F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

With his 2016 ti­tle win, Nico Ros­berg be­comes the sec­ond world cham­pion son of a world cham­pion fa­ther, af­ter Gra­ham and Da­mon Hill. looks back at 1982, the year Nico’s old man, Keke, took his ti­tle…

Keijo ‘Keke’ Ros­berg had been build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a fast, ag­gres­sive, F1 racer – al­beit one cast in the mould of an over-achiever in sub-par ma­chin­ery – when a gilded op­por­tu­nity came his way. Late in 1981, af­ter four sea­sons with back-of-the-grid fod­der from the likes of Fit­ti­paldi, Wolf, ATS and Theodore, Ros­berg was ap­proach­ing his 33rd birth­day and seem­ingly past what­ever peak he might have en­joyed. But then a va­cancy arose at Wil­liams when 1980 cham­pion Alan Jones un­ex­pect­edly re­tired.

Frank Wil­liams had to pick the best driver he could get for 1982 from very limited op­tions, bear­ing in mind that the rst race was in South Africa on 23 Jan­uary. Ros­berg re­warded his leap of faith by claim­ing the ti­tle af­ter one of the hard­est-fought – and most tragic – sea­sons in the sport’s his­tory.

This was a pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal change as the FIA tried to con­tain car per­for­mance while the teams fought for a greater share of the sport’s rev­enue. For sev­eral sea­sons the FIA had sought to com­bat ‘ground ef­fect’ – the prac­tice of chan­nelling air un­der the car to boost down­force. None of their tac­tics worked, and the grow­ing power and the pop­u­lar­ity of tur­bocharg­ing ex­ac­er­bated the prob­lem. The cars were quicker and more phys­i­cally de­mand­ing to drive than ever.

Ros­berg’s main chal­lenge through­out 1982 was that F1 had passed the cross­over point: the tur­bocharged en­gines used by Re­nault and Fer­rari had far more grunt than the ven­er­a­ble nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Cos­worth DFV in his Wil­liams. He had to drive out of his skin sim­ply to keep up, a fact of­ten lost on those who churl­ishly point out that he won just one race all season.

The season be­gan ran­corously with a driv­ers’ strike over the FIA’s new su­per­li­cence regime dur­ing the South African Grand Prix week­end. A race planned for Ar­gentina in early March was can­celled. In Brazil, Ros­berg nished sec­ond to Nel­son Pi­quet’s Wil­liams, but fur­ther trou­ble was brew­ing over the tech­ni­cal chi­canery the Cos­worth-pow­ered teams were em­ploy­ing to get around the power decit.

Be­yond the po­lit­i­cal sphere, chaos and tragedy stalked F1. There were ve dif­fer­ent lead­ers in the last two laps of the Monaco Grand Prix. Gilles Vil­leneuve was killed in qual­i­fy­ing for the Bel­gian Grand Prix, while rookie Ric­cardo Paletti died af­ter a crash at the start in Mon­tréal. And Di­dier Pironi suf­fered lifechang­ing in­juries to his legs af­ter run­ning into the back of Alain Prost dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing at Hock­en­heim.

Ger­many was round 12 of 16 and Pironi was lead­ing the cham­pi­onship with 39 points from John Wat­son (30), Alain Prost (25) and Niki Lauda (24). Ros­berg was fth, with 23. The points sys­tem of 9-6-4-3-2-1 had re­warded Ros­berg’s con­sis­tency, and with Pironi out of the frame there was ev­ery­thing to play for. Podium nishes in Ger­many and Aus­tria (where he al­most won) vaulted Ros­berg into sec­ond place, and then vic­tory in the Swiss Grand Prix at Di­jon en­abled him to over­take Pironi’s tally. Fifth place at the season-closer in Las Ve­gas sealed the deal.

De­spite win­ning just one GP in 1982, Keke Ros­berg’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and con­sis­tency paid off, as he dragged the un­der­pow­ered Wil­liams FW08 to the ti­tle

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