1982 Detroit Grand Prix

The 1982 Detroit Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on June 6, 1982, in Detroit, Michigan.

1982 Detroit Grand Prix
Race 7 of 16 in the 1982 Formula One World Championship
Downtown Detroit Street Circuit (1982).svg
Race details
Date June 6, 1982
Official name 1st Detroit Grand Prix
Location Detroit street circuit
Detroit, Michigan
Course Temporary street course
Course length 4.168 km (2.59 mi)
Distance 62 laps, 258.428 km (160.58 mi)
Weather Sunny and warm with temperatures reaching up to 72 °F (22 °C); wind speeds up to 16.1 miles per hour (25.9 km/h)[1]
Pole position
Driver Renault
Time 1:48.537
Fastest lap
Driver France Alain Prost Renault
Time 1:50.438 on lap 45
First McLaren-Ford
Second Ligier-Matra
Third Ferrari


Starting from seventeenth position on the grid, Northern Ireland's John Watson stormed through the field to win the first Detroit Grand Prix, at America's sixth different Formula One venue.

Due to organizational problems, extra practice planned for Thursday was cancelled, and the first qualifying session on Friday had to be postponed. There was time for only a one-hour practice session on Friday, and so qualifying would take place on Saturday in two one-hour sessions, four hours apart. Saturday was cold and overcast with a threat of rain, and nearly all the drivers scrambled to get a time in on the dry track while they could, with many spins and trips down the escape roads of the unfamiliar circuit. The afternoon session was wet throughout, as expected, and the times from the morning session did indeed determine the grid.

Alain Prost took Renault's sixth pole in seven races on the season with a lap of 1:48.537, an average of less than 83 miles per hour (134 kilometers per hour), slower than Monaco. Andrea de Cesaris, the only non-Renault driver with a pole so far in 1982 (Long Beach), put his Alfa Romeo alongside Prost on the front row with a 1:48.872, ahead of the Williams of Keke Rosberg. For the second straight race, Ferrari had only one entry following the death of Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium four weeks earlier, and Didier Pironi qualified it in fourth spot.

The lone American driver in the race, Eddie Cheever, put on a fine show for the home crowd, placing his Ligier ninth, behind the Lotus pair of Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis and just ahead of Niki Lauda's McLaren. The biggest surprise, however, was seeing defending World Champion Nelson Piquet at the bottom of the time sheets. Problems with the BMW engines in both his race car and spare during the morning session and rain in the afternoon combined to keep him off the grid for Sunday's race.

In contrast to Saturday afternoon, Sunday was mostly sunny and very nice as a flotilla of boats dotted the river across from the circuit. The top three drivers all managed excellent starts, and Prost led de Cesaris and Rosberg through the first turn. Following them at the end of Lap one were Pironi, Mansell, Bruno Giacomelli, Cheever and Lauda. Manfred Winkelhock retired from an excellent fifth position when a front hub upright that had been replaced on the grid broke anyway, putting his ATS into the wall. Just two laps later, on Lap three, de Cesaris limped into the pits with a broken driveshaft, leaving Rosberg in second place, three seconds behind Prost.

On Lap seven, under pressure from de Angelis, Roberto Guerrero's Ensign went wide at the first corner. De Angelis tried to go through on the inside, but when Guerrero resumed his line, the two collided. The Lotus was able to continue, but Guerrero slid to a halt in the tire wall. Jochen Mass and Watson were able to avoid the disabled Ensign, but when Riccardo Patrese came upon the scene, he locked up and hit the tire wall right next to Guerrero, losing a wheel. A brake duct on Patrese's car quickly caught fire, and though the disabled cars seemed to be out of the way, the sight of two cars stopped on the track, one in flames, prompted the Clerk of the Course to call for the red flag.

