On Sunday, August 7, 1988, Ferrari’s single-seaters took part at the Hungarian Grand Prix. For the first time, too weak to stay awake for long, Enzo did not watch the race. Berger finished fourth, but the television inside the apartment in Largo Garibaldi remained off. Alboreto, who ran his seventy-fifth Grand Prix at the wheel of a Ferrari, becomes the driver with the highest number of races in the World Championship with a car from Maranello; but his fate, as well as that of Ferrari, was marked for a long time. Wednesday, August 10, 1988 Ferrari is weak to the point of not even being able to talk on the phone with Don Erio Belloi, the priest of Maranello, who wishes him a happy name day. Dino answers the phone call, telling the priest that Ferrari is not feeling well and it is better to let him rest. The dialysis carried out on the body of Enzo Ferrari is less and less tolerated. Initially, three sessions are scheduled every week, then two, but with dialysis the condition worsens further: the engineer hardly eats anymore, struggles to get up, but still asks for a drop of champagne every now and then, to try to stimulate the appetite, to revive his body and psyche, but without results. Enzo Ferrari is getting worse day by day and the worsening is particularly obvious in the month of August, the one he had always hated and that he wanted to delete from the calendar. Ferrari begins to complain and is tormented by a terrible itching, as well as generalised pain, related to the disease. It also increases swelling on the entire body, linked to dialysis that is not able to bring any improvement of the kidney function. While Doctor Cesare Carani tries to provide him with some comfort with drugs and with a few words, with a wave of the hand Ferrari calls Dino Tagliazucchi and, with an almost whispered voice, says to him:
"Go to the study, on the table there is a copy of the last edition 1987 of Piloti, che gente... bring it here".
He lays on the bed with the book, takes the pen on the bedside table, opens the first page and with his hand trembling and unsteady, which it shows in the original, writes:
"To Professor Carani. Ferrari".
Doctor Cesare Carani thanks him, but he cannot look Ferrari in the face; he prefers to turn to the window, because he realises that his eyes are full of tears. Ferrari, meanwhile, is increasingly begging:
"Lasem murir, an in poss piò" ["Let me die, I can’t take it anymore", N.d.T.]
Since the disease is getting worse, doctors decide to stop the dialysis: at this point, the main objective is to avoid any pain to engineer Ferrari. With drugs by intramuscular injection Doctor Cesare Carani eliminates the physical pain and itching, and makes Ferrari rest almost all day. Piero Lardi calls Don Galasso Andreoli, Ferrari’s chaplain. The priest rushes in and gives Enzo Ferrari the last rites. Lina Lardi sits next to the bed and holds his hand. Piero Lardi and his wife Floriana also remain close to Ferrari, as do Carlo Benzi and Sergio Scaglietti, Dino Tagliazucchi and his wife, Giuliana. At dawn on Friday, August 12, 1988 the conditions of Enzo are stationary. Doctors have no illusions: even if he is still alive, they know that this is the final crisis. Dino Tagliazucchi occasionally wets Ferrari’s lips with a handkerchief soaked in champagne. Outside, the city is quiet. Largo Garibaldi, normally full of traffic, is deserted. From August 12 to August 14, 1988, Enzo Ferrari sleeps almost continuously. On Saturday evening, the doctors inform Piero and Lina that Ferrari will not see the next day’s sunrise. The lamp on his bedside table stays on all night. Family and friends take turns keeping him company. With them there are also the three doctors who have treated him - Baldini, Mattioli and Carani - although it is clear that their presence has no medical significance. From time to time Ferrari murmurs something, words that none of those present can understand. For some reason at some point he says - or seems to say - that he wants to give Marco Piccinini a certain clock. His young sports director had been like a third son to him for the past decade. Lina holds his hand for the whole night, continuing to whisper words of affection and comfort. Sunday, August 14, 1988 Professor Baldini is busy, and in the morning he arrives a little early. The two Giulianas tell Doctor Carani that Ferrari continues to sleep and that he does not complain anymore. The doctor sits next to him, holds his hand, feels his pulse, occasionally listens to the heart, controls the pressure and realises that Ferrari is getting closer to the end.
Less than an hour later the mayor meets with Federico Farri, the owner of the funeral home, and his brother-in-law Vasco Marinelli. With their collaboration, the mayor personally chooses a light wooden coffin, identified in the catalogue as the model SA, abbreviation of Stile Arca. Benzi’s instructions, on Thursday evening, were clear: nothing unnecessarily sophisticated, something simple, exactly as Ferrari would have wanted. It is only when the mayor tells Farri when and especially where he should have delivered the coffin that the owner of the funeral home understands for which illustrious client the first citizen of Modena has made his choice. However, since Ferrari died at 6:30 p.m. and since it takes 24 hours after the death before burial, Doctor Carani calls the medical examiner, necroscope, around 8:00 p.m., when the body is almost cold. Dr Carani tells the doctor that the engineer died at 6:30 a.m., after which the doctor observes the body from afar and, without examining it, fills out the death certificate using the description of Dr Carani. Thus, the next morning the funeral can be celebrated according to the wishes of the engineer. The accountant Benzi gets in touch with the mayor Alfonsina Rinaldi, already informed in time by Ferrari of his will. The mayor proceeds, through an assistant, to complete all the necessary paperwork for the funeral and after a couple of hours, even with the offices already closed, everything is regularly ready for the funeral ceremony. Even the guardian of the cemetery of San Cataldo is warned to open the gates at 7:00 a.m.. The next morning, at about 5:00 a.m., Doctor Carani goes early to the house of Enzo Ferrari. The accountant Benzi has not slept, he is very pale and when he sees the doctor, maybe thinking about the tragic night before, he faints in the chair in the hallway in front of Ferrari’s bedroom. Promptly, with the help of Dino Tagliazucchi, the accountant is laid down on the ground with his feet up and then, in the old way, quick and effective, is slapped. After the fourth slap, the accountant Benzi opens his eyes and says with a small voice:
"Stop, stop, professor, I’m awake. I’m feeling better".
Doctor Carani leaves him still lying down for about ten minutes: then, after drinking a hot coffee, the accountant Benzi is ready again. At 6:00 a.m. on Monday, August 15, 1988, the hearse and a bunch of employees of the funeral home get in the wooded courtyard of number 11 of Largo Garibaldi. In the bedroom, Enzo Ferrari is laid in the coffin. And when the coffin is sealed, Lina Lardi places a cross of white flowers on it. Shortly after 7:00 a.m., a bunch of people quietly descend the stairs and reach the courtyard. The only outsider is Giovanni Battista Razelli, the general manager of Ferrari, appointed by Fiat. The rest of the group consists of family members and those, among the closest friends, who were in Modena at the time of his death. With his son, Enzo Ferrari was clear:
"Piero, do not bother anyone for my funeral".
"No, no. You don’t understand".
"The cemetery is already open".
