Riccardo Patrese, Brabham, Brands Hatch, 1983

The last time a track held two Formula 1 races in the same year

F1 history

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How will the 2020 F1 season ever get started? And once it does begin, how will the organisers make sure they hold enough races?

One solution which has been put forward, as reported last week, is to run at some venues more than once.

As far as the world championship is concerned, this would be unprecedented. No track has ever held two points-paying races in the same year.

The nearest thing to this was the sole round of the championship to be held on Berlin’s AVUS course in 1959. That was run over two heats, but paid points for one round. Conversely, in 2014, Abu Dhabi held a standard race but paid points for two, a disastrously unpopular experiment which was quickly scrapped.

However in the days of non-championship races it was common for F1 cars to race on the same circuits more than once per year. This was especially so in Britain, thanks to its ready supply of local teams, though top rivals from abroad such as Ferrari and Ligier were often persuaded to make the trip.

Keke Rosberg, Williams, Brands Hatch, 1983
Rosberg won at Brands Hatch in 1983…
Silverstone, which is being tipped as one of the tracks which could hold multiple races this year, regularly played host to both the British Grand Prix and the BRDC International Trophy in the seventies. Brands Hatch, which shared duties hosting Britain’s world championship round at the time, also held its non-points Race of Champions event, among others.

Non-championship races went into decline in the late seventies as the championship calendar expanded and teams devoted more time to tyre testing. None were held in 1982, and the following year saw F1’s final non-points-scoring event, the Race of Champions, organised by the British Racing and Sports Car Club and held at Brands Hatch.

Bernie Ecclestone, head of the Brabham team as well as chief of the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association, gave his blessing for the race to go ahead and sent one of his team’s cars for the race on April 10th. But with regular race drivers busy – Nelson Piquet was tyre testing and Riccardo Patrese on sports car duty – former driver Hector Rebaque was recalled to pilot a BT52.

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Other top teams also only mustered single-car entries. However the presence of reigning champion Keke Rosberg in his Williams and 1980 champion Alan Jones in an Arrows ensured the title ‘Race of Champions’ was at least accurate. The 13-car field was slim, but featured home favourites John Watson (McLaren) and Nigel Mansell (Lotus).

The race was run over 40 laps, little more than half grand prix distance, yet almost half the starters failed to finish. Among the retirements were all the turbo-powered cars. That left Danny Sullivan to chase the reigning champion home, the pair separated by half a second at the line. Sullivan, who would win the Indianapolis 500 two years later and CART IndyCar title three years after that, took a second place which outstripped anything he managed in his single season of grand prix racing with Ken Tyrrell’s team that year.

Third place for Jones made it two champions out of two on the podium. This was his second and final appearance in the Arrows A6, a car which Marc Surer last week told RaceFans was the favourite of his career.

Jones and four other drivers – Brian Henton, Jean-Louis Schlesser, Chico Serra and Rebaque – did not join the rest for the points-paying European Grand Prix at the same track five months later. This second championship round in Britain that year (Silverstone held the British Grand Prix) was scheduled as a replacement for a cancelled race in New York.

Along with the eight drivers who had contested the Race of Champions a further 21 showed up, meaning three would not make the cut for the 26-strong field. One of them was Williams driver Jacques Laffite, which should have been a surprise, though he had also failed to qualify at Monza two weeks earlier.

In fairness to Laffite, Williams had over-extended themselves by entering a third car for test driver Jonathan Palmer to make his debut in, then were caught out when Rosberg crashed in practice. As they shuffled spares between their cars Palmer made the cut in 25th place, but Laffite watched from the sidelines for the second week in a row.

Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Brands Hatch, 1983
…and so did Piquet
Elio de Angelis brought joy to Lotus by scoring their first pole position since founder Colin Chapman’s death the previous December; indeed, it was their first for almost five years. It was good news for tobacco brand John Player as well, sponsor of both Lotus and the race. De Angles was out of the main event early however with Renault engine problems.

