The 1982 FIA Formula One Review – A Critical Review

Seen by many as an annus horribilis for the sport, the 1982 season was one of the strangest in the history of Formula One, and a season that would ultimately become tragic. Won by a fifth place at the last event, the season proved indecisive, with the championship lead passing hands many times, and two of the quickest racers eliminated from the points race before their chance to prove themselves worthy of the Drivers’ Championship. Politics between the ruling body, FISA, and the Formula One Constructors’ Association, FOCA, also dominated the season which turned out to be chaotic.

The 1982 season was the second to receive an official video review, released on VHS. With the wealth of footage available to FOCA, the ingredients were there for a very competent review of the season. To commentate, FOCA got Clive James, an Australian writer, journalist and avid motorsport enthusiast.

This proved to be a coup. Clive James’ mixture of dry wit and sarcasm, along with his clear knowledge of the sport, makes this one of the most interesting videos on motorsport yet produced. The season began in Kyalami in South Africa, where political disputes were already drawing up lines in the paddocks between the British-dominated FOCA and the manufacturer-dominated FISA. Almost immediately, Clive James comments on the farcical situation, which left cars sitting in the pits, with the sort of wit that immediately convinces one that he was the right choice of commentator.

This is hardly the high point of the season, though, because at this point, the cars are yet to race. The footage in the 1980s FOCA reviews is not fantastic in quality, being limited largely by the comparatively poor quality of VHS sets, but as the turbocharged Renaults dominate the first race at the sort of high altitudes that they would show themselves to be comfortable at, the quality is at least good enough to tell what is going on.

This may be the high point of Salazar’s career, so let’s see it again.” – Clive James on the Piquet vs. Salazar fight at Hockenheim.

The technical developments of the season, with the incredibly powerful but unreliable turbocharged engines facing off against the reliable but slow Ford Cosworth engines, are given their fair share of commentating time, and the video commendably discusses the exploits used by the Cosworth-using teams at the start of the season to try to get some sort of advantage over the turbocharged engines. As this would prove important by the end of the year, along with the turbo vs. Cosworth conflict, it’s nice to see the technical details being discussed in such a way as to allow laymen to understand as well as those more mired in the fine details of the sport.

As the season progressed onwards, it started to become indecisive, with some rather unexpected results, perfect fodder for the sarcastic style of Clive James. One-liners come from left, right and centre as cars break down, drivers overtake and unexpected results truly come from left field. But it wasn’t long into the season before disaster struck. After the dominant performance of the turbocharged Ferraris at their home ground in the San Marino race, where Didier Pironi controversially overtook the Ferrari team-leader and fan favourite, Gilles Villeneuve, Villeneuve tried to better Pironi’s time on a crowded track at Zolder in Belgium with tragic consequences.

Trying to overtake the slower car of Jochen Mass, Villeneuve’s car ripped itself to shreds, killing him instantly. This crash, along with the later fatal crash of Riccardo Paletti at Montreal, is shown clearly on the video, making for harrowing viewing, and making this part of the video difficult to watch. It is to Clive James’ credit that he manages to present these sections with the respect accorded to them, and he manages to juxtapose these awful crashes with the interesting racing action of the rest of the season without skipping a beat.

Luckily, not all in the 1982 season was tragic and horrifying. Just after the weekend at Zolder came the annual race at Monte Carlo in Monaco – and the 1982 race turned out to be a classic. One of the most farcical and hilarious races ever caught on film, this race is perfect material for Clive James, and while the Murray Walker/James Hunt commentary of the end of this chaotic race was amusing enough, the footage on the official review really gives us six minutes of absolute hilarity. Even if you aren’t a Formula One fan, the footage of the Monaco race in 1982 is worth watching.

He had got all the way to lap 74, which was a high proportion of the 76 laps required, but not quite high enough.” – Clive James on Alain Prost’s unexpected crash. Watch the video. Please.

The 1982 season may have eventually turned out to be more interesting than truly exciting, particularly with the fatal crashes of Villeneuve and Paletti, but the official 1982 review really does justice to it with superb commentary and footage of all of the important material. It could well be regarded as the very best of the official Formula One reviews, and it shines from start to finish. It also makes one somewhat disappointed that Clive James would only return to commentate two more official reviews, because he proves an ideal commentator on this review. A pity, certainly, and perhaps his presence could have spiced up the 1983 review, which had a rather less competent commentating team.

Bottom Line: A strange and tragic season given the respect it deserves without taking away from the excitement of the racing. An excellent effort.

Recommendation: If you’re a Formula One fan, try to find a copy of the review. It’s worth the watch. Even non-motorsport fans should watch the footage of the Monaco race, presented above.

 

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