1984 European Grand Prix


7 October 1984

With nearly a month since Monza, there had been plenty of time for media and F1 insiders alike to talk about the “New Nürburgring” – technically the new circuit was designated the Eifelring, but was part of the same complex as the historic circuit, which might have been a mistake as comparisons with the epic 14-mile Nordschleife circuit that Jackie Stewart had famously dubbed “The Green Hell” were inevitable. Most thought the new circuit looked unchallenging and lacked character, though others pointed out that the old Norschleife had been dropped for being too challenging, and that no new circuit could develop character instantly. Some focussed on how Niki Lauda would react to returning to the venue of his near-fatal accident in a position to clinch the title, while the news that Michelin were pulling out of F1 at the end of the year gave further fodder for gossip and speculation. Brabham had already responded by announcing a deal with Pirelli, but it remained to be seen what McLaren, Renault, Toleman and Ligier would do for tyres in 1985.

Manfred Winkelhock had not returned to the ATS team after storming off at Monza, fed up at his team’s incompetence, so there would be a sole entry for Gerhard Berger and team owner Günther Schmidt announced that Winkelhock had been sacked (but few were fooled). Elsewhere, Ayrton Senna returned to his Toleman seat to partner Stefan Johansson, whose efforts in Italy had netted him a two-year contract for 1985 and 86, plus the last couple of races of 1984. Mauro Baldi had raised enough funding to regain the seat at Spirit, who hoped to run a second car for Huub Rothengatter, but couldn’t get it registered in time.

EUR ArnouxFriday morning was wet, but the rain stopped in time for the afternoon session, so everyone had to go out on a damp track without a morning’s warm-up to get used to the new track. Saturday was wet again, so qualifying was based on Friday’s session. Once again, though, it was Piquet and Prost in first and second places on the grid, with Tambay and Rosberg on row two and the Ferraris of Alboreto and Arnoux on row three. Niki Lauda had a misfire in Friday’s session and would start from 15th – not a good omen for his championship – and Elio de Angelis and Stefan Johansson similarly had car trouble and would start 23rd and 26th respectively and glad that there were only 26 entries! Manfred Winkelhock had been at the track with his lawyers on Saturday demanding payment of his retainer, but things were sorted out and Berger managed to qualify 18th in trying surroundings.

Sunday was bright and clear, but the drama kept on coming as Prost spun in the morning warm up and bent his car rather badly on a parked tow-truck. With the spare set up for Lauda, there was some frantic rebuilding work by the McLaren mechanics to get the car ready for the race. In front of half-full grandstands, and with rainclouds beginning to gather, the EUR startgrid assembled and it was Prost in his rebuilt car who got the best start, shooting into the lead ahead of Piquet. Tambay followed through ahead of the Brabham, while Rosberg got off slowly and caused Cheever to take avoiding action. Senna, unsighted, went into and over the back of the Williams. Berger hit Surer while avoiding the accident and Fabi likewise punted Ghinzani into the weeds before stalling himself; de Cesaris and Laffite had had impromptu rally-cross excursions and Mansell had had to delicately pick through the various incidents. All of which had promoted Lauda to 9th behind the two Alfa Romeos, while Fabi was given a bump-start by the course marshals to start a lap behind everyone else.

EUR AlfasMeanwhile Prost, Tambay and Piquet were steadily pulling away from Warwick in fourth, with the Ferraris circulating behind him, then the Alfas and Lauda. But the Austrian was past Cheever, then Patrese, soon enough and was bearing down on Arnoux. Ferrari had an updated car featuring aerodynamics “inspired by” John Barnard’s McLaren and it was working well for them, allowing Alboreto and Arnoux to stay ahead of the charging Lauda. He eventually bullied his way past Arnoux but found Alboreto tougher going, especially as the Italian was himself intent on passing Warwick and a 3-way fight developed as they battled for position on the track. As the trio came to lap Baldi’s Spirit, Lauda got it all wrong and spun, pulling a full-360 but keeping the engine going and rejoining without losing a place – but with it all to do all over again to catch Alboreto, now 12 seconds away.

Although not a factor at the front, the Lotus drivers were providing plenty of entertainment as they made their way up through the field – de Angelis had benefitted from the start chaos to get up to 11th place and had since moved up to 7th  while Mansell had dropped back but was carving his way back through the field. De Angelis’ fine drive ended with a turbo failure on lap 25, with Jacques Laffite following suit two laps later. Piquet, meanwhile, was catching Tambay as the latter’s Renault developed a misfire, and the Brazilian was soon past and into second place, with Tambay dropping down the order before eventually dropping out on lap 47, promoting Lauda to 5th but still six seconds adrift of Alboreto and Warwick. The Ferrari got past the Renault shortly after, and the English driver began to slow with an exhaust issue, while his compatriot Mansell had an engine blowout on lap 51, retiring from 6th after a great drive.

EUR AlboretoThe latter stages saw Alboreto, revelling in his new Ferrari, reeling in Piquet until he was running within two seconds of the Brazilian, and both had pushed it to the limit and beyond: Piquet’s engine coughed, out of fuel, as he came around the last corner and Alboreto lunged through to take second, running dry himself and coasting across the line, while Piquet weaved to slosh some fuel into the injector and produce just enough power to get across the line for third. But there was no touching Prost, who took a totally dominant, unhurried win. Niki Lauda came home fourth for three vital points to keep a 4.5 point advantage going into the last race, with Arnoux and Patrese taking the rest of the points.

Drivers Championship
1 Niki Lauda 66
2 Alain Prost 61 ½
3 Elio de Angelis 29 ½
4 Nelson Piquet 28
5 Michele Alboreto 27
6 René Arnoux 26 ½
7 Derek Warwick 23
8 Keke Rosberg 20
9 Nigel Mansell 13
10 Patrick Tambay 10
11 Ayrton Senna 8
= Teo Fabi 8
= Riccardo Patrese 8
14 Jacques Laffite 4
15 Eddie Cheever 3
= Thierry Boutsen 3
= Stefan Johansson 3
17 Andrea de Cesaris 2
= Piercarlo Ghinzani 2
= Jo Gartner 2
19 Marc Surer 1
= Gerhard Berger 1
Constructors Championship
1 McLaren 126 ½
3 Ferrari 53 ½
3 Lotus 42 ½
4 Brabham 36
5 Renault 33
6 Williams 24
7 Alfa Romeo 11
8 Toleman 10
9 Arrows 4
= Osella 4
11 Ligier 2
12 ATS 1

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