1983 Canadian Grand Prix

Montreal_1979Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

12 June 1983

With just a week between the two North American races, the teams took to the road for the short hop across the border from Detroit to Montreal, about 550 miles as the crow flies. The Canadian media were giving heavy coverage to Jacques Villeneuve, driving at the circuit named after his late brother, but given the RAM team’s record so far this year, it would be a surprise if he was on the grid come Sunday – especially as he had failed to qualify twice on his previous attempt with Arrows. The Canadian race would be the last visit to North America this year, as confirmation arrived that the New York race was put off until 1984 and the Caesar’s Palace organisers had succeeded in buying out their contract.


Villeneuve Sr17. Jacques Villeneuve ca

“Oncle Jacques”, as Gilles’ brother was known, had had a lot of media attention for his F1 debut at the 1982 Canadian race, a focal point for a nation’s grief over the death of their hero. While he had not succeeded in qualifying the Arrows either in Montreal or in Las Vegas, he had switched to CanAm racing and won the season’s first race at Mosport Park the same weekend as Detroit, so there was enough sponsorship backing for him to have another crack at it in the RAM-March.


Qualifying saw a four-way battle between the two Ferraris, Prost and Piquet and it was the under-pressure Arnoux who took pole with Prost alongside him in the Renault and Piquet and Tambay lining up on row two. The Montreal circuit suited the turbos and Rosberg in 9th was the only non-turbo in the top 12, with

Villeneuve's RAM
Villeneuve’s RAM

Patrese, Cheever, Winkelhock and de Cesaris ahead of the reigning champion. Villeneuve improved to the tune of three seconds between Friday and Saturday’s times but still couldn’t quite make it onto the grid – though he did at least beat Ghinzani’s Osella time – the two would have plenty of time to swap notes on the Sunday.

There was a good turnout for the race and someone had chalked Gilles Villeneuve’s number 27 behind the pole position marker on the track (though it was Arnoux in car 28 that was actually starting there). As things were getting ready, there was a power cut over Montreal which put back the start, but once things finally got underway, Arnoux hared off into the lead, chased by Prost, Patrese (who had got a great start from 5th) and Piquet. Patrese got past Prost, suffering with an engine misfire, on lap 2, and the Renault began to drop back, CAN startwith Piquet going past on the following lap. Meanwhile, de Cesaris and Rosberg were having a fine scrap over 7th, the Alfa overheating which allowed Rosberg to stay with it. On lap ten, Rosberg had a look and clipped wheels, shooting him up into the air and heavily back down, but somehow his car seemed fine and he continued, despite losing out to Winkelhock and Laffite in the process. De Cesaris, meanwhile, was finding things even more difficult with his engine and dropped behind all three, which put Winkelhock in the points, until the ATS man had to come in for new boots, having blistered his original set. On lap 11, Niki Lauda had an uncharacteristic spin and put himself out, while 5 laps later Piquet was touring off with a broken throttle cable.

CAN ArnouxPitstops started on lap 33 with Prost, and despite his engine misfire the turbos were so dominant that he still went back out in front of Rosberg, and with none of the pit crews bungling things this week the stops shook out with the top six back in the same places: Arnoux – Patrese – Cheever – Tambay – Prost – Rosberg. The Finn was gaining on Prost but only slowly, while behind him John Watson was in 7th after another “burn from the stern”, and was being chased by a very impressive Thierry Boutsen in the Arrows. The Belgian was perhaps a little too eager to please his sponsors and tried to lunge past the McLaren from too far back at the first corner, losing part of his front wing and subsequently having to back off a bit.

CAN CheeverAs so often, the second half of the race became a matter of attrition: de Cesaris’ engine finally gave up the ghost, Laffite’s gearbox broke, both Tolemans had engine failures within a few laps of each other and Mansell retired his Lotus with handling problems (de Angelis’ throttle cable having broken on lap 2). The top six looked pretty static until Riccardo Patrese’s gearbox started to slip and he was passed by Cheever and Tambay, scrapping with Prost over fourth before Rosberg passed the pair of them and Piquet’s gearbox gave up entirely on lap 56. The Italian driver had yet to score in 1983 after a good year in 1982 and he, like Arnoux, was rumoured to be on thin ice with his team.

CAN overviewArnoux, at least, silenced some of his doubters with an utterly dominant win, with Cheever sparing Renault’s blushes in 2nd and Tambay a fine third. Rosberg came fourth, Prost nursed his car home fifth for two points (and Arnoux will have enjoyed lapping his rival and former team-mate), with Watson sixth and Boutsen coming home 7th for the second time in his first three races. The Tyrrells were 8th (Alboreto) and 9th (Sullivan) – a bit of a comedown after Detroit, but not unexpected. What was unexpected was Danny Sullivan’s subsequent disqualification for running underweight, but aside from moving Winkelhock and Baldi up to 9th and 10th in the classifications, it didn’t really affect anything much.


Drivers Championship
1 Alain Prost 30
2 Patrick Tambay 27
3 Keke Rosberg 25
4 Nelson Piquet 24
5 René Arnoux 17
6 John Watson 16
7 Eddie Cheever 14
8 Niki Lauda 10
= Jacques Laffite 10
10 Michele Alboreto 9
11 Marc Surer 4
12 Danny Sullivan 2
13 Johnny Cecotto 1
= Mauro Baldi 1
= Nigel Mansell 1
Constructors Championship
1 Ferrari 45
2 Renault 44
3 Williams 33
4 McLaren 28
5 Brabham 27
6 Tyrrell 11
7 Arrows 4
8 Theodore 1
= Alfa-Romeo 1
= Lotus 1
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