Ferrari F1 87-88, the Prancing Horse returns to victory with Gerhard Berger

2021-03-21 23:00

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Ferrari F1 87-88, the Prancing Horse returns to victory with Gerhard Berger

The Ferrari F1-87 was used in the 1987 season by the team from Maranello, and subsequently revived in an updated version and renamed F1-87/88C in 1988


The Ferrari F1-87 was used in the 1987 season by the team from Maranello, and subsequently revived in an updated version and renamed F1-87/88C in 1988.


Designed by Gustav Brunner and revised by John Barnard, this is conducted in the race by Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger, obtaining two victories in 1987 and one victory in 1988, as well as numerous podiums in a period that represents the end of the first turbo era in Formula 1.


The technical regulations of Formula 1 were revised on the occasion of the 1987 world championship: according to the new rules, teams are allowed to use 1.5-liter turbo engines, or 3.5-liter aspirated engines. This choice of the FIA ​​depends on the fact that in 1986 the aspirated engines of 3 liters of displacement have gone into disuse and all the teams prefer to use only turbo engines, which have reached very high power. This meant that the drivers were exposed to excessive risks, as the various accidents of the season show. To push the Federation to carry out a sudden intervention will be the serious accident that occurred to Elio De Angelis.


Reduced the maximum capacity of the petrol tank to 180 liters, the limitation of the boost pressure to 4.00 Bar will be introduced.


Nonetheless, most of the teams decide to continue to use supercharged engines, both for investments related to the development of technologies and because in any case they still guarantee significantly higher performance than naturally aspirated engines, despite the reduced displacement compared to the latter.


Ferrari decides to continue with the turbo, having begun in 1986 the development of a new engine called 033/D, with the angle between the cylinder banks of 90° against the 120° of the engine used up to the previous season.


The chassis was redesigned compared to the previous year by Gustav Brunner, who together with John Barnard will redesign the aerodynamic shape of the car.


The F1-87 is slenderer than the F1-86, with a narrower front section to improve resistance to forward movement, lower and shorter side bellies, as well as the size of the radiator air intakes are reduced, thanks to an engine with lower operating temperatures, and brakes.


The gearbox undergoes a profound renewal, having six transverse ratios. The advantage given by this solution is substantial, in fact with a greater number of gear ratios, it improves the use of the engine, which can thus be exploited at optimal speeds, thus increasing acceleration and recovery.


The decisive advantage for Ferrari will come in the second half of the season, with the use of overboost: the pop-off valve is adjusted in such a way as to reduce the pressure as soon as it exceeds 4.00 bar in the supercharging circuit.


However, being a mechanical device, it has non-instantaneous response times; therefore, by blowing air at pressures decidedly higher than 4.00 bar, an overpressure of about three tenths of a bar is obtained for a few seconds (before opening the valve), with a power surplus of about twenty horsepower. This allows Ferrari to be the most powerful car in the last Grand Prix of the 1987 season.


The arrival of John Barnard


In 1987 Ferrari hopes to return to the levels of competitiveness of two years earlier, when they fought for the title with McLaren. To join the English team, Enzo Ferrari hires the British engineer John Barnard, who had conceived the McLaren of the '85 and '86.


Barnard is joined by another English technician, the engineer Harvey Postlethwaite, who has been working in Maranello for some time, creating the Ferrari 126 C2 and 126 C3 that won the constructors' championship in the 82 and 83. A strong competition immediately arose between the two; furthermore, Barnard does not agree to move to Italy, therefore he continues his activity in England.


Having joined Ferrari at the end of the '86 season, Barnard does not actively participate in the design of the F1-87, which is instead made by the Austrian engineer Gustav Brunner, assisted by Harvey Postlethwaite: the result is a much better car than the previous one. but not reliable enough to revive the team's ambitions.


The other novelty concerns the hiring of the Austrian driver Gerhard Berger, who replaces Stefan Johansson, flanked by the stainless Michele Alboreto.


The season is not at the highest level as, despite obtaining a greater number of world championship points than in the previous championship, Ferrari nevertheless finished fourth in the constructors' championship. The car often suffers from poor reliability, which affects its performance.


