On this day in... 1985

03rd November 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Australian Formula 1 history was made 32 years ago today (November 3) when the country, which had already produced World Champions in Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, hosted its maiden World Championship Grand Prix.

And it was 1980 World Champion Jones who completed the very first lap of the new venue – a street circuit in the East Parklands area of South Australian city Adelaide that consisted of a mixture of long, fast and bumpy straights, 90-degree corners, a quick chicane and a hairpin. It was Jones’ third GP weekend of ’85 in the Hart turbo-powered Team Haas Lola THL-1, having come out of retirement for the Italian GP at Monza.

Ayrton Senna, who’d been the master of qualifying during the season, secured his seventh pole position for Lotus, pipping the Williams-Honda of form-man Nigel Mansell, winner of the previous two races at Brands Hatch and Kyalami. Mansell’s team-mate Keke Rosberg was almost 1.5 seconds adrift in third.

In the accompanying video, narrated by Senna, we see the Brazilian losing out to Mansell at the start and the two running side by side in the early skirmishes. So much so, in fact, that the pair briefly touched at the Turn 5 left-hander, Mansell running wide and Senna having to get out of the throttle.

That allowed Rosberg to scamper off into the lead, with Senna giving chase. The Brazilian’s rear tyres soon began to wear causing him to drop back, although he kept up the pressure on the leader. He got away with a high-speed bounce over the kerb onto the back straight but then got caught out by a slowing Rosberg and lost part of his front wing as he ran into the back of the Williams.  

Missing the pit entrance thanks to high-speed understeer caused by the missing front wing, Senna had to complete another lap at reduced pace before he could stop for a replacement. 

Rosberg, meanwhile, stopped for fresh rubber while Senna was losing time. Once back out he caught and passed the Lotus at the final corner as it headed for the pits; the lead was his again.

On fresh Goodyears, Senna went on a charge to catch new second-place man Niki Lauda, running well in what would be his final Grand Prix before retirement. The two enjoyed a good scrap, with Senna eventually passing the Austrian.

With Rosberg pitting for a second time for tyres, the Senna/Lauda battle was for the lead of the race. The triple champion cheekily repassed Senna to lead on lap 56 but his time at the front was limited to just two laps. A brake problem pitched the McLaren off at the end of the straight and into the wall. Bent suspension meant his career was over on the spot.

As Senna had done earlier, Rosberg charged hard on new rubber to catch the Lotus. It proved immaterial as the Renault engine in the black-and-gold machine cried enough just as Rosberg arrived on its tail.

With Senna out of the picture, Rosberg hung on for the remaining 20 laps to record his fifth career win, all of them coming with Williams and this time in his very last race with the British squad. For 1986, he would replace Lauda at McLaren alongside World Champion Alain Prost.

High attrition in the inaugural Australian GP accounted for Mansell, Prost, the Ferrari of Michele Alboreto, Senna’s team-mate Elio de Angelis and the Brabhams of Nelson Piquet and Marc Surer. In fact, only eight of the 25 cars made it to the end, with the two Ligiers of Jacques Laffite and Philippe Streiff completing the podium positions. 

Judged a huge success, the race was awarded the Formula One Race Promoters’ Trophy after being voted the best-run GP of the year.

Adelaide would go on to host another 10 season-closing F1 races – all of them memorable. For 1996, Melbourne’s Albert Park would take over hosting duties of the Australian GP, running instead at the start of the season.

Australian Grand Prix, 1985

1. Keke Rosberg (FIN) – Williams FW10-Honda, 82 laps

2. Jacques Laffite (F) – Ligier JS25-Renault, +46.13s

3. Philippe Streiff (F) – Ligier JS25-Renault, +1m28.53s

4. Ivan Capelli (I) – Tyrrell 014-Renault, 81 laps

5. Stefan Johansson (S) – Ferrari 156/85, 81 laps

6. Gerhard Berger (AUT) – Arrows A8-BMW, 81 laps

Photography courtesy of LAT

  • Adelaide

  • F1

  • Keke Rosberg

  • Ayrton Senna

  • Williams


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