The 1984 Belgian Grand Prix, officially known as the XLII Grote Prijs van België, was the third round of the 1984 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Circuit Zolder on the 29 April 1984. The race would see Michele Alboreto claim a surprisingly dominant victory for Ferrari, in a Grand Prix that would be dictated by tyres.
Indeed, it was Goodyear who really won the battle in Belgium, with Alboreto and René Arnoux securing a front-row lockout for the Goodyear shod Ferraris in qualifying. Keke Rosberg was next in the similarly rubbered Williams-Renault, while Derek Warwick was the best non-Goodyear qualifier in fourth.
The start would see Alboreto make a clean getaway, leaving Arnoux to unsuccessfully fend off Warwick into the first corner. Rosberg, meanwhile, would make a mess of his start and hence dropped down the field, while Manfred Winkelhock shot into fourth in his ATS-BMW.
Alboreto would slowly inch clear of Warwick in the early stages of the race, while the Brit established himself in a clear second. Arnoux was hence left to fend off a charging pack of Winkelhock, Elio de Angelis and Riccardo Patrese, while Alain Prost closed in with the McLaren-TAG.
Yet, the order would remain fairly stable barring retirements, with Prost only managing to get ahead of de Angelis before an electrical failure ended his race. Nelson Piquet would then become the centre of attention, passing de Angelis and Winkelhock, with Alboreto, Warwick and Arnoux pulled clear at the head of the field.
The pitstops came and went without major change to the order, although a non-stopping Piquet would jump ahead of Arnoux. The rest of the afternoon would see the Frenchman slowly close onto the back of the Brabham-BMW for third, as various retirements thinned the field behind.
Ultimately, Piquet's engine would falter before Arnoux could challenge him, leaving the Frenchman clear to claim a lonely third. Out front, meanwhile, Alboreto was left to cruise home to record a dominant victory ahead of Warwick, having lapped everyone bar the top three. Elsewhere, Rosberg was classified in fourth despite running out of fuel on the final tour, while de Angelis and Stefan Bellof collected the remaining points.
After the trail run at the revised Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps back in 1983, the Belgian Grand Prix returned to Zolder in 1984, with the circuit hosting it's first major event since the death of Gilles Villeneuve in 1982. Indeed, while a rather unflattering monument to the Canadian ace had been erected by the pits, the owners of the little Zolder circuit had thrown millions of pounds at revamping the circuit, designed to appease both FOCA and FISA on their latest safety crusade. Ultimately it was Zolder's financial clout, rather than passion for Spa, that would see the Belgian Grand Prix return to the Circuit, although it was clear that the teams would prefer to see Spa on the 1985 calendar.
Into the entry list and there were no major changes to the overall picture following the South African Grand Prix, although there was one brand-new car making its debut. Indeed, Arrows had finally decided to debut their new BMW engined A7 to replace their Ford Cosworth powered A6s, with two examples given to their main pay driver Thierry Boutsen. The new A7 was, however, largely based on its predecessor barring a revised rear-end to accommodate the smaller BMW L4 engine, with two A6s prepared for second driver Marc Surer effectively allowing the team to evaluate the two designs side-by-side.
Elsewhere, Brabham-BMW had completed a new BT53 for lead driver Nelson Piquet, with his old car serving as the spare. Indeed, the Brabham team had a cunning plan for the Piquet's old car, which was stripped of all of the on-board equipment required for pitstops, including on-board air jacks, effectively making it a "sprint car" for Piquet to use in the hunt for pole. Teammate Teo Fabi, meanwhile, would use his usual charger, although it had been given a new chassis number after a rebuild. The third BMW powered crew in the field, ATS, also made the trip to Zolder, with Manfred Winkelhock listed as their driver as usual.
Tyrrell, meanwhile, had no changes to their line-up, with three 012s prepared for their duo, Martin Brundle and Stefan Bellof. Williams-Honda, meanwhile, had decided to innovate during the break between the trip to Kyalami and Zolder, with an experimental pit-to-car radio system installed in a new FW09 which was to serve as the spare. Keke Rosberg was given priority of the spare ahead of teammate Jacques Laffite, although both were still unsatisfied with the inherent understeer that the FW09 design seemed to generate.
