As Elio de Angelis began the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, he was a worried man. Less than two seconds behind his Lotus 91 was Keke Rosberg's Williams FW08, and the Finn was on the charge. More than that, the Lotus had that occasional and unmistakeable stammer that means that fuel is low.
Rosberg drove an inspired final lap, but left it just a fraction too late. At the flag de Angelis's arm was in the air, and Rosberg's front wheels were level with the 91's cockpit. It was the tightest finish for a very long time, and gave the Italian his first grand prix win.
The Osterreichring. In practice Nelson Piquet's Brabham-BMW lapped the swirling, undulating, circuit at an astonishing 151mph, and it is thus the fastest grand prix circuit currently in use. This, we all knew, would be a turbo race as Hockenheim had been. Brabham, Brabham, Renault, Ferrari, Renault ran the grid, and nothing else was realistically close.
Bernie Ecclestone's cars were untouchable in qualifying, and seemed to be that way in the race - for a while. Riccardo Patrese led most of the way to half-distance, not even losing the lead when he made the much-vaunted fuel and tyre stop. But soon afterwards the BMW turbo engine seized solid, pitching Patrese into a long, terrifying, spin that ended against a bank, just in front of the spectator area. And four laps later Piquet, whose engine had gone off-song, also retired. Rene Arnoux's Renault had been an early retirement, and Patrick Tambay's Ferrari lost two laps at the start of the race when he punctured on accident debris. Tambay then produced a magnificent comeback drive, which ultimately took him to fourth place, but he was obviously never a threat.
All of which seemed to leave Alain Prost sitting pretty. In the remaining Renault he led by a huge margin for a long way. Five laps from the end, however, the French car's electronic injection system, which had been troublesome in practice, played up again. The engine died, and suddenly we had a race once more.
The crowd only had eyes for Austrian hero Lauda's McLaren © LAT
De Angelis drove a beautiful race, his Lotus the dominant non-turbo throughout. That position might have been challenged earlier had Rosberg's car not handled badly on full tanks. In the late stages, though, the Williams was working to perfection. As at Zolder, Rosberg was heartbreakingly close to his first win, but six points move him into second place in the world championship, with only the defenceless Didier Pironi ahead.
Third - a source of pleasure to most - was Jacques Laffite, the Ligier JS19 at last finishing reasonably well, although the place flatters car, not driver. This was typical Laffite: hard, gutsy, determined. Tambay, whose Ferrari once more ran flawlessly and would surely have won easily without that puncture, but fourth was an honourable result after a drive full of character and flair. In the dying laps he overtook Niki Lauda, whose McLaren was off the pace all weekend, and Mauro Baldi, very impressive in his Arrows A4. The only other finisher, remarkably, was Chico Serra's new Fittipaldi F9.
This was a race full of incidence, marked by several notable drives. Brian Henton had a superb afternoon, taking his Tyrrell past the likes of Lauda before retiring with a blown engine. And the Tolemans of Derek Warwick and Teo Fabi shone brightly - but briefly - in the early laps, running sixth and seventh when they disappeared from the lap charts. John Watson, however, had a miserable day, his ill-handling McLaren quitting near the end with an engine about to blow.
And, nice to be able to say it, no one got hurt this weekend.
Entry and practice
In Austria the pattern was maintained. There were five competitive turbocharged cars on the entry list, and they qualified one, two, three, four, five. The season's crazy rhythm continued, with Piquet's pole position lap almost 5s - that's 8mph - quicker than the lap record. The Brazilian, channelling his aggression into motor racing once more, went round in 1m27.612s on the first afternoon, and that represented an average of 151.725mph. Last year Arnoux lapped his Renault in 1m32.530s in the race - a mere 143.659mph.
This was the weekend when turbos finally came out of the closet, when the paddock reeled at confirmation of a deal between Lotus and Renault, when it became clear that even Cosworth stalwarts were talking about BMW and Honda and Hart. Heresy! "For the first time in my life I'm going to do something illegal - use a turbo," said one of their number. Illegal? Why, yes, of course. Turbos are actually two engines in one, always have been, even in the days when we thought they were a joke, laughed at them, said they would never be competitive. Now they are competitive (rather more than that, actually), and the progressive you-can't-stop-progress mentality of grand prix racing has accepted, however reluctantly, that this philosophy must be extended to include engines.
