Monday 20 February 2012

Retro F1: the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix

The latest Retro F1 was held yesterday, watching the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in Italy.

For those who don't know, Retro F1 is watching a classic F1 race in full on YouTube and chatting on Twitter with like-minded F1 people as we go. This race was memorable and controversial, featured Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, as well as other great drivers, and was run in the classic turbocharged machines of the mid-1980s.

The YouTube footage that we watched is below (or you can click here) as are the highlights of our Twitter chat.

Right, ready, let’s do this. I’m clicking play now. Everyone else please do the same.

@mario_eb Of course. I couldn't miss this one :) All systems checked over here :) -O=O'
@DavidHer228 And here we go, 1985 Imola GP live Twitter commentary :)
...with the legendary Murray Walker and James Hunt :)
@kanemelegatti Here we go!
@djtrickster77 Never seen this one before so looking forward to it...
@mario_eb You'll have fun :)

Hordes of tifosi at Imola as you’d expect. After a difficult 1984 Ferrari was showing signs of returning to form in this early part of 1985.

Some scene-setting: this is race three of 1985. McLaren had dominated 1984 (Niki Lauda pipping Alain Prost for the title, despite Prost usually being the quicker of the two) and were expected to dominate again. Prost indeed won round one in Rio, but in round two Senna announced himself properly with his debut win in the pouring rain in Estoril. And he’s on pole again here at Imola...

@djtrickster77 Ayrton Senna on pole with the JPS lotus...Legendary.
@DavidHer228 Senna on pole position more than one second ahead...
@mario_eb Those names, those cars, Turbo Era, those races. GREAT!!!

@SartoMutiny Where is Gerhard! I MUST KNOW.
Gerhard (Berger) qualified 10th :)

Off we go... Senna leads team mate Elio de Angelis, with Michele Alboreto's Ferrari 3rd. The roar of the tifosi can be heard above the engines.
@ElenaF1 Clean start and Senna running away!

Prost, lurking ominously as usual, is 4th.

@DavidHer228 Keke (Rosberg) usually in his son's positions these years: 5th...

Very talented was Alboreto, he showed in 1985 what he could do with a good car underneath him.
@mario_eb I felt so bad when I heard about his fatal accident. A real shame.

Michele Alboreto - an early front runner
Credit: Lothar Spurzem / CC

@aka_robyn Senna 25 years old, second youngest in the race - how times have changed!
These days usually you've been sacked from F1 three years ago if you're aged 25!

@kanemelegatti Love these cars sound!!
@ElenaF1 Sounds as music in my ears!!

@SartoMutiny Gerhard in the pits. Sod this, I'm off to the pub :(

Two black and gold JPS Lotuses touring around placed one and two - it's 1978 all over again. De Angelis not yet letting Senna get away at the front.

@SartoMutiny Proper drivers on a proper circuit with proper cars, and you get a proper race. You watching, Bernie?

@kanemelegatti Who needs DRS with these cars? I want this kind of F1 back!!

@djtrickster77 Leading Pirelli driver Piquet is 8th in the! How things change.

Engine blow up for an Alfa - not an unusual occurrence - this time for Riccardo Patrese. Loved Murray shouting 'PATRESE!' in the background when James was talking.
@SartoMutiny Riccardo Patrese's engine blows. James Hunt sounds gutted.

Francois Hesnault - whatever happened to him? Amazing some of the names that have passed through F1 over time.
@mario_eb Cheever (I saw him racing at Indy), Laffite, Winkelhock, Johansson, LAUDA, Mansell, etc, etc, etc.
Yes, whatever became of that Mansell? Don't think we ever heard much from him again ;)

@DavidHer228 Lapped cars already...
@ElenaF1 Yeah. It was quite normal so soon and no blue flags for the lapped cars!

@CamillaKristel Go go Elio de Angelis ! Those Lotuses are pretty, but I wish Prost could go past Alboreto and challenge the top 2!
@aka_robyn I find myself hoping Alboreto can keep Prost behind him. Not sure why...
@geoffarnold Lingering emotions from the 'Senna' movie?

@DavidHer228 Alboreto pushed Prost to the grass kinda like Vettel and Alonso in Monza 2011. Alboreto’s maintained position!
Yes, a little rude from Alboreto there. Out of character too.
@SartoMutiny Although, by current standards, it looks rather tame stuff.

@SartoMutiny Am I the only one that is nostalgic for the days when cars broke down and blew up? 
@geoffarnold No.
There are pros and cons either way, but less reliable F1 cars did mix things up much more than now.
@ElenaF1 Sure, now we have an excess of reliability. Kimi will love it!!
@SartoMutiny It bores me a little, it was more interesting when you thought there was a chance of breakdowns.

