1982 - A Season Remembered


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Many of you will know that 1982 was a very unusual and tragic year for F1 so I thought it worth writing a short piece about what made it so memorable.

1982 was the first season after the infamous FISA/FOCA battles of 1980 & 81 which saw the banning of sliding skirts and then the outlawing of pneumatic suspensions, which many teams used to bypass the skirt ban. Williams started the year with the intention of running their FW08 car with 6 wheels but during the winter of 1981 4 wheel drive was outlawed making all the work Williams had done redundant. Keke Rosberg was signed to partner Carlos Reutemann with 1980 Champion Alan Jones having decided to retire.


Ferrari were into their 2nd season with a Turbo charged car and with a new chassis designed by Harvey Poselthwaite for Pironi and Villeneuve to mount a title challenge. The car was a major step forward compared to the 1981 turbo machine. Renault retained Prost and Arnoux in their turbo car and McLaren signed Niki Lauda to partner John Watson in John Barnard’s radical carbon fibre MP4 car.



1981 World Champion Nelson Piquet had a new team mate in Riccardo Patrese at Brabham, replacing the rent-a-drivers who had filled the second seat previously and they also began the year with the option to use either Cosworth or BMW turbo engines in Gordon Murray’s designs.


18 teams took part in the 1982 season and a total of 40 different drivers attempted to qualify cars. There were 16 races and, for the first time ever, 3 in one country with the US enjoying races at Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas.

South Africa
The hangover of the previous year’s politics started in the first race in South Africa with Niki Lauda leading a drivers “strike” over the newly created super licences for F1 drivers. The situation was resolved in time for the race, which Prost won, but the knock on effect was the cancellation of the Argentine Grand Prix. This race was to have been the first for many seasons with a planned fuel stop by the Brabham team but the new BMW turbo engine was quite fragile and both cars retired before half distance.

Prost won the next race in Brazil but the main talking point was the disqualification of Piquet and Rosberg for using illegal water tanks. These were, according to the teams, for brake cooling; the true purpose was as ballast to get the cars up to the weight limit and the water was then dumped early in the race allowing the Cosworth powered machines to compete with the more powerful turbo cars.

Long Beach
The season then moved on to Long Beach where Mario Andretti replaced Carlos Reutemann at Williams with Reutemann deciding to retire. Andrea de Cesaris planted his Alfa Romeo on pole and led away at the start. Niki Lauda, who started 2nd, chased de Cesaris down and justified his comeback by winning and setting fastest lap. Gilles Villeneuve was disqualified after the race for running a double width rear wing.



San Marino
The next race in San Marino proved exciting a poignant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the FOCA teams decided to boycott the event as FISA had rewritten the rules preventing the topping up of cooling and lubrication fluids in cars post race, effectively outlawing the Cosworth cars “brake cooling” water tanks. Secondly, it was the final Grand Prix Gilles Villeneuve would ever compete in. Despite the small number of cars taking part (only 14 cars turned up) the race provided a battle royale between the two Ferrari drivers. Pironi took the win from Villeneuve passing him on the final lap. Villeneuve believed Pironi had betrayed him and orders from the team to slow down and save the cars and the two men never spoke again.

The race at Zolder in Belgium proved to be a sombre affair as Gilles Villeneuve died in an accident attempting to beat Didier Pironi’s lap time late in final qualifying. Ferrari withdrew from the race which was eventually won by John Watson for McLaren. Niki Lauda was the first driver to fall foul of the new weight regulations as he was disqualified from 3rd with an underweight car.


The Monaco Grand Prix of 1982 proved to be probably the most bizarre race of a bizarre season. Riccardo Patrese was eventually crowned as the winner and was the only driver to complete the full race distance. A rain shower on lap 74 of the 76 lap race proved the undoing of then leader Alain Prost who hit one of the barriers. Patrese inherited the lead but spun at Loews hairpin laving Pironi in front. Pironi, and 3rd placed man de Cesaris, then ran out of fuel on lap 75 allowing Patrese back into the lead and to take the win. Only 3 other cars were still running at the end of the race.

John Watson won the next race in Detroit, cutting through the field from 17th on the grid thanks to the great durability of the Michelin tyres his McLaren used. This was the first race run on a street circuit at the “Motor City” and proved a very unhappy one for reigning champion Nelson Piquet. Brabham were “obliged” by BMW to start using their turbo engines more regularly and Piquet failed to qualify his car at the super slow Detroit circuit whilst his team mate Patrese, in the Cosworth powered car, qualified 6th.