However, unlike the previous year's Ferrari F1-86, This car will be able to win the last two Grands Prix of the season, and to score three pole positions at the Grands Prix of Portugal, Japan and Australia, all at the hands of the Austrian driver; Alboreto will not score any pole, and his best result on the grid will be fourth in Spain and Japan.


Basically, the car proves valid, given that, excluding the eighth place in Brazil and the fifteenth in Spain of Alboreto, the drivers will never get worse placements than the fourth place; but the number of retirements due to mechanical problems will be higher than that of the Grand Prix completed, losing many points due to inconstancy and unreliability.


1987 season


Ferrari's 1987 season opens in Jacarepagua, Brazil, with an encouraging fourth place for Gerhard Berger, followed by the podium obtained by Michele Alboreto at the Imola circuit, on the occasion of the Grand Prix of the Republic of San Marino.


At Spa, the aforementioned reliability problems first stopped Gerhard Berger on the second lap, due to an engine malfunction, and then Alboreto on the ninth lap, due to transmission problems.


But in Monte Carlo Ferrari redeems itself, obtaining the second podium of the season with Michele Alboreto, followed close by Berger, who closes the Grand Prix in fourth place. On the treacherous streets of Detroit, Ferrari fails to perform well; however, the Austrian driver at least manages to get a good fourth place.


At the Paul Richard circuit in France, Ferrari again recorded a double retirement, with Alboreto forced to stop on lap 64 for engine problems, and Berger leaving the race nine laps to go. And even at Silverstone Ferrari fails to win any points, as both drivers are forced to retire again (Berger due to an accident, Alboreto due to reliability problems).


The same fate is repeated at Hockenheim, where both drivers have to stop prematurely due to problems with the turbocharging system, at the Hungaroring, where Berger stops on the thirteenth lap due to differential problems, and Alboreto at the forty-third lap due to engine problems, and Zeltweg, where both Michele's and Gerhard's cars suffer from problems with the turbocharging system.


This unfortunate series ends in Monza, thanks to the fourth place obtained by Gerhard Berger, followed by the lucky pole position obtained on the Estoril circuit, thanks to the climatic changes. The result will be celebrated with great emphasis in the paddock, to the point that even Bernie Ecclestone will join the ranks of mechanics carrying the champagne.


In the race, however, a mistake made by Gerhard Berger nullifies the good work done: towards the end of the race Prost begins to catch up on Berger, but the Austrian manages to defend from the French driver's return until, on lap 68, the car suffers from a loss of pressure, deceiving the driver who runs into a spin. Prost takes the opportunity to pass and go on to win the race in front of the Ferrari driver, who has to settle for second place when he seemed destined to win.


In Jerez, Spain, as well as in Mexico, it is still the engine that betrays Berger and Alboreto; nevertheless, the improvements begin to be noticed, as the Austrian driver first sets the third time in qualifying on the Spanish circuit, while on the Mexican track he even manages to conquer the front row.


The last two Grands Prix in Japan and Australia will give Ferrari great joys, thanks to the two pole positions and the same number of victories taken by Gerhard Berger, while Alboreto takes fourth place in Suzuka, and second in Adelaide.


The season therefore sees Ferrari manage to take two victories, of which a double in Australia, two second places, two third places, as opposed to nineteen retirements, ending the season in fourth place in the constructors' standings with 53 world championship points.


1988 season


The 1988 season promises to be a transitional year: this is in fact the last in which the regulation allows the use of supercharged engines, the development of which has led to an escalation in performance judged to be such as to compromise racing safety.


Pending the complete announcement, the FIA ​​has in any case imposed a reduction in the maximum boost pressure from 4 to 2.5 Bar, and in the fuel tank capacity, increased to 150 liters, in order to weaken the drive units.


Consequently, the Ferrari technicians decide to concentrate their efforts on the development of a completely new car to be put on the track in 1989, whose design is entrusted to the private team headed by John Barnard, based in Guildford, while for 1988 they are limited to work on the F1-87, adapting a few things on the project to the new rules imposed by the federation.


