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1982 Formula One season

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Start date  1982
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Similar  1981 Formula One seas, 1983 Formula One seas, 1980 Formula One seas, 1984 Formula One seas, 1985 Formula One seas

The 1982 Formula One season was the 33rd season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1982 Formula 1 World Championship, which commenced on 23 January and ended on 25 September after sixteen races. The Drivers' Championship was won by Keke Rosberg and the Manufacturers' Championship was awarded to Ferrari.


Rosberg was the first driver since Mike Hawthorn in the 1958 season to win the championship with only one race win. 11 drivers won a race during the season, none of them more than two times, including nine different winners in nine consecutive races.

The combination of technical and sporting regulations used during this season prompted many complaints about safety before and during the season. The season saw two fatalities and many serious and violent accidents. Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve was killed in an accident during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder after hitting the March car of Jochen Mass. Italian driver Riccardo Paletti died at the Canadian Grand Prix when his Osella car hit the back of Didier Pironi's stalled car at the start of the race. Pironi, who had been Villeneuve's teammate, suffered massive injuries to his legs in another qualifying accident at the German Grand Prix and never raced in Formula One again. At the time he was highly likely to win the title, and finished only five points behind eventual champion Rosberg. A crippled Ferrari still held on with Patrick Tambay finishing the season as its lead driver to win the constructors' title in its tragic season.

The season started with a drivers' strike at the first race of the season. Later in the season, the disagreement between the sport's governing body and the teams (known as the FISA–FOCA war) restarted and many of the teams boycotted the San Marino Grand Prix. For the first time since the inception of Formula One more than 30 years earlier, there were no non-Championship races run during 1982. This situation would become permanent from 1984 onward. It was also the only season to host three Grands Prix in the same country (United States): the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, Detroit Grand Prix and United States Grand Prix West.

The 1982 season was the end of an era, in which, since 1950, at least 1 or 2 drivers were killed every year in a Formula One related event. Since 1982, only four drivers have died in Formula One cars: Elio de Angelis in 1986 driving a Brabham during testing at Paul Ricard, Roland Ratzenberger in 1994 during practice for the San Marino Grand Prix, triple world champion Ayrton Senna during the race itself, and Jules Bianchi from injuries sustained during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.



The off season saw rumours of several former champions returning to the sport, but in the end only double world champion Niki Lauda returned to Formula One after an absence of two years to partner John Watson at McLaren. The 1981 Drivers' Champion Nelson Piquet remained at Brabham, partnered by Riccardo Patrese. The Williams team kept Carlos Reutemann, but their 1980 champion Alan Jones retired and was replaced by Finn Keke Rosberg, who had failed to score a single point the previous year with Fittipaldi Automotive. Ferrari and Renault retained their race-winning line ups of Villeneuve and Didier Pironi and Alain Prost and René Arnoux, respectively.


The two main technological themes of the 1982 season were turbocharging and ground effect. The large automotive manufacturers could afford to develop the expensive new technology of turbocharging, which offered a significant power advantage over naturally aspirated engines. However, turbocharged engines were heavy and initially suffered from turbo lag, a delay between the operation of the throttle and the delivery of the extra power generated by the turbo. The Renault and Ferrari factory teams, together with the small privateer Toleman team, were the only ones to use turbocharged engines throughout the 1982 season. The other two manufacturer teams used V12 atmospheric engines, which all other things being equal are more powerful than a V8 engine of the same capacity. Alfa Romeo were developing their own turbo engine, but for 1982 they retained what motorsport writer Doug Nye has called the most powerful 3-litre F1 engine seen at that time, with 548 bhp. The French Talbot-Ligier team used Matra's less powerful V12 engine. Brabham also had a foot in the turbo camp, as they had been developing a car powered by a BMW turbocharged engine since the previous year, but at the start of the year mainly relied on their older car powered by the naturally aspirated Cosworth DFV engine.

Britain's specialist race car manufacturers had been following a different technical route, using the less powerful but compact, reliable and widely available Cosworth and focussing on the effectiveness of the chassis. The Lotus team had introduced aerodynamic ground effect with their Lotus 78 in 1978, and rapid progress had been made by others like Williams, McLaren and Brabham in exploiting it more and more effectively. The DFV, and the introduction by McLaren and Lotus of cars built largely from carbon-fibre composites, allowed the teams to create very light cars. Several of the DFV teams felt that the turbo cars had an "unfair" advantage and sought a further weight reduction to equalise performance. The Formula One regulations stated that the weight of the cars must be at least 580 kg including lubricants and coolants. Working within the letter of the regulations, some teams fitted their cars with large water tanks, ostensibly for "water-cooled brakes". In practice, the water was dumped early in the race, allowing the cars to race as much as 50 kg underweight. The regulations stated that the water could be topped up again at the end of the race, before the weight was checked.

