The 1985 season of Formula One Grand Prix racing gets under way in April after a pretty busy winter of testing by most of the teams. The only serious change in the regulations has been that the rear “wings” have been clipped, the additional side “winglets” that most people have been using have been outlawed so that rear aerofoils have now become quite tidy and neat contraptions. A major change for many teams, not caused by regulations but by the withdrawal of the Michelin Tyre Company from Formula One, has been having to adapt to Goodyear tyres; for Lotus and Williams there were no problems in that department as they were already on Goodyear tyres.

Ayrton Senna in Holland in 1985

Most of the teams produced their 1985 models for the past testing months, or at least an “interim” car and while the scene looks strong for the coming season, in some circles it does not look impressively healthy, but only time will tell whether the symptoms noticed in the winter months were true or misleading.

On April 7th we have the Brazilian Grand Prix on the not-very-exciting circuit outside Rio de Janeiro, a long flying trip from wherever you start in Europe. Very few of the teams will have the excuse of not knowing the circuit for there have been regular “test-sessions” organised by Goodyears and Pirelli during the last month or two, in order to glean knowledge of this year’s cars for the 1985 rubber requirements, and the teams have been testing engines, gearbox., chassis, drivers, aerodynamics in profusion and some drivers took it all so seriously that they had accidents in their endeavours to be heroes, but luckily no one was hurt.

The Brazilian Grand Prix used to be held on a lengthy but winding circuit at Interlagos before it moved to Rio de Janeiro, and from all accounts everyone enjoyed Interlagos and preferred it, so the Grand Prix is held at Rio de Janeiro! Of the teams listed above the new Zakspeed team made it clear that it could not go to Brazil, so it was not eligible for the Championships, but is being allowed to take part in the races from Portugal onwards, though will be unable to score any points during the season. All this involves the ubiquitous “Concorde Agreement” which sees that team, must take part in ALL the races. This first race of the season is going to be interesting on many counts as there are a number of drivers in new teams for this season, some of the teams have been giving an air of progressing since the end of last season and the McLaren team has an incredible reputation to live up to.

Missing from the FISA list this year are Teo Fabi, Marc Surer, Jo Gartner, and Johnny Cecotto, while additions are John Watson (more about him later) and Pier-Luigi Martini. Of those no longer in the scene only Fabi and Surer were full time runners, and while Fabi has been dropped by Mr Ecclestone and looks like returning to American racing, Surer decided to opt out of the Formula One “rat-race” to enjoy life driving other things. The amiable Swiss driver just loves driving cars, fast road cars or racing cars, like Derek Bell or David Hobbs and I am sure everyone in the pit lane will wish him luck and lots of enjoyment.

McLaren International Ltd

By reason of winning all the championships last year the McLaren drivers move up to numbers 1 and 2, Lauda taking precedence naturally, as reigning World Champion. In the Porsche Club of Great Britain February newssheet there appeared the following:

“Issued by Porsche to Sales Management Staff – Due to increasing enquiries concerning the possibility to use the racing successes of Marlboro McLaren International in the current Formula One World Championship, we should like to inform you, of the following situation:-

1. Porsche designed, developed and produces a Formula 1 engine as an outside engineering order for the company “Technique d’Advantgard (TAG)”.
2. The result of this engineering order must thus not be referred to as a Porsche engine, but solely as a “TAG Turbo made by Porsche” (abbreviated designation: TAG Turbo P01).
3. The TAG Turbo P01 engine is used in a “Marlboro MP4/1E” chassis.
4. The car’s designation is “Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo”.
5. The Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo is entered in all Formula 1 World Championship events under the entry of “Marlboro McLaren International”.

The engineering contract between Porsche and TAG neither provides any possibility by Porsche and / or its agents (importers / dealers) to use the engine’s success in connection with the Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo victories nor are there currently any contractual agreements between Porsche and Marlboro McLaren International. We are, however, currently investigating possibilities to explore the sensational success of our Weissach engineers without any pictorial or print references to the Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo or to Marlboro McLaren International. Should there be a positive development we will, of course, inform you so immediately. In the meantime, we must ask you to abstain from using any Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo successes or victories in any of your Porsche advertising. Additionally, we must ask you to use solely the above listed designation in all external or internal communication in respect to engine, chassis, car and / or team. Your respective cooperation will be appreciated.”

