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Your classic grand prix - race one

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Andrew Benson | 10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

We have chosen the 1982 South African Grand Prix as the race to highlight in the first edition of this year's classic races series.

There was an overwhelming response when we posted the five picks last week, so thank you for that. It is very gratifying to see that you are all so excited by the return of 'classic grands prix', as well as, of course, by what promises to be a brilliant Formula 1 season.

As regular readers will know, this is not a 'vote' per se. We ask you which of five races is your favourite, then we use those responses to decide which event we give the 'full treatment' to. The winning selection gets the full Grand Prix programme from the time, as well as the shorter edited highlights we cut for all the events.

In this case, though, the race we have chosen was also the most popular - and with good reason. Something of a forgotten classic it may be, but the South African Grand Prix of 1982 is a classic nonetheless.

The full Grand Prix programme of the time is embedded below, with the five short highlights linked below it.

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Watch short highlights of the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1982 South African Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1990 US Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 2009 Bahrain Grand Prix

The quality of the race itself is reason enough for it to have gone down in history. Alain Prost produced a sensational comeback in his turbocharged Renault after a puncture dropped him from first to seventh place well past half distance. There were also battles throughout the top six to liven things up just when it looked like the Renaults of Prost and team-mate Rene Arnoux were poised to run away with the race.

But it was not just the racing that has secured this event its place in the annals. It has also become notorious for the pre-race actions of the drivers, who decided to strike in a protest over licences.

The drivers were unhappy about a clause in their 'superlicence' which stated they were to drive for their contracted team until a given date. The drivers refused to sign, on the basis that the clause would restrict their freedom to move teams.

With no agreement by the time the F1 circus gathered at Kyalami for the first race of the season, Ferrari driver Didier Pironi - the president of the grand prix drivers' association and the prime mover behind the strike along with team-mate Gilles Villeneuve and McLaren's Niki Lauda, fresh out of retirement - instructed F1 officials that the drivers would not participate unless the clause was removed.

Jean-Marie Balestre, the president of F1 then governing body Fisa, said no changes could be made without going through the proper official channels once the race was over, so a stand-off ensued.

That's when things got very interesting.

When the drivers arrived at the track on the morning of first practice, they were asked to get on a bus by Lauda and Pironi. All climbed on board, with the exception of German journeyman Jochen Mass, and they were ferried off to a nearby hotel.

And despite attempts at negotiation, that is where they stayed for the rest of the day.

They locked themselves away in a conference room, fending off all but one attempt by team bosses to drag their drivers away. The only man to break ranks was Italian novice Teo Fabi, who was persuaded to return to the track by Toleman team boss Alex Hawkridge.

Villeneuve and Elio de Angelis took turns entertaining the drivers by playing the piano - Villeneuve with Scott Joplin rags, De Angelis with classical music. But, as the talks dragged on, it became apparent that they would not be resolved that day, so the drivers settled down to sleep on borrowed mattresses.

Some were forced to share doubles, among them Villeneuve, recognised as the fastest driver in the world at the time, and future four-time world champion Prost. As the lights went out, some wag wondered aloud what kind of super-baby would be the result of that liaison.

Pironi met Balestre again early the following morning but those talks also broke down. Practice subsequently took place with only Fabi's March in attendance, before a second round of negotiations resulted in a breakthrough.

Pironi said he had been given assurances that none of the drivers would be punished for striking, but it appeared initially that they had been tricked. Fines ranging from $5,000-10,000 were announced, while some drivers were handed bans of between two and five races.

The race went ahead anyway and, when everyone got back to Europe, the punishments were eventually dropped. So too was the clause in the licence that had angered the drivers so much in the first place.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the rows and disagreements, for Kyalami signalled the start of one of the most bad-tempered - and tragic - seasons in F1 history.

The backdrop to the season was poisonous, with rows over safety and politics overshadowing some great racing.

And by the time it was over, Villeneuve and Italian novice Riccardo Paletti had been killed and Pironi's career ended by terrible leg injuries.

As a result of the Ferrari drivers' accidents - both were terrifyingly similar - the cars were changed dramatically for 1983 and F1 was never the same again.


  • Comment number 1.

    Cheers Andrew!

    Great to see Classic F1 back for 2010.

    Also - will FP3 be made available online this year? Last year it wasn't, please say it is!


  • Comment number 2.

    Wheres Spa '98!

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks, Andrew. Great to see the series back!

    Although I massively appreciate these, a note of caution: To me 1990 USA actually 'won' the vote, and others commented the same, with 78 Argentina second. You need to take care to avoid allegations of bias, last year 1993 Brazil 'won' the vote but 1982 Brazil was shown.

    If people believe you are always going to be tilted towards the early 1980s, you risk seeing the huge participation fading.

    That all said, I voted 82 South Africa myself, so can't complain too much!

