There was nothing unexpected about the final result of the South African Grand Prix. The turbocharged cars dominated at the high-altitude Kyalami track, but the eventual winner Alain Prost had to work hard for his victory, driving a brilliant race back through the field after losing a lap to replace a punctured rear tyre, which so nearly proved his downfall.
"Another few yards into the corner and I would have crashed at over 250kph, while on the way back to the pits the tyre came right off the rim and I was worried that the car had suffered suspension damage," said Prost after the race, which he described as "the most satisfying win of my career".
In retrospect, the near disaster that befell his Renault might even have been his saving, for his stop gave him a chance to fit a fresh set of Michelin tyres on which he was comfortably able to outpace the rest of the field, including his own team-mate, Rene Arnoux, who had taken over the lead until he fell off the pace with a severe tyre vibration as his tyres picked up all the loose rubber around the track.
Prost had little trouble unlapping himself and then retaking the lead from eighth place after his stop, while shortly before the end of the race, and with Arnoux completely unaware of the situation, Carlos Reutemann moved his Williams up to second place after a consistent drive that paid off more than he could have hoped at the start.
Brabham had joined the turbo brigade; BMW now supplying its engines © LAT
With the six turbos - the two Renaults, two Brabham-BMWs and Ferraris - in the top six places,the remaining 20 cars could only hope to profit by their misfortune and fragile reliability. They were not disappointed. Both Brabhams were out early in the race when Nelson Piquet left his braking too late at the end of the straight while trying to catch up after a bad start, and skated off into the catch fences. His team-mate Riccardo Patrese followed him into retirement with a broken engine not long afterwards.
Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari let out a great cloud of blue smoke and was another early retiree, leaving only Didier Pironi's Ferrari to give chase to the two yellow perils out ahead. Like Prost, he stopped for tyres early in the race, but Pironi also fought his way back to the front end, only to be cheated out of his probable six points when his Ferrari's engine started banging and spluttering. That cost him two more stops and dropped to the bottom of the results sheet.
After a very gentle start to the race, Niki Lauda soon slipped back into his winning style as he brought his McLaren into fourth place, having passed his own team-mate John Watson after a long struggle, and then Keke Rosberg's Williams.
Rosberg took fifth place ahead of Watson after an impressive and difficult first race for the Williams team. After a good start, to claim fifth in the opening stages, Rosberg's race was spoiled when the gear lever came off in his hand. He then dropped it on the cockpit floor, only to have it rolling around his feet and pedals for the rest of the race. As he lost the lever he missed a gear and over-revved the engine, leaving it misfiring for the rest of the race, while Reutemann moved ahead of him during the same incident. By the end his left-rear tyre was down to the canvas as well.
The unexpected happened after the race was over. The stewards of the meeting promptly announced that all the drivers at the race, with the exception of Jochen Mass, Teo Fabi and Brian Henton, would have their licences suspected after their action boycotting Thursday's practice. The drivers - or most of them anyway - had objected to two of the paragraphs in the FISA application form for a new 'superlicence' which they are supposed to have to race.
Erm, Bernie... Where are your drivers? And ours, for that matter? © LAT
After a 24-hour 'sit-in' at a Johannesburg hotel, the final practice session and race went ahead with no further problems, the drivers supposedly having a guarantee that FISA would re-discuss the matter and not take any further action against them after threats of fines, licence suspensions, and even jail the previous day.
With the race over, however, and probably a more than exciting one than we could have hoped for, FISA dropped its bombshell and added a further bitter taste to a weekend that had already created enough ill-feeling, both inside and outside the sport, the repercussions of which will no doubt be heard for many weeks to come.
So to open the 1982 season, we had more than the now almost mandatory share of politics, and a race that gave us a good idea of what to expect on the less-elevated circuits of the world.
Despite the hot weather and fast pace, only eight of the original 26 starters failed to finish the race, including the Ligiers of Jacques Lafitte and Eddie Cheever; both cars dropping out of the race with fuel vaporisation.
