"I hate the deadlocks, as it’s happening in the current championship. I can’t stand a Mansell that wins everything. At least there was the real ﬁght with the teammate. In the past years there were Senna and Prost to light the fuses. Now it is a disaster for the show. There’s a lack of pilots like Prost and Piquet".
Yes, but the crisis is not only in the monotony of the races.
"It's true, there are economic problems, due to the recession. It becomes diiffcult to ﬁnd sponsors, there is the risk of losing, at least in part, the irreplaceable contribution of cigarette manufacturers. But I am also convinced that expenses could be cut in half, without impeding technical progress. The earnings of many pilots are indecent, when we are talking about 23.000.000.000 lire a year for Senna. And then there are those forced to pay to race. I would prefer a small club of thirty drivers in Formula 1, with the right parameters and fair salaries for everyone. Something is being done".
In fact, the manufacturers would have prepared a list of costs concerning riders and technicians, to try to ﬁnd a system to calm the market. A rather explosive list, because not everything is clear and there could also be traumatic implications. But, in the short term, the only measures that will be taken concern the sporting regulations. On Tuesday 23 June 1992, in the awaited meeting of the World Council, the Safety car will be adopted which will enter the track in the event of a serious accident to slow down the cars without stopping them.
"I would like to act more deeply, but I have to come up against multiple interests and stubborn people. They don't understand that to secure today they risk losing tomorrow. I'd like to do American qualifying, much more closely contested, balanced races and a Grand Prix at Indianapolis".
In fact, the president of FOCA has been in the United States just recently to contact Tony George, the owner of Indy. It seems that a way has been found to bring Formula 1 to the US motoring temple, however preparing a different test from the Indy 500.
"Another thorn in the side is Ferrari. We would need to see her return to the top. They are working, also on the political level. But it's tough".
"I don't think you can beat Mansell (although the Englishman said it would be enough for him to ﬁnish the race, ed) or even stay ahead of Senna's McLaren, but I still aim to get on the podium. We'll make some progress".
Alesi will also have the spare car at his disposal which theoretically would have gone to Capelli, the Milanese is always frowning, but he can't do anything else, except aim for a good result:
"I take what they give me and I give it my all".
Before leaving for Canada, Thursday 4 June 1992, at Magny-Cours, Ferrari completed its tests by simulating a Grand Prix with Capelli completing a hundred laps: best time 1'16"13. The following day Ivan Capelli and Jean Alesi will test the cars for the Canadian Grand Prix at Fiorano, while Williams (with Mansell) and McLaren (Berger and Senna) will continue testing in France. Friday 12 June 1992, after the lucky hit on the Monte-Carlo roulette wheel, Ayrton Senna seems to want to take advantage of the favorable moment. The World Champion hammers the leader of the championship standings, Nigel Mansell, thanks also to a constantly growing McLaren. And he recorded the best time in the ﬁrst qualifying round of the Canadian Grand Prix, establishing a new track record of 1'19"775, at an average speed of 200 km/h. But it's not so much the time result, which could also be overturned, to give breath to the comeback possibilities of the San Paolo driver, as much as a newfound competitiveness of his car.In the panorama that is changing at the top (because not only was Senna faster than Mansell, but also the rediscovered Patrese and Berger overtook the English) nothing is moving for Ferrari. The transversal gearbox and a few more horsepower in the engine do not take Alesi and Capelli out of awkward positions: P7 for the French, P8 for the Italian, always about 2 seconds behind the best. And fortunately Ivan manages to improve in timed qualifying, after having always ridden more than half the group in the morning, so much so that even Lauda loses his balance, saying:
"Capelli is not fast enough".
And the presence in the pits of Mario Andretti (on crutches) together with his son conﬁrms the rumor that the young Michael (formerly a test driver for McLaren and still free from commitments with Formula Indy teams) is in talks with the Maranello team. Michael, moreover, has never hidden his desire to compete in Formula 1. This time the cars of the Maranello team are preceded not only by McLaren, Williams and Schumacher's Benetton, but also by Johnny Herbert's Lotus, equipped with active suspensions. The F92As show power problems in the engine and also aerodynamic limitations, with top speeds well below average. Alesi performed various acrobatic tricks, ending up spinning three times, but his great commitment is worth little. However, McLaren's progress is largely due to the Honda engine which, since its debut at the start of the season, seems to have found around ﬁfty more horsepower. He says smiling Ron Dennis:
"Now we can work on the chassis".