It was said that you couldn't win in Austria without a turbo. Here's a Hart © LAT
From the start the Brabham-BMWs were on their own. Nobody outside the team knew how much boost Piquet and Patrese were using, but car designer Gordon Murray said they could have gone higher. It was very hot during practice. Practice times these days are increasingly artificial, and it is fairly safe to say that Ecclestone's white cars could not have run very long at qualifying speed. You had a good idea of that as you watched the mechanics loading chunks of dry ice into the sidepod by the intercooler!
Practice for the Brabham team was remarkably free of incident. After the first timed session Piquet and Patrese were almost two clear seconds ahead of the rest, led by Tambay's Ferrari, and this allowed them the luxury of lounging in the pits for most of the last hour. Surely we were not to see them sit it out completely, reviving memories of the McLaren and Hulme Can-Am Show those many years ago?
Twenty minutes to go, and a BMW engine was fired up, rumbling away with that harsh, uneven tone. Patrese put his helmet on and climbed aboard, Piquet following suit shortly after. They were not on the circuit very long, but did enough to reassert their superiority, again setting the two best times, the Italian this afternoon slightly quicker than the Brazilian. Piquet, revelling in the sheer power of the engine, was looking to better his Friday time, and might well have done so, had he not been appallingly blocked by Jean-Pierre Jarier's Osella on his banzai lap. No matter. The front row was secured - and not a single engine had been lost through the two days.
On the pole at the Osterreichring for the last three years, Arnoux could hardly wait to get to grips with his favourite circuit again. It is increasingly sure that the little man will not figure in the Regie's plan for 1983, and therefore increasingly difficult to believe that he will drive at all times with the interests of Prost in mind.
By Friday evening, though, Arnoux was a worried man. His day had been calamitous, without a single flying lap, and now the rain was beating down. The same circumstances obliged him to sit out the Belgian Grand Prix last year, and his frustration was plain. During the first morning Arnoux had to abandon his Renault out on the circuit with a blown engine. Not a good start to the weekend. Then, in the afternoon he was unable to go for a time, merely trickling round. "There is a fault in the electronic injection," he grimaced afterwards, "and we have no idea what the fault is..." We have grown accustomed to seeing the name of Arnoux at the top of lists. This time it was at the bottom.
Patrese put his Brabham - turbocharged, of course - on pole © LAT
On Saturday morning his practice ended when a turbo blew, after which he took over Prost's original race car, already discarded by his team-mate, who far preferred the feel of the spare. So as to be absolutely certain of getting Arnoux into the race, the mechanics converted the car back to plain old mechanical injection for the last session. Arnoux did not like the car's handling any more than Prost had done, but duly put it into the race in fifth position, right behind Tambay.
Prost, by contrast, had a good time of it - until a turbo let go as he left the pits on his last set of qualifiers. By then, however, he had already lapped in 1m28.864s, good for third place, and he had no illusions about disturbing the Brabhams.
Between the Renaults was Tambay in the sole Ferrari. "The car was fantastic in Hockenheim," he commented. "But here I am less happy with it - particularly in the really fast corners. It's not bad, you understand, just a little short of grip." Tambay set his quickest time on the first day, his efforts during the last session thwarted by engine failure in the last few minutes. "Yes," he grinned, "we were running a lot of boost..."
As the team's only representative Tambay had two cars at his disposal. He tried the spare, in longitudinal gearbox specification, during the untimed session on Saturday morning, but was not impressed, finding the steering heavy and the handling unpredictable. Ferrari's astonishing reliability seemed to be the strongest card in his hand.
Five turbos, then, at the head of the field. But the gap to the rest was less pronounced than at Hockenheim. Admittedly, Arnoux's time was some way off what he might, in better circumstances, have managed, but Rosberg's Williams was only 0.09s slower.
Here was a combination of an extremely light car, an extremely strong Cosworth 'special' and an extremely brave drive. Rosberg had no complaints of his car, save that it was a trifle nervous on Friday; both Williams cars understeering notably at the daunting downhill Boschkurve. Changes for Saturday improved them considerably, however. On 1m30.300s, Rosberg was looking good, but how would the car be in 'race day' specification?
