On Thursday, October 4, 1990, at Estoril, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet simulated a Grand Prix (61 laps) without any problems. On Thursday, October 4, 1990, at Estoril, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet simulated a Grand Prix (61 laps) without problems, with the fastest time for the English driver in 1'17"89 against 1'18"54 of the Brazilian. Mansell says he is happy to have left Ferrari for Williams due to the excessive pressure in the team and the Italian press, and confirms that he has obtained a first-driver contract to aim for the title. Patrese, however, scores the best times both with race tyres (1'15"17) and with qualifying tyres (1'14"53). Senna runs in 1'16"87, while Modena with the rubberized Tyrrell Pirelli confirms the excellent impressions of the first day, scoring a time of 1'16"44. Good tests also for the Lambo with Apicella (1'21"16) and Van Der Poele (1'22"17). The Minardi team officially confirms that Gianni Morbidelli, 22, was hired by the Romagna team for the 1991 and 1992 seasons. The Pesaro driver will replace Paolo Barilla (thanked for his collaboration) alongside Pier Luigi Martini already starting from the next Japanese and Australian Grand Prix. Morbidelli, who takes part in the Formula 3000 championship, has been used this year in Formula 1 by Scuderia Italia in Phoenix and in Brazil to replace the injured Emanuele Pirro. Meanwhile, the Ferrari sports director, Cesare Fiorio, 51, marries during the morning in the town hall of the Emilian town where the car company is based, with Elena Nichetti, 32, Milanese interpreter. Fiorio, who is at his second wedding, arrives shortly after 11.30 a.m. at the wheel of a Lancia Thema Ferrari. Waiting for the newlyweds are the three children that the Piedmontese manager had from the first marriage: Giorgia, Cristiano and Alessandro, who is a Rally driver and has been a witness to his father. The wedding celebrated by the mayor Giorgio Gubertini, attended by about twenty guests, all close relatives of the spouses. The exclusive photo shoot is guaranteed a weekly. After the ceremony a reception in the afternoon. Friday, October 5, 1990 Fiorio will be at his place of work to prepare for the trip to Japan.
The challenge between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (and also between McLaren-Honda and Ferrari) arouses in Japan a real mad fever for Formula 1. The organizers of the Grand Prix, penultimate round of the World Championship, scheduled for Sunday, October 21, 1990, are taken aback by the demand for tickets. They had put on sale 100.000 coupons with a system that had long been tested: sending the tickets themselves by post. That’s money on one side and tickets on the other. But when the subscription was opened, they were overwhelmed by an avalanche of requests: in the first day alone, 340.000 paid bookings arrived. At this point Japanese patients are organizing a kind of lottery, that is a lot of the lucky ones, who will be able to attend the race that could award the title. But it is clear that local touts have also come into action. Who will be blessed by good luck will be able to sell their coupons at exorbitant amounts: there is also talk of 2.000.000 lire for the best seats in the various forums. In Japan the interest in motor racing is enormous. But the majority of fans, who have to be satisfied with the results of Honda engines and the performance of only two drivers (Nakajima at Tyrrell and Suzuki at Larrousse), loves Ferrari above all. The Fan Ferrari club is very powerful and all the articles about the Maranello team (models, books, T-shirts, flags, etc.) are sold out at incredible prices. Normally thousands of banners with the Prancing Horse are waved during the race. But it is not all gold that glitters: while the interest is overwhelming, the economic crisis also winds up in Japan and has put in difficulty two of the many financiers who have also invested in Formula 1: the businessman Kohji Nakauchi, which in Tokyo officially presented the agreement between the British team Brabham and Toyota (supply of a new 12-cylinder engine for 3 years), was sentenced to prison in England for a debt of 14.000.000.000 lire, contract for the purchase of a prestigious Bentley vintage car. In difficulty for recent losses on the Stock Exchange also the company Espo, which had taken a stake of over 50% in the French team Larousse. So much so that there is insistent talk of the abandonment of this activity by the Japanese group and a possible merger between the same Larrousse and the other transalpine team Ags. As for the driver market, after the confirmation of Bernard and Suzuki at Larrousse and the signing of the Frenchman Erik Comas for Ligier, Nicola Larini was left stranded was contacted by the new Lambo Formula directed by Mauro Forghieri.
While Ferrari ended the test in Portugal with Nigel Mansell, author of the best time of the day, Senna and Berger simulated a Grand Prix but finished early for a spin of Patrese. On Wednesday, October 10, 1990, at the Fiorano track, test driver Gianni Morbidelli decides on the three cars that will be sent to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. In the morning, at 9:00 am, Jean Alesi, for the first official contact with the Maranello team, will be at the Gestione Sportiva. The young Frenchman visits the workshops and takes measurements for the seat he will use from 15 November 1990, when he will make his debut driving one of the Maranello cars in the private circuit of the team. Thursday, October 11, 1990 Morbidelli will still be at work in Imola for a reliability test of the 037 engine, which in case of a positive result will also be used in the race. For the engine, these are new technical solutions that increase its power and use. Alain Prost was also expected to arrive at the Dino Ferrari circuit, to try some aerodynamic changes studied in recent days, but it was preferred to keep the Frenchman at rest. Even these innovations will eventually be tested with the same Morbidelli. Ferrari is therefore taking all possible measures to try the big score in Japan. Alain Prost fired his first cartridges after the Portuguese Grand Prix. The French driver put Ferrari to the extreme, in his own way, perhaps exaggerating, but he hit the goal, which was then to focus all efforts on himself. He put Mansell in a position not to do much harm, he took away Senna’s chance to win the decisive points in Spain by launching himself into an almost desperate but not impossible undertaking. In recent days - it is not yet known if the thing was orchestrated by Prost himself - in Mexico the managers of Peugeot have officially declared to be very interested in taking away the professor at Ferrari. Another attempt to pull the rope, to make it clear that if the conclusion of the story is not to your liking, Alain could leave? Who knows. The fact remains that now Ferrari is more than ever on the living, aimed at obtaining the required results. Words do not change the technical situation. And the Maranello team does not need to be encouraged at this point. However, this interference also seems to be a kind of warning. It is true that the Frenchman has a signed contract and that he has always stated that he is not interested in driving in the world sports prototypes. But Peugeot has also made it known that it has a certain interest in Formula 1, not to exclude the possibility of building a Grand Prix car for the future.
And a year of rest could also be good for Prost to reappear loaded and decided with an all-French team in 1992… On the other side of the fence, Ayrton Senna is no better. After being clearly disappointed and worried by the defeat of Jerez, the São Paulo driver has raised an attitude of extreme safety. He began to speak very well of McLaren, of the improvements recorded on the car, said he does not fear the battle as in the departures and overtakings he feels superior to the opponent. Working thoroughly (five days of practice in Estoril, with a full simulation of a race and Saturday also several training on departures, as had previously Prost in Fiorano, the Brazilian has found the psychological motivations to try to undermine the morale of the Ferrari driver. In short, he wishes to present himself to Suzuka in a state of grace, to carry out the «great revenge». No one has forgotten that last year in the Japanese circuit the very fast Ayrton was fooled by the then team-mate. Involved in an accident between the two McLarens, Ayrton was disqualified, lost the title and passed one of the most difficult periods of his career, taken by the anger of defeat and the desire to leave the races for disappointment. Speaking of overtaking, of starting, of possible race on the wet track (a situation that Prost does not love), Senna is trying to insinuate into the mind of the opponent the worm of fear, doubt. In short, the two contenders will arrive in Suzuka tense, like violin strings. And the peace of Monza, that not at all spontaneous handshake that the great enemies gave themselves after the Italian Grand Prix, will be erased by new, indeed old feelings. Sentiments that are perhaps also of mutual professional esteem, but above all of deep hatred, of total rivalry on the human level. Just wait 13 days for proof that Senna and Prost cannot be friends. Friday, October 12, 1990, on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix, Alessandro Nannini is the victim of a very serious accident, crashing with his helicopter from twenty meters while landing on a lawn near the paternal villa, in Belriguardo, in the outskirts of the city of the Palio. In the impact the Tuscan pilot, 31 years old, thrown from the aircraft, reports a terrible mutilation: his right arm remains severed neatly under the elbow.
