As we all expected, it was a turbo race. They dominated qualifying, and they ran away with the race. Some failed before the end, but two did not. The chequered flag eventually fluttered for Didier Pironi, whose Ferrari took an early lead and left the rest behind.
As ever, the Renaults were the class of the field in practice, with Rene Arnoux on pole, Alain Prost next to him. But neither made it to half-distance, Prost suffering another engine failure, and Arnoux fortunate to come out of an enormous Tarzan accident without injury.
Pironi, then, ran virtually the whole distance without challenge. After a poor start, Nelson Piquet's Brabham-BMW dispensed with the Renaults, but made no inroads into the Ferrari's lead. The world champion took second place - by less than a second from the charging Keke Rosberg, whose Williams FW08 completely overshadowed the rest of the non-turbo entries. Niki Lauda's McLaren MP4B, well to the fore throughout the meeting, finished fourth, ahead of Derek Daly's Williams and Mauro Baldi's Arrows.
Making his debut for Ferrari, Patrick Tambay made a good impression, qualifying only slightly slower than Pironi, and running in the points for most of the race, despite a severe misfire for half of it.
By winning in Holland, Pironi reduced John Watson's world championship lead from 10 points to one, for John had a dispiriting time, enduring tyre troubles for first half of the grand prix. After a change, the car was transformed, but by then any question of points had evaporated.
Entry and Practice
After some of the places on the recent world championship schedule, Zandvoort seemed like real grand prix racing again, an opportunity for cars and drivers to stretch their legs again, to get out of second gear. And perhaps our enjoyment of the place was enhanced by the fact that, until a few weeks ago, it appeared to have joined Spa, Clermont Ferrand and the Nurburgring, locked away in the vault of racing history. Going there, in the middle of the season, was like finding a bottle of Latour on a supermarket shelf.
No one went to Zandvoort with any illusions - no one from this island, anyway. Apart from Brabham. All things being equal, the Dutch Grand Prix was going to be a turbo race. Had not a Renault taken pole there last year, and the year before that? Zandvoort's chief overtaking spot had always been the approach to Tarzan, at the end of the long pit straight, and the normally aspirated brigade's only hope had been to get off the right-handed Bos Uit quicker than the turbos, try to keep the semblance of a tow past the pits, dive out of the slipstream, rely on superior brakes and a better chassis to get into Tarzan first.
Times are changing. For one thing, some turbo cars handle very well indeed these days. For another, the overtaking zone at Tarzan is a fraction of its former length, so late is the braking point, so high the entry speed to the corner. A disastrous state of affairs, of course, for those who like to watch racing, and more than that for a driver who finds himself with a problem there - as we were to discover in the race.
Anyway, practice brought few surprises, with the turbos taking five of the first six places. And on pole, as he usually is Rene Arnoux worked his Renault round in 1m14.233s, which represented an average speed of 128.132mph, five seconds and more under his own lap record.
Rene Arnoux was on pole position, as he often was in 1982 © LAT
For Renault, the two days of qualifying were worryingly trouble-free. So often this season it has been like that, with race day proving disastrous. Surely, everyone said in practice, surely one of them has to finish some time...
Neither Rene nor Alain Prost was particularly happy during the untimed session on Thursday, for the Renaults were porpoising badly on the long pit straight. Before the opening official session, however, adjustments to ride height solved the problem. Arnoux duly set the best time, and Prost was four-tenths back from him, second quickest. There was rain during the final 20 minutes, which left Alain no chance of running his second set of qualifiers, and he was disappointed to miss another shot at pole. No matter. There was tomorrow.
But Friday was a different story. The tail wind the day before, which had helped Arnoux to a speed of well over 190mph past the pits, had disappeared. The afternoon was also a great deal warmer. So times were down for all but a few tail-enders, and Thursday's list was, essentially, the grid.
On sheer, boosted, soft rubber, pace, only Nelson Piquet's Brabham-BMW seemed likely to challenge Renault for pole position. The world champion was less than a tenth slower than Prost on the first day, and suddenly the German four-cylinder turbos are a lot less troublesome. Practice for Piquet and Riccardo Patrese was a far cry from the shambles at Zolder, for example. Nelson had few complaints of chassis or engine - although there was a heart skipping moment at Tarzan on Thursday afternoon.
