The 1984 French Grand Prix, officially the LXX Grand Prix de France, was the fifth round of the 1984 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Dijon-Prenois circuit on the 20 May 1984. The race would see Niki Lauda sweep to victory for McLaren-TAG, having fought his way to the front from ninth on the grid.
Pole position had instead gone to Patrick Tambay in the #15 Renault, with Elio de Angelis in the similarly engined Lotus in second. Third went to quali and turbo destroying specialist Nelson Piquet in the Brabham-BMW, while Championship leader Alain Prost claimed fifth behind Keke Rosberg's Williams-Honda.
The start would see Piquet scythe past the front row starters off the line, although de Angelis was able to pace him to the first corner. Tambay then came steaming in between them to re-claim the lead, with Piquet dropping to fifth after getting bumped wide by the Renault.
The top five would read as Tambay, de Angelis, Nigel Mansell, Rosberg and Piquet come the end of the opening tour, with the two McLarens next after a mixed start. Yet, it was Prost, not Lauda, who would make the better progress during the early stages of the race, scrapping his way up to third by lap 14.
Lauda would, however, manage to get back on terms with his teammate, and come lap 21 the two McLarens were running second and third having elbowed their way past Mansell. They duly worked together to try and reel in Tambay as the stops loomed, with Tambay and Prost coming in just after half distance, while Lauda stayed out until lap 54.
That fact proved critical to Lauda's race, for he managed to miss the traffic that ultimately cost Prost a points finish. As such, the Austrian was clear to hunt down, catch and pass the Renault as the race came towards in conclusion, with the McLaren-TAG duly disappearing up the road on fresher tyres.
With that the race was run, with Lauda sweeping across the line eight seconds ahead of Tambay, while Mansell ran well to claim third. René Arnoux, meanwhile, would pick his way through to claim fourth ahead of de Angelis, while Prost ran out of time to catch Rosberg in the closing stages having made an additional pit stop.
Less than weeks after the chequered flag fell at the Autodromo Dino Ferrari the class of 1984 would roll into the grounds of the Dijon-Prenois circuit, which was hosting the French Grand Prix for the first time since 1981. Yet, the circuit had hardly faded from F1's collective memory, having hosted the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix, and been used by a few teams to test. As such, there was very little change at the little Dijon circuit, which had been picked by the FIA to celebrate the landmark 70th French Grand Prix.
Into the entry list and the one significant change to the field came in the form of two new cars, both of which were to be found in the garages at Toleman-Hart. Indeed, Ayrton Senna and Johnny Cecotto would be armed with a pair of TG184s for the French Grand Prix, which sported numerous upgrades to the bodywork, suspension and braking systems, all of which had been approved by the aforementioned Senna. Furthermore, the new cars were fitted with Michelin tyres rather than Pirellis, after the relationship between the team and supplier fell apart in Imola. The other Hart powered teams, RAM and Spirit were unchanged as they continued to field Philippe Alliot, Jonathan Palmer and Mauro Baldi between them.
Elsewhere, Osella-Alfa Romeo again arrived with two drivers to support, although whether Jo Gartner would run at all was down to whether teammate Piercarlo Ghinzani required the Austrian's car. The factory Alfa Romeo squad, meanwhile, were unchanged after the battle of San Marino, with Eddie Cheever and Riccardo Patrese in action once again. Indeed, their compliment of T184s were awaiting an update that had been on the drawing board since the flyaway races at the start of the campaign, which was set to appear ahead of the trip to North America.
Arguably the favourites, in terms of the fans, would be the factory Renault squad, which had an unchanged set of RE50s for Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick once again. Likewise, their customers Lotus-Renault had reason to be positive, with Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell hoping that the twisty Dijon circuit would suit the 95Ts handling. Ligier-Renault, meanwhile, were somewhat less optimistic, knowing that their hopes of scoring through Andrea de Cesaris and François Hesnault rested more on luck than outright pace.