Transported to the Centro Traumatologico in Florence, Nannini was subjected to a difficult surgery at night to try to reattach the limb. Three other people who were on the helicopter, a French-made Ecureuil, were injured. The most serious is the 45 year old Neapolitan commander Francesco De Liguoro, who was at the helm. He is hospitalized with a confidential prognosis. Two friends of Nannini, Giuseppe Brancadori and Federico Federici, have wounds that can be healed in 30 days. The misfortune occurs at 2:35 p.m. The weather conditions are good. The only direct testimony is that two people were harvesting nearby:
"We saw the helicopter lose altitude, lower, then rise again in an uncertain way, swaying in the air. Then just a roar, almost a frightening explosion".
The first responders were presented with a gruesome scene. Alessandro Nannini lies unconscious, bloodied, away from the wreckage, with his forearm completely detached, laid on the ground, a few meters away. The commander is stuck in the aircraft, Brancadori lies lying on the other side, the Federici is collapsed among the rows of vineyards. After a few minutes, the runner’s family arrives. His wife Paola, his father Danilo, an industrial confectionery, were waiting for Alessandro for lunch. From the initial findings, it seems that the helicopter slammed violently on the ground with the tail rotor, then with the blades and then broke into two stubs. Then the arrival of the ambulances, the transport to Siena and the next desperate ride to Florence. The delicate surgery to try to reattach the arm to Alessandro Nannini will continue, as mentioned, throughout the night.
"There are good chances for surgery, but the injury is very serious and it will be necessary to see, being a Formula 1 driver, if he can regain the full functioning of the limb".
Says Dr Tommaso Mannona, who is part of the team of Professor Carlo Bufalini, chief of microsurgery of the orthopedic trauma center (CTO) where the pilot was transported after the accident with his helicopter. And it is to this phrase that they cling his wife Paola, his father Danilo, his mother Giovanna and his brother Guido who accompany Nannini in the race to the Florentine hospital. The CTO’s ambulance arrives at 4:38 p.m. In a special thermal container the detached arm part of net, collected at the scene of the accident, with great promptness of spirit, by the pilot’s father. Suddenly the buzz of nurses, journalists and curious is broken by the scream of pain of the pilot. As the stretcher lowered from the rescue vehicle, a small jolt evidently caused a sharp pain in the injured arm. Shocked in front of her husband covered in a bloody sheet, with his traditional smile turned into a grimace of pain, his wife lashes out at photographers and television operators. It is Nannini’s father, Danilo, a well-known confectionary industrialist from Siena, who calms his daughter-in-law and, with his face marked by tension but very calm, has words of understanding:
"As long as they do not bother let them be, they are doing their job. After all, Alessandro is a public figure".
When the pilot is taken to the fourth floor of the hospital to be prepared for the delicate surgery, followed by the mother closed in an understandable silence, Mrs Nannini lets herself go to an outlet:
"I didn’t want the helicopter. Alessandro is already risking his life every time he runs on the track with his car, it did not seem to me the case to add risk to the risk. That’s why I was always against buying an aircraft".
The pilot’s father tries to console her with fatalism:
"If fate really wanted an accident to happen, it’s better that it happened near home, near us".
Before deciding for the intervention by the team of Professor Bufalini, there is a dense exchange of phone calls with the clinic De Choisy in Choisy le Roy, a village near Paris. It is there that Professor Emile Le Tournel operates, a luminary of microsurgery already known in the world of Formula 1 to have successfully intervened on the foot of Didier Pironi after the accident that forced him to abandon racing.
"We were consulted immediately after the incident in Nannini, but I can not say anything on the subject for professional reasons".
Moreover, to push the decision for the Florentine hospital there was the time factor, determining in such cases, and the fame of Professor Bufalini who has to his credit many interventions of this kind. Dr Mannona explains, before entering the operating room:
"The operation is delicate, it involves reconnecting muscles and blood vessels, it will take at least five or six hours, because the injury is very serious: it is a total traumatic amputation of the right forearm".
And it’s only six days before we know if the surgery’s successful. For the rest the general conditions of Alessandro Nannini do not present particular concerns. The pilot arrived at the CTO conscious even if in a state of shock, in addition to amputation also has a fracture exposed to the left hand and some slight bruising. While the news spread the news in front of the hospital, a small crowd of Formula 1 fans gathered in apprehension for the conditions of the driver now entered the heart of the general public for his sympathetically easy-going attitude. Numerous phone calls arrived to his wife Paola from the consorts of other pilots. The first to call to verify Alessandro’s condition is Susi Patrese, Riccardo’s wife. Meanwhile, the world of Formula 1 gathers around the family members of Alessandro Nannini, one of the most sympathetic and beloved protagonists of motor sport. Telephone calls and telegrams of greetings come from all over, but there are also those who could not resist the anguish of these difficult hours and preferred to arrive in person at the hospital. Flavio Briatore, the director of the Benetton team, immediately left London and said he was shocked. One of the first to arrive at the Trauma Center was Nelson Piquet who went to Genoa for the Boat Show.
"I was warned at a tollbooth. I could not help but turn the car and leave for Florence. What do you want me to say? I still can’t believe it. Alex has a great passion for planes and helicopters, like all of us in Formula 1. I have the patent myself. We often joked about this. He often told me that he would beat me both on the track and in the driving of aircraft. I can only hope that he does well, as soon as possible".
After a few minutes Riccardo Patrese arrives at the hospital, accompanied by his wife Susi, a great friend of Paola Nannini. The Paduan and his wife join the relatives of the Tuscan in the room made available to them.
"We are amazed, astonished, pained".
This is the first comment of the Ferrari executives and technicians from Maranello. Says the head of the press office, Franco Gozzi:
"We still don’t know much about the dynamics or the consequences for the driver, but we are very worried about the condition of our friend Alessandro".
Cesare Fiorio also remains in close contact with the Florentine trauma center for immediate information.
"We hope that the operation will be successful. This is our only thought. Sandro was at the best moment of his career, he had reached an exceptional maturity and skill. We will be as close as possible".
The episode also shocked and especially Giancarlo Minardi, the constructor of Faenza for whom Nannini had driven first in Formula 2, then also in Formula 1, from 1982 to 1987.
"We had dinner a few nights ago, and we also talked about helicopters. He was thrilled. But I honestly did not understand this need, it seemed to me an additional risk beyond those that you take in racing. I wish Sandro to get out of this nightmare in the best way".
All Italian drivers, Martini, Modena, Capelli, express words of deep sorrow.
"I spent a wonderful hour with him in Spain. We had talked about everything, about future plans, and we had laughed at our fate of missing Ferrari drivers. I’m chilling".
The evolution of the situation is also followed by Jean Marie Balestre, president of the FIA. The French director from Paris gives the task to the general secretary Yvon Leon to keep in close contact with Italy, to be informed directly of the health of the pilot:
"Crossbows is shaken. But does not intend for the moment to make statements".
News travels fast around the world. The pilot of the Leyton House, Mauricio Gugelmin, who was in Curitiba, in the state of Parane, in the south of Brazil, says that he had a telephone conversation with Italy a few minutes ago:
"I really hope that everything works out in the best way. When I heard, I was shocked, because I feel a great affection for Nannini. I hope he will recover soon".
Ended after 3:00 a.m. surgery to try to reattach the arm to Alessandro Nannini, moved to an intensive care unit. Professor Carlo Bufalini, chief of surgery of the hand, who operated with his team for nine long hours, did not want to be transported away from the emergency room. It will take at least a week for the rider to stabilize and understand if the limb has been successfully reattached. For the moment in the hospital, the CTO of Florence, no one makes a statement. Journalists are kept outside the door of the resuscitation department and an official press release is announced only for the late afternoon, when Professor Bufalini will have again visited the wounded and made the point with his men on the outcome of the operation. As to how the misfortune occurred, it has not yet been possible to go any further. The hypothesis is that it is a human error, the pilot Francesco De Liguoro, 55 years old. After having lowered to the ground in front of Nannini’s wife and family, the helicopter got up and fell suddenly, it is not known how it could have happened, swerving fearfully. The vehicle never regained its position. Until now it has not been possible to gather the testimonies of the other three injured, in a state of shock, who were on the helicopter with Nannini, nor those of the father, mother and wife of the pilot who saw as hallucinated the stage of the accident. Meanwhile, the carabinieri will begin interrogations, the wrecks of the aircraft are still on the scene, under seizure.
"The surgery is technically successful, but the reattached one will never be a normal hand".
