1981 Season Summary



1. Alan Jones au
2. Carlos Reutemann ar

The team successfully defended its constructors title in style, but was unable to secure the drivers’ title for Jones or Reutemann. Despite early season dominance, Williams had lost ground to the others after the mid-season point and had just two thirds, two seconds and one win from the second half of the season.


3. Eddie Cheever us
4. Kevin Cogan us / Ricardo Zunino ar / Michele Alboreto it

A disappointing season for the venerable British team, posting four DNQs over the season, the first time the team had ever failed to qualify a car. Eddie Cheever was the only points-scoring driver in the first car, while a series of pay-drivers in car two failed to impress. Switching tyre suppliers several times mid-season can’t have helped.

Nelson Piquet


5. Nelson Piquet br
6. Héctor Rebaque mx

Pretty good season for Bernie Ecclestone and co, with Piquet winning the drivers’ title and the team placing second in the constructors’ race. However, Héctor Rebaque had proved a disappointment in the second car – even failing to qualify in Monaco while Nelson took pole. Brabham can look forward to an interesting 1982 as they move to turbo engines.


7. John Watson gb
8. Andrea de Cesaris it

A rough start to the season as the team readied its new car, but the MP4/1 made an instant impact giving John Watson a win and three more podiums and possibly saving his life in Italy. Andrea de Cesaris a major disappointment though, scoring just one point all year and makes way for Niki Lauda next year.



9. Jan Lammers nl / Slim Borgudd se
10. Slim Borgudd se

Another dreadful year for the German team, though they improved as the season went on, replacing failures to qualify with failures to finish but picking up a point at Silverstone for their efforts. The team try hard, and deserve better success.




11. Elio de Angelis it
12. Nigel Mansell gb

The saga of the Lotus 88 cast a pall over the whole season, but de Angelis was a regular visitor to the lower points and Mansell showed flashes of talent with a third place in Belgium and a fine drive in Vegas, but was generally erratic and prone to retirement.


14. Marc Surer ch / Ricardo Londoño-Bridge co / Eliseo Salazar cl

4th place and the fastest lap for Surer in Brazil promised much but proved a false dawn, and the unfortunate Surer was the victim of economic forces rather than his own failures in losing the drive to the well-financed Salazar later in the season. Nonetheless, the team’s biggest points haul and only one DNQ all season is promising for the little team’s future.


15. Alain Prost fr
16. René Arnoux fr

Reliability the usual problem for Renault in the early part of the season, with third in Argentina for Prost the only points in the first half of the season. Once the problems began to fade, though, Prost put on a late charge for the title, winning three races – more than any other driver. Arnoux continued to struggle though, and was rumoured to have fallen out with Prost as well.


17. Derek Daly ie / Eliseo Salazar cl
18. Eliseo Salazar cl / Derek Daly ie

Absolutely dreadful comeback season for the team, though things improved after the decision to cut back to one car after Monaco and focus on Derek Daly. Nonetheless, 23 attempts, 9 qualifications and 4 finishes tells its own story. The experienced March organisation undoubtedly found it harder than they expected.


20. Keke Rosberg fi
21. Chico Serra br

Early-season form was promising, with the cars sometimes running in the points, but dogged by reliability problems. However, the wheels came off in a big way in the back straight, with the team only qualifying once after Germany and having to withdraw from Austria due to lack of engines.

81MC-B109Alfa Romeo

22. Mario Andretti us
23. Bruno Giacomelli it

Dogged by bad reliability from their in-house engines, Mario Andretti’s home fourth place in Long Beach was the highlight of the season with the “other” Marlboro cars usually running in midfield. At least until the last few races of the season when Giacomelli scored a fourth and third place, and Andretti had run well until retiring. The former champion rumoured to be on the way out.

Patrick Tambay takes his new Ligier around Dijon

Talbot Ligier-Matra

25. Jean-Pierre Jarier fr / Jean-Pierre Jabouille fr / Patrick Tambay fr
26. Jacques Laffite fr

The French team were tipped to be title contenders after good 1979 and 1980 seasons, and after a bad start Jacques Laffite really came good in the second half of the season, winning two races and taking 5 more podium places to remain a title contender until the last race. Not a single point from car 25 though, with Jarier, Jabouille and Tambay all underperforming.



27. Gilles Villeneuve ca
28. Didier Pironi fr

Villeneuve and Pironi usually struggled with their powerful but evil-handling cars and their unreliable turbo engines. Villeneuve usually delivered the goods in qualification but apart from the back to back wins in Monaco and Spain, and a battling third place in Canada, another bad year for the prancing horse.



29. Riccardo Patrese it
30. Siegfried Stohr it / Jacques Villeneuve ca

A great start to the season as Patrese takes pole in Long Beach, then takes 3rd in Brazil and 2nd in San Marino – but then it all goes wrong after the traumatic Belgian GP and the team don’t post another point. Team will hope to put issues behind them in the off-season and retain talented Patrese.

Guerra Osella


31. Miguel-Angel Guerra ar / Piercarlo Ghinzani it / Beppe Gabbiani it
32. Beppe Gabbiani it / Piercarlo Ghinzani it / Giorgio Francia it / Miguel-Angel Guerra ar / Jean-Pierre Jarier fr

Another season-long bust for the little Italian team and desperately unfortunate for Guerra, whose GP career currently holds “shortest ever” record. Once Jarier arrived, he qualified regularly and showed up “team leader” Gabbiani. Team still searching for elusive first point.


33. Patrick Tambay fr / Marc Surer ch

A point on the team’s first outing promised much, and the new boys did well to qualify for all but two races, and finish all but three of those – no more points, but the Hong Kong-based team have a good base to build on for the future.

Derek Warwick in the Toleman TG181


35. Brian Henton gb
36. Derek Warwick gb

The team that had dominated Formula Two found the step up to F1 harder than they could have imagined, but Henton and Warwick did at least manage one qualification each and made friends around the grid with their cheerful, easygoing attitudes.


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