It’s actually slightly later than half-term but it seemed sensible to finish the North American tour before doing this.
Not a great start to the season, failing to trouble the scorers for the first six races. It’s not that the car isn’t fast, but the BMW turbo engine is having real reliability problems which have killed off Piquet’s hopes of retaining his title. Perhaps inevitably the Fabi brothers in the second car have had the thin end of the deal even without the constant changing of driver, but the team will be hoping for more reliability like that shown in Montreal and Detroit in the back half of the season.
The only team on the grid without turbo power, Tyrrell have struggled at the fast circuits but on the slower ones the talents of Brundle and Bellof and a neat design have enabled them to punch far above their weight. The regular stops to take on coolant water have aroused suspicions of “funny business” but nothing concrete has emerged. Martin Brundle’s injuries from Dallas will take some time to heal, though, and a replacement will be needed.
Like Brabham, Williams have struggled, though here the problem is the chassis rather than the engine. Rosberg has made the most of what he’s had but aside from his cracking win in Dallas results have been few and far between, especially given the extent to which Jacques Laffite has been almost entirely anonymous so far. At over 40, is he just too old for this, or is there something in the Williams team setup sapping his motivation?
The McLarens started the season utterly dominant, with no-one able to seriously challenge them but the fans have been denied a straight-up fight between old master Lauda and young charger Prost because one or other usually breaks down. The team has had a bit of a wobble in the North American stages, but will hope to regain the advantage once the circus returns to Eurepe.
To say that the RAM team have had a torrid season so far would be to put it mildly. Palmer has been the more consistent finisher of the two – it took until Canada for Alliot to see the chequered flag – but neither driver has looked like putting points on the board and the North American races have seen a string of expensive-to-repair smashes on the unforgiving street circuit walls which must be driving mechanics and owner alike round the bend.
The Lotus renaissance continues apace. Aside from de Angelis’ fortuitous win in 1982, the team has been in the doldrums since 1979 and finally looks capable of winning races on a regular basis again, if they can just get the breaks. De Angelis has been a phenomenally consistent scorer, putting points on the board in every race except South Africa so far and justly sits in third in the table, while Mansell has had a lot more breakdowns and may just be driving the car too hard. His heroics in Dallas have won him admirers for his bulldog spirit though.
As if ATS’ organisational and ownership problems weren’t enough, the BMW engine deal that looked like such a coup last year has turned into a millstone. Winkelhock usually qualifies well enough, but 8th place in Canada and Dallas are his only finishes so far. Of all the teams with the BMW engine, ATS look least likely to capitalise on any reliability in future, however, given the owner’s parsimonious way with spares and replacements.
If the Renault team hoped that a fresh start without Alain Prost would bring success, they were wrong. Neither driver has been bad, and the team have usually been challenging for podium places and occasionally the lead, but for all Warwick and Tambay’s undoubted quality, it all feels like a bit of a step back for the team this year. The drivers have made the most of it though, despite Tambay having all the bad luck, and Warwick could have won a race if not for some ill fortune of his own.
Arrows’ pleasure at scoring a BMW turbo engine deal has soured somewhat given the engine’s unreliability, married to the unwieldy A7 chassis, to the extent that team leader Surer has at least once opted to drive the older car rather than claim the Turbo when it was his turn. Both drivers have given it their all though, and Boutsen has at least put some points on the board (notably both times in the older car) to keep morale up.
The loss of a talismanic driver like Derek Warwick could have hurt the team badly, were it not for the fact that he was replaced with the talented Ayrton Senna, who has lifted the whole team with some fine performances to enable the team to have its best season yet so far. Johnny Cecotto is no Senna, but he’s reliable enough and his cheery persona is an antidote to Senna’s intensity and keeps a smile on everyone’s face.
The impoverished Spirit team must wonder why they bother sometimes – unceremoniously dumped by Honda after helping develop their engine and showcase it, they’ve been reduced to scratching around the back of the grid hoping literally everyone else breaks down or crashes. Mauro Baldi showed himself capable enough at Alfa Romeo last year but managed only two finishes, both 8th before running out of money.
New organisation (again), new livery, new drivers, same old story for the massively-funded Italian team. Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever have lost no time in seriously falling out, which isn’t helping matters but fundamentally the car is neither fast enough nor reliable enough. How much longer can the taxpayer-funded Alfa Romeo concern keep pumping money into this shambles?
Osella’s first points of the year in Dallas – even if somewhat fortuitous – were a just reward for this persistent and hard-trying little team. Ghinzani has rarely been out of the 20s on the grid, and only finished two races before Dallas, but almost everyone on the grid wants to see them do well and once back in Europe they should expand to two cars for Jo Gartner to see out the season.
1984 was supposed to be the year it all came back together for Ligier after two years in the doldrums, but it hasn’t materialised so far. The engine is the same one the front-running Lotus cars use, but the cars aren’t fast enough when they’re running and break down too often – and that’s without the tendency of the hotheaded de Cesaris or the inexperienced Hesnault to put it in a wall or crash into another car.
Fascinatingly inconsistent so far, Ferrari are second in the constructors’ table almost by default – except for the stunning win at Zolder, the red cars have been second-best so far but more consistent finishers than the Renaults, Brabhams, Williamses or Loti – Alboreto in particular has underachieved, his win in Belgium his only points so far. Arnoux, with two seconds and a third the highlights so far, has looked the better driver and has silenced some of his doubters. Nonetheless, both drivers have re-signed for 1985.