1983 Season Summary

SAF RosbergWilliams-Ford / Honda

1. Keke Rosberg fi
2. Jacques Laffite fr
42. Jonathan Palmer gb

Williams had a decent start to the season, and it looked for a while as if the new flat-bottom regulations would help them stay competitive, but – Rosberg’s fine drive at Monaco aside – the team slid back very quickly down the order. They remained “best of the non-turbos” for much of the year, but that became an increasingly shallow boast as Lotus, McLaren, ATS, Alfa Romeo and others got in on the turbo act. Rosberg never gave up, though, and would often tiger through to a point or two, or more if the front-runners failed, while Laffite looked a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation. However, once the Honda power finally arrived in time for the last race of the season, the pair both qualified well and the car looked good as a preview for 1984. With a winter of testing and development, WIlliams can hope for better next year.

AUT TyrrellTyrrell-Ford

3. Michele Alboreto it
4. Danny Sullivan us

The combination of the talented Michele Alboreto and a decent sponsorship deal from Benetton promised much for 1983, but – with the exception of the fortuitous win in Detroit – the team just couldn’t get it together. Alboreto’s form was maddeningly inconsistent, and he often gave the impression that he was simply seeing out his contract with a better contract in his pocket for next year, and because the team never got into the refuelling game, the cars were always a good deal heavier (and on harder tyres) than the competition. Ken Tyrrell continued making himself a nuisance among the other teams, frequently protesting this or that innovation, while at the same time trying to score a turbo engine supply – often from the very same manufacturer he’d just been accusing of cheating. Unsurprisingly, he finished the season still with no deal done.

EUR PiquetBrabham-BMW

5. Nelson Piquet br
6. Riccardo Patrese it

Gordon Murray’s striking “arrowhead” design with its smart blue and white livery was one of the best looking cars on the grid and it went like stink too – although designed in a hurry to fit the new regulations, it was quick right out of the box and won on its debut in Brazil. There was a mid-season dip in form that coincided with Arnoux’s revival and for a while it looked like it must be Prost or Arnoux for the title, but it was Piquet’s determination and maturity that allowed him, like Rosberg the previous year, to drive as hard as needed, get the maximum points he could and always be there or thereabouts when the others broke. Patrese, however, had a terrible season after his good 1982. While he had his fair share of bad luck, and there was no question that he was firmly number 2 to Piquet, he was often his own worst enemy, either flinging the car off or simply driving so hard as to break the fragile car. Despite his win in Kyalami, he is not expected to figure for Brabham in 1984.

Brands LaudaMcLaren-Ford / TAG

7. John Watson gb
8. Niki Lauda at

An interesting season for the Woking team, all told. Early form was good, with some great drives on show – most notably in Long Beach – but always making up for woeful qualifying form. Watson seemed to have the better of it, but then Lauda seemed simply to be biding his time, waiting for the turbo car and less inclined to risk life and limb scrapping over 11th place with a Ligier. Once the TAG engines finally arrived after many delays, there were signs of promise from the get-go. Once the wrinkles in the engine have been ironed out over the winter testing period, the team should have a better season – it’s just a question of whether Watson has done enough to extend his 5-year stint at McLaren, or whether the team feel it’s time for new blood.


9. Manfred Winkelhock de

Considering that the team had identical engines to the championship-winning Brabhams, that they didn’t do better than they did is a testament to Gordon Murray’s fine design – and the witches’ brew Brabham were putting in the fuel tank. Manfred Winkelhock is probably not World Champion material, but he’s no slouch either and he often qualified in the top ten, only to inevitably break down. The real problem at ATS is the owner, Günter Schmid, whose ferocious temper has seen a massive turnover in staff, and who was always reluctant to replace worn parts until they broke. Not helping matters were the Goodyear tyres, which were left behind by Pirelli and Michelin in the second half of the season, so even on the rare occasion that Winkelhock didn’t break down, such as at Brands Hatch, he was far off the pace. A real waste of resources.

GBR MansellLotus-Ford / Renault

11. Elio de Angelis it
12. Nigel Mansell gb

The death of Colin Chapman in the off-season rocked the team, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that the Lotus 93T developed during that time to house the Renault turbo engine was an absolute dog – Mansell arguably had the better end of the deal by being kept in last year’s Cosworth car. It wasn’t until Gerard Ducarouge arrived and the old car was married to the new engine that things picked up, and Mansell and de Angelis loved it – when it wasn’t breaking down. All those little problems that would normally be ironed out in pre-season testing were instead discovered during race weekends and it didn’t help that the Pirelli race tyres were as bad as their qualifiers were good. De Angelis, Mansell and manager Peter Warr seemed to be permanently bickering with each other, which was intensified by the problems and just added to them as well. Both drivers are talented, even if their personalities are chalk and cheese, and if the team can regroup over the winter, 1984 might see better things.

