Having six different winners in the first six races of an F1 season is unique, but in 1982 there were 11. Let's remind ourselves about that spectacular year in motor sport…
The 2012 Formula One season has been full of surprises so far but it still has some way to go to match the madness of 1982. That year there were 11 different winners in a topsy-turvy (and tragic) season.
We ran through the first five winners yesterday and here's the rest…
Winner six: Nelson Piquet (Brabham-BMW)
John Watson took his second victory of the year when the championship paid its first visit to Detroit, but a week later in Montreal it was Nelson Piquet’s turn. Piquet didn't race in Detroit. A crash on Friday and rain on Saturday led to the bizarre situation of the reigning world champion failing to qualify. In Canada, Didier Pironi took Ferrari’s first pole position for over a year but then stalled on the grid. Tragedy struck when his stationary car was hit by rookie Riccardo Paletti, who later died from his injuries.
At the restart, Pironi led away in the spare Ferrari but was caught by the Renaults and Brabhams. Neither Renault finished the race, though, and the Brabhams were already past. It was BMW’s first victory in F1 (Patrese having used a Cosworth engine in Monaco) and the defending champion’s first of the year.
Winner seven: Rene Arnoux (Renault)
Pironi won again at the start of July when the racing returned to Europe for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, and Lauda won two weeks later at Brands Hatch. But Renault finally got their act together at the French Grand Prix with an all French podium, Arnoux leading Prost and Pironi across the line. For once it was the BMW engines that failed rather than Renaults and Arnoux was able to take a simple win.
Winner eight: Patrick Tambay (Ferrari)
Didier Pironi was leading the championship with 39 points, with Watson (30), Prost (25), Lauda (24) and Rosberg (23) behind him. The Ferrari driver underlined his dominance by setting the fastest lap and taking provisional pole position at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. Rain on the Saturday ensured Pironi remained fastest. Unfortunately, the Frenchman took to the wet practice session with new Goodyear rain tyres and was involved in a crash that shattered his legs and effectively ended his career.
The race looked to be going the way of Brabham but Ricardo Patrese sufffered engine failure and Nelson Piquet clipped Eliseo Salazar, leaving the way clear for Patrick Tambay, who had replaced Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari, to take his first F1 victory. Here’s Patrick Tambay passing Rene Arnoux – back when Hockenheim was good.
But really, what you want to see is the fight between Piquet and Salazar.
Winner nine: Elio de Angelis (Lotus-Cosworth)
A week later at the Osterreichring, it was predicted that the turbo’s usual dominance would be amplified by the altitude. Sure enough, the first five places in qualifying were taken by the two Brabham-BMWs, the Renaults and the sole Ferrari of Tambay. In the race, however, the turbo cars seemed cursed. Tambay suffered a puncture at the start, and Prost, Arnoux, Piquet and Patrese all endured engine gremlins. It left the Williams of Keke Rosberg and the Lotus of Elio de Angelis to duke it out for their maiden F1 victory. In the end, de Angelis hung on.
Winner 10: Keke Rosberg (Williams-Cosworth)
Keke Rosberg had to wait only a couple of weeks to add his name to the list of Grand Prix winners. Given the ban in place on motor racing in Switzerland it seemed bizarre to have a Swiss Grand Prix. The name was merely to legitimise a second race in France, this time at Dijon. It was the same old story of fast turbos leading and then expiring and a normally aspirated Cosworth coming through to pick up the pieces. Rosberg had to pass Alain Prost in the penultimate stages which didn’t go down well and no-one bothered to wave the chequered flag for the Finn. With that maiden F1 victory, Rosberg hit the front in the Drivers’ Championship with two races to go.
Winner 11: Michele Alboreto (Tyrrell-Cosworth)
Arnoux won again at Monza, but the highlight had been Mario Andretti stepping in at Ferrari and putting the horse on pole. Perhaps more crucial was Prost retiring from the race with a fuel injection problem and John Watson only managing fourth. With Pironi out of action, the only man able to catch Rosberg in the final round of 1982 was Watson. He needed to win and hope that Rosberg didn’t score. If tied on points, Watson would've taken the Championship by virtue of his three victories to Rosberg’s one.
The third visit of the year to the US was also the last time F1 would race in a Las Vegas parking lot. Renault duly took their sixth front-row lockout of the year but behind them and enjoying Tyrrell’s best qualifying performance of the decade was Michele Alboreto. It was Arnoux’s turn to suffer Renault engine failure and Prost’s car struggled with heavy vibration, allowing Alboreto to sweep past. Watson eventually climbed to second from ninth, but it was Rosberg who took the overall crown by coming home fifth.
And there it is: a mixed-up season in which Rosberg takes his debut win and, despite not triumphing again, has enough good finishes to win the title. We’ll never see anything like it again.