For the 1982 season, the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), motorsport's world governing body, abandoned the previous year's minimum ride height rule. However, the rules now required that the 'sliding skirts' around the edge of the car be fixed and remain rigid; teams had previously used an almost immovable suspension setup to allow the skirts to consistently seal the low pressure area under the cars. This made the cars depend entirely on their aerodynamic downforce, whilst having the adverse effect of the chassis bouncing up and down all the time. The subsequent excessive g-forces were difficult for drivers to endure, and as a result the cars were extremely unpleasant to drive; 1978 world champion Mario Andretti cited them as one of the reasons he left F1 at the end of 1981, whilst several other drivers complained of medical problems. Ground effect would be banned completely for 1983.

Sporting regulations

The new rules for the season included an increase in the number of cars permitted to enter a Grand Prix from 30 to 34, and the number of starters from 24 to 26. To avoid having all 34 cars on the track at one time, a pre-qualifying session was introduced in which the three teams with the poorest record in the previous year would compete to be allowed into qualification proper. Three companies, Goodyear, Michelin and Avon supplied tyres, including special qualifying tyres, which provided much increased levels of grip during the qualification sessions that determined the starting order for the race. For the first time the number of tyres permitted for qualification was limited, creating a situation which Villeneuve thought "...unnecessarily dangerous. If I have only two chances to set a time, I need a clear track, OK? If it isn't clear, if there's someone in my way, I just have to hope he's looking in his mirrors — I mean, I can't lift, because this is my last chance."


The Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) and FISA had been in dispute over the control of the sport since 1979. The worst period of the disagreement (known as the FISA–FOCA war) had ended in 1981 with the signing of the Concorde Agreement. FOCA consisted of the major British teams, while the manufacturer teams (Renault, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Talbot-Ligier), together with Italian team Osella and Toleman were aligned with FISA. The 1982 season had an unusually large number of teams representing major motor manufacturers, with Alfa Romeo and Talbot represented as well as Renault and Ferrari.


The early races of the season were disrupted by politics. At the first race of the season, the South African Grand Prix, Niki Lauda led a drivers' strike against the "superlicences", newly required for participation in the championship, which included clauses that Lauda believed would unfairly tie drivers to their teams. Most of the drivers locked themselves in a conference room overnight before agreement was reached that the relevant clauses could be re-visited and the race was reinstated. The six factory turbocharged cars, including the Brabham-BMWs on this occasion, had their inherent power advantage exaggerated by the low air density at the high altitude Kyalami circuit and took the first six places on the grid. Alain Prost won the race in his Renault. Despite the pre-race agreement, the race stewards issued a statement during the race indicating that the licences of those drivers who had taken part in the strike were suspended.

The striking drivers were eventually fined $5,000 each and given a one race ban, suspended for six months, but the process of reaching this compromise position took several weeks and contributed to the cancellation of that year's Argentine Grand Prix, due to be the second race of the year. The Brazilian and United States West Grands Prix were both won by DFV-powered cars, and both results were protested by the Ferrari and Renault teams, on the grounds that the leading DFV teams were competing with underweight cars thanks to their water-cooled brakes. The stewards in Brazil ruled that the Piquet's winning Brabham and Rosberg's second-placed Williams were illegal, but their counterparts in the US rejected the same claim against Niki Lauda's McLaren and Rosberg's Williams, although they did uphold the Tyrrell team's protest against Ferrari's use of two rear wings and disqualified Villeneuve. The appeal process meant that the result of the protest would not be known for another month.

On 19 April, the FIA tribunal found in favour of Ferrari and Renault's protest of the Brazilian Grand Prix result. Piquet and Rosberg were disqualified and Prost was awarded the win. The other finishers, including some like title contender John Watson who had also been racing underweight, but had not been protested, were moved up the results accordingly. This gave Prost the lead in the world championship, with 18 points to Lauda's 12 and Rosberg and Watson's 8. The tribunal also ruled that after future races, all cars must be weighed before liquids were topped up. The FOCA teams requested a postponement of the next race, the San Marino Grand Prix, until July to allow consideration of the effects of the judgement, on the grounds that it changed the regulations of the sport. The race organisers refused to delay the race, which went ahead without the majority of the FOCA teams.

Villeneuve and Pironi

Only 14 cars competed at the San Marino Grand Prix because of the FOCA boycott, leaving the Ferraris to compete with the Renaults until both French cars broke down. By lap 45, Villeneuve and Pironi were contesting the lead, with Villeneuve in front, when their Ferrari team signalled them to slow down. Villeneuve did so and was passed by his team-mate; they swapped the lead again several times before Pironi passed Villeneuve on the final lap for the win. After the race, Villeneuve said that the "Slow" sign at Ferrari had always previously meant that the drivers should hold their positions, adding "People seem to think we had the battle of our lives! [...] I was coasting those last 15 laps."; Pironi said that "The 'Slow' sign means only to use your head [... not that] if you think you can win, don't do it." In an interview the following week, Villeneuve said that he would never speak to Pironi again.