Senna is still cautious, but it is clear from his brilliant mood that he is also rediscovering his happiness. And that's a bad sign for Mansell. Poor Nigel, after all - we know it - is not a type who can resist pressure and immediately ﬁnds himself with low morale.
"I told you that McLaren Honda was getting close. Now you are served".
The verdict of Saturday 13 June 1992 practice says that Nigel Mansell will start from the second row in the Canadian Grand Prix. Nigel is in the throes of a series of frustrations: the exploits of Ayrton Senna and McLaren, the radio-box voices who speak insistently of an agreement already reached (and signed) for 1993 between Williams and Alain Prost (prompted by Renault) upset the leader of the World Championship. Thus the Briton, who in the morning, during free practice, had set a time lower than the one that allowed the Brazilian to conquer his pole position number 61 (the ﬁrst of the season) on Friday, performs in a series of counterproductive numbers of stunt. He car sideways, then on the grass, braking that makes the wheels smoke: all in an attempt to overtake his opponent. And as if that weren't enough, on the last lap, the timekeepers set a time that would have given him pole position, but which is not real and is therefore cancelled. In the race, however, Mansell could still be the man to beat if he manages to set up his car well before the start and if Senna is unable to block his attacking attempts on a track which could also allow for a positive defense of positions. . The central theme of the seventh world round is this: the others, Patrese who starts from the front row, Berger, the usual Schumacher and Brundle, play a supporting role, even if it must be remembered that Benetton won here in 1991 with one blow of skill and luck by Nelson Piquet. Ferrari is not part of the game for victory. He should really do a miracle to enter the contention among the very ﬁrst. On a day adversely affected by the rain at times and characterized by an impressive series of spins and track exits (even the race director got covered up with the safety car), Jean Alesi got stuck in the ﬁrst attempt with the car equipped with a special engine ( apparently due to the explosion of the ﬁre extinguisher). And Ivan Capelli spun twice in the same spot, due to brake problems, the same ones reported at Imola. The two drivers of the Maranello team thus slipped from seventh-eighth place to eighth-ninth, both overtaken by Martin Brundle. A bitter disappointment. With regard to Ferrari, the engineer Claudio Lombardi, in a moment of calm, urged by journalists, tries to take stock of the situation.
"It is useless to talk about cutting off heads. A Formula 1 team is not a football team. It's not enough to change the coach, some players, the masseur, to win the Scudetto. Here we need a precise programme, planning for at least three years. I am convinced that we will be able to return to the top, give us time".
"A month after my arrival, a decision had to be made on the new car. I certainly could not then have the presumption of understanding everything and blocking the project. We had to go on. Now we believe we have understood what the mistakes were and we are trying to ﬁx it".
Two seconds a lap is a lot.
"It is true. They are the result of four factors: engine, aerodynamics, chassis and rider. Since we are late it is difficult to make judgments. At this point I wouldn't even feel like saying that the F92A has to be thrown away. In the area of engines, our competitors have also made progress. We are working, I am convinced that sooner or later we will have the necessary power. For the drivers, speaking of next year, I can only underline one need: Ferrari will not be able to afford to take steps in the dark. It will not be possible to experiment, to look for talents. We'll have to play it safe. We are moving in this direction".