The race in Canada was another tragic event when Riccardo Paletti, making his first race start for Osella, ran into the back of the stalled Ferrari of Didier Pironi off the start line. Paletti died in the ensuing fire and was the last death in F1 before the tragic events at Imola in 1994. In the race Nelson Piquet bounced back from his DNQ in Detroit to win in the BWM turbo powered Brabham ahead of Patrese in Cosworth powered car.


Patrick Tambay was given the 2nd Ferrari seat for the Dutch race and Didier Pironi won the race to put him 1 point behind John Watson in the drivers championship. Derek Warwick astonishingly set the fastest lap of the race in his Toleman.

Keke Rosberg put his Williams on pole for the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch but was unable to make the grid due to mechanical problems. He stormed through the field from the pits only to retire with fuel system problems 2/3rds of the way through. Niki Lauda won the race with Pironi 2nd after a battle with Derek Warwick’s Toleman in the early part of the race. Pironi now led the drivers championship.


The French Grand Prix was a French lock out with Arnoux winning, Prost second, Pironi third and Tambay fourth. It also marked the start of a break down in relations between the Renault drivers as Prost felt Arnoux should have let him through to support his title challenge.

The race in Germany was more interesting for what happened in practice rather than in the race, although the race wasn’t without some fascinating incident. In wet practice on Saturday morning Didier Pironi ran into the back of Alain Prost’s Renault causing the car to somersault and eventually crash into an Armco. Pironi survived the accident but never raced an F1 car again. In the race, Nelson Piquet was running away into a healthy lead but needed as much time as possible to take advantage of Brabham’s pit stop strategy. Coming up to lap Eliseo Salazar in the ATS Piquet misjudged his passing at one of the chicanes and ran into Salazar. The resulting fight at the side of the track is one of Grand Prix racings most viewed moments. Patrick Tambay went on to win the race and dedicated the victory to Villeneuve and Pironi.

The Austrian Grand Prix saw one of the closets finishes in F1 history and, for the first time in modern Grand Prix racing, Brabham finally used their in race refuelling plan. Nelson Piquet stopped for fuel and rubber at half distance but his car developed electrical problems and he retired. As the other turbo cars fell by the wayside it left Elio de Angelis leading the race with Keke Rosberg straining every sinew to catch the Lotus. De Angelis eventually won by only 0.05 seconds and was greeted, for the last time by, by Colin Chapman throwing his cap into the air.

The next race was the Swiss Grand Prix, held at the Dijon circuit in France to get around the Swiss ban on motor racing. This proved to be Keke Rosberg’s first win when he took the lead form Alain Prost with one lap of the race remaining. However, the event organisers failed to show the chequered flag and Rosberg had to complete an extra lap at race speed to be sure of the victory.

Before the Italian Grand Prix it was announced that Rene Arnoux would be joining Ferrari for 1983. Mario Andretti was drafted into to keep the 2nd Ferrari seat warm for Arnoux and duly put the red car on pole. To the delight of the Tifosi Arnoux went on to win the race (the next best thing to a Ferrari victory) and celebrated by throwing the winners trophy to the crowd.

Las Vegas
Going into the last race of the season, a race in the car park of the Cesar’s Palace Casino in Las Vegas, Rosberg held a 3 point lead over Pironi so his only challenger for the title was John Watson, 9 points behind. To take the title this meant Watson had to win and Rosberg finish out of the points as Watson had won more races. Prost put his car on pole but the nature of the circuit allowed the Cosworth powered machines to be significantly closer. Rosberg started 6th and Watson 9th. Watson got off to a bad start and slid back to 12th before cutting through the field to finish 2nd. Michele Alboreto won the race and Keke Rosberg came home 5th to win the drivers title with only one win in the season.


A truly remarkable and tragic season with a whole load of “what ifs”. Didier Pironi was later given a statue by Enzo Ferrari which bore the inscription “The True World Champion of 1982”.
Great post, FB

Beyond the terrible tragedies of the deaths of GV and Paletti, it was a season of promise as well. De Angelis getting the win for Chapman (sadly both men would be gone in the not-too-distant future). Warwick showing his abilities (such great abilities that Senna demanded that Lotus NOT hire him!) in the Toleman.

