McLaren celebrates 700 GPs - the 200th race
|1981 German GP - Hockenheim, August 2 1981|
||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Ford||45 laps in 1hr 25m55.60s||(Grid: 6)|
||John Watson||McLaren-Ford||+ 1 lap||(9)|
|DNF||Andrea de Cesaris||McLaren-Ford||4 laps||(10)|
After Emerson Fittipaldi and Jochen Mass rounded out the podium of the 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix, our 100th race, the team went from strength to strength. Emerson, wearing the number one on his M23, won at Silverstone and took three more podiums to add to his victory in Argentina at the start of the season, finishing runner-up to Niki Lauda in the Drivers’ Championship. Jochen won at Montjuich where Emerson elected not to start the race on safety grounds, and set fastest lap in France.
James Hunt replaced Emerson for 1976 and over the course of a dramatic season qualified on pole eight times and won six races, taking his first victory in the second race of the year and posting the fastest lap in Austria. The championship battle went down to the last race, in Japan, and although James took the drivers’ title we were the runners-up in the Constructors’ Championship. As a measure of how competitive Formula 1 had become, we had actually scored one more point than we had in 1974, when we became champion constructors for the first time.
During that final push in 1976 we prioritised work on the ageing but still competitive M23, with the result that the new M26 did not make its debut until part of the way through 1977. James added three more wins (in Great Britain, the USA and Japan) to our tally with the new car, as well as six poles (three in the M23, three in the M26) and three fastest laps, ultimately finishing fifth in the Drivers' Championship.
The M26 and its successors proved less competitive as F1 moved into the era of ground effect aerodynamics and we notched up just one podium each in 1978 and 1979. In 1980 we gained new management and technical direction in the form of Ron Dennis and John Barnard. They brought with them an ambitious vision to transform the technological landscape of F1 by introducing the sport’s first carbonfibre monocoque chassis.
Driven by John Watson, the revolutionary MP4/1 made its debut in Argentina, the third race of the 1981 season. Andrea de Cesaris continued with the M29F until a second chassis was ready, in Monaco. In spite of some initial teething troubles the MP4/1 showed its potential as John raced to the podium in Spain and France before taking an emotional home win at Silverstone. Delayed by an incident involving Alan Jones and Gilles Villeneuve (which Andrea crashed while trying to avoid), John fought back to make our 199th race a victorious one.
Elsewhere in 1981
Prince Charles and Diana Spencer marry, as do former Beatle Ringo Starr and Bond girl Barbara Bach.
Former movie star Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President of the United States of America on January 20. Two months later he is the victim of an assassination attempt outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, remarking to his wife on his hospital bed, “Sorry honey – I forgot to duck.” Six weeks later Pope John Paul II is shot during his regular address in St Peter’s Square, requiring a four-hour operation and several months’ recuperation before making a full recovery. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is shot and killed during a parade in Cairo, while in the UK a teenager fires several blank rounds at Queen Elizabeth II.
Daylight Saving Time is introduced in the USSR.
The space shuttle Columbia embarks on its maiden voyage in April, returning to space again in November, Voyager 2 passes Saturn, and CERN achieves the first proton-antiproton beam collision.
Olympic gold medal-winning heavyweight boxer Leon Spinks is mugged, losing his famous gold front teeth as he tries to bite his assailant. Sebastian Coe sets a new one mile record of 3m47.33s. John McEnroe wins the men’s singles final at Wimbledon, defeating Bjorn Borg in the final for the second consecutive year, but not before launching the phrase “You cannot be serious” into the sporting lexicon. He is fined £1000 for berating umpire Fred Hoyles.
MTV launches, promising to revolutionise the consumption of pop music; the first record played is Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles. Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes tops the US Billboard chart for nine weeks but fails to make the same impact in the UK, where re-releases of Imagine and Woman occupy the top spot until mid-January following the death of John Lennon in December 1980. Shaddap You Face by the Joe Dolce Music Theatre hits number one at the expense of Ultravox’s Vienna. At the end of the year, the Human League displace Julio Iglesias to begin a five-week run at the top with Don’t You Want Me.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is the highest grossing film of the year, achieving double the box office take of Henry Fonda’s swansong, On Golden Pond. It picks up Oscars for visual effects, editing and art direction, but Warren Beatty takes Best Director for Reds and the critically acclaimed Chariots of Fire wins Best Picture. The acting gongs are a shoo-in for On Golden Pond’s veteran stars Fonda and Katharine Hepburn.
Out with the old and in with the new: the last episode of The Waltons is broadcast in the US, Miami Vice premieres and Peter Davison replaces Tom Baker as Doctor Who.
Author John Kennedy O’Toole, who committed suicide in 1969, posthumously receives a Pulitzer Prize for his novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Indian-born Rajan Mahadevan recites the value of π (Pi) to 31,811 digits from memory, earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records.