Excessive oversteer prevented Warwick qualifying higher than 15th © LAT
Derek Daly started ninth, three places behind Rosberg, his practice days a little more eventful. Having lost a wheel during qualifying at Hockenheim, the Irishman was more than a little annoyed when the same thing happened in Austria. "I felt the car twitch going through the Boschkurve, and eased right off." It was good that he did, for a rear wheel parted company before the end of the lap. 'Human error, not mechanical problem,' was how the team tersely summed up the incident. Throughout the first day Daly complained of far too much understeer, and its cause was discovered after the first timed session: the diff had locked solid. "I think we're going to have a good race, though," he remarked. "The car is good on full tanks here, and we won't take a chance with tyres." Like most Goodyear runners, the Williams team reckoned it would opt for 'A' compound tyres.
Between the Williams cars on the grid were de Angelis's Lotus 91 and Michele Alboreto's Tyrrell 011. De Angelis likes the Osterreichring, and so, eventually, did his car, which was very fast and stable through the quick corners. "It's coming on well here," said Nigel Mansell, 12th fastest in his 91. "Elio's done a lot of testing recently, and it's helped me. I kept asking Colin [Chapman] if I could have the same settings on my car as Elio, and finally they changed it - just for the last session. The difference was simply fantastic. I can't believe it! It's incredible, you know. A driver has to work like mad to find a couple of tenths, and yet a tiny change - I mean, a tiny change - to the ride height or skirts or suspension can give you a second and a half, just like that."
All in all, there was a lift in Lotus fortunes at the weekend: the cars were in better shape than they had been for a long time; a turbo was announced for next year; both drivers confirmed that they are staying put in 1983; both felt quietly optimistic about the race.
Ken Tyrrell admits that there is a marked difference between Alboreto's race car and the others in the team. The Italian's Tyrrell is a good deal lighter, and has a Cosworth 'special.' This is hard on Henton, and inevitably puts him in a poor light, but the problem is simply one of money.
Alboreto drove brilliantly on Friday, and was the fastest Cosworth runner during the first untimed session. In the afternoon he was bested by Rosberg, but still set the sixth-fastest time. The following morning, though, he went off the road in a big way, tearing off the bottom of the gearbox, and in the afternoon had to confront harsh reality: the spare Tyrrell was nearly 3s per lap slower. He started from eighth on the grid.
Tommy Byrne qualified for a GP for the first time; 26th in his Theodore © LAT
For Henton there were all kinds of problems. He had a valve spring go on Friday morning, and ran out of fuel in the afternoon. And in the final session his engine blew as he set out on his second set of qualifiers. Thus, his Friday time, set on race tyres, had to stand, and 13th became 19th.
McLaren had a terrible time. Constant work by Willi Dungl on Lauda's Hockenheim injured wrist enabled the great Austrian to run before his public, and he was out early on Friday morning, lapping before practice began, a camera on the car. When the session started he continued in the same car (sans camera, of course) and it blew up. That, fortunately, was the spare, and he then transferred to his race chassis.
On Friday afternoon Watson had an engine blow, and he took over the T-car, which he did not like at all. On Saturday the two of them were scratching heads, Lauda, slightly baffled, complaining that he could not get the MP4B balanced to any acceptable degree, and Watson saying he had far too much understeer. The team, admitted Teddy Mayer, was just plain off the pace at the Osterreichring. Lauda finished up 10th, Watson a lowly 18th.
Alfa Romeo was also in trouble. Only a few minutes into the first session, proceedings were halted for a long time while Andrea de Cesaris's car was brought back, having broken its throttle cable. The 182s handled reasonably well, but neither de Cesaris nor Bruno Giacomelli had a good word for their V12 engines, which simply refused to run cleanly at high revs. They qualified 11th and 13th. "The handling is not too bad," said Laffite of his Ligier JS19. "But we still have too much understeer and the big problem is that these cars are simply too heavy to compete. In practice some of the British cars are very light, you know. The turbos? Ha! I wish we could keep up with some of the Cosworths..."