@djtrickster77 Who’s gonna be the first to blink at the front??
De Angelis is, as Alboreto passes him for P2, Elio seemed caught unawares. Senna still leads.
@kanemelegatti Good move from Alboreto. Senna goes away.

Alboreto now seems to be closing on Senna for the lead.

Prost also passes de Angelis and is now P3.

Elio de Angelis in his Lotus 97T
Credit: Lothar Spurzem / CC

Andrea de Cesaris crashes. Not at all like him :)
@CamillaKristel Haha! I was about to say the same.
@djtrickster77 That name brings back the wrong kinda memories...shame.
@mario_eb That's why he used to be called Andrea de Crasheris ;)
@aka_robyn LOL - 'neat piece of reversing into a parking spot.' Hunt is great.
@SartoMutiny '…although he did rearrange the parking slot a bit'. James Hunt = legend.
@mario_eb Sure. Like Katayama in 1996. It was hard to see him finishing a GP. How they got to F1 is a mystery.
@ElenaF1 Money.
@mario_eb Forgot that. The same old story.
Yes, it was almost all money in de Cesaris's case. Daddy de Cesaris was high up in the Marlboro organisation. Thing is, de Cesaris could be quick when in the mood, but also incredibly erratic and crash prone.
@djtrickster77 I suppose money counted for more than consistent driving.
@SartoMutiny He was superb in 1991 at Jordan. Probably should have won in Belgium.

Alboreto and de Angelis running at the front beings into sharp focus that we'll have *zero* Italian drivers in F1 at Melbourne this year.
@ElenaF1 In this GP we have 7 Italians...
Amazing, when I first watched F1 in 1980s there always seemed to be a never ending supply of Italian F1 drivers.
@SartoMutiny Thinking about it though, most of them were a bit rubbish.
@ElenaF1 Now they are all sold out, or shall we give BADoer a new chance at Ferrari? ;-)
Yes! Badoer is the future of Italian motor racing!
@ElenaF1 Domenicali has in his hands to have an Italian driver for 2012. Give Badoer Massa's seat ;-)
@SartoMutiny Piercarlo Ghinzani #driversihadforgottenabout
Johnny Carwash #driversihadntforgottenabout
@SartoMutiny Mimmo Schiattarella. I remember going as him in F1 1995 on the Playstation as I rather liked his name.

@DavidHer228 De Angelis is suffering from his tyres...

@mario_eb Something calls my attention; it's quite soon in the race and we already see backmarkers.
I was thinking the same thing - there was a much bigger pace gap between the front and back in those days than now.
@mario_eb Yes, there's a big pace difference. I wonder if those lapped cars were using a turbo.
*Quick consultation of 1985 Autocourse* Yes, all cars in this race were turbos apart from the two Tyrrells.

@mario_eb Those ads: FIAT UNO, FIAT REGATA :)

Stefan Johansson in the other Ferrari moves up to sixth. This was only Johansson's second race for Ferrari, getting a surprise move there after Rene Arnoux was crudely dumped after round one of the 1985 season.

@djtrickster77 Alboretto is seriously pressurising Senna with Prost keeping a watching brief. 
@kanemelegatti Prost is waiting for a chance... He was really smart.
Yes, Prost always was a master of ghosting forward throughout an F1 race.
@kanemelegatti And an expert using the rules in his benefit.
Yes, especially in this era of the fuel rules, even if Prost wasn't a fan of fuel rules.

Alain Prost - among the front runners at Imola
Credit: Lothar Spurzem / CC

@aka_robyn Alboreto basically just let Prost sail past - looks bad for him...
Indeed, Prost is up to P2, Alboreto could be in trouble... Several thousand tifosi hearts sink as Alboreto drops back. Lauda is up to P3, and lurking even more ominously than Prost is.

Looks like Alboreto's day is done. He had a tyre change but is still touring, off the pace. So, this leaves us with Senna still leading, a few seconds ahead of Prost and Lauda's McLarens.

And now Lauda's in trouble, not that the director is letting us see it... This leaves Senna and Prost tête-à-tête at the front.
@djtrickster77 Can Prost gain on 1st place Senna?

Nothing can possibly go wrong with Senna and Prost at the front can it? A nice, clean battle presumably.

@kanemelegatti Woooow!!! The Professor attacks!!
Prost now is all over Senna like a bad suit, Senna's driving defensively.
@kanemelegatti Prost is near Senna. Push Senna, push!! Hahaha

Reckon Prost should use his DRS.
@SartoMutiny I was thinking he should stop first and use the undercut.

