Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1983: BMW wins their First F1 World Championship
After the two fatal accidents to Gilles Villeneuve and Ricardo Paletti and the tragic accident suffered by Didier Pironi in 1982, Formula One’s governing body had to implement changes to the cars to slow them down and make them safer. Ground effects were banned and all cars had to have flat bottoms henceforth.
As pictures arrived of the new cars for the 1983 season, it was disappointing to see most cars based on the previous years chassis with rudimentary thought given to their design. The majority had had their side-pods truncated to barely more than stumps in front of the rear wheels whereas others including Renault, McLaren and Lotus still had full side pods.
Slowly, industry whispers gave way to pictures of the Brabham BT52. This was the brainchild of Formula One’s most maverick designer, Gordan Murray, and it took everybody by surprise. Here was a sensational looking car powered by a BMW M12/13 turbocharged engine which produced 850bhp in qualifying and 640bhp for the races. It would run on Michelin tyres and the crisp blue and white livery of title sponsor Parmalat lent it a simple dynamic beauty to its rocket like dimensions.
Brabham had used refuelling as part of their race strategy the previous season, and this was a tactic that was focused on in the design of this car.
Piquet won the season opening Brazilian Grand Prix and scored a further two second places in France and Monaco. By the time the circus arrived in Britain, he had added another two fourth places in Belgium and Detroit. Patrese proved as quick as Piquet but had had a string of retirements in the same period, the most high profile being his crashing whilst leading in Imola.
The BT52 was updated for the British Grand Prix to the BT52B specification. The easiest way to differentiate was the colours had been reversed; it looked even more stunning.
Further chassis enhancements would see little winglets fixed to the sides of the rear wing as pioneered by Ferrari. But of more significance was the introduction of special fuel developed by German company Wintershall which increased the horsepower output and improved reliability simultaneously. Piquet would use the B spec car to score three more podiums and score two decisive victories in Italy and at the European Grand Prix.
Prost had recognised immediately the danger these advancements would have to his title aspirations and he demanded urgent improvements from the Renault team. Despite his best efforts, Renault was an industrial corporation and the company ethos just could not react as quickly as a true racing team. His worst fears came to pass and by the time the Formula One teams arrived in South Africa for the last race of the season, Piquet had 55 points to Prost on 57.
In the race, Piquet opened out a huge margin over the field, but with the retirement of Prost’s Renault, he slowed down and allowed Patrese to take the victory with Andrea De Cesaris in second.