25 September 1982
Keke Rosberg arrived in Las Vegas needing just a point to seal the Drivers’ World Championship title, a year after finishing the year with no points and being released by a backmarker team – things had certainly turned around for him. The other challenger, John Watson, had been built up by the British media but in reality he knew he had very little chance of taking the title. Ferrari, meanwhile, hoped to finally clinch the Constructors’ title as some small consolation for a dreadful season with Andretti returning (thanks to his IndyCar boss and fellow drivers being very accommodating) alongside Tambay.
Las Vegas hadn’t been a popular stop on the calendar last year and Brabham designer Gordon Murray who had been nauseated by the place in 1981 opted to stay at home and work on next year’s car instead. In fact, rumour had it that the 1981 race had made a huge loss for the hotel and if things didn’t improve this year, it could be the last race here. Nobody seemed particularly concerned by the prospect. Team-wise, despite rumours to the contrary, the struggling Fittipaldi and Ensign teams made it to the race, and Mauro Baldi handed the new Arrows back to Surer.
The tight, twisty circuit was expected to favour the DFV cars over the turbos, and although it was once again the two Renaults on the front row of the grid – Prost beating Arnoux in the pair’s last race together as team-mates – there was a surprise in third place: Michele Alboreto in the dark green Tyrrell, and next to him Cheever in the troublesome Ligier JS19. Patrese qualified fifth, Rosberg sixth ahead of the two
Ferraris, with John Watson back in 9th. Warwick in the new Toleman had done very well in 10th. Jarier had qualified 20th, but his Osella suspension broke and, with no spares, he was unable to start and withdrew, shuffling the back of the grid up one and allowing Tommy Byrne to start in the Theodore.
Before the race (but after the deadline for withdrawals), two more drivers pulled out: Patrick Tambay was still suffering from his trapped nerve while Roberto Guerrero’s Ensign had a blown engine and the team had no spares. With no-one willing to lend them one, he was also out.
The start was clean and there were no changes among the top eight, though Derek Warwick was finding that on full tanks his Toleman didn’t handle nearly as well as it had in qualifying and, though Lauda managed to get past, he began immediately holding up the rest, including John Watson. On the second lap, Prost missed a gear and Arnoux shot past into the lead, while further back Derek Daly had a go at his namesake Warwick and succeeded only in damaging his front wing.
Arnoux led Prost around the track but Michele Alboreto was doing remarkably well in the Tyrrell to stay within a second of the Renaults, with Patrese a way back, having got past Cheever but unable to pull away. Watson made it past the mobile Toleman Roadblock and caught up to the back of the little group chasing Patrese: Cheever, Andretti and Rosberg. There was a sense of anticipation as Watson attacked Rosberg, but actually the Finn didn’t resist and let the McLaren through. “He’s only got to score points, it doesn’t matter if Watson wins,” said the commentators. Rosberg was down in 8th place, but it was a reasonable assumption that there would be retirements above him.
Sure enough, first Patrese (clutch, lap 17), and then Arnoux (engine, lap 20) toured to a halt, while Watson was now third having already passed Andretti and Cheever, and the Ferrari’s suspension broke anyway on lap 27, sending Andretti into the gravel trap. Meanwhile, as the race wore on, Prost’s tyres started to fade and Alboreto began to calmly reel him in, moved past at a good safe spot and started to motor off into the distance. Watson followed through later, still chasing the win her needed, and even Cheever got past into third as the drivers decided to simply concentrate on finishing in the car-breaking, driver-sapping heat.
And so Michele Alboreto drove an astonishingly mature race to take his maiden win (the fourth driver to do so in the last five races) and Tyrrell’s first since 1978, with John Watson second and Cheever third. Alain Prost nursed his Renault home in fourth place,
Rosberg took the two points he needed to secure the title whatever Watson did, and Derek Daly picked up the last point in an underwhelming season for Williams. Alboreto, Watson and Cheever were joined on the podium by Rosberg to celebrate his championship win – the first driver since Mike Hawthorn in 1958 to win the championship with only one race win. John Watson’s second place tied him with Didier Pironi in second place, and few doubted that if Pironi hadn’t been injured he would have been the champion.
Despite a twin retirement, Ferrari’s opponents hadn’t done enough to overtake them and the Maranello team took their first constructor’s title since 1978 after a really dire few years for the team. All in all, the teams – and Ferrari in particular – looked forward to drawing a line under 1982 with its death ,injury and controversy
|Drivers Championship – Final Standings|
|9||Elio de Angelis||23|
|17||Andrea de Cesaris||5|
|Constructors Championship – Final Standings|