Entry and practice
Any possibility of the new season getting off to a painless start was soon thrown into doubt when, on Wednesday, a free day between pre-race testing and official practice, the grand prix drivers led by Lauda, Pironi, Laffite and Villeneuve spent hours discussing their objections to the FISA 'Superlicence' application forms.
Some 26 of their number had already signed the forms, being told they would be necessary to race in South Africa and without really considering the implications of the various clauses to which they had put their names.
In particular, two paragraphs were unacceptable to the drivers, and they demanded that these should be changed before they would agree to the demands of the licence application.
Here's your answer. They'd all gone on strike and headed off in this coach © LAT
The offending paragraphs were as follows: - 1. "I am committed to the above team to drive exclusively for them in the FIA Formula One World Championship(s) until the ...19..." and, 5. "I will do nothing which might harm the moral or material interests or the image of International Motorsport or the FIA Formula One World Championship."
Quite understandably, the drivers felt that putting their names to such demands would remove their freedom of negotiating drives in the future, as their licence to drive would be tied to one team which, for various reasons, they might wish to leave before the end of their contract.
The second, suitably nebulous, offending paragraph they saw as yet another move to restrict their collective and individual freedom as drivers, knowing that any comments or action that Jean-Marie Balestre judges to be against the interests of the sport gives FISA the tool with which to revoke his licence.
Having read the offending text, most team managers and journalists were sympathetic to their case, but sympathy soon faded rapidly by 10am on Thursday morning when there were no drivers to be seen anywhere along the pitlane, with the exception of Mass. He had been staying with friends of his South African wife and had been unaware of what had been planned.
Any former drivers' action has normally collapsed after a short while under pressure from team managers threatening individual action against their drivers. There were the same threats this time, but they fell only on the ears of the press, for, in a brilliant move by the ringleaders of the drivers' action, all the arriving drivers on Thursday were hustled into a waiting coach and whisked out of reach to a pre-arranged hotel, in the centre of Johannesburg, 20 miles from the circuit.
Many of the drivers, some in overalls, had no idea of what was planned until they were already on the road.
Thirty minutes later they were locked in the conference room of the Sunnyside Park Hotel, which, for the next 24 hours, was to steal the spotlight from the silent and shocked Kyalami track.
Lauda emerged at 6am on Friday, advising the situation was still unresolved © LAT
Spectators, officials, team managers and mechanics wandered to and fro with an equal feeling of helplessness as the circus lost its act. Insulated from the pressures of their teams, invaded by news-hungry press waiting outside their locked doors, the drivers' solidarity grew stronger by the hour, adding a demand for two drivers with voting powers to be represented on the FISA F1 Commission - instead of the one powerless observer that they have at present.
Pironi was despatched back to Kyalami to present their demands to Balestre and FOCA chief Bernie Ecclestone. These were promptly rejected and accompanied by more serious threats of retribution if the drivers did not return to work.
By this time it became apparent that the matter was not going to be settled by the time Thursday's practice had come and gone, and the nervous organisers, seeing a very strong chance that their race might well not take place, began issuing statements that, if necessary, the race would be postponed for a week and new drivers be flown out to replace the current ones who were being threatened with a ban for life.
Not surprisingly, the teams had no intention of filling their cars with inexperienced drivers, and had agreed to pay the organisers US$2.5m in damages, which they claimed they would in turn collect from the drivers.
The drivers, however, stood their ground, resisting attempts by Jackie Oliver and John MacDonald to get into their rooms on Thursday night to speak with their drivers, whom they felt might be held under duress.
In fact, they were almost enjoying their camaraderie. Elio de Angelis and Villeneuve amused the assembly with their piano playing, and Bruno Giacomelli employed his talents as a cartoonist. By 11pm the drivers slipped out of their conference room undetected, and moved into a specially-prepared dormitory with mattresses strewn around the floor, sleeping two and three to a bed.