What do these words by Professor Carlo Bufalini mean, who operated Alessandro Nannini in a speech that lasted for almost ten hours? Can we already talk about a finished career for the Benetton driver? It is still too early to give an answer. Medicine has its times. The obstacles to overcome are many despite the operation has been successful and the right arm has been reattached.
"It was a replanting to the limits of possibilities. More difficult than others. It was not a clean cut but a crushing with damaged muscles. For this you will have to wait 48 hours before you can say that the limb is back to life".
From that moment, the recovery of function will begin. It will be necessary to wait for bones, tendons, blood vessels and nerves to finally become firm. There will be a skin transplant to cover the scar. The process of limb re-education will begin. A long work based on particular techniques of gymnastics and electrical stimulation. Professor Bufalini continues in the explanation:
"But above all he will have to use his hand. However we will have to wait at least 12 18 months, before seeing what percentage of functionality will be recovered and there will also be some problems for the left hand, remained severely crushed".
Says the drivers’s father, Danilo:
"The doctors told us that they plan to make Alex recover 50% of the use of his right hand. I fear it means the farewell to Formula 1. But my son has a strong character".
Professor Bufalini comments again:
"Better than that the surgery could not go, but there is always the risk that some complication may arise that would force us to permanently amputate the limb".
After transporting Nannini to the CPR, his wife Paola was admitted. The young woman goes out shortly after and talked to the pilot’s parents:
"Sandro still sleeps, he seemed calm".
Then she is convinced to go to rest. His brother Guido remains to watch. It is to him that at some point Alessandro, still under the influence of anesthesia, turns with a joke typical of his light-hearted character:
"If I have to stop running I will go on a nice holiday around the world".
And she nods off. Meanwhile, the condition of Francesco De Liguoro, the helicopter pilot who crashed on land near Nannini’s father’s villa on Friday, is always serious. Doctors of the resuscitation department of Le Scotte polyclinic say that, during the night the pilot had a cardiac arrest, fortunately passed, but his condition remains very serious and is still in a confidential prognosis. On the other hand, the two friends of Alessandro improve, for whom the prognosis is thirty days for bruises and wounds. Federico Federici is hospitalized in the general medicine department, he is still in shock and under the influence of sedatives. Giuseppe Brancadori is hospitalized in the orthopedics department and is the one who is the best.
They all received a quick visit from Paola Nannini, who despite her concerns for her husband wanted to check the condition of the other three injured. Meanwhile, the incident is being investigated by Deputy Prosecutor Nicola Marini, who will also have to determine who was driving the helicopter when it landed. A technical investigation is underway, initiated by Alberto Basile, director of Peretola airport. Meanwhile, Sunday, October 14, 1990 Alain Prost returns to unleash the polemic vein and shoots at zero against Ferrari’s teammate, Nigel Mansell, in an interview published by O Globo, Rio de Janeiro newspaper.
"Mansell does not do his duty, he does not commit himself to being a good driver. While I work, he prefers to rest and play golf".
In the interview, Prost reneged on earlier statements when he said that he had definitely decided to leave Formula 1 in 1992.
"If I’m physically okay, if I still feel able to win, I could go on for two to three years. I think it is a shame not to exploit my experience in the near future".
Only the Japanese Grand Prix next Sunday and the Australian Grand Prix next December are missing, so that the Formula 1 season ends. Senna, the Frenchman’s rival, leads the drivers' championship with nine points more than the Ferrari driver. Prost gives the Brazilian an 80% chance of winning the title, but he hasn’t lost hope:
"The title is lost. I will fight until the last moment, but it is certainly very difficult for me".
The British driver Johnny Herbert will be the replacement of Martin Donnelly driving the Lotus with Lamborghini engine in the last two Grand Prix of the Formula 1 World Championship, scheduled for Sunday in Japan and in three weeks in Australia. The British team announces it. Donnelly had been seriously injured during the Spanish Grand Prix and was driven off the track with his car, and is still hospitalized in London, but his condition is improving. Herbert, 26, once raced for Tyrrell and Benetton. Two years ago the driver, considered an emerging talent in the world of Formula 1, was seriously injured in an accident at the Brands Hatch circuit, in England, while he was engaged in a Formula 3000 race. Hours pass, and blood circulation in the body of Alessandro Nannini improves and morale, despite everything, is high. Appetite is not lacking. The race against the weather in which Alessandro Nannini is engaged, since, Friday night, the doctors of microsurgery of the CTO have reattached his right forearm detached in the helicopter accident, has successfully reached the first stage. After the first 48 hours of delicate surgery, the risk of thrombosis can be considered almost averted. The pilot will have to wait Friday, October 19, 1990, at noon, to see the prognosis on the replanting limb dissolved. It is still possible to get infections that could frustrate his hopes. The medical bulletin issued on Monday, October 15, 1990, in the morning, by Professor Carlo Bufalini, head of the microsurgery department of the CTO, reports reassuring phrases, although cautious:
"The general conditions of Nannini remain good. The right limb replanted has more than satisfactory arteriro-venous circulation, still improved during the night. However, it is still possible that complications may occur that could compromise the viability of replanting. The left hand also follows the normal course".
Says his wife Paola, who is always at his side:
"Sandro makes giant progress, or maybe giant is an adjective that I think".
For now Alessandro Nannini is supported by a very high morale, almost euphoric. It is the normal reaction of someone who has seen himself without an arm and now begins to appreciate its existence, to see that the hand has regained its rosy color, which is warm, alive. The critical moment will come when he realizes he can’t do certain things anymore. So the speech inevitably returns to his career in Formula 1.
"The man is alive, this is important, for the pilot patience".
But does Nannini know he’s done with racing? You would think so knowing that Flavio Briatore, Benetton’s team manager, came to tell him that the team is waiting for him to talk about future plans, he replied:
"There will be no future plans for me, my racing career is over".
Yet other details suggest otherwise. The same stubbornness with which the sister Gianna rejects the concept of career ended for Alex is a symptom that the answer to Briatore was given more out of superstition than out of conviction. He admits his father, Danilo:
"Only a miracle can bring Sandro back to Formula 1, but if only a crack opens, he gets back in the car. He’s stubborn and a bit unconscious. But I would do like him".
Meanwhile for Alessandro Nannini begin to arrive the first deadlines: maybe Tuesday he could try to get up, in the next few days he will still be transferred from the intensive care room to the ward, in a month the exercises for the rehabilitation of the arm will begin. But it’s still too early to talk about that. The first targets of Alex, the usual freak, as he affectionately defines his wife, for now are a plate of meatballs and a television. Meanwhile, the investigation goes on: at the controls of the helicopter of Alessandro Nannini there was the commander Francesco De Liguoro. This is stated by the magistrate who took over the investigation on the matter, the deputy prosecutor Dario Ferrucci, after collecting the depositions of the three men who were with the Formula 1 driver.
"As things stand, there is no indication that De Liguoro was not at the helm".
The magistrate went to the polyclinic of Siena where they are hospitalized, in stationary conditions, the three wounded: De Liguoro, the most serious, in the resuscitation department, Federico Federici and Giuseppe Brancadori. Deputy Ferrucci will now work on the hypothesis of the existence of a culpable disaster crime for the accident, appointing an expert for this purpose by Tuesday. It should be an engineer from Turin. The following day, Tuesday, October 16, 1990, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic of Siena, Dario Perrucci, who leads the investigation on the incident in which Alessandro Nannini was injured, sends a notice of guarantee, in which the crime of culpable disaster is suspected, to the helicopter pilot Francesco De Liguoro. Meanwhile in Florence Nannini is improving and asks his family to get a television to watch the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. A request that will probably be endorsed by Professor Bufalini: Nannini in fact almost certainly before Sunday will be transferred from the resuscitation department to that of microsurgery. On Friday the pilot will undergo a small skin transplant to the right arm.
"If things continue like this, he could be discharged early next week".