Laffite qualified 14th, and was much happier with his car than Eddie Cheever, who said that his car was terrible over the bumps. For the final session he went out in Laffite's car, but was unable to improve on his Friday time. He started 22nd.
De Angelis could not have dreamed of victory after qualifying 11th © LAT
Warwick had a sobering experience on Friday morning when a bolt broke in the rear suspension of his Toleman - "I heard it go, actually, and pretty soon I knew what it was!" How was the car? "Terrible, quite honestly. Leaping about all over the place It's always been bad over bumps." For all that, Warwick set the 10th best time in the first official session, and might well have improved on that the following day had he not been too optimistic in his choice of top gear ration, finding himself 400rpm down. Also, he said, the car oversteered too much on Pirelli's latest qualifiers. He was quicker during the last session, but not by enough, and dropped to 15th, two places in front of Fabi. A fuel system problem caused the Italian's engine to misfire through corners on the first day, and in the last session Rupert Keegan spun in front of him at the chicane when he was out on his second (and better) set of Q-tyres.
Between the Tolemans on the grid was Roberto Guerrero's Ensign, the young Colombian really enjoying this drivers' circuit. "I don't really know what we've done wrong, but the car feels really good here!" For Austria Guerrero had the unusual luxury of a spare engine, which was installed after the first day of practice. On Saturday afternoon he lapped in 1m33.555s, a time that put many others to shame, and underlined his very considerable potential.
Towards the back, Serra qualified his Fittipaldi F9 in 20th spot, ahead of Marc Surer in the faster of the two Arrows A4s. Baldi took 23rd, marginally quicker than Keegan, who was the only March qualifier this weekend. Raul Boesel, his team-mate, complained of a poor engine in the last session, and was less than thrilled with his Avon tyres.
Joining him on the redundant list for Sunday were Jarier (Osella) and Eliseo Salazar (ATS). Manfred Winklehock scraped in with Gunther Schmid's other car, as did Tommy Byrne, who performed creditably with the Theodore, and took the last grid place.
When qualifying was all done, and we looked ahead to the race, there was a lot of speculation about the weather. On Friday evening a heavy thunderstorm broke at 6pm, and on Saturday it came an hour earlier. Forecasts for Sunday varied, but one newspaper suggested a cloudburst at around 4pm - an hour into the race. If this proved to be the case then a wildcard would introduced into the game. And on Saturday it seemed that only a wildcard could prevent a turbo walkover.
The Grand Prix
Race day. From very early in the morning the extent of Lauda's popularity at home was confirmed all over again. During his two-year absence, the Austrian Grand Prix crowds had been halved and more. Now he was back, albeit in an uncompetitive state, and they flocked in to see him. It was said to be the biggest crowd in the history of the race, and was swelled by unusually large numbers of Italians, keen to see a repeat of Tambay's Hockenheim victory.
The Brabham-BMWs were setting the pace once more during the half-hour warm-up, Patrese slightly quicker than Piquet. Both cars continued to run faultlessly, and there was no dry ice on hand now, despite the enormous heat. In the pitlane was the orange stripe, and we learned that this time both cars would be stopping. After his fire at Paul Ricard, Patrese's enthusiasm for the refuelling game waned somewhat, but he started with full tanks at Hockenheim and was somewhat dismayed to see his team mate vanish into the distance. The stops, we could reasonably expect, would come at around 25 laps, the half-distance mark.
For others, though, there were more immediate problems. Renault was in trouble with both of its cars, Prost stopping after 15 minutes with an oil leak, which proved very difficult to locate, and Arnoux stripping fourth gear. While others relaxed a little, with two hours before the start, the Renault mechanics went to work. If, at this stage, you were to have put your money on anyone, it should logically have been placed on the relaxed Mr Tambay, who set the fourth-best time, and had no real troubles. If any turbo was going to survive the heat, you felt, it would be the red one.
De Cesaris retired on the opening lap, as did his Alfa team-mate Giacomelli © LAT
As race time neared, the cars set off from the pits, and one of them - Surer's Arrows - got no further than the Hella Licht chicane at the top of the hill, where it ground to a halt, engine dead. Surer jumped out, ran back down to the pits, and was immediately strapped into the spare A4. As the field went away from the start he was, surprisingly, allowed to start from the pitlane, without having to wait the statutory lap.
