A career of missed opportunities
- Mattijs Diepraam
- 8W October 1998 issue
1986 Detroit GP
What would have happened if Frank Williams had signed Derek Warwick at the end of 1984 instead of Nigel Mansell? The question will always remain unanswered but it's a sure thing that Warwick missed out on a great opportunity when he turned down Frank's offer and decided to stick with Renault. It also remains to be seen if second choice Mansell would have rose above himself as he did with Williams and not petered away as an unfulfilled promise at Lotus.
The fact is Derek Warwick misguidedly thought his World Championship chances were better at the established Renault team than at Williams, an ailing front-runner which was about to embark on a risky Honda project. In the end, though, with no results to show for Renault's F1 operation folded at the end of 1985 while Mansell suddenly burst through into fame by winning his first two Grands Prix after dozens of failed attempts (and getting nowhere near before with Lotus). This tremendous turn of fortune left Nigel in the hunt for his first Championship, with the out-of-work Warwick - who had always been the better promise - chasing a drive in the World Sportscar Championship after being stopped from joining Senna at Lotus.
With the Silk Cut Jaguar team, Derek was already well underway for the crown when Elio De Angelis crashed his low-line Brabham at a Paul Ricard test session. Shockingly, the popular Italian slipped away from life because of the lack of rescue marshalls. Remember, it was just a test session...
Then came the question of his replacement and thus it happened that Derek Warwick, obviously the best choice available for Bernie, was drafted in at Montreal in sorrowful circumstances. His return to Brabham started off five more uninspiring years of F1 for "Delboy", not once reaching the podium but never complaining about his lot.
Not even winning the Sports-Prototype Championship for Peugeot in 1992, together with fellow F1 outcast Yannick Dalmas, was enough to get Derek into a competitive drive in F1. Instead he chose to come back to Arrows (then redubbed Footwork) for his final year and unsurprisingly his best result was no more than a 4th at the Hungaroring.
As a touring car driver Warwick became a midfielder once again. In 1998 he finally broke his BTCC duck with a lucky win but was ousted all the same by his Triple Eight Vauxhall team in favour of Yvan Muller. Strange thing to do to a Triple Eight shareholder, mind you...