Over at McLaren-TAG it was business as usual, with the same three chassis used in South African and Brazil shipped back to Europe for the start of the European tour. Indeed, both Alain Prost and Niki Lauda were satisfied with the new car, which had taken two dominant victories at the opening two rounds. In terms of entries the original car was listed as Lauda's, Prost would have the second, while the newest of the MP2/4s served as a communal spare.
Into the Renault powered section of the field and the factory squad had built a new car, which was handed to lead driver Patrick Tambay as his new race car. To make up for this, Derek Warwick was given some new carbon brakes to test at Zolder, although the Brit would ultimately settle for a more normal setup on his car. Indeed, his RE50, as well as Tambay's old racer, were identical to how they had been in South Africa, with the Frenchman's new charge also matching their specification.
Elsewhere Lotus were satisfied with their switch to Renault power, with the 95T proving quick enough over one lap to allow Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis to challenge for pole. Likewise, Ligier were more than happy with their own swap to French turbos, although they were not enjoying the qualifying success that the Hethel squad had seen. Indeed, the French squad had opted to build a new car for Andrea de Cesaris ahead of the Zolder race, while the rookie François Hesnault used the JS23 he had been given at the start of the season.
Another engine manufacturer supplying multiple teams were Hart, with their lead effort being the Toleman squad and their TG183Bs. Indeed, the Toleman team were set to debut their newest creation, the TG184, although after a test conducted by lead driver Ayrton Senna after the race at Kyalami, the team decided to push the new car's debut back a few weeks. That would rather upset the young Brazilian ace, who felt that the new car was a vast improvement on the old design, while Johnny Cecotto continued to use his TG183B without issue.
Elsewhere, RAM had a new 02 chassis prepared, meaning Jonathan Palmer was finally able to sample a RAM purpose built for their supply of Hart engines. That also brought him on par with teammate Philippe Alliot, who had had the original 02 since the start of the season, leaving Palmer's old "01B" as a communal spare. The third Hart team were Spirit, who had a new car for Mauro Baldi to try as the Italian tried his best to keep funding his seat with sponsor money.
Over at Alfa Romeo it was effectively business as usual, with no changes required for Eddie Cheever nor Riccardo Patrese. However, Signor Pavanello's squad were still pushing, and so arrived in Zolder with a new 184T for Cheever, while his old car became the team's spare. Their engine customers Osella, meanwhile, had been forced to build a new car to replace the FA1F that Piercarlo Ghinzani had destroyed at Kyalami, with the Italian racer himself deemed fit enough to take part.
Completing the entry would be the two scarlet Ferraris of Michele Alboreto and René Arnoux, with the Scuderia enduring a very quiet start to their season. As such, Ferrari would build a new 128C4 for Alboreto to use in hopes of improving their fortunes, with modifications made to the exhaust system, as well as the intakes for the turbocharger. Arnoux, meanwhile, would continue to use the car he had campaigned in since the start of the season, while Alboreto's old 128C4 was turned into the new "muletta", freeing the oldest 128C4 to go testing.
Into the Championship and it was Prost who led after the opening two rounds, having been the only man in the field to register a points finish in both South Africa and Brazil. His South Africa race winning teammate Lauda had moved into second last time out, with Rosberg completing the early top three ahead of the European season. Behind the Finn came de Angelis and Warwick, tied on four points, while Senna had registered his maiden points finish of the season at Kyalami.
In the Manufacturers' Championship it was already looking like a season of McLaren-TAG dominance, for the Anglo-German squad were eighteen points clear of the rest of the field upon arrival at Zolder. Second was split between Williams-Honda, Renault and Alfa Romeo, with the Anglo-Japanese squad ahead on count back, while Team Lotus-Renault had slipped to fifth in South Africa. Ligier-Renault were next ahead of Arrows-Ford Cosworth, while Toleman-Hart were the only other scorers.
The full entry list for the 1984 Belgian Grand Prix is shown below:
Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix of 1984 would follow the conventional format, with four sessions split across Friday and Saturday. The morning of both days would be dedicated to race practice, leaving both afternoons free to set the grid, with three hours of time set aside to do so. As for a target time the top teams would be aiming to beat the old qualifying record, a 1:15.701 set by Alain Prost in the days of ground effect in 1982.