The cars returned to the pits and waited for nearly an hour, while all manner of repairs were made by the mechanics. Prost had his skirts changed and fuel topped off, Lauda changed his leaking oil cooler, and Guerrero, Winkelhock and Patrese, who had retired, even brought their spare cars out on the grid for the restart! This, at least, was not allowed, and eighteen cars restarted the race in running order, with the final result to be determined by the sum of the two times recorded in the two parts of the race.

Prost again took the lead off the grid, and one lap later he led Rosberg, Pironi, Giacomelli, Cheever, René Arnoux, Lauda and Mansell. Immediately, Prost began to distance himself from Rosberg, who was also pulling away from Pironi and, after fifteen laps (total), led by five seconds. Gradually, however, the Renault began to develop electronic injection problems, as teammate Arnoux had several laps earlier, and the Frenchman saw his lead over Rosberg begin to evaporate. By Lap 21, the two cars were nose to tail, and a lap later, the Williams took the lead in brilliant fashion as Rosberg pulled alongside entering one of the many tight right-hand corners, stayed there through the corner on the outside, and emerged slightly sideways but in front. Prost continued to fall back and eventually pitted, while a furious dice continued behind Rosberg, now over second place, between Pironi, Giacomelli, Cheever and Lauda.

Behind this group, amazingly, came the charging McLaren of John Watson, having stormed through nearly the entire field from seventeenth place on the original grid. When Cheever and Lauda both overtook Giacomelli as he got sideways exiting a corner, Watson was quickly nose to tail behind Giacomelli and struggling to get through. On Lap 30, with Rosberg leading by 15 seconds, Watson passed Giacomelli, but the Italian counterattacked a moment later when the McLaren went wide. Giacomelli tried to force his way through on the inside, but his left front wheel hit Watson's right rear, and Giacomelli ended up in the wall. Pironi had been holding up both Lauda and Cheever, but when Watson latched on to them, he passed all three on the same lap to take over second place, thirteen seconds behind Rosberg.

In two laps, the gap was down to seven seconds, then two seconds, and at the end of Lap 37, Watson was two seconds up, as Rosberg had lost third gear. Overall, however, on combined time, Rosberg was still eighteen seconds ahead, so he attempted merely to stay close to the McLaren. Meanwhile, Lauda, inspired perhaps by his teammate, had passed both Cheever and Pironi, and now also approached Rosberg. Likely knowing the Williams was in trouble, he unwisely made a late dive down the inside of Turn One. He locked his wheels, hit the wall and broke his suspension, leaving Cheever in third place.

Secure in the lead, Watson was able to back off as Rosberg struggled with fuel feed problems and worn tires, in addition to his ailing gearbox, and dropped all the way back to fifth on the track, fourth on combined time. With an average speed of only 78 mph, the two-hour time limit was reached well short of the intended 76 laps, and Watson took his second win of the season. American Eddie Cheever claimed second for his best Grand Prix finish, ahead of Pironi in third.

Despite a mountain of teething problems with the new circuit, the organizers of the race received excellent reviews for their efforts, and a new American city had made its entrance to Formula One. With two US races already run in 1982, one still remained, as, for the first time ever, one country would host three events in a single Grand Prix season.



