1984 Formula One season
|1984 FIA Formula One
World Championship season
|Drivers' Champion: Niki Lauda
Constructors' Champion: McLaren-TAG
The 1984 Formula One season was the 35th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1984 Formula One World Championship for Drivers and the 1984 Formula One World Championship for Manufacturers which were contested concurrently over a sixteen-race series which commenced on 25 March, and ended on 21 October.
In the Drivers' Championship, the season became a duel between McLaren's Alain Prost and Niki Lauda. Prost won 7 races to Lauda's 5, including the last two Grands Prix of the year, but Lauda eventually prevailed by half a point – the smallest margin in Formula One history.
Drivers and constructors
Team and driver changes
- Brabham retained their 4 cyl BMW engines, now rated at 900 bhp (671 kW; 912 PS), along with reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet. Italian brothers Teo and Corrado Fabi replaced Riccardo Patrese and shared the #2 seat allowing older brother Teo to honour commitments in the US based CART World Series. Rumour had John Watson in the second Brabham seat (Watson himself later confirmed he was close to signing), but the team's main sponsor, Italian dairy company Parmalat, insisted on an Italian driver instead. Piquet and the Fabi brothers drove the Gordon Murray-designed BT53.
- Tyrrell had an all new driver line up. Gone were Michele Alboreto and Danny Sullivan, and in were F1 rookies Martin Brundle and young West German sports car ace Stefan Bellof. Tyrrell were the only team to run the full season with the naturally aspirated, 530 bhp (395 kW; 537 PS), Cosworth DFY V8 engine. Brundle and Bellof would drive the Maurice Philippe-designed 012.
- Williams retained their 1983 line up of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, and veteran Jacques Laffite. Williams also had exclusive use of the 800 bhp (597 kW; 811 PS) Honda V6 turbo engine for the entire season after having only run it in the last race of 1983 in South Africa. The Honda turbo would power the Patrick Head and Neil Oatley-designed FW09.
- McLaren had exclusive use of the 750 bhp (559 kW; 760 PS) TAG-Porsche turbo engine that had debuted in the Netherlands the previous year. Frenchman Alain Prost, who had finished 2nd in the 1983 Drivers' Championship, re-joined the team after being sacked from the factory Renault team and replaced John Watson. Prost joined double World Champion Niki Lauda in what was seen as the strongest driver line up of the season. Prost and Lauda would drive the John Barnard-designed MP4/2. While the TAG engine was the least powerful of the main contenders, superior fuel economy and the superior aerodynamics of Barnard's MP4/2, especially at high speed, more than made up for any lack of power.
- Lotus promised to get back to their glory days with the turbocharged Renault engines and their 1983 driver line up of Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell. Both drivers would have the all-new Lotus 95T designed by former Renault chief designer Gérard Ducarouge.
- After a disappointing end to the 1983 season which saw the factory Renault team lose its way at the end of the year costing Alain Prost the Drivers' Championship and the team the Constructors' Championship, the major changes to the national French team was its drivers as well as the loss of designer Ducarouge. Prost and American Eddie Cheever were replaced with Frenchman Patrick Tambay (formerly of Ferrari) and Englishman Derek Warwick (formerly of Toleman). The all new RE50 was designed by Michel Tétu and Bernard Dudot and was powered by the 800 bhp (597 kW; 811 PS) EF4 V6 turbo engine.
- Toleman, who were an up-and-coming team in Formula One, lost Warwick to Renault and released Bruno Giacomelli, but signed former Grand Prix motorcycle World Champion in the 350 and 750 classes, Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto (only the second Venezuelan driver in F1 history), as well as a rookie from Brazil by the name of Ayrton Senna, the reigning British Formula 3 Champion. The team continued to use the turbocharged 4cyl Hart 415T engine for the 1984 season to power their 1983 car, the TG183B, and their new car which appeared for the first time in France, the TG184 designed by Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds.
- Euro Racing continued to run the Alfa Romeo team, but they lost major sponsor Marlboro. Replacing the red and white colours of the cigarette giant was the green and red of Italian clothes manufacturer Benetton. Also gone were drivers Andrea de Cesaris and Mauro Baldi, replaced by Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever. The team continued to use the thirsty, and moderately powerful (680 bhp (507 kW; 689 PS)) 890T V8 turbocharged engine for the season. If not for the engine's appalling fuel economy, Patrese and Cheever might well have scored more points and/or podium finishes as both drivers often retired within laps of race finishes while in point scoring positions simply because they ran out of fuel. Alfa used the Mario Tollentino and Luigi Marmiroli-designed 184T.