In the last two races of the Formula 1 World Championship in Japan in Australia, Alessandro Nannini will be replaced in the Benetton team by the Brazilian driver Roberto Moreno. The latter became available because his usual team, the Eurobrun, had not registered for either of the last two great prizes of the season. To arrive in Japan and to see the world in reverse. In the sense that each evaluation taken for granted takes on a different meaning. If in the West there is the myth of Japan, of refined technology and in a certain exotic way, here it is exactly the opposite: everything that is Italian or however European has the taste of the exclusive, the taste that approaches a form of exaggerated snobbery. So for Formula 1. We arrived at the decisive round between Senna and Prost, and then between McLaren-Honda and Ferrari. It would be logical to expect a great cheer for the home engines, since among other things the Honda gravitates in the area of the circuit (owned by him). But there is not a single flag for the Japanese company. In the shops of the circuit you hunt down everything that is Ferrari. It would seem that Honda, the third Japanese brand, after Toyota and Nissan, is here almost hated, as always happens to those who wield a certain form of power. A brand considered unpopular. Better to turn, after all, to the myth, to Ferrari. The battle between Senna (favourite) and Prost (challenger) has aroused a morbid interest. The organizers of the Japanese Grand Prix received requests for 400.000 tickets and were forced to draw the 120.000 available. The two rivals make great pretattica. Senna says:
"I am calm and prepared, physically and psychologically. I don’t think about the past, I must be realistic. And then, if in 1989 it was bad for me, this year it will be his turn".
Like saying, if a similar story happens to that of 1989 (the two, then teammates in McLaren, bumped into a chicane), I throw him out. There are signs of a storm, even if the statements are correct. While Mansell declares himself a champion of the cause at the press conference ("I only run for Ferrari, I will help Prost and if I have a few laps from the end of the race I will be in the lead, I will let him pass"), Prost seems a pacifist.
"I only have a tiny remnant of hope. I have to win, all the other results are favorable to Ayrton. Our cars should be fine. But here we are at Honda, they have done all kinds of tests, it will be difficult to beat them. We also took some technical risks to be more competitive. But we have to start from the front, guess everything".
Ferrari brought here as much as it could: special race and qualifying engines and a new mini-rear fairing that should improve aerodynamics. All under the careful direction of Cesare Fiorio, arrived at the circuit with Mansell, aboard a flaming red Rolls Royce. And it is not true that Senna is very calm: if he loses this title he would make a tragedy. Ditto for Prost who said to race only for Ferrari, that for him this challenge is an extra: but who believes him? On the other hand, with the Fiat Group Cesare Fiorio won everything there was to win in Rallies, even if only a few remembered him in the Pessione party for the ten-year sponsorship of the Martini with Lancia Corse. For a couple of seasons he has been in Maranello, responsible for sports management, with excellent results, long forgotten. And Sunday Prost can play an important card in the challenge to Senna. So Fiorio, what’s happening to Ferrari?
"That so far we have won six races and that we are absolute protagonists of the championship, even if we may not be the ones to impose ourselves. A great satisfaction".
But isn’t it also a season wasted? Couldn’t Ferrari do more?
"No, I don’t think so. It was difficult. Just go back a little in time and find McLaren that in 1988 won fifteen Grands Prix out of sixteen and Ferrari only one. This year, we’re six on the eve of the penultimate date. And all the other teams, who were competitive with us until a few months ago, have been forgotten. The trend is definitely positive".
Did Mansell’s stitches miss?
"Well... in the World Drivers Championship only the values of the individual count. But we are still in contention in the Constructors' World Championship: it is not necessarily that it is won, but it is not even written that it is lost. The score achieved so far in both the Constructors' World Championship and the Drivers' Championship is the highest ever achieved by Ferrari in the last ten years. To build great results takes time. I would say that we have moved on".
What did you find that didn’t work in Maranello? What has changed for you?
"I was lucky enough to find very capable men like Castelli and Massai at Ferrari, and to introduce others in weak sectors such as electronics. In collaboration with Magneti Marelli we brought Ciampolini. And then Nichols, the great chassis designer. Today there is the group. For someone who plays my role, it’s the same as working in Formula 1 or Rallies. At the end there is the track, which is the most flashy part but which makes up only ten percent of the commitment of a team".
The biggest difference?
"In the impact with public opinion that in Formula 1 is clearly stronger".
The whole truth about Alesi?
"Ferrari has achieved its declared and primary objective: to support an experienced and capable driver like Prost with the best emerging young driver, Alesi. We blocked it for three years, a good investment. He has talent, we will make him understand that next to Prost he has everything to learn".
And what about Nannini, who is racing a particular Grand Prix?
"His accident touched me to a very great extent, as if he were a brother. His negotiations with us have become meaningless. I’m sorry it was thrown to the public, and not by Ferrari. It has become a national case, an Italian who rejects Ferrari".
Who pulled it out, then?
"Who was interested. But beware. Negotiations like these we had many others. And like us all the teams".
Ferrari fans were shocked by Mansell’s statements: I retire; I don’t retire anymore; I missed that start but I didn’t do it on purpose. At the levels we know the champions think not only about the team but look after their career, their image. Unfortunately we suffered from these situations in very happy days for Ferrari that people lived as if we had lost. At Silverstone the announcement of Mansell has somewhat obscured the success of Prost, at Estoril the Englishman won after that start that triggered hard controversy of the Frenchman. But weren’t Mansell’s words instrumental?
"We were certainly in a delicate phase of the negotiations. He had the feeling that we had other goals for 1991 and preferred to make that decision. Except to return to it".
What about that start that could cost Prost his title?
"Mansell made a huge mistake but I think too much of the champion and the professional to think that he did it deliberately, that he deliberately hindered the partner. Unfortunately, Caffi’s accident slowed down Prost’s run-up. If the Frenchman had taken second place, Mansell would have let him pass. With Senna in the middle it was impossible".
Was there a time when Prost really had the idea to leave Ferrari?
"I should say no. First of all because Prost made a very specific commitment to us asses. E. to quit, would have to break with all the consequences of the case, secondly because, being a driver very attentive to the evolution of the teams and to identify the potentially stronger team of 1991, I think he would have difficulty finding material and a team that would support him and support him as Ferrari is doing today".
Prost did very well everywhere. But then is he arguing with his teammates or vice versa?
"He has a character that is not the easiest, that has led him to have discussions in the teams in which he found himself. But he is very intelligent. Now, for example, he goes to school. He understood that it is important to start from the front, that it is not enough to interpret the race well tactically: he changed his mentality and trained to improve himself".
Sunday will be held in Japan. How does Ferrari look at Honda?
"We made a crazy effort to allow Prost and Mansell to put McLaren in a pickle. We have worked on the engine and aerodynamics extremizing every solution. We’re going to show up in Japan with something that’s more at risk than our usual standard. But that could give us that extra something to win".
While pilots and teams arrive in Suzuka, Thursday 18 October 1990 Alessandro Nannini decides to talk, after the incredible helicopter accident. Arms are bandaged, hands do not have a pale color, on the contrary. It was his wife Paola who organized this small press conference at the CTO in Florence. It is right to show everyone that Nannini is about to heal.
"Guys, let’s start talking about cars. So I’ll tell you right now that the McLaren World Championship, there are 80 out of 100 chances to win the title. In Japan, however, Ferrari could win, it has something more right now".
The Japanese Grand Prix; a year ago he triumphed, Sunday will have to follow him on television.
"I’ll wake up at 5:00 a.m., and woe to those who disturb me".
Then Nannini announces:
"Benetton will be great in 1991, I hope to be one year later, in 1992. I want to get back on track, because this is the most important race of my life, and I want to win it at all costs. I’ll just have to figure out if I can really go back to my old self, if I can have all my skills. If so, I’ll ask for a good car to win the world championship. If I don’t make it, then I’ll go back with my father".
And, if everything goes wrong, be a manager. The idea does not fascinate him:
"Manager? Then I could do it in Siena".
Still on the Prost-Senna.
"I won’t be rooting for anyone, they are my friends. Is Ferrari? It’s all forgotten. Given my current conditions, maybe Maranello have seen well".
All he remembers about the accident is that he fell.
"They told me I don’t have to talk about it because there is an investigation going on".
The game changes, the roles change. Now Ayrton Senna can also throw the team-mate Gerhard Berger. He no longer needs to get his back covered. To win the world title, all he needs is for Prost not to finish first. So the tactics can be different, each free to attempt to win. This is the dominant reason of the Japanese Grand Prix that will offer the Brazilian the second consecutive opportunity to close the accounts for the world title. And for Ferrari and Prost only two chances: win or finish second, provided that on the top step of the podium does not climb Senna. A challenge that is touching all the possible implications, where in addition to the competitive fact can count friendships and sympathies, where the forbidden blows are the order of the day, It spares nothing, not even the indiscriminate use of the media, to demoralize the rival. From Brazil came in recent days the echo of an old interview of Prost, remastered for the occasion: an attack on Mansell, considered the great responsible for the current situation, a teammate from which we must look. But the Frenchman immediately responded in rhyme. Still from Brazil comes the last blow:
"Who is going to leave the races? I’m not for sure. I won’t retire before 1992. I’m fine at Ferrari".
