Things in life tend to get short lived, but a Formula 1 circuit only hosting two races (1981 - 82) and that same track only hosting four races in total doesn’t seem like a complete success. Taking into account we are talking about the second city in the world that never sleeps (or maybe the only real one), Las Vegas, something did not worked fine as this kind of race looks like the one to follow and gather support and fans. As Rosberg recalls: "Terrible," said the cab driver when I asked him what kind of a year it had been in Las Vegas. "Just terrible, man. If you ask me, Vegas is finished. There's quite a lot of folks here now for the races and stuff, but most of the summer this place has been like a ghost town…”.” How's that?" I asked. "Oh, that's easy," he replied. "Part of it is that Atlantic City took a lot of the gamblers, and the other part is that goddam Reagan and his economic ideas. There's a recession, you understand?" I replied that, yes, I understood what a recession was. I came from England.
1982 was a great time for Formula 1 in the US as they hosted 3 races (Long Beach and Detroit were the other 2). Caesars Palace GP was the always expected last race of the season and took place in Las Vegas, NV. There can’t be a better place on earth to celebrate the season for the winner. The track was designed in the desert and close to some casinos (now all that area has been built so the same track can't be raced again), 30 cars got inscribed for this 1982 GP race and only 6 of them manage to finish !
Alboreto drove a brilliant race at Las Vegas, pacing himself, his car and tyres to perfection. When the two Renaults of Alain Prost and Rene Arnoux, which had dominated qualifying, rushed away in the early stages only Michele was able to go with them. And when they faltered yet again, Alboreto alone was in a position to take advantage, setting fastest lap along the way.
Although Ferrari clinched the constructors' title, it was not accomplished as they would have wished. The cars of Mario Andretti and Patrick Tambay suffered fuel vaporisation problems during the tremendous heat of qualifying, placing seventh and eighth on the grid. But Patrick, suffering a recurrence of his pinched nerve problem, had to withdraw before the race, and Mario had a rear suspension failure while running fifth.
Above Keke Rosberg on the Monaco GP driving his Williams-Ford for the TAG Williams Racing Team
Most people reckoned that the Caesars Palace track would be ideally suited to the precision of Niki Lauda, but he could be no better than 13th with his McLaren on Qualifying. "This place is actually quite difficult, I think," reckoned the Austrian, "and very bumpy." Niki would certainly have been higher up the grid had his engine not gone on the blink during the final session. Vegas was disappointing for Niki Lauda too, who could also have taken the title. Engine problems kept him off the pace in both practice and the race sadly.
To sum up, Alain Prost won the Pole position to finish 4th on the race on his Renault. Michele Alboreto managed to win the race and the fastest lap on his Tyrrell-Ford.
The Championship was still to be decided on this last race plus it was the last GP for Mario Andretti too. There were two contenders for the title after fifteen races: Keke Rosberg (Williams) and John Watson (McLaren). Even though Watson finished second, Rosberg handed the title in the end. For Rosberg it was what would prove to be only world championship crown he managed to achieve.
Back in his home country, in Finland, they watched the race live on TV in the middle of the night! Rosberg said he was glad to be the first Scandinavian to win the world championship: "It seems incredible to me that I have achieved something that Ronnie Peterson never did."
I’m sure the celebrations were quite intense too.