USAflagsmall  1982 Detroit Grand Prix
Race details
Race 7 of 16 in the 1982 Formula One season
Downtown Detroit Street Circuit (1982).svg
Date June 6, 1982
Official name 1st Detroit Grand Prix
Location Detroit street circuit
Detroit, Michigan
Course Temporary street course
4.168 km (2.59 mi)</td></tr>
Distance 62 laps, 258.428 km (160.58 mi)</td></tr>
Weather Sunny, warm
Pole position
Driver 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost Renault
Time 1:48.537
Fastest lap
Driver 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost Renault
Time 1:50.438 on lap 45
First 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford
Second USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra
Third 22px-Flag of France Didier Pironi Ferrari

The 1982 Detroit Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on June 6, 1982 in Detroit, Michigan.



Starting from seventeenth position on the grid, Northern Ireland's John Watson stormed through the field to win the first Detroit Grand Prix, at America's sixth different Formula One venue.

Due to organizational problems, extra practice planned for Thursday was canceled, and the first qualifying session on Friday had to be postponed. There was time for only a one hour practice session on Friday, and so qualifying would take place on Saturday in two one-hour sessions, four hours apart. Saturday was cold and overcast with a very real threat of rain, and nearly all the drivers scrambled to get a time in on the dry track while they could, with lots of spins and trips down the escape roads of the unfamiliar circuit. The afternoon session was wet throughout, as expected, and the times from the morning session did indeed determine the grid.

Alain Prost took Renault's sixth pole in seven races on the season with a lap of 1:48.537, an average of less than 83 miles per hour (134 kilometers per hour), slower than Monaco. Andrea de Cesaris, the only non-Renault driver with a pole so far in 1982 (Long Beach), put his Alfa Romeo alongside Prost on the front row with a 1:48.872, ahead of the Williams of Keke Rosberg. For the second straight race, Ferrari had only one entry following the death of Gilles Villeneuve in Belgium four weeks earlier, and Didier Pironi qualified it in fourth spot.

The lone American driver in the race, Eddie Cheever, put on a fine show for the home crowd, placing his Ligier ninth, behind the Lotus pair of Nigel Mansell and Elio de Angelis and just ahead of Niki Lauda's McLaren. The biggest surprise, however, was seeing defending World Champion Nelson Piquet at the bottom of the time sheets. Problems with the BMW engines in both his race car and spare during the morning session and rain in the afternoon combined to keep him off the grid for Sunday's race.

In contrast to Saturday afternoon, Sunday was mostly sunny and very nice as a flotilla of boats dotted the river across from the circuit. The top three drivers all managed excellent starts, and Prost led de Cesaris and Rosberg through the first turn. Following them at the end of Lap one were Pironi, Mansell, Bruno Giacomelli, Cheever and Lauda. Manfred Winkelhock retired from an excellent fifth position when a front hub upright that had been replaced on the grid broke anyway, putting his ATS into the wall. Just two laps later, on Lap three, de Cesaris limped into the pits with a broken driveshaft, leaving Rosberg in second place, three seconds behind Prost.

On Lap seven, under pressure from de Angelis, Roberto Guerrero's Ensign went wide at the first corner. De Angelis tried to go through on the inside, but when Guerrero resumed his line, the two collided. The Lotus was able to continue, but Guerrero slid to a halt in the tire wall. Jochen Mass and Watson were able to avoid the disabled Ensign, but when Riccardo Patrese came upon the scene, he locked up and hit the tire wall right next to Guerrero, losing a wheel. A brake duct on Patrese's car quickly caught fire, and though the disabled cars seemed to be out of the way, the sight of two cars stopped on the track, one in flames, prompted the Clerk of the Course to call for the red flag.

The cars returned to the pits and waited for nearly an hour, while all manner of repairs were made by the mechanics. Prost had his skirts changed and fuel topped off, Lauda changed his leaking oil cooler, and Guerrero, Winkelhock and Patrese, who had retired, even brought their spare cars out on the grid for the restart! This, at least, was not allowed, and eighteen cars restarted the race in running order, with the final result to be determined by the sum of the two times recorded in the two parts of the race.

Prost again took the lead off the grid, and one lap later he led Rosberg, Pironi, Giacomelli, Cheever, René Arnoux, Lauda and Mansell. Immediately, Prost began to distance himself from Rosberg, who was also pulling away from Pironi and, after fifteen laps (total), led by five seconds. Gradually, however, the Renault began to develop electronic injection problems, as teammate Arnoux had several laps earlier, and the Frenchman saw his lead over Rosberg begin to evaporate. By Lap 21, the two cars were nose to tail, and a lap later, the Williams took the lead in brilliant fashion as Rosberg pulled alongside entering one of the many tight right-hand corners, stayed there through the corner on the outside, and emerged slightly sideways but in front. Prost continued to fall back and eventually pitted, while a furious dice continued behind Rosberg, now over second place, between Pironi, Giacomelli, Cheever and Lauda.

