Leading up to the fourth round of the 1982 Formula One World Championship, the political battles between the FISA-affiliated teams and the FOCA entities finally exploded into all-out war.
The formal exclusion of Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg from the Brazilian Grand Prix prompted four of the FOCA teams – Brabham, Lotus, Williams and McLaren – to withdraw from the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, leaving only 14 cars on track for the race.
The remaining four FOCA squads – ATS, Osella, Tyrrell and Toleman – attended the event, but were virtual non-entities against the manufacturer might of Ferrari, Renault and to a lesser extend Alfa Romeo.
Following the race, former World Champion and then BBC F1 commentator James Hunt had this to say:
“There are three factions involved now in the running of the sport. The Formula One Constructors Association have split with the major manufacturing teams – that’s mainly Renault and Ferrari, including Alfa Romeo and some of the smaller teams and they’re at loggerheads with each other. In the middle of it all, between them, sits FISA – which is the governing body – which at the moment is not strong enough or well enough run or good enough in its ideas to control the other two parties […] who are fighting.
“So we have a three-way fight which is developing. This is the last nail into a coffin that’s already got quite a few in it and I can’t see any really way out of this. They’re always going to fight; they’re going to use everything they can, because the governing body has proved consistently that they cannot control them and won’t and I think that all the parties should at this stage seek a new way to run the sport, because it has proved that it won’t work like this.”
When asked whether an upcoming motorsport council meeting in Casablanca could do anything solve the crisis in Formula One, Hunt commented:
“We’ve got to the point where we have threats, counter-threats, threats being carried out. We’ve ended up with only half a field here and I think what the sport needs to do is to go the lines of American-type sports where they are run professionally by one strong dictator who dictates the whole thing with the benefit of all parties concerned, as best he can.
“You will always get some conflicts of interest, but at that stage, you always need someone who can put their foot down. We need a professional governing body – FISA as it is structured now, as it was structured previously – has not been able to control these people. We have big financial vested interests and I really think the only way is if they sit down and devise a new way to administer the sport properly.”
When the Formula One circus arrived in Zolder two weeks later for the following Grand Prix, the field had returned to full strength; however tragedy lurked around the corner…