United States GP 1981

United States GP, 1981

The winter of 1980-81 was disrupted by the outbreak of open hostility between the FISA and the FOCA. The result was that the South African GP on February 7 featured only the FOCA teams. this was won by Carlos Reutemann in a Williams FW07B but in the end it did not count for points. Goodyear had decided to withdraw from F1 and so everyone was on Michelin tires when the 29 cars appeared at Long Beach.

There had been a lot of change over the winter. Williams was the same as before with World Champion Alan Jones and Reutemann and Brabham was little-changed as well with BT49Cs for Nelson Piquet and Hector Rebaque. McLaren had lost Alain Prost to Renault, despite a two-year contract and so John Watson was partnered by Andrea de Cesaris. The team was in the process of being taken over by Ron Dennis's Project 4 and one of the new all-carbonfiber cars appeared in practice. Jean-Pierre Jabouille was still not recovered from his leg injuries from Canada the previous autumn and so his place in the Ligier team (now called Talbot and using the old Matra V12 engines again) and so Jean-Pierre Jarier was called in to be Jacques Laffite's team mate. Tyrrell had lost both of its 1980 drivers with Derek Daly moving to March and so hired Eddie Cheever and Kevin Cogan. The team was without sponsorship again.

Ferrari had replaced the retired Jody Scheckter with Didier Pironi and the team had the new turbocharged 126CK. Team Lotus had lost Mario Andretti to Alfa Romeo and so had hired Nigel Mansell to partner Elio de Angelis and debuted the controversial twin-chassisLotus. Team Ensign struggled on with Marc Surer driving while Emerson Fittipaldi had finally decided to retire as a driver and had hired Chico Serra to partner Keke Rosberg. Arrows had new sponsorship from Ceramiche Ragno and Beta and was running Riccardo Patrese and new boy Siegfried Stohr while Osella has expanded to two cars for Miguel Angel Guerra and Beppe Gabbiani. ATS continued with one car for Jan Lammers, while Theodore Racing had produced a new chassis for Patrick Tambay and RAM had gone into business with March Engineering and was running two March 811s for Daly and Eliseo Salazar.

Qualifying resulted in something of a surprise with Patrese on pole in the Arrows with Jones and Reutemann behind him. Piquet was fourth with Villeneuve fifth, Andretti sixth and Mansell seventh. The top 10 was completed by Cheever, Giacomelli (Alfa Romeo) and Jarier.

At the start Villeneuve made an amazing start and charged down to the first corner so quickly that he overshot and so Patrese went into the lead with Jones and Reutemann chasing. In the middle of the pack Prost and de Cesaris collided and both went out. Pironi made a remarkable start to go from 11th on the grid to fourth, ahead of Piquet, the recovering Villeneuve, Cheever and Andretti. On the second lap Reutemann overtook Jones for second but otherwise the top six remained unchanged until lap 17 when Pironi was able to pass Piquet for fourth but on the next lap Villeneuve's Ferrari stopped with a driveshaft failure and so Cheever moved to sixth place. On lap 25 Patrese began to suffer from fuel pressure problems and lost the lead to Reutemann. Patrese soon headed for the pits and so everyone moved up a place and Andretti took over sixth place. As Jones closed up on Reutemann, the Argentine driver made a mistake as he lapped Surer and went wide. Jones went ahead. On the same lap Laffite overtook Andretti for sixth place and chased after Cheever. The two cars collided on lap 41 and Laffite ended up in the pits. As Cheever began to drop back, Andretti was able to climb to fifth place and on lap 54 that became fourth when Pironi slowed with an oil leak.

Jones thus led another Williams 1-2 with Piquet third, Andretti fourth, Cheever fifth and Tambay sixth in the Theodore.

Alan Jones Williams-Cosworth  80 1h50m41.330s  
Carlos Reutemann Williams-Cosworth  80 1h50m50.520s  
Nelson Piquet Brabham-Cosworth  80 1h51m16.250s  
22 Mario Andretti Alfa Romeo  80 1h51m30.640s  
Eddie Cheever Tyrrell-Cosworth  80 1h51m48.030s  
33 Patrick Tambay Theodore-Cosworth  78  17 
21 Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Cosworth  78  18 
16 Rene Arnoux Renault  77  20 
14 Marc Surer Ensign-Cosworth  70 Electrics 19 
28 Didier Pironi Ferrari  67 Engine 11 
25 Jean-Pierre Jarier Talbot Ligier-Matra  64 Fuel Pump 10 
Hector Rebaque Brabham-Cosworth  49 Accident 15 
26 Jacques Laffite Talbot Ligier-Matra  41 Accident 12 
23 Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo  41 Accident 
Jan Lammers ATS-Cosworth  41 Accident 21 
20 Keke Rosberg Fittipaldi-Cosworth  41 Distributor Rotor Arm 16 
29 Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Cosworth  33 Fuel Filter 
32 Beppe Gabbiani Osella-Cosworth  26 Accident 24 
12 Nigel Mansell Lotus-Cosworth  25 Accident 
27 Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari  17 Drive Shaft 
John Watson McLaren-Cosworth  16 Engine 23 
11 Elio de Angelis Lotus-Cosworth  13 Accident 13 
15 Alain Prost Renault  Accident 14 
Andrea de Cesaris McLaren-Cosworth  Accident 22 
nq Kevin Cogan Tyrrell-Cosworth    25 
nq 17 Derek Daly March-Cosworth    26 
nq 31 Miguel-Angel Guerra Osella-Cosworth    27 
nq 30 Siegfried Stohr Arrows-Cosworth    28 
nq 18 Eliseo Salazar March-Cosworth    29