Coming into the braking area, plumes of grey-blue smoke spurted from the Brabham's tyres, the car then going completely sideways and stopping in the sand on the outside of the turn. It was quite undamaged, and Piquet found first gear and drove it back to the pits. The explanantion for the incident made him blush: "I was reaching for the boost control, to turn it up for a real flier. Instead I touched the brake balance bar next to it, and put it all to the front..."
Nelson Piquet was slightly embarrased by this spin in the Brabham BMW BT50 © LAT
After the Thursday morning session, Nelson ventured out on a set of hand-cut Goodyear slicks, these a forerunner of the treaded tyres demanded by FISA for next year. But he did only four laps before coming in to have a minor conflagration doused.
For Zandvoort, Patrese was also in a BT50, which he qualified 10th, after doing only four laps in the quicker of the two sessions. The Italian lost time with a damaged skirt, and then had a turbo failure before getting the best out of his last set of Q-tyres. On Friday morning, a troublesome metering unit meant an engine change for the race car, and he had to use the spare chassis in the last session.
Throughout practice there was an air of cool confidence about Didier Pironi. He did not match the lap times of Renault or Brabham, but nevertheless felt good about his chances, qualifying fourth. There were two cars available to the Ferrari team leader, one normal 126C2, with transverse gearbox and pull-rod front suspension which proved so effective in the North American races, and the other with revised rear suspension and narrow, 'longitudinal' gearbox. Didier drove both cars extensively in practice, setting his best time in the 'normal' car.
"I don't know which I shall use for the race," he commented on Friday afternoon. "The revised car should be quicker, because of cleaner air flow at the back, and it certainly feels easier to drive. But the transverse car still seems a bit faster." After talking it over with his crew, Didier finally opted for the older version.
Making his debut for Ferrari, Patrick Tambay distinguished himself in practice, qualifying sixth, only three-tenths from Pironi. His time moreover, was set with an engine, which simply would not run cleanly. On Friday morning it was still there. "We are mystified," said Patrick. "In fact, I'm not sure they believe me! They've worked on the ignition, injection, electrics, everything. They've even changed the battery. Before this afternoon they're going to change the wastegate." And that did the trick.
Unfortunately, though, the last session was much slower, and Tambay, like all the leading runners, did not improve. His car was in 'transverse' specification, and he was very happy with it. Ferrari, for their part, were delighted with him.
Niki Lauda worked magic in the McLaren © LAT
The only non-turbo to make the top six belonged to Niki Lauda. After three rather nondescript races, the great Austrian looked splendid at Zandvoort. You watched him through the Hunserug hairpin, and wondered why other drivers made it look so difficult. If this is genius, this ability to make the artistry look commonplace and straightforward, then Lauda has more than anyone else today.
His tactic for Hunserug was simplicity itself. He approached the corner quickly, braked earlier but more lightly than anyone else, turned into the corner on a trailing throttle, letting the car do the work. At the apex, inch perfect every time, he smoothly picked up the power again, exiting smoothly with exactly the right amount of oversteer. Beautiful to witness.
The McLarens had new underbody profiles for Holland, and Lauda found no problems with his car, which was also the fastest of the entire Cosworth contingent, going through the trap at 181mph. Rival teams attributed the MP4's straightline speed, in part, to the fact that they were on Michelins (whose rears are narrower than the Goodyears).
Like his team-mate, world championship leader John Watson was happy enough with the balance of his car, but a little disappointed to be down in 11th spot, nearly a second slower than Niki. "I reckon we should be in good shape for the race," he said after practice. "These days the only practice session that really means anything is the morning warm-up."
Of a similar opinion was Frank Williams. Indeed, when it became obvious that Friday afternoon conditions were way slower than those of the previous day, Frank officially withdrew Keke Rosberg from the session, thus forfeiting timed laps enabling the Finn to circulate on 'unmarked' tyres, a practice otherwise forbidden. Better, the team reckoned, to devote the final hour to seeking a good set-up. Brabham did the same with Piquet's car.
