1985 Formula One season
FIA Formula One World Championship season
The 1985 Formula One season was the 36th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1985 Formula 1 World Championship  which commenced on 7 April 1985 and ended on 3 November 1985 after sixteen races. The World Championship titles for Drivers and Constructors were awarded to Alain Prost and McLaren respectively.
The 1985 Formula One season saw continued success for the McLaren-TAG team. After missing out on the Drivers Championship by just two points in 1983 to Nelson Piquet, and by just half a point the previous year to team mate Niki Lauda, Alain Prost would ultimately secure his first of four titles by a 23-point margin. The Formula One writer Koen Vergeer remarked that "it was about time, everyone knew he was the best", reflecting a general feeling that Prost had been unlucky to finish runner-up in the previous two years where had won more races than Piquet in 1983 and Lauda in 1984.
The reigning Drivers Champion Lauda competed in his final season of Formula One but was unable to match Prost for results, winning just once at Zandvoort despite being close to his team-mate in terms of pace. Seated next to an unhappy McLaren team boss Ron Dennis who had unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to continue driving, Lauda announced his decision to retire for good at season's end in a press conference before practice for his home Grand Prix in Austria.
For most of the season the points table was headed by Ferrari's Michele Alboreto, who enjoyed his best season in F1. He won the Canadian and German Grands Prix, and was on the podium eight times. Ferrari's results faded badly in the second half of the season as other emerging drivers took the fight to Prost.
Among these were Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, both of whom scored their first victories in 1985. Lotus team manager Peter Warr had replaced Mansell with Senna going into the season, a decision which initially seemed justified when Senna took a superb win in the wet at Estoril in Round 2. However Mansell fought back with Williams, and chalked up two victories near the season's end, including his famous breakthrough win in the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. In winning at Brands, Mansell made Peter Warr eat his words as the Lotus boss had declared that Mansell would "never win a Grand Prix as long as I have a hole in my arse" after he crashed his Lotus 95T out of the lead of the wet 1984 Monaco Grand Prix). Mansell, now knowing that he had not only the ability but also the car he needed in order to win races, would go on to mount a serious title challenge in 1986.
Perhaps the fastest combination of the year was Mansell's team mate Keke Rosberg in the other Williams, who used the powerful Honda engine to set a new lap record around Silverstone in qualifying for the British Grand Prix - becoming the first man to lap at an average speed of over 160 mph (257 km/h). He finished third in the standings after wins on the street circuits of Detroit and Adelaide, but lacked the reliability to overcome Prost.
1.5-litre turbocharged engines had become universal during 1985, heralding the extinction of the 3.0-litre naturally aspirated Ford Cosworth DFY engine. Between 1985 and 1986 Formula One engines would achieve the highest levels of power ever seen in the sport (the specially built Renault qualifying engine was reportedly putting out over 1,150 bhp (858 kW; 1,166 PS) by the end of 1985), before serious restrictions and their 'phasing out' began in 1987. The power output of the engines was controlled in racing conditions by means of a strict fuel limit; however in qualifying trim teams were commonly able to increase the boost of their engines for optimum power. This fuel economy was key to successful race strategy in 1985; Mansell recalls the added interest of planning his fuel use in his autobiography. It also proved costly for Ayrton Senna, who lost victory just four laps from home at Imola when he ran out of fuel. After Prost was disqualified for an underweight McLaren, victory fell to Senna's Lotus team mate Elio de Angelis in what would prove to be his second and last Grand Prix win.
1985 also saw a return to the calendar of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium after the Belgian Grand Prix had been held there in 1983 and at the unpopular Zolder in 1984. Although shortened from its dangerous 1947-1978 14 kilometre form, it remained a challenge for the drivers who universally liked that despite the circuit now being only 6 km long, it remained a fast, flowing circuit in the true Spa tradition. It also caused one of the few cancellations of Grands Prix in the sport's history, when the new all-weather track surface melted during the summer conditions in practice. The race was originally scheduled between Monaco and Canada, and extensive repairs were needed and the race was rescheduled for later in the year; Senna was the winner, with Prost finishing on the podium again to take a big step towards his first championship.