Pironi was despatched to the track to deliver the drivers' demands to FISA © LAT
Photographers got a brief chance to get pictures of them in their 'dorm', and another peel of laughter came through the door when Patrick Tambay remarked that if the combination of Villeneuve and Prost on the same bed produced any offspring, he would be the quickest driver the world had ever seen...
By 6am the discussion began again, Lauda holding another press conference to inform the world that the situation was unchanged, but that all they needed was a guarantee from Balestre that he would open negotiations on their demands and they would turn up for work, although by this time Teo Fabi had broken ranks and left for the track.
Pironi returned to the circuit, and shortly after 10am phoned Lauda to confirm that Balestre had agreed to negotiate with them. So they got back in their coach and went back to work.
Not surprisingly, there was a cool reception awaiting them from their respective teams, many of whom had heard nothing from their drivers since before the action began.
Morris Nunn decided to withdraw his lone Ensign, while Tambay, who had been brought in to replace the injured Marc Surer in the second Arrows, decided he had had enough of all the F1 politics he thought he had left behind, and left his seat to Henton for the first of the two planned practice sessions, leaving 30 cars competing for 26 places.
There was doubt about another one of those two. Ecclestone looked like carrying out his threat to sack Piquet when he refused to let him taken part in the first of the two sessions; the three Brabhams lined up in the pitlane all wearing number two. "I am worried about his safety. He has hardly slept all night and might not be fit to drive," was Ecclestone's official reason for keeping out of the car, and it was not until the final - and only - hour of timed practice (after Piquet had been forced to undergo a pointless medical), that he joined the rest of his fellow drivers in the pitlane.
Despite the tense atmosphere, there was a general feeling of relief as the first sound of racing engines reverberated around the rolling green veldt. Politics forgotten for a time, although the actions of the previous 24 hours will not be forgotten for some weeks.
Lauda made his F1 comeback with McLaren after two years away © LAT
Fortunately, the loss of a day's practice was not as crucial as it might have been. After all, the teams had spent at least two days in pre-race testing. The only incident during the morning's 90 minutes, which was cut short by rain, occurred when Prost punctured a rear tyre and spun into one of the safety walls.
The rear suspension suffered minor damage and was replaced before the final timed session, but his mishap was to have further repercussions on his practice effort, and the man who had set the pace in private practice found himself back on he third row of the grid for the race.
At the start of the final session, Prost found the revs of his turbo engine slipping lower and lower on the straight, and the team suspected that during the previous incident some dirt had been sucked through the turbo. By the time Prost got set-up in the team's spare car, he had used up his best set of tyres and any further efforts at claiming pole were spoiled by rain that washed out the last 20 minutes of practice.
So it was Arnoux that carried the Renault flag to pole position, although it was very nearly a BMW one as Piquet claimed the outside of the front row, despite running his quickest lap with one of the skirts tucked under the side of the wing, causing his car to understeer very badly. Like that, he was just under 0.3 seconds slower than Arnoux, whom he felt he could have beaten him but for his problem. "He only did a couple of laps before coming into the pits to complain about the car, and when I told him he had done a six-six, he didn't believe it," said Brabham designer Gordon Murray. Maybe Piquet should lose a few more nights' sleep!
Piquet's pole position last year had been a full 6s slower than this year, his BMW turbo topping out at over 200mph at the end of the straight before Crowthorne corner. The times were devastatingly fast, even compared with Renault's last appearance here when Jean-Pierre Jabouille claimed pole, almost 4s slower than Arnoux. In testing Prost got down to 1m05.4s, and might well have gone quicker but for the lack of practice and a new track surface that had still not got enough rubber down on it.
Villeneuve - sideways as ever - qualified third in his Ferrari © LAT
Of course, this race featured little chance of the non-turbo cars getting a look-in at the front of the grid, turbos filling the first three rows. Villeneuve headed the second row of the grid, although he, too, had his problems. A couple of rivets in the new one-piece underwing came adrift and Villeneuve was losing downforce on one side, which unbalanced the car. His team-mate Pironi was in even more trouble with overheating causing slowly-decreasing turbo boost throughout the brief session. He ended up sixth on the grid, beside Prost and only just ahead of the nearest Cosworth.