Patrick Head was present at Zandvoort, with the team's usual on-circuit engineer, Frank Dernie, staying home. And it seemed strange to see Patrick by a racing car with someone other than Alan Jones in the cockpit. His FW08 cars qualified seventh (Rosberg) and 12th (Derek Daly), and both were beset by a surfeit of understeer, particularly evident in Hunserug, where Daly indulged in sprint car techniques pitching the car sideways in his efforts to get into the corner quickly.
"On Thursday," Derek commented, "we ran without much wing to be quick on the straight, but we decided to sacrifice a bit of straightline speed for Friday, run more wing. I'm sure it's quicker overall, but the track in the last session was much slower. We'll be better in the race..." A lot of people seemed to be saying that.
Andrea de Cesaris was an impressive ninth in the Alfa © LAT
Despite the rumours from Italy a week earlier, there was no damage to the Alfa Romeo 181 cars when a violent storm hit the Autodelta factory. Fortunately, they had moved to another building. At Zandvoort they were moved pretty effectively by Bruno Giaccomelli and Andera de Cesaris, eighth and ninth respectively. Early in the slower final session, Andrea did several laps on some grooved Michelin tyres, but these proved to be a set of wets, merely a ploy to check out the car without wasting qualifiers. They were not, as many suspected, Michelin prototypes for 1983.
Then came the surprise. Thirteenth on the grid we had Derek Warwick and the Toleman. In what was clearly one of the most evil-handling cars in the place - its inside front wheel was off the ground all the way round Hunserug - the young Englishman was nevertheless delighted, particularly with the Hart Turbo. "We came here after testing," Derek grinned, "but I don't think our engine was too brilliant then, although it was good to get the opportunity to do some miles again. But the engine I've got now is terrific, pulling a lot more revs than the other one. I'm really looking forward to a race for once!" Unfortunately, Teo Fabi lost an engine in the quicker of the sessions, and was never to get the chassis to his liking. He missed the cut.
Behind Warwick, 14th, was Michele Alboreto in the still-unsponsored Tyrrell 011. "I have no real problems," reported the uncomplicated young man. "The balance of the car is nice, and I could have gone quicker, I think, I only had one lap out on my second set of qualifiers before the rain came on Thursday." Twentieth, a little over a second slower, was Brian Henton's sister car.
Elio de Angelis's Lotus 91 had set the quickest time at Zandvoort, and also topped the list after the unofficial session on Friday morning, with a time of 1m17.327s. Unhappily, that was to be the Italian's best of the two days. When it mattered, against the watch, his time was 1m 17.620s, good only for 15th on the grid, which was a considerable disappointment to him. The revised front suspension had, he said, improved the 91's previous unwillingness to turn in, but he was not impressed by the car's straightline speed.
Roberto Moreno failed to impress Lotus while standing in for Nigel Mansell © LAT
On Friday morning Elio spent some time showing Roberto Moreno the way round Zandvoort. The young Brazilian was brought in when it was clear that Nigel Mansell's arm injuries would definitely preclude his taking part. Moreno had not driven a 91 before, but even so his showing, for one of such reputation, was extremely disappointing. Conclusively slowest in both timed sessions. Moreno never looked like qualifying, and showed a surprising lack of aggression, Lotus must be hoping that Mansell will be fit for Brands Hatch, just as Moreno must have wished that they had given him a few laps testing recently.
Pirelli have made excellent progress in the last few weeks, as Baldi mentioned after qualifying his Arrows A4 an excellent 15th. "The improvement in my position is maybe 20% chassis and 20% me. But 60% comes from the tyres, for sure." A couple of tenths slower was Marc Surer in the other A4, which pipped Manfred Winkelhock in the quicker of the two ATS D5s. Eliseo Salazar was down in 25th spot.
Chico Serra was another to benefit from the new Pirellis, his Fittipaldi qualifying comfortably in 19th position, ahead, believe it or not, of Jacques Laffite.