The mayor had personally phoned the caretaker at 2 a.m. that night, giving him instructions to open the gate at 7 a.m. for the arrival of a hearse that would show up exceptionally soon. As agreed with Benzi the previous week, the mayor had not revealed the identity of the body. Father Veronesi took what he needed to officiate the Mass and follows the frantic Ferri to the octagonal chapel of the Ferrari family. When he arrives and sees the coffin, he finally understands the reasons for all this haste. Piero Lardi, worried that someone would notice them and make the news public while they are still at the cemetery, asks for a quick funeral service. Kind, but adamant, the priest replies that he would not do things quickly, but well. It will take forty minutes. At the end of the mass, the coffin containing the remains of Enzo Ferrari is buried behind a dark red marble plaque, exactly the same as the others inside the chapel. Enzo Ferrari occupies the first place to the left of the door, next to his father, surprisingly distant from Dino. On the marble slab on which the words Alfredo Ferrari and the dates 1859-1916 were already engraved, a few days later would have been added the name Enzo Ferrari and the year of birth and death: 1898-1988. In San Cataldo only Giorgio Ferri is left, who does not move from the chapel until the workers of the Municipality seal the tomb. The news will begin to spread shortly after 9:00 a.m. Returning from the funeral, Sergio Scaglietti stops at the usual bar for a coffee. Clearly out of place as he was wearing dark and elegant clothes on the morning of the day of August, he cannot help but attract the attention of the owner. With his friend now safe in the solitude of the cemetery, Scaglietti knows that there is no longer any need to maintain confidentiality. With eyes full of tears confirms what the man had guessed:
"Yes, Enzo Ferrari is dead. He was buried a while ago in San Cataldo".
About an hour later, Piero Ferrari publishes a press release with Franco Gozzi, officially informing the world that his father, Enzo Ferrari, had died the day before. Dr Carani goes back home, and every hour that passes, he is in deep, unforeseen pain. Watching Ferrari die, he thought he was 90 years old, that he had a very good quality of life and that his passing was natural. He had the task of not making him suffer and to accompany him until his last breath. After the funeral, Doctor Carani begins to miss him more and more. In the evening, when he returns home, he dials the telephone number of Ferrari, because it seems impossible to him that the great constructor from Modena has passed away. He dials 059-234272. No one answers the phone. And he cries. He cries again in the following days, when around 7:00 p.m. he realises that he must no longer go to the dear Commander and that he will not hear him say:
"C’mon Dino, quick, there’s Dallas".
His niece Antonellina, mother of great-nephew Enzo, is on holiday; she arrives at the tomb at 4:30 p.m. to lay a bunch of daisies. At the late announcement of Enzo Ferrari’s death, Maranello is also caught by surprise. There was the feast of the Assumption, the band played on the church square, the kids were shouting in front of the long stand of the charity fishing. The news on television and radio has dampened the enthusiasm. Shortly after, at the crossroads of the streets the first flags were waving with the colours of Ferrari listed in mourning. The Ferrari factory was semi-deserted: almost all on holiday, until August 23, 1988. Even the watchman heard at 1:00 p.m., listening to the radio, that the engineer had passed away.
"I saw him many times, coming and going. Lately, he couldn’t walk anymore. He came in with the Thema Ferrari, and when he got out they had to hold him up. Sometimes we even heard him on the phone. Usually the secretary took care of everything, but when she needed something in particular she called him directly. And he was always friendly, exchanging a few words with us. How do I remember him? As if he had been my dad".
"We were all there, over 1.200 people. That was a great party, even though he wasn’t feeling well. I don’t know, it was like having the feeling of being a whole family. And the engineer seemed happy".
Then, Saturday, June 4, 1988, the Pope’s visit to Maranello. In front of the red gates of Ferrari racing department, at the end of Via Ascari, there is a small pilgrimage, in the heat looming over the countryside. Two young people from Florence, Paolo Ciappi and his girlfriend Ada Tortonese, were driving to the Romagna Riviera. They took the road to Maranello.
"To come and pay tribute to him".
In the courtyard of a house not far away from the racing department there is a Ferrari mechanic, his name is Donato Gualmini. He seems lost:
"I didn’t even know Enzo Ferrari died".
Many others did not know it, on the lazy afternoon of August 15.
"That he wasn’t well was no secret to anyone. But you know, everyone always hopes, even though old age is a very bad disease".
Donato Gualmini often spoke with his colleagues about the engineer during this last period.
"Sometimes even with anger, but not towards him: for the time that was taking him away. The old man is too old, we said, if he was young, things would be different".
But he remembers that at his 90th birthday party, the Drake repeated:
"Ferrari is timeless".
Enzo Ferrari’s father had taken two days of his life, reporting his birth at the town hall of Modena late. The son, at the express request of his father, returned him one day, announcing his death after the funerals, a day of delay on the effective passing of the great old man’s long run. But this time the Drake (from Sir Francis Drake, English crown corsair: “I like the association, sailing and fighting: it is a pity that when people say Drake they think of a dragon”) decided everything. His life has been a corollary of decisions, of judgements, which he almost always quietly announced, in litany as prayers, occasionally said with violence. He was fair and fierce, honest and cruel, cynical and soft: he was Ferrari, the most known Italian in the world, everyone listened to him even if he spoke little. Understood by the kids, feared by adults, revered by important people, who bought a Ferrari maybe just to sleep with it, and get buried with it, or rather with her, a person and not a thing. Great corrugated silences, dry sentences like judgments of an English judge (his sadness, almost his anger of not knowing this language, of not being able to directly attack the world with it), elephantine memories, callosity of immovable judgements, merciless or late revenge. But always as a great man, of which everyone was allowed to suspect, think, believe vast and intense - though not easy and unofficial - nobility of soul: the latter that led him to do much for dystrophic people, all sons of his son Dino, died in 1956, little more than a boy, of this terrible disease, and long in sentimental pole-position, if you accept the exemplification, on Piero, the other son, born by a woman who was not the wife of Enzo, the mother of Dino. And the common people, of Italy and of the world, who loved him deeply, viscerally, always and in any case saying that they owed him adventures, successes, fairness, understood the character beyond any representation, beyond his own reserved will, of his often inevitable cynicism due to his work. Enzo Ferrari is now in the family tomb, in the cemetery of San Cataldo at the bottom of the city, among the trees whose leaves move by a light air. In the tomb of San Cataldo, a hexagonal monument with a high silver vault from which it rains a dull light, there is the large pillow of flowers of the family, there is the bouquet of red roses wrapped by a yellow and blue ribbon, sent by the mayor of Modena, Alfonsina Rinaldi, there are lilies laid by who knows who. Tucked between the irons of the gate, one gladiolus with a note on which it is written:
"A dear fan of yours. Paolo".
"At 90, even a guy like that can’t work miracles".
Fiat mourns the news of Ferrari’s passing, releasing a short statement.
"Fiat expresses deep condolences for the death of Enzo Ferrari. What distinguished him from any other character in the motorsport world was that he totally dived into engines and technology. And that made him unique. A pioneer in a rapidly evolving industry, he has made an outstanding contribution to the sport with his cars. His great entrepreneurial skills and above all his will and perseverance have led Ferrari to establish itself everywhere, giving an extraordinary contribution to the image of the Italian industry and becoming a symbol, at the same time, of sporting audacity and technological progress. A legacy that Ferrari will certainly carry forward along the lines of its founder. Of Enzo Ferrari, together with his work, will remain the memory of his humanity and his high moral rectitude".
Enzo Ferrari passed away, what will happen now to Ferrari, what will its future be, will it still race? The first answer comes from Maranello. The Ferrari men say:
"We will respect all technical and sports programs already scheduled. We will be in Monza with Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger for a series of tests ahead of the Belgian and the Italian Grand Prix. Work goes on: we know that Enzo Ferrari wanted it to be so".
The speech on the corporate structure of Ferrari is less clear. For now, everyone is silent, it will be discussed in September, but it is obvious that Fiat will become the owner of the Maranello company. Ferrari’s death, therefore, does not cancel Ferrari’s commitments. The team continues to race. The plans, in reality, had been drawn up and, in part, implemented at the end of June with the new organisational chart of the racing team, which provided for the inclusion of Fiat men at the top of the team and, above all, an assumption of responsibility also in the competitive sector by Vittorio Ghidella, number one of Fiat Auto and president of Ferrari itself. A sequence prepared by Ferrari. Ghidella remembers him:
"He himself opened the door to the future. He asked us to help him to solve some problems. Now there is a direct involvement of Fiat, which I represent. Companies go on even if the founder is not there. It is the law of life. The important thing for Ferrari is to win again. And this is our first goal".
