On Tuesday 9 May 1989 Scuderia Ferrari officially announced that it had renewed Nigel Mansell's contract for the 1990 season, obtaining an option on the English driver for the 1991 championship too. This is a remarkable success for Ferrari, as Mansell is certainly one of the best drivers in Formula 1, considered perhaps the fastest along with Ayrton Senna. Leaving him free would have meant strengthening an opposing team and losing a pawn difficult to replace at this time. Now Cesare Fiorio will have to deal with John Barnard and Gerhard Berger. According to the usual rumours, the designer's quotations would be on the rise. Efforts would be made to keep him linked to the Maranello team, perhaps modifying the relationship, so that he could be used to the best of his undoubted abilities, perhaps as a consultant and no longer as the main person in charge, with total freedom in decision-making, relying on a technical leader based in Maranello. This is the most difficult part of the whole discussion, which will require a major diplomatic effort and on the outcome of which much of the future set-up will depend. As for Berger, assuming that the choices haven't already been made, much depends on the answer that Alain Prost will give to McLaren. If a place becomes free in the British team, the Austrian driver will be the number one candidate to replace him. If not, Berger, a driver of great performance especially in races, can still be very useful to Ferrari. Assuming and not conceding that the Maranello team doesn't immediately intend to pursue a youth policy, with 25-year-old Tuscan Nicola Larini as the first target, for a greater Italianisation of the team.
Changing the subject, while on Sunday 18 June 1989 the Canadian Grand Prix, the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship, is scheduled to take place at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, the fourth Formula Indy season race is being held in Detroit. It is only a few hundred kilometres away, but it plays on the fact that until last year McLaren, Ferrari and other teams raced on the track located in central Michigan, while now there are Penske, Lola, March and more generally the American teams. The organisers' battle rages on. From Detroit, officially abandoned by Formula 1 because the city's track was too bumpy, they proclaim that it will be sold out and that real sportsmen will go to see their race. In Montreal, newspapers and television stations claim that if you want to see the world's most sophisticated car technology, the bravest and fastest drivers, the most exciting spectacle and the cheapest prices, you have to come to this event. A challenge, however, to who will be more successful, already won in terms of TV audience by Formula 1. Sixty countries will be connected, the majority live. Finally, there is another reason in common and of interest between the two events: in Detroit the Alfa Romeo is presented, that is, the March car with the turbo engine made by the Milanese company, which will make its test debut tomorrow. For Alfa Romeo the first objective for such a difficult debut is only qualification, while Scuderia Ferrari a little further north, in Montreal, will have to try once again to halt McLaren's march, a task that always seems prohibitive.
"Barnard? He is stubborn and has wrong ideas. Fortunately at Ferrari he's just a passer-by".
Returning to the Scuderia Ferrari, Michele Alboreto, now at Tyrrell, races on Sunday on the Canadian track where he triumphed four years ago. Four years have passed, yet that day has remained etched in Michele Alboreto's mind as if only a few hours had passed. A beautiful victory, with Ferrari, on the track named after Gilles Villeneuve.
"It was one of my most beautiful days. I remember the joy, the emotion and the hopes. At the time I was fighting for the title, but it ended up in the hands of Alain Prost. A big missed opportunity for me, who knows if it will ever happen again...".
Says Michele Alboreto, as he tests the seat in the cockpit of the Tyrrell, with which he will tackle the Canadian Grand Prix tomorrow. But the Italian driver is not the type to live only on memories. Instead, this is the time to think about the present and the future:
"If I have to be honest, the results obtained in these first races, with the third place in Mexico, didn't surprise me too much. I knew I would have a good car at my disposal. I had already seen the drawings last year, when Harvey Postlethwaite was still at Maranello. Of course, we didn't have absolute certainty until it would go on track, but at the same time we were very confident. And we were right".
So the outlook is favourable?
"In certain respects and up to certain limits, I would say yes. We cannot yet at the moment expect to win races, that much is clear, barring any sensational strokes of luck. However, it is already nice to be there, among the top of the class. McLaren and Ferrari aren't within our reach, nor will Williams, Benetton and March be as soon as they are up to speed. The reason is obvious: it is the engine. The other teams have very powerful, new generation engines. We instead have to rely on very old Cosworths".
Let's also talk about the others, namely Ferrari. The Maranello stable as seen by someone who knows it well.
"I've never hidden my dislike for Barnard. I was also a supporter of his before he came to Ferrari. Then when I realised, too late, what a character he was, my regard for the English designer went way down. I don't think he is capable of making a winning car on his own. He is slow, stubborn and also has a few wrong ideas. Anyway, luckily Barnard isn't Ferrari, he's just a passer-by. Sooner or later he'll be gone. Ferrari will become competitive again, it's just a matter of time. I am convinced that Cesare Fiorio is the right man to solve the problems. But even he doesn't have a magic wand, he will have to work in depth and he will need many months to find the right solutions".