Explanation. In the first case there is an attempt to destabilize relations within Ferrari: putting Mansell in the sedan could get a reaction of the Englishman, even if the latter has sworn allegiance to Maranello and Prost. And the result below not missed. Friday, October 19, 1990 Ayrton Senna stops Nigel Mansell after rehearsals, and the Englishman appears enlightened, as if he had met his lifelong friend.
"Have a wonderful day tomorrow".
Nigel says. But, as has been said, little Alain does not make himself prayed. Stating that he wants to stay at Ferrari for another two years, he puts a blow to Senna, assuming the Brazilian has the intention to land in Maranello in two seasons. I mean, the subtle psychological battle continues. On Friday, Berger set the fastest time in the first qualifying round, ahead of Prost, Senna, Mansell, Boutsen, Alesi, Patrese and Martini. No circuit record but a nice lap one minute from the end of the practice, when Prost had just passed Senna and Mansell had thrown away the second set of qualifying tires due to a great braking to avoid the Ligier of Alliot who was in the middle of the track after a spin. In fact, there is a lot of tension. We have rarely seen a series of caramboles like that of the first day of testing. In the morning Alliot, Martini, Nakajima, Gugelmin, David Brabham, Alesi and even Senna leave the track, betrayed by the dirt track. But the show arrives in the afternoon, with four incidents of all respect, still protagonists Alesi and Alliot plus Gachot and Pirro. The Frenchman of Tyrrell flies in a curve at almost 300 km/h because it seems that he has given up a arm of the suspension not carefully checked after the previous accident. Bump, torn wheels and a great fear. An endless series of spin for Alliot (now you can no longer count the shells that damaged Ligier), a bad blow for Emanuele Pirro (bruises to a knee and heel), and a scordolata of Gachot with the only Coloni available, now reduced to a colander, with the poor Umbrian manufacturer forced to fund the last savings for repairs. In short, the side dish was spicy. Waiting for the main course that will not fail to burn even the palates accustomed to paprika. Because it is clear that, beyond any tactic, Senna and Prost will try to win, each in his own way, among a thousand sparks.
"I’m not worried. I want to win to end all the speeches. I can do it. I won here last year, it’s in my chances to repeat myself".
Ayrton Senna does not admit replicas: and to help him Honda has prepared another special engine, the sixth evolution from the one presented at the beginning of the season.
"It’s true, the Japanese work well. The engine is perfect, powerful and progressive. I think he has a few extra horses, obtained by changing the design of the combustion chamber. They also let me know that internal resistance to friction has decreased and that the weight has been reduced by two kilograms. A great effort that I hope to repay with the world title".
But Alain Prost is far from determined to leave the road.
"I want pole position, but even starting in the fifth row I will leave no stone unturned. I had a little problem in qualifying with the engine that went out a couple of times in the straight. But I think it’s just about changing adjustments. Otherwise there’s no problem. I have to win and that’s what I’ll try to do. There are no other solutions".
Meanwhile in Formula 1 we talk about the future. A new team, the Footwork-Porsche, is presented at Suzuka, born on the ashes of the old Arrows. Master, sponsor and Japanese money, British team, engine of old Germany. It is a welcome return of the Porsche (with 12 cylinders) that had retired in 1987 after having made smashes with turbo, certain that the amalgam is fearsome. The only firm point of the team drivers: confirmed in fact Caffi and Alboreto. The German engine is already running, while preparing the debut of the Japanese Yamaha that will be presented on Saturday morning and will be installed next year on Brabham. Here the unknowns (after the not too bright figure remedied by Yamaha itself with the 8-cylinder entrusted to Zakspeed) are greater, but there is time to wait and understand. As mentioned, 150.000 people will attend the Japanese Grand Prix. They are only one part, the luckiest part, of all those who would have liked to witness this event in person, which for years has been a decisive one. Meanwhile, in the usual briefing between drivers that happens as usual every race weekend you can easily understand that there is little of that alleged peace that Senna and Prost had sanctioned in the press conference in Monza; the faces are tense, in particular that of Ayrton. Then Nelson Piquet comes out in the open, asking for clarifications and putting himself on the controversial situation of the year before that led to the disqualification of Senna:
"If once we go long at a chicane, the stewards stop us and let us leave if there is no traffic, then yes, we can call it safe. But if we have to turn around and go the wrong way to get back on track, with the risk that another car goes long and there is in full center, then it becomes dangerous".
The reference is obviously to the cut of chicane of Senna after the contact with Prost, the pivotal reason that Jean-Marie Balestre had entrusted to penalize the Brazilian ace. Asked if everyone agreed with Piquet, the rest of the drivers responded with a dry yes, to which is added a thank you, with a mocking smile of Ron Dennis, also present at the briefing. But Senna is not there, he feels almost teased by the race direction. Piquet has done nothing but repeat concepts that he himself had expressed last year, with the result of being totally ignored, as well as seeing confirmed his disqualification and therefore his defeat with Prost:
"A joke, last year was a joke".
Senna exclaims aloud, pointing at Prost, who witnesses in silence the rival who leaves the room angry. Let us forget the past, Prost said in Italy. But from the briefing between drivers it is clear that Senna has not forgotten, and indeed it was held the smacco suffered by the FIA and Crossbows. Saturday, October 20, 1990, on track Ayrton Senna is confirmed fast and wins his ninth pole position in the championship, thanks to a great lap closed with the time of 1'36"996. The only one able to keep up with him is still Alain Prost, who is still 0.2 seconds away, while in the second row are placed their teammates, in the order Mansell and Berger, far away; if Mansell is 0.5 seconds from his teammate, Berger even pays over a second from Senna. The pole position, however, does not relax at all the soul of Senna, who continues to be haunted by the thought of the events of the previous year. His request, accompanied by that of Berger, to change the position of the poleman’s pitch on the grid, which until that moment had always been on the dirty side and case on which Ayrton had never complained in the previous two editions (where he started in pole position and played the victory of the World Championship just like now), is the daughter of this state of restlessness. His complaint, which is however reasonable and legitimate, among other things is initially accepted by the race management, but then comes the injunction of Balestre and the starting position of the first on the grid remains on the dirty side. The Japanese Grand Prix, important for the two contenders to the title, is also important for Alessandro Nannini, because it was, last year, his first victory in Formula 1. But on Saturday the day turned heavy because of the blank nights, and Nannini had decided not to watch live television at 5:00 in the morning.
"I’ll see it recorded".
The Sienese driver had said the previous day, but then dozed off around 3:00 a.m. Next door, his wife Paola and his father Danilo. The room looks like a bunker, because we must also defend ourselves from the curiosity of even the affectionate people. And also from the one a little less disinterested than some photographer: a few days before they even found one that descended from the upper floor with a mountain rope.
"They write, they call, they make us happy, of course, but they are things that tire us".
It says Danilo Nannini.
"And the professor forbade any contact. Sandro is tense, tired, does not sleep. We hope that at home he will calm down".
The surgery on the right forearm seems successful, Nannini hopes to leave the hospital soon, on the fact that he can return to the races no one speaks, except him. His father sighs:
"Let him say it".
Actually, even the rock star sister Gianna seems convinced, but the doctors are very, very cautious. 4:45 a.m. The portable phone rings in Danilo Nannini’s brown jacket pocket.
"I’m Zermiani, of Rai, I speak from Japan. Alessandro how is he? Watch the Grand Prix?"
The father replied:
"Alessandro sleeps, if you want I’ll call him".
The television wants and between thousand precautions Danilo wakes up the daughter-in-law.
"It’s television, they ask for Sandro".
The injured champion demands a great sacrifice, useless also, but Danilo Nannini does not say no. Alessandro Nannini in front of the television in his hospital room The rest, one day he had declared:
"Sandro is a public figure".
