The 1982 season proved to be one of the most turbulent - and tragic - in the long history of Formula One. Keke Rosberg became the first man since 1964 to secure the championship with just a single victory to his name.
Lauda was back after two years setting up his charter airline, joining John Watson at McLaren. Williams replaced Jones with Keke Rosberg, and Brabham looked better than for a long time, with Riccardo Patrese as Piquet's team-mate. The other changes in the cockpit included Andrea de Cesaris moving across from McLaren after a destructive season to join Alfa Romeo, Eddie Cheever moving from Tyrrell to Ligier and Marc Surer hooking up with Arrows.
Piquet crashed in the opening race at Kyalami, and the Renaults dominated until Prost had a puncture. But he charged back from eighth to win from Reutemann and Arnoux. Piquet was first across the line in Brazil, too, but he and Rosberg were disqualified after protests lodged by Ferrari and Renault for their cars being under the minimum weight at the end of the race. This was due to a loophole allowing the teams to top up the water tank for brake cooling after the race. In effect, this tank was for nothing of the sort, with the water simply being dumped at the start. Victory was thus handed to Renault's Alain Prost.
Lauda won at Long Beach from Rosberg. The retrospective disqualifications of first and second in Brazil, had led FOCA teams to boycott San Marino, and it was a half-hearted event with just 14 cars entering. Tyrrell, bound by Italian sponsors, broke ranks to join the manufacturer outfits. Pironi and Villeneuve dominated and traded places in what many thought was a show for the fans. Pironi passed the Canadian on the last lap to take the victory, and so a deadly feud began.
The feud rumbled on to Zolder where, in final qualifying, desperate to outgun Pironi, tragedy struck. Villeneuve hit the back of Jochen Mass's March and was launched into a frightening roll. The most entertaining driver of the era was killed. The race went ahead without Ferrari, and Watson won after passing Rosberg with two laps to go as brake and tyre troubles afflicted the Finn's Williams.
Monaco was dramatic. Arnoux led until spinning, Prost took over until crashing heavily with three laps to go; Patrese then led, but spun, and Pironi and de Cesaris went by. With one lap to go, Pironi stopped with electrical problems, de Cesaris ran out of fuel and Williams replacement Derek Daly retired after clouting the barrier. Patrese recovered to win.
Detroit was next - this street circuit in the home of the American automotive industry being visited for the first time - and Watson drove a storming race to victory from 17th on the grid, his hard Michelin tyres helping him to pass 12 cars.
In Montreal, now named the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Pironi stalled from pole and was hit by Osella driver Riccardo Paletti, who was killed. Piquet won the race, Patrese came in second. At Zandvoort, Ferrari finally had some good news, Pironi winning in fine style as new second driver Patrick Tambay settled in well.
Brands Hatch saw Lauda win but the star of the race was Warwick, who got the tank-like Toleman up to second before retiring. The race was notable for Brabham waiting in the pitlane with pressurised fuel tanks and tyre ovens for a pit stop at mid-distance, the first of the modern age. Trouble was, neither Patrese nor Piquet made it that far...
Arnoux headed home Prost in a Renault one-two in the French Grand Prix with Pironi finishing third to head to Hockenheim leading by nine points. But in wet practice Pironi struck the back of Prost's Renault and was launched into a career-ending accident that broke his legs. In the race Tambay scored his first win in the second Ferrari, ahead of Arnoux and Rosberg. The Austrian Grand Prix was one of the best of the year, with Lotus driver Elio de Angelis holding off a lunge from Rosberg's Williams in one of the closest finishes ever to win by 0.05 second.
In the Swiss Grand Prix, held at Dijon-Prenois in France, the Renaults led, but Rosberg came through to win from Prost. After Arnoux won at Monza, from Tambay, Watson then had to win the final race, at Las Vegas, to deprive Rosberg of the title. Arnoux and Prost both led, but a shock victory went to Tyrrell's Alboreto. Watson was second, but it was not enough and fifth-placed Rosberg took the honours. Amazingly, 11 drivers won races in 1982, making it a season like none before or since. So competitive was it up front that Rosberg became champion despite winning only once, backing this up with three second places.