Formula 1 returns to the circuit that bears the name of an unforgettable character, that Gilles Villeneuve who, despite not winning much in a rapid and tragic career, left his mark on the racing world. It starts again on Friday 16 June 1989 with pre-qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. So far there has only been one win for Ferrari, with Nigel Mansell, and four for McLaren, once with Alain Prost and three with Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian driver is again the favourite for the final triumph, stating:
"I lost in Mexico, but through no fault of my own and I wish to take immediate revenge. Prost has moved into the lead but he won't stay there for long".
Will it still be a McLaren race? That is the most likely hypothesis. However, there is also someone who is convinced that he can fit in between the two quarrels. That someone is Nigel Mansell, in top form and tanned from playing golf. The English driver has just renewed his contract with Scuderia Ferrari. A one-year agreement and an option, for the Maranello team, also on 1991. Mansell is quick to state the reasons why he has agreed to stay on, after he had harshly criticised his team a month ago:
"I had been misinterpreted. The truth is that I am fine as I am. I signed for three reasons, which I say in order: because I am happy with my situation; because the technical prospects are good and finally because of the money".
It seems that Nigel Mansell got a big contract, four or five million dollars, paid by sponsor Marlboro. On the other hand, the British driver had very little alternative: either he went to McLaren, or stayed at Maranello, which for better or worse is always the second force in the championship.
"I have had offers, three to be precise. Two I can reveal: they are Benetton and Williams. The other I prefer not to say".
So a question emerges. Why Ferrari?
"I think it is very important to have confidence in your team and in its future. Let's not forget that Ferrari is a special name in motor racing, a fascination that is hard to escape. For me it was an easy decision to make".
It was always heard that Mansell and Berger's presence would be linked to that of John Barnard. Does Mansell's consent mean that the coach will stay too?
"I know what will happen, but obviously I can't say. In any case his collaboration would please me. But even if John were to leave, Ferrari will always be Ferrari. Nobody is irreplaceable. I am convinced that Cesare Fiorio will manage to get things right, that next year we will be able to aim for the World Championship, even if we will have to make a new car, a different engine and gearbox".
Those are the long-term goals, but what about this year?
"I am convinced that in Mexico, if I had no problems, I could have established myself. I was able to attack Senna. So I would not be surprised if before the end of the season we win one or two races. Here again Sunday could be a good opportunity. There is the difficulty of fuel consumption, which is very high, but the unknown applies to everyone, including McLaren".
A final question: what is still missing for the Scuderia Ferrari to be at McLaren's level?
"Only the development of the car. We were late with everything: chassis, aerodynamics and engine. In 1988 the effort to bring forward the turbo slowed down the design and construction of the new single-seater. But we have made considerable progress. the real problem is time. I am available to work, to do all the necessary tests, as long as they are productive. Don't ask me to come to Fiorano to run in a gearbox, but to try a part that allows me to gain a tenth a lap I am willing to go to Australia".
Nigel Mansell is ready for battle. On Friday 16 June 1989 we will already see what his chances will be and those of the Scuderia Ferrari, which will also be able to count on a Gerhard Berger, day by day more and more in form. First, however, Stefano Modena is the fastest in pre-qualifying with his Brabham, over a second faster than the Osella of Nicola Larini. Both their teammates fail to pre-qualify; this is the first time a Brabham has failed to pre-qualify this season as Martin Brundle is fifth after suffering various car problems, and Piercarlo Ghinzani in his Osella is eighth, over two seconds behind Nicola Larini. This represents the sixth consecutive non-qualification for Ghinzani. Stefan Johansson is the third fastest with the Onyx, while his team-mate Bertrand Gachotnon fails to pre-qualify, stopping in sixth place. The last pre-qualifier is Alex Caffi with the Dallara, fourth. The other participants who don't pre-qualify on Friday morning are Gregor Foitek, seventh with the only EuroBrun, and the Zakspeeds of Bernd Schneider, ninth, and Aguri Suzuki, twelfth. Joachim Winkelhock's AGS doesn't go beyond tenth place and Volker Weidler's Rial is eleventh. Pierre-Henri Raphanel is last in the standings, thirteenth. The French driver fails to record a valid time with his Coloni. On the afternoon of Friday 16 June 1989 McLaren's French driver Alain Prost, wounded by recent events, convinced that he isn't favoured by his team and poised between retirement and a radical change, in the first qualifying session of the Canadian Grand Prix sets a time of 1'20"973, and sets a new absolute circuit record (exactly one second less than last year's pole position set by Ayrton Senna), ahead of his team-mate. It was a fantastic battle: the two rivals put on a show, overtaking each other at least four or five times. In the end, Alain Prost inflicts a 0.076-second gap on Ayrton Senna, who complains of gearbox problems. Enough to make the Brazilian driver, who has always been the fastest driver so far this season, even in Friday practice, angry. The challenge isn't over yet because today, Saturday 17 June 1989, weather permitting, the track will be taken to the track again and the reigning World Champion will do everything to continue his series of pole positions. It must be said, however, that in pre-qualifying Ayrton Senna leaves no stone unturned to avoid being overtaken. Alain Prost, however, has a lead of just 0.07 seconds over the other McLaren. Behind the usual two McLarens comes Riccardo Patrese, in great form, now convinced of his chances thanks to recent results.
