8 August 1982
With the British and French races a week apart, there was a fortnight before Hockenheim which allowed Nigel Mansell’s wrist to heal properly and he was back in the number 12 Lotus once more, while over at Theodore the hapless Jan Lammers was dropped after one qualification in six goes and replaced by highly-rated (not least by himself) Irishman Tommy Byrne. Another new – or rather returning – face in the paddock was Rupert Keegan, who was taking over at March for Jochen Mass, still recovering mentally from his horrific crash in France.
Son of maverick pilot and airline owner Mike Keegan, young Rupert was never short on a bit of cash growing up, and in 1973 he began racing in Ford Escorts in Mexico and won his first races the following year. Bankrolled by his father into Formula Three, he developed a reputation for being talented but hotheaded, and with a playboy attitude not unlike the higher-profile James Hunt. Like Hunt, he moved into F1 with the Hesketh team who seemed a good fit, but were on the decline by 1977 and not much came of it, nor his 1978 season with Surtees. Keegan moved into the Aurora AFX series which he won in 1979 before attempting an F1 comeback in a customer Williams run by the RAM management team. No points and three DNQs from 7 entries, but was kept in mind by RAM when a new March driver was needed at Hockenheim.
Tommy Byrne from Drogheda in Ireland was one of the coming men of racing, despite a youth blighted by sectarian divisions and delinquency. Once behind a wheel, Byrne was simply stunning – he seemed to be able to beat anyone in anything as he blew through the junior formulae in a matter of a few years and winning the Formula Three championship in 1981 and being invited to test an F1 McLaren. While still competing in Formula Two in 1982, he was asked to step into the vacant Theodore seat and jumped at the chance to prove himself against the best in the business. He didn’t exactly endear himself to the other drivers, however, by swaggering around the paddock letting it be known he didn’t much care about famous names as long as they stayed out of his way…
Like Paul Ricard, Hockenheim was built around long straights which would give the turbo cars the advantage and, sure enough, Pironi topped the Friday timing sheets to take pole position in the Ferrari with Prost, Arnoux, Piquet, Tambay and Patrese again putting all the turbos at the sharp end. Top non-turbo was Michele Alboreto’s Tyrrell (nearly 5 seconds off Pironi’s time) with de Cesaris, Rosberg and Watson making up the top ten. Niki Lauda had set 8th fastest time in his McLaren but hurt his wrist having an off in the stadium section while trying to pass Keegan’s March and withdrew. Saturday saw rain, so the grid didn’t change and Marc Surer moved up onto the grid thanks to Lauda’s withdrawal.
Then, on Saturday morning practice, the curse of 1982 struck again as Didier Pironi thundered through the rain and found Derek Daly in a ball of spray. The Williams moved off the racing line, Pironi moved gratefully through – only to smash into the back of Alain Prost’s Renault, which was running slowly and was being passed by Daly. Pironi’s car took off, then crashed down to earth, breaking both the Frenchman’s legs and seriously injuring his feet. Prost, as well as Piquet and Cheever who arrived on the scene shortly afterwards, ran to help but were unable to extract Pironi from his mangled car. It took marshals over half an hour to cut him free and he was airlifted to hospital in Heidelberg.
By the time the race start came round, news came through that Pironi’s life was not in danger but with such serious injuries his career – not to mention his ability to walk again – certainly was. At the very least, his 1982 season was over and Ferrari were simply stunned at another misfortune befalling them even as they were pleased Pironi had survived such a nasty shunt. They opted not to officially withdraw Pironi’s entry for tactical reasons: doing so would move Tambay over to the less advantageous right-hand side of the grid, so Tommy Byrne would not be moved up onto the grid like Surer had.
Sunday was dry, but glowering grey skies threatened rain later and as the cars set off from the grid, Mauro Baldi’s Arrows (24th) wouldn’t fire, so he had to sprint across to the pits to begin the race from there in the spare car. Arnoux, making the most of an empty space where Pironi should have been, sprinted into the lead at the first corner, followed round by Prost, Piquet and Tambay (whose instructions from the Ferrari team were to drive a solid race and get constructors’ points). Patrese got a terrible start and dropped to ninth, but showing the power of the turbo engine married to the light fuel load, he was back up to fifth by the end of lap 2. Piquet, likewise, had got past Prost and Arnoux in short order and was stretching out a lead already, while Tambay had also got past Prost and was chasing down Arnoux. On lap 11, the Ferrari went through into second place but Piquet was heading off into the distance. It was business as usual for Renault as Prost came in with a faulty exhaust pipe and spent 5 laps having it replaced, before retiring with an unrelated problem not long after rejoining. On lap 13, Patrese was out, coaxing a dying BMW turbo engine back to the pits but no further, and a flurry of other retirements came in the ensuing laps, most notably de Cesaris and Watson colliding while dicing for 6th place, putting the Italian out but allowing the Ulsterman to continue.
On lap 19, Piquet had a 24-second lead over Tambay and was shortly to come in and make his pit stop when he came to lap Eliseo Salazar in the ATS. Piquet got inside into the chicane, Salazar braked, slipped sideways and collided with the leader, taking both of them out. Frustrated at retiring from the lead for the third time in a row, an emotional Piquet took it out on poor Eliseo, landing a couple of punches and aiming a half-hearted kick in the Chilean’s direction before storming off and throwing his helmet on the ground.
Patrick Tambay thus found himself leading only his fourth race for Ferrari, and with a large lead over Arnoux all he had to do was finish. Watson was third, some way behind Arnoux, with Rosberg following, but coming up quickly was Laffite in the Ligier, finally working well and with a powerful V12 engine. He got past Rosberg but as they came to pass backmarkers he was held up by Mansell and ran wide, damaging the car’s skirt and letting Rosberg back through. Laffite would soon retire with irretrievably damaged handling, while Watson’s third place was lost and his championship hopes further dented when his front-right suspension broke, sending him backwards into a tyre wall.
Tambay drove a circumspect final few laps to take his maiden win, with Arnoux 15 seconds behind in second place. They were the only two to go full distance, but Rosberg ended up “best of the rest” and took third place, leading home Alboreto, Giacomelli and a delighted Marc Surer, who had only qualified by dint of Lauda’s withdrawal.
In fact, it was Rosberg who was the winner of the championship contenders – starting the day in fifth, none of the four drivers ahead of him scored so he ended up third.
|11||Elio de Angelis||13|
|17||Andrea de Cesaris||5|