#526 1992 German Grand Prix

2022-12-24 23:00

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#1992, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#526 1992 German Grand Prix

On Wednesday 15 July 1992, lightning struck in London when World Championship leader Nigel Mansell threatened to retire at the end of the season if Wi


On Wednesday, 15 July 1992, lightning struck in London when World Championship leader Nigel Mansell threatened to retire at the end of the season if Williams Renault signed Alain Prost. In an interview with the London newspaper The Sun, the 38-year-old British driver declares that he will not renew his contract if he gets the Frenchman as a partner. With a clear reference to Prost, Mansell expresses his discomfort at racing with a driver who in his opinion always pulls a lot of strings from behind the scenes:


“What Williams has achieved has been made possible by great teamwork, and it would be a shame to break the harmony of a winning team. If my conditions are accepted, I will sign, but for the moment I have my doubts”.


Intercepted by journalists, in an interview with the French daily L'Equipe, Alain Prost responds to Nigel Mansell, stating that he will announce by the end of the month the name of the team for which he will return to racing in 1993. In addition to Williams, Prost is, in fact, in talks with McLaren, which could lose Senna, who seems to be in the process of concluding an agreement with Ferrari these days.


“In a few days you will know where I will race next season. The signing is a matter of days. I cannot comment for now”.


Last week, the Brazilian driver had publicly declared that he would like to go to a team with John Barnard, but that he would only opt for McLaren, Williams or Ferrari. In the last few hours other clues strengthen the hypothesis of a possible marriage between the three-time World Champion and the Italian team. The first is from an English source. On Thursday, 16 July 1992, many British newspapers spread the news that Honda is ready to leave McLaren to try the adventure at Indianapolis. And since the Japanese company supplying the engines has always said that it would only stay as long as Senna stays, this suggests that the alliance is definitely broken (in the meantime, BMW replies to the British manager that a return to the Circus is not in the cards, Peugeot should prepare an ad hoc engine, while Renault already supplies Williams, while the vaguest of hypotheses is that of a pairing between McLaren and Lamborghini in whose Bologna factories Ron Dennis had visited a few months earlier).. Incidentally, it was Ron Dennis himself, manager of the British team, who told the Honda technicians working in his team during testing at Hockenheim to take a day off. By way of elimination, however, Ayrton would be left with three possibilities: to retire for a year or definitively if he does not find a solution to his liking, as he has already threatened; to move to Williams; to accept Ferrari's proposals, realising an old project, according to which a true champion cannot end his career without having driven a Maranello car. The first case, that of quitting, has remote chances of being right. Senna is only 32 years old; he wants to win again because he dreams of reaching or surpassing Fangio, who has won five world titles. The second can be eliminated as Barnard will not go to Williams. Only the third possibility remains valid. Ferrari denies that a contract has already been signed. And that claim cannot be doubted. Sporting Director Sante Ghedini states during the Hockenheim tests that no one from Sporting Management has signed an agreement. But that does not mean that there are no ongoing negotiations, which should first lead to the signing of Barnard and then automatically conclude with the arrival of Ayrton Senna. Of course, there is still the risk of some obstacle blocking the operation, because the interests at stake are enormous. McLaren (which will lose its star driver and Honda engines at the same time and will be forced to start from scratch) could relaunch. Williams would like to entangle the talks to prevent a future rival from becoming too strong. This explains the secrecy. Meanwhile Barnard, questioned about his new flirtation with Ferrari, answers on Tuesday evening: 


“Nothing has been decided yet. But we are very close to the moment to conclude. I have enormous respect for Senna and it would be great to work with him if I came back to Ferrari. But Ayrton must want it”.


So, they come to an agreement: one says he wants the other, Ferrari wants them both. In the meantime, Senna, during the tests at Hockenheim (Mansell's best time, Ferrari's return to Maranello was bad) lost patience with Schumacher. 