- Ferrari introduced the latest version of their successful 126C model, the 126C4 designed by Mauro Forghieri and Harvey Postlethwaite, which was powered by the 850 bhp (634 kW; 862 PS) Tipo 031 V6 engine. After releasing Patrick Tambay who subsequently signed for Renault, the team signed its first Italian driver since 1973 with Michele Alboreto to join Frenchman René Arnoux, who had finished third in the Drivers' Championship for Ferrari in 1983. It was reported that Enzo Ferrari broke his own rule against signing an Italian driver when he signed Alboreto, making him the first Italian driver at Ferrari since Arturo Merzario. Ferrari were the defending Formula One Constructors' World Champions having won the title in 1983.
- Ligier also joined the ranks of the turbos, dumping the Cosworth V8 in favour of the Renault engine. The V6 turbo powering the Michel Beaujon and Claude Galopin-designed JS23. Drivers were Frenchman François Hesnault, and fast but crash-prone Italian Andrea de Cesaris.
The season had been expected to see a continuation of the Brabham–Renault–Ferrari battle from 1983, with supporting roles for McLaren, Williams and Lotus. McLaren however had stolen a march on its competitors thanks to its TAG turbo engine and the John Barnard-designed MP4/2. The combination of dual World Champion Lauda, nine time Grand Prix winner Prost, the TAG-Porsche and the MP4/2 quickly becoming the class of the field.
FISA had introduced new fuel economy rules aimed at reducing speeds, ruling that cars powered by turbocharged engines would only have 220 liters of fuel per race, with re-fueling now banned (the tank had to be 220L, but teams were free to try and squeeze more in if they could, which some tried with methods such as freezing the fuel inside the tank). TAG, while still a sponsor with Williams, became a partner with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, and commissioned German sports car manufacturer Porsche to design and build what would become the TAG-Porsche V6 turbocharged engine. Porsche had extensive experience with similar economy rules due to its participation in endurance racing (which included the 24 Hours of Le Mans) and this translated in superior fuel economy. Coupled with the superior aerodynamics of Barnard's MP4/2 (especially at high speed), this made the McLaren's almost unbeatable in races throughout the season.
Reigning World Drivers' Champion Nelson Piquet and his Brabham-BMW were usually the fastest combination on track and saw the Brazilian take 9 pole positions, but appalling early season reliability where the reigning Drivers' World Champion failed to score a point in the first seven rounds due to numerous engine and turbo failures before his back-to-back wins in Canada and Detroit, meant he was never able to challenge consistently, and by half way through the season it was apparent he wouldn't be able to defend his title, though he continued to fight hard until the end of the season, leading several races before either retiring or being forced to slow when running low on fuel.
The season saw a titanic battle between both McLaren drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost. Prost had been sacked by Renault two days after the 1983 season ended after failing to win the championship for openly criticising the team for failing to develop the RE40 during the season, resulting in the loss of both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships. Fast and ambitious, the Frenchman quickly established his dominance over his teammate, especially in qualifying, though Lauda's race driving saw him often a match for his younger team mate.
Austrian Niki Lauda, the 1975 and 1977 World Champion when driving for Ferrari, had returned to F1 in 1982 after his early retirement towards the end of 1979 and soon showed he had lost nothing of his earlier determination and guile. He regularly matched the pace of his 1982–1983 McLaren team mate John Watson, but Alain Prost (himself never the absolute fastest in F1) was a different kettle of fish. Lauda quickly realized he could not beat his young team mate on speed, therefore the wily Austrian often ignored qualifying and concentrated on his race strategies. By winning races when Prost ran into trouble and scoring relentlessly when Prost proved quicker, Lauda was able to win the title by just half a point. He also became only the second driver after New Zealand's Denny Hulme in 1967 to have ever won the title without achieving a single pole position in the season.
Prost though can be considered unlucky not to have won his first World Championship. He won 7 races to Lauda's 5, and lost a potential 4.5 points when the Monaco was stopped early. During the race, Prost had signalled on laps 29 and 31 that the red-flag should be shown, due to the ostensibly dangerous wet-weather conditions. Clerk of Course Jacky Ickx stopped the Monaco Grand Prix after 31 laps, which he also explained was due to the dangerous conditions brought on by constant rain. Prost won the race from the Toleman of Ayrton Senna and the Tyrrell of Stefan Bellof, but only half points were awarded as the race was stopped before half-distance. The decision to stop the race was controversial as Ickx had not consulted with the race stewards before showing the red flag, an action which saw his suspension from being the Clerk of the Course. It was rumoured that Ickx, who at the time the lead driver in the factory backed Rothmans Porsche Sportscar team, had stopped the race when he did so that the Porsche engined McLaren would win and not the Hart engined Toleman of F1 rookie Senna. At the time Senna had been showing what would become legendary wet weather driving skills and was catching the more experienced Prost very quickly. Senna actually passed the slowing Prost as they crossed the line when Ickx held out the red flag (Prost had slowed down having already been told on the team radio that the race had been stopped), but the regulations ruled that the results were taken from the previous lap, where Prost still held a 7.4 second lead. Almost going unnoticed in Senna's late race charge for the lead, was that the Cosworth V8 powered Tyrrell of Bellof was catching Senna as fast as the Brazilian was catching Prost. Toleman mechanics later confirmed that had the race not been stopped, Senna would not have finished as the TG184 had suffered serious suspension damage due to his constant running over the high curbs at the Nouvelle Chicane.