Oooh, Prost gets fully alongside Senna into Tosa, but Senna has the inside and keeps his lead. Masterful stuff.
@SartoMutiny Ayrton Senna was never an easy man to overtake, was he?
@DavidHer228 Magic Senna, what a way to defend the first position, Prost just couldn't.. yet.
@CamillaKristel It's just a matter of time when The Professor will pass Senna.
@aka_robyn Yelling at my computer screen as though this didn't happen in 1985. Hahaha.
@SartoMutiny Senna v Prost. We were truly privileged to see such great racers battling against each other for so many years.

Oooh, Patrick Tambay's Renault holds Prost up for a few corners, and Senna makes a break.
@SartoMutiny Lotus laps Renault, 26 years before their worlds collided.
@kanemelegatti Epic battle!!
@F1Blogger ‘One thing to catch, another thing to pass’, still true 27 years later.

@SartoMutiny These computer graphics were probably done on a Spectrum 48k. They are oddly charming.
@djtrickster77 And the only way to find out about lower down the field
It's noticeable about these older races that you only see the front runners on TV, they never show further down.
@djtrickster77 Absolutely my thoughts!! Some of the races further down were just as epic!

And now we have Des Lynam :/
@SartoMutiny Des Lynam, BBC Sport's Mr Sex. Smooooooth.
@djtrickster77 Grandstand!
@kanemelegatti What the hell!!! Notices?!?
@SartoMutiny On the Des Lynam theme, I am posting this, as it's utterly glorious:

This is what happened on British F1 TV coverage then, they'd show a bit of the race live, then cut away for ice hockey or something.
@mario_eb A short pause, nice :) Incredibly things have changed a lot even on TV F1 coverage.

But anyway, we seem to be back where we left off.

@CamillaKristel I thought Alboreto retired from this race a long time ago.
So did I. Looks like Alboreto toured around several laps down for a while, before retiring properly.
@mario_eb Alboreto had an electrical issue according to He was making a good race.

Johansson has moved past Lauda into P4, looking very rapid as he did so. Lauda's having gearbox problems, that's why he's dropped back.

Senna's put some air between himself at Prost, showing ability through traffic that was to become his trademark. A lost skill for F1.
@aka_robyn Was just thinking that. Shouldn't need blue flags!
Yes, if Senna was in F1 these days his ability through traffic would count for nothing!
@SartoMutiny F1 drivers are wimps these days. Blue flags, safety car starts, run off areas the size of small countries etc.
@F1Blogger There were plenty of driver complaints in the 80s too, just overlooked with time.
@ElenaF1 They are too young guys. Kindergarten F1?

@djtrickster77 Martin Brundle in 12th but I don't care.
@ElenaF1 & + 2 laps!
Loved the way Murray said Brundle was 'only 2 laps' behind. Changed days...

@djtrickster77 This race confirms the Senna vs Prost Battles for me which lasted years & shows why they are held in such esteem.

Johansson now shadowing de Angelis for P3. Had no idea Johansson was a qualified chemist. F1 would be better if all drivers had a trade.
@SartoMutiny I hear Lewis Hamilton is big in demolition.

On the subject of F1 drivers with a talent, Elio de Angelis was a classically trained pianist. Here he is in action:

@LetsGroove2nite Very good :) what about Schumi, he worked in an office:

@kanemelegatti Prost seven seconds behind Senna.

@SartoMutiny French 1000 Guineas coming up. Don't anyone give away the result.

Johansson’s been behind de Angelis for a few laps now, looks like the Lotus is quicker down the straights. Needs to pass him soon.

@djtrickster77 Drivers that thank another driver being lapped?? Never would my eyes have believed it.
@knylo Changed days indeed.
@mario_eb That's why I always say F1 used to be a gentlemen sport. We don't see that nowadays.
@djtrickster77 I have to say I love that whole romanticism of F1... Me after you kinda thing.
@ElenaF1 Me too!! 'Thanks, Sir' :D

Johansson past de Angelis, now P3. A great move! Robust and opportunistic in traffic, between Tosa and Piratella. The tifosi love it!
@SartoMutiny Johansson finally passes De Angelis, round the outside of Tosa. As James Hunt said, the tifosi clearly prefer cars to people.
@kanemelegatti Hahaha Johansson did it! Beautiful!!!
@ElenaF1 Wooowww Johansson!!

@F1Blogger Murray Walker: ‘Barring trouble..’ Commentator's curse I feel!
And Murray was notorious for his kiss of death...
@F1Blogger Murray couldn't help himself, but so endearing with his apologies & emotion.
@SartoMutiny ‘Senna on his victorious way’. Oh dear.

Ooh, Johansson up to second! Where did that come from?
@djtrickster77 I was just thinking that... Prost to 3rd??
@kanemelegatti I'm sure Prost wasn't expecting that!
@CamillaKristel I could hear the crowd cheer when Johansson passed De Angelis! Gotta love the tifosi.
@aka_robyn Johansson is on fire! (Not literally.)
@F1Blogger Johansson's drive goes from good to great! Now taken Prost!

