7 August 1983
Despite rumours that the West German-owned ATS team would run a second car at their “home” race, the entry remained the same as for Silverstone, and conversation centred around two things: the exciting three-way title race between Tambay, Prost and Piquet, and the prospects for the new Lotus-Renault and Spirit-Honda cars that had shown so much promise last time out. Honda’s intent to have a low-key debut had been shattered in the best possible way by Johansson qualifying 14th, and there was immediate talk that Honda would be courted by a major team, for which read Williams, before the season was out.
The long straights of Hockenheim suited the turbos down to the ground and it was a Ferrari front row with Tambay taking the top spot to break Arnoux’s run of poles. Behind them was Andrea de Cesaris, the Alfa Romeo finally working right – team-mate Baldi was up in 7th as well – ahead of Piquet. Row 3 held the Renaults of Prost and Cheever, then behind Baldi was Patrese, with the two Tolemans making up the top ten. De Angelis lined up alongside Rosberg in 11th and 12th (the Finn was six whole seconds off Pole, demonstrating the increasing turbo gap), Johansson went another place better to put the Spirit 13th, Mansell was 17th in the old Lotus 93T, Lauda 18th, Watson 24th and Ghinzani propping up the grid in 26th. Nobody was surprised when Kenny Acheson and Corrado Fabi didn’t qualify, but Manfred Winkelhock’s ATS would also not make the grid, having suffered technical problems on Friday and then had Saturday’s session washed out by rain.
Sunday was cool, dry and overcast but there was one ray of sunshine in the pits – Didier Pironi, on crutches but all smiles in the Ferrari pit and talking confidently of testing the new Ferrari before the end of the season. Meanwhile, Andrea de Cesaris provided some humour when, running late for the race, he hit two security men in his road car on the way to the circuit. He was fined $10,000 and bailed a further $15,000 to be allowed to race. An expensive mistake but nobody was seriously hurt.
The Ferraris led away from the start, while Piquet got into the first corner ahead of de Cesaris, with Prost and Cheever chasing. The Alfa Romeo driver seemed distracted by his earlier incident and Prost was soon past, with Cheever harrying him as well. De Cesaris seemed to shut the door hard at one point, putting Cheever on the grass, and Eddie responded by banging wheels on his way past. Up front, Tambay was leading conservatively to preserve his tyres and conserve fuel, but Arnoux was impatient and overtook, quickly stretching out a lead while Tambay motored serenely on at his own pace. Unfortunately, it was Tambay’s turn to have the bad luck that had plagued Arnoux at the start of the season, and his engine started sputtering on lap 12, taking him into the pits to see if it could be fixed. It couldn’t. By this time, both Loti were out – Mansell with a second-lap engine failure and de Angelis with an overheating Renault on lap 11, while Johansson again parked the Spirit-Honda combo up, this time on lap 12 with a dropped valve.
Arnoux thus held a sizeable lead from Prost, Cheever, Patrese and de Cesaris and in the cooler temperatures his tyres didn’t seem to be a problem like they had been at Silverstone. More engine failures peppered the first half of the race as the Hockenheim circuit maintained its reputation as a car-breaker. The Tolemans expired on lap 17 (Warwick) and 19 (Giacomelli), Mauro Baldi on lap 24 just as the first stoppers were coming in and Raul Boesel three laps later. Arnoux came in for tyres and fuel on lap 24, Cheever a lap later and Piquet the lap after that. Prost had a gearbox problem and had lost first gear – not a problem on Hockenheim’s flat-out straights, but it meant a slow pit getaway and he dropped places. Things got worse for him as his gearbox gradually shook itself apart, first skipping out of top gear on the straights, then losing 5th entirely and limiting him to fourth – forcing the Frenchman to settle for nursing his car home for as many points as he could find.
The Brabham team tried a different strategy, filling the car’s tank as far as it would go, only stopping for tyres midway for a much quicker stop, and being ready for a splash-and-dash stop towards the end if need be. However, Arnoux was so far ahead, it made little difference to Piquet and Patrese even lost 5th to a charging de Cesaris as his tyres warmed. Prost’s gearbox woes saw him drop behind de Cesaris and Piquet. Two more retirements in the top six affected the result – Cheever lost third place with a sticking throttle on lap 39, and three laps later (and three before the end) Piquet’s Brabham spurted flames and he pulled over smartly and hopped out while a marshal flailed ineffectively at the flames with an empty extinguisher.
All this promoted de Cesaris to second place and Patrese to third, and there they stayed until the chequered flag – the two Italians may have been lucky today, but it went some way to make up for their previous bad luck. Arnoux took his win by over a minute ahead of de Cesaris, with Prost hanging onto fourth place. Fifth and sixth were Lauda and Watson, but the Austrian was disqualified after overshooting his pit box and reversing into it during the halfway stops, so Watson got the two points and Laffite moved up to sixth.
With neither Tambay nor Piquet scoring, Prost extended his lead a little with his three points, while Arnoux moved ahead of Rosberg into fourth and looked set to make it a four-way fight if results kept going his way.
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