During the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix, Keke Rosberg and Elio de Angelis were involved in one of the closest F1 finishes. It was also the race which saw only 9 finishers, and most of the victims were turbo-powered. With a number of turbo cars breaking down on the power circuit, Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg in the Williams were the only big guns left.
Rosberg was bearing down on the Lotus of Elio de Angelis in the closing laps to try and snatch the win. However, de Angelis refused to go down without a massive fight and defended brilliantly. Then, in the final corner, he pipped Rosberg to the line by just 0.05 seconds – the fourth closest finish in F1 history – to take his first win.
Throughout the rest of his career, Elio de Angelis picked up one other win, in San Marino. He was also referred to as one of the last gentlemanly drivers in the sport. Sadly, in 1986, his life would be cut short in a crash at the Circuit Paul Ricard. The rear wing of de Angelis’s BT55 detached at high speed. This resulted in the car losing downforce on the rear wheels, which instigated a cartwheel over a sidetrack barrier, causing the car to catch fire.
Since then, the full 5.81 km (3.61 mi) Paul Ricard Circuit was reduced to a 3.812 km “Club” version. It bypassed the Verriere curves where the Brabham had crashed, and cut the length of the Mistral Straight from 1.8 to 1 km in length. Although the move was unpopular with many of the drivers, some supported the reduced straight length as it was easier on the engines.
Coming back to de Angelis and Rosberg, the latter eventually went on to win the 1982 season. It was a season that was marred by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and other horror crashes.