He is followed by the two Ferraris with the rediscovered Gerhard Berger ahead of Nigel Mansell. The tests of the Maranello cars are disturbed by various mishaps: perhaps today, if time allows, they will be able to get closer to the McLaren-Hondas. Stefano Modena, seventh in the Brabham, and the two Dallaras of Alex Caffi and Andrea De Cesaris, eighth and ninth, are in the top positions too. A confirmation of the happy moment for the young Scuderia Italia, which without having exceptional engines is climbing important rungs on the value scale. Also good was the performance of Pierluigi Martini in the new Minardi, eleventh. The positive notes for the Italian teams continue with the Osella of Nicola Larini, excellent in pre-qualifying (Stefano Modena, Nicola Larini, Stefan Johansson and Alex Caffi passed) thanks to a new chassis tuned at full speed by Antonio Tornami in the Volpiano workshop. Returning to Ferrari, although still struggling with reliability problems (in the morning Gerhard Berger was stopped twice due to an alternator failure and with the engine stalling), it gave the visual impression of having found new competitiveness. The engines turn ferociously and the Maranello cars almost always record the highest top speeds, exceeding 300 km/h in the fastest part of the circuit. The mosaic of Ferrari's future is being completed, although there are still several doubts. After the confirmation of Nigel Mansell, something precise remains to be known about John Barnard's destination. Barnard himself states about his situation:
"I have made my needs known and explained what can be done with the Guildford centre. But I have not yet had an answer".
It is possible that by now the games are done, but the official communication, says Cesare Fiorio upon precise question, will come after the Canadian race; that is, next week. According to some rumours, the quotations of the Argentinean coach Sergio Rinland, currently at Brabham, are clearly on the rise. It remains to be seen whether the latter, should he be the chosen one, will work alone at Maranello, or whether he will have to collaborate with John Barnard who will instead continue to work in England. As for the drivers, all hypotheses are possible. There are even fanciful rumours about it: one of them speaks of Gerhard Berger at McLaren-Honda, Prost at Williams (on Renault's push and a hefty sum of money) and Riccardo Patrese at Ferrari. It seems, however, that in the very likely event that the Austrian driver leaves the Maranello team, the most likely candidate to replace him is Nicola Larini.
These talks will become concrete in the coming days. On Saturday 17th June 1989 the French driver held pole position in the Canadian Grand Prix and on Sunday 18th June 1989 he started ahead of everyone in a predictably uncertain and spectacular race. An air storm dries the track from the night's rain and conditions the second day of qualifying in which none of the drivers in the first rows improves. Blame the still dirty asphalt and, indeed, the headwind on the main straight. Senna does everything, while Prost remains in the pits watching him with a smile on his lips. The Brazilian drives to the limit brushing against walls and guardrails, but only manages to set the best time of the day (1'21"269 against 1'20"973 obtained by Prost on Friday), ahead of Berger. Alain Prost declared:
"The gusting wind was very strong, especially in the straight, it was useless to try to beat Friday's times. The greatest difficulties were in the part of the circuit full of corners: the wind caught the cars sideways, making them swerve in an often dangerous way, control was very difficult".
Alain Prost takes his first pole of the season, the 19th of his career. Senna will have to start again if he wants to improve his record. But how is it possible that Alain Prost, after so many difficulties in qualifying, manages to prevail over Senna on the dry lap? Well, after the Monaco Grand Prix, Senna had collaborated with Hiro Teramoto, and together they had developed Showa shock absorbers. This had become the Brazilian driver's secret weapon, until in Canada Steve Nichols mistakenly mounted the shock absorbers intended for Senna on Prost's car, which took pole position. Senna, when he realises this, wraps his hands around Teramoto's neck, and only Steve Nichols' intervention manages to avoid the worst. So, Alain doesn't refuse his decisions, which he will announce the following week, and which he says would not have been changed by these momentary successes. Scuderia Ferrari will also make a good start, which will have to contend with the Williams-Renault of Riccardo Patrese, in third place. For the Maranello team, reliability permitting, the forecast is favourable given the results of the morning's free practice in which Gerhard Berger was the best of all. The Austrian driver and Nigel Mansell will presumably have a waiting race, but perhaps Cesare Fiorio will send one of the two drivers on the attack to disturb the McLaren-Honda drivers immediately. For the rest the usual talk: there will be the unknown of the tyres and that of consumption, at the limits for almost everyone.
"During practice I had a big drop in power on the engine, after all it was the reserve car with a somewhat tired engine. However, I am very confident for the race. Fuel consumption will be one of the dominant reasons for today's race".