And she meant with all her obligations. Gently, Paola hardly shakes her husband. And Alessandro, pulling himself on the bed, answers the phone that hold him in his ear. There is old friend Nelson Piquet, teammate, who says, cheerful voice:
"Hello Sandro, we miss you so much here. After Adelaide I come to see you".
Nannini beckons that they turn on the television, from Japan they now arrive images of the smiling Brazilian already placed in the cockpit of the rainbow car. Next to the Benetton-Ford a blonde beauty holds a black sign with white writing:
"Hello Sandro, we miss you".
Nannini barely smiles, but laughs heartily when Piquet adds:
"You left me in the shit".
Then they tell him that his #19 will be driven by Moreno, but the place is always his. Nannini answers to Piquet:
"Hello love, hello love. I’m getting better at sight".
The voice is terribly weak, the face pulled. Then the communication is interrupted. Now the pilot is awake.
"Let’s watch this race".
In the race is immediately fight, dirty ones, without a hint of chivalry.
"Here we go again".
Says Nannini. Then he gives him a statement for television that wants to know his opinion:
"Also this year, as last year, the World Championship has been soiled by extra-sporting factors".
What the hell happened? Sunday, October 21, 1990, in Suzuka, the first crucial moment of the Japanese Grand Prix also becomes the first and last twist of the race in a world key. Prost sprints better than Senna and after a few meters is already in front of him, at the first corner Alain Prost closes the trajectory, convinced that he has conquered the leadership of the race, but when he goes to tighten towards the curb inside the circuit is rammed by Senna, that doesn’t seem to put my foot on the brake. The maneuver of the Brazilian driver causes the exit of both in the escape route, where they remain stranded and with damaged cars to the point that they cannot re-enter the race. Seven seconds. So long the race of the two contenders to the title but, just like in 1989, the battle moves off the track and the souls of those involved are glowing. There is excitement in the pits, while between the pitches various McLaren characters raise, at the address of Ferrari, that famous finger that in Anglo-Saxon jargon leaves little room for translations. Meanwhile, both Senna and Prost return to the pits, one behind the other. Shortly after, the Brazilian sees the McLaren mechanics looking at the monitors, so - with a bit of concern - he asks Jo Ramirez:
"They’re not gonna stop the race, are they?"
McLaren’s Sports Director says he doubts this will happen. Only Ron Dennis congratulates Senna.
"Prost held me too tight and we touched each other. I’m sorry the championship ended like this. But I was inside the bend and I couldn’t throw myself in the grass to get it through. Only a fool would willingly cause an accident like this, dangerous, because behind it was the whole group that was coming. It was Prost who made the mistake. Not only that, but he had to know that he and only he had something to lose in a contact. It doesn’t seem fair that he’s now blaming me. I was on pole position and I was forced to start from the wrong side, namely where the track is dirty. I’ve been saying since Wednesday that I would skate if the pole position hadn’t been changed. They wouldn’t listen to me, and then I had to suffer the consequences. And at the end of the day, would it be my fault what happened? What was I supposed to do? Jump into a meadow and tell him please sit down? I run to win, for passion, for the sake of the challenge brought to its extreme limits and I do not feel violent, I am not violent. But the racing environment has changed a bit in recent years and sometimes it can happen to feel this sense of violence. It really seems to me that we are exaggerating. Moreover, a Grand Prix can be lost immediately after the start or six laps from the end...".
Not only that, there is also time for a small criticism enriched by a mocking dedication to the Federation:
"If the FIA had accepted my request to change the grid positioning, this would not have happened. This title is dedicated to all those who fought against me in 1989".
Even Prost, who had been warned of rumours since the Portuguese Grand Prix about Ayrton Senna’s alleged idea of revenge, did not want to believe it and had branded these claims, which arose before the Japanese Grand Prix, as conjecture.
"I would have preferred to win the World Championship in another way, yes. But a world title is not the prize of a single race but of an entire season. So if I look at the 1990 season I think I can say that I deserved this world title. I won more than anyone and I could have won even more if there had not been that collision with Nakajima in Brazil, or the Imola puncture and things like that. I am also the driver who has done the most pole position. It’s also true, though, that I suffered a bit in the middle of the season when Ferrari started to win. At that time we didn’t have the right material to block Ferrari’s offensive, but I still tried to think about the championship and put aside useful points and placements. I don’t think I don’t deserve my second title but I would have preferred to finish the Japanese Grand Prix in another way. As for the pole position at Suzuka, do I give my all, the best of myself to take pole position, and then force me to start on the wrong side? This is not a recrimination of the after, I had done it in a confidential way before the GP of Japan. I said, if a pole position has to take advantage of that, why else would a driver and a team make a lot of effort and spend a lot of money on research and development? At Suzuka the position from which the driver on pole starts is wrong, because you skate with the wheels and parts badly. So where do we want to get? To the absurd: in this circuit I better start on pole in the other no. These are cunning, it is no longer sport, because in sport it takes clarity and cleanliness. And the way last year’s World Cup ended? Do we want to forget it? I haven’t forgotten it. If you knew how bad I felt at the first Grand Prix this year, in Phoenix".
And to the statement of Prost, who claims that Ayrton speaks so much about God but then behaves in the opposite way of what his religious belief says, the Brazilian answers:
"I do not want to enter into controversy with him. But let him leave alone God who is the greatest thing that exists".
But the controversy does not stop there. At the end of the race, Jackie Stewart asked the Brazilian driver what he thought of the fact that he had caused more accidents in the last 36-48 months than all his colleagues. The Brazilian driver’s response is furious:
"I am surprised that you ask me this question, because you have a lot of experience and know the world of racing very well. You should know that being a race car driver means taking chances all the time. Being a race car driver means you compete with other people. If you don’t try to fit in when you see an opening, you’re not a race car driver anymore. Because we’re all competing to win. Our main motivation for racing is to win. Don’t get fourth, fifth or sixth. It’s irrelevant what you’re saying, Jackie. I’ve won more Grands Prix than anyone in the last three years, I’ve been on pole position more than anyone in history, and I’ve won two World Championships in the last three years. I can’t understand how you can turn this around to say that I’ve had more accidents than anyone else, which is not even true".
Meanwhile, Alessandro Nannini stares at the video and seems indifferent even when the camera mounted on the car of Alboreto shows the close-up of the hands of the pilot who squeeze spasmodically the steering wheel stressed by thousands of vibrations. It is easy, in the twilight, to guess the look that Nannini throws at his right arm cut from the helicopter and hung up with a ten-hour intervention. From the blue pajamas the bandage that cages the limb reveals only the fingertips: they are pink, except the thumbnail; and a comforting rose are also the fingers of the left, smashed in the accident. Halfway through the race, you change the tires, Mansell stops and the two Benetton jump in the lead. Nannini exclaims happy:
"You get there before the Williams".
He shows serenity, but inside he must have a storm. He changes position on the bed, and what he thinks his father guesses:
"Sure, he must have thought it was really a shame not to be on his #19. But he wouldn’t say that".
The race becomes boring. Alessandro asks for some biscuits, the race now bores him, dozes. After all there is very little to see, still. Of course, the victory of his teammate, the triumph of the team, the anger of the defeated: all things that, unless a miracle, no longer belong to him. When the two Benetton cars make the triumphal lap, Alessandro says to his father:
"Turn it off".
And he throws himself on his side in search of lost sleep. The air of Japan and the desire for revenge that he had never given up made Ayrton Senna lose his sense of proportion. Transformed into kamikaze, the Brazilian hit Ferrari and his driver Alain Prost. But in the whirlpool of controversy also ended the World Champion, who cast a shadow on his second Formula 1 world title, won with a pirate action, typical of those who feel lost and try everything for everything without having anything to lose. Everything happened at the start of the penultimate race of the World Championship. A disconcerting episode matured in the space of two or three hundred meters and 7-8 seconds: the McLaren in pole position remains for a moment firm. The Ferrari of the Frenchman sprints very well on the left, already taking the lead of a car in the middle of the track to close the turn to the right. Senna tries an impossible recovery, sees a small gap and with two wheels already on the edge between the asphalt and the curb enters. Collision, indeed collision is inevitable. The left wheel of the English single-seater touches the rear wing of the Italian car. And both of them, in a big fuss, end up in the wide escape route outside. The pilots come out of the cockpits. Senna rejoices, he is World Champion, Prost is as if stunned, he had to win or arrive second to continue the fight for the title, and instead he is blatantly eliminated after a few seconds.
