During the winter, the Fittipaldi team finally folded and the Ensign and Theodore teams merged under the latter name, so there were two fewer teams competing, though the junior-formula Spirit team were planning to enter if they could get their car working in time.
In December, Lotus boss Colin Chapman suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of just 54, leaving the team in shock as they tried to ready their new turbo-engined car.
Technical and rules changes
The high number of accidents in 1982 prompted the FIA to look at ways to decrease cornering speeds, particularly mindful of incidents such as Arnoux’s crash at Zandvoort and Mass’ at Paul Ricard where cars had narrowly avoided crashing into banks of spectators. After having spent the last couple of years trying to minimise ground effects by outlawing sliding skirts and instituting minimum ride heights, it was decided it was time to ban ground effect cars outright and the new technical rules stated that cars must have completely flat undertrays. At the same time, mindful that Williams were developing a six-wheeled car for use in 1983, it was specified that cars must have only four wheels – six-wheelers were deemed to also have too high cornering speeds. To prevent this giving too much of an advantage to the turbo teams, the minimum weight was reduced to 540kg, which would allow the non-turbos to run lighter. Ford, meanwhile, announced that they were working on a new engine to replace the venerable DFV. The Ford-Cosworth DFY would rev higher and feature a narrow-angle valve setup that it was hoped would add another 500 horsepower to the engine when it was finished later in the season.
This of course meant that everyone would have to either field a whole new car or at least a heavily-modified existing one – particularly hard-hit were Arrows and Toleman who had already finished and debuted their 1983 challengers, and Brabham whose BT51 was almost ready.
Finally, it was announced that in-race refuelling would be permitted in 1983, but then banned as of 1984, leaving teams in a quandary as to whether it was worth developing their own strategies and equipment.
In order to give the teams time to develop their cars to the new regulations, the traditional January trip to South Africa was postponed to October and would now be the season finale, while the French Grand Prix moved to an earlier date after a disappointing turnout in 1982. The Swiss Grand Prix at Dijon returned, meaning the French race would be at Paul Ricard again, and a New York Grand Prix was announced to take place in September on a circuit to be announced but probably a temporary circuit in Flushing Meadow (though a street race in Manhattan around the World Trade Center towers was also mooted), which would bring the number of races up to 17. The Belgian Grand Prix returned to the historic Spa-Francorchamps road circuit, now cut down to about half the length of its 1960s heyday and with a new purpose-built section, new pits and paddock facilities and a deal to alternate with Zolder.