1. Nelson Piquet
2. Teo Fabi / Corrado Fabi / Manfred Winkelhock
A season of two halves for Brabham – for the first six races of the season, all the team had to show for their efforts was a couple of pole positions and a couple of ninth place finishes. Then it all seemed to come together for Piquet and co in North America – a pair of wins in Canada and Detroit raised hopes of a belated title challenges. Sadly, that was it for wins, but Piquet remained the most likely man to break the McLaren domination. The car was clearly fast – Piquet got nine pole positions over the course of the season – but the reliability of the BMW Turbo engine let them down time after time. In the number 2 car, Teo Fabi improved immeasurably once he organised himself to concentrate on F1 and was rewarded with a podium place and a couple of other points finishes but all three second drivers suffered from being something of a third wheel to the Piquet-Murray show. Brabham seem to have an “on-year-off-year” pattern recently – so 1985 should be better.
3. Martin Brundle / Stefan Johansson
4. Stefan Bellof / Mike Thackwell
There are few within the world of Formula One who believe Tyrrell’s ejection from the entire season was a fair punishment, and most commentators point to a political mix between Ken Tyrrell’s abrasive personality and a desire to remove the only objection to revised fuel regulations to benefit the turbo cars. However, that aside there was plenty of positive after some pretty dire years recently. Whether the car was doped or not, Martin Brundle and Stefan Bellof showed immense promise as drivers – the latter in particular – and they can both go on to great things in the future, as long as there are no long-term consequences from Brundle’s accident.
Meanwhile, Ken Tyrrell has to try and get his team reinstated for next year. Should he fail, it would be a sad end to this once-great team.
5. Jacques Laffite
6. Keke Rosberg
After spending 1983 treading water waiting for the Honda turbo engine, the problem this year was the chassis. The engine was powerful, but the chassis suffered from chronic understeer and an inability to get the massive grunt of the Honda powerplant down onto the road. Keke Rosberg struggled manfully with the car and proved once again that giving up just isn’t in his nature – and he was rewarded with a well-judged win in Detroit. Otherwise it was slim pickings, despite the early promise, and once again Jacques Laffite went missing, seemingly happy to just tour around and finish in the midfield if he finished at all. Nigel Mansell will be an entirely different proposition in 1985 – another man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”, he will be interesting to watch alongside Rosberg.
7. Alain Prost
8. Niki Lauda
With 12 wins out of 16 and four 1-2 finishes, McLaren dominated the season like no team before it, even Mario Andretti’s Lotus in 1978. And yet, even scoring more points than Lotus, Ferrari and Brabham put together, McLaren weren’t even as dominant as they could have been; Prost and Lauda seldom battled directly with each other because one or other often broke down. Nonetheless, the supreme organisational and technical skills of Ron Dennis’ team, and the genuine camaraderie between Prost and Lauda simply left the others in the weeds, often struggling to finish races on fumes while the McLarens had plenty of fuel in the tank. Bigger tanks for 1985 will help the others in that, but it’s a small comfort for the challengers.
9. Philippe Alliot
10. Jonathan Palmer / Mike Thackwell
Another year for Ralph and McDonald, another embarrassing failure. Having turbo engines meant little when everyone else did, but the team were shown up by the non-turbo Tyrrells as well, not to mention the tiny, underfunded Spirit. Dave Kelly’s unwieldy chassis was the main culprit, the team being forced to run without engine covers for part of the season as it upset the airflow too badly. Alliot and Palmer simply ended up being mobile chicanes for most of the season, and often found themselves the target of faster drivers’ ire as they inevitably held up proceedings. Of the two, Palmer was usually the better of the two, but didn’t obliterate Alliot in the way some were expecting: perhaps in a car as bad as the RAM 01 and 02, nobody was going to look good.
11. Elio de Angelis
12. Nigel Mansell
Much better than the previous couple of years for Lotus, and they convincingly demolished the works Renault team with the same engines – but too often they flattered to deceive, great qualifying performances compromised by breakdowns (the gearbox was a particular culprit) or just plain lack of pace compared to the McLarens and Brabhams. Elio de Angelis was the master of consistency earlier in the campaign, but faded in the second half with four retirements from six after Brands. Mansell once more simply drove the car to destruction too often, and between that tendency and his often childish rivalry with de Angelis and frosty relations with Peter Warr didn’t help. Warr in particular was delighted to capture Ayrton Senna’s services for 1984, saying that “Nigel Mansell will never win a race as long as I have a hole in my arse.”
14. Manfred Winkelhock / Gerhard Berger
31. Gerhard Berger
Another farcical year for the German team as owner Günter Schmid once again made life difficult for the team so often it almost seemed deliberate. From getting his own driver disqualified in Rio, to driving talented staff like Gustav Brunner and Stefan Fober away, to deciding to expand to two cars when the team was struggling to cope with one, Schmid was his own team’s worst enemy once again. Brunner’s A7 chassis was good, but the BMW engines were a mixed blessing. Winkelhock did his best, running as high as third in Belgium, but only finished two races all season due to breakdowns and led to the hard trying Winkelhock simply walking out. Perhaps no surprise then that BMW withdrew their engines at the end of the year Gerhard Berger at least shone in difficult circumstances and would have earned the team a point in Italy if he had been driving a registered car.