Alain Prost, Piquet and Arnoux arrived at Brands Hatch separated by just five points at the top of the championship standings. Piquet ramped up the pressure on Prost ahead of the Kyalami decider by repeating his win from Monza, though Arnoux spun out at Surtees and failed to score. Prost limited the damage with second.

Mansell gave Lotus’s sponsor more to be pleased about with third place. This was his first visit to the rostrum in front of his home crowd, and two years later at the same circuit he scored his first of many wins on British soil.

Since non-championship races faded from the F1 scene 37 years ago, many countries have held multiple championship rounds in a single year, including Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan. But no single track has welcomed F1 cars to race twice in a single year.

That they ever were able to was a result of the popularity of the sport at the time, which meant race promoters could bank on getting fans in the stands more than once per year. In contrast, this year is very likely to be that even if we do get multiple races at the same venue, the races will almost certainly have to be held in front of empty stands.

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Result: 1983 Race of Champions, Brands Hatch

PositionNumberDriverCarLapsTime / gap / reason
11Keke RosbergWilliams-Ford Cosworth4053’15.253
24Danny SullivanTyrrell-Ford Cosworth40+0.490
330Alan JonesArrows-Ford Cosworth40+28.64
434Brian HentonTheodore-Ford Cosworth40+40.52
526Raul BoeselLigier-Ford Cosworth40+40.971
617Jean-Louis SchlesserRAM-Ford Cosworth39+1 lap
733Roberto GuerreroTheodore-Ford Cosworth39+1 lap
DNF29Chico SerraArrows-Ford Cosworth31Gearbox
DNF28Rene ArnouxFerrari24Tyres
DNF5Hector RebaqueBrabham-BMW15Handling
DNF2John WatsonMcLaren-Ford Cosworth9Vibrations
DNF12Nigel MansellLotus-Renault7Handling
DNF40Stefan JohanssonSpirit-Honda5Engine

Result: 1983 European Grand Prix, Brands Hatch

PositionNumberDriverCarLapsTime / gap / reason
15Nelson PiquetBrabham-BMW761:36’45.865
215Alain ProstRenault76+6.571
312Nigel MansellLotus-Renault76+30.315
422Andrea de CesarisAlfa Romeo76+34.396
535Derek WarwickToleman-Hart76+44.915
636Bruno GiacomelliToleman-Hart76+52.190
76Riccardo PatreseBrabham-BMW76+1’12.684
89Manfred WinkelhockATS-BMW75+1 lap
928Rene ArnouxFerrari75+1 lap
1016Eddie CheeverRenault75+1 lap
1130Thierry BoutsenArrows-Ford Cosworth75+1 lap
1233Roberto GuerreroTheodore-Ford Cosworth75+1 lap
1342Jonathan PalmerWilliams-Ford Cosworth74+2 laps
1440Stefan JohanssonSpirit-Honda74+2 laps
1526Raul BoeselLigier-Ford Cosworth73+3 laps
27Patrick TambayFerrari67Accident
3Michele AlboretoTyrrell-Ford Cosworth64Engine
32Piercarlo GhinzaniOsella-Alfa Romeo63Throttle
29Marc SurerArrows-Ford Cosworth50Engine
1Keke RosbergWilliams-Ford Cosworth43Engine
23Mauro BaldiAlfa Romeo39Clutch
7John WatsonMcLaren-TAG36Accident
4Danny SullivanTyrrell-Ford Cosworth27Oil leak
8Niki LaudaMcLaren-TAG25Engine
11Elio de AngelisLotus-Renault12Oil pump
25Jean-Pierre JarierLigier-Ford Cosworth0Clutch

Did not qualify: Kenny Acheson (RAM-Ford Cosworth), Corrado Fabi (Osella-Alfa Romeo), Jacques Laffite (Williams-Ford Cosworth)

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Pictures: 1983 European Grand Prix, Brands Hatch

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “The last time a track held two Formula 1 races in the same year”

  1. Don’t like the idea of F1 having double headers at all. It takes the prestige out of the Grand Prix. If they don’t wanna go to a different venue 3 weeks in a row (which is quite unrealistic given the times) multiple times from the (hopefully) Austria season start, then let’s just have a fewer races like in the old days, and call it a one off – back to 22 or more race calendars from next year. Would be interesting what kind of result a short calendar would produce. Based on ’17 and ’18 closer top standings!