The Talbot-Ligier team was in a dreadful state at Zandvoort - in the past one of Laffite's happiest hunting grounds. The JS 19s were back, and they were not showing any promise at all. "I have no doubt that the JS17 would have been better here," grimaced Jacques after practice. "But anything would have been better... it would have been easy to use older cars, but we have to concentrate on the new ones, hope they can be developed. You could not be 'appy with the 'andling!"
If Laffite was less than thrilled with his car, he was at least in the race, which was more than could be said for Eddie Cheever, second recently through the streets of Detroit. Thoroughly dissatisfied with the handling of his own JS19, Eddie was bundled into Laffite's car towards the end of the session but to no avail.
Those who thought IRTS/Avon had officially quit Formula 1 at Monaco are filled with wonder at the apparently unending supplies of tyres to the March team. Raul Boesel and Jochen Mass qualified, as usual, and Emilio de Villota failed to pre-qualify, as usual.
Between John Macdonald's boys on the grid was Jean-Pierre Jarier in the only Osella. It now seems that the late Riccardo Paletti will not be replaced for the balance of the season.
The final qualifier was Jan Lammers, now recovered from his Detroit hand injuries, although still in some pain. Understandably, the organisers were delighted to have the Dutchman and his Theodore in the race, but it meant a busy weekend for Jan, who flew to Donington after practice on Friday to qualify for the Renault 5 (at Sunday's F2 race) Turbo race, then came back the same evening.
If there had been an award for the Bravest Man of the Meeting, it would have gone, unquestionably, to Roberto Guerrero, who had a dreadful time with the Ensign. The car was porpoising so badly, lolloping down the pitstraight like a pogo-stick, that it was seen more than once with all four wheels off the ground! And this at well over 170mph. The team was clearly baffled by the problem, and could eliminate it only at the cost of terminal understeer. What a pity, one thought, that Roberto couldn't step into the second Lotus for the weekend...
Zandvoort, like Montreal, led us all a dance with the weather. As in Canada, the second day of qualifying had been bountiful with the sun. And the organisers, already having Wimbledon, the World Cup and Bernie Ecclestone's bill to worry about, could have been forgiven for thinking that local meteorologists would see them right.
No way, Saturday morning was dreary in Amsterdam, and the same was true of Zandvoort. A stiff breeze went with overcast skies as we walked up to the circuit, and it was clear that the approach roads were far less congested than in years past. Once at the track, the impression was confirmed, with grandstands no more than half full, the dunes very far from packed.
Still, for those who were there the prospects were good, for the Dutch Grand Prix is nearly always the most diverting and unpredictable of the season. I stationed myself at my habitual Zandvoort post, on the outside of the entry to Tarzan, glanced at the comfortingly substantial crane behind me, worked out a quick way to get under it if a wheel touched a wheel on the track in front of me. Behind, in the spectator area, wafted the traditional Zandvoort aroma, herrings and sea breeze and chips, updated in recent years by marijuana. Engines started again, and Prost's Renault led them off on the parade lap.
Jacques Lafitte had a nightmare all weekend with the Ligier © LAT
The traumas of the Ligier team had continued into race day. They had only one driver, Laffite, to worry about on this occasion, of course, but even so the pit was chaotic. At the start of the morning warm-up, Jacques car was found to have a major oil leak, and the Frenchman was therefore obliged to take over Cheever's JS19, which had handled so badly during practice. Laffite drove it only briefly before the clutch went. As the mechanics set to work, he then climbed aboard the old JS17.
That was the warm-up. When they came out for their inspection laps, half an hour before the race, Laffite quickly suffered another broken clutch on the JS19. Now close to screaming, he prepared to race the JS17 - which he had not driven during practice...
Piquet had the best time of the warm-up, followed by Warwick. Warwick? Yes, sir. The Toleman-Hart was flying. Earlier that morning Brian Hart had looked at the flags, taken note of which way they were flying, and suggested lowering the back axle ratio.
Back from the parade lap now, all nicely in formation. At the green the two Renaults got away together and it seemed that Arnoux would hold his line to squeeze the lead at Tarzan. As it was, Prost braked a little bit later and chopped across his team-mate. Pironi had the Ferrari up to third place, and Tambay, making an excellent job of his first turbo getaway, was in fourth. Piquet, by contrast, was down in eighth place.