The programs, in short, were ready for two months. It all happened during a conversation between Ferrari and Ghidella in Modena, in the constructor’s house. A kind of spiritual testament from Ferrari that saw in Fiat (once again: in 1969 there was the agreement concerning the production branch that sanctioned the transformation of Ferrari from small artisan factory to modern industry) continuity and in Ghidella (deeply esteemed) a sort of heir and guarantor. In this already written future, here it is then the designation of Pier Giorgio Cappelli in the direction of the Gestione Sportiva (practically, the direct representative of Ghidella) and the return of John Barnard at the top of the technical department together with another man from the Fiat Group, Pier Guido Castelli. Marco Piccinini was confirmed as sports director of the Maranello team. Between June and August some things changed, some technicians (including Harvey Postlethwaite) left and others arrived.
"But those who left us had planned everything for some time, certainly before June".
"Ferrari is not just any Formula 1 team. It is Ferrari, a symbol of the Made in Italy. Refounding means returning to the origins, recreating a national technical school, recreating an Italian team with Italian people. And planning work with modern methods".
"I’m touched. When I agreed to race for Ferrari I wanted to do it especially for Enzo Ferrari, I had always dreamed of it. I was fascinated by its name, its history. Now Fiat guarantees continuity, and we will do our best to honour its memory".
"Enzo Ferrari was unquestionably the world’s number one in motorsport. His death marks the end of an era. His contribution to sport has always been at the forefront, even in the technical field. It is a moment of great sadness for everyone".
Joanne Villeneuve, widow of the Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve:
"Ferrari was the very image of Formula 1. He was always a fair and honest man. Between him and my husband there was a great affection and the death of Gilles had deeply shaken him. Every time I had the opportunity to meet Ferrari, I was impressed by his exceptional lucidity despite his age".
John Surtees, World Champion with Ferrari in 1964:
"Enzo Ferrari was a living legend and will become even more so after his death. The news of his death made me very sad: despite his 90 years he still had a lot of desire to live and to do, he told me himself when I saw him the last time. We abruptly argued in 1966, when I switched to Mercedes. He was a wonderful man but he had his own ideas, and his personality was far from easy. I realise that he had no choice, back then the competition was ruthless and someone who could decide for the others was needed, there was no other way and Enzo Ferrari had understood it. In the most recent period the results were lacking, because Ferrari is a factory that has often been managed in an emotional way, without the necessary calm. Maybe twenty years ago it didn’t matter, but in today’s world it takes cold blood to be successful and - I say it with all the affection I had for him - sometimes he just missed that. Among us there has always been a great mutual esteem even if when I ran for him it would have been more accurate to talk about a love-hate relationship. I will always remember him as a great man, a legendary character".
"I was very shocked. The contribution of the Maranello constructor to the development of motorsport was unprecedented. Twice I was on the verge of switching to Ferrari but for different reasons I never did. The first was when I was 21. He wanted me in Italy and I immediately went there but when I showed up, they had given the car to Piero Taruffi. I was very angry and I swore to him that I would never run with Ferrari. Instead, when he asked me again in 1961, I accepted with great joy. But this time the bad luck came and the following year, I had a serious race accident just as I was about to go to Maranello. It was then that I decided to retire. I still raced 11 races with non-private Ferraris in the prototypes, winning nine of them".
Luca Montezemolo, Ferrari sports director from 1973 to 1975:
"This is a terrible, sad moment for me. Enzo Ferrari was a fundamental character in my life, as much as I could learn working alongside him and for the deep human relationship that has always tied us. With him I spent the most beautiful days and in him I have always seen a point of reference, generous with advice and attention, giving me confidence from the first moment when, very young, he had hired me as sports director. With Ferrari a part of my life goes away; my pain is deep, it remains an immense gratitude".
Jean Marie Balestre, FIA president:
"The legendary character of motorsport has disappeared, nothing will ever be the same again".
"Although deeply touched by the announcement of the commander’s death, I was not surprised because, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Scuderia Ferrari, last year in Maranello, he himself told us that it would be the last time we would see him. I am proud to have competed for such a famous team but I cannot help thinking that Enzo Ferrari has always privileged his cars in the relationship with the drivers having the art of putting the latter against each other".
Niki Lauda, twice World Champion with Ferrari, the most loved and hated driver by Maranello fans, writes:
"For me this is a very sad day, because I have worked so many years with the commander. I knew the character well. We also had a difficult but unforgettable relationship. When the Ferraris were good and won, life was easy. When they lost, then there was always a bit of a mess, but that’s normal. We were still friends. He was a great character. Because with his charisma he gave his soul to the cars. I lived many adventures with him. When I arrived in 1973 it was very easy to talk about the contract, as I had arrived from scratch and cost nothing. After winning the first world championship, he wanted to continue to pay little. When I made a request for three and a half million shillings, he did not answer. He went to the phone, and asked how many liras were. Knowing the amount, which was normal in those days for other colleagues of mine, he said: no way. I said I wouldn’t drive for him anymore. After a month and a half he renewed my contract and said: you look like a Jew. And when he met me he said: Jewish, what’s up? How is life going?"
A careful man for business:
"When I lost the championship in Japan, I wanted to try in Maranello for the next championship. He said, this is impossible because now the number one driver is Reutemann, the famous Argentinian, you’re number two. I tried the brakes and Reutemann tried the important stuff. I threatened to go to McLaren. Three days later I did a second and a half less than Carlos on a lap time. I went back to the stable and he said to me: good Niki, now everything is normal. There is no other person like him, that’s the problem. He was definitely unique".
"The name and the Ferrari brand have been identified in every part of the world with the ability of our country to respond successfully to the always new challenges of technological progress, offering an image of efficiency and unmistakable style".
"With Enzo Ferrari the great Italian symbol of youth, audacity, tenacity and technical progress disappears. The country that loved him for all that he has represented, will continue to love him in the red cars that will still run with his name".
"I am deeply touched and I participate in the mourning of all Italy for the death of Enzo Ferrari who has impressed indelible marks on the history of entrepreneurship and together with that of sport always offering an example of boldness, dedication to work, of courage and fidelity to their country. Linked to him by deep and constant friendship over the last forty years, my heartfelt personal participation joins the condolences of the entire Senate".
"I express to you my heartfelt condolences for the death of Enzo Ferrari. To Enzo Ferrari goes our affectionate memory, the recognition and warm thanks of the Italian workers and communists for what he has achieved in the field of sport and in the automotive industry, in favour of democracy and technological, civil and social progress of our country".
The President of the Chamber of Deputies, Nilde Lotti, says:
"His death represents a mourning not only for the world of sport and cars: Enzo Ferrari, of which we do not forget the deep attachment to the ideals of democracy, had been able to create from nothing a company that honours Italy in the whole world. And this thanks to his technical genius, his passionate dedication to work, and the ability to involve his employees in an effort that has allowed extraordinary progress in a technologically advanced sector".