Two weeks later, Villeneuve died after an accident during the final qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. Bamsey and Lang write that he was trying to beat Pironi's time, while Ferrari race engineer Mauro Forghieri says that the Canadian was returning to the pits and would not therefore have set a lap time. Villeneuve caught Jochen Mass travelling much more slowly through a left-handed bend and moved to the right to pass him at the same instant that Mass also moved right to let Villeneuve through on the racing line. The two collided and Villeneuve was thrown out of his disintegrating car. He died of a fractured neck in a local hospital at 9:12 that evening. Ferrari withdrew from the race, which John Watson won for McLaren. His team-mate Lauda was disqualified after the race for an underweight car. The results were dominated by the returning FOCA teams; even the only turbo-engined finisher, Piquet's Brabham-BMW, was from their number.

Roebuck writes that the next race, the Monaco Grand Prix, "was a sombre, edgy place [...] the sense of [Villeneuve's] absence was overwhelming": the Canadian had lived in the principality and had won the previous year's race. In the race itself Arnoux led early before spinning off, handing the lead to his Renault teammate Prost. Prost built up a massive lead, but a light rain shower in the closing laps triggered a chaotic finish. Prost crashed out, handing the lead to Patrese. Patrese spun on the penultimate lap and stalled, allowing Pironi into the lead, followed by de Cesaris. On the final lap Pironi, de Cesaris, and Derek Daly all dropped out while in potential race winning positions. Meanwhile, Patrese bump-started his car by coasting down a hill, completed the final two laps, and took his first career victory. Pironi was classified second, despite running out of fuel and stopping on the last lap. After the race, Prost, who had scored no points since the Brazilian Grand Prix in March, led the championship by one point from Watson and two points from Pironi.

North American tour

Formula One returned to North America for the Detroit Grand Prix, where Watson won again, this time from 17th place on the grid, to take the championship lead. Tragedy struck again in Canada. Pironi qualified on pole, but stalled at the start. His stationary car was hit by the Osella of young Italian Riccardo Paletti, who was killed in the impact and resultant fire. Piquet won the restarted race. Pironi came back to take a dominant victory in the Netherlands, where Arnoux was lucky to escape uninjured from a massive crash after his Renault's throttle stuck open.

Back to Europe

Lauda won in Britain, but the real star of the race was Derek Warwick, who hustled the unfancied Toleman into second place late in the race and was closing on Lauda before the car broke down. The next race at Le Castellet's Circuit Paul Ricard saw Frenchman Arnoux take victory in his French Renault, which was popular with the crowd but not with the team, as Arnoux was supposed to give the win to teammate Prost to help the latter's championship cause. But that was a race that saw 4 French drivers finish in the top 4 (Arnoux, Prost, Pironi and Patrick Tambay) and German driver Jochen Mass immediately retire from F1 after a near-catastrophic accident with Mauro Baldi at Signes, the fast corner after the long Mistral straight. Mass's car touched Baldi's, both went off the track and Mass hit the barrier and was then catapulted into grandstands full of people. As it was, Pironi seemed poised to run away with the title, but his quest was ended prematurely at the next race in Germany. During a wet qualifying session, Pironi plowed into the back of Prost's Renault. The Ferrari was launched into the air in an eerily similar accident to the one that killed Villeneuve. Pironi was not thrown from the car, but suffered career-ending leg injuries. Pironi's crash was so bad that FIA doctor Sid Watkins had considered amputating Pironi's legs to remove him from the wrecked Ferrari, which never happened. Ferrari chose to compete in the next day's race, and Patrick Tambay (who Ferrari had picked to replace Villeneuve) took a somber win after Piquet crashed out of the lead while lapping Eliseo Salazar (Piquet famously punched Salazar for his trouble).

Rosberg wins

Elio de Angelis scored his first win in Austria, as Rosberg's last-lap lunge for the win came up 0.050 seconds short. However, Rosberg was not to be denied at the next race, a second French round in Dijon-Prenois named the 'Grand Prix of Switzerland' (because motor racing was prohibited in Switzerland at the time, many Swiss automobile clubs raced in Dijon). After toiling in the mid-field for the first half of the race, the Finn went on a charge and was on Prost's tail on the penultimate lap. Rosberg passed Prost on the last lap and held the lead for the remainder of it.

Suddenly, Rosberg (who had scored zero points the previous season) was leading the championship. He duly held onto that lead in Italy (where Arnoux beat the two Ferraris) and in the final round at Las Vegas (where Alboreto took an unlikely win) to become the first Finnish World Champion.

Calendar changes

  • The Argentine Grand Prix was originally scheduled to be held on March 7 at Buenos Aires, but was cancelled less than a month before it was due to take place due to sponsors backing out of the Argentine event thanks to the political repercussions of the South African Grand Prix.
  • World Drivers' Championship final standings

    Championship points were awarded on a 9–6–4–3–2–1 basis to the top six finishers in each race.

    Constructors' Championship final standings

    Championship points were awarded on a 9–6–4–3–2–1 basis to the top six finishers in each race.


    1982 Formula One season Wikipedia

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