Over in the BMW faction, meanwhile, there had been a lot of head scratching, for the Bavarian L4s were proving so prone to failure that none of their teams had managed to score. Indeed, while Nelson Piquet had claimed pole in two of the season's four races, the fact that neither he nor Brabham teammate Teo Fabi could make it to the flag meant that there was little joy in Bernie Ecclestone's squad. There were happier faces at ATS-BMW, for Manfred Winkelhock had been running far higher than expected in recent races, while Arrows put Thierry Boutsen back in their BMW powered A7 after Marc Surer raced it in Imola.
McLaren-TAG, meanwhile, had no major concerns ahead of the French Grand Prix, with lead driver Alain Prost desperate to repeat his performance from San Marino on home soil. Indeed, his biggest potential foe was likely to be teammate Niki Lauda, who was celebrating the tenth anniversary of his maiden triumph back at the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix, with the Austrian keen to show that he was still a potential Champion. Their trio of MP4/2s were unchanged from Imola, with Prost switching back to his registered racer have used the spare across the weekend in San Marino.
Williams-Honda had nothing to show bar a clean set of FW09s after the two week break, although Keke Rosberg and Jacques Laffite were managing to overcome the design's horrendous understeer. Ferrari were likewise unchanged after a fairly disappointing performance on home soil, with René Arnoux and Michele Alboreto keen to use the weather during qualifying as their excuse. Completing the field would be the Ford Cosworth engined Tyrrells of Martin Brundle and Stefan Bellof, with expectations at an all time low once again with their under-powered V8s.
Upon arrival in France it was Prost whom led the Championship hunt having claimed victory in Imola, the Frenchman holding almost double the number of points of closest challenger Warwick. Indeed, the Brit himself was more than a win behind the Frenchman arriving at Dijon, with Arnoux and Angelis a more immediate threat for the Brit. Elsewhere, Alboreto had just held onto a top five spot after his ignimonious Imola exit, and had remained level with Rosberg and Lauda.
McLaren-TAG, meanwhile, had control in the Manufacturers Championship, having rounded out the San Marino weekend with 33 points to their name. Ferrari had remained their closest challengers, but slipped fourteen points behind after Prost's triumph. Renault, meanwhile, had retained third ahead of customers Team Lotus-Renault, with the Hethel based squad themselves having moved into fourth at the expense of Williams-Honda in San Marino.
The full entry list for the 1984 French Grand Prix is shown below:
Qualifying for the 1984 edition of the French Grand Prix would follow the established format, with two qualifying sessions and two practice sessions, split across Friday and Saturday. The mornings of both days would be given over to race practice, leaving the afternoons free to set the grid, with three hours of running for the drivers to do so. In terms of a target time the circuit record of 1:01.380, set by Alain Prost ahead of the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix, was expected to be challenged by the top teams, although the loss of ground-effect meant that it would be a difficult target to achieve.
Home hero Patrick Tambay was the man to emerge on top during the Friday qualifying session, dancing his Renault to provisional pole with a 1:02.200. Indeed, the Frenchman was somewhat fortunate to get pole, for a turbocharger failed moments after recording his pace setting time set the back of his Renault RE50 ablaze. Tambay was hence left at the side of the circuit with twenty minutes to go, although there were no major changes to the order as he walked back to the pits.
Tambay's teammate Derek Warwick, meanwhile, would have his own problems, battling a series of issues in both his race and the spare Renault throughout the day. Fortunately for the Brit he would manage to get a handful of clean laps in, leaving him seventh for Renault's home race. Elsewhere, Elio de Angelis grabbed second in the Renault engined Lotus, having topped the time sheets for the majority of the session with a 1:02.336, while Nelson Piquet grabbed third for Brabham-BMW.
de Angelis' hopes of beating Tambay's effort would be destroyed late on when he took avoiding action to miss the side of Michele Alboreto's Ferrari, ruining his second set of quali-tyres. Teammate Nigel Mansell, meanwhile, was working hard to match the Italian's efforts, although several mistakes, including a half-spin on his fastest lap, ensured that the Brit was almost a second off his teammate's pace in sixth. In between the two Loti would be Keke Rosberg in his Williams-Honda, and Prost in his McLaren-TAG, both having quiet afternoons, although Rosberg was still not happy with the Williams FW09's tendency to understeer.