The Dutch Grand Prix was the last Grand Prix for German driver Stefan Bellof, who died in the World Endurance Championship race at Spa at the high speed Eau Rouge corner. Bellof had won the 1984 World Endurance Championship driving for the Rothmans-Porsche team, but decided against driving for the factory in 1985 to concentrate on Formula One. He did however still drive in various WEC races for the private Brun team in a Porsche 956. Until his death Stefan Bellof was one of the rising stars in racing and was rumored to have an offer to drive for Ferrari in 1986. The summer of 1985 was remembered as the saddest weeks for German motor sport, as both German Formula One drivers, Manfred Winkelhock and Stefan Bellof died within three weeks in WEC races. Winkelhock, who drove for the Skoal Bandit Formula 1 Team, died at Mosport in Canada when his Kremer Racing Porsche 962C crashed head on into the turn 2 wall at high speed. His co-driver for that race had been Brabham's Marc Surer.
1985 also saw the Australian Grand Prix added to the Formula One World Championship. The race was held in Adelaide, South Australia on a street circuit on 3 November, as the last race of the season. The Adelaide Street Circuit was praised by the Formula One fraternity, most of whom arrived down under fully expecting another bad street circuit like Las Vagas, Detroit and Dallas, but instead found a fast, open circuit with a 900 metre long straight where the faster cars reached over 200 mph (322 km/h). The 50th running of the Australian Grand Prix won the Formula One Promotional Trophy for Race Promoter as the best race meeting of the year. FOCA boss and Brabham team owner Bernie Ecclestone shocked a press conference when he declared that he believed that the standard the of the organisation and the circuit itself was bad news for Formula One. He then explained to the shocked media that Adelaide had raised the standards of what would be expected in the future and that several tracks in Europe already on the calendar, or hoping to be, would have to lift their own games in order to match it.
The 1985 season is widely considered by the F1 community to be one of the best and most exciting Formula One seasons of all time. In a season full of excitement, it was the first and last of many things. The 1985 season was affirmation of Senna as one of the best drivers in the world in only his 2nd season of Formula One, the first championship win of 4 for Prost and the first and second race wins of 31 for Mansell and first and second race wins of 41 for Senna. The season also enhanced Keke Rosberg's reputation as a 'street fighter'. Of the 1982 World Champion's five career wins, the last four had been on the streets of Monaco, Dallas, Detroit and Adelaide (his only other win, his first ever, came at the Dijon-Prenois in 1982). Rosberg's win in Adelaide was his final race for Williams as he was moving to McLaren in 1986, and would prove to be the final win of his career.
This season was also the last full season for Alfa Romeo as a factory effort (although the team was actually run by EuroRacing on behalf of Alfa Romeo, and had been since the beginning of 1982). It was also the last for Renault as a factory effort until 2002, and the last to include a Dutch Grand Prix, which was the last ever Formula One race at Zandvoort. It also saw the last race at the original Kyalami circuit, and the last South African Grand Prix until 1992. 1985 Also saw the last race at the full Paul Ricard Circuit with its 1.8 km long Mistral Straight, the longest on the calendar. It was the last European Grand Prix to be held at Brands Hatch, the last race with Monaco's infamous dog leg corner and the last British Grand Prix at Silverstone with the Woodcote chicane, and the permanent addition of the Spa-Francorchamps as the venue for the Belgian Grand Prix, and the last win of 25 for Niki Lauda in his final season in Formula One.
Even though Formula One had tragically lost rising stars Stefan Bellof and Manfred Winkelhock in separate World Endurance Championship races, it was still a season to remember.
Drivers and constructors
1985 Drivers Championship final standings
† Drivers did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.
Only drivers who scored points were classified by the FIA in the final championship results.
1985 Manufacturers Championship final standings
Championship points were awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis for the first six positions at each race.
Only manufacturers that scored points were classified by the FIA in the final championship results.
- 1986 FIA Yearbook, Red Section, Results of 1985 FIA International Championships, pages 78-79
- [dead link]
- Only the best 11 results counted towards the Drivers' Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- Peter Higham, The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing, 1995, page 6
- Peter Higham, The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing, 1995, page 117