Street Fighters – Rosberg vs Senna as Lauda bows out in Oz ’85
Most street circuits exist because the organisers want a venue that looks pretty on TV, or because they want something different. But the Adelaide Street Circuit existed simply because it was a really good race track.
The circuit is loved by F1 fans world wide and there are plenty of South Australians who’d want to see the Grand Prix return to their State, maybe Liberty Media might cast a glance back to this memorable place?
The first Australian Grand Prix was held at the circuit in 1985, and it was everything a street circuit should be. The usual 90-degree corners were offset by a wide variety of fast and slow corners, and overtaking was never a problem. Many a sad, salty tear was shed when the race moved to Melbourne in 1996 but perhaps the most memorable race down under was that first race in 1985 when the 1100bhp turbo’s were loud, thirsty and the cars looked epically cool.
The driver’s championship had already been settled prior to the first Formula One Australian Grand Prix in 1985, with McLaren’s Alain Prost a comfortable winner. It was a changing of the guard in Formula One, with Prost’s McLaren team-mate, 1984 champion Niki Lauda lining up to compete in the final Grand Prix of his illustrious career. In qualifying, Ayrton Senna grabbed his seventh pole position of the season for Lotus ahead of the Williams duo of Nigel Mansell and Keke Rosberg, followed by world champion Prost, while Lauda would have to settle for sixteenth place on the grid. In a race held around the streets of Adelaide in 35oC heat the mechanical limits of the cars would be put to the test, and not many would survive intact.
As the lights went green Mansell outgunned a slow starting Senna, but Senna was in determined mood, and the pair soon discovered two into one won’t go, with Senna running Mansell wide as he tried to regain his spot, the resulting contact leaving Mansell out of the race, while Rosberg was able to take advantage of Senna’s lost momentum to nick through into the lead. Rosberg fended off the early attentions of Senna to open a sizeable lead while Senna dropped back to conserve his tyres. Alain Prost’s season ended early when his TAG engine cried enough early on, and Senna began to eat into Rosberg’s lead, flinging his black Lotus at the kerbs agressively as he looked to close the gap.
The Lotus caught right up to the tail of the Williams, right up, the pair tangling as Rosberg slowed suddenly to enter the pits. Rosberg survived unscathed but Senna was caught out, his Lotus clipping the back of the slowing Williams and damaging its front wing. Having just passed the pit entrance, Senna was forced to tour around in his damaged Lotus, losing time as he ran wide around the kerbs as he looked to bring the car all the way back around to the pits, but disaster struck as he approached the entrance to the pits, Senna losing control of the Lotus and running wide off the track onto the dirt, further damaging the Lotus and crucially causing Senna to miss the pit entrance, meaning a further lap in the damaged Lotus before he could get back to the pits, with Rosberg cruising passed him to compound his misery as he finally made it into the pits.
Rosberg looked safe for the win then, but a slow pit stop would drop him back behind Senna and Niki Lauda. Senna had charged back from his earlier trouble to take the second place from Lauda, who had driven a steady race to make up ground while others around him had faltered. Second became first after Rosberg’s pit trouble, but Senna was once again struggling with his tyres, and Lauda, in his final F1 race, retook the position from Senna on the straight to lead the Grand Prix. Niki’s hopes of a victorious end to his career were dashed soon after as he was spun out of the lead at the end of the straight, his brakes crying enough and pitching his McLaren into a slow slide, brushing against the barriers.
Senna now lead again from a charging Rosberg, who had closed right up to the back of the Lotus on his fresher tyres, but we were denied a further duel between the two when Senna’s Renault engine gave up the ghost, Senna’s arm aloft in the cockpit to signal the failure as his Lotus slowed while Rosberg burst past. Rosberg now had the luxury of being able to make a precautionary stop for tyres on his way to victory in his final outing for Williams in what would also prove to be the final Grand Prix win of his career. There was to be final drama as the two Ligier’s of Jacques Laffite and Philippe Streiff collided on the penultimate lap while battling over second place, Streiff had been putting pressure on Laffite, and seemed to think Laffite was leaving him through at the end of the straight, only to hammer into the back of the sister Ligier as Laffite took his normal line into the corner! The French outfit were lucky that both cars managed to survive (more or less) to take the final two podium positions, Streiff’s front left tyre bobbling in the air as he limped home with a broken front suspension. The Australian Grand Prix had truly arrived on the F1 scene, and we discovered it’s always exciting in Australia!