    1. Don’t like the idea of F1 having double headers at all. It takes the prestige out of the Grand Prix.

      In other sports they don’t mind that much and still give it the full name. I recall that recently in Spanish football they had 3 ‘el Clasicos’ matches over a period of 2 weeks.

      Sometimes it seems that F1 fans are the most ‘precious’ fans of all.

      1. @coldfly

        I recall that recently in Spanish football they had 3 ‘el Clasicos’ matches over a period of 2 weeks.

        That’s different though, the matches are for different competitions, 1 presumably for the league (and another one for the league some months before or after) and the other 2 for either the domestic or the European cup (which are knock-out competitions). F1 doesn’t stage more than one championship/competition per year.

        Although given the unprecedented circumstances, having a championship with double headers at some/most trackes and since all the teams will take part in the same track and have equal status and have the same opportunities to win or score points, it’s better than not having a championship at all. Sure we like variation on the calendar side but it’s not going to be the end of the world if that happened.

      2. @coldfly it’s veeeeeeeeeeery different in football. We had 3 Superclasicos in Argentina for the league and Libertadores Cup semi-final in a month last year and they were all huge in tension, specially the Libertadores. Circumstances vary in every match, specially those truly explosive matches between rivals like Boca-River or Madrid-Barça.

        In F1 it’s a lot more track and weather condition dependant. If they ran Silverstone twice in the same month, i really doubt ratings for the second one would be at the same level. They could ran Barcelona 10 times in a season, and 9 out of 10 the results would be the same or very similar.

        1. Not sure football and F1 will be that different in that respect. Football has various competition, but the match is still the same rules & tools (balls & players pun intended), @fer-no65.
          And as my broken record keeps reminding me: one can easily change the 2nd race by allocating a different tyre compound.

          But most importantly I agree with @black above that “it’s better (to have a doubleheader) than not having a championship at all.”

          1. @coldfly It is different. The match is the same, but it’s different to play home or away. Plus, it’s very different if your loss only gives 3 points to your rival or eliminates you from the competition. Different things at stake.

          2. @coldfly mind, I also think doubleheaders are a good alternative, but because it seems it might be the ONLY alternative…

          3. @coldfly In football a team can change their entire starting squad (all 11 players) depending on whether they “value” that competition more than the other or if they want to rest some key players. For example if Barcelona is miles ahead in front of Real in the domestic league they can rest some of their most important players and in that match they could lose 0-2 to Real without losing significant ground in the league… and in 3-4 days later when they play again in a different competition with knock-out matches that they both value, Barcelona could start their best players and change completely their tactics and win 3-0 easily.

            In F1 with a double-header there isn’t much (if anything) that you could change. The teams will be the same, the drivers will be the same, the strategy will most likely be the same, the tyre compounds will most likely be the same because i don’t think you could run softer compounds in tracks like Barcelona or Silverstone that require harder ones… and even if you do, the strategy will most likely change very little. The only thing that would make a difference is if they could run a different layout but in Silverstone’s and most race tracks’ case the alternatives are too short for the rules.

            Given how unusual this season is going to be (if it even goes through), maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to expirement with the race format like Brawn suggested like sprint races etc, but not at random picks, but to all the (double-header) races so that the “expirement” is applied to all the races equaly.

          4. Thanks for enlightening me on the strategic decisions within football, @black.
            You might be surprised to learn that in F1 a team can also ‘change their entire starting squad’; there are some limitations but it has happened in the past (Lotus 1994).

            But to elaborate on my ‘compound suggestion’, and reacting to your statement:

            the tyre compounds will most likely be the same because i don’t think you could run softer compounds in tracks like Barcelona or Silverstone that require harder ones… and even if you do, the strategy will most likely change very little.