So now we know! Complicated isn’t it? But Ron Dennis has never been a simple chap to understand, he says “ongoing meaningful dialogue” when you or I say we are “having a chat”. Anyway, when you read McLaren-Porsche in Motor Sport you’ll know what we really mean, and in the pub try referring to Niki Lauda’s “Marlboro MP4/TAG Turbo” and see how far you get. This year the team will be starting off with B-versions of last year’s cars, which means no startling changes, merely a tidy-up and alterations to suit Goodyear tyres and the new aerofoil regulations. Lauda has signed for the team for one year and Frost has signed for three years, and Ron Dennis has started an ambitious project with Mansour Ojeh of TAG, called TAG/McLaren Research and Development which should be self-explanatory. The ramifications of TAG outside of motor racing are enormous and virtually world-wide and they recently published a very handsome brochure covering all their activities. They are too widespread to deal with here, but if anyone is curious a note to McLaren International Ltd, Boundary Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 5BX will procure a copy l am sure.

So, remember, it is Marlboro/TAG for the car but TAG/McLaren for the new firm (and there are still people who find the hyphen in Frazer-Nash confusing!)

Tyrrell Racing Organisations Ltd

Uncle Ken is back and all is forgiven. The FISA tightened the screw round Ken Tyrrell’s neck to the absolute limit before it was announced that they were all friends again. He has had to promise to withdraw all his legal actions against the world of Formula 1 and FISA and to be a good boy and not make any more waves, like protesting, being odd man out, getting caught cheating or generally being a nuisance. His two drivers have been given numbers three and four and his “friends” in FOCA are going to let him join in the cheapairfares deal in spite of not qualifying officially for the concession. Just before all the fuss was ironed out Ken Tyrrell and Renault announced they had done a deal for Renault turbocharged engines used in the new Tyrrell 014 cars, due about June. In the meantime Bellof and Brundle will soldier on with last year’s Tyrrell-Cosworth V8 cars. The engine supply will be similar to that made last year with Lotus and Ligier, so later in the season there could be eight cars with Renault power on the grid. Regie Renault really do need to start winning races with their engine. So all Ken Tyrrell has to do now is to shut-up and get on with the racing. He really can be quite good at racing, as his past record shows.

Canon Williams Team

All Saudi Arabian connections with Frank Williams team have now gone and he is totally committed to the Far East, with Honda supplying their V6 Turbo engine and Canon the camera people supplying a lot of money. Honda’s involvement is here to stay if the engine factory they have built next door to Williams Engineering Ltd is anything to go by. The Williams factory itself is quite impressive and in line with Patrick Head’s philosophy everything possible is being made “in house”. To this end they have a huge oven in which they can bake their own cakes in the form of the carbonfibre composite monocoque of the FW10. These completely new cars, ending the honeycomb era at Didcot, together with a drastically revised Honda engine should put Rosberg and Mansell in with a chance. Last year Rosberg never lacked horsepower, he usually had too much at the wrong time, while Mansell has never been short on bravado or enthusiasm.

Motor Racing Developments Ltd

This highfalutin’ title actually means Ecclestone-Brabham, which in turn means Brabham-BMW, which really comes down to Murray-Piquet. (Formula 1 is complicated, isn’t it?) Waiting until the very last moment Mr Ecclestone finally announced that his number two driver would be the Frenchman Francois Hesnault, but please don’t ask why. Hesnault is a nice lad who behaved with excellent decorum last season in the Ligier team and made lots of friends in his first year in Formula 1, so good luck to him, this is his big chance for there aren’t many teams better than Brabham, and if there is a better driver than Nelson Piquet I’d like to see him. In a masterpiece of “luck” Ecclestone tied up a very good deal with Pirelli for tyres this season, and they seem do have done a million miles of tyre testing during the winter. Power will come from the four-cylinder iron-block BMW from which Paul Roche has extracted more horsepower than seems possible, but the engine must surely be near its development end. Last season there were lots of breakages due to overstressing and the fact that nearly everyone was something different suggests the end of the road. Anyone who is getting long in the tooth, like me, will remember the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine development that went on and on, and on, but eventually had to give way to the new Griffon. When we shall see a Griffon from Munich is not known at the moment, but…

It will be odd to see Piquet with number seven on his car, but we shall soon get used to it, and Hesnault is number eight. Their season will start with “interim” cars from the basis of the BT53, soon to be followed by the all-new BT54.

