1983 had been a bit of a struggle for Frank Williams and the boys as they waited (and waited) for their turbo engines. The car had still been competitive early on, with Rosberg on pole at the first race in Brazil and winning through a combination of good tactics and hard driving in Monaco. But it all went downhill from there on, with the team sliding back through the order into the midfield and the backmarkers, culminating in Laffite’s two DNQs towards the end of the year – only once before in his career had the Frenchman ever failed to qualify. The arrival at the final race in South Africa of the Honda engine and its new FW09 chassis was like manna from heaven for the drivers – both qualified well, and Rosberg raced well (while Laffite was only put out with an early technical failure). With a winter’s testing behind them, they will hope to return to being contenders in 1984, and Laffite would hope the new car would better suit his distinctive driving style. The ICI branding on the cars and its associated yellow colouring became more prominent, and Keke Rosberg joined in the fun by switching to a yellow race-suit and changing his helmet design to include a yellow stripe, making it look rather like that of Carlos Reutemann.
Laffite’s escape from the freefalling Ligier team had been something of a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire”, unfortunately. He drove well on occasion, such as in Monaco where he seemed on course for second place before breaking down, but as the team slipped back, Laffite seemed to suffer more than Rosberg. The Frenchman was famous for his sense of humour and it sometimes seemed that at over 40 he just didn’t have the hunger Rosberg did when the chips were down, and was perhaps a bit too laid-back for his own good.
It says much for Rosberg’s drive, hunger and ability to take the car by the scruff of the neck that even by the halfway mark of the season when the Williams was obviously not a race winner, he was still just five points off the championship leader. His win at Monaco was a masterpiece of tactical driving and his calm reaction when his car caught fire in Brazil – to hop back in and get going – spoke to his gumption. The second half of the season was largely composed of raw power tracks, which prevented him from repeating his heroics but he clearly hasn’t lost his hunger to add a second title.