26 August 1984
The big news in the paddock as the teams arrived among the sand dunes of the Dutch coast was that Ayrton Senna would drive a Lotus in 1985. He was on a multi-year contract with Toleman but was allowed to speak to other teams – unfortunately, Peter Warr went public with the announcement before the Brazilian starlet had had chance to let Toleman know what was happening, and the tone of the press release (including a patronising affirmation that Senna would see out the season with his current team) put Toleman boss Alex Hawkridge’s back up even further. Senna had the good grace to look embarrassed about the whole affair.
Meanwhile there was a motor race happening, with a great battle for the championship developing between Prost and Lauda, with Piquet out of the championship but still taking the fight to the McLarens. ATS had gone back to a single entry for Winkelhock after the gearbox debacle in Austria, but otherwise the grid was as it had been. Piquet, who had been qualifying well in the specially specced Qualifying Brabham had to switch to his race car after a technical fault, and lost out on pole to Prost, with de Angelis and Warwick on row 2 and Tambay and Lauda on row 3. The Williams cars had an unusual good qualifying and would start from 7th (Rosberg) and 8th (Laffite), while the Ferraris were once again a long way back in 9th (Alboreto) and Arnoux (15th). Senna, evidently distracted by the Lotus affair (and with a bad atmosphere in the garage) was down in 13th, Bellof and Johansson had better fortunes, qualifying 24th and 25th respectively, ahead of Alliot’s RAM, meaning that Huub Rothengatter in his freshly-painted orange Spirit was allowed to start from 27th pending Tyrrell’s appeal (which would be heard a few days after the race).
There was a near-tragedy before morning warmup when a paddock staircase collapsed, injuring 40 people but thankfully nobody was seriously injured or killed and after a 40-minute delay the warmup went ahead and the race was on schedule. Piquet’s start was faultless once again and he powered past Prost into the lead, with Tambay likewise getting ahead of de Angelis. Niki Lauda, on the other hand, did his championship hopes no favours by getting away very slowly and dropping right back to 11th place. In the usual melee at Tarzan, Winkelhock span and parked his ATS in an awkward place, while Hesnault came together with Cheever – both kept going, but also lost places. The marshals gave Winkelhock a push-start as he was in a dangerous spot, so in the event everyone got through more or less safely.
Rosberg had made up a couple of places from the start and was now chasing de Angelis for fourth, while Lauda was trying to make a comeback and was stuck behind Alboreto’s Ferrari. Piquet, meanwhile, was easing into a commanding lead over Prost, who seemed happy to let him, knowing that the Brazilian was out of the title race, and it was only Lauda that Prost needed to beat. Rosberg, his car finally working for him, had now made it up to third ahead of de Angelis and Tambay, while Lauda had disposed of Alboreto and Warwick and was closing on the Tambay/de Angelis fight for 4th. The Austrian’s McLaren was bearing down on Rosberg when, on lap 11, Piquet’s engine blew and promoted Prost to the lead. Lauda forced his way past the Williams but wasn’t able to make much of a dent in Prost’s 8-second lead.
With the top three seemingly not going anywhere, Tambay and de Angelis provided the entertainment with a great scrap for fourth, the Lotus too fast to be shaken off but not quite powerful enough to get past the Renault on the straights. The pair were going at it hammer and tongs and were now approaching Rosberg’s Williams, while Warwick, Laffite and Fabi kept a watching brief behind them. Tambay lapped Winkelhock cleanly but the German very nearly took de Angelis out twice through making insufficient use of his mirrors. Behind them, Laffite got past Warwick, only for his Honda engine to let go in a big way, dumping oil all over the track which caused Warwick and Winkelhock both to spin.
By lap 22, Lauda had started to reel in Prost, who was now 4 seconds ahead, when suddenly the Frenchman sped up again – having misinterpreted pit signals, he had thought that Rosberg, 17 seconds behind, was second. Once the misunderstanding was cleared up and he realised that Lauda was closing fast on soft tyres, he got his foot down again. With Tambay and Fabi both pitting for new rubber, Rosberg had the Lotus twins in his mirrors, and behind them, Prost was approaching to lap all three; Mansell got the bit between his teeth and went past de Angelis at Tarzan, then took Rosberg at the same place the following lap – and almost went off in the process – while Prost successfully negotiated his way past the lot of them and had enough of a cushion over Lauda that he stayed comfortably ahead.
By the closing stages of the race, Arnoux had made his way up to sixth place but the Frenchman’s bad luck returned as he had blistered his tyres and had to come in for a new set, only to clout Boutsen’s Arrows on his way in and send the Belgian off. Arnoux kept running, and even set a fastest lap after rejoining the race, but retired with electrical problems anyway about ten laps later.
Prost took the win, leading Lauda home by 10.7 seconds in the end, for the fourth McLaren 1-2 of the year and McLaren’s 9th win to equal Lotus’ domination of 1978 and incidentally guarantee themselves the constructors title. Mansell took third after a typically gritty drive, with de Angelis following in fourth. Teo Fabi and Patrick Tambay’s battle for 6th became a battle for 5th when Rosberg ran out of fuel a lap before the end.
|2||Alain Prost||52 ½|
|3||Elio de Angelis||29 ½|
|4||René Arnoux||24 ½|
|17||Andrea de Cesaris||2|