Behind this group, amazingly, came the charging McLaren of John Watson, having stormed through nearly the entire field from seventeenth place on the original grid. When Cheever and Lauda both overtook Giacomelli as he got sideways exiting a corner, Watson was quickly nose to tail behind Giacomelli and struggling to get through. On Lap 30, with Rosberg leading by 15 seconds, Watson passed Giacomelli but the Italian counterattacked a moment later when the McLaren went wide. Giacomelli tried to force his way through on the inside, but his left front wheel hit Watson's right rear, and Giacomelli ended up in the wall. Pironi had been holding up both Lauda and Cheever, but when Watson latched on to them, he passed all three on the same lap to take over second place, thirteen seconds behind Rosberg.

In two laps, the gap was down to seven seconds, then two seconds, and at the end of Lap 37, Watson was two seconds up, as Rosberg had lost third gear. Overall, however, on combined time, Rosberg was still eighteen seconds ahead, so he attempted merely to stay close to the McLaren. Meanwhile, Lauda, inspired perhaps by his teammate, had passed both Cheever and Pironi, and now also approached Rosberg. Likely knowing the Williams was in trouble, he unwisely made a late dive down the inside of Turn One. He locked his wheels, hit the wall and broke his suspension, leaving Cheever in third place.

Secure in the lead, Watson was able to back off as Rosberg struggled with fuel feed problems and worn tires, in addition to his ailing gearbox, and dropped all the way back to fifth on the track, fourth on combined time. With an average speed of only 78 mph, the two-hour time limit was reached well short of the intended 76 laps, and Watson took his second win of the season. American Eddie Cheever claimed second for his best Grand Prix finish, ahead of Pironi in third.

Despite a mountain of teething problems with the new circuit, the organizers of the race received excellent reviews for their efforts, and a new American city had made its entrance to Formula One. With two US races already run in 1982, one still remained, as, for the first time ever, one country would host three events in a single Grand Prix season.


Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 7 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom John Watson McLaren-Ford 62 1:58:41.043 17 9
2 25 USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever Ligier-Matra 62 + 15.726 9 6
3 28 22px-Flag of France Didier Pironi Ferrari 62 + 28.077 4 4
4 6 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg Williams-Ford 62 + 1:11.976 3 3
5 5 22px-Flag of Ireland Derek Daly Williams-Ford 62 + 1:23.757 12 2
6 26 22px-Flag of France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 61 + 1 Lap 13 1
7 17 Flag of Germany Jochen Mass March-Ford 61 + 1 Lap 18  
8 29 20px-Flag of Switzerland Marc Surer Arrows-Ford 61 + 1 Lap 19  
9 4 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Brian Henton Tyrrell-Ford 60 + 2 Laps 20  
10 16 22px-Flag of France René Arnoux Renault 59 + 3 Laps 15  
11 20 25px-Brazilflag Chico Serra Fittipaldi-Ford 59 + 3 Laps 26  
NC 15 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost Renault 54 + 8 Laps 1  
Ret 12 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Lotus-Ford 44 Engine 7  
Ret 8 22px-Flag of Austria Niki Lauda McLaren-Ford 40 Collision 10  
Ret 3 22px-Flag of Italy Michele Alboreto Tyrrell-Ford 40 Spun Off 16  
Ret 23 22px-Flag of Italy Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo 30 Collision 6  
Ret 11 22px-Flag of Italy Elio de Angelis Lotus-Ford 17 Gearbox 8  
Ret 10 22px-Flag of Chile Eliseo Salazar ATS-Ford 13 Spun Off 25  
Ret 14 22px-Flag of Colombia Roberto Guerrero Ensign-Ford 6 Collision 11  
Ret 2 22px-Flag of Italy Riccardo Patrese Brabham-Ford 6 Collision 14  
Ret 22 22px-Flag of Italy Andrea de Cesaris Alfa Romeo 2 Transmission 2  
Ret 31 22px-Flag of France Jean-Pierre Jarier Osella-Ford 2 Ignition 22  
Ret 9 Flag of Germany Manfred Winkelhock ATS-Ford 1 Spun Off 5  
Ret 18 25px-Brazilflag Raul Boesel March-Ford 0 Collision 21  
Ret 30 22px-Flag of Italy Mauro Baldi Arrows-Ford 0 Collision 24  
Ret 32 22px-Flag of Italy Riccardo Paletti Osella-Ford 0 Collision 23  
DNQ 19 22px-Flag of Spain Emilio de Villota March-Ford      
DNQ 1 25px-Brazilflag Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW      
DNQ 33 22px-Flag of the Netherlands Jan Lammers Theodore-Ford      

Standings after the raceEdit

Drivers' Championship standings
Pos Driver Points
1 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom John Watson 26
2 22px-Flag of France Didier Pironi 20
3 22px-Flag of France Alain Prost 18
4 22px-Flag of Finland Keke Rosberg 17
5 22px-Flag of Italy Riccardo Patrese 13
Constructors' Championship standings
Pos Constructor Points
1 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom McLaren-Ford 38
2= 22px-Flag of Italy Ferrari 26
2= 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Williams-Ford 26
4 22px-Flag of France Renault 22
5 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom Lotus-Ford 14
  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  • Innes Ireland (October, 1982). "1st Detroit Grand Prix: Wattie, The Renaissance Man". Road & Track, 140-144.
  • 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:
1982 Monaco Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1982 season
Next race:
1982 Canadian Grand Prix
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1983 Detroit Grand Prix
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