The Brazilian, perhaps convinced that he can be forgiven, was wrong and spotted a success that this year probably deserved more than on the occasion of his first title, in 1988, when he won the World Championship for obvious superiority. He probably could have won the world helmet in Suzuka without too much trouble, or in fifteen days in Australia, such was his advantage in terms of points. But this time he decided to solve the challenge with an act of force. The speech is long, but we must not blame all the blame to the Brazilian, although this year he, his teammate Berger and McLaren have very often used overly virile methods. The fault for what happened is the Federation, the sports authorities. In a climate of total laxity, permission, accompanied only by blatant but insubstantial threats, pilots now feel entitled to make any gesture, they feel unpunished. Judging and punishing is problematic in this sport, but it is also problematic in football. However, the referees, good or not, with full right or error, decide and strike. Here nothing ever happens, we scream only when irreparable facts happen, as does Jean Marie Balestre, president of FISA, who intervenes by phone to the live television channel Telemontecarlo, shouts:
"It is a scandal".
After what happened at the start, Ferrari would have liked to repeat the start, believing that the two cars (plus that of Berger who slipped out at the first lap on the ground thrown on the track by the cars of Senna and Prost, and maybe even on some piece of junk). But also on this occasion the stewards, the same who had interrupted the race in Portugal when Alex Caffi had finished against the guardrails, did not move in favor of the Maranello team. And it is easy to imagine what happens next, indeed during the race, while Piquet runs towards the victory, which he missed for three years. Senna justifies himself by saying:
"There was a gap, I tried to pass, Prost closed the door. Nothing would have happened if the stewards had accepted my requests to move the pole position from right to left, because on that side out of trajectory the track is always dirty. In any case, everyone has their responsibility. I am happy to be World Champion again. What happened to me last year happened to Prost. I can at most dedicate the title to those who made me lose it in 1989".
Was it a premeditated act? Certainly Senna had no hesitation. And it must also be said that Ayrton had already been explicit in his statement on Saturday:
"I am sure that tomorrow, at the end of the race, I can be World Champion. And maybe I can be even before the race ends".
Prost’s reaction is both bitter and violent:
"I didn’t expect him to throw me out like that right away. I had made a perfect start. If I could escape, he would never see me again, because the Ferrari was superior. In any case Senna has shown his true face, that of an unsportsmanlike driver who wants to win at all costs. I think I’m an honest person, when it comes to criticism I do, when it comes to praise I don’t back away. It was a very dirty thing. I don’t like this Formula 1 and I feel sorry for the Ferrari that this time deserved the victory. In this way you do not go ahead because you would get to form teams with drivers in charge of different tasks: one to make points, the other to throw out rivals. By the way, the accident was very dangerous, it happened at a point where you travel at 240 km/h. I risked getting hurt. It is time for the authorities to intervene, many things will have to change, otherwise the next races will be real battles. It takes not rules, but someone to judge and apply sanctions. Otherwise we are at the bumper".
Who doesn’t believe in historical recourses? Last year in the Japanese Grand Prix there was an accident between Prost and Senna who decided the World Championship, won a Benetton (that of Nannini) and only ten competitors reached the finish line. Now there was the clash between the Brazilian and the Frenchman, Piquet with Benetton has returned to success after three years of waiting (Italy 1987), after wishing his injured teammate live on the phone with Florence, a few minutes before the start, and ten cars finished the race.
"Winning after three years of fasting is a wonderful feeling. And it is even more beautiful to have next to me on the podium a compatriot like Roberto Moreno. We both dedicate this success to Alessandro who saw us from home".
Moreno cries with emotion:
"I have only tried to continue the excellent work of Alessandro. And I also dedicate it to Piquet who has helped me a lot in my career".
Moreno has been confirmed at Benetton for the next Australian Grand Prix, which will be held in Adelaide. Berger was leading the race (first lap, then immediate exit of the track to confirm the inconsistency of the Austrian), Mansell until lap 26, when the semi-axle broke, and Piquet from the next lap until the end of the race. Behind the 38-year-old Brazilian came his teammate and compatriot Roberto Moreno (replacing Nannini), the Japanese Aguri Suzuki with the Larrousse-Lamborghini (best result ever of a Japanese driver), then Patrese, Boutsen and Nakajima. Larini, Martini, Caffi and Alliot are closed. A result found for Piquet, a Suzuki that sent in rapture the 140.000 fans present, a Williams always quite disappointing. These are the highlights of the race. It must be said, however, that the accident between Senna and Prost was not the only one at the start: Modena was hit in the crowd by Alliot, while the same Suzuki hit Capelli making him go into the sand, so much so that after a couple of stops, the Milanese had to retire with the engine crackling because of the stones boarded a little everywhere. It’s a bitter day for Ferrari. Lost the challenge for the World Drivers' Championship (and McLaren-Honda without placing a single car at the finish also won the Constructors' World Championship), lost the chance to win an important race. But what most angered the men of the Maranello team was the way in which the defeat came, completed by a resounding lightness of Nigel Mansell who was self-emptying while he was in the lead, when he stopped at the pits to change the tires and in the frenzy of starting as fast as possible he crashed a semi-axle, pumping on the accelerator while the wheels skated on the asphalt leaving large and marked black tracks. At the start, after waiting for about half a minute for the race director to display the black flag to stop the race (considering the dangerous position of the cars crashed in the first corner), Cesare Fiorio went to the commissioners to claim an intervention, but was rejected without argument. Under the first impulse, the Ferrari sports director openly accused Senna of deliberately causing the accident. Later, at the end of the ride, you will correct:
"The start was decisive. If Prost had stayed in the lead, Senna could not have resumed it because we were faster. I am surprised that a champion like the Brazilian solved the fight for the World Championship in this way. This year they did a lot of things wrong: Berger in Budapest threw Mansell out and Senna hit Nannini. In Monte-Carlo the Austrian himself had put Prost out. This time a similar fact happened: it is true that there are often episodes of racing difficult to judge, but these seem obvious to me. Those who are in front - this is one of the few things that is very clear about the regulation - have the right to set their own course. Senna, throwing himself in that way, could never have stopped. It’s a shame that a World Championship ends this way. But it’s not over. We’re going to Australia to win, because right now our cars are very competitive. As far as the sporting authorities are concerned, I hope that decisions will be taken. Ferrari does not complain, but will present a detailed and documented report on what happened this year in order to sensitize the Federation".
But, while waiting for any decisions of Jean-Marie Balestre (everything is possible, knowing the president of the FISA), now Senna is World Champion. And this Prost does not accept:
"We had a fantastic championship, perhaps the best of my career. I knew that I could win and I also knew that I should never have been able to find myself having to overcome Senna at the chicane, because for him it would be a game to close me. But I couldn’t expect him to ram me into that world at the start. He did it deliberately. He is right when he says that whoever makes the best time on trial has the right to choose the starting position. But it’s not my fault that the stewards didn’t allow him to change from right to left. So I managed to overcome it, but it was all useless".
On the matter, Nigel Mansell does not pronounce:
"I was covered by Berger’s car and I didn’t see anything. For the rest, bad luck: I controlled the race, but the transmission broke".
Ferrari, as mentioned, will present a presentation at FISA. But there will be no complaints for the Japanese Grand Prix. In the document that will be sent to the Federation will be mentioned with the utmost precision all the episodes that this year have seen the riders of the team of Maranello victims of dangerous arrembaggi. More, honestly, can’t be done. This does not mean, however, that Ferrari suffered the incorrect action of Senna with passive resignation. Said President Fusaro, who attended the race:
"We cannot accept that investment, commitment, passion, and hard work can be thrown away in this way. And if I feel sorry for Prost, for the technicians, the more it makes me angry for our mechanics who are those who have physically paid the most for the effort made to get to a level of competitiveness that at the moment sees us second to no one".
A statement, this, which may suggest the intention to start a political action against the sports authorities, to raise awareness of all the components of the sector. We must not forget that the Fiat Group, with its different brands, is certainly the most committed automotive industry in the world of racing, with a commitment ranging from the Indy formula (Alfa Romeo), rallies (Lancia), to Formula 1 with Ferrari. And Cesare Fiorio must have made a remarkable effort to hide the anger that wears him out after the race.
