Keke Rosberg

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
When I started these retrospectives of F1 drivers I said I wouldn't cover any World Champion's, so now I'm going to break my own rules but, as you will see, Keke Rosberg won his title in the most bizarre year F1 ever suffered.

Most of you youngsters will know Keke as the father of Nico Rosberg and someone who used to drive an F1 car, back in the day. How best to describe Rosberg senior? Balls out probably just about sums it up. Whenever Keke got behind the wheel of an F1 car I don't think he knew how to give less than 100%.

His record in the lower formulas isn't exactly stellar. In four seasons of the European F2 Championship he won 3 races, one each in 1977, '78 and '79. But when you consider he was racing against the likes of Rene Arnoux, Bruno Giacomelli, Eddie Cheever and Brian Henton he didn't do too badly and, from what I can see, never completed a full season.

In 1978 he got his first drive in a formula one car with Theodore. His performances in the Championship races weren't very good but he did win the BRDC International Trophy at a wet Silverstone. One of only 5 finishers in a wet race which included such F1 luminaries as James Hunt, Nikki Lauda, Ronnie Peterson and Patrick Depailler. Keke car swapped between Theodore and ATS in 1978 and in 1979 appeared in a Wolf car after James Hunt had decided he had had enough of driving round in circles.

Wolf folded at the end of 1979 and Rosberg joined the Fittipaldi team to partner team owner Emerson. He took a podium in his first race in the F7 in Argentina but the car was less than competitive through the rest of the season including a few DNQ's (in those days when there were so many cars some had to be excluded from the grid). Keke scored 2 more point for 5th in Italy to put him 10th in the championship and with double the points total of his more illustrious teammate.

1981 was a season to forget. Fittipaldi had huge financial problems, no sponsors and the C version of the F8 car just wasn't fast enough. The team struggled on in to 1982 but the retirement of Alan Jones opened up a place at Williams and Keke was partnered with Carlos Reutemann.



What a strange year 1982 was. Carlos Reutemann left Williams after only two races, his place taken at Long Beach by Mario Andretti and then by Derek Daly for the rest of the season. This was the year when the FISA/FOCA battle reached a crescendo. It also took the lives of Gilles Villeneuve and Riccardo Palleti and ended the career of Didier Pironi. Rosberg was disqualified from his second place in Brazil as the Cosworth powered teams were using "water cooling" on the brakes to run the cars much lighter to compete with the turbo powered machines.

Keke nearly won in Austria, loosing by 0.05 seconds to Elio de Angelis. Rosberg did win the next race, the Swiss GP at Dijon (in France), taking the lead on the final lap from Alain Prost and with the Williams team manager having to distract the official with the chequered flag to stop him waving it a lap early to give Prost the win.

In the final race Rosberg took fifth spot and the title, beating Didier Pironi by 5 points. If you take in to account the fact that Pironi didn't compete in the last five races of the season you could assume Pironi would probably have taken the title but to finish first first you have to finish and history will show that Keke Rosberg was World Champion in 1982, with only a single win through the season, and and is the only man to have won the title having not scored any points the prevision season. He also took the title in the season he won his first race and was the last winner with a naturally aspirated engine until 1989, when turbo's were not allowed.

One other noteworthy point, if you look at any images from 1982 you will see that the FW08 looks rather stubby. This was because the car was designed to have 6 wheels, four at the back, but the FIA outlawed four wheel drive making the car design illegal.



Rosberg continued with Williams through to 1985. In 1983 he won at Monaco, still using the trusty Cosworth engine. At the end of 1983 the less than attractive FW09 made it's debut complete with a Honda turbocharged engine and Keke took 5th place in South Africa.

This might sound familiar, the Honda turbo engine had good power but was less than driveable. The power came in all of a sudden as the turbo spooled up and this, added to a rather flexible chassis didn't make for a fun car to drive. Keke maintained the pattern of a single win per season, taking first place in Dallas and looking like he had been out for a Sunday drive as he stood on the podium whilst his future team mate, Nigel Mansell, collapsed trying to push his car across the line in 40°C heat. One thing Keke was a master at was taming an uncontrollable car.



Keke broke his one win per season habit in 1985 and won in Detroit and Australia, his last race for Williams. Rosberg finished third in driver championship, a position not helped by numerous retirements due to the fragility of the Honda engine. 1985 is also notable as Keke lapped Silverstone at an average speed of 259 km/h. What's notable about that you may ask? This translate to an average of over 160 mph for a single lap of the Silverstone circuit, a record not broken until 2002 when JP Montoya went a little faster at Monza.

