Journeyer continues his three-part history of the Belgian Grand prix which began yesterday.
The 1980s brought much change to the grid. Gilles Villeneuve was the undisputed star of the early ’80s, but Belgium was where it would all come to an end for him. On the other hand, Belgium also saw a new master in Ayrton Senna, and the following decade would also be the beginning of a certain young German champion.
1981 – Zolder wasn’t really a popular track with the drivers, due to its boring layout (especially when compared to Spa). Even more bad luck struck this year, as a major accident triggered a series of events that would rock the sport that year.
On Friday, Osella mechanic Giovanni Amadeo was run over by Carlos Reutemann’s Williams after mechanic stumbled off the pitwall. He would die on the Monday after the race.
The mechanics were outraged at the incident and staged a protest to demand for better safety measures from the FISA (the FIA’s predecessor). They were joined by some of the drivers, who stepped out of their cars. However, the FISA decided to ignore the protest and start on time.
All the chaos meant that the formation lap took so long that some drivers had to switch their engines off after the formation lap. Riccardo Patrese couldn’t restart his Arrows when the grid was formed.
Mechanic Dave Luckett ran to Patrese’s car to restart it. Unfortunately, this was unseen by the race stewards. The lights turned green, the race began, and Luckett was hit by Patrese’s own teammate Siegfried Stohr.
While Luckett survived, new rules were finally introduced to make sure that the grid was clear of mechanics 15 seconds before the start. (Remember Kimi Raikkonen’s penalty at Monaco earlier this year?)
1982 – Things went from bad to worse. Just a year after Amadeo’s death, another fatal incident took place at Zolder, this time involving Gilles Villeneuve. The previous race at Imola had seen him lose the win to Didier Pironi, who did not follow team protocol by taking the lead from him at the end.
Villeneuve was furious and was insistent that he would never speak to Pironi again. Determined to beat Pironi, he was on a final flier to get ahead. When Jochen Mass saw him coming, he ceded the racing line. But Villeneuve decided to go off the racing line in passing Mass. This had horrific consequences.
Zolder would never recover from two straight years of fatal accidents. It would host one more race, in 1984, but most drivers were happy when Spa returned in shortened form iun 1983.
1985 – While this was a much shorter version of the old Spa, it still had some of the favorite turns, especially Eau Rouge, and several excellent new ones. Not even a race postponement (from June to September due to the track breaking up) could dampen the drivers’ love for Spa.
And while the old Spa had Fangio and Clark as its masters, the new Spa quickly found its first: Ayrton Senna won here for the first time in the Lotus Renault, and it certainly wasn’t going to be his last win here, either.
1986 – Clive James is at it again in this video from a season review. He talks of moustaches and nicotine starvation. Oh, not to mention the British Bulldog Nigel Mansell’s one and only win here, coming back after an early mistake.
1987 – Before the Schumi-DC boxing match of 1998, there was the Senna-Mansell boxing match of 1987. Mansell, on pole but outfoxed by Senna into the lead at the start, wanted to take his lead back. But in trying to overtake, he took both Senna and himself out. Enter Alain Prost, who went on to win.
1988 – This was supposed to be a duel between Senna and Alain Prost. But that fizzled out and Senna was unchallenged all the way. But there was a lot of racing going on behind them. Note the charges of Boutsen (from sixth to third, but disqualified) and Capelli (from 14th to fourth, then third after Boutsen’s disqualification).
1989 – Ayrton Senna in the wet was difficult enough to beat. But let Senna loose on one of his favourite circuits like Spa, and it was practically impossible to defeat him. Keep an eye out at the end for FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre raising the hands of Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell (who battled for second), ignoring race winner Senna in the process.
1990 – Probably the second-most chaotic start ever at Spa, they needed to start three times and there were more incidents than you can keep count of! But the result had a familiar ring to it: Senna won from Prost, for the third year running. And again, note Balestre shaking Berger and Prost’s hands at the end, but not Senna’s.
1991 – There wasn’t much to this race. Senna easily took yet another win here, this time with team mate Berger riding shotgun behind him at the finish. This was Senna’s fifth and final win at the circuit.
But this race will always be remembered as the first race of a certain Michael Schumacher, who started seventh and was fifth at La Source, before his clutch failed on his Jordan.
Still, he wowed the paddock that weekend. And as it turned out, we’d be wowing at him for years to come.
See more of Michael, as well as today’s stars, as we explore the 1990s and 2000s tomorrow.
This is a guest article by Journeyer If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.