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1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix
Race 15 of 15 in the 1981 Formula One World Championship
Circuit Caesars Palace.png
Race details
Date October 17, 1981
Official name 1st Caesars Palace Grand Prix
Location Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Course Temporary street course
Course length 3.637 km (2.26 mi)
Distance 75 laps, 272.775 km (169.50 mi)
Weather Sunny with temperatures reaching up to 75 °F (24 °C); wind speeds approaching speeds up to 11.1 miles per hour (17.9 km/h)[1]
Pole position
Driver Williams-Ford
Time 1:17.821
Fastest lap
Driver France Didier Pironi Ferrari
Time 1:20.156 on lap 49
First Williams-Ford
Second Renault
Third Alfa Romeo
Lap leaders

The 1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on October 17, 1981, in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. It was the fifteenth and final race of the 1981 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The 75-lap race was won by Australian driver Alan Jones, driving a Williams-Ford, with Frenchman Alain Prost second in a Renault and Italian Bruno Giacomelli third in an Alfa Romeo. Brazilian Nelson Piquet finished fifth in his Brabham-Ford to take the Drivers' Championship by one point from Jones's Argentine teammate, Carlos Reutemann, who finished eighth having started from pole position. This was the final win by an Australian driver until Mark Webber won the 2009 German Grand Prix.


Championship permutations

Going into this race, three drivers were in contention for the World Championship. Argentine Carlos Reutemann, driving a Williams-Ford, had 49 points having won two races, while Brazilian Nelson Piquet, driving a Brabham-Ford, had 48 having won three. Frenchman Jacques Laffite, driving a Ligier-Matra, had an outside chance on 43, having won two races including the previous race in Canada.

Laffite needed to win this race with Reutemann finishing no higher than fourth and Piquet no higher than third, or to finish second with neither Reutemann nor Piquet finishing in the top six. If Laffite won with Piquet third and Reutemann fourth, then all three drivers would finish on 52 points, and the Frenchman would then win the Championship on a tie-break, with the same number of wins as Piquet but more second places than the Brazilian (two to one). He would also win the Championship if he finished second with neither Reutemann nor Piquet scoring, as he and Reutemann would both have 49 points and the same numbers of wins and second places, but he would have more third places than the Argentine (three to two).

If Laffite failed to finish first or second, then all Reutemann had to do was finish ahead of Piquet, while Piquet had to finish in the top five and ahead of Reutemann.

The setting

This was the third year in succession that the United States hosted the final round of the World Championship. This time, however, it took place in Las Vegas, instead of Watkins Glen in upstate New York: after twenty years on the Grand Prix schedule, the organizers at Watkins Glen were unable to fulfill financial obligations for 1981.

The track, created on the parking lot of the Caesars Palace hotel, had a smooth surface and provided speeds averaging over 160 km/h or 100 mph, as well as plenty of overtaking opportunities. Unusually, however, its direction was counter-clockwise, which strained the drivers' necks. This, together with the desert heat, meant that the drivers' endurance would be tested in the extreme all weekend. Even in practice, Piquet suffered noticeably and became physically sick; he later got a 90-minute massage from Sugar Ray Leonard's masseur to help sort out his troubled back and "Las Vegas neck".


The Williams drivers, Alan Jones and Reutemann, were fastest from the start of the first practice with points leader Reutemann the faster of the two. Later, Jones became the only other driver to break 1:18 in qualifying, and the starting front row was all Williams. Reutemann was not expecting any help winning the Championship from teammate Jones, who explained, "I don't see how I can help him; I would not go holding up people as I am a member of the British Commonwealth (Australia, specifically) and I would consider that unsporting."


In the race on Saturday, Jones jumped off the line into the lead, but Reutemann was quickly passed by Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost and Bruno Giacomelli, and finished the first lap in fifth. By the end of lap two, Jones had a five-second lead. Prost passed Villeneuve on lap three, but could not get close enough to challenge Jones for the lead. Villeneuve, meanwhile, kept a line of cars behind him as he fought off the advances of Giacomelli. This allowed Mario Andretti to move right on to Piquet's tail, as he desperately tried to overtake Reutemann.

The Brazilian was nearly touching the back of the Williams as they approached the last left-hander before the pits on lap 17. Piquet got around Reutemann on the inside when Reutemann, fighting for the Championship, inexplicably braked early. Piquet said, "I saw his car getting worse oversteer, then he braked very early, I think in the hope I would run into him, but I saw it and passed easily." On the next lap, Andretti also went by. Piquet passed John Watson on lap 22, and put himself in a position to score points when he took over sixth place. Reutemann continued to slip backwards with gearbox trouble, having lost fourth gear as early as lap two.

The Ferrari team was trying to decide whether to call Villeneuve in on lap 23 after he had been disqualified for lining up on the grid improperly, but when he pulled off the track with an engine fire, the point was moot. On lap 30, crowd favorite Andretti retired from fourth place with broken suspension.

With 15 laps still to go, but a 40-second lead over Prost, Jones began pacing himself to the finish. Giacomelli was third, having worked his way back after spinning from fourth to tenth, and Nigel Mansell had passed Piquet for fourth.

Piquet, in fact, was on the verge of physical exhaustion with his head visibly rolling around in the cockpit, but he still held fifth place and the two points he needed for the Championship. Piquet's condition was the only question left about how the Championship would turn out, for Reutemann, driving without fourth gear, was passed by Watson and Laffite, dropping to eighth place on lap 69.

Laffite took sixth place and the final point from Watson on the last corner of the last lap, while Giacomelli missed taking second from Prost, on failing tires, by a few car lengths. Piquet took fifteen minutes to recover from heat exhaustion after making it to the finish, but he had collected the two points for fifth place, and was the new World Champion.