After the Magny-Cours accident, the two drivers spite each other on the track. Michael Schumacher delays braking and comes close to colliding with Senna at the entrance to the Motodrome. Enraged by what has happened, Senna tries to overtake the German, and on the long straights at over 300 km/h the two collide wheel to wheel. When they both then return to the pits, Senna takes off his helmet and gloves and slips into Schumacher's garage, grabs him by the shoulders and screams at him:


“The next time, I assure you, will also be the last”.


Three McLaren mechanics intervene to separate the two before the brawl escalates. In the meantime, as was predictable, McLaren is going on the counter-attack to secure the engagement of John Barnard. Ron Dennis knows very well that the arrival of the English designer could be the key to solving most of the problems that beset him. In much the same way as at Ferrari. For this reason, the Woking team manager puts his pride aside and, taking advantage of the fact that the negotiations between Barnard himself and the Maranello team are taking a long time, he forgets the disagreements that had provoked the technician's departure and relaunches by offering the ineffable John almost carte blanche. Both in terms of the design of the car for next year and in terms of the economic plan. In short, maximum availability in order not to find themselves in an almost dramatic situation that could plunge the team that has dominated in Formula 1 since 1984 into the limbo of the damned. The phones are ringing, the offers are multiplying, also because it seems to be understood that an end-of-month deadline conditions the whole market. It is probably the option on Senna, expiring on 31 July 1992. Whoever will be able to put the most attractive offers for the Brazilian driver on the scales will probably hit the jackpot. Without forgetting that the Senna-Barnard deal also includes Honda engines. Those in charge of the Japanese company have never made a secret of the fact that they consider the three-time World Champion to be decisive for continuing in Formula 1. But Honda has by now gained an excellent image in the Grand Prix world and does not want to risk ruining it as it is doing this year. This would therefore explain the decision to divert efforts to the Indy formula to equip a car from next year that should be driven by Bobby Rahal, the winner of the last Indy 500. Incidentally, for the first time since entering the American market, Honda is in crisis and its cars are no longer leading the sales charts. It is no coincidence that on Saturday, 18 July 1992, the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun launched the rumour of Honda's possible withdrawal, and specified that the formal announcement of the retirement would take place the following month:


“With declining sales in the US and Japan, it is difficult for Honda to justify the annual $80 million investment in Formula 1. and the retention of one hundred qualified technicians in the sport. Honda now needs to concentrate money and technical skills on the development of new high-performance engines for small cars in view of the declining demand for luxury cars”.


Dennis must therefore present a very interesting program to convince some other engine supplier to choose McLaren. Meanwhile, at Hockenheim, on Friday, 17 July 1992, Mansell with Williams runs a series of tests simulating an entire race without the slightest mishap. Williams comes out of these three days of testing with some amazing results. Riccardo Patrese confesses:


“Even better than we expected, because the track could have created some inconveniences for us as it requires hard acceleration. Instead, even here our cars are going very well. And I hope to finally be able to run a race, playing all my chances to win the first victory of the season”. 


The Paduan, however, may be deluding himself: a success of Mansell could close the race towards the title and certainly Williams will not let the opportunity slip away. In the following days, and exactly on Monday, 20 July 1992, from Tokyo Honda let it be known that only during the month of September they would let it be known if they would still be on track in 1993. 


A clarification that smacks of an apology, as the programs of the big teams have to be completed much earlier. However, it seems that there are two currents of thought within the Japanese company. On the one hand, the directors that are ready to cut expenses (the accounts are going badly, Honda is about to be overtaken by Mitsubishi), on the other, the race team engineers that are determined to continue. Everything, however, revolves around the Barnard-Senna axis. Renault, meanwhile, lets it be known that it is already onerous to supply two teams (Williams and Ligier) but that if Ron Dennis were to expressly ask for it, an effort could be made to give the 10-cylinder to McLaren as well. Obviously, someone immediately thought that it would also seem to be a way of solving the Prost case, sending him to McLaren to leave Mansell in peace. In the meantime, Ferrari tests at Imola with Larini (a 643 laboratory car, research on active suspension), and on Tuesday Alesi will be on track, who should also try some engine novelties. Capelli stays at home. Alesi and Larini work on active suspension with the 643 laboratory. The Frenchman also tests the cars for Hockenheim and runs engine tests on the F92A. During the tests the fans in the stands protest the Maranello team, so in a standoff Alesi tries to calm them down, telling them:


“Be patient, we are trying to catch up”.


