Belgian Grand Prix – 1984


Ayrton Senna’s positive results in the South African Grand Prix brought optimism for a good weekend in Belgium. Three weeks after winning his first point in Formula One, the Brazilian wanted to repeat the feat and land his Toleman within the points-scoring zone once again. However, the difficult Circuit Zolder did not favor his Toleman’s Hart engine, not to mention the car’s outdated model – the TG 183B – which was used in the previous year and would only be replaced in the fifth race of the 1984 season, the French GP.

The Zolder track was involved in two very different stories. In 1982 – in which was supposed to be the last race held at the Belgian circuit – Canadian Gilles Villeneuve suffered a fatal accident aboard his Ferrari during the qualifying rounds. Senna also raced there on that weekend, in a preliminary Formula Ford 2000. Senna won 21 out of 28 races, that year, and became the category’s champion.

In 1983, the Zolder track was replaced by Spa-Francorchamps (where the Belgian GP takes place nowadays), only to come back in 1984, when it was retired from the category’s calendar for good.

During the practice sessions, Ayrton Senna and the team put forth great effort in attempting to make changes in aerodynamics, but Ayrton Senna ended up in a modest 19th position, out of 26 cars on the starting grid. Interestingly, this would turn out to be the worst starting position in his career, but the race was among his best ones, relative to the car he was driving.

Ayrton grew worried about his car’s set up and spent his entire warm up time trying to improve its performance before the start.

At the front end of the starting grid, Michele Alboreto and René Arnoux hared the first row. It was the Italian’s first pole position. Keke Rosberg was in third, with his Williams, and Derek Warwick was in fourth, with his Renault. The third row was made up of Elio de Angelis’ Lotus and, surprisingly, German driver Manfred Winkelhock’s ATS.

At the start, Alboreto kept the lead and Warwick took the chance to jump from fourth to second place, meaning Arnoux and Rosberg lost one position each. In the middle of the pack, Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto, Senna’s teammate at Toleman, had to retire on the second lap, after starting in 16th place. McLaren’s Alain Prost, who led the standings at the time, also retired. The Frenchman’s car even caught fire, but firemen worked fast and no one was hurt.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian drivers were starting to recover. Nelson Piquet started in ninth place and managed to get into de points-scoring zone before the fifth lap was over. Right after that, he went after Elio de Angelis, in fifth, and climbed to third after overtaking Winkelhock and René Arnoux in the race’s first half.

Senna, on the other hand, had to go over the grass with his Toleman at the start of the race, after a driver was unable to move. Because of that, he had to settle with his original position for the first nine laps. Senna took the 18th place after passing Jacques Laffite on the 10th lap, and benefited from the retirements of Nigel Mansell (Lotus), Thierry Boutsen (Arrows) and Eddie Cheever (Alfa-Romeo), taking the 15th position.

Ayrton was plagued by two issues: when the tank was full, he would need to go easy on the throttle to prevent unnecessary wear on the tires, and, when the tank was low, he would need to hold steady, since the notoriously heavy car tended to understeer.

In 13th place, Senna made a pit-stop to change his Pirelli tires for the first and only time. At the start of the race’s second half, Senna took advantage of Andrea de Cesaris’ and Teo Fabi’s retirements, jumping to 11th.

Less than 20 laps away from the end, Senna overtook Swiss Marc Surer (Arrows) and, soon after, on lap 54, Martin Brundle (Tyrell) had trouble exiting the pit-box and Ayrton took the ninth place.

The Toleman driver’s next target was Renault’s Patrick Tambay. Ayrton overtook him and was just two positions away from repeating his sixth-place finish in Kyalami.

On lap 66, Nelson Piquet left the race. After keeping the third position for most of the race, the Brazilian driver was let down by his Brabham’s BMW engine when he was in fifth.

That meant Senna crossed the finish line in seventh. But Stefan Bellof, who finished in sith, was disqualified due to irregularities in his Tyrrell. In the front of the pack, Alboreto won his first race in the season and also his first race driving a Ferrari, leading from start to finish.

The podium at Zolder was rounded out by Britton Derek Warwick in second place and Frenchman René Arnoux in third. Finn Keke Rosberg finished in fourth and Italian Elio de Angelis took the fifth place. Even facing all the adversity, Ayrton Senna achieved another sixth-place finish. It was his second point after only three F1 races. A very auspicious start for the 24 year-old talent – the youngest driver on the starting grid, at the time.

The season’s fourth GP would take place at Ímola, one week later.

Resumo da Corrida

  • 1 M. Alboreto
  • 2 R. Arnoux
  • 3 K. Rosberg
  • 4 D. Warwick
  • 5 E. de Angelis
  • 6 M. Winkelhock
  • 7 R. Patrese
  • 8 A. Prost
  • 9 N. Piquet
  • 10 N. Mansell
  • 11 E. Cheever
  • 12 P. Tambay
  • 13 A. de Cesaris
  • 14 N. Lauda
  • 15 J. Laffite
  • 16 J. Cecotto
  • 17 T. Boutsen
  • 18 T. Fabi
  • 19 Ayrton Senna
  • 20 P. Ghinzani
  • 21 S. Bellof
  • 22 M. Brundle
  • 23 F. Hesnault
  • 24 M. Surer
  • 25 M. Baldi
  • 26 J. Palmer
Voltas 70
Tempo Ensolarado
Volta mais rápida R. Arnoux - 1'19"294
Podium 1º M. Alboreto 2º D. Warwick 3º R. Arnoux
Carros 26
Abandonos 15