For 1986 Keke joined the all conquering McLaren TAG team as partner to Alain Prost. Two more different driving styles you could hardly hope to pair together and Rosberg struggled with the McLaren. Keke failed to take a single win whilst Prost took the title from under the noses of the warring Piquet and Mansell at Williams. In his final race, having been allowed to set the car up to better suit his driving style, Rosberg was cruising to victory before a punctured rear tyre caused him to retire. Keke admitted afterwards that it was unlikely he would have won the race as he had promised to do all he could to help Prost win the title.



After F1 Keke drove in sports cars for Ferrari and Peugeot and then tried his had at DTM, eventually running his own team. He also managed JJ Lehto, Mika Hakkinen and his own son in to F1.

5 GP wins seems a scant reward for a driver of Rosberg's quality but he has a World Title which only a few have achieved. Perhaps if he was less aggressive he may have won more races but then braking late and throwing the car in to a corner was Keke's style and many fans loved him for it, I certainly did. I always though he was a rally driver in an F1 car, his style always looked a bit that way, and winning mainly on street circuits showed his fighting qualities. It's a shame Rosberg junior is quite so bold when behind the wheel of an F1 car.

Just as a final aside, Keke was born in Sweden but raced under the Finnish flag. Nico was at least born in Germany...

Keijo Erik Rosberg F1 World Drivers Champion 1982

 

Olivier

Race Winner
Excellent piece FB

I seem to recall a picture of Prost and Rosber's tires after a race and it highlighted their different racing style, Prost's as if they were new and Rosberg's about to be shredded to pieces.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff member
Premium Contributor
Just to add a little detail to the move from Wolf to Fittipaldi (and I only know this because of the loose Lotus connection), Wolf and Fittipaldi technically merged at the end of 79 with Fittipaldi automotive taking on all the assets of the old Wolf team. That enabled Fittipaldi to run two drivers for a full season for the first time. Not only did they get Keke Rosberg on board, Fittipaldi also gained the experience of Harvey Postlethwaite and Peter Warr as designer and team manager.
 
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Incubus

Champion Elect
That might have had something to do with the fact Prost had already changed his during the race Olivier . ;) Or rather had been forced to after suffering a puncture. It looked then as though his title chances had evaporated but it turned out to be one massive blessing in disguise, because Williams had consulted Goodyear about the state of Prost's old tyres after his stop, and they were told the low level of wear on them meant they could go the distance without any problem.

We know the rest, so that really was the key to the final outcome in 1986. Prost could do the fast laps earlier in the race without using up the tyres so Williams thought they could do the same.
 
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KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
One of a kind.

I always say it must have often been maddening to support Keke back in the day though. Lots of cruel retirements, especially of the Petrol nature, which I guess kind of speaks to his style.

Nice one FB!
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I didn't mention that Frank Williams' disabling accident was part of the reason he left Williams. Patrick Head took over running the team whilst Frank recovered and he and Keke didn't see "eye to eye". He also said that he regretted retiring when he did but part of his decision was driven my the death of his close friend, Elio de Angelis.
 

jez101

Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
Contributor
1985 is also notable as Keke lapped Silverstone at an average speed of 259 km/h. What's notable about that you may ask? This translate to an average of over 160 mph for a single lap of the Silverstone circuit, a record not broken until 2002 when JP Montoya went a little faster at Monza.
I might have mentioned this before but I was there! It was one of those moments I will never forget.

One of a kind.

I always say it must have often been maddening to support Keke back in the day though. Lots of cruel retirements, especially of the Petrol nature, which I guess kind of speaks to his style.

Nice one FB!
Agree on all points. Great piece FB.
 

Bleu

Points Scorer
I didn't mention that Frank Williams' disabling accident was part of the reason he left Williams. Patrick Head took over running the team whilst Frank recovered and he and Keke didn't see "eye to eye". He also said that he regretted retiring when he did but part of his decision was driven my the death of his close friend, Elio de Angelis.
Frank's accident was just weeks before 1986 season so Keke was already with McLaren at that point.
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
Yes, and in fact Rosberg would have signed for McLaren at some point in the middle of 1985 because I remember from reading Lauda's biography that Ron Dennis had asked him not to announce his retirement until he'd secured Keke's signature. Niki announced his retirement at his home race at the Austrian GP.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
My apologies, I mis-read the article. Rosberg said he probably would have quit during the 1986 season after Franks' accident as he didn't see eye to eye with the person who took over. Maybe Patrick Head didn't like someone giving his cars such grief.
 

Puhoon

Points Scorer
I found a book titled "Keke" by writer Keith Botsford in a second-hand bookshop for 4 euros yesterday. That really made my day. The title first came out in 1986 and it's largely based on the authors interviews with Rosberg. I've read the first 30 pages and it sure seems like a good insight on the mind of Keke Rosberg.
 

Incubus

Champion Elect
Iwas already into motorsport when he was still racing so it doesn't half me feel my age too... where's that zimmer gone again?...
 
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