Completing the top six was Patrese in the second Brabham-BMW BT50, his time the result of just one flying lap with his race machine, after he had to abandon his T-car temporarily with electrical problems. He went back to the T-car - in which he was scheduled to practise - and then he was back in the pits once again when the rear wing flew off and gave him a nasty moment at the end of the straight.
"We are having to run maximum flap on the rear wing to overcome an oversteer problem we have at present, but even so we are topping over 200mph on the straight, and the pressure is just too much for the rear wing," said Murray. "I am happy that we are so close to the Renault first time out and I think it will be a close race, although I will be happy if at least one of our cars reaches the finishing line in its first race."
The Renaults were firm favourites for the race win, in spite of the delicate reliability factor of the turbo cars. That factor was also the only hope the non-turbo drivers could have for a look-in at the points at the end of the 77-lap race.
"We can only hope that they race among themselves and wear each other out," said Rosberg, who had the considerable honour of setting the best normally-aspirated time in his first race with the Williams team, the Finn getting on top of his badly oversteering chassis to set a time almost 0.5s quicker than his team-mate Reutemann, who ended up setting his best time on the harder C-compound tyres. Rosberg got his best lap in on the Ds.
March driver Mass had been the one man not to strike © LAT
The McLaren team had mixed fortunes during the final hour of practice. Watson set the next best time to head the fifth row, but later in the session, while running in the wet, he went off at Crowthorne and badly damaged the rear end of his McLaren which, unfortunately, was the T-car.
Lauda had been the fastest non-turbo in private practice, but on Friday he did only a few laps before sliding off the track at Crowthorne and parking in the catch-fences. He promptly reversed out and drove back to the pits for repairs and then went out, still with bent front suspension, and recorded his best time, a mark that put him on the seventh row. "It was my fault, brain fade," admitted Lauda, who, despite the mistake, showed his critics in no uncertain terms that he is back to race just as seriously and hard as he ever was, not just for the big bucks he is being paid.
Next to Watson on the fifth row came a pleasant surprise from the Tyrrell team, when Michele Alboreto took his much-improved 011 chassis down to 1m10.037s, only 0.3s slower than Watson, despite running out of petrol and losing a lot of time.
Lafitte headed the sixth row in the first of the two Ligier-Matras, his new team-mate Cheever three rows behind after his car was plagued by a flat engine all day, probably as a result of fuel vaporisation.
"It's great for the first lap and then it goes real flat," said Cheever, who was otherwise pleased with his car. Eliseo Salazar was a man to watche in the Ensign, and now with the revised ATS chassis he provided another welcome surprise to the grid when he qualified 12th, saying he could have been higher up had he got more than just one flying lap on his qualifiers, the latest Avon sticky tyres doing a much better job than the previous ones.
Manfred Winkelhock in the team's second car also did a good job in his first race for ATS with a place on the 10th row, especially as brake troubles kept him in the pits for most of the dry period.
Sharing the seventh row with Lauda was the only other turbo car in the race, that of Derek Warwick who, for a change, had little trouble qualifying the Hart-powered Toleman at this track. In fact, he could probably have been much higher up, but it was the first time he had run with empty tanks and sticky tyres. "It seemed to be so fast that I gone through my tyres before I could adjust to the car's potential," he said. His team-mate Fabi did not get a chance to run his car for too long before a turbo blower bearing gave up the ghost, and he was unable to get in even one flying lap, leaving the Italian as a non-qualifier.
Salazar and Winkelhock went better than expected in the ATS cars © LAT
Neither Lotus driver was very happy with the handling of the 87 at this race. Despite the cars having wider pods and revised track and wheelbase dimensions, both drivers claimed a lack of grip, while Nigel Mansell's problems were compounded by a persistent brake problem caused by the diminishing brake fluid brought by a low pressure area at the front of the car sucking it out.