Says Nigel Mansell at the end of qualifying. But there is great expectation for drivers starting from the rear, such as Michele Alboreto too, Gabriele Tarquini and other competitors looking for points. Remarkable is the performance of Roberto Moreno, who brings to the race the brand new Coloni, finished here in Montreal. Meanwhile, the driver-technician market continues to hold sway. As mentioned, an indiscretion leaked from France according to which Alain Prost would have decided to leave McLaren-Honda to move to Williams, with the full support of Renault for the engines. If this is true, all the loose ends associated with the French driver's position could fall into place in a matter of days. Obviously, the most important movement concerns Gerhard Berger and the Scuderia Ferrari. With a seat vacant at McLaren, the Austrian driver should end up next to Ayrton Senna. The hypothesis seems even more probable as Cesare Fiorio, in the usual Saturday morning chat, expresses himself in such a way as to hint between the lines at the possibility of Gerhard Berger leaving.
"We want to have a driver who is happy and proud to be at Ferrari and confident in the team's chances. No one is obliged, especially as there is a good line-up of drivers, even valuable ones, ready to take advantage of the opportunity".
As if to say that the Innsbruck racer's current hesitations are not appreciated. As for John Barnard, Scuderia Ferrari team principal Cesare Fiorio reiterates that the decision will be made by next week:
"John is a great designer with even brilliant ideas. We would like to keep him, but no one is indispensable at any level".
A very clear message. It is now Barnard's turn to respond to the list of imperative requirements that Ferrari must surely have presented to him. They then talked about the future: the Maranello team has a modified engine ready that could make its debut in two races, at Silverstone. Another small step towards the top. Almost all of the thirty drivers taking part in qualifying recorded their fastest times on Friday afternoon, as Saturday's session was cold, windy, cloudy and sometimes wet. Of the front-runners, only Ayrton Senna manages to come close to his Friday time. The second row is occupied by Riccardo Patrese in the Williams and Gerhard Berger's Ferrari, with the third row occupied by his team-mates; Nigel Mansell in the Ferrari a tenth or two faster than Thierry Boutsen in the Williams. Stefano Modena brings the only remaining Brabham to seventh on the grid, the best V8 engine and the best racer on Pirelli tyres, is Alex Caffi, who will start in eighth. Team-mate Andrea de Cesaris shares the fifth row with Philippe Alliot's Lola. Eleventh is the Minardi of Pierluigi Martini, twelfth Derek Warwick in his Arrows. Alessandro Nannini suffers from balance problems with his Benetton qualifying thirteenth, together with the Tyrrell of Jonathan Palmer. Nicola Larini is fifteenth in the Osella, with Eddie Cheever's second Arrows at his side. Mauricio Gugelmin qualifies seventeenth, who will be joined by Swedish onyx driver Stefan Johansson.
Triple World Champion Nelson Piquet finished no higher than nineteenth in his Lotus, while Tyrrell's second driver, Michele Alboreto, was twentieth. Ivan Capelli's second March will start in 21st position, along with the only Ligier that manages to qualify, that of René Arnoux. Christian Danner qualifies the only Rial in twenty-third place, and is also one of the few drivers who manages to improve his time during Saturday's session. The second Minardi of Spanish driver Luis Pérez-Sala will start from twenty-fourth place. The last row is made up of the AGS of Gabriele Tarquini and the Coloni of Roberto Moreno, who manages to qualify during Saturday's session after failing to record a representative time on Friday. Four non-qualifying drivers are Satoru Nakajima in the second Lotus, the Lola of Yannick Dalmas, and the Benetton of Johnny Herbert, who surprisingly misses qualifying as he was unable to balance his car satisfactorily, which was still faster than the second Ligier of Olivier Grouillard, who is the slowest due to gearbox problems. The last three fail to qualify for the session on Saturday, despite improving their times on Friday. Johnny Herbert would later be suspended for three months by Benetton and replaced by McLaren-Honda test driver Emanuele Pirro for the next race, after it was decided that Herbert needed more time to recover from the leg and ankle injury he suffered in the Formula 3000 race at Brands Hatch during the 1988 season.
On Sunday 18 June 1989 it rained from the morning, but intermittently. And forty-five minutes before the start of the Grand Prix it was hailing. The first start of the Canadian Grand Prix is interrupted after Gerhard Berger raises his arm and stops the race. The Ferrari's engine is switched off, due to an electronic problem. Ayrton Senna imitates him immediately afterwards. The race is delayed and shortened by one lap. On the second reconnaissance pass to remake the grid, Nigel Mansell notices that the track is almost dry and radios that it would be better to change the tyres. He receives the OK and enters the pits. At this point the first mistake occurs: all the other cars are on the grid while the British driver is stationary. The change happens a little slowly. Mansell then restarts from the pits and arrives at the end of the pit lane, but, not seeing marshals and noticing that the traffic light that should be red is flashing yellow, he enters the track as if the race had already started. In fact, both Nigel Mansell and Alessandro Nannini, after changing tyres, leave the pit lane and re-enter the circuit seventeen seconds before the start procedure was completed and the green lights were shown to the rest of the pack. Both cars return to the track ahead of the pack and stay there for a few laps, until they are joined by the leaders and the black flag. In the meantime Luis Pérez-Sala in the Minardi also follows the same route, but arriving a few seconds later sees the cars launched and stops, in time, to the side.
