Detroit Grand Prix 1982: John Watson wins from 17th on grid

Legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker is providing a series of archive-based videos and written articles for every race of the 2013 season.

'Murray's Memories' are his personal recollections of some of the most dramatic moments in the history of F1 - the latest in the series is the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix when Northern Irishman John Watson won from 17th on the grid.

Fed up with the fact that tyres rule Formula 1? Well, nothing changes.

To many, tyres are merely, as 1980 world champion Alan Jones once famously remarked, "round and black and stop the wheels touching the ground".

But they have always been much more important than that - and, as long ago as 1982, Northern Irishman John Watson proved it when a canny tyre choice helped him to win from a lowly 17th on the grid in Detroit in one of the most dramatic races ever.

Detroit was a street circuit with right-angled corners, the likes of which also abound in Singapore,  the venue for this weekend's grand prix.

Overtaking was notoriously difficult on the stop-start track around the Renaissance Center skyscraper office complex, but Watson made it look easy.

He quickly discovered the harder Michelin tyres he had chosen were perfectly suited to the track and his McLaren was already up four places when the race had to be stopped because of an incident on lap seven.

Detroit Grand Prix 1982

John Watson
  • Race 7 of the 1982 season
  • 62 laps
  • Pole: Alain Prost (Renault)
  • Winner: John Watson (McLaren)

After the restart it was Alain Prost up front in his Renault ahead of Keke Rosberg's Williams and Didier Pironi's Ferrari. Rosberg sensationally forced his way past Prost to take the lead, but by this time all eyes were on 'Wattie', who was making great progress through the field.

By lap 25, he was an amazing seventh, but surely that was it? No, it wasn't!

On just one lap Watson raced past team-mate Niki Lauda, Eddie Cheever's Ligier and Pironi!

And Lauda inadvertently proved just how good a job Watson was doing when, attempting to follow his team-mate past Rosberg, he messed it up and ended up in the wall.

Watson already looked unassailable but when Rosberg's Williams gave up it was definitely game over, with the Northern Irishman a sensational winner, ahead of Pironi.

What a race! Seventeenth to first with 15 laps still to go. Brilliant, and proof that tyres are far more than just round, black objects.

Singapore Grand Prix, day one

  • Friday 20 September: First practice at 10:55 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live text commentary online. Second practice at 14:25 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live text commentary online.

Singapore Grand Prix, day two

  • Saturday 21 September : Final practice at 09:55 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live text commentary online. Qualifying at 14:15 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra plus live text commentary online. Qualifying highlights, 17:15 BST on BBC One.

Singapore Grand Prix, day three

  • Sunday 22 September: Race coverage at 13:00 BST on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, and live text commentary online. Race highlights, 17:00 BST on BBC One.