De Angelis headed the eighth row while Mansell was on the wrong side of ninth behind Andrea de Cesaris's Alfa Romeo, which still looked much the same as it had the previous year. A new carbonfibre-monocoqued car with the same suspension and bodywork set-up sat in the Alfa garage, but both drivers stuck with their regular cars; Giacomelli heading the tenth row after being baulked by slower traffic on all his quicker laps.
Raul Boesel and Mass made up the 11th row with their two heavily-revised Marches, both drivers doing a good job, Boesel as a newcomer and Mass as an old hand.
Slim Borgudd spun his Tyrrell 011 in the final session and thus found himself well back from his team-mate on the 12th row, with Derek Daly alongside. Theodore had not wanted to do this race while it finish its new car for South America, but with the threat of no points for the rest of the season and a fine, the team hurriedly smartened up its old car, which Daly was happy to qualify, despite a bad understeer problem.
Chico Serra felt much the same way with his old familiar Fitiipaldi F8C chassis, which he got on to the last row of the grid along with Jean-Pierre Jarier's Osella (now considerably modified since its last race), although the Frenchman was not up to getting the best from it. He had cracked his ribs during winter testing with Williams, and driving again aggravated the injury. He needed pain-killing shots to take part in practice and after a few laps went to hospital to be X-rayed.
Not qualified - and there would have been more until organisers wisely decided to wave the 110 per cent rule - were the two new Arrows, with Mauro Baldi not making the grid. Neither did Henton, brought in to replace Tambay. He managed only a few laps before parking the car with a blocked fuel pressure-relief valve.
Riccardo Paletti failed to qualify his spare Osella after cutting his race chassis in half when he crashed in testing.
Poor Roberto Guerrero did not have much to say in the matter of qualifying when team boss Nunn decided that he was not to drive the Ensign following the row the previous day. Ensign was therefore only constructor actually to ban his own driver from the race as punishment.
The Grand Prix
Although the bright blue South African sky was still dotted with big white cotton wool clouds, a heavy overnight storm had cleared the air, and when the sun poked through it was oppressingly hot. The morning warm-up featured teams frantically trying to find the best compound tyres with full tanks for the hot track, while the normally-aspirated cars were hoping to steal a slight advantage by running softer rubber than the turbos, which were putting much higher loads on their rear tyres with their big power advantage.
Mansell's warm-up was cut short when his Lotus engine suddenly stopped dead, while Cheever's Ligier was still plagued by a misfire that appeared as soon as the engine warmed up.
Jarier was in a lot of pain with his damaged ribs, and had been heavily bandaged for the race. Despite all the doubts about the race even taking place until just 24 hours earlier, there was a good crowd of some 85,000 packed around the undulating Kyalami track by the time the cars were ready for the off.
Any fears that Arnoux might have felt about dicing neck-and-neck into the first turn with Piquet's Brabham were soon dispelled as the lights turned to green. Arnoux made a great start, while Piquet was slow off the line. He even held up his own team-mate, Patrese, as the rest of the field rushed by him to Crowthorne corner. Arnoux led the field with Prost already up to second as they reached the braking area. The Renaults were comfortably through in the lead with the two Ferraris in their wake, followed by Rosberg (who had made a perfect start), Patrese and the rest of the field, with Alboreto well up along with Reutemann and Salazar.
By lap four Patrese was the only remaining Brabham driver © LAT
It didn't take very long for the Renaults to pull out an impressive lead over the rest. The two Ferraris, led by Villeneuve, came next a few seconds behind, with Rosberg struggling to hold off Patrese. Laffite led the next group with Alboreto, Reutemann, Watson, Salazar, Cheever, Piquet, Lauda and Warwick all bunched up behind and providing some exciting outbraking moves at the end of the straight. By the end of the third lap, Piquet had moved up to 12th, and next time around took 10th from Alboreto.