Skoal Bandit Formula 1 Team

You might well ask, what are Skoal Bandits? They look like small tea-bags which by all accounts you put in your mouth and they give you all the satisfaction you would get from smoking a cigarette! As smoking cigarettes is something that has never appealed to me I don’t think I’m going to start stuffing things like tea-bags into my mouth. However, it would seem that millions of people like doing this and US Tobacco International Inc manufacture and supply Skoal Bandits so successfully that it has money to spare to spend on motor racing as a means of advertising its product. Last year it scattered its money about in different forms of racing, but this year it has consolidated all its support into Formula 1 and Mick Ralph and John McDonald (the R&M of RAM) are the lucky recipients. The young German designer Gustav Brunner, who did the nice looking cars last year, has joined RAM together with the ebullient German driver Manfred Winkelhock in number 9, while Frenchman Philippe Alliot remains as second driver with number 10. Brunner’s new car is a neat and tidy looking package, very striking in its Skoal colours of rich green and white, and with Brian Hart’s 1985 engines giving an honest 680 bhp this has got tube RAM-Racing’s year for making progress, for everything is on their side.

John Player Special Team Lotus

Last year the Lotus 95T looked to be a very good car, but it never won any races and it was not easy to decide why, other than it lacked driver force. The car was quick and there was never any lack of power from its Renault engine, indeed it was invariably quicker than the works Renault cars. Following on from that car Lotus have built a developed and improved version called the 97T and in winter testing it has looked veil good. On the driver front they have replaced Nigel Mansell with the promising young Brazilian Ayrton Senna and have retained Elio de Angelis for yet another season. De Angelis will race under number 11 as usual and Senna will take number 12. Much is expected of Senna as he does seem to be a naturally fast driver, though occasionally his lack of experience shows rather badly, and in Rio de Janeiro testing he was so obsessed with being the hero of the day, rather than learning something, that he had a big accident and collided with Nigel Mansell who was busy “testing” a Williams-Honda! Don’t be surprised if Senna leads the Brazilian Grand Prix. Whether he wins is another matter. As many drivers have said through the years, “you don’t win races on the first corner, but you can lose them there”.

Renault Elf

This is the official works team from the Renault factory, run under the name of Renault Sport with backing from the French industrial giant ELF, whose world wide ramifications are enormous and varied. In spite of the strong backing that the Renault team has, success has not been its strong point. Like so many other teams last year it did not win a single race, but equally, had the McLaren-Porsche team not been there Renault would have done quite well! Apart from designing and building a new car for 1985, the RE60, the Renault team has also designed a new version of their turbocharged V6 engine, with smaller bore and longer stroke but this will not be ready to race until later in the season, so the new cars will use development versions of the 1984 engine.

In the management there has been the major change of Gerard Larrousse leaving and his place at the head of the team being taken by Gerard Toth, an engineer from Renault’s Research and Development department. Drivers remain unchanged with Patrick Tambay at number 15 and Derek Warwick at number 16 and this season really must see Warwick score his first Grand Prix win or a large section of his followers will begin to lose faith.

Barclay Arrows BMW

No, it is not Barclays Bank spending our money on Jack Oliver and his Milton Keynes team, this Barclay is the cigarette company. About a year ago the acquisition of BMW turbocharged engines convinced Oliver that his cars were about to move up into the top league, but it didn’t turn out that way, they were still also-rans. He had overlooked the fact that everyone else had powerful turbocharged engines so that the whole scene had moved ahead by a big leap. The Arrows A7 was designed and built in a bit of a hurry so they never viewed it as a proper turbo car, but now they have built the All from scratch as a turbocharged car so look forward to a better season. Arrows has replaced Marc Surer in car number 17 by the Austrian driver Gerhard Berger, and has retained the Belgian Thierry Boutsen in car number 18.

Toleman Group Motorsport

The Toleman Group is the very big transport firm belonging to Ted Toleman and when he gave the go-ahead for his racing department to move up from Formula 2 to Formula 1 it was an ambitious move. They came in with new cars, an engine new to Formula 1, a tyre company new to Formula 1, an organisation new to Formula 1, and drivers new to Formula 1. Everyone admired them for their courage and as they made steady progress throughout their first season we all cheered. It was very much an all-British team, apart from the Pirelli tyres, and the way that Rory Byrne’s design powered by Brian Hart’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine made progress was most satisfying.

Everything was going fine and in 1983 they began to score some worthy “places” but then Renault wooed Derek Warwick away from them and early in 1984 there was a very distasteful break between Toleman and Pirelli at Imola, and they made a contract to use Michelin tyres. Driven by Senna and Johansson the Toleman cars gave some good performances in 1984, but never looked like winning a race. It began to look as though their “learning curve” had flattened out and worthy third and fourth places were all they could really hope for. When Michelin pulled out the Toleman team were left high and dry on the tyre front for it had never been on Goodyear’s shortlist and Pirelli did not want it back. The fact that Senna left the team to join Lotus did not help, nor did the fuss that ensued due to the manner in which Lotus conducted the affair.

