1983 Long Beach GP: the pass master rides again
Watson ended up one of 11 grand prix winners during a remarkable 1982 – but when it came to it, the title slipped through his grasp by just five points to consistent Rosberg and his single victory.
But at Long Beach the following April, Wattie had one final great F1 day left in him. Just as in Detroit, a lack of grip in qualifying had led to disaster: he qualified 22nd, Lauda 23rd. Cue long faces at McLaren.
But on Sunday, with some heat transforming their Michelins, the McLarens again went to work. Watson sliced through the field, passing his team-mate for good measure. Sure, he was aided by three of the leading four crashing into each other, but his victory from the back (well, almost) remains one of the most unlikely recorded.
His reward? At season’s end, Alain Prost fell out with Renault, and Marlboro and Dennis swooped. Wattie, who’d looked sure to be re-signed, was suddenly the last man standing. His 10-year F1 career was all but over.
Wattie would make one final start for McLaren, as substitute for an injured Lauda at the 1985 European GP at Brands Hatch, suitably on a day when Nigel Mansell’s slow-burn career would finally kick into hyper-drive with Williams. But for six seasons the man from Belfast had been Britain’s number one – and with a fairer wind, might even have picked up a world title along the way.
Today, he remains the committed racing enthusiast he always has been and enjoys his TV commentary work on GT racing. Underrated? Certainly. Forgotten? Never.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.