1984: NIKI LAUDA

Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)

Year: 1984
Driver: Niki Lauda (Austria)
Team: McLaren TAG
Car: McLaren MP4/2
Results: 5 wins, 9 podiums, 5 fastest laps

The season had been expected to see a continuation of the Brabham-Renault-Ferrari battle, with supporting roles for McLaren, Williams and Lotus. McLaren however had stolen a march on its competitors thanks to its TAG turbo engine.

The FISA had introduced new fuel economy rules aimed at reducing speeds, providing 240 litres of fuel for the entire race. TAG commissioned German sports car manufacturer Porsche to design and build a turbo engine. Porsche had extensive experience with similar economy rules due to its participation in endurance racing and this translated in superior fuel economy.

Reigning world driver’s champion Nelson Piquet and his Brabham-BMW were usually the fastest combination on track but appalling reliability meant he was never able to challenge consistently.

The season saw a titanic battle between both McLaren drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost. Prost had been sacked by Renault after failing to win the 1983 title. Fast and ambitious, the Frenchman quickly established his dominance over his teammate.

Austrian Niki Lauda had returned to F1 in 1982 and soon showed he had lost nothing of his earlier determination and guile. He regularly matched the pace of his 1982-1983 McLaren team mate John Watson, but Alain Prost was a different kettle of fish. Lauda quickly realized he could not beat his young team mate on speed. The wily Austrian therefore ignored qualifying and concentrated on his race strategies. By winning races when Prost ran into trouble and scoring relentlessly when Prost proved quicker, Lauda was just able to win the title. McLaren easily took constructors’ title, winning 12 (Prost 7, Lauda 5) out of 16 races.

1984 was also debut season for great Ayrton Senna. He started his career with Toleman and immediately showed his talent – at famous 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, held admits heavy rain. Prost was leading the race, but Senna, in his first Formula One street race in his rookie season in a generally uncompetitive Toleman car, was rapidly catching him. On lap 29, Prost waved to the stewards of the race to indicate that he felt the race should be stopped. He waved again on lap 31 as he passed the start/finish line. The red flag to stop the race was shown at the end of the 32nd lap after clerk of the course Jacky Ickx decided that conditions were too poor for the race to continue. Senna passed Prost’s slowing McLaren at the finish line, but according to the rules, the positions counted are those from the last lap completed by every driver – lap 31 , at which point Prost was still leading.The stoppage was controversial, as it benefitted Prost with a Porsche-designed engine, and was made by Ickx, a Porsche employee in sports car racing. Ickx was suspended from his race control duties for not consulting with the stewards over his decision before making it.The rain was not falling as hard at this stage as it had previously been.

Had the race been allowed to continue until 75% of the laps, full points would have been awarded and Prost could have had 6 points from a 2nd place instead of 4.5 points from the win. In the end Prost lost the championship to Niki Lauda by half a point.

See the season highlights

See a clip from 1984 Monaco GP

See Murray Walker’s portrait of Niki Lauda

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