A last-round title decider between two drivers is always a thrill. But 30 years ago a trio of drivers went into the final race in the hunt for the championship.
The 1983 season is usually remembered for the scrap between Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet, Renault and Brabham-BMW. But there was a third driver and team in the mix come the season finale in South Africa.
That was Rene Arnoux, who hit a rich seam of form in the middle of the season in his turbocharged Ferrari.
Arnoux’s win at the Hockenheimring, 30 years ago today, was his second of three that year. It moved him within 14 points of title leader Prost with five races to go (a win was worth nine points at the time).
A win and two second places in the next three rounds left him just two points behind. But his title bid failed as he didn’t score in the final two races.
The two Ferrari 126C3s shared the front row of the grid in Germany, but while Arnoux led team mate Patrick Tambay dropped out early with engine failure. Piquet gave chase of Arnoux later in the race but with five laps to go his BMW engine came to a fiery and embarrassing end on home ground.
That promoted Andrea de Cesaris to second place for Alfa Romeo, which was their best finish in an F1 race for 32 years. Riccardo Patrese salvaged some pride for Brabham with third while Prost was two minutes down in fourth.
Here’s what Arnoux had to say after the race:
Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.
Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.
When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.
The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.
“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.
“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.
“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.
“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”
Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.
“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”