11 September 1983
The silly season rumour mill was in full swing as the teams arrived at the historic Monza circuit. Michele Alboreto was widely rumoured to be heading for Ferrari, which would mean one of Arnoux or Tambay would have to go. Riccardo Patrese’s time at Brabham was also considered to be running out, having only scored points once so far, Derek Warwick had put his name onto a few shortlists with his fine drives and first points in Holland, while drivers including Mansell, Watson and Cheever were still not confirmed with their teams for 1984.
McLaren had a second turbo car for Watson and Spirit arrived with their new car, the 101 – which wasn’t actually finished but was close enough that they wanted to work on it over the weekend. Ferrari arrived on a high after their unexpected 1-2 finish at Zandvoort and their fans crowded into Monza to see them do it again and take the box-seat in the championship.
The Tifosi were treated to a ding-dong battle in qualifying as the Brabhams, with new Hart turbo units, had found a lot of speed and Piquet, Patrese, Tambay and Arnoux swapped fastest laps while Alain Prost looked out of sorts and was almost two seconds down on the Brabhams and Ferraris, In the end the fans were disappointed with Piquet taking pole, followed by Tambay, Arnoux and Patrese. Prost took fifth ahead of de Cesaris, Cheever, de Angelis, Winkelhock and Baldi. The turbo McLarens were fast in a straight line but still couldn’t do better than 13th (Lauda) and 15th (Watson), with Rosberg in 16th, leading the ever-smaller group of non-turbo cars. Laffite, in the other Williams, had spent much of practice testing some new Goodyear tyres and couldn’t get his car set up right for qualifying and ended up failing to qualify – a first for a works Williams. He joined Raul Boesel and, as usual, Kenny Acheson on the pit wall for the race.
An estimated 200,000 packed into Monza for race day, and those there overnight had chalked messages of support on the Ferrari grid slots and abuse on Piquet’s and Prost’s (Patrese seemed to get a pass for being Italian), the latter of which were scrubbed off as the cars came out onto the grid. When the race began, to the dismay of the fans, the blue and white Brabhams got away like lightning, with Patrese streaking into the lead from fourth and being followed by Piquet, Tambay and Arnoux, while Prost got away badly and lost two places to Cheever and de Cesaris. By the end of the first lap, the Brabhams had pulled out a lead from the Ferraris, while Tambay seemed to be having some problems – Arnoux went past on the second lap and Cheever followed. De Cesaris fancied his chances as well, but Tambay held his line, causing the Alfa to swing wide and off into the sand-trap, which in turn caused Prost to brake hard to avoid him.
Within seconds, Patrese’s rotten luck continued as his engine expired in an impressive cloud of smoke and he toured off, leaving Piquet in firm control of the race, with Arnoux vainly giving chase and Cheever staying in touch with the Ferrari but unable to make any inroads. Tambay and Prost (who had wrecked his tyres avoiding de Cesaris) continued dropping back, which allowed de Angelis in the Lotus to get up to fourth by lap 14. Watson had done another one of his charges from the back, reaching 7th before an electrical fault put him out. on the same lap, while Lauda had had to pit for repairs and was circulating near the back, stuck behind the Osellas.
By the time the pitstops began, ten laps later, Cheever had dropped back off Arnoux again, and when Prost came in for his stop his car just wasn’t sounding right, and half a lap after his stop, the turbo expired entirely and he pulled off – a second failure to finish in two races would not do his championship hopes any good at all. Piquet came in last of all, and still went out with a 25 second lead over Arnoux, though this dropped to 15 seconds as the Brazilian backed off a bit to preserve his engine and tyres but there was really no challenge to him taking his second win of the year in dominant style. Arnoux took second and Cheever third to salvage a few points for Renault. Tambay had got back ahead of de Angelis at the pitstops and with the Lotus’ tyres rapidly going off had been able to keep the place to the end. De Angelis was forced to settle for fifth and Warwick took sixth for Toleman.
Nigel Mansell had been running seventh with Giacomelli chasing in the other Toleman, but as they came round the final corner the customary track invasion was already underway. Mansell slowed right down, terrified of hitting a fan, while Giacomelli threaded his way through to take seventh. Peter Warr, Lotus’ manager, was not a fan of Mansell to start with and was publicly unimpressed with his driver’s attack of conscience costing the team thousands of dollars in prize money.
Despite the rather processional race, Prost’s two non-finishes and Piquet’s win blew the title race wide open once more with just two races to go…
|11||Andrea de Cesaris||6|
|=||Elio de Angelis||2|