Mansell, at this point, re-enters the pits and goes to argue with the stewards, and then runs one more lap but is forced to re-enter, as he is eliminated. The two teams file a complaint against the decision to disqualify the Englishman and the Tuscan. The rest of the group starts cleanly, except for Stefano Modena and Pierluigi Martini, who collide and are both forced to retire. Michele Alboreto is forced to stop his Tyrrell due to electrical problems too. Alain Prost continues in the lead, followed by Ayrton Senna, Riccardo Patrese, Gerhard Berger, Thierry Boutsen, Andrea de Cesaris and Philippe Alliot, who have started very well. At the end of the first lap, Alain Prost and Alex Caffi returned to the pits to mount slick tyres. On the next lap Alain Prost pitted again and retired due to a front suspension failure. On the French driver's car, the rear mounting point on the upper left front swing arm has broken. This leaves Ayrton Senna in the lead, while Thierry Boutsen overtakes Gerhard Berger and takes third place. The order of the standings would change several times over the following laps as the drivers stopped in the pits to fit dry tyres, although the rain soon returned. Eddie Cheever retires during the third lap due to an electrical fault. Ayrton Senna is among the first drivers to pit on lap four, dropping to fifth place and leaving Riccardo Patrese in the lead, with Thierry Boutsen, Gerhard Berger and Philippe Alliot following him. Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger overtook Thierry Boutsen and climbed to second place, but retired on lap six with a broken alternator belt. The designer of the Maranello car, John Barnard would later say:
"It isn't the actual gearbox that gives trouble. It's the electrical ancillaries which keep packing up".
After the USA GP, John Barnard had provided guidelines for the repositioning of the alternators and he was angry when he discovered that they hadn't been positioned correctly in Canada. The Austrian driver, before retiring, crashed into Patrese's Williams and in the blow suffered a sprain to his left wrist. Further back, Gabriele Tarquini also retired on lap six due to a spin, although he had just passed René Arnoux for eighth place. Shortly afterwards Ayrton Senna overtakes Philippe Alliot and takes third place, pulling behind the two Williams-Renaults of Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen. This order continued until lap 11, with Derek Warwick fifth, ahead of Nicola Larini, René Arnoux, Christian Danner, Ivan Capelli and Luis Pérez-Sala. Next up were the two Dallaras of Alex Caffi and Andrea de Cesaris, followed by Jonathan Palmer, Nelson Piquet and Mauricio Gugelmin. The last two drivers in the classification, Roberto Moreno and Stefan Johansson, have already been lapped. On lap 11, Thierry Boutsen and Ivan Capelli came back into the pits, while Mauricio Gugelmin retired due to some electrical problems, and Luis Pérez-Sala was the victim of an accident with his Minardi, after inheriting eighth place. At the back of the field, Stefan Johansson pits his Onyx for the second time, but on his way out of the pits, the Swedish driver drags a tyre gun onto the track. The Swedish driver returns to the pits on the next lap to remove it, but restarts with part of the air hose still wrapped around the rear suspension. Thus, on lap 13 he was shown the black flag, but later the Swedish driver claimed he hadn't noticed it.
On lap 14 Derek Warwick overtook Philippe Alliot and moved up to fourth place, while both Dallara drivers overtook Christian Danner, who dropped to ninth. On lap 15 Nicola Larini overtakes Philippe Alliot too, while the Dallara drivers both overtake René Arnoux. Thierry Boutsen overtakes Christian Danner and then René Arnoux, moving up to eighth place. On lap 17 Philippe Alliot pitted, losing his fifth position, while the Dallaras overtook the Osella of Nicola Larini. In the meantime, Nelson Piquet overtakes Jonathan Palmer to take eleventh place. The order at the end of lap 18 saw Riccardo Patrese in the lead, followed by Ayrton Senna, Derek Warwick, Alex Caffi, Andrea de Cesaris, Nicola Larini, Thierry Boutsen, René Arnoux, Christian Danner, Nelson Piquet, Jonathan Palmer and Philippe Alliot, with Ivan Capelli and Roberto Moreno further back. Shortly afterwards Thierry Boutsen stops back at the Williams pit box to change tyres, as the decision to fit slicks didn't prove correct. Ayrotn Senna is also still on slick tyres at this stage of the race, and is struggling to maintain the car's traction on the wet parts of the circuit. On lap 21, the Brazilian driver stopped in the pits to fit wet weather tyres, dropping to sixth place. Meanwhile Andrea de Cesaris and Nicola Larini overtook Alex Caffi, and further back Philippe Alliot began to make up positions, overtaking Jonathan Palmer and Nelson Piquet. On lap 22, Nicola Larini overtook Andrea de Cesaris, taking his Osella to third. Both Dallara drivers then returned to the pits, allowing Ayrton Senna to climb up to fourth place. Philippe Alliot overtakes Christian Danner and climbs to sixth in his Lola, before going off the track on lap 27. Two laps later Ivan Capelli, twelfth, is the victim of a spin that forces him to retire. In the meantime, Thierry Boutsen climbed a couple of positions up to fifth place, overtaking Christian Danner and Philippe Arnoux again, while Ayrton Senna quickly made up ground and overtook Nicola Larini, taking third place. Jonathan Palmer overtook Christian Danner and climbed to eighth place. In the chaos of lap 34 the Osella of Nicola Larini stops, due to problems with the electrical system, while the Italian was in fourth position. Riccardo Patrese is still using wet weather tyres from the start of the race, so he decides to stop in the pits to change them on lap 35, leaving Derek Warwick, still on wet weather tyres, to lead the race in his Ford-Cosworth-powered Arrows.
