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#402 1984 Italian Grand Prix

2021-09-10 01:00

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#1984,

#402 1984 Italian Grand Prix

When the red cars appear in the pit lane on Friday morning there are smiles from the McLaren team for two of the cars have McLaren-type rear bodywork

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When the red cars appear in the pit lane on Friday morning there are smiles from the McLaren team for two of the cars have McLaren-type rear bodywork style of aerodynamics in which the sides are narrowed into the gearbox with a rising under shield under the rear suspension. John Barnard designs this into his Cosworth-powered MP411 series of cars and continues it into the Porsche-powered MP4.2 series, so that the end result has always looked beautifully homogeneous. When you try and modify an existing car to this rear-end shape it is never as convincing. Patrick Head does it on the FW09 Williams halfway through the season and now Ferrari has done it, which means relocating the side-mounted radiators, placing them above the inter-coolers. Next to the McLaren pit are the Euro racing Alfa Romeos and they have a similar treatment which actually looks quite neat, but Barnard smiles and says: They haven’t got it quite right, but it’s not a bad attempt. The important thing to remember is that Barnard knows why he designed the back of the McLaren the way it is, and that it is not vital on its own. It has to be integrated with a lot of other things, many of them not obvious or visible. The pit-lane wags are suggesting that Ron Dennis is marketing a Barnard conversion kit after Patrick Head has proved his prototype, so that now Ferrari and Alta Romeo have bought the production models! However, these days aerodynamics are not the be-all and end-all that we used to be told in the days whets everyone had 525 bhp front Cosworth and any advantage had to be gained by the team’s aerodynamicist. Now it is rather the other way round, power outputs are anything up to 700 bhp and depending on how much more you have over your rivals determines your aerodynamic configuration. To some teams the power of the Porsche engine in the McLaren is disturbing, judging by the aerofoil angles they can run and still come out near the top, in the maximum speed contest. It's all a fascinating contest of power and during the qualifying hours for grid positions, it is a question of how much boast your engine can stand. Figures are rising above 42 Ibisq in above atmosphere, and that is a lot of manifold pressure. 
 
Although the real Monza has been emaciated by three chicanes just at the points where speed was getting exciting, the circuit is still fast and strong and powerful engines are all important. Friday morning passes peacefully, with barely a murmur from the surprisingly large crowd of spectators, for neither Ferrari driver is anywhere near the pace of Piquet, Press, Lauda and Mansell who are up at the front. The Monza organisers have built a fine ness grandstand opposite the length of the pits and high enough to see over the protecting walls and give a good view into the piston: itself, where much of the excitement happens. Out on the track was pretty exciting as itself, for the fastest cars are crossing the timing line at over 185 mph after a lap at an average of nearly 145 mph. The name Monza has always been synonymous with speed and in spite of attempts to slow things down it is maintaining its traditions. In the pit lane it is noticeable to everyone that Alboreto has a new Ferrari engineer looking after his car and there is no sign of Forghieri or Postlethwaite, .not that they attend every race, but Monza Without Forghieri seems all wrong. He was giving it a miss as a mild protest against the Italians who have been rubbishing him recently. In the mid-field area and towards the back there are also some faces missing. The Toleman team has suspended Ayrton Senna in view of his mismanagement of signing for Lotus for next year. As the ‘Nieman Group is taking proceedings against Senna and his confederates it is deemed legally prudent to not let him drive a Toleman car until the matter is settled. In his place is the amiable Swede Stefan Johansson, who seems to be more than capable of matching the performance we have come to expect from Senna. In the second Toleman, merely to make up the numbers, the young Italian F3 driver Pier-Luigi Martini is being given a chance. Hardly missed by most people with the Tyrrell team, absent in its entirety not by choice, but by law. An International Court of Appeal has sat after the recent Dutch Grand Prix and Team Tyrrell is still found guilty of transgressing numerous rules regarding weight and construction, discovered after Brundle had finished second in Detroit.
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The result is that Team Tyrell are banned from the rest of the World Championship races of 1984 and loses any points gained. This Johansson and Bella on the unemployed list, and Brundle who has nearly recovered from his injuries incurred at Dallas, which is why Tolemann snapped up Johansson. At the top end of the pits there is a lot of niggling little engine troubles. mostly to do with electronics and injection systems, while at the lower end the trembles are physical. Winkelhock has a driveshaft break on his ATS which in itself is not serious, but it flails round the broke the rear suspension and which pitched him off into the barriers which did a lot of damage to the car. Gartner in the second Osella V13.also hit the harriers pretty heavily and damages the right front comer. Just as the morning test session finish a sprinkle of rain fell which is just enough to wet the circuit and make it slippery for racing tyres and not wet enough to justify needed rain-tyres, so that when the qualifying hour gets under way at 1:00 p.m. the scene is rather low-key. In the morning testing Piquet has cracked the 1'30"0 barrier drivers others were within a fraction of no doing, but now qualifying times of 1'34"0 are appearing, which is simply unreal. Luckily once the sun appears in Italy it does a good job and before the end of the hour the circuit dries rapidly and we are able to get on with the real business. Lap speeds soon reached 1'30"0 and then drop dramatically below with de Angelis (Lotus), Piquet Brabliam Fabi (Brabham), Alboreto (Ferrari), Prost (McLaren), all breaking the barrier, the first two being well into the 1'28"0 mark, but there is a lot more to come for the track is not completely dry where it passes under trees. Even so, de Angelis made the fastest qualifying lap at over 147 mph and Piquet recorded 193.5 mph past the pits. That is in the Brabham T-car, well tweaked up for Piquet’s second rue and it ends with a mightly explosion and oil dribbling out through the joints of the engine cover and the whole rear end looking as though it had just been freshly cellulosed.
 