But his drive did not last long. He left his braking too late into Crowthorne and the Brabham snapped out of line before he could correct it. Instead of taking the corner, he slid straight on and came to rest against the tyre barrier and catchfencing on the outside of the turn. "If I crash there, just give the marshals a gun and put me out of my misery," Piquet had remarked during practice, but his fears of hurtling into the walls at close on 200mph were unfounded, for the Brabham came to rest almost undamaged and Piquet was left with a long walk back to the pits.
One down, five to go.
That was the thought no doubt going through the minds of people like Rosberg, Reutemann, Rosberg having given way to pressure from Patrese on lap five.
Piquet might have been the first turbo out of the race, but we had already lost two other cars on the first lap. Mansell's Lotus suddenly stopped dead again because of a suspected electrical problem, which also caused trouble for Jarier behind.
"We were all going into Clubhouse Corner when the Lotus slowed and I had to brake. The next thing I knew, my car was bouncing up in the air and I landed back on the track with only there wheels, which made it a bit difficult to get around the corner," explained Jarier, who ended up in the fencing, but at least didn't have to worry about his ribs any longer.
And then there were four.
A great trail of blue smoke around the far side of the track heralded the end of Villeneuve's brief race with a blown engine, so by lap 10 the two Renaults, now circulating a couple of lengths apart, were almost 10s ahead of Pironi, who still had several seconds' lead over Patrese in fourth place.
Villeneuve's engine blew early on, putting him out of a podium spot © LAT
Things had started to go wrong for Rosberg after five laps. "As I went into a corner and changed down, the gear knob came off in my hand, and I missed a gear, over-revving the engine. I also dropped the knob, which then rolled around the cockpit floor getting in the way of my feet and the pedals for the rest of the race," said the Finn, who, to add to his woes, was also having to throw his Williams into the corners in order to overcome bad understeer on full tanks.
Reutemann, who had moved up to seventh by this time, took advantage of the situation to move ahead of Rosberg, who was now being pressured hard by Watson. The Williams' engine was also starting to misfire at the top end as a result of its over-revving.
However, fortunately for Rosberg, Watson too was in trouble, his McLaren overheating its front brakes so much that his challenge faded again. He trailed a few lengths behind the Williams. So close, yet out of reach for much of the race.
Lap 11 featured Cheever parking his Ligier in the pits, his Matra V12 still vaporising its fuel, while a lap later Warwick came to the pits for fresh tyres on his Toleman. The field was rapidly spreading out. By lap 15, the leading cars were already lapping the backmarkers. Arnoux, finding his way momentarily blocked by a slower car, was forced to brake. That was all the chance Prost needed, as he arrived at the corner much quicker. He slipped ahead of his team-mate to take the lead with no trouble.
And then there were three.
On lap 18, Patrese's race, and BMW's hopes, came to an early end when he rolled into the pits with no oil pressure and a dead engine. Things were beginning to look up for the Cosworth brigade, and we were still not yet a quarter of the way through the race. After a slow start, Niki Lauda began getting back his old rhythm, moving up to take Laffite and Alboreto to claim seventh place behind Watson, who was still dogging Rosberg's Williams, which was slowly losing contact with Reutemann ahead.
At the end of lap 24, all the leaders moved up another place when Pironi shot into the pits for fresh Goodyears. His pit crew took a long time before he was back in the race again behind Alboreto, who was about to be lapped by the leader.
Prost's puncture forced him into the pits and dropped him off the lead lap... © LAT
It took Pironi a few laps to get by the hard-driving Italian, who was doing a great job for the Tyrrell team, while up at the front the order remained static until just after the halfway point.
Prost was driving well within himself, worrying only about the possibility of mechanical problems. His worries were suddenly answered in heart-stopping fashion when his car stepped out of shape as he lined it up for the ultra-fast left-hand Jukskei sweep at the back of the circuit. "Another couple of metres into the corner and I would have been off the track and into the catch fences," explained Prost, whose lightning reactions averted a disaster, although he was still in deep trouble with a flat rear tyre and three-quarters of a lap to make it back to the pits.