On Wednesday, 22 July 1992 Ferrari concludes the series of tests planned for Monday at the Imola circuit early. Jean Alesi, at the wheel of an experimental F92A, was to simulate a Grand Prix for a future-projected engine test, but after just 28 laps the engine gave out. The Frenchman had previously stopped for a spin on lap 2 and a braking error on lap 20. The Maranello team did not look for any significant times, but it is clear, however, that the work did not go as hoped. Difficulties continue for both the development of the engine and the aerodynamics of the car. Testing will be resumed on the same track from Monday 3 to Wednesday, 5 August 1992. From Thursday, 23 July 1992, all Formula 1 teams will be in Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix, which will start on Friday with qualifying. The eve is full of facts and rumours. While Nigel Mansell is bidding for another victory, without sparing Frank Williams a few jabs (“I could have signed in Mexico for another two years, but I didn't like some details of the contract. Now I am also willing to give up half of the reserve car for 1993, but in return I want a quid pro quo that I cannot reveal. In any case, everything will be decided in the next week”), Ferrari is always in the forefront as far as the market is concerned, and not only that. In the course of the morning, the team, which is missing engineer Claudio Lombardi, who has remained in Maranello to follow the development of the engines, experiences minutes of tension on departure from Bologna: a phone call announces that there is a bomb on the plane. So, the 96 people on board the charter (Minardi was also on board) were forced to disembark in order to carry out a check on the aircraft. Fortunately, this proved to be a false alarm, which did, however, delay Ferrari's arrival in Germany. Real alarm instead for the Barnard affair. A decision could be made on Friday. Ferrari announced that the negotiations are complicated, that the chances of getting the English designer are 50-50. A British source, on the other hand, speaks of a practically done deal and adds that, in any case, the engineer will not go to McLaren. However, it is clear that Barnard, disputed between several teams, may have increased his demands, if not financial ones, certainly his contractual demands, i.e. the number of concessions he intends to have from Ferrari. It is well known that in his ventures the former light bulb expert desires a partner position, rather than an employee one. We shall see, we are certainly at a decisive moment. Once the mystery is unravelled, all the loose ends, including the destinations of Senna, Prost and perhaps Mansell, should fall into place. Uncertain, however, is the destination of Ivan Capelli. The Milanese, for the first time, speaks, and without acrimony, of his failure at Ferrari. 


"With a car that wasn't working, I was immediately sidelined. The team was not able to provide all the changes for both drivers. I will continue to do my duty to the end, but I realised that I will have to look for another team that can work equally for two drivers, because I want to continue racing. For now, I have had no contact with other teams. I still believe in the Capelli driver".


On Friday, 24 July 1992, also in Germany, between Nigel Mansell and the other drivers there is the usual barrier. 