Circuit Zolder had, historically, been dominated by a cars ability to brake, with the stress of stopping a car over a dozen times, frequently at speeds over 170 mph, causing countless issues across a race weekend. However, in 1984 it would be engines that instead caused the headaches, with the sight of a car billowing white smoke from an exhaust a near constant throughout the opening qualifying session. Indeed, the only manufacturers not to hit trouble on Friday were Ferrari and Renault, although the Italian firm opted not to show their hand.
Ultimately it was the yellow Renault of Derek Warwick that ended the opening day at the head of the field, a 1:16.311 the result of a clean day as his V6t ran faultlessly. Alain Prost, meanwhile, would grab second on the provisional grid with a 1:16.587, although his TAG engined McLaren was not running remotely well come the end of the day. Nelson Piquet, meanwhile, would power his Brabham-BMW around to third, before he detonated his engine, with the two Lotus-Renaults next in the 1:17.000s.
Elsewhere, Keke Rosberg saw his running ended early when his Honda engined decided to release all of its oil, with the white Williams returning to the pits with a completely black rear-end. Niki Lauda, meanwhile, would see the back of his McLaren charred by an engine failure, although the car was able to be repaired overnight. Piquet's teammate Teo Fabi, meanwhile, would chew through two engines before the session was out, while Patrick Tambay was left to rue a gearbox issue that left him in the pits for most of the afternoon.
Friday night allowed the teams to regroup and rebuild, with everyone in the field appearing with shiny new engines to complete the battle for pole. However, within moments of the session getting underway one of the pre-race favourites would go out, with the sight of a Brabham trailing white smoke and flames heralding the first failure of the day. The victim proved to be Piquet in the #1 car, with a quick examination of the car revealing that the crankshaft had punched a hole through the side of the block.
Piquet was not the only one to suffer, however, for Lauda would also suffer an engine failure during the session, leaving him in the midfield. Likewise, the lone Spirit of Mauro Baldi would also destroy an engine, while Philippe Alliot failed to set a representative lap at all in his RAM before his Hart engine destroyed itself. That, ultimately, gifted teammate Jonathan Palmer the final spot on the grid, with the Brit overcoming the Frenchman's time late on to qualify twenty-sixth and last.
At the head of the field, meanwhile, it looked for a long time as if Warwick would grab pole, for his early effort of 1:15.611 would go unchallenged throughout the day. That was, until Rosberg managed to set a flying lap without destroying his Honda engine, with the Finn flashing around the Zolder circuit to claim a 1:15.414. However, his time would instantly be supplanted by that of René Arnoux, claiming a 1:15.398, before everyone was humbled by Michele Alboreto in the sister Ferrari.
Indeed, Alboreto would only show his hand in the closing minutes of the session, and duly danced his Ferrari around the circuit to record a stunning effort of 1:14.846, a full half second faster than Arnoux. Time, and ultimately mechanical fatigue, would deny anyone from challenging, although Manfred Winkelhock put in an admirable performance to claim fifth in the ATS-BMW, beating a lot of well established team and driver combinations. Other highlights saw the two Tyrrells beat a handful of cars in-spite of their under-powered, but reliable, Ford Cosworth V8s, while Johnny Cecotto unexpectedly out-qualified teammate Ayrton Senna in their Toleman-Harts, although the Brazilian was quick to deflect the blame onto his Pirelli tyres.
The full qualifying results for the 1984 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Renault||1:17.705T||1:15.979||+1.133s|
|7||22||Riccardo Patrese||Alfa Romeo||1:18.052||1:16.431||+1.585s|
|11||23||Eddie Cheever||Alfa Romeo||1:18.401||1:16.746||+1.900s|
|13||26||Andrea de Cesaris||Ligier-Renault||1:18.239||1:17.471||+2.625s|
|20||24||Piercarlo Ghinzani||Osella-Alfa Romeo||1:21.432||1:19.734||+4.888s|
|21||4||Stefan Bellof||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:21.003||1:19.811||+4.965s|
|22||3||Martin Brundle||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:20.527T||1:20.123||+5.277s|
|24||17||Marc Surer||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:20.615||1:21.088||+5.769s|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
|Elio de Angelis||6|
|Andrea de Cesaris||14|
Raceday dawned with a surprising serenity in the pits, despite the fact that most mechanics had worked throughout the night to replace engines, gearboxes and other equipment after the taking qualifying sessions. The warm-up would pass without major issue, although Johnny Cecotto and Mauro Baldi were forced to swap to their spare cars, before the top six drivers in the Championship completed a private parade lap at the behest of FISA. There was almost an accident when Derek Warwick and Elio de Angelis tried a drag race against each other, only for Niki Lauda to sweep in front of them, although they all managed to make it to the grid.