There was chaos at the start. The front rows got away cleanly, with Rosberg making a tremendous charge between Tambay's Ferrari and the guardrail. Behind, however, the two Alfa Romeos tangled, with de Cesaris's car then bouncing across into Daly's Williams. All three were out on the spot.
As Piquet led Patrese and the rest away into the first lap, there was debris in the start-finish area, and Derek Ongaro quickly came to the conclusion that the race must be stopped. That done, he switched on the red light. On the circuit were three damaged racing cars, as well as rescue vehicles and personnel. In the space of 90s - the time it takes to do a lap of the Osterreichring - the drama was dealt with very efficiently, the track cleared of cars and people, if not of debris. And here there arose a breakdown in communication. The red light being on, the Clerk of the Course prepared to show the red flag, to bring the race to a halt. To that end, he climbed over the guardrail, then apparently saw that the area seemed to be clear and changed his mind. At the end of lap one, therefore, they came through at full racing speed - with the red light on...
Piquet and Patrese thundered through, as expected, followed by Prost, Tambay and Arnoux. The turbo pattern was already established, but the red portion was about to disappear. Going through the start-finish area, Tambay ran over some accident shrapnel, and punctured a rear tyre. That meant a very slow lap, to save the suspension and skirts, back to the pits, and he resumed two laps down. Already in the pits, out for the day, was Keegan, who had clipped the wall in the startline melee, damaging a steering arm.
Patrese overtook his number one on the second lap, and the two cars made an impressive sight as they began to move clear, droning past the pits, clunking into sixth gear when most engines were going to walk this one.
The crowd got to witness a fuel-and-tyre stop when Patrese pitted © LAT
With Tambay already out of the reckoning, the Renaults ran easily in third and fourth places, and behind them, on laps two and three, ran the Lotuses. The really dramatic progress in the early laps, though, came from the two Tolemans. From 15th and 17th on the grid, Warwick and Fabi were scything through the pack, sixth and seventh by lap five! On lap eight, however neither came through: Fabi had pulled off with a broken CWP, Warwick with a precise repeat of his Friday practice drama, a broken bolt in the rear suspension. Exciting, but brief, was Toleman's day, although the team had more of a race than Alboreto's Tyrrell, which had hit the fence at the Boschkurve on its second lap, the Italian making a most untypical mistake.
If Alboreto was out, however, Henton was very definitely in, and going at it very hard. In the course of lap nine he contrived to take his Tyrrell past both Mansell and Lauda! The locals were somewhat stunned by that. Moreover, it was no one-shot wonder, for Henton quickly moved clear of the home hero. "The car was fantastic from the start," he reported later. "But the temperature gauges were high and I cut my revs, changing up at ten-five. Even so, I had no problem keeping my position."
Ten laps: Patrese, Piquet, Prost, Arnoux, de Angelis, Rosberg, Laffite, Henton, Lauda, Mansell. After his excellent practice showing, Guerrero's weekend finished on a low note, unfortunately, the Ensign retiring with a broken driveshaft after running on Lauda's tail during the early laps.
The Brabhams were leaving everyone cold. After 10 laps Piquet, tailing his team-mate, was 14s ahead of Prost. On that basis Patrese and the world champion would be well over 30s clear by the time of their pitstops. If all went well, indeed, they would be able to take on fuel and tyres without losing the lead. We waited.
In the first quarter of the race, de Angelis detached himself impressively from the other non-turbos, a performance we might have expected from Rosberg. But the Finn, although next up, was not at all happy with the handling of his car for the opening 15 or 20 laps, and was quite unable even to keep the Lotus within reasonable striking distance. As de Angelis's remarkable performance continued, Mansell retired his 91 with a broken valve spring.
After running close to Prost initially, Arnoux had started to fall away noticeably, and on lap 15 the second Renault came into the pits, where it remained for some time. Arnoux later returned to the race briefly, but then stopped for good, a turbo blown.
Laffite steadily made his way towards the podium spots © LAT
Just a lap after Arnoux's stop there were murmurs of surprise from the grandstands as Piquet peeled off down the pitlane. Seventeen laps only! This surely could not be the planned stop? When the Brabham rolled to a halt, the mechanics duly went into their routine, but quiet clearly they were unprepared for the Brazilian's early visit, and the stop took 30s.