A huge cloud of smoke in the pit lane announces the arrival of Rosberg with a Honda engine in pieces in the back of his Williams and Hart engines are breaking in the RAM ears. Renault is in different troubles, Cambay spins and stalls as he accelerates away from the pit lane before the track is properly dry and is forced to abandon his car and return on foot to take the spare car, and Warwick could not get with it, hating. the circuit with its silly chicanes just as you are getting going. All the expected drivers are up at the top of the list, but it is not conclusive as conditions are far from perfect. With Ferrari cars fourth and eleventh there is not much to shout about in the Saturday morning papers, and the crowd is visibly thinner, the fine new grandstand being almost empty. Although the weather is grey and dull, at least it is dry and looks like staying so. Engines are still the keynote of the testing session, Palmer’s Hart engine needing to be changed in his RAM car, the fourth failure the team has suffered already. Proses Porsche engine in his McLaren goes off-song and needs changing, so he took the rear and the BMW engine in Surer’s Arrows lost its oil pressure, which forced him into the Tear. Boutsen is fairly happy with a brand new Arrows A7 to replace the ODC damaged at Zandvoort. Saturday afternoon is perfect and it is now that the grid positions are going to be settled once and let all. A flurry around the McLaren pit shows that Lauda has strained his back during the morning but his personal medic has worked on him and he is keeping his fingers crossed. In the Brabham pits a new tactic has been planned, and it nearly catches everyone else on the hop. Normally the qualifying hour starts off with the rabbits scuttling round to record a time and then get out of the way before the big boys appear after about 20 minutes for their first attempts. Then there is a lull until the final pandemonium in the last 10 or 15 minutes when all hell breaks loose. This time Piquet whistles out in the Brabham Tear amongst the rabbits and before anyone has fully appreciated it he has done a lap in 1'26"584, one and a half seconds quicker than the best Friday time.
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This is an average speed of 149.8 mph, with a speed-trap reading at the end of the pits of 195 mph! Instantly, Rosberg Tambay (Renault), Prost (McLaren) Alboreto (Ferrari) and most of the other hot shoes are out there and at it. Lotus is running with the boost-control valves removed completely from their Renault engines, letting the turbines spin until they choked hoping that the engine could stand the boost pressure. The fur is beginning to fly among the manufacturers’ teams and we are getting a foretaste of the power development trends that the coming winter will probably see. Meanwhile the Brabham lads has changed the tyres on the Brabham T-car, fitting Piquet’s second marked set, put in a few more litres of fuel, stuffed an asbestos glove up the exhaust pipe to quell any insidious gas burning, refills the water tank for the intercooler spray, and place an electric cooling fan to blow on the turbocharger unit. In other words everything is ready for Piquet’s second qualifying run while the opposition is scrabbling to match his first time. Prost is using the McLaren Tear whiles new engine is being put into his race car, and he soon challenges the Brabham time with 1'26"671 but nobody else is in their league. De Angelis knocks half a second off his Friday time, which is a fine effort, but it is not good enough to even worry Piquet or Prost. Then Piquet goes out to have a go on his second net of qualifying tyres and just as he gets fully wound up all the boost pressure disappeares and he is back in the pits. Working with asbestos gloves and buckets of water the mechanics remove the turbocharger unit and install a new one. The turbine has seized and shear the shaft to the compressor. Everything is fettled up in double quick time, just in case anyone beats Piquet’s pole position, but it is not necessary. The only one who looks like getting near it was Prost, and he has failed. The Brabham mechanics quietly sticks another tiny gold star on the monocoque of BT53/3, its seventh pole position this season in Nelson Piquet’s capable hands. In other places it may have been recorded as BT53/6, but that is entirely due to paperwork complications. All this excitement is accompanied by the well-known deafening silence from the small crowd, for Alboreto is 11th and Arnoux is 14th.
 
That is bad news for the Ferraris but worse still is the knowledge that the Alfa Romeos of Patrese and Cheever are both ahead of the Ferraris. The Alfas are showing an improvement in speed with their revised McLaren-like rear end, but in truth, it is more due to the fact that the revisions have given the turbochargers more breathing space, so they are probably working more efficiently. Sunday is a beautiful day for going to the lakes or the mountains, yet a surprisingly large crowd turns up at the Autodromo di Monza in the vain hope that some miracle ordaines by the Pope would salvage something from the wreckage of the practice days for the Ferraris. The morning warm-up session sees Maranello’s hopes look even less likely, as both drivers opt to take their spare cars, which were to the old (!) Zandvoort specification, with tubular rear suspension and side radiators. Other teams are thrown into chaos for different reasons and luckily there is a good three hours before the start. Both Honda engines in the Williams cars give trouble, so a new engine is installed in Rosberg’s car and Laffite has to take the Tear, which he has not even sat in before. Both the Porsche engines in the McLaren race cars develope ominous water leaks, so Prost is relegated to the rear, which he has already used in qualifying and which has a new engine in it, and Lauda has a new engine installed in his car. Renault is also in trouble and Warwick has to take the spare car, which is RE50/09, abandoned by Tambay in favour of the older RE50/02 and Johansson causes a panic in the Toleman team when he favoures the engine in his race car but the chassis of the Tear. There is something wrong with TG184/05 in its handling, but he could not pinpoint it and while the swap is being made a serious flaw is found where the engine is attached to the monocoque. Piquet’s BMW engine has another turbocharger failure and rather than risk starting the race with a brand new one the one off the T-car is put on BT53/4 as it has done a small amount of running and is a known quantity, and a new unit os put on the T-car as a standby. There are busy times for the workers, while the spectators and time-wasters swan about in the sunshine.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alessia Borelli


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