That was enough for Schmidt, who withdrew the team from Formula One and sold the ATS company as a whole shortly afterwards.
15. Patrick Tambay
16. Derek Warwick
33. Philippe Streiff
If Renault had hoped for a clean slate and a fresh start with the departure of the talismanic Prost, they got it, but it was a case of being careful what you wish for. Tambay and Warwick are certainly talented drivers and both eminently capable of winning – but for the first time since 1978, Renault didn’t win a race. The cars were thirsty, broke down too often and were completely outclassed by their own customers, Lotus. There were safety concerns too, after Tambay’s leg injuries resulting from a perfectly ordinary crash in Monaco. Warwick seemed to lose heart later in the season after starting brightly enough and running second in the championship for a while, while Tambay improved despite his accident but neither could do much about the fact that the car was a complete dog.
17. Marc Surer
18. Thierry Boutsen
Arrows began the season with the Ford DFY engine, reliable but slow compared to the turbos, and there was a sense of treading water waiting for the BMW deal to come through. Unfortunately, the BMW engine was no more reliable in the Arrows than it was in the Brabham or ATS chassis and they ended up scoring as many points with the turbos as without. The A7 chassis built for the turbo engine also wasn’t as good as the non-turbo A6, and on at least one occasion team leader Marc Surer opted to use the older car when it was his turn for the new one, which says much. Surer, who had battled so hard in 1983, looked out of sorts as the season went on, and it was Thierry Boutsen making most of the running towards the latter end.
19. Ayrton Senna / Stefan Johansson
20. Johnny Cecotto / Pierluigi Martini / Stefan Johansson
The Toleman team has been one of the stories of F1 racing over the last few years, from hard-trying non-qualifiers in 1981, to backmarkers in ’82, and midfielders in ’83 to podium finishers in 1984 and with a modicum of luck they could even have won in Monaco. Senna was quick right out of the box and showed why he had had interest from Williams and Lotus before joining the team. Cecotto always looked like a bit of an afterthought, and the team didn’t exactly fall over themselves to replace him after his accident. The unpleasantness over Senna’s signing for Lotus was a distraction for the rest of the season, and the cars broke down too often to be a real scoring threat, bit the trajectory in general is ever upwards.
21. Mauro Baldi / Huub Rothengatter
The tiny team could have been forgiven for giving up after being unceremoniously dumped by Honda at the end of 1983, but soldiered on with 15 staff, a can-do attitude and a decent chassis. Mauro Baldi slightly eclipsed Rothengatter when he was driving, but both drivers did well on what they had. The team’s meagre resources, though, meant that nobody was able to make the best of what they had, and without any money for testing or development, the promise was largely lost. However, simply to survive in the circumstances was an achievement in itself – whether they will be back for more in ’85 remains to be seen.
22. Riccardo Patrese
23. Eddie Cheever
Alfa Romeo had good reasons to be optimistic for the 1984 season, with two good drivers and a promising chassis courtesy of Gustav Brunner. The Euroracing setup was working well, and with an in-house engine there was no disconnect between power and chassis. However, the engine was just too thirsty – when Patrese and Cheever weren’t bickering, they had the choice of touring around in midfield and trying to finish, or actually trying to race and touring off with a dry tank in the closing stages. Often, it didn’t make a difference even when they did take the first option: the sight of a green and red Alfa pulling off a few laps from the end became one that spectators got used to before long.
24. Piercarlo Ghinzani
30. Jo Gartner
Osella had a better season again in 1984, seldom qualifying in the top 20 but usually running in midfield and nobody begrudged them points in Detroit (except possibly Nigel Mansell, who lost out to Ghinzani while pushing his car across the line) and Monza. Unfortunately, like the Alfa works team, the engines were too thirsty and unreliable to be truly consistent and they might have done even better with different powerplants. Ghinzani has the right cheerful attitude for a perennially struggling team like Osella, while toothy Viennese Jo Gartner did well enough when given the opportunity (though also developing a reputation for being difficult to lap).
25. François Hesnault
26. Andrea de Cesaris
During 1983, Guy Ligier gave the distinct impression that he’d written off the season in anticipation of better things to come with Renault power in 1984. Sadly, it didn’t materialise. The JS23 chassis was a dog, and between the inexperience of Hesnault and the disinterest in development shown by de Cesaris, it didn’t improve. The team lost a lot of resources trying to develop a JS23B chassis that never appeared, and once again Guy Ligier lost interest mid-season, as did de Cesaris. Striving to find positives, the team did at least score points early on, but it was far from the return to the top that was being posited early on.
27. Michele Alboreto
28. René Arnoux
It seems odd to describe the second-placed team as having had a dreadful season, but for Ferrari it was. Early on the team looked like contenders but Alboreto’s debut win in Belgium was the high-water mark and the team spent much of the season behind Lotus in the standings, before a final rally put them back in second. Alboreto comprehensively demolished Arnoux, who looked demotivated and anonymous for much of the year, but Alboreto’s season was compromised by reliability problems and the fact that the car needed high wing settings to handle properly, meaning they were down on power and hard on tyres. Although both drivers are contracted for 1985, team boss Mauro Forghieri’s departure means that Ferrari may be in turmoil again next year.