Two full seconds. Which puts the Englishman safe from any attack: who will be able to take pole position number 29 from him, the ninth since the start of the Formula 1 season? The Lion of Williams is therefore the favourite for Sunday's race. Another victory would not give him the mathematical certainty of winning the title, but it will allow him to further skim the list of rivals, eliminating Berger and Senna. In contention, on paper, would remain only Patrese and Schumacher. But even the Italian and the German are, in practice, already cut out of the fight for the World Championship. However, the German Grand Prix takes place on a high-risk circuit. On Friday, in fact, there are dozens of spins and runs off the track, because the asphalt is slippery, because the cars enter the chicanes after touching 330 km/h in several places, because engine and mechanics are put to the test. A small mistake, a slick tyre from a braking, an off lap, and the surprise result could arrive, the one that many are hoping for, especially those who look for spectacle and pathos in Formula 1 and - obviously - those who are not great friends of Mansell. The Englishman and his Williams, however, show with vigour that they are at the top: 1.991 second margin over Senna, over 2 seconds over Patrese, 2.5 seconds over Berger, almost 4 over Schumacher, 4.2 seconds over the Ferrari of Alesi, sixth on the grid in the first qualifying session. With a time of 1'38"340, at an average of 249.481 km/h, Mansell did not improve on the track record (1'37"087) only because the track was modified in the chicanes, one of which, the second, is considered very dangerous by all the competitors, as immediately after, in the Ostkurve, there is a nasty little wall placed right in the line. However, there are those who manage to give their all on the German circuit, such as Michele Alboreto. The Milanese driver (perhaps mindful of his last victory with Ferrari in 1985 at Hockenheim) sets the eighth fastest time, beating Capelli by three places. It must also be said that while Mansell thinks about racing and winning, most of the other drivers are busy securing their future. Never has the market raged as it has this year, reaching incredible paroxysmal levels. So much so that journalists are studying whether it would not be worthwhile to apply a kind of reverse press silence, to publish only the official news. Teams, technicians, and drivers are exploiting the press, sending out messages and stirring up the mud, leaving room for the most diverse suppositions, one the opposite of the other. A kind of puzzle that fails to take shape. On Friday, Senna will be there to shuffle the cards. 


“I have been thinking these days. In 1993 I could also make a short-term plan. Work next year without too much ambition to aim for the World Championship in 1994”. 


A statement that would have led to suspicions of a tie-up with Ferrari. But then Ayrton concludes: 


“My destiny is tied to Honda”. 


And gives no other explanation. What does it mean? That Senna is still waiting for the Japanese company's decision, uncertain whether to stay in Formula 1 or leave? Or that he intends to commit to his current partners, given that rumours are now circulating of a rethink by Honda itself, inclined to stay? After all, one can only indulge in the speculation one hears in this sort of market, where Mansell, Senna, Prost, Barnard could go anywhere. There are those who say that Williams has a sensational coup ready: to set up the Senna-Prost duo to oust Mansell. Indeed, the English team seems to be in a great hurry to have its driver win the title, and then be able to decide freely, without psychological obstacles. Otherwise there would be no explanation for the fact that poor Patrese loses about an hour of practice every time in qualifying due to various problems and is never able to fine-tune his car as he would like. Another solution, this one dictated by a certain logic, would have Mansell at Williams, Prost at McLaren and Senna at Ferrari. A division that would make Bernie Ecclestone happy above all, in search of a certain balance to improve the spectacle in Formula 1. The only thing certain is that we will not have to wait long to know the truth, at least as far as the Maranello team is concerned. Niki Lauda was explicit, as always: 


“Above all, we must make a competitive car. There is the negotiation with Barnard and there is a good alternative solution if we don't succeed with the first one. But we have to decide quickly, by the end of the month. Then we will think about the drivers”. 


On Saturday 25 July 1992, Nigel Mansell does not give much away. In fact, more than usual, he tries to hide a favourable prediction behind the obvious: 


"The important thing is not to break the car and stay on the track".


