Earlier this year Ross Brawn, F1's new managing director of motorsports, suggested running annual non-championship F1 events to try out new race formats. Non-championship F1 races were a regular feature of the sport for decades, but the last was run in 1983 at Brands Hatch.
Riccardo Patrese hadn't yet begun his F1 career when the 1977 Race of Champions took place at Brands Hatch, and the fledgeling Arrows team did not take part in the 1978 International Trophy at Silverstone.
There were two non-championship events in 1979. The first, the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, saw Jochen Mass race the sole Arrows to fourth place behind Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari), Nelson Piquet (Brabham) and Mario Andretti (Lotus). The second was the Gran Premio Dino Ferrari held after the Italian GP at Imola in September.
1979 GP Dino Ferrari
There had been a non-championship F1 race at Imola in 1963, won by Jim Clark in a Lotus, but the 1979 event was held to enable the circuit to host a full Grand Prix in future and a precursor to the circuit sharing the Italian GP every two years in turn with Monza. In the end Imola hosted its own race, the San Marino GP, from 1981-2006.
At Imola Riccardo was the sole Arrows representative, racing the Arrows A1B. He qualified fifth behind the two Ferraris of Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter, the Lotus of Carlos Reutemann and Niki Lauda's Brabham, and in the race had "a good run" to finish fourth.
1980 Spanish GP
The 1980 Spanish GP was scheduled to form part of the World Championship and went ahead as such on the 1st June. However, Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo teams withdrew as they had sided with the governing body which was increasingly in dispute with the F1 constructor's association. This FISA/FOCA war, as it was to be known, became increasingly acrimonious and the Spanish GP was its first 'victim'. The race was declared a non-championship event on June 2nd by FISA.
Riccardo qualified his Arrows 11th on the grid, ahead of team-mate Jochen Mass (14th), but retired from the race. Jochen Mass finished a fine 2nd behind the winner Alan Jones (Williams).
1981 South African GP
The 1981 South African Grand Prix saw the FISA/FOCA war continuing. There had been talk of FOCA chief Bernie Ecclestone setting up a rival F1 series and, although this did not happen, it made for an acrimonious start to the year. Although originally scheduled to be the opening round of the FISA World Championship the South African race was actually run as a Formula Libre event and was not an official F1 race at all.
Nevertheless a race went ahead without the FISA-aligned teams, as in Spain the previous year. Riccardo qualified his all-orange Arrows in sixth and finished the race in the same position. Carlos Reutemann won for Williams ahead of Nelson Piquet (Brabham) and Elio de Angelis (Lotus).
There were to be no more non-championship F1 races for Riccardo, and only one more for F1 at Brands Hatch in 1983 where Hector Rebaque was Brabham's sole representative in a BT52.
Perhaps non-championship events will make a comeback...?