End of lap one: Prost, Arnoux, Pironi, Tambay, Lauda, Piquet, Giacomelli, Watson, de Cesaris, Rosberg, Daly. All 26 were through. The man on the move was very obviously Pironi, already menacing Arnoux. Halfway around the second lap, at the chicane, Didier flicked the Ferrari down the inside of the Renault, and Rene was helpless.
At the same time Piquet was busy making up for his poor start, the BMW's horsepower taking him easily past Lauda's McLaren and Tambay's Ferrari. The leading trio had pulled out quite a nice gap, but Nelson began to close at once on Arnoux's third place. And Laffite's wretched meeting ended once and for all when he parked the Ligier JS17 after only four laps, declaring it undriveable.
After only five laps, a clear pattern was emerging. Pironi had fairly charged after Prost, calmly outbraking the Renault into Tarzan at the start of the fifth lap. By the end of it, red led yellow by more than a second. No prisoners today, Didier was going to walk this one. Behind the Renaults continued to circulate alone, but Piquet was bringing the BT50 closer to Arnoux all the time, and the four turbos had broken clean away from the rest. Tambay ran fifth, with Lauda making strenuous efforts to nip by. On one lap, indeed, Niki got alongside the Ferrari on the exit of Hunserug, and tried to brave it out with Patrick down the hill. But the Frenchman kept his foot down, and it was Lauda who had to lift.
"I was blocking everyone a little bit," Tambay recounted later, "and I can't really blame them if they were upset. But on the other hand, they couldn't pass me. I was quicker down the straight, and good under braking. There was quite a bit of power oversteer, and I blistered my rear tyres. I probably didn't drive the car as well as I should have done, to leave them behind. But I was happy enough with what I was doing. Getting past me was their problem!"
John Watson wasn't happy at all with his first set of tyres © LAT
If Lauda was happy enough with his McLaren. Watson most certainly was not. "My first set of tyres were hopeless, and I don't know why. They were the same type as I'd run in the warm-up, but a new set. And the balance of the car was dreadful." Eighth on the opening lap, the world championship leader soon slipped to 10th.
After shaking everyone with his warm-up time, Warwick made a poor start with the Toleman, losing a couple of places during the first lap. But soon the British turbo was into its stride, moving up from 15th to 10th in a matter of four laps! Quickly Derek dispensed with the likes of Daly, de Angelis, de Cesaris and Watson, to move the ungainly machine up to Giacomelli, Patrese and Rosberg. It was brief, but mighty pleasing.
Brief, because the car was in the pits after nine laps - minus its rear wing. "It just blew off down the main straight," reported Derek. "I didn't realise until I got to Tarzan..."
Enthusiasm undiminished, he came out again (re-winged), and really put the hammer down. On lap 13, indeed, the Toleman lapped in 1m19.780s, and that was to stand as the fastest of the race. Afterwards, no one could quite take it in...
Sadly, though, Warwick managed only five laps after his stop before coming in for good, with a split oil union. "I was terribly disappointed, of course," he said, "but you don't know how good it felt to be part of a race again! The engine was jus fabulous..."
After a poor opening lap, which he completed in 10th place, Keke Rosberg was going racing with a vengeance, indulging in many a sweaty palm moment (for the spectators, if not for him!) down the pit straight, in his efforts to pass Giacomelli's Alfa. No easy task, this, for Bruno was at his widest on Saturday. Keke eventually made it past on the sixth lap, and next time round he outbraked Lauda into Tarzan for sixth place, then turning his attention to Tambay's Ferrari.
On lap 12, Rosberg really slung the Williams into Bos Uit, coming onto the pit straight right on Tambay's gearbox. If we expected turbo muscle to solve Patrick's problem, we were wrong. Right up to Tarzan the tiny white car nestled in the Ferrari's slipstream. Keke ducking out at the last second, weaving under braking, snatching the place. A neat piece of driving. Logically, though, that was as far as the Finn was going, for Arnoux, in fourth place, was 12 seconds away. It was the beginning of a lonely afternoon for Rosberg, but he did start to chisel at the Renault's advantage.