The mayor of Modena, Alfonsina Rinaldi, concludes:
"Engineer Ferrari, a man who always in life was caressed and targeted by the spotlight, chose to leave on tiptoe perhaps to reaffirm his own human dimension that always emerged forcefully in the flow of his words. His city owes him a lot. He used to call himself an enthusiast of the school-workshop union. From his experience, first employee then entrepreneur, from his Modena and from Emilia with the experience of small and medium-sized enterprises and cooperatives led to an approach of entrepreneurial relations according to which different interpretations of the parties must always seek points of mutual understanding if they want a good quality solution".
How many voices talk about Enzo Ferrari. The passing of the Modenese constructor causes many articles to be written: drivers, technicians, politicians, public figures remember the man, the sportsman, the business leader, analyse his behaviour, using magnificent adjectives and revealing known or secret episodes of a long life spent between cars and racing. An important testimony is missing in this scenario: that of Mauro Forghieri, the designer who has been inside Scuderia Ferrari for 27 years. The history of Forghieri is deeply linked to that of Ferrari and its successes. With him, the Maranello team has won four drivers’ championships, two Formula 1 and six Endurance titles. 55 out of the 93 Grand Prix victories were won by cars made by the Emilian engineer and his collaborators. Born in Modena on 13 January 1935, graduated in mechanical engineering in 1959 in Bologna, Forghieri immediately arrived, the same year he finished his studies, to Ferrari, following the footsteps of his father who was chief mechanic and had already contributed with his work to the extraordinary development of Scuderia Ferrari. Exuberant, hot tempered, but also shy, understanding and generous, Mauro Forghieri spent a life in parallel with Ferrari, loved by the constructor, kept in the palm of his hand in the best moments, punished and even pushed away in the worst ones to be then called back during the deepest crises. A very close relationship that justifies the reserve of the 53-year-old technician, who moved to Lamborghini in May 1987 with the task of designing a 12-cylinder engine that next year should be the protagonist in Formula 1 with one or more teams.
"What can I say that has not already been said? There is, however, a clarification that can be made about a characteristic of the commander that in my opinion was not underlined with due decision, a quality that marked his life. He had incredible courage. His choices, right or wrong, were always bold. Like when he was very young and went to Turin to look for a job, leaving his homeland. And then towards me: I had been at Scuderia Ferrari for three years, I was 27 years old and he entrusted me with the responsibility of the racing department. Who would do that in his place, who today would entrust such a difficult task to a young stranger, without a great experience? He had an exceptional intuition in all his actions, he was a combative man. I’m glad I met him, I learned a lot from him. He was one of those rare characters able to manage his business in an enviable and consistent manner. I think I was one of the few who could face him head-on, even argue with him. But he knew I was someone who would always tell him the truth and appreciate it. He would listen and answer, threaten and flatter, scramble and reward and in the end we were all ready to serve him to do what he wanted. I last saw Enzo Ferrari the day I left. We had a direct conversation, we didn’t tell each other lies. At the beginning of the meeting I was obviously sad and sorry, but at the same time determined, no longer willing to accept alternative solutions, I wanted to go my own way. He wished me luck. I had Scuderia Ferrari and Ferrari himself in my heart. In the last minutes we also talked about the future and he seemed full of hope, animated by great intentions. That’s why I left Scuderia Ferrari more calmly and serene. He was the usual leader. And I want to remember him this way: a brave man who always paid for things in person".
"I found men who undoubtedly loved cars like me. But maybe I have not found others with my obstinacy, animated by this dominant passion in life that has taken away from me the time and enthusiasm for almost everything else".
A passion that Ferrari has pursued for over 60 years following two paths, one complementary to the other: that of competitions and that of the production of grand tourer cars that harmoniously combine lines and very high performance. The races were a test and lifeblood in the first steps of industrial activity, this was the concrete sign of a commitment which was not sterile but open to progress. And the two areas intertwined over the years, the second, little by little, remaining independent of the ups and downs of competitive events. The first Ferrari was called 125: a Sport car with 12-cylinder engine (the most loved by Ferrari) of 1500 cc that debuted in May 1947 with Franco Cortese at the Piacenza Circuit. With two laps to go, the fuel pump jammed and Cortese, who was in the lead, had to stop. The victory was postponed to the Rome Grand Prix (25 May 1947): the first success of a Ferrari, the first of an endless series. Thus, the Ferrari era in motorsport and in industry began. In one of his books Ferrari recalled:
"Since the construction of the first 1500 I set myself an ambitious program. I remembered that I joined Alfa Romeo when there was a tendency to produce a car every day and I was always flattered to get in the future, with my own strength, at that level. Today the factory has become a remarkable unit compared to what I could dream of".
In 1947, the first year of production, Ferrari built three cars and five in 1948. It was difficult to sell these first Ferraris, nobody knew the small factory built in Maranello, at the foot of Abetone. More than a hundred cars were sold in 1957 (113, to be precise, the cars born that year), 1000 in 1971 (1246), 2000 in 1979 (2221), 3000 in 1985 (3119). This year we will probably reach 4.000 units. In 41 years Maranello has built 45.944 great grand tourer cars. Yes, because gradually owning a Ferrari became a matter of status symbol: mechanics and handcraft jewels that ended up in the hands of princes and kings, stars of cinema and industry. In the small town they came from all over the world. Today those Ferraris of the roaring years have become collector’s items. For a GTO, produced in 31 models from 1961 to 1964, billions are paid. And what about the Testarossa, the 166 Superleggera, aluminium bodied, the 500 Mondial, the 250 Le Mans? A charm that has resisted time, and that it has increased and expanded. And that ended up involving everything related to the Ferrari name: books, magazines, even the vehicle registrations. Ferrari said no to Ford that in 1963 wanted to buy the factory in order not to give up the sports sector, but instead found the agreement with Giovanni Agnelli in 1969 because the Fiat Group left him the race management. And Ferrari continued to develop, transforming into a modern industry, able to combine the technologies of the future with the old traditional handcraft. Ferrari was proud of it. Enzo Ferrari, unlike that other great character of the car world that was the German constructor Ferdinand Porsche, was neither a technician nor an engineer. He understood it, that is clear, but he himself said he was above all an agitator of men and ideas and a provocateur of discussions and technical diatribes, who was convinced that from the contrasts, almost always heated, comes progress. What was his technical philosophy may perhaps be understood in this passage that is part of a communication prepared for the University of Bologna on the occasion of the honorary degree in engineering.
"Along the lines of what is required by the current formula, I see how the car should be, I dream in detail and I formulate the theme that I give to my collaborators. The race car is not necessarily the result of a superior mind, but it is always the compendium of the common, constant and passionate work of a team of men".
"I should have received old volumes of Ferrari and Scuderia Ferrari and, instead, everything stopped. The market is stationary, perhaps the pieces will reappear in some time, at a tripled price".
And to think that the costs are already high: the book Le mie gioie terribili, published in November 1962 by Ferrari, cost 2.600 lire, now is worth about 1.000.000 lire. And it is almost impossible to find. Ferrari has left a name, a legend beyond his personal popularity. Scuderia Ferrari collects his tradition and continues to be. And it is certain that when one of the Maranello cars cuts the finish line in first place again, it will find its diehard fans ready to cheer for them as in other happy days. Those who look in the faces of the Ferrari men for a sign of failure are disappointed. Among other things, many young mechanics work at the garage, coming from the factory in Fiorano. This is a sign of the desire to continue the Ferrari school. Many boys are ready to learn, to follow the tradition. The Monza circuit, the same one that saw the successes of Nuvolari, Ascari, Fangio, Lauda, Villenueve, inaugurated the post-Ferrari era. The constructor who had wanted on many occasions to put drivers and technicians in the background, putting technical values before human ones, ended up giving way to his cars. The story does not stop. The future of Ferrari is confirmed by Pier Giorgio Capelli, the manager who now leads the team.
