• Austrian Grand Prix

Prost spoils Lauda's final homecoming

ESPN Staff
August 18, 1985
Alain Prost ruined Niki Lauda's final homecoming in Spielberg © Sutton Images
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Alain Prost's fourth win of the season at the Österreichring took him joint top of the drivers' championship alongside Michele Alboreto. But it was a race which was controversially restarted and was somewhat overshadowed by Niki Lauda's announcement he was to retire for a second time at the end of the year.

Alboreto had a miserable build-up to the race when both engines on his car failed and then when he took over team-mate Stefan Johansson's Ferrari he found that his team-mate had used both sets of tyres he was allowed. He recovered enough to qualify back in ninth with Prost on pole.

Lauda was hoping for a fairytale farewell on home soil and led his McLaren team-mate Prost away from the lights, but Teo Fabi stalled his Toleman on the grid and in the ensuing fracas one of the Arrows lost a wheel. The autocratic FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre immediately ordered a restart even though the stricken Arrows was off the track. Cynics were quick to point out Frenchman Balestre was no stranger to making decisions to favour French drivers. It would not be the last time he ruled in favour of Prost.

Balestre got his wish when at the second time of asking Prost led from Keke Rosberg (Williams) with Lauda third. After four laps, Rosberg's oil pressure disappeared and he pitted promoting Lauda to second place and giving him a run at Prost. The Frenchman, using the spare car after finding that a universal joint had more play than normal, needed to pit as the set-up of the T-car wasn't quite right for him. As he did so, he lost the lead to Lauda and rejoined 30 seconds adrift with 26 laps to go.

Prost continued to close and it was Lauda's turn to hit trouble as, after 39 laps, he suffered a broken shaft on the turbo and parked on the side of the track. His retirement was the signal for thousands of fans to exit the stands. Andrea de Cesaris survived a massive crash when he lost control of his Ligier which slid sideways across grass at high speed into a bank causing it to roll several times with the driver being thrown all over the place. Remarkably he walked gingerly away but that was too much for team boss Guy Ligier who fired him after the next race.

There was one note of sadness. Manfred Winkelhock had been killed taking part in an endurance event in Canada the previous week, and his place on the RAM team was taken by Kenny Acheson.

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