- January 23 down the years
Driver strike overshadows season openerWhat happened on January 23 in Formula One history?
The South African Grand Prix at Kyalami was overshadowed by a dispute between the drivers and FISA, the sports governing body which for some time threatened to cause the cancellation of the race. The drivers had spent Thursday locked in their hotel after objection to new so-called superlicences which, they claimed, removed their ability to enter into contract negotiations during a season. They refused to practice for the Saturday grand prix, and although a truce was called in time to allow the race to happen, FISA suspended the licenses of 29 of them immediately after the finish. Alain Prost in a Renault won despite suffering from such severe tyre vibrations that he was unable to read his instruments - team-mate Rene Arnoux , who had recorded his tenth career pole and who suffered from similar problems, took third with Carlos Reutemann in second. Keke Rosberg came fifth despite the gear knob of his Williams all but blocking the pedals of his car. The other big story was the return of former champion Niki Lauda after two years away to take fourth. "Niki was just fantastic … so fit," said McLaren's joint boss Ron Dennis. "It went better than we dared."
Eddie Irvine announced his retirement after failing to secure a drive for the season. "It's a sad day for Formula One that Eddie can't continue," said former team boss Eddie Jordan. "With Jordan, Ferrari especially, and Jaguar he's shown great style and lots of character. He has done well out of Formula One and Formula One has been richer for his colourful and intelligent presence." Flavio Briatore, the team manager of Renault, said: "Eddie was a throwback to former times - a driver who liked to party and enjoy himself but also took his profession very seriously."
Carlos Reutemann secured his first win for Ferrari at the Brazilian Grand Prix, his second victory at the event. James Hunt led for half the race until he was forced to pit and concede the lead, and he eventually took second while Niki Lauda was third. After the race an angry Carlos Pace accused Hunt of reckless driving. "He came much too close to me to overtake," Pace fumed. "There was plenty of room for him to pass and yet he cannoned into mine. The nose covering and radiator were torn off and I was forced to stop." Hunt ignored Pace's tirade, but instead slammed race organisers who he claimed in an attempt to clean the track had "scrubbed it so thoroughly we lost traction". He had a point as seven cars skidded off and only seven of the 22 starters finished. Hunt also took a pop at the media saying he had suffered "harassment by the press".
Temperatures in the high 80s took a toll on drivers at the Argentine Grand Prix but Jackie Stewart in a Tyrell took the lead on the opening lap and never looked back, easing to his 19th career win. Carlos Reutemann had grabbed pole in the dying seconds of the qualifying but Stewart was much quicker off the line.