- South African Grand Prix
Arnoux inherits easy Renault victory
Renault's Rene Arnoux followed his win at Interlagos with victory at the South African Grand Prix. To say the result was a foregone conclusion would be slightly unfair, but from the moment the F1 roadshow hit town, few were predicting anything else. In the rarefied atmosphere of Kyalami (some 5000 feet above sea level) the team's turbocharged cars enjoyed an 18% power advantage over the normally aspirated engines.
Renault dominated practice to such an extent that Pierre Jabouille, the team's No. 1, had been booked first-class on a flight immediately after the race for a television appearance in Paris. In the event, he didn't go, staying instead at the Kyalami circuit to celebrate team-mate Arnoux's victory.
Jabouille led from the start but, as had happened in Brazil when he was on course for victory, he suffered a puncture with 17 of the 78 laps remaining, and was too far from the pits to recover. That allowed Arnoux to cruise home and in so doing take the lead in the drivers' championship. It was an all-French podium as Jean-Pierre Jarier took second place ahead of his Ligier team-mate Didier Pironi.
Alan Jones was in fourth when he was forced to quit with transmission problems, but his Williams team-mate Carlos Reutemann finally recorded his first points. Ferrari's dismal and pointless start continued with both cars retiring because of mechanical issues long before halfway.
Alain Prost and Marc Surer both crashed in separate qualifying accidents. Prost broke his wrist which ruled him out of both this and the following race in the USA, while Surer broke both his ankles. But Shadow, after failing to qualify in the first two races, at least cleared that barrier, although Geoff Lees was classified last after crashing on the final lap.
The week before the race a decision was taken to ban skirts from the end of the season, a move welcomed by drivers who were fearful that increasing cornering speeds was rendering many tracks "prematurely obsolete".