  • Comment number 4.

    If Kobayashi is meaning the GP2 & GP3 support races, then I echo that comment in it's entirity :)

    Very interesting to see these older races, I'm too young to remember them from the time, and haven't seen quite a few of the ones that have been put up in the past year. Thanks very much!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi all,

    On the subject of Freeview, there has been a slight change since my comment in response to your questions on my previous entry. The classic F1 races will now be broadcast from 2300 GMT on Thursday night through the night until the broadcast of practice in Bahrain starts at 0655 GMT on Friday.

    Satellite and cable viewers can watch it on the red button from 1930 GMT on Wednesday until Friday.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  • Comment number 6.

    Damm. I wanted Phoenix 1990! :P
    Seriously though, why do we have to put up with these meagre rations(as grateful for them as we are)? Why can't the BBC have a classic sports channel on Freview?
    Sort it out Andrew! :)

  • Comment number 7.

    @Laszlo Panaflex - Spa 98 will possibly be shown when the choice for the classic Belgium GP at tyhe end of august

    i may have voted may have voted for 1990 Usa Gp but to be honest i was happy with any race. But how ironic that Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi contested the rule that they had drive for their contracted team until a given date and it would restrict their freedom to move teams career and yet they both didn't get to the end of season with Gilles Villeneuve getting sadly killed at zolder and Didier Pironi having is career ended by terrible leg injuries

  • Comment number 8.

    To incast,

    I appreciate your comment, but as I have said many times, this is not a vote - we are asking for your views, and using them to inform the choice we make.

    As it happens, though, I counted the 'votes' up, and South Africa '82 won clearly by a margin of more than 10.

  • Comment number 9.

    A great shame that Argentina '78 is only available as a Sportsnight edit, but as the second oldest South Africa '82 is the next best choice.

  • Comment number 10.

    When I posted my vote, USA 1990 had a lead at around the 100 mark, but looking again you're quite right, Andrew. South Africa got a surge after that point. I retract my criticism.

    Apologies - no offense was intended. You do all us all sterling service with this feature!

  • Comment number 11.

    It has always amazed me, when looking at the cars of this era, at how far forward the drivers were!
    Any minor, head-on shunt, was a potential leg-breaker and these were prior to the unversal adoption of carbon fibre monocoque chassis!

  • Comment number 12.

    Good to see these clasic race on again Andrew.I cant wait to see what the choices for Australia will be (and especially Canada.)

  • Comment number 13.

    @ comment 4 : JVGazeley

    No, that's not what I meant, sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Last year the Beeb didn't upload the 3rd practice session (FP3) to it's website, so that people could watch it afterwards. They upload practice 1, practice 2, qualifying, the race, and the forum.

    I was hoping that 3rd practice would be uploaded so that people who can't see it live can watch it later :-)

  • Comment number 14.

    To all those who keep asking for Spa 98.

    Its true, that this is an absolute Classic, but if my memory is correct, it was broadcast last year for the Classic Grand Prix feature, so i assume it won't be a choice for this year when the Spa GP comes around again.

  • Comment number 15.

    It's amazing that even after people were told many many times, including last year, that they can be so stupid to still vote for races which aren't given as an option, and then have the cheek to say things like "where's Spa 98?" (Post #2), when the videos are loaded up and it's not an option anyway. You have to question peoples ability to read and use their brains sometimes.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great to have this back again. OK, probably may have preferred Argentina 78 or US GP 90 but can't complain. Great that the break is over. Best wishes and thanks again.

  • Comment number 17.

    I thought it's worth mentioning something Andrew Benson said last year.

    When it comes to 'voting' only singular votes are foremost considered. Last year some people were like "well my vote goes to 1978 and 1990!". You only get one vote!

  • Comment number 18.

    Nice to see Brundle at the end of the '84 Brazilian GP. The face has changed a lot, but the voice hasn't.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hello to Andrew Benson and everyone. This is my first comment. Good information provided Andrew. I like the 1984 Brazilian grand prix and 1990 US grand prix held at Phoenix. Ayrton was at his usual best. Ayrton and Jean Alesi overtaking under braking was very skillful. You can see the cars twitching round the street circuit. It amazing Jean Alesi won only one race during his career.

  • Comment number 20.

    I actually look forward to the classic GPs more than the current ones!

    Love seeing the old unmolested circuits with grass and gravel as run off! Not a bit of tarmac run off in sight! Glorious :)

  • Comment number 21.

    "On the subject of Freeview, there has been a slight change since my comment in response to your questions on my previous entry. The classic F1 races will now be broadcast from 2300 GMT on Thursday night through the night until the broadcast of practice in Bahrain starts at 0655 GMT on Friday."

    Are all practices available on Freeview?


  • Comment number 22.

