Brabham caused a stir when the new BT52 was unveiled at the start of the season. With its raked front wing and cut-back sidepods, the car resembled a dart from the top and if it went as fast as it looked the opposition had better look out. In place of the ground-effects, Gordon Murray had designed a light, fast car with big wings for downforce, and had included a small fuel tank – lighter, but it would mean the team had no choice but to make a fuel stop. Sportswear firm FILA came on board as a sponsor alongside longtime partners Parmalat, and continuing drivers Piquet and Patrese would just have to hope that the reliability problems that had plagued 1982 were finally dealt with.
The easygoing Nelson had accepted before the start of 1982 that a title defence seemed unlikely and had seemed happy enough to simply develop the car, wait it out and prepare for a new challenge in 1983. That said, he didn’t do badly at all – giving BMW their first win in Canada and leading in Germany before his unfortunate run-in with Eliseo Salazar. The ensuing handbags were one occasion where he let his frustration get the better of him – the third time in a row he had retired from the lead – but on other occasions he seemed to be driving within himself and was often equalled if not outmatched by Patrese.
Patrese’s first season with Brabham had not been bad, all things considered. While his only win was something of a fluke at the chaotic Monaco Grand Prix, with more reliability who knows if he’d have won more. He seemed happier in the Cosworth car than in the BMW in the early part of the season, but later on when the two were both in the turbos, Patrese bounced back to bring the fight to his illustrious teammate. He did still have a tendency to overdo things a bit and if he can rein in the aggression a little he might finish more races.