With that, and the formation lap, the field were ready to go, with starting official Derek Ongaro switching the lights to green without any issues. The two Ferraris instantly surged into the lead from the front row, Michele Alboreto ahead of René Arnoux, although they were about to be scythed apart by a charging Warwick into the first corner. Rosberg, meanwhile, made a mess of his getaway and so tumbled down the order, while Manfred Winkelhock blasted ahead of Elio de Angelis to run in fourth.
Out of the first corner it was Alboreto leading from Warwick and Arnoux, with the Italian subsequently easing clear over the course of the opening tour. The top three hence remained unchanged at the end of the first lap, with Winkelhock also holding station in fourth ahead of de Angelis. Elsewhere, Alain Prost and Lauda had made next to no progress, while Rosberg completed the lap in 21st place.
Yet, the Finn was the man to watch during the early stages, for the top four simply pulled away from the rest of the field, while Alboreto eased clear of second placed Warwick. Rosberg, meanwhile, would scrap his way through the lower-end of the field, moving through to fifteenth with a series of excellent dives into turn one. de Angelis, meanwhile, would fight hard to hold fifth from Prost and Nelson Piquet, although he would have to relent to former after a few intense laps.
Yet, Prost's race was to end moments after he passed the Lotus-Renault, for an oil leak would short the electrics on the McLaren, before igniting on the hot exhaust. Fortunately the Frenchman had already stepped clear of the white-red car before the TAG engine ignited itself, although he was less than impressed with the situation. On track, meanwhile, Piquet would continue to harass de Angelis, and duly eased ahead on lap nine as Prost returned to the pits on foot.
Prost was not the only one to head back to the paddock without his F1 car, for the field was being thinned rapidly by mechanical fatigue. Indeed, Johnny Cecotto had been the first casualty of the day, his Toleman-Hart succumbing to a slipping clutch, before Piercarlo Ghinzani lost drive in his Osella-Alfa Romeo. An engine failure would also remove Thierry Boutsen from proceedings in the new Arrows-BMW, while Nigel Mansell gave up with a clutch issue that left him to be hounded by the two underpowered Tyrrells.
All this helped Rosberg to climb up into the top ten, with the Finn duly moving through to eighth when teammate Jacques Laffite spun at the chicane after a random power spike from his Honda engine. Two more moves from Rosberg carried the Finn through to sixth, just as the first pit stops of the day were being completed. Indeed, the first to make a "routine" pit stop would be Patrick Tambay, although the Frenchman was suffering from braking issues in his Renault that left him struggling to keep the two Tyrrells at bay.
Arnoux was the first of the leaders to stop, and would only just rejoin before teammate Alboreto could come up to lap him. Warwick, meanwhile, would hold on to second, unable to match the Italian's pace, while Winkelhock was denied a run in third as Piquet caught and passed his ATS-BMW moments before Arnoux stopped. That seemed to dishearten the young German racer, for Rosberg was able to catch and pass the ATS for fourth shortly before half distance.
Half distance was, unsurprisingly, marked with a smoke signal, this one emanating from the back of Lauda's McLaren, the Austrian having blown his fifth TAG engine of the weekend. On track, meanwhile, Rosberg would manage to latch onto the back of Piquet's Brabham-BMW, with the pair almost smashing into Mauro Baldi as they continued to fight while lapping the Spirit. That, ultimately, led to Rosberg emerging with third place, before being promptly promoted to second as Warwick swept into the pits for fresh tyres.
Out front, meanwhile, Alboreto was cruising on towards victory, although he almost threw the win away after sliding off the circuit on lap 36. Yet, he would rejoin and carry on without issue, before sweeping into the pits a few laps later to complete his stop. Such was his advantage over the field that he was able to rejoin without losing the lead, before easing clear of Rosberg as the Finn used up the last of his tyres.
Indeed, a dramatic fall in pace from Rosberg prior to his stop saw him tumble back down the order, slipping behind Warwick, Piquet, de Angelis and Stefan Bellof. Arnoux had also been a big victim during the pit window, with the Frenchman having lost enough time that he was still behind Rosberg when the Finn rejoined. However, the appearance of the Williams in his sights seemed to reinvigorate Arnoux, with the Ferrari suddenly going on the attack.