    Great to watch the old Phoenix track in action - most of it was rubbish but I love the last corner! Nice bit of overtaking under yellow flags from Mansell at 5:40 as well.

  • Comment number 23.

    Good on ya, Incast (10. At 12:16pm on 10 Mar 2010)

    I wish more people would stand up and take it on the chin when they've erred, rather than just sounding off and hiding afterwards.

    Consider a virtual pint bought.


  • Comment number 24.

    Hey Andrew, i love your blogs and also love the classic f1 vids, gives me (as a 16 year old) an insight into old cars etc (and more time to hear the dulcet tones of the magnifique Murray Walker). just a side note (not for this) but i feel that the one of the best races (in terms of controversy) the unserpasable US GP of 05! WHAT A JOKE! i feel so sorry for the us public as they have missed out on f1 for 5 years cos of stupid michelin tyres. related to this how come the Brazil GP of 08 isnt talked about on these things, its my fave race EVA (cos of my first GB winner in Lewis), but obviously others didnt like it so fair enough. also i feel that from JB's point of view in 09 brazil was better than bahrain as the drive was serious skills(motivation a huge part as well) but still. Also (again controversy) what about the rain of the Jordan Mansell Ralf Schumacher 1-2 in belgium and THAT walk by schumi to coulthards pit box (cant remember the year SOZ). finally love the blog as ever, thanks for it. Jonny

  • Comment number 25.

    sorry, just realised i meant Hill - Schumacher 1-2 for Jordan in 1998 Belgium GP. SOZ 2 all =(

  • Comment number 26.

    Hey Andrew thanks again the highlights and the back story.

    I have a question though I was watching most of the classic grand prix last year but I hardly watch any tv even the actual races I normally watch live on the bbciplayer.

    So i was wondering if there's any chance of having the full classic gp's on the iplayer or the bbcwebsite? for those who don't use the red button. Unless of course i have got it wrong and only the highlights are viewable on the red button. It would be nice to have acsess to all the redbutton stuff online to be honest. It always seems like good stuff is going on there that web users don't get acsses to.

    Thanks anyways looking forward to the next lot and the start of the season!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Just watched the highlights for the 1982 South African GP and they're incredibly bad! Murray not knowing what he's going on about, sound issues the whole way through, and as for Alain Prost's brilliant drive from 7th to 1st place, they didn't show one overtake! Actually I don't think they showed any overtakes in the whole race!

    Surely any of the other 5 options would've been better than this one! Makes you even more thankful for the quality of coverage we get now though...

  • Comment number 28.

    I found yesterday that the US coverage of the 1990 Phoenix Grand Prix is on YouTube. Some good races there, I have to say the most exciting one was the Bahrain race in my opinion, but as @jimarama says, if the footage of the previous races was up to modern standards, then perhaps they'd be as exciting!!

  • Comment number 29.

    I note that the "full" Sportsnight edit is up for 1978 as well, brilliant! Thank you!

  • Comment number 30.

    Unless I'm very much mistaken (to coin a Murrayism), the 2009 highlights weren't included in the looping package I watched on Virgin Media last night (11pm to 00:20)!

    Nice to see some old racing again. Probably my favourite "first race of the season" is the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix, but I can understand why it wasn't shortlisted this time. Can we see the 1997 Australian GP in two weeks please?

  • Comment number 31.

    Awesome highlights, enjoyed them all.

    I'm really excited for the new season, this weekends gonna be great!

    With the inclusion of the Canadian GP this year I look forward to the classic gp feature for that week :)

  • Comment number 32.

    Message to DonningtonDave (sic);

    I realise you must love the place to take your name after it, but it has to be changed. Please learn to spell Donington.

    P.S. I know the authorities can't spell either; I've seen that road sign just outside Castle Donington too.

    Hopefully see you there soon....

  • Comment number 33.

    Great to see those old races, really glad this is back this year

  • Comment number 34.

    Well, I'm all set up for 11PM tonight, can it really be nearly a year ago when I turned on the TV to find a rerun of the classic Adelaide '86 GP highlights with the famous - "...and look at THAT!!!". Great work Andrew and team, also like the background info on the race here as well, '82 was quite a traumatic season. Looking forward to more great races and memories this year - best feature on the Red Button.

  • Comment number 35.

    Re #21 Think Andrew commented on his last blog that all practices would be on freeview. But as we know schedules sometimes change, particularly round World Snooker/Wimbledon time. I hope the people in charge of BBC f1 coverage don't wheel out the old "It's not on freeview but you can watch it on website" excuse. 1. I'm on limited broadband and 4 hours of practice coverage two or 3 times a month soon uses up the bytes!. 2. What if my 74 year-old petrol-head of a grandmother wants to watch it (she will as well)? She hasn't got the internet or digital satellite. I thought as we all pay the license fee all the BBC's content should be available without us having to pay extra...

  • Comment number 36.