Elsewhere, Ayrton Senna produced a notable effort in the new Toleman-Hart, grabbing thirteenth ahead of the two Alfa Romeos. The new Arrows-BMW, piloted by Thierry Boutsen, would also get ahead of Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever, while Andrea de Cesaris was up with them in the Ligier. That was, until the Italian's times were removed from the time sheets after post-qualifying scrutineering, which revealed that de Cesaris he run without a full extinguisher.
Ultimately, heavy rain on Saturday ensured that it was Friday's running that set the grid, leaving Tambay on pole from de Angelis, Piquet and Rosberg. On track, meanwhile, it was Mansell who set the pace in the wet, with he and teammate de Angelis the only drivers in the 1:20.000s. Their closest challenger proved to be François Hesnault in the second Ligier, so it came as a huge shock when the French squad withdrew the Frenchman to allow lead driver de Cesaris to start from the back of the grid.
The full qualifying results for the 1984 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||11||Elio de Angelis||Lotus-Renault||1:02.336||1:20.859||+0.136s|
|16||22||Riccardo Patrese||Alfa Romeo||1:06.172||1:28.124||+3.972s|
|17||23||Eddie Cheever||Alfa Romeo||1:06.281||1:23.770||+4.081s|
|20||17||Marc Surer||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:08.457||1:26.943||+6.257s|
|21||4||Stefan Bellof||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:08.608||1:29.539||+6.408s|
|24||3||Martin Brundle||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:09.554||1:28.555||+7.354s|
|26||24||Piercarlo Ghinzani||Osella-Alfa Romeo||1:11.625||1:32.541||+10.431s|
|DNQ†||26||Andrea de Cesaris||Ligier-Renault||—||1:22.388||+20.188s|
|WD||30||Jo Gartner||Osella-Alfa Romeo||Withdrawn|
- 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.
- * Hesenault was withdrawn by Ligier on race morning to allow teammate de Cesaris to start.
- † de Cesaris failed to qualify after having his fastest time deleted for running without a full extinguisher. He would, however, start the race after Hesenault's withdrawal.
|Elio de Angelis||______________|
|Andrea de Cesaris||______________|
Race day dawned overcast and grey, although there was no sign that the heavy rain from Saturday was going to return to the circuit ahead of the Grand Prix itself. The morning warm-up was spent perfecting dry-weather setups, with most of the teams opting to use softer tyres on the right-hand side of their cars, for it was the left set of rubber that got more punishment around Dijon-Prenois. With that all 25 qualifiers, plus Andrea de Cesaris once François Hesnault had officially been withdrawn, lined up to take the start, with Patrick Tambay set to lead them away from pole.
Tambay would, however, start creeping before the starter's lights flashed to green, the result of a minor clutch issue. That prompted Nelson Piquet in third to almost roar away, with the Brazilian subsequently stamping on his brakes to prevent himself jumping the start. Predictably the Brazilian stopped his Brabham-BMW rolling just as the lights duly flashed to green, allowing Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell to pull alongside him on the run to turn one.
Ahead of them, meanwhile, Tambay would just manage to keep Elio de Angelis at bay on the run to the first corner, sweeping to the inside of the right hander to hold his lead. They were chased through by Mansell and Rosberg, who both charged past Piquet into the first corner, with the Brazilian himself in forth. Elsewhere Alain Prost had lost out to Derek Warwick, while Jacques Laffite made such a good start that he slammed into the back of Manfred Winkelhock, smashing his front wing.