"Formula 1 has lost its most charismatic and representative person. Anything you want to say today seems trivial and obvious. Fiat intervened in a difficult moment, I received the job when Enzo Ferrari was no longer able to follow the team. It is obvious that we are confirming the company’s commitment to racing. We embarked on this adventure because we believe in Ferrari and in Formula 1".
"Five years. It would be easy to answer with banalities, with the usual rhetoric. How can I remember Enzo Ferrari in a few words? Difficult to say. It’s like losing a father and a friend. I wish I’d given him a win in the last few days, that would have been the best way to say goodbye to him".
But you were abandoned by Ferrari and now you have to run for another team.
"It doesn’t matter. He was a tough man because he thought about the Ferrari’s good. But he was great, a man who said something to all Italians, who left an important legacy of results and prestige. Now maybe the team will change, or rather it will certainly change. I can say that if he hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have stayed five years. I would have been the one to leave".
How was Ferrari when you last saw him?
"I prefer not to talk about it. He was not well, you could see it clearly. It is better to remember the happy moments, like on the occasion of my first victory in 1985. What a day. I spoke to him on the phone after the race and then I called him back after dinner. He said: well done, you did a good race. You also made two mistakes, but they are forgiven. We just needed the tyres. At the time I did not understand the last joke. I thought about it for a long time and then I understood what he was referring to. He would have liked an all Italian success: car, tyres and driver. But the tyres were American".
Was he very harsh with you?
"No, he was always understanding. Even when he had to scold me. We had arguments, it happens in all good families. But they were constructive, we worked together for the future. He gave me a lot of advice, he tried to make me learn, to fill my gaps with his experience, even if he hadn’t been to a race in years. He knew everything, no detail escaped him".
What was his greatest skill?
"I have always had a direct conversation with Ferrari, even if the meetings took place in the presence of other people. He had the power to decide, if he wanted, he could change something or everything overnight and convince everyone that it was the right path. His words were not discussed. And in the end he was almost always right".
Yet there are those who claim that Enzo Ferrari was ruthless with his collaborators.
"He sacrificed himself and demanded a lot from everyone. He knew how to make his men work hard. Those who did not appreciate him, those who spoke badly of him did so only because they had been forced to leave the stable. And then those who had denigrated him in the past are now the first to sing his praises. A great character who will be missed by Formula 1 and the entire motorsport".
How will Formula 1 be without Enzo Ferrari?
"The Circus will go on, the business will continue and perhaps it will become greater. I believe, however, that there will not be a man in the future able to leave a similar mark. On the contrary, I am convinced that it will be impossible to reach him, because the world has changed, because he has taken away its golden age".
"It was very nice to work with him for almost two years. I remember the first time I met him, in July 1986. Do you want to drive for me? He asked. I just had the courage to say yes. He was a tough man, but I liked him because he was able to put pressure on everyone to beat his rivals. Hard but correct. Look at the way the mechanics work, as if nothing had happened. They know that he would not have been happy if they had stopped to talk about him. The only thing bothering me is that maybe this year we won’t be able to give him a victory. But I’ll keep racing for him and for Ferrari".
Even the exes do not forget him. Harvey Postlethwaite, the engineer who now is at Tyrrell, says:
"We expected it. I spent the best years of my life with him. We had a great relationship. He was an unpredictable person, now Ferrari is going through a difficult moment, but from him you could expect everything".
René Amoux, who was a Ferrari driver, says:
"He lived a wonderful life because he always did what he wanted. I was in Maranello for three seasons going through difficult times, but basically I always had an intense relationship with him. I suffered and had great satisfaction. I’m sorry for his passing. I feel lucky because I was one of the few who could drive one of his cars and enjoy his friendship".
The past, the present and perhaps the future. It is said that Stefano Modena was one of the last of the young drivers to attract the attention of the constructor from Modena. The Emilian driver says:
"Really? It fills me with pride. I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive a Ferrari one day. But I’m sure that the tradition will continue in his name".
Meanwhile, in practice and in the race there are no surprises: it is always a McLaren to dominate the scene. Fourteen teams with about twenty cars take to the track for a series of tests concerning the Italian Grand Prix. As always, the Formula 1 teams prepare in advance. While in England the Frenchman Alain Prost begins the development of the McLaren 1989 (a laboratory car with an old adapted chassis and the new Honda aspirated 10-cylinder engine) obtaining appreciable results, Ayrton Senna, who is only studying valid setups, sets the best lap time in 1'29"13, ahead of Piquet with the Lotus with a time of 1'29"66 and of Alboreto’s Ferrari, third with a time of 1'29"86. And it must be said that the new Ferrari is improving. Two important innovations have been brought to the track, with the tests entrusted separately to Berger and Alboreto. The Austrian only completes a couple of laps. On his car there is an unprecedented suspension system, with intelligent shock absorbers, similar to the one used with little success by Williams. These are devices automatically adjusted by a computer: they should keep the car consistently in the right setup. The Ferrari of Alboreto was fitted with a different engine and different adjustments. Perhaps the power has been sacrificed a little to the advantage of use and consumption. The Milanese driver says:
"It’s too early to say, but we could be on the right track. Maybe not at Spa, in the next race on August 28, but in the following races. It is not said that before the end of the season we can not prepare some surprises".
The engine fails due to the distance, but that is normal during testing. Inside Ferrari’s box there is the full technical staff, including John Barnard. There is also the engineer Pier Guido Castelli who works alongside the English designer. The engineer also talks about the new single-seater with aspirated engine, that of 1989:
"The problem now lies in the electronic gearbox, as it does not withstand the stresses. It is a difficult complex, where the components are many and therefore there is likely to be trouble. But we are not pessimistic. Of course, you have to work a lot. As for the aerodynamics of the car, someone claims that it is not valid. Perhaps there is still something to do. However, the first data is not discouraging. We will do more experiments, perhaps with a normal gearbox".
"The steering wheel detached from the column, I could have died".
De Cesaris says harshly. The German replies:
"Always damage, always trouble, I can’t believe the steering wheel got out of his column. We have the same system as all other cars, which is very safe".
But this time it seems that the driver is right: it is impossible to go off track at that point without having a failure. The tests will continue in the following days. Among the good news there is the young Johnny Herbert driving a Lotus, who sets the fourth time. The English team wanted him at Monza to do some tests, but also to eventually replace Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian has turned 36: he is expecting a third child from his current partner Catherine and could retire. On the Williams next to Patrese, Martin Brundle is back again. And this only spreads the rumours about the future of the Paduan driver in the British team. If they signed Alboreto, why are they waiting to announce him? Back to Ferrari, fewer horsepower are expected to consume less fuel, but with the advantage of making better use of all the engine power. This is the path that Ferrari takes. On Thursday, August 18, 1988 Ferrari tests in Monza in view of the Italian Grand Prix of 11 September with the major teams of Formula 1. This is explained by engineer Pier Guido Castelli, 41 years old, from Turin, of the Fiat research centre and new technical supervisor of the Maranello team.
"So we changed some parameters of the turbo engine that we are testing these days, in addition to the active suspensions".
The modified engine was used Wednesday with good perspectives, while the new suspensions give some encouraging results. Engineer Castelli explains that in the Formula 1 world he has not found the technological excellence he expected.
"This justifies the successes of the Japanese who combine the experience with a large methodological base, supported by the development of the electronic industry in their country. Technologically, the Honda engine is not more advanced than ours, but the Japanese constructor has understood before others that it must be tested all together".
Now Ferrari is getting ready to beat the Japanese constructor with the new aspirated engine.