    Great to see this old footage.

    What a treat the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix coverage was. A really good find. It's certainly the first time I'd seen it. Pit lane interviews by David Coleman! So that's what he did when he stepped down from his lead commentator duties in football in the late 70's. I really hope that Andrew is able to recover more rare footage from the archives like this throughout the season.

    Good to see action from the old Kylami circuit as well. The modern version used in 1992 and 1993 was certainly a shaddow of it's former self. Does anybody know if any parts of the old circuit feature in the modern layout? Some of it looks familiar.

    Looking forward to Australia, from memory 1986 and 1994 were selected last season, so may I recommend 1997 (even though it is from the ITV era), 1989 (possibly the wettest GP ever) and 1990 (the 500th world championship GP).

  • Comment number 37.

    Lovely stuff in '82. I remember it like it was last week. Marvellous.

    '82 was a season to remember for all the right, and wrong, sadly, reasons. Is there any chance of a dedicated "'82 night" sometime this year on the red button - an entire season of highlights?

    We can all set our PVRs for the wee hours you know...

  • Comment number 38.

    The commentary is well dodgy! Did they try to re-dub a new commentary for the highlights or did Murray forget to put money into the phone?

  • Comment number 39.

    For half the program I thought this race was massively over-rated. I was bored for stiff 20 mins! Only reason I kept with it and not skipping forwards was because I was trying to pay attention to the dodgy commentary/dubbing

  • Comment number 40.

    Re #35: Watching practice 1 on FreeView, so that's a good start. I didn't see the comments on the previous blog, but as you say, these things can change. I recall missing the final F1 Forum as it wasn't on Freeview, but at least that was eventually on the Web.

    Re #32: perhaps I like:


  • Comment number 41.

    Why wasn't the 2009 Bahrain GP included on the Freeview coverage?

  • Comment number 42.

    I remember 2009 as the first year with A Forum, Onboard and lots of other features. BBC has done us proud last year

  • Comment number 43.

    Bahrain '09: Yeah I remember all the concerns with the heat and the surprise at Toyota's form in qualifying and the first hints that Lewis's shouldn't be written off too early. Ultimately though, a solid win from Jenson and it was cool watching the Beeb broadcast with all-too-familiar scenary in the background given that I'd been there the previous year.

  • Comment number 44.

    Argentina 78 is a blast from the past. Hunt and Lauda stripped to waist for post race interviews, honest answers to questions - Lauda 'my Brabham was getting wider' etc. Nothing like the sanitised PR drivel we get these days.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Andrew please help. As a die hard F1 fan in Australia it is just so frustrating that we cannot view this material. I don't understand the reason for it and I am sure all of my fellow Aussies will thank you heartily if you can make it available for Australia. Then we can join in these discussions too!

  • Comment number 46.

    South Africa '82. Interesting enough rumble but didn't seem to be all that other than Prost's comeback after losing a tyre.

    And yeah, commentary was well dodgy.

  • Comment number 47.

    Why has the Classic race at Donington Park in 1993, not been included. This is probably the best F1 race EVER.
    Senna started in 6th, in a non competitive Mcaren, in the rain, and was in 1st place by the end of the 1st lap. The whole race was full of drama

  • Comment number 48.

    Staffsteve wrote: "Good to see action from the old Kylami circuit as well. The modern version used in 1992 and 1993 was certainly a shaddow of it's former self. Does anybody know if any parts of the old circuit feature in the modern layout? Some of it looks familiar."

    The answer is YES Steve. The section at the back of the circuit with the tight bends through the esses, and up the hill are part of the original circuit. On the Original circuit, when you got to the top of the hill the track went 'right' instead of the now 'left'. It used to be called 'Lieukop', down to the 'kink' past the pits and down the hill on the mainstraight towards 'Crowethorne'.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ Post #47: The races included all had a theme apart from the 2009 race. The theme was Opening races to a season and as Donington was round 3 in 1993 then that could not be included in this edition. Also Senna started 4th and dropped to 5th at turn 1 ;)

  • Comment number 50.

    I couldnt find a contact the team IE martin brundle Eddie Irvine etc but I would like you to pass these remarks on for me thank you as I am very angory and I think we have witnessed the death of F1 as we once new it. All I have to say is the big wigs who obviously no nothing about F1 has ruined F1 by taking away the refuelling I have never been so bored watching a race and will not be watching it again until these stupid rules are changed. The whole excitement was to see where drivers fall back into the pack after fuel change aswell as tire changes and now its just rubbish. If they want to make it exciting stop messing with the rules and whats point in changing the points system it doesnt matter if you get 10 points or 25 for a win etc. But please for god sake put the rules back to what it was.

  • Comment number 51.

    Classic GP,

    Only one, Nurburgring 1957, that was a Grand Prix.

    The Victor, The Master, Fangio.


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