Piquet had come in early because his tyres were blistered. Later he claimed to have signalled his intention to stop while passing the pits on the previous lap. If so, he did not do it with enough brio, for his crew did not see it.
When he rejoined the race - in a lovely welter of high revs and tyre smoke - Piquet found himself immediately in front of Rosberg, and it was significant that he could not get away from the Williams. For one thing, Rosberg's car was now beginning to handle to the driver's satisfaction; for another, Piquet's BMW turbo had lost some of its edge.
Both Brabhams had started the race on 'B' Goodyears. After the blistering problems encountered by Piquet, it was decided that when Patrese made his top he should return on the harder 'A'.
Patrese came in finally at the end of lap 24, exiting the Rindtkurve at near normal racing speed, then steering over to the right. It was the moment for which we had waited: a Brabham pitstop, right on schedule, the car in the lead. Braking hard for the little chicane at the entry to the pitlane, Patrese's car weaved a little, drove through, then stopped at its pit, inch perfect.
The mechanics' work could not be faulted. In went the 24 gallons, off came the old tyres, on went the new. Their driver was stationary for only 14s, a truly remarkable time, particularly since it was achieved in actual race conditions. The applause for their efforts was deserved.
Patrese rejoined without losing the lead, although Prost was only a couple of seconds behind now, and it was a difficult first lap for the Italian, who found the BT50 a little skittery on its newer, harder, rubber. Quickly, though he found his rhythm again, and seemed under no real threat from the Renault.
Guerrero spun off on the sixth lap © LAT
It all went wrong on lap 28. As the number two Brabham-BMW pointed into the inappropriately-named Texaco Schikane (it is actually a very quick left-hander), a sudden trail of smoke appeared behind it. In an instant, the car had snapped sideways and was sliding backwards off the road. Over grass still wet from the previous night's storm, the Brabham bucked and slid endlessly, its progress finally arrested by a steep earth bank into which it backed with some force. The tail of the car finished up all of a yard away from the spectator fence...
At this part of the circuit, fortunately, the spectators were at least behind their fence. Up at the approach to the Hella-Licht chicane, the crowd control was disgraceful. Non-existent, in fact. People with no imagination climbed the spectator fences and proceeded to sit on the guardrail, dangling their legs over the trackside as they aimed Instamatics at cars approaching at 180mph...
Patrese out, then, leaving Prost with a very comfortable lead. Behind the Renault, de Angelis's lonely but mighty impressive race continued, and then we had Piquet and Rosberg in close company.
Piquet's race, however, was nearing its end. As he came out of the Rindtkurve and onto the pit straight for the 31st time, Rosberg's Williams was much closer and - what's happening here? - overtook the Brabham over the start/finish line! It was not trick of the light. Piquet's day was done. The white care pulled over to the right and came to a halt a little way up the hill. Something, said the team, had broken between the camshaft and the crankshaft... In the space of five laps, the fastest cars in the place were out.
And sadly, a lap later, so also was Henton's Tyrrell. "I'd dropped the revs down," said the dejected Briton. "And the temperatures returned to normal. Then I got a signal that the Ferrari was catching me, and I had to speed up again. Thing was, it wasn't anywhere near me. It had lost two laps, not one. I just feel sick about it. The car felt tremendous, and I think I might have caught Laffite. I could've been on that rostrum..."
Thirty-five laps: Prost, de Angelis, Rosberg, Laffite, Lauda, Baldi, Watson and... Tambay. After his victory in Germany, the Frenchman further laid claim to a job with Maranello next season, driving in fluent and relaxed style, yet really pushing on. "When I got the puncture I drove back to the pits - almost a whole lap - very slowly, hoping not to damage the skirts or the suspension. I lost one of the brake air scoops, but that was all. It was a nice race for me, very satisfying, because there were no longer any tactics. I just had to drive as hard as I could all the way. Disappointing, yes, because I could have won without a problem, I think, but enjoyable all the same."