But, in his heart, the Lion knows very well that on Sunday he can play a decisive card in his now decade-long chase for the world title. He is on pole position in the German Grand Prix, for the ninth time this season (26 in total). Mansell sets the fastest time of 1'37"960, at an average speed of 250.449 km/h, beating team-mate Patrese by 0.035 seconds, Senna by one second, Berger by 1.7 seconds and Alesi driving the Ferrari by 2.9 seconds. These are still abysmal gaps, but smaller than at Silverstone. Moreover, Williams, unlike usual, had a few problems: a broken clutch for Nigel in the morning, a qualifying run with only one car (Mansell's) because Patrese's single-seater had lost its engine at the end of free practice. In short, the circuit record, also because the track was lengthened by 13 metres, stands. This does not mean that McLaren and Ferrari have made up the gap and that the various Senna and Alesi think they will win, but that there is a moderate hope of doing a little better in the race, of avoiding being lapped. In particular, Maranello's team shows some small engine progress, so much so that Alesi with his fifth place manages to precede both Benettons. Even if Mansell was perhaps not in a position to push to the maximum (in any case Patrese driving the same car as the Briton showed that certain gaps were exaggerated...) and if Schumacher semi-destroyed his Benetton in the early laps, perhaps paying the exaltation of racing at home, it should be noted that the F92A (at least that of Alesi, because Capelli was only in P12) behaved acceptably, even obtaining top speeds closer to those of the best. Small mechanical modifications and an improvement in the qualifying engine allow Ferrari to make these steps forward, improvements enhanced by Alesi's commitment and courage. The Frenchman also removes one of the three rear winglets to be faster on the straight, at the expense of road holding. However, it will be necessary to have feedback in the race for more precise confirmation. It will be a difficult race in any case, full of risks, possible mechanical failures or going off the track. The challenge will also be played out on fuel consumption and possible tyre changes, as Senna warns: 


"The first few laps, with a full tank of fuel, will be decisive: in the three chicanes it will be difficult to brake with the heavy, fuel-laden car. I start in third place, but in life you never know. Many are better than me at driving, but sometimes luck counts too...".


A victory within reach for Nigel Mansell, but perhaps more painful. And surprises are not excluded, to the delight of those who hope not to fall asleep in front of the video. In the meantime, Jean Alesi smiles, intimately satisfied, while the Maranello engineers congratulate him. 


"I had a great engine, and the car is not bad. We always have a lot of work to do, but some positive results are showing".


A little further on Ivan Capelli, dark in the face, chews bitterly. Between the two Ferrari drivers there is no enmity, but the relationship is cold, detached, as happens in almost all teams for reasons of rivalry. It is the only real direct confrontation, and when they are almost two seconds apart, the loser makes a bad impression. So, the Milanese, this time he blurts out. 


"On the Ferrari communiqué - the team issued a series of written statements at the end of practice - they only talked about engine failure. But I also said that my engine was used, tired. The same one I had used on Friday".


A way to explain the gap, also accusing Ferrari of operating a certain kind of censorship. Indeed. Capelli was fitted for the second qualifying session with the engine he had already had the previous day. But the engineers' response is dry: 


"We felt that Ivan would have no problems".


Relations between Capelli and Ferrari are gradually deteriorating. And in the environment rumours are circulating again that the Milanese driver might not even finish the season and be replaced by a young trial driver. As far as the market is concerned, people swear that now the only thing certain is the signing of Alain Prost by Williams. It also seems that Ayrton Senna's possible arrival at Ferrari (even if the Maranello team successfully concludes negotiations with Barnard) is postponed until 1994. The Brazilian could remain at McLaren. On Saturday, meanwhile, an important constructors' meeting on the future regulations takes place, in which it is decided that in 1993 the current special petrol will always be used, while from 1994 the commercially available one will be compulsory. It is a clash, however, over tyres, because it is decided that the size will be reduced from 18 to 15 inches. Now it will be necessary to wait for Goodyear's response. The American company might withdraw or equip a few teams, while the other teams will have to look for different suppliers. On Sunday, 26 July 1992, at the start of the German Grand Prix Riccardo Patrese tries to attack Mansell, but is unable to overtake him. In the first laps a curious situation occurs, with the two Williams occupying the first positions, followed by the two McLarens of Senna and Berger, the Benettons of Schumacher and Brundle, the two Ferraris of Alesi and Capelli, the Ligier of Comas and Boutsen and the Lotus of Häkkinen and Herbert. Aguri Suzuki is the victim of a spin at Sachs Kurve on lap 2. Shortly afterwards, Ukyo Katayama also retires following a spin, on lap 8. The Williams drivers make a pit stop, while the other leading drivers start to go all the way, without making any tyre changes; on lap 15, Nigel Mansell is the first to stop and returns to the track behind Ayrton Senna, who overtakes after a few laps. Riccardo Patrese returns to the pits five laps later, rejoining the track in P4, behind Michael Schumacher, while Gerhard Berger is slowed by problems with the engine's electrical system, forcing him to retire on lap 16, after making a long pit stop. On lap 19, Nigel Mansell cuts the corner at the Ostkurve chicane, exits faster and passes Ayrton Senna on the next straight. However, the English driver is not penalised. 


