Video: Senna and the 1985 Australian Grand Prix
This weekend sees the Australian Grand Prix open the 2015 Formula One season, but 30-years ago the first Australian GP to be held as part of the World Championship in November 1985 was the last race of that season, William’s Keke Rosberg taking his final GP win in a race that took its toll on the 25-starters. The first visit of the series to the Adelaide street circuit also marked a former champion ending his F1 career as Niki Lauda finished his final race with an off after a brake problem on his McLaren.
The Adelaide circuit confounded some F1 regulars’ expectations of a street circuit with some fast and wide corners and a 900-metre straight appropriately named after multiple champion Sir Jack Brabham. Popular with the team and drivers, qualifying became a battle between Williams-Honda duo Rosberg and Nigel Mansell, and the Lotus-Renault of Ayrton Senna.
Rosberg held the merest advantage over Senna after Friday’s session, but with the clock ticking down on Saturday’s hour-long qualifying it looked to be his team-mate Mansell who had clinched pole. Then along came Senna in his Lotus 97T with a qualifying ‘special’ in the back courtesy of Renault, the Brazilian slicing over seven-tenths of a second of Mansell’s best with a time of 1m19.843s to take his seventh pole of the season.
Sunday’s race was held in high temperatures and proved hard on the cars with only eight classified finishers. With Alain Prost having sealed the World Championship at the European GP in early October, drivers were aiming at a race win with rather than a title and from the start it was Mansell ahead of Senna, but a touch between the two saw the Briton retire his Williams at the end of the opening lap.
Rosberg took advantage to move ahead, Senna right with him and Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto third. The low grip surface and the heat were soon taxing the tyres and cars began pitting, Alboreto and Prost early stoppers. Rosberg and Senna were together for much of the first half of the race, the Finn’s dive into the pits for fresh tyres catching Senna out, the Lotus losing its front wing as it struck the rear of the Williams.
The lack of a wing proved too much for even Senna and he pitted for repairs, Rosberg again leading. Marc Surer had moved into third in his Brabham once Prost had lost his engine, but he then spun and stalled. Rosberg again pitted and rejoined third behind Lauda and Senna, Lauda looking on course to close his career with a win before going off on lap 58 with no brakes at the end of the long straight.
Rosberg was right with leader Senna when the latter’s Lotus began smoking and forced the Brazilian to retire, and then it was Alboreto’s turn to strike problems as a gearbox issue saw him retire from third. Rosberg had a commanding lead, enough to make another tyre stop and stay ahead, with second and third places now held by the Ligiers of Jacques Laffite and Philippe Streiff.
As Rosberg took his fifth and final GP win it almost ended in tears behind as the two Ligiers contrived to come together, Strieff trying to snatch second in the belief that Ivan Capelli, who was just behind him on the road but was in fact a lap down, was pressuring him for the final podium slot. Laffite survived to cruise in for second, while Strieff staggered home in third minus a front wheel – his best-ever F1 finish and his final race for a less than impressed Guy Ligier.
1 Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) 82 Laps 2h00m40.473s
2 Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Renault) +43.130s
3 Philippe Strieff (Ligier-Renault) +1m28.536s
4 Ivan Cappelli (Tyrrell-Renault) + 1 Lap
5 Stefan Johansson (Ferrari) +1 Lap
6 Gerhard Berger (Arrows BMW) + 1 Lap
7 Huub Rothengatter (Osella-Alfa Romeo) +1 Lap
8 Pierluigi Martini (Minardi-Motori Moderni) +4 laps
Fastest Lap: Rosberg, 1m23.758s