"The hardest thing was to drive back to the pits at a sensible speed so that it wouldn't damage the car too much," he added. Although when he did finally limp in the car had lost all the remains of the tyre and was riding on the rim.
"Overtaking the slower traffic, I had to keep moving off the line, and my tyres were picking up a lot of rubber, making the steering shake very badly," reported Arnoux, who at this stage of the race still held a lead of over 40s from Reutemann. It was slowly diminishing though.
After a somewhat boring middle portion of the race, with the Renaults romping away at the front, and a well strung-out field behind, the race suddenly took on an exciting new phase as Arnoux's lead started to look shaky. Prost was roaring back through the field at a great pace, setting a new lap record soon after his stop and pulling in the leading cars by 3s per lap, unlapping himself in the process.
To add to the interest, Pironi was also moving back up the field. He took Lauda and Rosberg to regain third place and started closing the deficit to Reutemann, as well as watching his own pit signs for the arrival of Prost. By lap 50, Arnoux's lead over Reutemann had shrunk to 34s with Pironi a further 10s back and Rosberg and Watson within another 6s, these two being slowly caught by Lauda, a further 10s away, Things were starting to get interesting.
...but had retaken the lead by lap 55 as Arnoux ran into his own problems © LAT
Prost swept past Lauda on the next lap, and then on laps 54 and 55 he made short work of Watson and Rosberg to claim fourth. It took him another six laps to wind in Reutemann, and only one more to take Pironi, putting him back in second place with 15 laps to go.
This time Arnoux had big problems with this tyres, and with nine laps to go Prost re-took a lead that was to be his until the end of the race. For Pironi, the chances of finishing in the points were fast disappearing after his engine had gone sick, and he was left with no choice but to head for the pits, where more fuel was added. But the misfire continued. He did another slow lap and stopping in the pits again, his chances of finishing well up now gone forever.
And then there were two.
Two Renaults back out front, but with Arnoux fighting to hold his over Reutemann, who was slowly drawing in again while both the Williams and the Renault pit were surprisingly unaware of the situation.
With four laps to go, Reutemann went ahead to claim second place as Arnoux dropped back to a distant third, almost falling victim to Lauda, who, despite a bad tyre vibration himself, had put on a last effort to pass Watson and then Rosberg, who, in the finals laps of the race, was running with hardly any rubber left on his rear left tyre.
Alboreto came home seventh after the best drive of his F1 career, while further back de Angelis brought his Lotus home eighth. He had struggled for the whole race with mediocre handling, although it was good enough to keep him ahead of the two ATS drivers, Salazar and Winkelhock, both a further lap down and driving good first races for their team.
Reutemann gradually made his way up to second place for Williams © LAT
Behind these two, Giacomelli took 11th place with his Alfa Romeo after an early battle with his own team-mate, de Cesaris, who dropped back with a blocked fuel injector, which it took a pitstop to clear. Giacomelli had lost a wheel weight early in the race, and, like most of the Michelin runners, suffered a bad case of numb hands and blisters while trying to hold onto the steering wheel. This was also the case for Mass in 12th place with his March, the first of the Pirelli runners.
"It was so bad that it even bent the steering arm," said Mass, who had also been taking a beating inside his tight March cockpit so that the tough German could hardly walk for the first few minutes after he got out of the car. Warwick's race with the only other turbo left came to a dramatic end when he slid off the road and was knocked unconscious by a catch fencing post, although he later recovered with no ill-effects.
Lafitte's race also faded away, like Cheever's, with fuel vaporisation problems, the Ligier stopping after 23 laps. Eighteen of the 26 starters finished the race, a good average for such a fast circuit in tough conditions.
Then came the bombshell from the organisers, who suspended the drivers because of their previous action. Mansell summed up everyone's feelings when he said: "For a professional sport like this, I cannot believe the sort of things that go on. It just leaves me speechless."