In the space of two laps Arnoux would pass de Angelis, Bellof and Rosberg, before blasting clear of the group to chase Piquet. Rosberg himself, meanwhile, would eventually make his way past the Lotus and the Tyrrell, before latching onto the back of the Ferrari as it chased after the Brabham. Within five laps Arnoux and Rosberg were with Piquet, and by the end of lap 64 the Brazilian had been dumped down to fifth.
However, moments after passing the blue-white car Arnoux's scarlet Ferrari would go sliding off onto the grass, and would only just manage to scramble back onto the circuit with assistance from the marshals. Piquet, meanwhile, would try his hardest to get back at Rosberg, who had settled for third, only to be flung into the barriers as his BMW engine literally blew itself apart. Fate, however, would not spare the flying Rosberg, with the Finn running out of fuel on the final lap having pushed so hard to get back into the top three.
With that the race was run, with Alboreto cruising home over forty seconds clear of Warwick in second. Rosberg's late retirement saw Arnoux clinch third, the last man on the lead lap, while the Finn himself was classified in fourth ahead of de Angelis. Bellof, meanwhile, was delighted to clinch fifth having harassed the Italian throughout the second half of the race, while Ayrton Senna had a quiet run to seventh in the Toleman.
Several months after the race, however, Bellof would be retroactively disqualified from the results, meaning Senna was officially classified in sixth.
The full results for the 1984 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|4*||6||Keke Rosberg||Williams-Honda||69||Out of fuel||3||3|
|5||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Renault||69||+1 Lap||5||2|
|6||19||Ayrton Senna||Toleman-Hart||68||+2 Laps||19||1|
|7||15||Patrick Tambay||Renault||68||+2 Laps||12|
|8||17||Marc Surer||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||68||+2 Laps||24|
|10||10||Jonathan Palmer||RAM-Hart||64||+4 Laps||26|
|DSQ†||4||Stefan Bellof||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||69||Disqualified||21|
|DSQ†||3||Martin Brundle||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||51||Disqualified||22|
|Ret||26||Andrea de Cesaris||Ligier-Renault||42||Accident||13|
|Ret||8||Niki Lauda||McLaren-TAG||35||Water pump||14|
|Ret||23||Eddie Cheever||Alfa Romeo||28||Engine||11|
|Ret||24||Piercarlo Ghinzani||Osella-Alfa Romeo||14||Transmission||20|
|Ret||22||Riccardo Patrese||Alfa Romeo||2||Ignition||7|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- * Rosberg and Piquet were still classified despite retiring as they had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Brundle and Bellof were retroactively disqualified following the "ban" of the Tyrrell 012 after the 1984 Detroit Grand Prix.
- Tenth and final Belgian Grand Prix to be staged at Circuit Zolder.
- Riccardo Patrese entered his 100th Grand Prix.
- Maiden pole position for Michele Alboreto.
- Third win for Alboreto.
- Ferrari claimed their 89th victory as a constructor and engine supplier.
- Tyrrell set a new record for consecutive disqualifications (3) after Stefan Bellof and Martin Brundle were retroactively removed from the results.
Alain Prost retained the Championship lead despite failing to score in Belgium, although his lead had been cut to five points. Derek Warwick was now his closest challenger, the Brit moving ahead of Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg to claim second. Those two, as well as race winner Michele Alboreto, were tied on nine points, with the Italian ahead on count back.
In the Manufacturers' Championship it was McLaren-TAG who continued to lead the hunt, although their non-score at Zolder had allowed the rest of the field to close up. Indeed, a double podium for Ferrari had seen them shoot up into second having failed to score in the first two races, leaving Belgium eleven off of the Anglo-German squad's lead. Renault were now third, a point behind the Scuderia, while Williams-Honda and Lotus-Renault completed the top five.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
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- F1-history, 'Johnny Cecotto (Belgium 1984)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 09/03/2013), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Johnny-Cecotto-Belgium-1984-358550190, (Accessed 02/02/2019)
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- ' 1984: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), , (Accessed 30/01/2019)
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|V T E||Belgian Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Spa-Francorchamps (1950 - 1970, 1983, 1985 - Present), Nivelles (1972, 1974), Zolder (1973, 1975 - 1982, 1984)|
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