Meanwhile, further back, Ivan Capelli retires with engine problems on lap 22, as do both Lotus of Mika Häkkinen and Johnny Herbert, who retire with the same problems on lap 24. In the meantime, Riccardo Patrese gets the better of Michael Schumacher and recovers the disadvantage over Ayrton Senna; the Italian driver attacks his rival during the last lap, but makes a mistake and goes off the track, having to retire. Nigel Mansell takes his eighth win of the season ahead of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Martin Brundle, Jean Alesi and Éric Comas. Nigel Mansell, again, wins the German Grand Prix, Patrese puts on a show, but in the end, he is eliminated by a desperate attempt to overtake Senna. Thus, Riccardo gives the Englishman another advantage in the standings, so much so that in the event of success in the next race in Budapest the Williams lion will be able to mathematically conquer his first world title well in advance of the end of the season, regardless of the placings of his rivals. A race that confirms the values expressed since the beginning of the World Championship: a Mansell in great form and also a bit lucky, an unbeatable Williams, able to change gear when necessary, with impressive ease. The Williams allowed themselves to stop in the pits to change tyres, they set the pace they wanted, they attacked and defended themselves without problems. In short, it was almost a game, which was not even disturbed by those unforeseen events that this treacherous track could provide. But then again, when the domination is so marked, it is also difficult to make serious mistakes. What's more, the active suspension and general balance of the Williams also allow certain risks to be taken that are forbidden to others. Patrese went off the track only on the last lap, but he paid above all for a long duel with Schumacher first and then the toll on Senna's skill that practically forced him to make a fatal mistake, unrecoverable even with an extraordinary single-seater. The race, it was said, lived above all on the battle for the places of honour that, on television, the German director was very good at highlighting to prevent the viewers from falling asleep. Of course, if one were to bet on the Ferrari show, one could wait forever. Mannello's cars were never seen except for an excellent start by the very unfortunate Capelli (forced to abandon on lap 22, while in seventh position, due to the engine losing power). Alesi, in spite of himself, had an anonymous day, finishing an unexciting fifth. 


A great performance instead for Ayrton Senna, in a day of grace, despite the inferiority of the McLaren (but not of the Honda engine), and the usual Michael Schumacher, who climbed onto the podium next to the Englishman and the Brazilian, to the jubilation of the united motoring Germany and the 128.000 fans present and paying. Limping from cramps, the marshals had to pull him out of the car once he arrived in the parc fermé - Nigel Mansell once again hides his happiness very well and above all the fact that by now the title is in his hands and cannot escape him. The British driver recounts the race, seen from afar, in front of everyone:


"The most difficult moment came at the start. The computer that automatically controls the gearbox engaged first-third. That caused me to lose momentum. Patrese overtook me. But at the second chicane I was already in the lead. Then I must have passed on a dirty part of the track and the sensor that signals punctures turned on a red light on the dashboard. Because of this I stopped to change the tyres earlier than planned. This stop forced me to chase and when I reached Senna I had to take risks to overtake him. Ayrton was fair, but he took a slightly dirty line and I was too far to the outside. I went straight, but luckily the escape route was unobstructed. It went well for me, for once".


