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.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.