18 July 1982
The title race was still wide open as the transporters rolled into Kent for the British Grand Prix, held this year at Brands Hatch as part of its alternating-years deal with Silverstone. Local (well, Northern Irish, but whatever) hero John Watson had fired the public imagination with his magnificent win in Detroit. Ferrari’s Didier Pironi had come good in the last few races and was now just one point behind Watson in the standings. Nelson Piquet had found form and reliability from his Brabham-BMW. Niki Lauda couldn’t be discounted. If the Renaults ever solved their reliability issues, they were extremely fast and Prost had two wins in the bag already.
Having missed his first home race because of the Lotus 88 saga last year, Nigel Mansell was back at Brands with a strapped-up wrist, while Fittipaldi were debuting their new car, the F9, but weren’t expecting much more than an extended test, while Ligier now had two JS19s and two JS17s in tow as a split in the team was emerging; Laffite and his brother-in-law Jean-Pierre Jabouille (now team manager) wanted to persevere and develop the new car; Cheever and owner Guy Ligier were inclined to just use the old car and go racing, while working on next year’s version in the background. Brabham, meanwhile, set the paddock abuzz by arriving accompanied by a wealth of refuelling equipment and four air-guns, and marking out a box about the size of a car with tape in their pit area.
Qualifying took place in a rare warm British summer and, with Emilio de Villota’s sponsors pulling out at the last minute, the field was back down to 30 cars and no need for Pre-Qualifying. Despite Brands’ long straights, Rosberg put in a stunning lap to set the pace for the session, with the Brabhams of Patrese and Piquet next and then Pironi’s Ferrari. Lauda was next, with Arnoux the best Renault in an unaccustomed sixth place. Prost was down in 8th, with de Angelis splitting the Renaults in a new version of the Lotus 91. British interest on the grid was further back; Watson in 12th, Warwick an excellent 16th in the Toleman (just ahead of Henton) and Mansell back in 23rd, still suffering with a painful hand. The improvement of the Tolemans meant that for the first time neither ATS qualified, and would join Lammers (Theodore) and Boesel (March) on the pitwall.
Bernie Ecclestone and Gordon Murray (the Brabham designer) had been remarkably open about the reason for all their new equipment; Murray calculated that by running very soft tyres and half a fuel load the car would be light enough to run very fast early in the race, more than compensating for the time taken to pit for new tyres and a fuel top-up during the race. Without the need to worry about fuel consumption, the turbo engines could run at a higher boost, and because fuel wasn’t included in the weight regulations, all was completely legal. The other teams were confused – if all this was true, why let the cat out of the bag? Was it all a bluff, an elaborate ruse to persuade other drivers to hang back and wait for the Brabhams to stop?
Having taken his first pole position, Rosberg was disappointed to say the least when he couldn’t get his engine to fire up for the parade lap and had to filter round and start from the back, leaving the two Brabhams right where they wanted to be – up front. There was more drama at the start as, when the lights went green, Patrese stalled his car and was nudged onto the grass by Arnoux, causing Watson in turn to have to rally-cross past and poor Teo Fabi’s race was cut short as an errant Renault wheel clouted him as he passed. Piquet thus led Lauda, Pironi, de Angelis and Alboreto and began to pull away with his light fuel load and soft tyres. Two laps later, John Watson was out, spinning off on his dirty tyres while avoiding another midfield collision, this time between Jarier and Serra.
Rather than chase to keep up with Piquet, Lauda seemed to have decided to keep a watching brief and his decision was rewarded on lap ten when Piquet pulled off with (ironically) a broken fuel pump – it looked as though the proof of Ecclestone’s concept would have to wait a little longer. With Lauda having pulled out a decent lead over Pironi, both Brabhams out, Arnoux out and Prost well down the order, there was little reason for the Austrian to push and the race at the front settled down as the McLaren clocked off the laps.
Further back, things were still moving around. Rosberg charged up from the back to seventh place, only to blister his tyres in the process and have to pit for new ones, dropping him back down. Instead, coming up from an unexpected quarter was none other than Derek Warwick in the Toleman who had got past Tambay, Prost and Giacomelli, making the most of improved Pirelli tyres and a new Hart engine with a bit more power. Soon, he caught up to the back of the Pironi – de Angelis – Daly – de Cesaris group and on lap 8 he powered past the Alfa Romeo, then four laps later past de Angelis (who had lost a place to Daly), then got past Daly on the inside at Paddock Bend on lap 18. Three laps later he was sat on Pironi’s gearbox looking for a way past. A couple of times the inexperienced Warwick telegraphed his move or tried at the wrong place, but on lap 25, to an almighty roar from the fans, he stole second place at Druids. He then started to nibble away at Lauda’s lead but on lap 41 the fairytale ended as a broken CV joint put paid to the Toleman. Dark murmurs that the car was running a light fuel load or an overclocked engine to make a big wave for sponsorship purposes but not intended to actually finish would be left unproven.
Daly had also blistered his tyres so came in for a new set, just as his team-mate Rosberg found his fuel pressure dropping on his second advance through the grid and came in on lap 50 to retire after a lengthy stop. Alboreto had likewise come in for several laps to fix a skirt problem, but was still going. Cheever retired from 7th in the old Ligier when his engine failed, while de Angelis’ engine went phut just as he got up with Pironi, which promoted Tambay to third. De Angelis managed to keep the Lotus going but a recovering Derek Daly was making inroads.
Lauda cruised home for his second win of the year without ever having been seriously challenged, with Pironi and Tambay joining him on the rostrum. De Angelis managed to hold on to fourth, Daly fifth and Prost in sixth – happy to have finished in the points but less so to have been so far back. Giacomelli, Henton, Baldi and Mass made up the remaining finishers.
Didier Pironi took the lead in the World Championship for the first time, while Niki Lauda jumped from seventh to third and with a bit of good luck could be in line for his third title.
|8||Elio de Angelis||13|
|15||Andrea de Cesaris||5|