1985 FIA Formula One
Round 11 – Dutch Grand Prix
Zandvoort, 23-25 August, 1985
With Lauda having announced his retirement at the preceding Austrian Grand Prix, Zandvoort was buzzing with speculation about the driver market.
Rosberg had already signed up for the McLaren seat, while Williams signing Piquet as his replacement was reportedly a done deal, and rumours also connected Elio de Angelis and/or Riccardo Patrese to Brabham, Warwick due to replace de Angelis at Lotus, de Cesaris to join Ferrari and Cheever to drive for Toleman.
In the meantime, though, there was the minor matter of the 1985 championship. Truth be told, while Prost and Alboreto were level on points, the battle seemed set to fizzle – after a mixed first half of the season, McLaren were beginning to look more like the dominant outfit they had been in 1984, while Ferrari seemed to be losing direction badly.
Tyrrell finally had the resources to run Renault-engined cars for both Brundle and Bellof, and they reverted to their usual race numbers accordingly.
Once again, rain rendered the second official practice session useless as far as grid positions were concerned, these being settled on the dry Friday afternoon. This meant Piquet took his first pole position of the season, nearly six tenths of a second faster than Rosberg.
Prost and Senna filled the second row, with fine showings from Fabi and Tambay completing the top six. Mansell, Boutsen, Surer and Lauda took the rest of the top 10 places, but Ferrari’s malaise continued, as Alboreto was well back in 16th, with Johansson 17th – both behind Ghinzani’s second Toleman.
Immediately behind the Ferraris was de Cesaris, who had been told by Guy Ligier that this would be his last race for the French team.
Once again there would be a single non-qualifier, and this time it was Acheson’s RAM. The Ulsterman had been forced to share a car with Alliot in the dry session, and thus missed the grid by just over a second – much to the Dutch crowd’s joy, as the man he would have been most likely to oust was local hero Huub Rothengatter.
McLaren’s Ron Dennis once again refused to sign John Macdonald’s petition to allow all 27 cars to start.
Most were happy that raceday was dry – indeed, Goodyear had been very concerned, as Zandvoort’s surface had been wearing their wet tyres at an astonishing rate on Saturday, which would have meant five or six stops for each runner; the American company hadn’t brought that many wet tyres to Holland. While still breezy, at least it was sunny. One man who wasn’t happy was Patrick Tambay, who after his fine qualifying performance would have to start from the pitlane when a misfire prevented him getting onto the dummy grid in time.
At the start itself, both Piquet and Boutsen stalled; the Brazilian needed a push from the marshals while the Belgian managed to roll enough to get going. Once more it was Rosberg and Senna who leapt away, with Prost and Fabi in close attendance and Surer next up in the second Brabham, with Lauda and Warwick behind him. Fabi got past Prost into the first corner, while Rosberg was really going for it and pulling away from the following trio, who had Lauda bearing down on them having disposed of Surer.
Further back, both Alfa Romeos retired on the second lap with blown turbochargers, while Martini destroyed his Minardi in a big off. Rosberg was beginning to pull out a lead at a rate of around a second a lap, while Prost was back past the upstart Fabi (soon to be followed by the charging Lauda) and closing on Senna’s second place Lotus. Johansson had charged up to 11th, only for his engine to blow on the tenth lap. Alboreto was now in 9th, suspension revisions used in the warm-up had substantially improved the handling. However, he would soon be caught by the charging Tambay.
As the McLarens pushed Senna so Rosberg’s lead began to disappear, closing to four seconds by lap 13 as the soft tyres on the Williams began to fade. Prost and Lauda would both pass Senna on lap 15 when the Lotus’ engine briefly cut out, while Mansell was 6th in the second Williams, but unable to do much about Fabi and also coming under pressure from Warwick. The Toleman would soon disappear when faulty rear wheel bearings sent Fabi sliding over the kerbs, damaging the underside and ending his race.
Prost was now pressing Rosberg hard, while there was a slight gap to Lauda, the Austrian having to deflect the attentions of a recovering Senna. Then on lap 21 Rosberg’s Honda let go, letting Prost into the lead, while Lauda headed into the pits, deciding to get his necessary stop out of the way early on. This left Prost in the lead, with a lead of just under five seconds over Senna, with the Renaults of Warwick and Tambay in 3rd and 4th – the French team’s best showing of 1985 – Mansell 5th and Alboreto 6th.
The Renault cars didn’t last much longer – Tambay’s storming race coming to an end with apparent transmission failure on lap 33, and five laps later Warwick was out with a broken gearbox.
However, many thought the French team were running on half tanks to put on a good showing and convince top brass to allow the racing team to continue into 1986. Combined with Senna and Mansell pitting, this elevated Alboreto to 2nd, but Lauda was now in 3rd having got past Surer and looking dangerous. The big question was when Prost was going to stop, as his main rivals Lauda and Senna had made their only scheduled stops and were now making up places on fresh rubber.
Alboreto’s stint in 2nd came to its’ inevitable end when he stopped for tyres on lap 32, dropping him behind Mansell. Prost followed a lap later, with a 25 second lead. His stop wasn’t good at all, allowing Lauda and Senna through into first and second, about ten seconds ahead of the Frenchman. Prost soon began attacking, while Alboreto was also recovering and was soon past Surer for 5th and setting off after de Angelis. Senna meanwhile was trying to lap Brundle, but his old Formula 3 sparring partner perhaps wasn’t as helpful as he could have been, allowing Prost to close right up on the Lotus.
Senna fought off Prost’s first attempt at Tarzan, but at the end of lap 47 Prost was alongside and past on the straight, before reducing the ten-second gap to Lauda. He closed so that by lap 62 he was right on Lauda’s tail. There was no thought of the Austrian giving way as Prost tried everything to get past, including going wide onto the grass at one point, with Lauda using every bit of his experience to keep his team-mate behind.
By the last lap Prost was crawling all over the Austrian, but Lauda knew just where to put his car, and came home to score his 25th victory (level with Jim Clark, and just two behind the all-time record held by Jackie Stewart) by just over two-tenths of a season after a fabulous duel.
There was a similar battle in the closing laps between Senna and Alboreto, the Brazilian just about fending off the Williams. Surer had disappeared with an exhaust problem which had got steadily worse, leaving de Angelis 5th, Mansell 6th, Brundle 7th and Piquet – further delayed by a long tyre stop – was a disappointed 8th. Berger was the only other finisher, though Huub Rothengatter was still driving around in front of his delighted public, despite losing a dozen laps in the pits.