On This Day in #F1: 27th March 1983 – Watson wins from 22nd on the grid


Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: The Grumpy Jackal

Nigel Mansell won the 1989 Hungarian GP from 12th on the starting grid. Fernando Alonso won the 2012 Valencia GP from 12th also. Not impressed yet? Okay, how about Michael Schuamcher winning the 1995 Belgian GP from 16th or Kimi Rakkonen winning in Japan from 17th on the grid in 2005? Still nothing…? Jeez, tough crowd…

On this day Mclaren – having qualified 22nd and 23rd for the Long Beach Grand Prix – came through to record an incredible 1-2 finish.


During qualifying Patrick Tambay had qualified the Ferrari 126 C2/B on pole position with a time of 1’26.117 – whereas the time set by John Watson was 1’30.100 (+3.983) and Niki Lauda on 1’30.188 (+4.071). One thing that is important to realise – these were genuine qualifying times and not because they were rain affected – merely tyre limited..

From the start, Tambay led away but Rosberg elbowed his way past Arnoux to grab second place as his naturally aspirated engine responded quicker than the turbo engined Ferrari. Before the end of the first lap the reigning World Champion had clumsily spun in his attempt to take the lead.

On lap 26 Rosberg tried to grab the lead, misjudged it and rammed Tambay – obviously not one of the Finn’s better performances.

Screen shot 2015-03-27 at 09.17.32

With all this clumsy driving on display everyone had missed the unrelenting progression of the Mclaren cars as they worked their way to the front.

On lap 33 Watson passed Lauda for third position: “At the start of the race, Niki was just ahead of me, and every time he made a pass I made sure I doppelganged him. About half way through I decided it was a race I was going to win, and I went for it.

“One of the brakes grabbed as I dived inside him, and my car sort of lurched towards his, which he took as an aggressive move, but it wasn’t, it was just the uneven surface. And that was it – we went on to finish one-two.”

The Mclaren duo closed the 20 second gap to Patrese and overtook him when he went up an escape road as he attempted to pass Laffite for the lead. On lap 45 they passed Laffite and pulled away to finish 1-2.

John Watson had always been renowned for being a great racer – he’d won a similar race in Detroit in 1982 starting from 17th on the grid – but here in Long Beach he won from the farthest anybody has ever won a Grand Prix.

Watson: “The reason we qualified so far back was that the Michelin tyres we were using at the time were more biased towards the turbo-charged cars, particularly the Renaults with their extra power and, especially, weight.”

“Our car had the normally aspirated Cosworth engine, and it was very easy on the tyres in low-fuel configuration, so we weren’t able to make use of the qualifying tyre and there were long faces all round after we qualified outside the top 20.”

“But when we put full fuel in it added weight, and the extra energy going through the tyres put heat into them, and the qualities of the car became apparent. Throughout my career, I understood the philosophy of the overtake – you get inside someone’s head, you bully them, do lots of things to make them think you’ll pass them.”


2 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 27th March 1983 – Watson wins from 22nd on the grid

  1. What a shame he won. Never, ever, missed this guy.
    A typical example of the older I get the better i was……..

  2. ‘Before the end of the first lap the reigning World Champion had clumsily spun in his attempt to take the lead.’

    More than made amends with arguably the greatest save of all time.

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