Refuelling in, ground-effect out - Piquet is champion
New flat-bottom regulations that banned ground-effect underwing sections under the sidepods cut downforce, while turbos became essential. As did a pit crew that knew how to refuel in a hurry, as Brabham's introduction of this tactic meant cars could start a race with half a tank of fuel, with its obvious advantages of speed and tyre wear.
Williams, for whom champion Keke Rosberg was joined by Jacques Laffite, wasn't ready and would have to spend another year with Ford Cosworth DFV power until its Honda-powered car was ready. The Japanese manufacturer was back after a 15-year break, making a low-key start with the small Spirit team, which had employed Stefan Johansson as its driver, giving him another chance after his aborted start with Shadow in 1980. McLaren, too, had to be patient. It had arranged for sponsor TAG to pay for Porsche's V6 and, until that was ready, Lauda and Watson were stuck with the DFV.
Colin Chapman had scored a coup by securing Renault engines for Lotus. Although he died suddenly, Lotus carried on: de Angelis had the new car for race two, while Mansell used DFV power until mid-season.
Of those with turbo experience, Brabham's Piquet and Patrese had stuck with BMW engines, while Arnoux left Renault to join Tambay at Ferrari, being replaced by Eddie Cheever who had moved on from Ligier, with the French team having to make do with ageing Jean-Pierre Jarier and Raul Boesel who joined from March. Toleman had a much-improved car for Warwick and Giacomelli. The other leading teams were stuck with DFV power, these including Ligier, Arrows and Tyrrell.Theodore and Ensign combined, with the Theodore name remaining, while Fittipaldi failed to last into 1983.
Piquet won in impressive style in Rio, but Rosberg drew all the attention. He led, had a fire at his pit stop, recovered to second and was then excluded for a push start. Lauda and Laffite thus took the other podium places.
Long Beach was a rare opportunity for the DFV cars to shine. Watson and Lauda qualified 22nd and 23rd, but they got the race set-up right and came charging through to finish one-two, with Arnoux third. Unusually, the European season kicked off at Paul Ricard and Renault continued its habit of winning at home, with Prost coming first. Tambay scored an emotional win for Ferrari at Imola, well aware that a year earlier his friend Villeneuve had been robbed by Pironi. Monaco was another chance for the DFVs to shine. Rosberg qualified sixth behind the turbos, but it rained and he chose to start on slicks. He was in the lead by lap two and pulled away as the others pitted.
After a 13-year break, the Belgian Grand Prix returned to Spa-Francorchamps. It was rebuilt and much shorter than the original, but it was instantly regarded as the best on the calendar. De Cesaris took the lead, but retired with engine problems. Prost took over and held on to the flag.
Detroit gave the DFV runners another chance and Alboreto scored his second win for Tyrrell, taking the lead when Piquet had to pit with a puncture. This was the 155th victory for the Ford Cosworth DFV, and no one could guess that it would also be the last. In Canada Arnoux dominated for Ferrari, ahead of Cheever and Tambay.
Prost scored a brilliant win at Silverstone. The Ferraris led, but Prost pushed them as they used up their tyres. Piquet came through to take second, with Tambay third.Arnoux scored another win at Hockenheim, although he defied team orders at the start when he was supposed to let Tambay stay ahead. Tambay retired, while Piquet lost out with a major fire and de Cesaris took a lucky second. Prost had to work hard to win in Austria, passing Arnoux with six laps to go. Piquet kept his title hopes alive with third, and Prost's lead was now 14 points. He got it wrong in Holland, sliding into Piquet, putting them both out. Arnoux drove a good race to win from tenth.
Monza brought the worst possible result for Prost: retirement, while Piquet won and Arnoux was second. Britain hosted the Grand Prix of Europe, at Brands Hatch. Piquet won again, but Prost kept his hopes alive with second. Just South Africa remained, and Piquet was quick in the first half, while Arnoux stopped early and Prost became stuck in a battle for third.
But his turbo was failing and he retired. Piquet dropped to third, as Patrese won from de Cesaris, but ensured that he scored the vital points needed for the title.