Niki Lauda admits he had contact with Ayrton Senna to talk about the future. But the Brazilian's response has so far been negative, as Ferrari does not have a competitive car. In any case, Senna doesn't seem to have many chances to change, unless he doesn't want to team up with Prost at Williams... Sunday 14 June 1992, under a sky that was initially bright and then crossed by dark clouds that lowered the temperature, the Canadian Grand Prix kicked off, the seventh round of the World Championship. At the start Ayrton Senna maintains the lead of the race, while Nigel Mansell moves into second position. Stefano Modena started from the back of the grid after his car failed to start. Tarquini (Fondmetal) retires immediately. Senna manages to keep the two Williams behind. Then, Berger with the second McLaren, Schumacher (Benetton), Brundle (Benetton), Herbert (Lotus) and Hakkinen (Lotus), who gradually detached Alesi's Ferrari. Hair is located in P11. Shortly after, the two Venturis of Gachot and Katayama collide, leaving parts of the car scattered along the track. Gachot continues, but will ﬁnish after a few laps off the track. The duel between Senna and Mansell is exciting. The World Champion gains something on the Englishman, who then makes up for it, nervously. The group of the ﬁrst eight cars remains compact. And the surprise comes from the Lotuses, which keep up with their rivals. Behind, Alesi. Pilots control and push each other. Berger tries to surprise Patrese, but the maneuver fails: it is difficult to overtake here. Then, a twist on lap 15. Mansell comes along and cuts the chicane that leads to the straight of the box, cloud of dust, the Williams returns to the track, spinning. Thankfully, the other pilots avoid him. The Englishman remains in the cockpit for a minute and is ﬁnally helped out. He is limping and furious at Senna. He takes refuge in the garage. The car remains scandalously abandoned for a few laps, ﬁnally the marshals push it out. The English driver, excluded from the race due to this episode, accuses Ayrton Senna of having pushed him off the track. Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger passes Riccardo Patrese and the McLaren. During lap 18, Ivan Capelli crashes into the wall on the straight, as he exits the fourth corner. A violent blow, on the right side, with the tires crushing on the concrete. The Italian remains unharmed. He continues the ride of the two McLarens of Senna and Berger, followed by Patrese. The two Benettons of Schumacher and Brundle are losing ground. Behind them still the two Lotuses of Herbert and Hakkinen and the surviving Ferrari with Alesi, who was approaching. The track looks dirty, with a lot of debris left by the cars of Mansell and Capelli. Senna gains ground on Berger, taking advantage of the ﬁrst dubbings, but the couple reassembles in a few passages, with Patrese very close.
Then the two Benettons for an aggressive quintet. The Lotuses collapse during lap 35: ﬁrst Johnny Herbert due to clutch problems, then Mika Hakkinen due to a gearbox failure, and they retire. Jean Alesi moves to sixth place. During lap 37 Ayrton Senna raised a hand, slowed down and stopped at the edge of the track with the McLaren suffering from some electrical problems. The Brazilian is disconsolate, he turns into a spectator. Gerhard Berger took the lead, a couple of seconds ahead of Riccardo Patrese, who was in turn being chased by Martin Brundle after the Englishman had taken advantage of the fact that Michael Schumacher was stuck behind Gianni Morbidelli's Minardi as he was doubling. Berger puts together one fastest lap after another. And here is the umpteenth surprise of this Canadian Grand Prix. Patrese slows down on lap 44 and takes refuge in the garage, signaling that his Williams is unusable due to the gearbox failing. Martin Brundle was second, 5 seconds behind Gerhard Berger, and set off in pursuit of the Austrian driver setting the fastest lap, but was then forced to retire due to transmission problems during lap 45. At this point, Gerhard Berger is comfortably in the lead, followed by Michael Schumacher and Jean Alesi, 28 seconds behind the lead driver. Wendlinger (March), Katayama (Venturi) and De Cesaris (Tyrrell) are in the points. The race ﬁnally stabilizes. Ukyo Katayama leads a good race and is ﬁfth, but is forced to retire on lap 61 due to the engine stalling. Gerhard Berger wins, followed at the ﬁnish line by Michael Schumacher and Jean Alesi. The three conclude in this order, followed by Karl Wendlinger (who brings the ﬁrst points to the March), Andrea De Cesaris and Érik Comas, who brings Ligier back to the points after three years (the last one to succeed was Olivier Grouillard at the 1989 French Grand Prix).There are moments of suspense after the race, as the judges ﬁnd an irregularity in a part of the rear wing of the Austrian's McLaren, but they consider it irrelevant and the danger of disqualiﬁcation is averted. Repetitive twists and turns in the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix, with Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna, the two protagonists of the World Championship, who did not ﬁnish the race, leaving the Austrian Gerhard Berger free to go, with his seventh victory in his career. Nigel Mansell, in the ﬁrst laps, in an attempt to overtake Senna who had started in pole position, went straight into the chicane before the pits, ruining his Williams and thus being forced to retire. The English driver, limping out of the car, launched serious accusations against his Brazilian rival:
"He kicked Me out. That's not how he rides, it was very incorrect. Now I will pass this matter into the hands of the stewards who will have to do justice".