Elephant in the room time. While this was the era of massive turbo power, it was also the era of absurd ‘fuel rules’…

@SartoMutiny Senna laps Mansell. Who, interestingly, has a 'White 5'.

Senna has slowed down and Johansson leads! The tifosi are audible above the engines!
@CamillaKristel Johansson!!!!!!!
@SartoMutiny Incredible, you can hear the crowd going absolutely nuts.

Most probably out of fuel for Senna, rules only allowed 220 litres to go the distance... and now Johansson slows and Prost leads! :/
@ElenaF1 OMG!!! What happened??? Incredible... Now Johansson out too! This is mad!
@F1Blogger Ah, back in the day when low fuel wasn't synonymous with team orders but embarrassment.
Indeed! The turbo era was great but the fuel rules were ridiculous.
@mario_eb Well, stupid and ridiculous rules determining results in F1. At least that's not new :/
@aka_robyn Let me guess: everyone runs out of fuel and Brundle wins. LOL!
@kanemelegatti Prost was waiting for this chance?? Professor!! He was really good XD

There was a combination of factors here: silly fuel rules, the Imola circuit was notorious for high fuel consumption, the cool temperature and green track meant a quick pace.
@djtrickster77 From what Hunt was saying the track was much faster than practice...higher fuel usage....Mental!! Glad we don't have that now!
@SartoMutiny I am not sure why the FIA only thought turbo engines were dangerous on Sundays...

Also, neither Senna's Lotus nor Johansson's Ferrari had fuel gauges! So both had to guess their fuel level/consumption.
@mario_eb I wonder how evolved telemetry was in those days. Even if the drivers coughs the teams realise nowadays.

@Rick_Baumhauer Prost really cruising on the last lap.

Anyways, Prost crosses the line first to win. A great race but a farcical ending! And Prost runs dry on the slowing down lap...
@ElenaF1 So, The Professor wins!! Intelligent as usual.
@F1Blogger ‘A victory he (Prost) never expected to get’. One he certainly didn't get to keep!
@ElenaF1 They have finished all on the fumes!! No fuel for anybody...
@mario_eb They finished with the smell of gasoline ;)

Oooh, Murray on the line now. What's happening?

And even more farcical Prost is disqualified for his car being under weight, and de Angelis wins.

F1 being silly ain't a new thing... Turns out Prost judged the fuel *too* well, his car finished with no fuel in it, which meant it was under the weight limit!!

@SartoMutiny Forgive my ignorance, but what is the point of the minimum weight rules?
Not sure actually. Now the point of the minimum weight is that it's for the car plus the driver, so to ensure that heavier drivers aren't disadvantaged. But then the minimum weight was for the car only, so I don't know what the point was.
@Rick_Baumhauer Minimum weight was for safety - didn't want lightweight cars that wouldn't withstand a crash well.
That probably was it. Though could argue heavy cars carry more momentum in an accident, so swings and roundabouts...

@mario_eb As usual, FIA ruining everything in F1 and in motorsport in general ;(
Yeah, and FIA was in Balestre's hands in those days. To think the Senna movie was all about Balestre favouring Prost :)
@kanemelegatti It was really cool! But FIA stills being a badass organistion with stupid rules today!
@aka_robyn Hahaha the end of this race has entered the realm of farce!
@CamillaKristel Even though I knew Johansson was not going to win I was still surprised/sad when he retired.

Thanks very much everyone for joining in today's Retro F1 . Hope you enjoyed it, I promise future races won't be as farcical/confusing at the end. I'm always happy to hear Retro F1 requests, though it has to exist online for free somewhere! I will let you know when the next Retro F1 on its way.

It's weird that I feel responsible for the odd ending though :)
@djtrickster77 Great Retro F1 again my friend! The endings got us all talking..aint that what F1 is all about? Good to chat 2 lovely peeps! Controversy is always fun my friend... fascinating seeing how it pans out.
Thanks for joining and great to chat and hear your thoughts as always! Maybe controversy is a good thing :)
@mario_eb It'd be great if FIA/FOA/FOM take a look back and bring back positive things from those days to current F1.

@effa64 Such endings are the best, F1 is, was and will be a crazy sport, that's why we love it! :)
Yes, you're right. Ultimately I find F1's craziness endearing :)

Here are a few links to full F1 races on YouTube that I've used:

Classic F1 vids
TheRickSpark's Channel


  1. As I said, it was a great RetroF1. I was 3 years old when 1985 San Marino GP took part at Imola. Old times were better I think.

    Graham, I liked the way you made a summary of the RetroF1 session putting the chatters' tweets. Great job.