Pos No Driver Constructor Q1 Q2 Gap
1 15   Alain Prost Renault 1:48.537 2:14.616
2 22   Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo 1:48.872 2:10.770 +0.335
3 6   Keke Rosberg Williams-Ford 1:49.264 2:12.559 +0.727
4 28   Didier Pironi Ferrari 1:49.903 2:13.665 +1.366
5 9   Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Ford 1:50.066 2:11.260 +1.529
6 23   Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo 1:50.252 no time +1.715
7 12   Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford 1:50.294 2:20.888 +1.757
8 11   Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford 1:50.443 2:12.481 +1.906
9 25   Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra 1:50.520 2:11.745 +1.983
10 8   Niki Lauda McLaren-Ford 1:51.026 2:09.121 +2.489
11 14   Roberto Guerrero Ensign-Ford 1:51.039 no time +2.502
12 5   Derek Daly Williams-Ford 1:51.227 2:11.554 +2.690
13 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 1:51.270 no time +2.733
14 2   Riccardo Patrese Brabham-Ford 1:51.508 no time +2.971
15 16   René Arnoux Renault 1:51.514 no time +2.977
16 3   Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Ford 1:51.618 2:11.678 +3.081
17 7   John Watson McLaren-Ford 1:51.868 2:11.384 +3.331
18 17   Jochen Mass March-Ford 1:52.271 2:13.486 +3.734
19 29   Marc Surer Arrows-Ford 1:52.316 2:12.033 +3.779
20 4   Brian Henton Tyrrell-Ford 1:52.867 2:22.663 +4.330
21 18   Raul Boesel March-Ford 1:52.870 2:14.385 +4.333
22 31   Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Ford 1:52.988 2:13.648 +4.451
23 32   Riccardo Paletti Osella-Ford 1:54.084 2:24.878 +5.547
24 30   Mauro Baldi Arrows-Ford 1:54.332 2:14.746 +5.795
25 10   Eliseo Salazar ATS-Ford 1:55.633 2:16.139 +7.096
26 20   Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Ford 1:55.848 2:24.739 +7.311
27 19   Emilio de Villota March-Ford 1:56.589 no time +8.052
28 1   Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW 1:57.779 no time +9.242
29 33   Jan Lammers Theodore-Ford no time no time


Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 7   John Watson McLaren-Ford 62 1:58:41.043 17 9
2 25   Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra 62 + 15.726 9 6
3 28   Didier Pironi Ferrari 62 + 28.077 4 4
4 6   Keke Rosberg Williams-Ford 62 + 1:11.976 3 3
5 5   Derek Daly Williams-Ford 62 + 1:23.757 12 2
6 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 61 + 1 Lap 13 1
7 17   Jochen Mass March-Ford 61 + 1 Lap 18  
8 29   Marc Surer Arrows-Ford 61 + 1 Lap 19  
9 4   Brian Henton Tyrrell-Ford 60 + 2 Laps 20  
10 16   René Arnoux Renault 59 + 3 Laps 15  
11 20   Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Ford 59 + 3 Laps 26  
NC 15   Alain Prost Renault 54 + 8 Laps 1  
Ret 12   Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford 44 Engine 7  
Ret 8   Niki Lauda McLaren-Ford 40 Collision 10  
Ret 3   Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Ford 40 Spun Off 16  
Ret 23   Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo 30 Collision 6  
Ret 11   Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford 17 Gearbox 8  
Ret 10   Eliseo Salazar ATS-Ford 13 Spun Off 25  
Ret 14   Roberto Guerrero Ensign-Ford 6 Collision 11  
Ret 2   Riccardo Patrese Brabham-Ford 6 Collision 14  
Ret 22   Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo 2 Transmission 2  
Ret 31   Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Ford 2 Ignition 22  
Ret 9   Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Ford 1 Spun Off 5  
Ret 18   Raul Boesel March-Ford 0 Collision 21  
Ret 30   Mauro Baldi Arrows-Ford 0 Collision 24  
DNS 32   Riccardo Paletti Osella-Ford 23  
DNQ 19   Emilio de Villota March-Ford      
DNQ 1   Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW      
DNQ 33   Jan Lammers Theodore-Ford      

Championship standings after the raceEdit

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ "1982 Detroit Grand Prix weather information". Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  2. ^ "1982 USA East Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b "USA East 1982 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 15 March 2019.

Further readingEdit

  • Innes Ireland (October, 1982). "1st Detroit Grand Prix: Wattie, The Renaissance Man". Road & Track, 140-144.
  • Mike S. Lang (1992). Grand Prix!: Race-by-race account of Formula 1 World Championship motor racing. Volume 4: 1981 to 1984. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN 0-85429-733-2

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1983 Detroit Grand Prix