Shortly afterwards Senna, while leading the race, was betrayed by an electronic problem with his McLaren. About the contact with Mansell, the World Champion declares:
"Mansell attempted an impossible overtaking in the chicane before the pits. He delayed braking to the limit, he passed me on the outside. Then I think he realized he wasn't going to make it. Then it seemed to me that he accelerated again to see if he could cut through the sand. But he only complicated things. Because of him, I risked it twice: ﬁrst at the entrance when we didn't collide by a miracle and then at the exit where I managed to avoid the impact with his Williams placed sideways for a while".
Behind Gerhard Berger was the Benetton of the German Michael Schumacher, while the Ferrari of Jean Alesi obtained a consistent third place. Another podium for the French driver who made up for the car's deﬁciencies with his courage and temperament. Ivan Capelli instead ended up off the track, slamming violently against a protective wall:
"Something broke in the back. I turned the wheel and my car went straight. It was lucky that I didn't get hurt".
Despite the unfortunate performance, Nigel Mansell keeps his lead in the standings intact: only Michael Schumacher has earned points, but the young German driver still doesn't appear capable of worrying the leader of the world standings. Patrese, second in the championship standings, was let down by the gearbox when he was third. On the incident between Mansell and Senna, the Paduan, who followed the two, does not want to make any statement:
"I saw it all, but let them tell you what happened. As far as I'm concerned, it was the usual bad luck: to avoid the pieces of Mansell's car I had to widen and Berger overtook me. But I could take it because my Williams was perfect. I had new tires and I saw Berger skidding all over the place. Then I skipped sixth gear, ﬁfth and ﬁnally the gearbox gave way completely. It could have been my day, but I'm here without satisfaction".
Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna come out of the Canadian Grand Prix without having collected any results. In a very tight race, full of twists and turns and with a surprising ﬁnal result, the two protagonists of the Formula 1 World Championship did not collect any points. In the ﬁrst laps, the Englishman, in an attempt to overtake his rival, went straight into the chicane before the pits, ruined his Williams and was forced to retire. The Brazilian shortly after, while imposing his pace at the head of the race, was betrayed by an electronic problem with his McLaren. The unusual ranking on the track dear to Gilles Villeneuve, however favored Mansell who keeps his lead in the standings over his main rivals almost intact. After all, only Michael Schumacher has recovered points, but it must be said that at this moment the young Benetton rider cannot yet apply among the candidates for the title. On the other hand, the escalation of German-speaking drivers should be noted: behind the Austrian Berger, Schumacher and Alesi another boy who stands out, that Karl Wendlinger who many consider the probable heir to Niki Lauda. The race was spectacular, more for the constant changes of situation and for the balance shown between the different cars than for the battle on the track. After all, there were no sensational overtakings. The only real attempt was then that of Mansell, who ended up in a very ferocious controversy. Nigel limping from a knock on his knee is the star of a show in the pits. First he goes to rant with Ron Dennis, manager of McLaren, with blatant gestures. Then, escorted by four bodyguards, he reaches the race headquarters to ﬁle a complaint against Senna. Very black faces at Williams, a few smiles at McLaren and a little more serenity at Ferrari, despite Capelli's accident. Jean Alesi says:
"They were all faster than me and I had to do a waiting race. This third place is just an award, but we are not up to it".
Diagnosis later conﬁrmed by engineer Lombardi:
"A placement that helps boost morale, which helps us to work more calmly. But it doesn't erase our problems".
Of course: Ferrari was not only behind McLaren, Williams, Benetton and Lotus, but also had to ﬁght with March: a bad sign. Friendship doesn't exist in Formula 1. Especially at the top, when you're ﬁghting for the world title. And that's why between Mansell and Senna it's open war again, with no holds barred. After the coaxing and compliments that already smacked of falsehood in Monaco, an exasperated rivalry resurfaced in the Canadian Grand Prix, seasoned with accusations, controversies and not too hidden threats. Who could believe that the angry English driver could have accepted defeat in the previous race, on the streets of the Principality?
"It was very correct".
He had said on that occasion, commenting on Ayrton's defence. But on Sunday, in a similar situation, Mansell's anger exploded, causing the Williams rider to self-eliminate himself and then an argument that didn't end badly only because the Brazilian also retired shortly after. After all, Mansell and Senna never got along. We recall that on 17 May 1987 in Spa, during the Belgian Grand Prix, they even came to blows after the Brazilian, driving his Lotus, had hit the Briton's Williams in a chicane. Nigel returned to the pits and attacked his rival with volleys of punches and kicks. Now, says Mansell after going off the track in Montreal:
"He threw me out, his behavior is unworthy of a champion. Now I know how to deal with him".