Arnoux had run third until lap 14, when Piquet caught him and gave us an awesome demonstration of BMW horsepower. Coming past the pits, comparatively early on the straight, Nelson simply pulled to Rene's left, and drove past him. Suddenly James Hunt had another turbo about which to complain in his BBC commentary! And this one was in a British chassis...
The ATS duo of Eliseo Salazar and Manfred Winkelhock went at it hammer and tong © LAT
At this stage of the game, the most interesting battle in progress was that between Salazar and Winkelhock. But surely, I hear you cry, they drive for the same team? Well, yes, they do, but perhaps they forgot that on Saturday. Manfred's efforts to get past Eliseo were trenchant indeed, and one had visions of the two of them shuffling back to the pits to report to Gunther Schmid that his Formula 1 team was now a pile of yellow junk. Still, it was entertaining, if a little unnerving.
Twenty laps: Pironi - seven seconds - Prost - four - Piquet - Arnoux - Rosberg - Tambay - Lauda - Giacomelli - Daly - Watson. That was the top 10, and close behind came de Angelis, de Cesaris, Alboreto and Baldi. The latter was driving his Arrows really well, as also was Surer, who had stopped for tyres after 14 laps, and was now running comfortably with Giacomelli and Daly, albeit not on the same lap.
And then we had one of those dreadful Tarzan moments. After two days of practice and 20 laps of racing, the late braking is accepted. You see the 190mph approach speeds without concern, such is the stopping ability of these cars. As with Daly's shunt two years ago, their sheer velocity becomes apparent only when it is unchecked.
It was so with Arnoux's Renault at the start of lap 22. As the yellow car thundered into the braking area, it slowed only momentarily, its left front wheel splaying out briefly before parting company with the car. At a truly horrifying pace, the Renault ploughed straight on, hitting the kerb on the outside of the corner, getting slightly airborne. From there it hurtled into the barrier, scattering the tyre wall and coming to rest against the guard rail behind.
Rene Arnoux emerged unscathed from this massive shunt at Tarzan © LAT
Marshals were quickly to the scene, and it was a relief to see Rene's white helmet moving in the cockpit. The front of the monocoque had held up extremely well. Gently, they lifted the driver out and carried him to a course car. No need for an ambulance. Good. Thank God for the tyre barrier.
"I'm ok," said the little man afterwards. He was hobbling a little, but his right ankle was merely bruised, nothing more. "When the wheel came off, I could do nothing. I had no steering, no brakes... I just waited for the impact."
It seems clear that the Renault suffered a structural failure, almost certainly at the point where the steering arm meets the upright, where the casting was sheared. Here was another example of what happens, with the corner approach speeds of today, when something goes wrong. "For quite a few laps," murmured Rene, "there had been a vibration from the left front wheel, and I thought it was just the tyre out of balance..."
Perhaps - understandably - a little unnerved by the fate of his team-mate, Prost began to lose ground quickly now to Piquet. As well as that, his engine was losing a little bit of power. Nelson got by on lap 30, and a couple later there was smoke from the back of the Renault. The saga of unreliablility was being maintained, Alain coming slowly in to retire.
Would Piquet now make an impression on Pironi? The Ferrari was 20 seconds to the good after 30 laps, and Didier quickly answered the question, extending his lead by about a second a lap, driving serenely along, completely untroubled.
"All through the race the car was perfect," he smiled later. "I had no tyre problems, no trouble with the car at all. If there was any worry, it was that the fuel wouldn't last. Late in the race I eased off a lot because of that."
If Pironi was having a nice time out there, others were not. De Cesaris had a miserable race, full of pit stops, his Alfa suffering from a mysterious electrical problem, which caused a sever misfire throughout. Giacomelli's car, by contrast, broke exhausts with regularity, sounding more dreadful by the lap.
