21 March 1982
A week after the South African Grand Prix, FISA announced that all drivers who had taken part in the strike would be fined $10000, banned for five races and have their superlicenses suspended. On appeal, this was reduced to $5000 and a suspended one-race ban. As the politics rumbled on, sponsors of the Argentine Grand Prix, scheduled for 7 March, started to get cold feet and pulled out, causing the race to be cancelled. So it was nearly two months after the race at Kyalami that the teams reconvened in Rio de Janeiro for round two.
Many of the teams had had chance to develop their new cars in the meantime and the Lotus 91, Alfa Romeo 182, Ensign N181 and Theodore TY02 would all be making their debuts in Brazil. The March team had found a good sponsorship deal with Rothmans, which allowed them to confirm Jochen Mass as a driver for the remainder of the season, while Brabham had decided their BT50/BMW combo needed more work and had brought last year’s BT49 chassis with Cosworth DFV power as a stopgap. The huge turbo advantage on display in Kyalami had given the DFV teams cause for concern, though ,and several of the teams had arrived with a new water-cooled brake system that they believed would exploit a loophole in the weight restriction rules. Cars had to be weighed in “racing condition” with all lubricants, coolants etc on board but scrutineers usually allowed teams to top these up to replace any lost during the race – so as not to punish a driver who nursed a car with a leaking radiator home, for instance. So the water-cooled brakes had a reservoir of water which would be sprayed liberally over the brakes in the first few laps, allowing the cars to run below minimum weight for the majority of the race and then be refilled for weighing-in. A wheeze, certainly, but within the letter of the rules.
With Guerrero’s contract now sorted out, Ensign were back and as a result there were 31 drivers, one more than the maximum permitted in qualifying. Rather than running a full pre-qualifying session, FISA took the three bottom teams from 1981 – Osella, Toleman and March – and eliminated whichever of their drivers posted the slowest free-practice time on Friday. Osella’s Riccardo Paletti was the unfortunate one. In the event, the medium-speed corners and twisty infield of the circuit meant that the turbo cars didn’t have as big an advantage. Prost took the pole position alongside Villeneuve, but third was Rosberg, alongside Arnoux, with Lauda and Reutemann on row three, Piquet 7th, Pironi 8th, Patrese 9th and de Cesaris 10th. Business as usual for the Tolemans which both failed to qualify alongside Brian Henton’s Arrows and Guerrero. Ligier, anonymous in South Africa, were dreadful here, qualifying 24th (Laffite) and 26th (Cheever), split by the Fittipaldi of Chico Serra, qualifying for the first time since Spain ’81.
As at Kyalami, race day was hot and the 80,000 or more partisan fans who swarmed into the circuit were hoping for a series of turbo blowouts to give their man Piquet the win. When the lights went green, it was Prost’s turn to get away slowly, dropping to fourth while Pironi leaped up to sixth. As the cars streamed through the first corner it was Villeneuve leading Arnoux, then Rosberg, Prost, Lauda and Pironi. Rosberg had the bit between his teeth and got past Arnoux at turn 3, water-cooled brakes steaming, but he got ambitious and ran wide while sniffing at Villeneuve and both Arnoux and a recovering
Prost got past. The Brabhams were also moving up the field, the nimbler DFV cars working better than the turbos on the infield section, and Piquet was soon ahead of Lauda into fifth place with Patrese seventh, tailing the McLaren. Pironi promoted both of them by making an off-track excursion and having to pit for new tyres, which dropped him to 13th, and the top six – Villeneuve, Arnoux, Prost, Patrese, Rosberg, Piquet – began pulling away from the rest of the field while Piquet scrambled past Rosberg into fifth. On lap 6, Prost got the exit of Norte wrong and the Brabhams came past and headed off after Arnoux like a two-car train. On lap 9, Piquet got past his new team-mate while Rosberg had also caught Prost and was being held up by the Renault, while the Brabham twins were having a similar problem with Arnoux. It was Rosberg who got past his mobile roadblock first and caught up to Patrese. A lap later he was past into fifth.
On lap 19, to the cheers of the crowd, Piquet slipstreamed past Arnoux at the end of the Juncao straight – the same place he’d overtaken Patrese and Rosberg – and into second place, with the Finn following him through. Arnoux tried to re-take third but got it all wrong and dropped back behind Patrese and Prost and into the clutches of Lauda and Reutemann. The Argentine tried a move on the inside of Lauda at the last corner, the two touched and Lauda was out, suspension broken. The following lap, Reutemann inexplicably did exactly the same thing to Arnoux and ended both their races.
Up front, the Piquet/Rosberg combination had caught up to Villeneuve, but couldn’t make an impression. The powerful Ferrari turbo engine could blast away from them on the straights and then balk them through the twisty bits. Frustrated with Piquet’s inability to pass, Rosberg decided to have a crack himself on lap 28 and made a move at the first corner, getting past but running wide and allowing Piquet straight back through. A lap later he tried again, and this time he stuck the landing and was past – but not for long, as Piquet slipstreamed down Juncao, sold Rosberg a magnificent dummy and went round the outside to the delirious cheers of the watching fans. Perhaps invigorated by this, Piquet attacked Villeneuve with
renewed fervour and tried to elbow his way past on the outside of Carlos Pace turn. The Canadian, distracted by watching Piquet, put his own wheels on the grass, speared across the track nearly collecting Piquet en route and ended up in the barriers. This left Piquet and Rosberg now dicing for the lead, with Patrese a short distance behind, then Prost with a misfiring engine that meant he lost power on the straights, Watson reeling in the Renault and Mansell running well in 6th on the Lotus 91’s debut. Patrese was suffering in the conditions and pulled off on lap 34, unable to continue and had to be lifted out of his car, and as the race wore on most of the other drivers showed signs of fatigue. Piquet – never the fittest driver – was visibly propping his head up with one arm, led Rosberg who seemed to have decided to settle for second. Third was Prost, now fighting to keep Watson behind him, with Mansell fifth and Manfred Winkelhock a fine 6th in his first race for ATS. It wasn’t to last though as an equally impressive Michele Alboreto took the place a few laps from the end.
The heat was such that Piquet fainted on the podium during the ceremony, but more drama was to come. The Renault team had protested against the water-cooled brakes on Piquet and Rosberg’s cars, and scrutineers agreed that the system had allowed those cars to run underweight for most of the race and gain an unfair advantage. Piquet and Rosberg were disqualified, the victory awarded to Prost, with Watson, Mansell, Alboreto, Winkelhock and Pironi all being promoted. Although other cars had used the water-cooled brakes, the Brabham and Williams cars were the only ones specifically objected to by Renault and were the only ones sanctioned. An appeal was naturally lodged, and a final decision would be taken after the next race at Long Beach. With the F1 teams once again splitting into turbo/atmospheric camps, it seemed as if the FISA-FOCA war might not be quite dead after all…
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|Constructors Championship (Provisional)|