15 May 1983
The narrow streets of Monaco provided an opportunity for the atmospheric cars to claw back some points from the turbo runners whose cars would not suit the twists and turns of the venerable circuit. Not only that, but with no refuelling permitted at Monaco due to the cramped pitlane, the turbos would have to run at reduced boost to conserve fuel, further closing the speed gap.
The entry was the same as in San Marino, though the Arrows cars turned up resplendent in their new cream and burgundy livery courtesy of new cigarette sponsors Barclay.
As was traditional, Monaco’s grid was just 20-strong, meaning that the 28-car entry had to be reduced by pre-qualifying early on Thursday morning, with the three teams pointless in 1982 – Theodore, Toleman and RAM – being reduced by two cars, which turned out surprisingly to be the two Theodores which had been going well up till now. Thursday qualifying proper saw the turbos still topping the grid, with rivals Prost and Arnoux on followed by Cheever and Tambay, then Rosberg in fifth place ahead of Piquet. Patrese had had to switch to the spare car and could only manage 17th while the McLarens were once again well off the qualifying pace in 22nd and 23rd – Michelin’s tyres still having problems heating up. With rain in the second qualifying session on Saturday, times were down by 20 seconds at least and despite Lauda and Watson’s best efforts, the McLaren team would be having an embarrassing Sunday off as both cars missed the cut.
Although the rain had stopped come race time, the skies were still threatening to open at any moment and many of the teams opted to run a wet-weather setup including treaded tyres. Frank Williams had other ideas – he would take a risk and start Rosberg and Laffite on slicks. With the turbos going better than expected, the advantage if it did stay dry would be considerable and if it did rain they were probably not too much worse off anyway. A few other drivers – Surer, Winkelhock, Warwick and de Angelis also made the same call. Because of tree cover, half of the grid was dry and the other half still damp, while a stiff sea breeze was starting to dry other sections of the track. It would be an interesting race for sure.
The lights went green and Rosberg – on the dry side of the grid – got a rocket start, going into Ste Devote second and right on Prost’s tail for the lead, sliced past on lap two and began to head off into the distance on his sticky slick tyres. Cheever, Tambay, de Cesaris and the others were in the meantime being swiftly left behind in turn by Prost. A dry line was very quickly establised on the track and with no rain forecast in the next hour or so, Piquet was the first to come in for slick tyres on lap three, followed by Jarier a lap later. Meanwhile Laffite was climbing all over the back of Arnoux but the Ferrari driver simply wasn’t letting him through and inevitably they collided – Laffite lunged past at the hotel hairpin, Arnoux tried to close the door, there was contact and the Ferrari skidded into the Armco. He kept the engine running but had to limp round to the pits with a left-rear wheel half hanging off. This in turn left Tambay circulating on wets and losing time rapidly.
By the time everyone had changed boots, it was ten laps later. Rosberg was absolutely flinging his car around the circuit in his customary manner, providing great entertainment while keeping up a good gap to his team-mate Laffite who in turn was about 40 seconds behind an impressive Marc Surer, third in the Arrows. Behind him was Warwick, then the chasing Piquet and Prost, carving back up through the field on their new slicks. The pair were soon up behind Warwick, but unlike the Brabham and Renault, the Toleman had started with a dry setup and Warwick was able to maintain position. Before long, the trio had caught up to Surer and, when Warwick took a sniff up the inside at Ste Devote, the Swiss driver squeezed him over, only to make contact, bounce off into the barriers and spin into retirement, damaging Warwick’s suspension into the bargain. Piquet and Prost swept gratefully through as it was Warwick’s turn to limp back for repairs.
Nonetheless, the turbos simply couldn’t catch the on-song Williams duo, and the race settled down a little. Patrese was running fifth with Tambay behind. Everyone moved up a place when Laffite’s gearbox seized up solid and he had to retire on lap 54, then ten laps later Patrese spluttered to a halt with fuel system problems. The rest held station to the end, Rosberg taking an emphatic and impressive win, with a relieved Piquet and Prost having inherited the other podium places. Patrick Tambay came in fourth, with Danny Sullivan scoring his first points in fifth and Mauro Baldi sixth.