The rest of the opening tour resulted in little change, with Tambay still leading from de Angelis, Mansell, Rosberg, Piquet, Warwick and Prost. Michele Alboreto led the next group in the Ferrari, and was already losing ground, with Niki Lauda lining up a move on Winkelhock into the first corner just behind. Ayrton Senna, meanwhile, was up to an impressive eleventh from thirteenth on the grid, while Laffite carried on with his damaged front wing, albeit down in seventeenth.
The early stages saw little action of note, with Tambay easing clear of de Angelis, while Prost moved his way through to fourth with a series of strong moves. In truth, he was to be aided by a sudden loss of pace from Rosberg, whose Williams-Honda was already suffering with a handling issue. He subsequently lost three positions on a single lap, although did not head to the pits to have his issue looked at.
With Prost up to fourth attention focused elsewhere, with René Arnoux and Lauda beginning to pick their way up the order. Both would benefit from an uncharacteristic spin from Alboreto in the Ferrari on lap five, before both blasted past Rosberg unopposed. Lauda then found himself stuck behind Piquet, the Brazilian fighting hard to keep the top three in sight, and so Arnoux was able to catch onto the back of the McLaren-TAG.
However, moments after Arnoux joined their fight Lauda would be able to blast clear, for the back of Piquet's Brabham was to erupt in white smoke on lap twelve. As ever, the BMW's Achilles Heel had proved to be the turbocharger, in spite of a new design having been installed on the cars ahead of the French weekend. Piquet duly coasted back to the pits with the back of the car now aflame, although quick work by his mechanics meant no major damage resulted.
As this was going on for fifth, Prost slipped past Mansell for third, going right around the outside of the Brit through La Fouine. Within a lap he was on the back of the sister Lotus-Renault of de Angelis, while his teammate Lauda charged past Warwick through Villeroy. Two laps later and the Austrian was also past Mansell, copying his dive past Warwick at Villeroy, just as Prost lined up a move on de Angelis for second.
Indeed, it was a move setup through the middle of the lap, with Prost ensuring that de Angelis had to take a compromised line through the final corner to fend off a lunge from the McLaren through Virage de la Combe. The less optimal line meant that de Angelis lacked speed out of the final corner, gifting Prost a chance to pull alongside the Lotus as the hurtled down the start/finish straight. A dart on the brakes for the first corner and the move was done, with Prost duly blasting clear to catch Tambay, who had built a four second lead in the time it had taken the Frenchman to claim second.
Prost quickly ate away at his compatriot's lead, reducing the gap to one second in the space of four laps. As he got within a second of the leader, teammate Lauda swept past de Angelis for third without much issue, although he had been aided by the fact that the Italian had been caught in traffic. It was not long before he too began to close on the leading Tambay, and duly took over the hunt for the Renault a few laps later.
As Lauda began closing in, Prost tried a lunge for the lead into Pouas, only to send himself spinning onto the grass after a lock-up. The Frenchman managed to scramble back onto the circuit and limp back to the pits, where it was found that the left-front brake caliper had worked loose, ensuring that the wheel was loose as well. A quick tighten and swap of tyres and Prost was back underway, albeit having lost over 40 seconds and hence rejoined in eleventh.
Lauda duly hunted down Tambay as Prost charged back up the field, with the pair running nose-to-tail as half distance came and went. Indeed, only a poor run through traffic would keep the McLaren from launching an attack, with Jacques Laffite, Mauro Baldi and Piercarlo Ghinzani all stumbling into Lauda's way at the crucial moment. Yet, on lap 41 Lauda was able to slip through into the lead without issue, for Tambay would slip wide at Gorgeolles with a slight loss of brake pressure, opening the door for Lauda to sweep inside.
Tambay came in to swap his tyres a few laps later, leaving Lauda to push as hard as he could to build a lead. Ultimately, the Austrian would stay out until lap 55, ten laps after Tambay's stop, before changing his Michelin tyres and rejoining in second behind the Frenchman. Indeed, it was Tambay, not Lauda, who had pushed hardest after the former's stop, meaning the Renault racer was ten seconds clear of the McLaren when Lauda emerged from the pits.