Rosberg got the hammer down and turned a 6s deficit to de Angelis into zero... © LAT
Next to leave the scene was Watson, whose car trailed steam for quite a way before he saw the oil pressure warning light and felt the engine start to tighten. He coasted in after 44 laps. Yet another race without points.
At this stage Rosberg was perceptibly catching de Angelis for second place, although it seemed unlikely that he could come to serious terms with the Lotus. But suddenly the matter became serious. On lap 45, the gap was 5.9s; a lap later, it was 4.9s. At that rate the Williams man had more than a chance.
On lap 49 the entire complexion of the race changed, and there was a new emphasis on the battle. Now it was for victory! Parked by the side of the road was the number 15 Renault, its driver speechless with range. "A lap before, when I lifted off for the chicane at the top of the hill," he said, "the engine suddenly cut out completely. That time I could press the clutch, find a lower gear and restart t. Now it happened again, and this time... nothing!"
"We don't know what the problem is with the electronic injection," said Jean Sage after the race. "It happened with Rene's car on Friday. When the driver takes his foot off, sometimes the engine just runs too rich, cuts out." Certainly it looked that way. When Prost pulled off, his car's exhaust pipes looked like gas burners, long pencils of flame from each. And as soon as Alain turned off the ignition, the gas burners were extinguished. Instantly.
The scent of champagne worked wonders for Rosberg. At 50 laps he was 3s behind de Angelis, then 2.5s. As the two cars set out on their final lap the gap was down to 1.6s, and Rosberg was now closing dramatically. Into the Boschkurve for the last time, and the Williams took yards from the Lotus. Through the Texaco Schikane he was right on de Angelis's tail. Over the brow of the hill side by side, and Keke at the last minute ducked in behind Elio, which may have cost him the race. At the beginning of the Rindtkurve he had to brake hard behind the Lotus, and lost a little momentum. Through the flowing, fast, part of the corner he had the nose of his car almost tucked under the Lotus's gearbox, pulling out and starting to move alongside as they pitched down to the flag. He had left it just too late, and de Angelis was in, by a tenth of a second.
...but, to Colin Chapman's delight, Rosberg could not deny Lotus victory © LAT
As soon as their man had taken the flag, anyone with a yellow John Player Team Lotus shirt was over the barrier and onto the track, which seemed a little short-sighted in light of the fact that others were still out there motor racing. However, no one came to any harm - until de Angelis, after a jubilant slowing down lap, brought the car into the weighing area. There Chapman sat on the sidepod, whereupon de Angelis's foot slipped off the clutch and the car jumped forward. The Lotus chief was pitched into the air by his car's rear wheel, but seemed none the worse for it. Nothing was going to dampen the first victory in four years. Colin and his boys had not tasted this since Andretti and Peterson cruised in at Zandvoort in 1978.
"For sure, I was worried during the last lap," beamed de Angelis. "The car began to misfire a little, and he was closing, closing. But now? I feel wonderful..." Just that morning he had signed to drive the Lotus-Renault in 1983.
Six more points for Rosberg, good-natured in defeat as he was in Belgium. Yes, it could have been nine, perhaps, but he would willingly have accepted a firm promise of six before this 'turbo race' began.
His was one of three genuinely happy faces on the rostrum, for Laffite had almost forgotten how it feels to climb those stairs. Twelve months ago he stood there as a winner, but after the turmoil of this season four points seemed pretty good.
Tambay, whose performance was perhaps overlooked in the late drama, stepped from his car and walked briskly away, now very much a race-fit driver and a possible winner every time out these days. Mauro Forghieri was delighted with him. The Ferrari, said Tambay, had run perfectly yet again. Not since Kyalami, where Gilles Villeneuve's car lost a turbo, has a 126C2 retired for mechanical reasons.
The biggest crowd in the history of the Osterreichring race was disappointed that its hero was never a contender, but Lauda was nevertheless cheered to the echo as he completed a thoroughly ill-rewarded race in fifth place, only 6s ahead of Baldi, one of the few 'new' drivers living up to his promise. An excellent drive by the Arrows man.
Austria went against the run of play, gave a first victory to a young veteran, a return to triumph for a team so often written off, provided Cosworth with the DFV's 150th grand prix win. Will Dijon bring another?