It had now been three years since Alfa Romeo’s much-heralded F1 comeback, and aside from the odd flash of pace, they had had very little to show for their almost unlimited budget. For 1982, though, they were expected to improve as they joined the turbo brigade, a new engine being designed to replace the heavy and underpowered V12 they had had so far. The new chassis to hold it, the 181, would be designed by Gerard Ducarouge – unceremoniously fired by Ligier partway through 1981 – and although the Alfa Romeo team were famously secretive about their R&D there were reasons to be optimistic. What would remain to be seen was how the behind-the-scenes replacement of the Autodelta team who had brought the Alfa name back into F1 with the EuroRacing team would pan out. Bruno Giacomelli continued his long association with the team but eyebrows were raised with the return to Alfa Romeo of Andrea de Cesaris after his demolition-derby year with McLaren, thanks to the Marlboro connection.
The cheerful Giacomelli had been unlucky on several occasions in 1981 but had done his best in the recalcitrant Alfa 179 and come good at the end of the season with a fourth place in Canada and his first podium finish, third place in Caesar’s Palace. Giacomelli had been with the team since its inception in 1979 and would continue to provide valuable development testing while hoping for better fortune in 1982.
To say that de Cesaris had made an impact in his first full F1 season with McLaren would be literally true, but hardly in the way he would have wanted. The hotheaded Italian showed occasional flashes of speed, but wrecked so many expensive chassis that the McLaren team even withdrew him from a race in case he did it again. His return to Alfa Romeo was more down to his personal Marlboro sponsorship than any racing reasons.