Pos No Driver Constructor Q1 Q2 Gap
1 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Williams-Ford 1:17.821 1:18.343  —
2 1 Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford 1:18.236 1:17.995 +0.174
3 27 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 1:18.457 1:18.060 +0.239
4 5 Brazil Nelson Piquet Brabham-Ford 1:18.954 1:18.161 +0.340
5 15 France Alain Prost Renault 1:18.433 1:18.760 +0.612
6 7 United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford 1:19.975 1:18.617 +0.796
7 25 France Patrick Tambay Ligier-Matra 1:19.874 1:18.681 +0.860
8 23 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo 1:20.570 1:18.792 +0.971
9 12 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford 1:19.044 1:19.623 +1.223
10 22 United States Mario Andretti Alfa Romeo 1:19.594 1:19.068 +1.247
11 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 1:20.132 1:19.152 +1.331
12 26 France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 1:19.878 1:19.167 +1.346
13 16 France René Arnoux Renault 1:19.966 1:19.197 +1.376
14 8 Italy Andrea de Cesaris McLaren-Ford 1:19.338 1:19.217 +1.396
15 11 Italy Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford 1:20.337 1:19.562 +1.741
16 6 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Brabham-Ford 1:20.555 1:19.571 +1.750
17 4 Italy Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Ford 1:21.964 1:19.774 +1.953
18 28 France Didier Pironi Ferrari 1:19.899 1:21.347 +2.078
19 3 United States Eddie Cheever Tyrrell-Ford 1:21.116 1:20.475 +2.654
20 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Fittipaldi-Ford 1:21.299 1:20.729 +2.908
21 32 France Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Ford 22:19.563 1:20.781 +2.960
22 36 United Kingdom Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart 1:22.491 1:21.294 +3.473
23 33 Switzerland Marc Surer Theodore-Ford 1:21.889 1:21.430 +3.609
24 14 Chile Eliseo Salazar Ensign-Ford 1:22.616 1:21.629 +3.808
DNQ 9 Sweden Slim Borgudd ATS-Ford 1:21.665 1:21.731 +3.844
DNQ 21 Brazil Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Ford 1:22.612 1:21.672 +3.851
DNQ 17 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly March-Ford 1:21.846 1:21.824 +4.003
DNQ 30 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Arrows-Ford 1:22.977 1:22.822 +5.001
DNQ 35 United Kingdom Brian Henton Toleman-Hart 1:23.857 1:22.960 +5.139
DNQ 31 Italy Beppe Gabbiani Osella-Ford 1:26.634 no time +8.813
Source: [2]


Pos No Driver Constructor Tyre Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 1 Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford G 75 1:44:09.077 2 9
2 15 France Alain Prost Renault M 75 + 20.048 5 6
3 23 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo M 75 + 20.428 8 4
4 12 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford G 75 + 47.473 9 3
5 5 Brazil Nelson Piquet Brabham-Ford G 75 + 1:16.438 4 2
6 26 France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra M 75 + 1:18.175 12 1
7 7 United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford M 75 + 1:18.497 6  
8 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Williams-Ford G 74 + 1 Lap 1  
9 28 France Didier Pironi Ferrari M 73 + 2 Laps 18  
10 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Fittipaldi-Ford P 73 + 2 Laps 20  
11 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford P 71 + 4 Laps 11  
12 8 Italy Andrea de Cesaris McLaren-Ford M 69 + 6 Laps 14  
13 4 Italy Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Ford A 67 Engine 17  
NC 14 Chile Eliseo Salazar Ensign-Ford A 61 + 14 Laps 24  
Ret 36 United Kingdom Derek Warwick Toleman-Hart P 43 Gearbox 22  
Ret 22 United States Mario Andretti Alfa Romeo M 29 Suspension 10  
DSQ 27 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari M 22 Improper Grid Formation 3  
Ret 6 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Brabham-Ford G 20 Throttle 16  
Ret 33 Switzerland Marc Surer Theodore-Ford A 19 Suspension 23  
Ret 3 United States Eddie Cheever Tyrrell-Ford G 10 Engine 19  
Ret 16 France René Arnoux Renault M 10 Electrical 13  
Ret 25 France Patrick Tambay Ligier-Matra M 2 Accident 7  
Ret 11 Italy Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford G 2 Water Leak 15  
Ret 32 France Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Ford M 0 Transmission 21  
DNQ 9 Sweden Slim Borgudd ATS-Ford A    
DNQ 21 Brazil Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Ford P    
DNQ 17 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly March-Ford A    
DNQ 30 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Arrows-Ford P    
DNQ 35 United Kingdom Brian Henton Toleman-Hart P    
DNQ 31 Italy Beppe Gabbiani Osella-Ford M        

Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ "Weather information for the "1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix"". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
  2. ^ Hamilton, Maurice, ed. (1981). AUTOCOURSE 1981–82. Hazleton Publishing Ltd. p. 222. ISBN 0-905138-17-1.
  3. ^ "1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix". Archived from the original on 16 May 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  4. ^ "1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix - Race Results & History - GP Archive". Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Las Vegas 1981 - Championship • STATS F1". Retrieved 14 March 2019.

Further reading

  • Rob Walker (February, 1982). "1st Las Vegas Grand Prix: The Chips Are Down". Road & Track, 136-140.
  • Mike S. Lang (1992). Grand Prix!: Race-by-race account of Formula 1 World Championship motor racing. Volume 4: 1981 to 1984. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN 0-85429-733-2

Previous race:
1981 Canadian Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1981 season
Next race:
1982 South African Grand Prix
Previous race:
Caesars Palace Grand Prix Next race:
1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix
Preceded by
1980 Italian Grand Prix
Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter

Succeeded by
1982 British Grand Prix
This page was last edited on 18 November 2021, at 19:51
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