As Ayrton Senna replies:
"He is an imbecile, because he wanted to make overtaking impossible".
Who is right? Difficult to give a precise judgment, because few have seen the scene properly. The only sure thing is that neither of them is a saint. Perhaps the mustachioed British is more naïve, but under pressure he often proves he has no head and loses the light of reason, behaving like a rookie. In Canada, with a superior car, he could also wait for a more favorable moment to try to overtake. Ayrton, on the other hand, is more malignant, subtle and intelligent. He has no scruples about deliberately throwing Prost out in Japan, robbing him of the chance to win the World Championship, or jumping on Nannini's car in Hungary to overtake him, but he looks like a crusader, as if he weren't at fault. Then Nigel Mansell goes to protest with Ron Dennis, with the stewards and Ayrton Senna argues with Williams, telling the manufacturer that his driver is brainless. Now we just have to wait for the developments of the story. It is clear that the direct confrontation between Senna and Mansell is not over yet. Sunday 5 July 1992 will be raced in the Magny-Cours circuit, a narrow track where overtaking is almost impossible. McLaren will be testing active suspension at Silverstone these days and it may not mean it won't take a further step forward, which would greatly complicate things for the world standings leader. After the initial domination, for Mansell and Williams the situation has worsened. This year it had never happened that both cars left the scene, and the broken gearbox on Patrese's car is a warning sign. On the other hand, luck has in a certain sense rewarded the courage of McLaren, which has been able to recover quickly after a period of crisis. Berger found victory in hand without overtaking and then kept it, despite his car being irregular. An endless series of post-race technical checks established that the wing was out of place. A triﬂe, for some screws that protruded by half a millimetre, but the regulations are precise and must be respected, just as they have been mercilessly applied on other occasions. However, the marshals didn't have the courage to disqualify the winner, due to a problem that they deﬁned as irrelevant for the car's performance. A prize for the innocent Austrian driver and an injustice towards other competitors. Hopefully, however, it is not a precedent that could lead to future troubles.These are important days in Jean Alesi's life. On Thursday 11 June 1992 he turned 28, and in Montreal he obtained his ﬁfth podium with Ferrari, on Saturday 20 June 1992 he will bring his ﬁancée, the beautiful and sweet Laurence, to the altar in a romantic little church in Avignon, surrounded by the embrace of relatives and friends (about 250 guests, all in tuxedos for the evening party, photographic exclusive for Paris Match). And perhaps the French driver will be able to celebrate the series of events with the most beautiful gift, conﬁrmation at Ferrari for 1993. The maturity shown in practice and in the race, the dedication and courage have earned him the esteem of the Maranello technicians. So much so that the president Luca Montezemolo would have made it clear that the unexpected third place in the Canadian Grand Prix is worth a prize as substantial as another year of the contract.
"Now I think I deserve a certain amount of trust. Also because I want to reap the fruits of the work and sacriﬁces we are making. I am convinced that Ferrari will return to the top, even if it will still take some time".
Even Niki Lauda, who stops in Canada, conﬁrming that his role in Ferrari is no longer that of a simple consultant, but takes on a more important speciﬁc weight day by day, praises the French driver:
"He did a perfect race, following my advice. Right now it's not the time to do crazy things, you have to run with your brain. Our car is not competitive. We deﬁnitely realized that, as it is, it has reached its limit. Probably in August, with important changes, we will be able to take a step forward. Only with a revised chassis and new suspension will the F92A have any chance of becoming more competitive. In the meantime, efforts must be aimed at developing the engine, also with a view to next season. We have precise programs to respect and a result like Alesi's does a lot for the morale of the team".
Lauda, funny and caustic as usual, also talks about the sufferings of Montezemolo, glued to the TV at home:
"She's like an old maid. When Jean was late he cried on the phone, when he moved on he laughed and was happy".
Meanwhile, Ferrari will do some tests behind closed doors on the Monza track, on Tuesday 16 June 1992 with Ivan Capelli and on Wednesday 17 June 1992 with Gianni Morbidelli. Jean Alesi, on the other hand, is granted a short honeymoon.