- Italian Grand Prix
Lauda moves to verge of title after Prost retirement
The McLaren domination continued unabated but the drivers' championship took a major twist as Alain Prost was forced to retire with engine failure, allowing Niki Lauda to ease to victory at Monza. In doing so the Austrian extended his lead in the drivers' championship to 10½ points with two rounds remaining.
The signs of trouble had been flagged by Lauda who asked his mechanics to fit a new engine after problems during the morning warm-up. Prost also had issues but opted for the spare car which also had a new TAG engine slapped in it - and it lasted four laps before it detonated. Lauda also had physical difficulties. He returned to the pits after Saturday practice in agony after displacing a bone in his back. Intensive work by his personal masseur ensured he was able to start and he drove the race tightly bandaged and with special padding in his seat to prevent any sideways movement.
Again Nelson Piquet took pole and an early lead; again his Brabham expired before the race had started to hot up although this time he was to blame after he ran over a kerb, split a water radiator and the engine leaked coolant everywhere. Patrick Tambay, under team orders to go flat out to test a development engine, took over in his Renault.
Piquet's team-mate Teo Fabi sat in second until the 40th of the 51 laps when he was passed by Lauda. Three laps later Tambay's spirited effort came to an end when the throttle linkage failed.
Lauda led home Michele Alboreto's Ferrari by 24 seconds. It was a superb result for Alboreto as the team had decided after a wretched two days to switch back to its old car and by the end Alboreto was the only driver on the same lap as Lauda. Riccardo Patrese brought home his Alfa Romeo in third for the team's best result of the campaign.
Toleman had suspended Ayrton Senna after his signing for Lotus while still under contract and replaced him with Pierluigi Martini, a man who finished his 124-race F1 career without a podium finish. Unsurprisingly, he failed to qualify. But their other car, driven for the first time by Stefan Johansson, came in fourth.
Johansson started dreadfully, finally getting going more than 50 yards behind the field, but he persevered and was up to third when he was forced to pit with a seizing drive shaft. His mechanics sent him back out with orders to drive slowly. He came in fourth after a spate of retirements.
Jo Gartner (Osella) and Gerhard Berger (ATS) came fifth and sixth but did not gain any championship points as they were driving their teams' No. 2 cars and both outfits had only entered one car at the start of the season.