25 August 1985
Although there was only a week in between the Austrian and Dutch races, silly season was in full swing by the time the teams arrived at the Dutch coast. Niki Lauda’s announcement that he would retire at the end of the season had sparked much speculation about his replacement, but McLaren wasted little time in announcing that Keke Rosberg had signed to race for them in 1986. So who would replace Rosberg at Williams? The smart money said Nelson Piquet, who was rumoured to be frustrated with the Brabham team’s inability to give him a competitive car. With Parmalat usually wanting an Italian driver, Elio de Angelis, Riccardo Patrese and Andrea de Cesaris were all suggested as Piquet’s replacement at Brabham, while Lotus were rumoured to want Derek Warwick and some rumours even put Andrea de Cesaris in a Ferrari for 1986. In fact, the accident-prone Italian had been informed by Guy Ligier prior to the race that he would be replaced from Italy onwards with someone less expensive in rebuilt chassis.
Back in real life, Carl Haas launched his car with a few laps around Brands Hatch, and announced they planned to make their race debut at the next Grand Prix in Italy, and Tyrrell finally had enough Renault engines to allow both Brundle and Bellof to race with them and make the Dutch Grand Prix of 1985 the first ever Formula One race with 100% turbo power.
Once again, rain on Saturday meant that Friday’s practice times settled the grid positions, and Nelson Piquet took the pole position ahead of Keke Rosberg’s Williams, with Prost and Senna on row 2, and Fabi getting another great grid position in 5th. 6th was Tambay, with Mansell, Boutsen, Surer and Lauda rounding out the top ten. And Ferrari? 16th (Alboreto) and 17th (Johansson). With 27 cars again, this time it was Kenny Acheson who drew the short straw, after having had to share a car with Alliot on Friday. Once more, a petition was got up to allow him to start, and once more it was Ron Dennis who refused to sign it. The Dutch crowd didn’t mind, though, as Acheson’s misfortune was their man Rothengatter’s fortune – the Osella driver was 26th on the grid.
Sunday was dry – to the relief of Goodyear, whose wet tyres had been wearing out at an alarming rate during Saturday’s wet sessions – although Patrick Tambay wasn’t a happy man, his 6th place on the grid to no avail after he had had a misfire in the warmup and missed the parade lap – he would start from the pit lane. When the start itself came, it was Nelson Piquet’s turn to waste his fine qualifying – he stalled his Brabham and needed a push from the marshals to get going (further back, Boutsen also stalled his Arrows, but managed to roll forward enough to bump start it. So it was Rosberg into the lead again, with Senna giving chase, followed by Prost and Fabi, with Surer fifth in the number 8 Brabham and Lauda 6th. Teo Fabi managed to haul his Toleman past Prost into the first corner, while Lauda rapidly disposed of Surer and was also bearing down on his team-mate. Lap 2 saw both Alfa Romeos blow a turbo almost together and tour off, and Pierluigi Martini had a big off in his Minardi.
Prost got back past Fabi a lap or so later and set off after Senna and Rosberg, and the Finn was pulling out quite a rate of knots. The Ferraris were also moving up after their dreadful qualifying – by lap 10, Alboreto was up to 9th while Johansson had made it up to 10th before his engine blew and he was out. However, Alboreto was soon down a place, because Patrick Tambay was on a charge and overtook him.
Now the two McLarens were pressing Senna who was in turn reeling in Rosberg, the gap down to four seconds by lap 13 because the leader’s soft tyres were already beginning to go off – but two laps later the Lotus’ Renault engine inexplicably cut out and Prost and Lauda bundled past before Senna got it going again and set off in pursuit. Teo Fabi was running well in 6th until a faulty rear wheel bearing sent him bouncing across the kerbs and out of the race with a damaged undertray, which promoted Mansell into the points, with Warwick bearing down on him
By this time, Prost was right up behind Rosberg and was into the lead on lap 21 when the Honda engine blew, and Lauda headed into the pits for new tyres as he was being pressed hard by Senna. So Prost led from Senna with the two Renaults an encouraging third (Warwick) and fourth (Tambay), both having got past Mansell in 5th, who now had Alboreto bearing down on him as well. Sadly for the French team, both their cars broke within five laps of each other – Tambay with a transmission failure on lap 33 and Warwick with a gearbox problem on lap 38. That said, there were rumours in the paddock that the team had been running a light fuel load to impress the bosses at Renault HQ and wouldn’t have finished anyway.
Regardless, Senna and Mansell both also pitted for tyres, which put Alboreto up to second – some distance behind Prost but ready to capitalise on a problem, plus of course Prost had yet to make a tyre stop. That said, though, Lauda was recovering well from his stop, making his way up to third past Surer and looking good on fresh rubber, with Senna likewise benefitting. In fact, it was Alboreto who was next to stop, with Prost coming in a lap later – but the McLaren team made an unaccustomed mess of the stop and Lauda and Senna went through ahead of him, with Prost exiting ten seconds behind the Lotus, with de Angelis and Surer behind him. Alboreto was recovering too, and got past the Brabham and set about chasing down de Angelis. Senna, meanwhile, was being held up while lapping Martin Brundle, which allowed Prost to close up.
As both passed the Tyrrell, Prost was attacking and Senna wasn’t able to hold him off, the Frenchman getting past on lap 47 and setting out to catch his team-mate in the lead. By lap 62, he had done so, and for the remaining 8 laps of the race the fans were treated to a spectacular ding-dong battle between Lauda and Prost as the wily Austrian used every trick in the book to keep his young team-mate behind him. Senna and Alboreto were having a similar scrap over third further back, but in the end both drivers were able to stay ahead, and Niki Lauda came home for his 25th career win, equalling Jim Clark’s tally and just two behind Jackie Stewart’s all-time record. Prost and Senna joined him on the podium, with Alboreto fourth, de Angelis fifth and Mansell taking the last point in sixth place.
The day after the Dutch Grand Prix, Renault announced that they would be withdrawing from Formula One as a constructor at the end of the season, though they would honour their contracts as an engine supplier with Lotus, Ligier and Tyrrell. This merely confirmed rumours that had been persisting for months, but was nonetheless a major announcement and meant that two talented drivers in Derek Warwick and Patrick Tambay would be looking for employment for 1986.
Alain Prost thus took the lead in the championship for the first time, with five races left to run. However, although the gap was just three points, Ferrari looked distinctly ordinary in this race and would have to work hard at their home GP to regain their momentum.
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