The Englishman, as is his custom, does not talk about the World Championship. But he admits: 


"The road is now less long, although there is still some way to go".


It had not happened for twenty years that one driver had a 46-point lead over the second after ten races. Only Patrese could still have given a minimum of suspense to the title fight. The Paduan did everything he could to hold on to second place, but after changing tyres he found himself up against the tough Schumacher and Senna. Riccardo got the better of the German after several attempts, but on the very last lap, as he was trying to attack the McLaren champion, when there were only a few hundred metres to go to cross the finish line, he clamorously went off the track, also causing the stadium to explode as he gave the podium to the German, who otherwise would have finished fourth. Without being too unfair, Ayrton Senna narrowed the trajectory and forced Patrese to bring his Williams onto the dirty tarmac. The Paduan's car spun and ran into the sand. Two weeks therefore to celebrate Mansell's title in Hungary on Sunday 16 August 1992. But waiting, in the coming days, in the limelight will be above all the drivers' market. And it is not excluded that the future World Champion himself will not become a victim of the teams' games. While Nigel Mansell is grinding out victories and records on the track, perhaps Williams is plotting a betrayal behind his back. These are rumours, but they seem well-founded: it has long been rumoured that Alain Prost signed to race in 1993 with the British team. And this would not even be news. But it seems that the terrible Frenchman is trying to eliminate Mansell, taking advantage of the fact that his rival has exorbitantly increased his financial demands to accommodate him. Frank Williams is allegedly forcing the timing to make Nigel Mansell win the title or be able to tell him that either he accepts the team’s conditions, or he can sit out the team. An absurd situation, which finds indirect confirmation in the fact that the Englishman has reportedly offered himself to other teams. And cunningly, Ferrari, through Niki Lauda, would have made him attractive proposals. A resounding comeback that evidently presupposes a stop to the Ferrari-Senna discourse, at least for 1993. The situation, however, should be clarified shortly. Out of these problems (also because he could team up with Prost always at Williams), is Riccardo Patrese. The Italian driver had to resort to his self-control to calm down after the unexpected off-track on the last lap. 


"I don't know whether to be just disappointed or angry. In any case, I lost second place when I was behind Schumacher's Benetton for too long. His car was as fast as mine on the straight and that meant a big loss of time. Plus, I deteriorated the tyres. And when I got behind the McLaren, I was in a precarious condition and didn't even have time to think about where to overtake Senna. I was forced to take a risk and went out. Unfortunately, there was sand and I got stuck in the grass".


But was Senna unfair? 


"No, of course Ayrton is always a very good driver. He didn't want to lose second place and he held on with all his grit. He was in front and did his trajectories on the limit. I can't blame him".


Not making it to the finish line was a nice little gift for Mansell....


"Of course, it was better for me if I got on the podium. But this result doesn't change much, perhaps it only shortens the agony of those who still hoped to catch Nigel in the World Championship. I have long since given up my illusions: for Mansell the title is just a formality. Lucky him".

Also blessed is Michael Schumacher, who has now become an idol for the Germans and a valuable contributor for Benetton. The Italian team (only the operational headquarters are in England), with these recent results, overtakes McLaren in the Constructors' World Championship and is second behind the impregnable Williams. Schumacher does not seem to be a marketable piece for the time being. But who knows whether young Michael might also be enticed by some substantial offer. It is strange the game of the parties in a Ferrari that is always forced to keep a very low profile. At the end of a day that did not bring any satisfaction and did not even confirm the small progress shown in qualifying, Alesi (P5) and Capelli (out of the standings for the ninth time out of ten races) interpreted their race the other way round. The Milanese driver appeared all in all satisfied, the Frenchman completely disappointed. A question of character. Ivan made a very good start, jumping Wendlinger and Herbert and then also overtaking Comas during the first lap. 