BEL ProstRenault

15. Alain Prost fr
16. Eddie Cheever us

1982 had seen the yellow, white and black cars be the fastest things out there, monopolising the front row of the grid for much of the season – only for them inevitably to blow up mid-race. In 1983, they cracked that, and the belated introduction or the RE40 should have sealed the title for them. Even when the car didn’t suit the circuit, Prost could usually bring it home in the points and – although he always had the bad luck if there was any to be had – Cheever proved an able number two. However, towards the end of the season, it became obvious to Prost at least that the others were catching up and he repeatedly warned the team, only to see his warnings go unheeded. He became increasingly dejected in the last few races of the season, apparently resigned to losing the title, and criticised the car after Kyalami. Renault responded by controversially sacking Prost just two days after the last race, and Cheever followed him out of the door – a fresh start with new talent, or a dreadful mistake to cap yet another disappointing season?

MarchRAM March-Ford

17. Eliseo Salazar cl / Jacques Villeneuve ca / Kenny Acheson gb
18. Jean-Louis Schlesser fr

Oh dear. March’s 1981 debut had been bad. 1982 had been worse, and yet somehow 1983 was worse still. Eliseo Salazar did actually manage to drag the thing onto the grid a couple of times before his sponsors gave up in disgust, the second car for Jean-Louis Schlesser turned out to have been a waste of money because Schlesser’s sponsorship cheque bounced, and neither Villeneuve nor Acheson troubled the qualifiers until the very last race of the season. Acheson did at least finish that one, but it’s really difficult to find anything positive to say about the team’s 1983 season and you have to wonder if they’ll be back next year.

EUR de CesarisAlfa Romeo

22. Andrea de Cesaris it
23. Mauro Baldi it

Like Renault, Alfa Romeo repeated the usual story of lots of resources, lots of promise, but without the results. After the team were handed over to Paolo Pavanelli’s Euroracing team, a lot of people expected them to implode. They didn’t, but neither did they go anywhere else fast either. The farce over de Cesaris’ fire extinguisher was bad enough, but to sack designer Gerard Ducarouge over it was surely down to internal politics. When the car did work, though, de Cesaris seemed to be ever improving: he broke down more often than he crashed, while the team’s “Keystone Kops” approach to pit stops didn’t help matters either. Mauro Baldi started brightly but rapidly faded back to the status of also-ran, and it remains to be seen whether he will have a future at Alfa Romeo or elsewhere.

MON JarierLigier-Ford

25. Jean-Pierre Jarier fr
26. Raul Boesel br

From winning races and challenging for the title in 1981, to sometimes making the podium in 1982, to failing to score a single point in 1983 – has any team fallen so far, so fast? Jarier was occasionally quick in the first few races, but it became obvious to all and sundry very quickly that Guy Ligier had written off the season and was waiting for his Renault turbo engines in 1984. Jarier reacted badly to the situation, becoming petty and bitter – his blocking of Tambay in Austria was a notable low point, with even the usually diplomatic commentator Murray Walker scathing in his criticism. A thoroughly unpopular and disillusioned Jarier retired at the end of the year – a sad end to his 12-year F1 career. Raul Boesel had an even worse time of it, practically ignored by the team as soon as his sponsorship cheque was banked. Guy Ligier had better hope that the wait for Renault engines was worth it…

NED ArnouxFerrari

27. Patrick Tambay fr
28. René Arnoux fr

A second successive Constructors’ title for the charismatic red cars, achieved in much the same fashion as in 1982: the car had a good balance between speed and reliability, and both drivers were capable of winning races. Patrick Tambay, widely expected to provide backup to “star” Arnoux, instead demolished his teammate in the first half of the season, while Arnoux then rallied to take the fight to Prost in the second half. Ultimately, only a bit of misfortune in engine failures kept the pairing from taking the drivers’ title too. Patrick Tambay’s firing at the end of the season (which he found out about from a journalist) was both insulting to the driver and potentially a serious error, as his excellent developmental skills will be missed, as will his knack for eking out tyres and fuel – something that will be important with refuelling outlawed for 1984. Nonetheless, Alboreto and Arnoux could be an explosive pairing if things go well next year.

