laidback style and
willingness to take
big risks might have
seemed at odds with
the more calculated
approach of BMW, but
he found a perfect foil
in F1 project leader
Paul Rosche (BELOW).
winning meant rolling
the dice – hence ’ 83’s
fuel” and the (not so
BMW engine of ’ 86.
A KINDRED SPIRIT
people worked it out for most of the season,
because they’d stop at 40-50 percent.
“At Kyalami, they expected us to do our
usual thing, but instead I put a small
amount of fuel in. I knew Prost and Renault
would be demoralized if we disappeared
into the distance. We started Nelson on
quarter race distance fuel, and he ended
the first lap more than two seconds in the
lead. You could sense the despondency in
the air at Renault. Our strategy did exactly
what we wanted it to do. Then we stopped
early, obviously, and they all said, ‘Oh crap.’
I loved doing that sort of stuff...”
“We put in around 40 gallons of fuel in
eight seconds,” says Whiting. “We used
pressurized beer kegs, and not a lot of
proof testing went into them! Anyway,
Nelson went back out and couldn’t see any
cars. He thought, ‘I can’t still be in the lead,’
but he was. And he was still pulling away.”
Prost’s hopes went up in smoke with a
turbo failure on lap 36. After that, he
could only hope Piquet retired. But after
letting his teammate Riccardo Patrese
and the Alfa Romeo of Andrea de Cesaris
past, Nelson cruised home third. It was
more than enough to secure the title.
“Halfway through the year, I didn’t think
we’d win the title,” says Blash. “What a
great achievement against a full factory
“It really was very unscientific.
The design of the BT52 was all
gut feel and experience”
team. Renault had all the experience with
turbos, and I guess we were the underdogs.”
However, the victory was to some
degree tainted by accusations about the
legality of the “rocket fuel” from BMW.
“Renault caused a stink,” says Murray.
“They took a load away for testing after
Kyalami, and it was within the regs. But
they tightened the regs up after that...”
Indeed the title was only made official
some weeks after the season, when Piquet
went to Paris to collect his trophy. When
berated by FIA President Jean-Marie
Balestre for turning up in jeans and leather
jacket – he’d come straight from a test – he
pointed out that he only knew he was
World Champion a few hours before...