Brabham looked for continuity in 1984 with an updated version of 1983’s BT52B chassis, now fitted with enlarged fuel tanks to comply with the new fuel regulations, and Nelson Piquet starts the year as hot favourite to add a third world title. With Riccardo Patrese electing to leave rather than accept a new contract with reduced pay and number 2 status, competition to fill the second seat was hot. John Watson was interested, and was apparently close to signing, but Parmalat indicated they’d prefer an Italian or a South American in the car, so that fell through. A number of other drivers tested over the off-season but in the end, Brabham went for a novel option. Teo Fabi, last seen in F1 driving the 1982 Toleman and having spent 1983 driving IndyCars, would take the seat alongside his Indy commitments, with his brother Corrado substituting when the two clashed.
After taking his second title in three years, Nelson Piquet was Brazil’s hero and the man to beat in 1984. His 1983 campaign had seen his undoubted speed married to a maturity and coolness that saw him accept early on that his car wasn’t quite as good as the Ferraris and Renaults, and hang on for whatever points he could get, until the new car arrived and put him right back at the front of the field. Then, when challengers Arnoux and Prost looked flustered and stressed, Piquet simply oozed confidence and calm, which played a large part in his superb run to the title in the last three races of the season. 1984 can be better still if the car is still working for him.
Teo Fabi had not had the best debut season in Formula One in 1982, saddled with the “flying pig”, as the Toleman TG181 was known, with Derek Warwick getting the lion’s share of testing on the new car when it did appear. With no takers for 1983, he had moved to the US to race in IndyCars with the Forsythe Racing team, who were using the new March 83C chassis. Fabi immediately showed that his torrid 1982 wasn’t his fault by winning four races, the Rookie of the Year award and coming a close second overall. He had already signed a new contract with Forsythe when Bernie Ecclestone called, but a deal was eventually worked out.
Following his older brother into F1 for 1983, Corrado had a similar experience to his brother, playing second fiddle to Piercarlo Ghinzani in an Osella that failed to qualify most of the time anyway. However, he had tested for Brabham before the ’83 season and shown he could drive, and if he had any reservations about playing second-fiddle to his brother at the team in 1984, he could at least regard it as a shop-window for his talents.