It was also wonderful to see the beautiful track in Austria. No acres of runoff areas, no gravel traps. Those were the days!

I also find it interesting that so many of the cars, especially the top teams, were able to make cars that did not require front wings! How much cleaner they appear than today's monstrosities!

Many thanks for the reminder. :thumbsup:
Great artcle FB. Brought back many memories.
The illegal water ballast schemes reall made me chuckle.Cheating in F1 thats disgusting. :D

Just out of interest the honourable Mr.Bernard Charles Ecclestone was a part owner of Brabham in those days.
Piquet drove for Brabham.
At the Autosport show a few years ago I attended a Q & A session with Clive Chapman and I got to ask him what his favourite memory was. He quoted standing in the pits with his father in 1982 to watch Elio take his first win and the first win for the team since 1978.

He claimed that Colin, who as we all know would normally jump onto the track and toss his cap in the air to great his victorious driver, didn't actually think to take his cap to the track that day as he didn't think the team would be in with a chance of victory. When it came to the moment to cheer Elio across the line Clive reckons his dad was a bit confused as he'd not got anything to throw in the air.

Obviously the moment was tinged with a great deal of sadness for Clive because it was the last victory before Colin's death.

There is a fantastic book published by Haynes simply called 1982 which goes into great detail about every race and the season as a whole. It's a bit pricey coming in at over 30 pounds but I'd seriously recommend it to anyone for a read.
A great season, a favorite with Rosberg winning.

I've kept a copy of the MotorSport Magazine (Feb 2002), it's title is "Formula One's Wildest Year, 1982 16 races, 11 Winners, and a Zero to Hero Champion'.

The Magazine has a diary like column from Keke for each race, but what gets me is he won the championship with just 44 points! Which in those days (9 for a win) was just 4 wins, a 2nd place and a 4th place in 6 races and 10 DNF's and you could have beaten Keke to the Championship.

When racing was racing....
We'll never see a season like this again: 11 winners, 3 races in one country, a driver's strike, controversy, politics, tragedy, great racing, the championship decided in a hotel car park 8-)
LifeW12 said:
We'll never see a season like this again: 11 winners, 3 races in one country, a driver's strike, controversy, politics, tragedy, great racing, the championship decided in a hotel car park 8-)

& Prize Fighting to boot....
Nice summary of a fantastic season. A few years ago I found a copy of the 1982 Autocourse in a second-hand book shop. I hesitated when they told me it was 55 bucks, and by the time I went back with the money it had been sold. Miffed doesn't even begin to cover it...
Cracking post that bought back a flood of memories some happy, some tragic as that was the season my dad first let me sit with him to watch the races as long as I didn't ask silly questions LOL
Thanks for the reminder cider_and_toast, I've always meant to add that one to my library! Christopher Hilton was one of last year's sadly under-reported losses for the motorsport community. I'm glad he managed to get a book out about the Brawn saga, but I was looking forward to his take on last season. He'll be missed.
FB, fantastic posting and enjoyable. Only just joined but waiting on Free Practice later on this morning and reading through was certainly worth it....and took me back... Loved it. Kudos to you my friend....
Fantastic read FB, and very well written. I was thinking of doing something on 1982 coincidentally, but I'm glad I didn't because it wouldn't have been a patch on this. Great stuff! Only on CTA!
Thanks guys. '82 has a special place in my heart as I was lucky enough to be at Brands Hatch to watch Lauda win. The biggest cheer of the day came when Warwick passed Pironi into Paddock Hill Bend and the biggest collective sigh of the day came when he stopped a few laps later. I also saw Jean Pierre Jarier taking a wizz in a bush in one of the camp sites whilst he was having a picnic with the Osella mechanics, oh how times have changed. Still can't believe Brian Henton set the fastest lap of the race that day.
Still can't believe Brian Henton set the fastest lap of the race that day.

One of 10 Fastest Lap scorers in 1982! If I did a quiz on it, he'd be the 30 point answer out of that lot.

The most amazing FL was Masahiro Hasemi who somehow got the fastest lap in the 1976 Japanese GP in a Kojima! He qualified 10th, so the car can't have been that bad! He did finish 7 laps down, though!

EDIT: It was a measurement mistake not picked up by the F1 press outside Japan!
Very nice! And many thanks...as I don't really know much about the F1 from '99 onwards, although I started watching in '98.

Very well done :cheers:
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