in the other Alfa is trying to hold off Johansson in the Toleman, with his lingers crossed that he would not run out of fuel, for the V8 Alfa Romeo engine is a thirsty beast. As Johansson takes fifth place from Cheever, Lauda is beginning to move in on Tambay, for the Renault’s throttles are reluctant to open and the Frenchman is having to press harder and harder on the accelerator pedal. All this time Alboreto has been running consistently with the lone Ferrari, and has it not been for the crowds he could have been overlooked. Starting in 11th place he was quickly up to eighth place, and as people drop out he gained positions. For a long while he runs a very distant fourth without much encouragement, but when it is seen that Fabi’s Brabham is wilting, the crowd stands up and urges Alboreto to greater efforts, for third place is an honourable one, whereas nobody bothers about fourth place, the oil scavenge pipe union teethe righthand side of the BMW engine in Fabi’s car had sheares off flush with the sump and the engine is losing oil though still maintaining pressure as the left hand side, scavenge pump is still doing its stuff. Eventually there is no oil left to scavenge and on lap 43 the engine seize as Fabi passes the pits, pulling off on the right of the track to a loud chorus of jeers and catcalls, aimed solely at the Brabham of Mr Ecclestone, for the Italian crowd make no bones about their dislike of Bernie Ecclestone. When Fabi climbs out of the car the jeers and catcalls changes to applause and cheering in appreciation of the first class drive that Fabi has done and you could sense the sympathy extended to the little Italian. However, there is now delirium for Alboreto who is third, a place of honour and he is encouraged all round the circuit.
Almost unnoticed Lauda has taken the lead from Tambay just before the demise of Fabi’s Brabham and then on lap 44 as the Renault accelerats out of the Curva Parabolica the throttle cable snaps as clean as a whistle, at the point where it enters the linkage on the front of the engine, and with a loose pedal down to the floor the throttles snaps shut and Tambay could do nothing except coast to a stop right beside the Renault team at the pit wall. Almost in tears at being robbed of a much needed victory, Tambay clambers over the wall and Alboreto goes by into second place, while the crowd shouts, waves and cheers. There is a Father Christmas after all, and the Pope has done his work well. All round the circuit the crowd urges Alboreto onwards, but he is much too far behind Lauda to be able to do anything about it. But what a glorious second place for the Ferrari record book: in years to come everyone will have forgotten that it was by default. As Tambay is being struck down Johansson is in fourth place in the Toleman, but the back end is wandering about and, just as he should have inherited third place with the retirement of the Renault, he decides to stop at the pits to see what is wrong, which automatically let Cheever through into third place, bathe is fast running out of fuel and slows dramatically as he crosses the line in third place. He staggeres round for one more lap and then comes to rest with a dry tank and third place has gone out of the window. The Toleman trouble is a driveshaft joint breaking up, but it is not terminal and Johansson is told to try and nurse it through to the finish, and he rejoins the race in fourth place, but a lap down on the leader. It looks pretty secure for Patrese’s Alfa Romeo is miles behind but the Toleman could only go at a relative crawl and Patrese takes fourth piaci front Johansson just as Cheroot rolls to a stop, so the slightly bewildered Italian finds himself in third place.
Albeit a lap and more behind the majestic Lauda who is cruising home, to a hard earned victory, his fifth this season’ and his 24th in total, a total which now equals that of the legendary Fangio, who is at Monza watching the race. As Lauda reels off the last two laps the survivors are still in trouble. Both Osellas has run splendidly for a change, and Ghinzani has kept his end up well and is in a thoroughly deserved fourth place, only to run out of fuel and coast to a stop as he starts his 49th lap. This let his team-mate Gartner go by into fifth place, but as he ends the lap, his last one, he too runs out of fuel, but by switching on the electric starting pump the engine gives one final burst which gives him sufficient impetus to coast up to the finishing line and hang on to fifth place. Behind him in sixth place is young Gerhard Berger, in only his second Formula One race, after driving his ATS-BMW smoothly and neatly and coping without fourth gear for most of the latter part of the race. Three laps behind comes Rothengatter in the Spirit, having raced with Berger for quite a large part of the race, and the only other healthy runner is Thierry Boutsen, whose Arrows-BMW has been delayed by three pits stops for repairs. It has been a race of attrition with three different leaders, a well earned victory for Lauda and the remarkable sight of three Austrian drivers in the first six and a splendid showing by Johansson on his first drive with a really competitive car. With Michele Alboreto up on the winner’s rostrum alongside Lauda, who after all used to be a Ferrari driver, the crowd goes wild with delight and anyone arriving in the Autodromo at that moment could have been excused for thinking Ferrari has won the 55th Italian Grand Prix, instead of only being a rather distant second. There re a lot of drivers who should have been second, had their machinery not let them down, as well as a handful who should have been first but for the same reason, but “to finish first you must first finish” which is precisely what the wily Lauda did.