"There is a great commitment on our part to achieve this goal, although in the meantime we are trying to do everything we can to improve the current engine and the whole car".
Concerning the automatic transmission that will be mounted on the new aspirated engine car and that is giving negative results, Castelli confirms that it will be tested on turbo cars in order not to block the development of the new car created by Barnard that looks good on paper, although it has to undergo some adjustments to reduce weight.
"Today the Latin genius alone is no longer winning, that’s why we came directly into Ferrari to bring all our experience and our technology".
Ayrton Senna is still the fastest in practice, after having broken an engine in the morning.
"McLaren’s were simple set-up tests without any special novelties. I like the Monza track, even if I have no particular preference in terms of circuits. There is still some road to go from here to the world championship: tomorrow I will be in Silverstone to test our new car that is ready".
"I haven’t done many laps today, but these intelligent suspensions look pretty good. I’ll try the new engine tomorrow".
"Thank you Enzo Ferrari for the dreams you made us make for so many years".
At the end, the signing of the managers of a fan club based in Tokyo. This is the only tangible sign of homage for the Modena constructor who passed away last week. But in Formula 1, on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix, the eleventh race of the World Championship, there is an understandable sense of emptiness, discomfort, and even fear. The fear that the exit of a character-symbol can make the sport - which is always on the crest of the wave, but in precarious balance - lose a part of its popularity. Friday morning Balestre is expected, and it is not excluded that he decides to do something to honour the memory of Ferrari, already here in Francorchamps and perhaps also for the future, establishing a trophy. But what the environment wants the most is to continue to offer exciting, hard-fought and uncertain races. Unfortunately, at the moment there is nothing to do, as the prospect is of yet another McLaren success. The task of giving some excitement to the show is up to the two drivers of the British team, Senna and Prost, who are fighting for the title. Last year, on this very demanding track (20 corners and long straights, climbs and descents) Prost prevailed, but he could not do anything against a rival of the calibre of the Brazilian, moreover on an identical car. Alain Prost knows very well that everything is on the line this weekend: another success of Senna, the seventh, would put him with his back against the wall:
"I have to win, otherwise I won’t have a chance to fight back".
The clever Ayrton, on the other hand, stands aside without making predictions or proclamations. But it is clear that he will not miss opportunities. Not even Ferrari can join this fight. Berger or Albereto will be able to stand out during the qualifying phase, but for the race the consumptions make the dream of a success prohibitive, also because the latest innovations tested in Monza (an engine with new mapping and intelligent suspensions) should not be ready yet. Maranello’s staff will still be all busy, including Barnard (even if he is deeply involved in the development of his aspirated car) and the general manager of the factory, engineer Razzelli, who normally does not follow the races. This is a sign of total commitment to find the success of the past. Mansell will not be there, as he is forced to miss the race and is replaced by Martin Brundle. Mansell is still struggling with the chicken pox that had weakened him in Budapest and forced to retire, without energy. It seems that there has been a relapse and that the doctor has recommended two more weeks of rest to avoid unpleasant consequences. The absence of Mansell immediately sparked a series of rumours and hypotheses. Someone has immediately overshadowed the fact that the English driver, in the last years, was the victim of several accidents of which two serious ones to the spine, and is physically in pieces, with the broken back, so much so that he has a compromised future. And since he has already been signed by Ferrari for 1989, there are those who talk about a wrong signing by the Maranello team. But these are just rumours. Piccinini, Ferrari’s sports director, says:
"It’s useless to comment, for now he’s still a Williams driver. It seems to me that another witch hunt has opened".
"But the suspension car with electronic control was affected by various problems that we could not solve immediately".
"I could also have done better if I had not been slowed by traffic and by a car that stopped on track during my flying laps".
A kind of war declaration. But Prost does not give up. The French driver has done a lot of tests, he has set up the car and after all he does not care about not setting the best time if he can keep the first row, which in the race is useful not to lose contact with the rival. The fact remains that this McLaren is really scary. It does not miss a beat. Everyone expects some failure, a little problem that slows down the red and white cars, and these instead as fast as lightning. During the first day of practice, among other things, Honda presented the new aspirated 10-cylinder engine, the RA 108E, which will be used next season. The data provided are few, only those concerning the displacement (3493 cc, the V configuration of 72 degrees), power 600 hp, weight 150 kg, length 620 mm, width 550 mm, height 540 mm. The most important data concerning the rotation speed are unknown and there are also doubts about the power that could be greater. In any case, this engine has already been used on the McLaren MP4/4P at Silverstone, getting a time of 1'13"0, when Berger in the British Grand Prix had been the fastest in 1'10"0. For a new car with a new engine this is not a bad start. Ferrari continues to work on many fronts. Unfortunately, the news is not positive. Barnard will have to review several things on the new car, and on track the new car with a turbo engine continues to give problems, so much so that Berger says - at the end of practices - that if he had a good engine he could have chased Senna. The usual problems with tests and improvement which are difficult to solve now and perhaps even in the future. It seems that the news tested at Monza and announced for the Italian Grand Prix must undergo a further delay. It must be said, however, that the Maranello team is always targeted, with a pressure on it that risks being excessive. To the Mansell case, which is underway, it is added a mysterious, or at least disconcerting, episode. On a monotonous day with the usual, obvious, boring results (Senna, Prost, Berger and Alboreto) everyone looks in vain for some extra topics with which to cheer up. But among so many distracted journalists only one pays attention to some sheets, and realises that they are the printouts of a computer of some team. He grabs the pile dirting his hands and stands shocked: he has in front of him the very secret electronic mapping of a turbo engine. A small crowd gathers, it says everything about consumption, number of laps, horsepower, malfunctions. In the meantime, Marco Piccinini, board member of Ferrari, passes by and his face whitens because he immediately recognizes the typical sheets used by the Maranello engineers. He rushes to the journalists, rips out the papers and asks them:
"Where did you get them?"
The journalists answers:
"They were there, in the trash can".
Piccinini thinks that the journalists are making fun of him, thus he calls engineer Gestri.
"Are these our papers?"
The engineer answers, embarrassed.
"And why were they in the trash can?"
Asks Ferrari sports director.
"Well, uhm, I don’t know...".
"I’m lucky it happened at that point where there is a lot of space. But I can not blame the team: the lap before I had a puncture and I had run a few kilometres with a flat tyre, probably damaging the tie rods that then failed".
There have also been fights between the Arrows and the Benettons. Boutsen crashed into Warwick due to an error of judgement by the British driver, who had not noticed the arrival of the other car and had suddenly moved to the right. Nannini with the other Benetton hit the Arrows of Cheever going wide at the Source curve. De Cesaris was also the victim of several troubles. Gearbox breakage and clutch failure in the morning. In the afternoon, after waiting a long time for the cars to be ready, the Rial mechanics forgot to put the lubricant in the transmission that had seized, leaving the Roman on track. A few minutes later, the engine of the spare car exploded. Piquet also had troubles. During free practice, on his Lotus the clutch and gearbox broke. In qualifying, he had to set up the car himself and was beaten by his teammate Nakajima. Speaking of engines, will Honda be the referee of the World Championship between Prost and Senna? In the paddock they say so. The Japanese company, according to rumours leaked at the end of the first day of practice of the Belgian Grand Prix, would not like an early conclusion of the Formula 1 World Championship, but would prefer to keep the uncertainty at least until the race scheduled in Suzuka, Sunday, October 30, 1988, the penultimate of the season before the grand finale in Adelaide, Australia, fifteen days later. For this reason the Frenchman would be helped to win the race, in order to rebalance the fight with Senna. Another success of the Brazilian, in fact, would cause problems to Alain Prost, who has to hope only in the bad luck of the teammate. The numbers are soon calculated. Senna has six first places, against the rival’s four. In the standings, the two have 63 points. But the South American has only collected eight results against the nine of the Transalpine. And since the regulation provides for the possibility of accumulating only eleven scores, Prost will inevitably be forced to discard one soon, considering that by now McLaren have reached a reliability such as to consider impossible that they do not reach the finish line. These are obviously only hypotheses. Then Sunday, perhaps, Senna will win and put a stop to this. But for someone it is still a matter of conjecture with a minimum basis, as for Honda a world championship concluded with five races to go would not be very useful in terms of advertising. On a purely theoretical level the trick is possible, as it would be enough for Ayrton to consume the car a little more to force it to slow down.