Jonathan Palmer retired on lap 35 in the only Tyrrell left in the race, after setting what would have been the fastest lap of the Canadian Grand Prix, due to an off-track incident. Meanwhile Ayrton Senna caught up with Derek Warwick after the British driver had been leading for four laps, and passed him on lap 39. Derek Warwick retired a lap later due to an engine failure. Nelson Piquet took advantage, overtaking René Arnoux and moving up to fifth place. A period of relative stability followed, with only nine cars remaining in the race, with twenty-eight laps to go in the Canadian Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna leads Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen, with Andrea de Cesaris fourth, ahead of Nelson Piquet, René Arnoux, Christian Danner, Alex Caffi and Roberto Moreno. Christian Danner and Alex Caffi are the victims of multiple spins and are lapped more than once, as is Roberto Moreno, who loses a front wheel and returns to the pits on three wheels to make a replacement. Alex Caffi overtakes Christian Danner and takes seventh place on lap fifty, while Roberto Moreno retires due to a differential failure after completing fifty-seven laps. On lap 63, Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen approach the Brazilian Lotus driver Nelson Piquet, who is busy overtaking Christian Danner's Rial. Thierry Boutsen seized the opportunity and overtook his teammate to take second place before lapping Christian Danner. Riccardo Patrese's car lost aerodynamic load and grip due to the breakage of the bolts - caused by vibration - that screwed the diffuser onto the rear of his car. At this point, only Ayrton Senna and the two Williams were at full throttle. But on lap 67, with Senna comfortably in the lead, the mechanical components of the V10 Honda engine of his McLaren broke down and the Brazilian driver was forced to retire just after crossing the finish line, to the applause of the crowd. Thierry Boutsen therefore inherited the lead of the race and led the last three laps, beating his team-mate Riccardo Patrese by just over thirty seconds. Andre de Cesaris and Nelson Piquet, having unblocked themselves with Senna's retirement, arrive third and fourth at the finish line. René Arnoux is fifth in the Ligier, while Alex Caffi is sixth. In doing so, both Dallaras manage to pick up points. Ayrton Senna finished seventh, ahead of Christian Danner in eighth, the last surviving racer to finish three laps behind the leading driver.
This is the first victory in a Formula One Grand Prix for Thierry Boutsen and the third consecutive second place for Riccardo Patrese. The Canadian Grand Prix also represented the first podium for Dallara and the first time both Italian cars finished the race in the points zone. A Woody Alien-style race on Sunday 18 May 1989. This was the film of the Canadian Grand Prix, the sixth round of the world championship, which had become a kind of farce due to bad weather and the incompetence of the local stewards who presumably didn't know the regulations well, all seasoned with a series of twists and turns that in the end brought the first victory in the career to Thierry Boutsen, thirty-one years old, from Brussels, in the Williams-Renault. Behind Boutsen was the very unlucky Riccardo Patrese, who was forced to surrender first place to his teammate due to a car that was no longer at its best, after an excellent race. Then followed Andrea De Cesaris, Nelson Piquet, René Amoux and Alex Caffi with Scuderia Italia achieving an exceptional overall result. A reward for the placings missed at Monte-Carlo (De Cesaris eliminated by an accident with Piquet) and at Phoenix with Caffi squeezed against a wall by his team-mate and the Roman running out of petrol. The tricolour patrol struck again, but failed to take the top step. For the first time since Monza last year, both McLaren_hondas failed to reach the finish line. Ayrton Senna is betrayed two laps from the end by the Honda engine failure, after an exceptional race, perhaps one of the best he has ever run, while in the lead. Alain Prost, on the other hand, stranded after a few minutes by a failure of the front left suspension. Also for Ferrari a completely negative day that brings the total balance to only one arrival at the finish line: Gerhard Berger is blocked by the electronic gearbox, while Nigel Mansell is disqualified for having broken the rules by starting from the pits before the other cars had even started.