BEL BoutsenArrows-Ford

29. Marc Surer ch
30. Chico Serra br / Alan Jones au / Thierry Boutsen be

A mixed season for Arrows. With no title sponsor, taking one-off deals from race to race, and with no takers for Alan Jones’ abortive comeback, they did well just to survive, with Marc Surer showing his maturity by racing hard where he could and finishing sensibly when he couldn’t. Thierry Boutsen proved an able driver in the second car over the second half of the season, but by that stage the team’s Goodyear tyres were being outraced by the Pirellis and Michelins and without the money for refuelling equipment they were consigned to scrapping in midfield, but the cars were reliable and finished more often than not, and the team could be satisfied with what they had achieved, even if it wasn’t much.

OsellaOsella-Ford / Alfa Romeo

31. Piercarlo Ghinzani it
32. Corrado Fabi it

The little Osella outfit had had a rough first two years in F1 and their third was better in that no-one died, but not much improved on the track, with the team usually struggling to qualify both cars. The Alfa Romeo engines turned out to be heavy and underpowered, but it was the start of a relationship which Enzo Osella hoped would lead to a turbo deal for 1984. The team’s mission for 1983 then was to make sure that happened by showing Alfa Romeo’s management that they could compete, and evidently they managed, as the deal was done just after Kyalami. The hard-trying little team deserved to do better.


33. Roberto Guerrero co
34. Johnny Cecotto ve

Things looked bright for Theodore at the start of the year. The merger of Theodore and Ensign provided Mo Nunn’s management and Teddy Yip’s money, and Guerrero and Cecotto seemed feisty and up for the challenge, with Guerrero scoring the team’s first points since 1981 at Long Beach. After that, it all went wrong. The car started slipping down the order, Teddy Yip finally got tired of pouring money into the sport, the Goodyear tyres started losing the tyre war and the series arrived at the faster circuits. In the end both drivers lost their personal sponsorship, Yip and Nunn fell out and all in all it will be a genuine surprise to see either the Theodore or Ensign names in F1 next year.


35. Derek Warwick  gb
36. Bruno Giacomelli it

Toleman’s new 1983 challenger debuted at the end of 1982, only to be binned with the new regulations. The replacement tested well and qualified excellently in Rio. Things then went south a bit, and while both cars usually qualified and ran decently in midfield, there was a real reliability problem. However, a change to Holsett turbochargers signalled an upswing in form, with Derek Warwick frequently driving like a man possessed and finally scoring his and the team’s first points in Holland. Three more points finishes followed to scoot the team up to a well-deserved 9th place. They will do well to keep Warwick, though, as he has certainly underlined his credentials this year. Giacomelli, on the other hand, was anonymous in the second car, and may also be on his way, depending what other options are presented to the team in the off-season.

NED SpiritSpirit-Honda

40. Stefan Johansson se

It’s difficult to assess Spirit-Honda based on just under half a season, but there were flashes of promise from the car on the rare occasion that it worked, and Stefan Johansson has done his career hopes no harm with a series of gutsy drives. The team can justly feel hard done to by Honda, who seem to have used Spirit simply as a shop window for their wares rather than having any real intention of sticking with them, and it remains to be seen what, if anything, will be seen of the team in 1984.


One thought on “1983 Season Summary

  1. Great recap! For interest’s sake, I used my mathematical model to rank the driver performances of 1983, which mostly agree with your excellent assessments.

    Here are the driver rankings based on adjusted points per race (up to a maximum of 10 ppr), which suggest it was a close year at the top in terms of driver performances.

    1. A Prost 7.60
    2. J Watson 7.23
    3. K Rosberg 7.07
    4. N Mansell 6.81
    5. N Piquet 6.23
    6. N Lauda 6.18
    7. E Cheever 6.12
    8. D Warwick 6.09
    9. A de Cesaris 5.85
    10. J Laffite 5.50
    11. E de Angelis 5.46
    12. M Surer 5.09
    13. C Serra 4.95
    14. R Arnoux 4.92
    15. S Johansson 4.91
    16. M Alboreto 4.60
    17. T Boutsen 4.16
    18. JP Jarier 3.95
    19. B Giacomelli 3.94
    20. P Tambay 3.82
    21. R Patrese 3.52
    22. R Boesel 3.35
    23. D Sullivan 2.34
    24. M Winkelhock 2.32
    25. M Baldi 2.13
    26. J Cecotto 1.19
    27. R Guerrero 0.26


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