Yet, with fresher rubber, and Tambay still worried about his brakes, Lauda was able to ease back onto the Renault as the race wore on, gaining a few tenths of a second each lap. Half a minute behind, meanwhile, Mansell and Warwick were engaged in a thrilling duel for third, with the almost coming together several times as they fought. Somewhat inevitably their fight would end in an accident, with Mansell diving inside the lapped Marc Surer at the hairpin, only for Warwick to try and follow him through and smack into the back of the Arrows. Warwick and Surer were hence left with crumpled cars, with Warwick requiring the assistance of the marshals to get out of his cockpit.
Fortunately Warwick would escape with only minor injuries to his right leg, although he was whisked away to the medical centre for a check-up. On-track, meanwhile, Prost was back up to fourth, although a vibration on his car meant he would sweep back into the pits for a second change of tyres, fearing that his wheel was coming loose again. Another long stop dropped him back down to tenth, although Prost was soon picking his way back towards the points, albeit now a lap down.
Back with the leaders and with fifteen laps to go Lauda was on the back of Tambay, and duly launched his first attack as the pair came to lap some traffic. This time, it was Tambay who got baulked by a slower car, with Lauda sweeping inside the Renault through Pouas to claim the lead. The Austrian subsequently shot away to build an unassailable lead during the final laps, while Tambay was left to hold an increasingly lonely second.
Indeed, that, barring some late moves from Prost to grab seventh, would be the last action of the race, with Lauda sweeping home to claim his second win of the season. Tambay eased home in second ahead of Mansell, while Arnoux managed to keep de Anglis at arm's length in spite of picking up an engine issue in the closing stages. Rosberg would likewise limp across the line just ahead of Prost, the Williams suffering with a turbo issue, while Thierry Boutsen just managed to cross the line just as his BMW engine emitted a huge plume of white smoke.
The full results for the 1984 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- * Brundle and Bellof were retroactively disqualified following the "ban" of the Tyrrell 012 after the 1984 Detroit Grand Prix.
- Osella made their 50th Grand Prix appearance as a constructor.
- 50th entry for Nigel Mansell.
- Patrick Tambay claimed his fifth and final pole position.
- Niki Lauda secured his 21st victory.
- 34th victory for a McLaren chassis.
- Alain Prost recorded his tenth fastest lap.
- This was also the 25th fastest lap recorded by a car using #7 as its race number.
Alain Prost saw his lead atop the Drivers' Championship cut to six points after the French Grand Prix, with Niki Lauda leaping up to second to challenge his teammate. René Arnoux, meanwhile, would find himself level with the now third placed Derek Warwick, with the Brit ahead on count back. Elsewhere Elio de Angelis completed the top five ahead of Keke Rosberg, while defending Champion Nelson Piquet was still yet to score.
In the Manufacturers' Championship it was still advantage McLaren-TAG, with the Anglo-German squad extending their lead to twenty points. Ferrari remained their closest challengers, albeit with just a point between themselves and Renault in third, while Lotus-Renault solidified their hold on fourth. Williams-Honda completed the top five, with nine manufacturers on the board.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'French GP, 1984', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2014), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr393.html, (Accessed 04/02/2019)
- A.H., 'French Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/06/1984), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1984/26/french-grand-prix, (Accessed 03/02/2019)
- 'San Marino 1984: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1984/saint-marin/engages.aspx, (Accessed 02/02/2019)
- 'France 1984: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1984/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 04/02/2019)
- '5. France 1984', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2014), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1984/france.aspx, (Accessed 04/02/2019)
- 'France 1984: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), https://www.statsf1.com/en/1984/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 04/02/2019)
- '1984 French GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2014), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1984&gp=French%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 04/02/2019)
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