            I suggest that in one race they supply only the medium tyre and scrap the minimum pitstop/compound rule. In the next race they supply only the hard tyre (and maybe limit set-up changes between the races).
            We’ve seen that teams/cars have significantly different relative performance using the various compounds. Thus this way the races can be significantly different. Also one race will have various pitstops, whereas the next might have no pitstop at all (good to see how that works out).
            I opinion that this will be a sufficient change to raise interest in both (or more) races.

          5. @coldfly

            You might be surprised to learn that in F1 a team can also ‘change their entire starting squad’; there are some limitations but it has happened in the past (Lotus 1994)

            Back in the 90s it was a mayhem of drivers changes for all sorts of reasons. I can’t see how any of the current teams would change any of the key people (drivers, team principals etc) between races. What advantage would that bring anyway?

            As for the compound thing… i doubt any of the participants (teams, FIA, Pirelli) would consider something like that. If anything, Pirelli brought 3 compounds between 2016-2018 just to have some variation and still most of the stategies were similar. Forcing teams to run just 1 for the entire race would kill any variation when it comes to strategy as all the teams will be forced to run the exact same one… i mean as it is right now if you plan to run a S-M-M strategy you could stretch the middle stint and run a S-M-S strategy and create some opportunities. With just 1 compound available all the teams would run a M-M-M strategy and how much could you strech one of the stints and for what, to put the same compound as your competitor only a few laps later?
            Let alone that with the cars, tyres and regs being similar, all the teams have data from previous years and they’re caught hardly off guard.

            Tyres maybe one thing but what dictates the performance of the teams is usually the track layout (Mercedes usually mighty on circuits with fast corners, Ferrari with long straights and Red Bull usually in slow street circuits). The only way to create some “chaos” and unpredictability is either to change the layout of the track (something than only Bahrain i think can do and still maintain the minimun race distance)…or to change the race format in these double header races and have a regular one and a spint one. Something that the teams have no data on and will have to adapt.

  2. Intresting article, but given the circumstances, 2-races per track behind closed doors seems to be the least bad idea we currently have to have a championship. But something irrelevant sprung into my mind while reading this…

    Conversely, in 2014, Abu Dhabi held a standard race but paid points for two, a disastrously unpopular experiment which was quickly scrapped.

    God, I almost erased that thing from my memory.
    But seriously, what would F1 have turned into if we adopted all of Bernie’s crazy ideas without the teams resisting at all? I mean medals instead of points, sprinkles that suddenly appear in the middle of the race, “joker” laps, reverse grids, elimination qualifying like 2016, double points on “premium” races and a championship consisted with races mostly in the Middle East and mostly other dictatorship/monarchies.
    Either most of us would have turned their backs for good to the sport we once loved or we would still watch some races, but more like it’s a guily pleasure thing to watch on Sundays, rather than an actual sport.

    1. Wow – I take it all back Bernie – what a good way to change the track for the second race – Turn on the Sprinklers!!!!

  3. Derek Warwick is missing from the 1983 European Grand Prix race results

    1. @fer-no65 Fixed that, thanks – his line was merged in with the one below for the other Toleman.

      So I choose to blame Toleman for getting two cars home in the points for the first time in their history.

      1. @keithcollantine I have to say, that was the pointer for me too! I was surprised to see Toleman twice in the top 6. But then I saw De Cesaris next to it and realised something was wrong.

        A quick check on wikipedia confirmed that indeed Toleman scored with both their cars and Warwick was missing.

      2. A result they only had because Derek Warwick started the race on half tanks the year before…a move which convinced their sponsors to stick with them for another year.

  4. Enjoying these history articles very much, thanks Keith. I’d be interested in stuff about indy racing from back in the day because it’s not something I’m very familiar with compared to F1 history. Having said that, I learned stuff from this article and other recent ones, so whatever the topic is, I’ll be a happy customer.

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