As for the championship, nothing happened at the top with Alain Prost still ahead of Ayrton Senna and Riccardo Patrese. A small tricolour flag waved on Sunday in the stands in front of the pits at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix. The many Brazilian flags folded with three laps to go, when Ayrton Senna emerged from the cockpit of the McLaren with the Honda engine smoking. A victory missed. And so a young boy took to waving his banner, perhaps convinced that success had fallen to Riccardo Patrese. And instead it was Thierry Boutsen who crossed the finish line first ahead of the driver from Padova. The spearhead (although we mustn't forget Nicola Larini's wonderful performance with the Osella) of this group of Italians, who flank Ferrari on the track, is the Scuderia Italia. A team that has in fact already done better than Minardi and Coloni. Andrea De Cesaris' third place and Alex Caffi's sixth are the crowning achievement of a competitiveness that has been achieved quickly. The results had been lacking for different reasons: the Roman driver had been deprived of a possible third place in Monte-Carlo due to an accident with Nelson Piquet and in Phoenix the two team-mates had collided with each other with the ensuing controversy. But everything was cancelled in Montreal: the fear of falling back into pre-qualifying between two races, the friction between Andrea De Cesaris and Alex Caffi and the fear of not finding a valid engine for 1990. This remains the biggest problem for the young team, founded in the winter of 1987-88 by Beppe Lucchini, an industrialist from Brescia. Growth was immediate. First with a car designed and built by Gian Paolo Dallara with the collaboration of Sergio Rinland. From this year with only the Italian designer, as the Argentinean preferred to leave for Brabham. Says Mario Vecchi, Scuderia Italia's public relations manager:
"Our worry is twofold. We have to find an engine because the Cosworth we use now is not at the level of the best, and also a technician to collaborate with Dallara, who prefers to stay at home and doesn't like to travel the world".
Speaking of Dallara, there is an interesting rumour: among the many names of foreign technicians destined for a possible replacement for John Barnard at the helm of Ferrari, the name of Gian Paolo Dallara comes up. The talented technician from Emilia enjoys the esteem of Cesare Fiorio, with whom he collaborated at the time of Lancia's victorious challenge to Porsche in the sport-prototype world championship. And there is indirect confirmation to this indiscretion: Scuderia Italia is about to engage Gustav Brunner, the designer who worked with Ferrari on the turbo single-seater. The round, in a way, would come to an end. Ferrari's race was short-lived, too. But unlike Gerhard Berger, who was eliminated by the usual malfunctioning gearbox, Nigel Mansell was put out by a disqualification that certainly provoked controversy and long discussions. Someone criticised the work of the mechanics and engineers in the Scuderia Ferrari pit, but Cesare Fiorio had no doubts:
"The fault lies with the stewards. Mansell locked inside the cockpit could not understand what was happening, as he could not see the track and the noise of his car's engine covered all the others. Having found neither the red light nor any track officials to stop him, as the rules would require, he thought the race had started. We filed a complaint, not so much to have the race or the result annulled, but to safeguard the principle and enforce the sporting rules in form".
Indeed, the stewards later accepted the complaint from Scuderia Ferrari and Benetton, implicitly admitting that they had made a mistake. But this admission does not mean that the race will be invalidated, at most Fisa will impose a heavy fine on the Canadian organisers. This small satisfaction does not take away from the anger of Nigel Mansell, who has very harsh words for the stewards:
"They are incapable, incompetent. The pits must be closed fifteen minutes before the start. When I arrived at the exit I found the yellow light flashing. Consequently I went ahead, thinking I had to chase the group. So I threw away a big chance, because with the wet track I could have got a very good result".
One wondered why on the radio the Ferrari engineers did not stop their driver, as they, at least, had a chance to see that the grid was still running.
"We could not know how long it would take the race director to give the start. In any case, we did not know that the light was not red".
Alessandro Nannini then reiterates:
"It's a scam. There was no stop sign. I saw Mansell drive away and I went after him. It's stupid, after so much effort, to be eliminated in this way by people who don't understand anything and, moreover, it makes us risk our lives unnecessarily".
For Gerhard Berger, too, the race was short-lived. The Austrian driver had already had similar problems in practice this morning, then his engine died at the first start and he was blocked by an electronic gearbox failure.
"I also have a sore left hand, because at the first corner Patrese and I touched each other unintentionally, wheel to wheel. The recoil on the steering wheel caused me perhaps a wrist sprain".
Great bitterness also for Ayrton Senna, who thought he had victory within his grasp:
"The engine quit suddenly, I didn't even have a chance to realise it. The race was very difficult as I also had problems with the left rear tyre, which had worn abnormally. In addition, I had to drive with one hand on the gearbox because the gears tended to come out. It was a bad blow for me. However, I will have a chance to recover soon".
On the other hand, the joy of Thierry Boutsen, at his first en plein, was overwhelming.
"It was not easy, especially because due to the poor grip I got into a double spin, which was so violent that I feared my race was over. At the end, however, after a good comeback, I attacked because I saw that Patrese's lead was diminishing. I realised he was having problems with his car and it went well. Passing my team-mate was the hardest thing in the race".