Elio de Angelis had a battle with Watson for some time, eventually getting the McLaren into Tarzan after a very desperate manoeuvre, the Lotus lurching by under very hard braking. So badly did the car skip that de Angelis damaged a skirt, and came in to have it changed. Thereafter the 91 porpoised so badly that Elio decided it was dangerous to continue.
On lap 37 Watson, fed up to the teeth with his tyres came in for a change. "They put on the actual set I'd used in warm-up. Supposedly exactly the same tyres. But the difference was incredible, and suddenly the car was fine again." After his stop John went well for the balance of the race, but it was too late for any points for his title run.
Derek Warwick had an eventful race; setting the fastest lap after having to pit for a new rear wing when his first one blew off © LAT
At the same time, the other McLaren was improving its position. After following Tambay into Tarzan, Lauda passed the Ferrari and immediately moved clear. Patrick was in trouble: "At half-distance the engine began to misfire again, exactly as it had in practice. The pick-up out of the corners was poor, and all my straight line advantage was gone. Also, to be honest, I was getting a bit tired and sore after being away for Formula 1 for so long..."
Now the race went into stalemate for a long time. Pironi, Piquet, Rosberg, Lauda, Daly, Tambay is how it was at 40 laps, and 20 laps later the only change in the proceedings was that Tambay increasingly fell away, being overtaken by Alboreto, and the impressive Baldi. Michele, in fact, enlivened the late stages by gaining steadily on Daly, who was in constant trouble with his rear brakes. Like team-mate Rosberg, Derek was also concerned about the state of his left front tyre.
The real charge of the last 20 laps, though, came from the Williams team leader, and steadily he closed in on Piquet, albeit not quite enough to look like a real threat. From 15s the gap was down to three as they went into their last five laps, but Nelson seemed to have the matter under control. The Daly-Alboreto scrap was to have a bearing on this, however.
As they went into their 69th lap, Derek and Michele arrived at Tarzan virtually side by side, the Tyrrell on the outside. Halfway through the corner they touched, and both spun. It was a simple matter of two chargers wanting the same piece of road at the same time. Derek was quickly into reverse, and he sorted himself out with alacrity, while Michele made rather a mess of things, slithering around the grass in an excess of throttle and enthusiasm.
When the Tyrrell came back on the road, its left rear wheel was way out of true, and it set off towards Hunserug with blue smoke pouring from the back of the car. At this point Piquet arrived, with Rosberg closing in on him. Alboreto baulked the world champion disastrously all the way through Hunserug, and Keke spotted an opportunity. In a trice, Nelson's cushion was all but deflated. As they went over the line, the gap between them was considerably under a second.
In the course of his final lap, Alboreto was overtaken by Baldi for sixth place, and at the end of the race was in a very emotional state indeed. For a man of usually phlegmatic character, his behaviour was curious. Stepping over from his car, he rushed off to the Williams pit, in search of Daly. "Bastardo," he said when he got there. Several times. "Next time I keel you," he added. Derek was unimpressed. Michele then aimed a punch at the Irishman, which missed its mark. Williams personnel restrained him from making any further attacks...
Pironi's victory was reward for a beautiful drive, incisive and clear cut. He seemed a likely winner from the very start. Ferrari have come good - too late, ironically, to benefit the man to whom they owe so much. Didier mentioned it in his post-race press conference: "It was a great race for me," he smiled, "and I feel now that my chance in the world championship is strong. But all I could think of, when the pressure was off on the slowing down lap, was Gilles..."
First in Montreal, now second at Zandvoort, Nelson Piquet had also good reason for optimism. The BMW turbo has more steam than any other engine at the moment - and now it is finishing races. Riccardo Patrese's car lost time early in the race when a bolt came out of the gear linkage, but it was around at the end albeit sounding a trifle throaty. Perhaps the long-rumoured Anglo-German divorce will never come to court, after all.
Third and fifth belonged to Williams, and Lauda was a canny fourth. Perhaps more delighted than anyone, though, was Baldi, who took his first championship point for Arrows.
"You know," said Pironi, in conclusion, "I have always thought about winning the world championship. That was why I came to Ferrari. We have the technology, the power and the reliability to do it this season, of that I am sure..."
To continue reading this feature, join Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.