Rory Byrne designed a new car for 1985 and Brian Hart was to supply his very latest engines that were giving well over 700 bhp and Stefan Johansson had signed as number one driver, so all looked well except that there were no tyres available. After a winter of discontent and some sporadic testing on tyres “scrounged” for the occasion the month of March arrived and still there was no contract being offered by Goodyear or Pirelli. The Goodyear firm were fully committed to leading teams and their long-term faithful teams like Tyrrell. Formula I racing is only a very small part of Goodyear racing commitment, its main effort being directed to Indianapolis and CART racing as well as NASCAR and drag-racing in America.

Had the Toleman team been guaranteed winners with a Prost or Piquet in the number one car it might have been a different story, but a Toleman Formula I car has yet to win its first race, and up at the top of Formula 1 it is winning that matters. Not surprisingly Pirelli did not want them back after the distasteful affair at Imola last year when Toleman virtually walked-out on the Italian tyre company. In addition the Pirelli contract with Ecclestone’s Brabham team specified that no other top team should be supplied with Pirelli tyres, and Toleman had long since moved out of the realms of the alsorans. As the winter ended there was a small flurry of interest when it was announced that John Watson had signed to drive the number two Toleman this year, even though there was still no tyre contract, and hardly had the ink dried on Wattie’s signature than it was announced that the team was being withdrawn from the World Championships due to its inability to find a tyre supplier!

Sad really, because the Toleman team has always provided an interesting part of the Formula 1 scene and has been a friendly and uncomplicated team. Life at the bottom of Formula I is comparatively easy; at the top it is very hard work, and in the middle it can be very fraught. What will happen to the Toleman Team is something that is unsure, we will just have to wait and see. Cars 19 and 20 will not appear in entry lists.

Spirit Enterprises Ltd

This two-man band run by John Wickham and Gordon Coppuck seems to live from day to day, only their drive and enthusiasm keeping them above the surface. With very little money or facilities, changes are few and far between, but with Toleman not appearing it is possible that they will benefit by having better Hart engines than previously. Mauro Baldi is the designated driver of car number 21, but his position depends on sponsorship rather than ability, so anything can happen.

Benetton Team Alfa Romeo

There are no major changes to this strange consortium that struggles to regain the glory that once was Alfa Romeo. Still run by Gianpaulo PavaneIli’s Euroracing organisation, with engines supplied by Autodelta-Alfa Romeo and money by the Benetton clothing manufacturers; it has retained its same drivers for 1985, Riccardo Patrese in number 22 and Eddie Cheever in car number 23. Although Carlo Chiti left the team last year, his compact V8 turbocharged engine continues to provide more than enough power, but economy is another matter, and high-technology engine-management systems still seem to elude the team.

Osella Squadra Corse

If Enzo Osella’s team was ever to win a Grand Prix there would be rejoicing all along the pit lane for it is a happy little family which loves racing. They get on with the job without upsetting anyone or making enemies and keep themselves very much to themselves. Backed by Kelemata these very personal cars of Signor Osella fill out the field, but this year they have only nominated one car, their usual number 24 for Piercarlo Ghinzani. A wander down to the lower end of the pit lane during practice will always see Enzo OseIla adjusting one of his Alfa Romeo V8 turbocharged engines, or merely warming it up while his driver puts on his helmet and gloves preparatory to going out to practice. All his life Enzo Osella has been an “engine man” and you can see that as he starts and runs one of his engines.


This is another team that has its owner’s name on the car, for Guy Ligier has been a life-long motor racing enthusiast, turning to construction after he retired as a driver. His early days in Formula I were structured around Jacques Laffite, who at the time looked to be a potential top driver. Laffitc left the Ligier team to go to Williams, missing the moment of truth that would have put him amongst the Laudas, Picquets, Prosts et al, but he still loves driving racing cars so has returned to Ligier as number two to Andrea de Cesaris. The team could be heading for a good season as Gerard Larousse has joined them as team coordinator and Michel Tetu has joined them from Renault to direct design, the cars once again being powered by Renault V6 turbo engines. De Cesaris leads the team in car number 25, with “Happy Jack” Laffite in car number 26.

Ferrari SPA

What should one say about Ferrari? To me it will always be the Scuderia Ferrari regardless of any changes to the official title, and without a Ferrari entry a Grand Prix cannot be taken seriously. Last year they never looked like winning a race, neither at Imola nor at Monza, and that is bad for the morale of Italy as a whole. Because the McLaren team set such a new high in standards last year, even the Ferrari team looked pathetic, in spite of being better than they had been in 1983!