The next day, imagine a beautiful track, all under a huge shower. It is here, in the heart of the Ardennes, in a hilly area between Germany and Luxembourg, where the rain comes and goes, that Saturday, August 27, 1988 Ayrton Senna (25th pole, more than Piquet and Lauda) and Prost are running an important race for the Formula 1 World Championship. A victory for the Brazilian in the Belgian Grand Prix and it is over, even if the mathematics will still give some small margin of hope to the Frenchman, at least until the next race, in Monza. The two rivals continue to joke, to turn a blind eye. In a press conference, after a qualifying round that was useless because the track flooded with water did not allow any change in the line up, Senna and Prost say the usual things, making great compliments to each other. In fact, unless one of the two is not too scared, Sunday on track they should give a show similar to the one between Arnoux and Villeneuve in Dijon a few years ago which entered into the motorsport legends. An anticipation has already been seen in Hungary, with overtaking and counter-attacks between the two McLaren drivers. Much, or actually everything, will depend on the rain. It seems that Sunday can be saved from the usual low clouds and the heavy autumn rain of these days. If so, Prost will have the chance to fight on equal terms, this time starting in the front row next to his teammate-rival. Otherwise, he may have difficulties, unless the predictable superiority of the Brazilian in the wet is questioned by some trouble or by a third driver. In the second practice session, for example, with the asphalt flooded, the best time was set by the rediscovered Martin Brundle who precedes the Japanese Nakajima and the Brazilian Piquet. However, these lap times are not to be taken into account, because the conditions of the track change every minute. The fact remains that the rain, despite everything, should equilibrate to the values on the field and would open the race to a surprising result, Senna permitting. Among the outsider candidates there are obviously the Ferrari drivers, Berger and Alboreto, although still concerned by the problems of fuel consumption, both in dry and wet track. It seems (but there is no official confirmation) that the Austrian and the Italian will have two different engines. On the car of Alboreto could be fitted the less powerful one (11.500 rpm, instead of 12.500 rpm) that decreases performance but ensures less fuel waste. There might be some surprises. Alboreto and Berger are also animated by different feelings. The Italian already feels a bit left out, almost a test driver, but he would love to have the chance to prove his skills. The Austrian is more disenchanted.
"A problem to be solved because a greater number of cars would involve various difficulties of a sporting, organisational and safety nature. Several hypotheses have been made, such as the one that would require each team to line up two single-seaters and to exclude those who just want to try an adventure".
We are therefore talking about closed numbers and other measures that will be decided by the meeting that will be held in October. Among the proposals there is that, suggestive but unlikely, to create a A-series and a B-series (perhaps with Formula 3000), with promotions and relegations. In addition, constructors will also require financial guarantees and continuity of commitment. In short, they do not want to enlarge the field of participants too much to avoid creating a dangerous inflation, even of names that would end up making the fans crazy. Jean Marie Balestre, President of the FIA, spoke unofficially about the future and openly threatened Monza.
"There are 21 countries that want Formula 1 and there are 16 races. England has three valid tracks, in France the Magny-Cours circuit has invested 12.000.000.000 lire to renew the track. Environmental and green issues are everywhere, but they are being overcome intelligently everywhere. So I don’t see why an exception should be made for Monza. Either the required work will be done or drastic and inevitable decisions will be made. They have to decide if holding the Grand Prix is worth it".
There was also a meeting of fuel suppliers, following the proposal to unify fuel. The oil companies have not agreed, for obvious reasons, although they will probably have to agree to review their products which should be closer to commercial ones, while now the fuel used in Formula 1 has nothing to do with that of road stations. Sunday, August 28, 1988, at the green light Prost has a flying start, taking advantage of an uncertainty of Senna. The Frenchman overtakes the Brazilian and drives towards the Radillon. On the grid all the mechanics had wrapped the tyres in the tyre warmers, but on the McLaren the rear warmers had warmed the Goodyears faster than the front ones. The pressure difference changed the expected ride height; therefore, until they reached the operating temperature, Senna is forced to fight with the nervous MP4/5 for the first five laps. Ayrton, however, does not give up, knowing that he is the strongest. The Brazilian driver pushes the throttle and is in the slipstream of Prost; at the first chicane, Senna overtakes the rival on the inside, leaving him overwhelmed. Berger gives the impression that he can keep up with Prost. But the Austrian, on lap four, with the engine that is not working properly, is forced to return to the pits for a long stop, with the mechanics busy frantically looking for the problem. The Austrian driver starts again when all the drivers have already passed three times and on lap 12 he returns to the pits to get off the car, visibly disappointed. While Senna continues to gain tenths and seconds on his teammate, Alboreto, aggressive as always, defends his third position, helped by a Ferrari that all in all appears far better than the other cars. The Milanese creates a good distance between himself and Boutsen. Even the Italian’s race, however, does not end happily: on lap 35, when the podium seemed a beautiful reality, the engine of his car begins to smoke conspicuously. Alboreto continues until the final breakage, and then parks to the side. The Italian drivers come out from the back of the group: Nannini and Capelli engage in wonderful duels, battling the first with Piquet, the second with Patrese, after the Brazilian of Lotus has painstakingly overtaken his teammate Satoru Nakajima.
"Senna is the new World Champion. He is the strongest and he was the best with equal cars. I always found it hard to beat him. This was the last chance I had, it is unthinkable that I could win four of the five races left to run. I’m happy for him, he deserves the title, the logic has been respected. Next year you will see two McLarens World Champions".
After retiring in the rain at Silverstone, this is the second time that Prost does not perform. He seemed like a hardened driver, a man able to react to difficulties, but suddenly he showed a new face. He raised the white flag in front of the emerging talent, the strength of the Brazilian. His is a crisis of conscience, perhaps even an act of courage in admitting the superiority of the rival. But at the same time a driver cannot run if he is intimately convinced that he is less good. If there is any lack of presumption, it is over. But Prost is obviously not of this opinion. The Frenchman continues:
"Now the pressure I’ve been under is finally going to go down. I’m ready to start a new championship, a new challenge with different cars with aspirated engines. For this season I will try to help Senna win more races and McLaren to beat all records".
Of course, a stronger defence was expected, at least with words. Maybe Prost was enchanted by Senna, by the esteem that the two racers feel for each other. And Senna returned the favour with words of hope, saying that the title is not yet his:
"I don’t consider myself World Champion yet, I’m lacking the mathematical confirmation, and in Formula 1 you never know. I also owe a lot to Alain, because I learned something from him. And then there’s McLaren. Our cars are missiles compared to the others. The merit is of the technicians and also, partially, of us drivers who have been able to set them up well. I can say, without fear of being contradicted, that this year many drivers could aim for the world title if they had had our cars available. Luckily, I was driving one of the two McLarens. Last point, but I would not like to appear immodest: we must look for good teams. Other teams promised me many things when they knew I was free from the Lotus contract, but I knew where I wanted to go. Not even winning the Italian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time will make me the World Champion. But conquering Monza is one of my dreams, so I will arrive at the Italian autodrome ready with two goals to achieve. Of course, a success in the next race will protect me from all attacks as Prost would then be forced to win all four races that will remain, that are Portugal, Spain, Japan and Australia".
