Michele Alboreto's start-to-finish win for Ferrari at Zolder made him the first Italian to win in a Ferrari since Ludovico Scarfiotti in 1966. He took his first pole position and then dominated the race.
McLaren's early-season domination which had seen it win the first two grands prix came to a shuddering halt. Alain Prost qualified in eighth with Lauda back in 14th after an eventful build-up when he had to jump clear of his car when it burst into flames as he accelerated from the pits.
Ferrari had been stung into action after two poor races, and changes to its fuel consumption made the car competitive again. Alboreto and Rene Arnoux hogged the front row of the grid - the last time Ferrari were to do this for four years - but off the line Derek Warwick was Alboreto's main challenge. It was soon apparent his Renault was no match for the Ferrari and so he concentrated on staving off the attack of Arnoux and the ATS of Manfred Winkelhock in a surprising fourth place.
Keke Rosberg, who had qualified on the second row, found himself at the back of the field when his engine almost stalled on the grid but then drove a brilliant race and soon after the halfway point was in second. But the drive took its toll and he spluttered to a halt when he ran out of petrol on the last lap and was classified fourth.
Arnoux meanwhile had problems of his own after an over-long pit stop relegated him to 13th but he too showed his class by clawing his way up to third by the finish. Defending champion Nelson Piquet's Brabham expired in a cloud of smoke four laps from the end while lying in fourth.
Alboreto only had one moment of concern when he slithered onto the grass but he was able to get back undamaged and went on to win by 42 seconds.
There was no shortage of discussions - some heated - in the garages after the race as drivers angrily criticised the surface which had disintegrated throughout, making driving off the line hazardous. "It was dangerous at times," Warwick said. "And I mean really, really dangerous. There was only one line you could drive and everyone was on it."
That led to slower drivers who refused to move out the way for the leaders being lambasted. The leading target was Jonathan Palmer who brought home his RAM in tenth but was six laps behind Alboreto.
This was the last time Zolder staged a Formula One grand prix.