From a mechanical and aerodynamic point of view, the car, renamed F1-87/88C, is therefore almost identical to that of the previous year, with a low and compact body, with sinuous and rounded lines. This choice is also dictated by the desire to benefit from a regulatory derogation: the cars that had kept the same 1987 chassis could in fact have kept the passenger compartment in a more advanced position, with the pedal set beyond the front axle. However, this would not have been possible for the new concept cars, which would have had to comply with the new safety regulations from the outset and mount the pedals behind the line of the front wheels.


Arrows, Zakspeed and Osella will also take this decision, especially for economic reasons. While overall successful and reliable, the F1-87/88C will never truly be able to compete for world championship victory, achieving only one triumph and one pole position.


Ferrari's prudent choice places the F1-87/88C in an inferior position to McLaren, where designer Gordon Murray designs the MP4/4 with a new chassis compliant with regulations, while Honda provides a new engine optimized for the reduced boost pressure.


The English car, in the hands of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, will prove to be practically unbeatable, winning fifteen races out of sixteen Grands Prix. The only exception is the Italian Grand Prix, as two laps from the end Senna, firmly in command, collides with Jean Louis Schlesser's Williams and has to retire, leaving the field free to Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto who secure a double in front of the home crowd, a few days after the death of Enzo Ferrari.


A similar situation occurs in the rankings of qualifying tests, where Senna and Prost share fifteen of the sixteen pole positions: only in the British Grand Prix will the two be withdrawn by Berger.


In the economy of the season, Ferrari obtained more points than in 1987 (65 against 53), taking second place in the constructors' championship, even if clearly detached from McLaren. In fact, the two Ferraris could only fight for the top when one of the McLarens fails to perform at its best or retires.


In Brazil, the season opens very well for Ferrari, as they take an excellent second place with Berger, and fifth with Alboreto. A little less fortunate is the result obtained in Imola, given that the only driver at the finish line is the Austrian, who closes far behind the leaders, taking fifth place.


In Monaco, thanks to the retirement of Ayrton Senna, Berger and Alboreto take second and third place; however, it must be said that the Austrian driver manages to keep Alain Prost behind him until the fifty-fourth lap, after having passed him at the start.


In Mexico, Berger and Alboreto will close the race behind the two McLarens, taking third and fourth places. In Montreal, however, the two Ferrari drivers are forced to retire due to reliability problems, as well as in Detroit, but for different reasons: Gerhard stops due to a collision with Bousten's car, which causes a puncture, while Michele first comes into contact with Nannini, resuming the race in the rear, but he will stop at the forty-fifth lap after having produced a decent comeback.


The two Ferrari drivers will be able to achieve greater satisfaction in France, as Alboreto and Berger respectively take third and fourth position, once again behind the two McLarens.


At Silverstone the front row conquered by the two Maranello cars deceive the fans, as in the race Berger is first forced to see himself passed by Senna, only to reach the finish line in ninth place.


As happened on previous occasions, when accidents or reliability do not affect the cars, the two Ferraris of Berger and Alboreto take third and fourth place, also favoured by the conformation of the Hockenheim circuit, which with its long straights benefits the powerful turbo engines, unlike the Hungaroring where the Austrian driver only takes fourth place, even behind Bousten's Benetton.


The Spa circuit should be favorable to the cars of the Maranello company; however, problems with the injection system and the engine stopped Gerhard and Michele respectively on the eleventh and thirty-fifth laps.


In Monza, less than a month after the death of Enzo Ferrari, favorable circumstances lead to Ferrari an unexpected success: it is a double win for the Maranello team thanks to the reliability and powerful turbo engine that do not betray Berger and Alboreto, who came first and second at the finish.


A fortune that does not follow Ferrari in Portugal, given that the best obtained result is the fifth place of Michele Alboreto, now about to marry for the 1989 season in a different team. It is no better in Spain, as Berger comes sixth, while the Milanese driver retires on lap fifteenth due to an engine problem.


In Suzuka Berger does not go beyond fourth place, finishing very far from the leaders, while in Adelaide he collides with Arnoux and retires. Alboreto also did not have more luck, and Ferrari closed in second place in the constructors' standings with no further successes.


The F1-87/88C will remain the last Formula 1 Ferrari equipped with a turbocharged engine for twenty-six years, as this technology will only be re-adopted in 2014, as well as the first to have won a Grand Prix of the highest category after the death of Enzo Ferrari.


Andrea Rasponi

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