"I had chosen a different aerodynamic solution to reduce fuel consumption, and my car was less balanced and less fast in the slow part of the circuit. I thought about attacking him at the end, but from lap 25 I had to let him go also because the tyres had deteriorated a bit".
This is a confession that increases the merits of the Brazilian, who is very good at tuning the car. He also proved it at Spa. In the warm up lap before the start, Senna noticed that the notorious pop-off valve, the one that delimits the turbo pressure at 2.5 bar, did not work perfectly. In the team radio, he told it to the pits and the mechanics, together with the FISA technician, replaced it on the grid, a few minutes from the start. A very significant episode.
"I did not have a good start, making the tyres skid. That has never happened to me so clearly. At the braking of the first corner I could have widened to not let Prost pass, but it would have been too risky for both. So I preferred to let him pass. But I immediately got in his slipstream and at the first chicane I passed without problems. Once in the lead, I thought about saving fuel, tyres and engine. The race was too important to make mistakes".
All easy for the Brazilian. Now that world title that he dreamed of as a child, that role of heir of Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet that he has been chasing since he entered in Formula 1, is right at hand. The apotheosis, the official confirmation, could arrive in two weeks at Monza, in the Italian Grand Prix. Also because, otherwise, Prost should win at least four of the five races that are left, which could be possible if there was no Senna, given the superiority of the unreachable McLaren-Honda. Coldness and courage mix in Senna as in an explosive cocktail, making it practically invulnerable. He is strong in the street circuits and in the fast ones, on the wet and dry asphalt, in practice and in the race, in the set up of the cars and in knowing how to extract the most out of them. That is a driver with no weaknesses. Born in São Paulo 28 years ago, medium height, lean body, picky to the point of boredom, Ayrton Senna has proven to have an overwhelming strength of character. He overcame the hatred of many colleagues (resounding his controversies with Mansell and Alboreto), the envy of others, the sometimes too heavy barbs of his compatriot Piquet. Such is his charisma that he even managed to enchant Alain Prost who would have a thousand reasons to hate him and instead esteem him, or better, now he fears him and therefore holds him in very high regard. He was able to win the sympathy of the technicians, to be friends with the mechanics, even if his ruthless judgments on some occasions have broken off relations which were idyllic. In recent times he has even thought about his own public image. After a series of not pleasant rumours about his private life, he opened a door even in intimacy, being surprised by photographers in affectionate attitudes with beautiful girls. Nothing is left to chance. Ayrton Senna, women and engines, one could say. But above all a remarkable class in driving at high speed. As said, the Italian drivers came out with their heads held high from the Belgian Grand Prix, although Riccardo Patrese had to retire with a very high water temperature of the engine. The future, however, does not look so bright for Patrese, who awaits a confirmation for next year by the British team, while radio-box claims that his place has already been taken by Michele Alboreto. No problem for Alessandro Nannini, who flies on the wave of increasing popularity, so much so that Benetton in recent days wanted to enforce the option they had for 1990. This time Luciano Benetton must have given a large sum of money: there is talk of more than 2.000.000.000 of lire. Alessandro Nannini says:
"I am satisfied, also because this is a sign of confidence. Of course, I could have waited for a possible Ferrari call, but I don’t think that next season the Maranello team will be competitive".
"It was a fun race, but it started badly. Patrese and I were almost side by side on the climb to look into each other’s eyes while Nakajima overtook us both running at 30 km/h more than us. Nice fight with my friend Piquet, maybe he had problems with brakes and tyres. He used to zigzag so I wouldn’t pass in the slow areas and then went away in the straight. What a fight. I’m just sorry I didn’t get on the podium, but honestly my car in the early laps was hard to drive, and I had to start at distance".
However, the technical checks carried out in park fermé after the chequered flag will result in the disqualification of both Benetton cars because they are accused of using irregular fuel. A disappointment for the drivers of the Anglo-Italian team after a Sunday spent as protagonists and in which they had collected valuable points in the Constructors' Championship. Thanks to their exclusion, Capelli can celebrate - even if only virtually - the first podium of his career in Formula 1, thanks also to the very efficient March designed by Adrian Newey.
"I passed Brundle at the same place where Mansell and Senna had their accident last year. Then I attacked Patrese and passed him at the hairpin bend. We touched each other, what a scary moment. The car was very fast, if I didn’t start back, I could have taken third place".
Ferrari disappointed and disappointing? In terms of the result, yes. A double retirement (the third of the season after Canada and the United States) was certainly not in the plans and in the possibilities of the Maranello cars, which could quite easily aim at least to third and fourth place. But every cloud has a silver lining: if Alboreto and Berger have been betrayed by the reliability of the Maranello cars, there are positive notes regarding the performance. Apart from the platonic fastest lap of the Austrian (Senna and Prost at the end had no need to push), there was a greater competitiveness at the chronometric level. Let’s take a look at the figures: Prost’s best lap time was 2'01"702, the Italian’s 2'01"924. And there is more: Ferrari did not have problems with fuel consumption and the performance of the engines improved, even at the level of progression. A sign that the work done in Fiorano has already achieved some goals. Of course, the drivers are not happy at the end of the Grand Prix. Alboreto is particularly unhappy with the retirement, the unnecessary effort, so much to give the impression of wanting to continue in a crazy race when the engine already smoked conspicuously:
"I was hoping to continue, but once again I was beaten by bad luck. The car, however, was fine, even if we were even slower than McLaren, almost a second per lap".
Gerhard Berger is even more precise:
"The chassis was excellent. I even tried to pass Prost and if the engine hadn’t immediately started to cause problems, maybe I would have also done it. The engine isn’t what I want it to be, but there’s progress. I don’t think we will be able to keep up with McLaren at Monza, but maybe in the following races, at Estoril and Jerez, we will finally be able to fight with them".
It seems that the Austrian was stopped by a banal failure; there was no electricity to a cylinder. Ferrari sports director, Marco Piccinini, says:
"There is no need to talk about the post-Enzo Ferrari, a problem much more serious, complex and greater than any speech. Let’s say instead that on a negative day for the lack of reliability there were positive notes. First of all, we had no problems with fuel consumption and we have made a step forward with the engines. The next goal is to find an optimal functioning of the cars. This is the objective that our old and new technicians will try to reach. Unfortunately, another unfavourable note is that we lost seven points against Benetton that chases us in the constructors' standings, but maybe we will recover".
What are the plans now?
"We continue to work on the turbo car, while we engage in parallel on the one with the aspirated engine. It is not true that everything is going wrong on the new car, but we admit that there are difficulties. Nor is it true that we are forced to design, build and test the parts outside and not in our factory. Engineer Ghidella is strengthening the team, it is clear that there is the possibility of having a contribution from the Fiat group with all its resources. But the focus remains in Maranello, because Ferrari is also an advanced technological pole. We have a package of improvements in sight, maybe at the end of the season we will find some satisfaction".
From Wednesday, August 31, 1988 free practices are scheduled in Imola. There are almost all the teams. Ferrari had decided not to participate, but at the last moment it was announced that, according to needs, after a technical meeting in Maranello, is not excluded a possible rethinking.