22 July 1984
The Grand Prix circus returned from its North American tour to what was the home base for the majority of the teams, but the normally enthusiastic British crowd was put in a bad mood by two pronouncements from FISA. First of all, Nigel Mansell had been castigated for his role in the crash that caused the restart in Detroit – a suspended six-month ban and $6000 fine were the results. The Tyrrell team, meanwhile had been brought up again about their water coolant tank: it had already been demonstrated that it wasn’t secretly a fuel tank, but the new accusation was that lead ballast was added with the water, enabling the cars to run underweight early on, and packets of lead balls had been found in Brundle’s wrecked car at Dallas. FISA took the unusually forceful step of ejecting the team from the championship entirely and scrubbing all their points, although Ken Tyrrell went to the British High Court and got an injunction to allow him to race at Brands at least.
While all this was going on, Tyrrell also had to find a replacement for the injured Brundle and ended up with Stefan Johansson, without a drive after losing his Spirit seat at the end of 1983. His Tyrrell would be bedecked in Union Jacks and Systime Computer Solutions sponsorship, while Bellof still had his Black, Red and Gold stripe and Maredo backers. Elsewhere, Teo Fabi was back in the Brabham, Osella had a second car for Jo Gartner for the rest of the season now, and Williams had another new car in an attempt to improve their flagging fortunes.
The gloom continued for small British teams in practice where early on Johnny Cecotto had a huge accident in his Toleman and was stretchered to a helicopter with injured legs and feet and, like Brundle, would be lucky to race again. Once the session re-started, it was Nelson Piquet who was fastest once again with the McLarens of Prost and Lauda next, and de Angelis’ Lotus fourth. Rosberg and Warwick filled row three, then came Senna, a fine seventh despite his team-mate’s accident, and a disappointed Mansell alongside. Alboreto’s Ferrari and Tambay’s Renault rounded out the top ten, with Arnoux back in 13th. To avoid potential future problems, it was ruled that anyone who qualified behind the Tyrrells would be allowed to start, which meant that with Johansson 25th and Bellof 26th, Jo Gartner would start in 27th place.
At the start it was Piquet who got away first, with de Angelis bundling past Lauda into third place, while Mansell had also got a good start to pass Senna but was balked by Warwick and could get no further. Riccardo Patrese, starting 17th, had a go at Laffite in front, but when blocked, he bailed out of the move, causing his team-mate Cheever behind him to stamp on the brakes. The American collected Gartner in the rear, then Alliot demolished his RAM on the pair of them and the debris took out Johansson into the bargain, while Patrese continued unscathed and apparently unaware of the chaos behind him.
At the front, Piquet was leading Prost by about a second, but couldn’t shake the Frenchman off, while Lauda had got past de Angelis and was catching back up to the pair of them. Some way behind was Warwick, while Rosberg’s intercooler hose only lasted a few laps before putting him out. On lap 12, Prost had got right up behind Piquet and slipstreamed past him on the main straight despite the power of the BMW engine, and Piquet decided to come in for new tyres, having decided that a harder compound would be better. However, as he was coming in, the red flags started waving and the race was stopped. Jonathan Palmer had lost his RAM at Clearways and had a huge smash into the barriers before leaving the wrecked car too close to the track for safety. To everyone’s relief, Palmer was fine – though his boss and mechanics must have looked resignedly at another demolished chassis to expensively rebuild.
After an atmosphere-sapping half-hour delay, the race started again, with standings as at the end of lap 11 – which meant that Piquet was back in front, and had also (to the vocal displeasure of Lauda and de Angelis) been allowed to swap his tyres for the harder compound. Prost was not to be denied though, and he re-took the lead straight away from the second start, with Lauda also tucking up behind and trying to pass. Once more, the leading three quickly pulled away from Warwick, with Tambay now up behind him in 5th ahead of de Angelis. Mansell disappeared with a terminal case of Lotus Gearbox on lap 24, but de Angelis was having a good day in his Lotus and challenged Tambay for fifth, while further back de Cesaris’ Ligier was in 8th and holding up the Ferraris of Arnoux and Alboreto. By lap 38, Lauda had closed up to within 2.7s of Prost and there was the prospect of the straight battle between the two that fans had been denied so far – only for Prost to start losing gears and drop back to tour round to the pits and retire. So Lauda inherited the lead, but Piquet was still with him, determined to continue his revival. As the Austrian came to lap the de Cesaris-Alboreto-Arnoux scrap, the Brabham was right on his tail and there were a few hairy laps as Lauda and Prost made their way through the battling cars, with Alboreto taking the opportunity to elbow his way past the Ligier into the bargain.
Piquet had failed to get past Lauda and now his BMW began developing boost problems and started dropping back and, with Warwick still plugging away a lonely third, the main interest was now the battle for fourth place between Senna and de Angelis. The Lotus driver held the advantage, but the Toleman got inside at Paddock and was ahead. No sooner had he done so than Piquet slowed dramatically and started losing places. Warwick got past and suddenly seemed to wake up and get his foot down as the gap to the lead was cut into but Lauda was just too far ahead and took the win by over 40 seconds to close to just 1.5 points behind Prost in the championship. Warwick was second, Senna a delighted third, with de Angelis, Alboreto and Arnoux picking up the rest of the points. Piquet was classified 7th and Tambay 8th – the latter having been fifth until his turbo blew on the very last lap to let the two Ferraris through. Stefan Bellof brought his Tyrrell home 11th, and wondered if it would be for the last time.
|1||Alain Prost||34 ½|
|3||Elio de Angelis||26 ½|
|4||René Arnoux||23 ½|
|18||Andrea de Cesaris||2|