Long before it started, there was promise that 1984 would be an exciting season of grand prix racing. In 1982 there had been 11 different winners from the 16 races. In 1983 there were seven different winners from the first eight races, and the season came down to a close battle between Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost, decided by two points. Ferrari drivers René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay hadn’t been far behind, the pair winning the constructors’ title for the Italians.
After missing out on the title for the third time, Prost was sacked by Renault and moved to McLaren, which had only finished fifth in ’83. That meant John Watson lost his place in Formula 1 after 11 seasons, although he was seen as a potential stand-in for a number of teams. Only Williams, ATS, Lotus and Arrows carried over their complete driver line-up. Ferrari showed interest in Keke Rosberg, who was keen to drive a turbo car, but the Finn stayed at Williams after the team inked a two-year deal to use Honda turbo engines. The Honda turbos had been tested by Spirit the previous season and were said to reach 800 horsepower in qualifying-boost trim. Ferrari improved its V6 turbo to 660 horsepower in race trim and was also working on a four-cylinder motor with better fuel economy. The Porsche turbo, which had debuted in mid-1983, produced 760 horsepower, and the BMW was worth at least 760 horsepower as well.
There were changes to the regulations, too. Fuel stops were banned, and fuel consumption was limited to 220 litres – which wouldn’t have been enough for any team over a race distance in 1983. Drivers had to learn how to manage boost pressure for the 1984 season, which Bosch simplified for McLaren with electronic control. In the press, there was talk about the first ‘remote-controlled world champion’, with journalists speculating that signals from the pit wall would determine the outcome of races.
Ken Tyrrell saw an opportunity for his team, given his naturally-aspirated cars enjoyed better fuel economy. Having protested the water injection systems used as additional engine cooling by Ferrari and Renault in 1983, Tyrrell now wanted to use his own version of the technology. It was supposed to help boost power (13 litres for 20 horsepower), but was seen by others as weight cheating. The Tyrrell was also unique in its shape while the other cars, unlike the previous year, all looked quite similar.
Formula 1 had big expansion plans for North America. In addition to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the ‘USA Central Grand Prix’ in Detroit, there were plans for races in Dallas (‘USA West’) and New York (‘USA East’). Long Beach had been dropped as the organisers were more interested in IndyCar. However, the New York event, which was meant to take place in Queens, didn’t go ahead. A planned new race in Fuengirola, Spain, was cancelled as well. To keep the schedule at 16 races, a Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril was scheduled for late October…
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