During the season, the Tyrrell team had its results stripped after a technical infringement. Soon after the podium ceremony for the Detroit Grand Prix in which Martin Brundle had finished in second place (only 2 seconds behind the Brabham of Nelson Piquet), word arrived that the officials had found impurities in the water injection system on his Tyrrell 012 and lead balls in the rubber bag containing the water. Samples of the water were shipped to France and Texas for analysis and found to contain significant levels of hydrocarbons. Team boss Ken Tyrrell was called to a meeting of the FISA Executive Committee on July 18 and, based on the impurities in the water, which had been topped up during a pit stop, was accused of refueling the car during the race. Refueling had been banned prior to the 1984 season and remained illegal until 1994. FISA found the team guilty and Tyrrell was disqualified from the remainder of the World Championship and lost the 13 points they had already gained as of Detroit. They were allowed to and did continue to race, though they did not appear for the final three races of the season. However, they were unable to score any championship points. Many in the paddock felt for Tyrrell as they believed the penalty far outweighed the crime and that FISA boss Jean-Marie Balestre had used the system to make an example of the British-based team to vindicate what happened the previous season, when Brabham escaped punishment after admitting to run a lighter car by using a different blend of fuel.
McLaren dominated the season, with Prost winning 7 races to equal the season wins record set by Jim Clark in 1963, and Lauda winning 5, making the McLaren MP4/2 the most dominant single season car in the sports history to that point. The team also scored four 1–2 results during the season to easily win the Constructors' Championship with a then-record 143.5 points, some 86 points in front of second-placed Ferrari. McLaren won 12 of the season's 16 races, with Brabham's reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet scoring two wins. Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) and Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) were the only other winners in the season with each winning a single race.
For Japanese giant Honda, Rosberg's win in the Dallas Grand Prix would be the first of 40 wins for their turbocharged V6 engines until the turbos were banned following the 1988 season. It was also Honda's first win in Formula One since John Surtees had won the 1967 Italian Grand Prix at Monza driving the V12 powered Honda RA300 in its debut race. The Dallas Grand Prix was a one-off race, as the race was inexplicably run during the 100F heat of a Texas July summer; the air temperature was 40C (104F) and the track temperature was 60C (150F)- which was hot enough for it to break up so badly that the racing line became the only clean sections of the track; the rest of the track was strewn with little bits of loose gravel from the disintegrating tarmac being ripped to pieces by the cars' tires. Aside from those problems, the circuit and the organization were well-received, and race was a classic- but only 8 cars finished. This was similar to the previous race in Detroit, where only 6 cars finished. Renowned British motorsports journalist Denis Jenkinson referred to these 2 American races as "demolition derbies".
Zolder held its last Formula One Grand Prix when it hosted the third round Belgian Grand Prix. Fittingly at the track where Ferrari's Gilles Villeneuve had been killed in 1982, Michele Alboreto took pole and won the race carrying Villeneuve's #27 on his car. The Dijon-Prenois circuit also hosted its final Grand Prix when it hosted the French Grand Prix (Rd.5) won by Niki Lauda.
Results and standings
- ^ Half points awarded after race was stopped due to dangerous conditions.
- Grands Prix in New York City and Fuengirola, Spain were scheduled, but cancelled; the European and Portuguese Grands Prix replaced these two races, respectively.
World Drivers' Championship final standings
Points towards the 1984 Formula 1 World Championship for Drivers were awarded on a 9–6–4–3–2–1 basis to the first six finishers in each race.
† Half points were awarded at the Monaco Grand Prix as less than 75% of the scheduled distance was completed.
World Constructors' Championship final standings
Points towards the 1984 Formula 1 World Championship for Manufacturers were awarded on a 9–6–4–3–2–1 basis to the first six finishers in each race.
- On 18 July, Tyrrell was disqualified from all races so far that season due to a technical infringement which was discovered at the Detroit race. They were allowed to compete in the remaining races but would be ineligible to score points towards the Constructors' Championship. They later opted to miss the final three races.
- † Half points were awarded at the Monaco Grand Prix as less than 75% of the scheduled distance was completed.
- 1985 FIA Yearbook, Red section, pages 84–85