The little Spirit team had reason to feel hard done by at the end of 1983. Encouraged to make the step up into Formula One by Honda, they had been unceremoniously dropped by the Japanese concern after just half a dozen races in favour of a big-money deal with Williams. The team were forced to drop loyal driver Stefan Johansson for financial reasons, but were at least able to afford a supply of Brian Hart’s turbo engines and Mauro Baldi, who had acquited himself reasonably at Alfa Romeo, to drive the single car – in fact, the team had hoped to tempt Emerson Fittipaldi back from IndyCars, but he was unimpressed with the car. Nonetheless, with just 15 staff on board, no major sponsors and very little funding, whether Spirit would be able to survive at all, never mind go beyond that, remained to be seen.
Baldi had had a mixed season in 1983, usually beaten by team-mate Andrea de Cesaris but capable of driving well on occasion, as shown with his two points-scoring finishes. He probably wasn’t the best driver out there, but brought much-needed funding to the team and was unlikely to disgrace himself – steady, unspectacular and dependable, rather than fast. But that was really what a team in Spirit’s position needed, rather than a keen young hotshot who would crash the car or drive it to bits.