"I had never felt so good, and the car was running like clockwork. I was seventh, the best position I had ever achieved with the Ferrari, and I was effortlessly keeping up with Alesi's pace. Then I started to lose 500 engine revs on the straight, another five hundred, the power dropped, and I had to retire fearing I would break everything. I don't know what to do anymore, if there is a shrine for safe blessings, point me to it. I will certainly go there".


The technicians have not discovered what the problem was, the engine will be examined at Maranello. On the Milanese driver's head, however, hangs the possibility of a fine that Ferrari could impose on him for the technical criticism (on the engine) expressed on Saturday. No fine, however, for Alesi. The Frenchman, once again, flees the circuit without speaking, visibly annoyed. The Ferrari driver leaves only a message relayed by the press office: 


"I lost a couple of positions at the start because the wheels skidded too much. But that didn't affect the result. The car was not bad, just not very fast. The placing, of course, does not satisfy me".


But did no one tell him that Ferrari today has to make do with what it has? Alesi was convinced he had a more powerful engine. In the race he realised that the situation had not changed. And that explains the discontent. Market, market. In the absence of other sensations and emotions, that's all anyone is talking about these days. The possibility of seeing Nigel Mansell back at Ferrari, Ayrton Senna stuck at McLaren and a sensational novelty on the way: Toyota engines instead of Honda's. These are the rumours of the last hour in the Formula 1 market, more crazy, uncertain and neurotic than usual. A constantly evolving situation that - with the competitive games now over, with the world title practically assigned to the Englishman - is stimulated by the need for drivers and teams to think only about the future, to look for the best possible prospects. The Lion, therefore, cannot enjoy his German triumphs and the records he repeatedly sets.  


A real torment in a period that should be the most serene of his career. But the now certain inclusion of Alain Prost at Williams for 1993 spoils all his plans. Nigel Mansell has understood that he will no longer be able to hold a leading status in the team, as he did with Riccardo Patrese, and above all he will not be able to play catch-up on his salary. Because Frank Williams makes it clear that he has no intention of doubling the figures: with the French star at his disposal, competitiveness is in any case guaranteed. For these reasons Mansell is furious, and quarrels with Frank Williams (and among other things it seems that even the Williams mechanics are in revolt, frightened by the amount of work they will have to face if both the fussy drivers should race together, perhaps using four cars instead of the two race cars plus the reserve one) and begins to look seriously around. So, the talk with Ferrari begins. After all, the extrovert and sentimental British racer still has good memories of Maranello and especially of the fans who loved him. And so, putting together a good dose of opportunism, the World Championship leader lets it be known that he is willing to open negotiations. We are still in the realm of hypotheses and probabilities, as every day that passes the situation becomes more complicated, new things emerge. In any case, the interest on both sides exists, unless the driver is just looking for a raise at Williams saying he could return to race for the Maranello team. However, one wonders why Ferrari should turn to Nigel Mansell when, with John Barnard (it seems that the designer has verbally accepted the proposals, all that is missing are the signatures of the respective legal advisors), they could try to get Ayrton Senna. But the Brazilian is looking around. Perhaps he still harbours hopes of emigrating to the court of Williams. However, in the meantime, it seems that a very interesting proposal may arrive: Toyota (one of the giants of the world car industry) would be ready to take over Honda from McLaren. Large means at his disposal, guarantees of continuity, what the three-time World Champion has always asked for. Toyota had started a project with Barnard, then aborted, and announced that they were not interested in Formula 1. But when they were certain that Honda would retire at the end of the year, they approached Ron Dennis. The latter, who had never been serene in recent months, regained his smile. Summing up the situation, therefore, Ferrari is also on the way to resolving the driver question. Alongside the confirmed Alesi, Mansell could return. There is also a reserve, at the limit, for Gerhard Berger. Montezemolo, Barnard, Mansell, Berger: it's back to the old days. 


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