By mid-season Mauro Forghieri had been removed from the top of the racing department and moved sideways into “special projects” while our own Dr Harvey Postlethwaite took control. The 1985 cars have a very different look, for the twin turbochargers previously mounted above the vee of the 120-degree engine have been moved to the sides of the unit. This has meant a complete revision of the engine design, for whereas previously the exhaust ports were on the inside of the vee, to feed the turbochargers, they are now on the outside, with the inlet manifolding in the middle. Basically this has lowered the centre of gravity of the power unit and allowed a smoother air flow to the rear of the car. In typical Ferrari fashion, while they were about it they designed and made a complete new gearbox.

To try and change the team’s fortunes Mr Ferrari decreed that the new cars would have a change of numbering. Previously the turbocharged series were called 126, referring to the 120-degree V6 layout, and had reached a C4 specification. Now they are called 156/85 indicating 1.5 litre 6 cylinder, and we are now up to C5. Suggestions that Ferrari was thinking of having the cars painted white and red (like a McLaren) were not true. There is no change on the driver front, Michele Alboreto being in number 27 and Rene Arnoux in number 28

The much-vaunted four-cylinder engine seems unlikely to be used, as though it has proved a beautiful little power unit for use on the test-bed, its application to use in a chassis is another matter. It won’t be the first time Ferrari has carried out an engine development project that never went into a chassis. Back in the dark ages I recall Peter Collins showing me a beautiful little 1,100 cc four-cylinder Ferrari engine that had been thoroughly tested on the dynamometer, so that Ferrari engine men knew all about 1,100 cc racing engines. This was because it had looked as though 1,100 cc sports car racing might catch on in European circles, and if it did Ferrari intended to be ready. As it turned out 1,100 cc racing remained virtually a British national affair so he abandoned the project. If there was a suggestion in the circles of power that Formula 1 rules might come up with a rule demanding broad-arrow two-stroke engines you can be sure that there would be one running on the Maranello test-bed before anyone else heard the rumour. Enzo Ferrari has been in racing a long, long time. I will always remember Carroll Shelby saying “Man, you’ve got to get up real early in the morning to beat old man Ferrari”. Shelby was trying to change the state of GT racing with his Shelby-Cobras.

Minardi Team SPA

This small Italian group is taking the plunge from a strong position in the lesser formulae into the big time, with a single car powered by a brand new turbocharged V6 engine. After Carlo Chiti left Autodelta Alfa Romeo he was soon at work on a V6 version of his V8 Alfa Romeo engine for a new concern called Motori Moderni (Modern Engines!) and in less time than it takes some people in Formula 1 to sign a cheque, the engine was on the test-bed and the Minardi car has been entered for Pier-Luigi Martini to drive. Most people in England say “Minardi, who is he?” No doubt similar people in Italy have said “Macdonald, who is he? RAM, what is that?” Everyone has to start somewhere.

Zakspeed Formula Racing GMBH

The name Zakspeed has long been respected in European saloon car racing, rattier like our own Broadspeed establishment used to be. Erich Zakowski is the man behind it, his racing supported by a very strong Ford dealership. Like Brian Hart who started tuning and developing Ford engines, until he was able to make his own Hart engine, Zakowski has been doing similar things and now feels confident enough to enter the Formula I arena with a single car, powered by his own turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

It has all the “state of the art” design features, including CFC construction, but like Toleman his tyre supply is his big problem. On the assumption that all will be well Jonathan Palmer has signed upon works driver, but we shall have to wait and see how things develop. The team never had any intention of going to Brazil, but it does intend to start the season at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril on April 21st. A certain section of the media got all excited when Palmer signed as driver of the Zakspeed, putting it into the same context as Stirling Moss joining Mercedes-Benz, but I don’t think it quite like that! My colleague A.H. said to me one day “I’ve been thinking about the Zakspeed Formula 1 car, it’s a bit like Perrys, the big Ford Dealers in Essex, going into Grand Prix racing.” I can’t help thinking it is a bit more serious than that.

On the face of it, the Formula One Scene still looks very healthy, with a variety of cars and engines the like of which we haven’t seen before. The driver line-up seems to have settled a bit, having gone through the stage where anyone who won a Formula. 3 race was considered to be a potential Formula 1 driver. It never has been as simple as that, and there is only one name that is entirely new to the scene, and even he had a try at qualifying on one occasion in the past. If we have lost Toleman for good, it is sad, but we have lost teams before now and someone has always taken their place. Do you recall Team Surtees, Penske Racing, Vels Parnelli, Hesketh Racing, even BRM? They come and go.