Only the day before, over a breakfast for the British specialist and daily Press, Renault Sport boss Patrick Faure had outlined the way he saw the 1989 season. The clear-thinking son of one of President Mitterand’s closest friends says:
"We’re happy with the progress we’ve made this year after our two years away, and already we’ve had two races in the points. We asked Bernard Dudot to go first for reliability and, touch wood, we’ve succeeded. Ron Dennis has said he sees Renault as McLaren’s closest challenger. Frankly, we don’t expect to finish the year level with Honda on development. After all, it’s a year ahead of us. But we hope to finish not too far behind. We have always said 1989 is our learning year. We’ve been surprised this year, it’s true, and we hope maybe to win a race by the end of it".
On the podium Andrea De Cesaris jumps for joy:
"I had been waiting two years for this moment. I had had a couple of chances and now I have hit the mark".
Canadians and Americans in general liked the Canadian Grand Prix. When,' wrote the Montreal newspapers, 'have you ever seen a race so spectacular, so exciting, so full of thrills and spills? Who could have thought that Thierry Boutsen would win in the end? We relaunched the world championship with the blow to McLaren. All fair and all true. But what could be said, with hindsight, if Nigel Mansell and Alessandro Nannini had left the pits exactly at the instant the start was given and not seconds before? Certainly, in a way, the show would have been one to remember. Two considerations must be made in this regard. Firstly: it can no longer be tolerated that in a sport defined as highly professional there are amateurs in positions of enormous responsibility. Secondly: Nigel Mansell appeared a bit clueless. The English driver's decision, forcibly endorsed by the team managers who could not know whether the track was actually all dry or partly wet, triggered the affair. On the rest of the events, however, Mansell's actions cannot be censured: the traffic light was not red and nobody stopped him. The Englishman could not have known that the start had not yet taken place, also because at certain junctures, one can lose track of time. That said, the balance of the race remains: eight cars classified, a Williams-Renault one-two, confirmation of Riccardo Patrese's moment of form and bad luck, consecration at the top of the Scuderia Italia, with Andrea De Cesaris third and Alex Caffi sixth after Nelson Piquet and René Arnoux. The World Championship classification did not receive any shocks, i.e. it remained firm at its summit. Which is not a bad thing, because another Senna victory would have dealt a blow to the interest of the 1989 season. The McLaren-Honda setback, then, galvanised the environment: a broken engine on the Honda, the mysteriously bent suspension on Alain Prost's car were interpreted as small signs of collapse. We shall see.
Speaking of the Scuderia Ferrari, one fact must be given immediately: eleven race appearances in six races, only one car at the finish line, albeit for an important result, Nigel Mansell's victory at Rio de Janeiro. A kind of impotent rage shakes the Maranello team. One knows that the cars would be competitive, able to challenge the McLaren-Honda and impose themselves on the chasing pack. Instead, nothing. Among other things, the Maranello team is said to have ascertained that Nigel Mansell's single-seater would have stopped anyway because of a problem with the usual alternator and that Gerhard Berger's was blocked by some kind of short circuit in the rear headlight that comes on when it rains. Cesare Fiorio does not have a magic wand and does not get what he wants. There are old situations to remove, there is the present to think about, there is the search for results, there is the future to look forward to, there is planning to be done and there is the team set-up to be reviewed in these very days. Perhaps in the next few days the fate of Gerhard Berger should be known. The Austrian driver will be in Maranello to discuss his contract. It seems that he has set impossible conditions, which is why there is a ninety-five per cent chance that he will leave, as they say, for McLaren-Honda. On the question of John Barnard, we will have to wait a few days and there is a rumour that an Italian-Argentinian engineer has been hired. He is Enrique Scalabroni, right-hand man to designer Patrick Head at Williams. An element of whom there are great rumours. Ferrari has also co-opted the Magneti Marelli engineer, Carmiggiani, and is looking for two or three young people from the Fiat Group's research centres to fill out the workforce. Given the problems, the sector that needs decisive and rapid intervention is that of electronics, of the programming of the computers linked to the functioning of the entire car. A Ferrari, in short, that needs to find the right people. On Tuesday 20 June 1989 the contract between Ferrari and the English designer John Barnard will not be renewed. This was announced by the Maranello team in a fifteen-line communiqué:
"A meeting took place in recent days between the president of Ferrari, Eng. Piero Fusaro, the head of sports management, Cesare Fiorio, and John Barnard. Ferrari reiterated its appreciation for Barnard's professionalism and technical contribution to the design, construction and development of the Formula 2 car. During the meeting, various hypotheses for the continuation of the relationship were examined, but no agreement was reached on any of them to their mutual liking. John Barnard assured his complete availability until the end of his commitment".
Now the succession race opens. The Ferrari management staff has not announced the name of Barnard's successor. There are many names of candidates to occupy a prestigious position, including the Italian Gian Paolo Dallara, technical manager of the Scuderia Italia, which is experiencing a brilliant moment.