1981-82 Off-Season

Technical and rules changes

During 1981, following the ban on sliding skirts to lessen the strength of Ground Effects, first Brabham and then everyone had adopted hydrodynamic suspension, which gave the legal 6cm clearance while stationary but lowered the car onto the track at the flick of a switch in the cockpit. Although flagrantly illegal, because all teams were using it and the playing field was at least level, FISA had decided not to make an issue of it during the season. However, these systems were banned for 1982 and cars were forced to rely on aerodynamic grip alone.

The main object of controversy, though, was the turbocharged engine. Renault and Ferrari had used turbo engines with varying degrees of success in 1981, as had the little Toleman team, while Brabham had been collaborating with BMW to get a turbo car ready for 1982. Turbo engines were heavier but massively more powerful than the normally-aspirated engines and were, in addition, costly to develop and run and unreliable. 1981 had seen the reliability problems start to drop away and Renault in particular had looked very good at the end of the season, leaving the non-turbo teams scrambling to figure out a counter. Non-turbo cars – especially with the new carbon-fibre technology – could be light enough to negate the turbo power advantage, *but* the rules stated a minimum weight of 580kg all-in, which prevented them using this advantage.

With an increasing interest in the series, FISA did raise the number of permitted entries at a Grand Prix to 34, and raised the grid size from 24 to 26 (except at narrow Monaco where it remained 20), with a standard pre-qualifying session to prevent overcrowding on the track for Qualifying.

On the subject of qualifying, with tyre manufacturers Avon, Michelin and Goodyear all producing special super-sticky compound tyres for qualifying which gave extra speed but were only good for a few laps, FISA stepped in to limit the number of sets of tyres permitted per session, which Gilles Villeneuve objected to:

If I have only two chances to set a time, I need a clear track, OK? If it isn’t clear, if there’s someone in my way, I just have to hope he’s looking in his mirrors — I mean, I can’t lift, because this is my last chance.

Finally, one last provision of the Concorde Agreement would be introduced: a driver would now have to prove a certain level of ability by winning a junior series or at least finishing consistently well. FISA would now issue a Super Licence to all drivers before they could race – but some clauses of the Licence seemed to tie drivers exclusively to teams for a number of years, which caused disagreement among the drivers, who preferred a more freewheeling approach.


After falling victim to the FISA-FOCA squabbles last year, the South African Grand Prix was once again part of the official calendar, taking place in its usual January spot, months before the rest of the season kicked off. The Long Beach race was moved to April, after the Brazilian and Argentinian races and an additional US race on a Detroit street circuit was added in June. The Canadian race was moved to mid-season after last year’s wet race, while the British race rotated to Brands Hatch and the French race to Paul Ricard as normal, but the Dijon circuit would still feature as the host of the first Championship Swiss Grand Prix since World War 2.


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