"We had the cards to win. There was a big difficulty in this race for overtaking. The start was important. We had prepared it well, we had developed the necessary strategies. And it had succeeded. The World Championship can be won in many ways. Let us remember that, as far as accidents are concerned, we were almost persecuted: Imola, Monte-Carlo, Budapest, Suzuka. We have paid too much for others, without going into the merits of wrong and reason, because it was our cars that stopped. Without forgetting that the race suspended in Portugal 11 laps from the end took away Prost the chance to recover valuable points. We have been competitive since the beginning of the season, and in the final maybe we have also become superior. I am sorry that the World Championship ended, as far as the allocation of titles is concerned, in this way. There were all the conditions to do a great race here and also in Australia. But maybe someone didn’t want to take the risk of going through with it. Senna is a great champion, however, this time he was wrong. I don’t want to think that he did it on purpose, also because in these cases, at 220 km/h you risk your skin. Of course he had no scruples. And he did so at the first corner, because he clearly feared, staying behind, that he could no longer reach Prost’s Ferrari".
But wasn’t the Frenchman naive enough to take the fight?
"Prost couldn’t have done otherwise. We were sure we were faster and he would have detached McLaren. So you were right to try to stay in charge, as you did and as you had the right to do. If he opened the door, he’d be chasing after it. And even if he had later managed to return to the lead he could not have lived throughout the race with the fear of being hit. This is not the way a race is meant".
However, Ferrari remains satisfied, albeit platonic: Senna and McLaren were forced to act in a certain way only because they understood that on track they would have many chances to be beaten. This is something that the Maranello team will try to demonstrate in two Sundays in Australia. It is difficult to have opinions of other drivers, because the scene took place in front of everyone. Only Jean Alesi, who had forfeited for a muscle tear to the neck, says:
"It’s a shame about the World Championship. I don’t want to add anything else. But I can say that at Jerez I was pushed out of the McLaren of Berger and nobody said anything, neither to me, nor to the Austrian. I thought I was right, but that’s not what matters. There must be rules and they must be enforced, at the cost of making mistakes. This is the only solution not to reduce our sport to a tussle".
In the meantime, Jean-Marie Balestre, after talking on television about scandal, then on the radio is even harder and criticizes the Brazilian driver and the sports commissioners in charge of the race.
"To know who is more sporty between Senna and Prost, just take the list of accidents that both caused or were the protagonists. I’m sure Senna’s list is much longer. As for the direction of the race in Japan, if I had been the one to decide I would have repeated the start, not so much for the possible dangerous situation, as for the sport: you can not decide a World Championship with an accident".
Some claim that Prost could have been more cautious, that he should have left his way to Senna at the first corner as it was decisive for him to get to the finish line. But the Frenchman rejects the hypothesis:
"Given how the facts went, I am convinced that I was right to resist overtaking. At least everyone has seen what Ayrton is made of. Besides, if I’d let him go, how could I have gotten over it? He would pull me out at the first opportunity, knowing that my car was superior and I could win. No, there was no way out. Senna deliberately hit me because he was afraid of losing the title. When I got out of the car I also wanted to punch him, but then I avoided physical contact because the snakes disgust me".
A nice compliment to the colleague with whom he made peace in Monza, after a year of quarrels and controversy. But everyone understood that it could not last, that the rivalry had to explode again. Now we wonder what will happen in the next races. In fifteen days it will run in the city track of Adelaide, where Ferrari wants to win to close a season that was not stingy with satisfactions, even if in Japan it did not give the results that were in the possibilities of the Italian team. Will there be another episode of this bumper car that tastes like revenge? And what happens next year when the two enemies face each other again? After what has been seen on the track, many will wonder if Formula 1 is a kind of old West where everything is allowed, or if instead there are rules of the game to be respected. In theory, rules exist, albeit vague and almost always disregarded. Nelson Piquet says:
"In 1980 in Montreal, while competing for the title in the penultimate race, I was deliberately thrown off track by Alan Jones who then won the World Championship. Nothing has changed since then. Every now and then someone shouts, gets agitated but, in fact, if there were not the fear of getting hurt that in some occasion restrains, the races would be bullfights. It would take a serious jury because a single person, an arbitrator, in our sport would not be enough to ensure proper disciplinary management".
The rules are there. And, as said, one of the most important articles concerns overtaking: this says that, who is in front, has the right to set the curve according to the trajectory he considers appropriate. While acknowledging that the norm can still lend itself to different interpretations and, above all, does not speak of possible punishments for those who do not respect it, the collision between Prost and Senna concerns just this case. The Frenchman was in the lead, he widened on the left to turn better to the right and Senna literally hit him in the attempt of an impossible overtaking. A normal race accident, says the Brazilian. But ninety percent of those involved, including most drivers, believe that Ayrton deliberately caused Ferrari to leave the track. In this sense, not only did the McLaren rider have committed a violation of the code of conduct, but he has committed a very risky misconduct for the rival and for himself, with the aggravation of premeditation and with a very precise and identifiable motive, the conquest of the world title. Now, if there is no precise provision to punish those who commit flagrant irregularities, it seems that the fact falls within the rules concerning the safety of competitors. If Mansell last year had been disqualified for a day having committed an infringement much less serious and all in all innocent - the insertion of the reverse in the pits after arriving too long at the change of tires - what should you do in a glaring case of lack of any respect for the rules? Penalizing Senna and taking away his title would be too much, because, beyond this disconcerting episode, once again the Brazilian was the best of the season. But an exemplary punishment would be at least necessary.
The fact is that the FIA headed by Jean-Marie Balestre can do nothing. In the sense of having created too many precedents to be allowed to act only on this occasion. After always closing his eyes can not afford to suddenly become strict. Above all, it can not do so against such a popular and important character as Senna, especially after what happened last year in the same track of Suzuka. Now, while waiting for the reactions from Balestre, there is only one possibility: that the FISA decides to set up a disciplinary commission serious and prepared to judge the wrongdoing, and punish severely without looking in anyone’s face. It will not be easy, but it is necessary, otherwise next year it will not be enough to tow trucks to remove scrap from the slopes. Sunday evening Ayrton Senna celebrates his second Formula 1 world title in a venue in the middle of the circuit park. Few close friends, some fans waiting for him in the park, no driver. The toast with a bottle of soda. The Brazilian is embraced by a Japanese girl who starts crying, moved. But not even Senna looks radiant. Perhaps the champion realized that he had exaggerated, that this world title tastes like a vengeance vengeance. And that he, now, has an image very far from that of a religious boy conquered by divine visions that for some time has been trying to credit himself. Tuesday, October 23, 1990 Ayrton Senna goes on vacation in Malaysia without knowing if and how Jean Marie Balestre will punish him. The president of FISA is tired of the Brazilian, who ruined the party he had prepared for the last race of the year in Australia. Balestre hoped to celebrate the Formula 1 Grand Prix number 500, which falls precisely in Adelaide, with a great challenge for the title. Instead everything is already over and there is also the risk that the series of revenge continues. But Senna is convinced that he is on the side of reason and has won a sacred title. He did not understand that nobody disputes his title as champion. If anything, there are doubts about how he became champion for the second time.
"I am quiet, at peace with my conscience. I did not deliberately provoke the accident with Prost. That sentence I had said the day before, that I could become champion before the end of the race, was misinterpreted. I meant that in Formula 1 there are also mechanical breaks, withdrawals for a tire that is limp, a thousand reasons not to get to the finish line. An error, for example".
But there was an accident.
"Yes, but because Prost was wrong: he was unlucky at the start, but these are the races. It had happened in the past so many times that at the first corner there was an accident. Unfortunately I was there ready to take the lead. He tried to be tough. I went inside and there was no room for two cars. If he widened there was no problem. Instead Alain closed and unfortunately we touched".
The fault for everything, therefore, in the opinion of Senna would be Prost. And then also of the sports stewards who refused to move the pole position from right to left, as Senna himself had asked.
"They left me on the wrong side, where the track was dirty. It is useless that one works two days to make the best time if he then has to suffer. In Suzuka, for three years, the runner-up has finished first at the corner after the straight start. I took a good route, but there was nothing to do, the tires were skating. I never considered the possibility of causing an accident. Also because you never know what might happen. I just wanted to win the race".
How do you consider Senna, former World Champion in 1988, this second world title?
"I consider it very different. Harder, harder to fight. Because Ferrari has been competitive since the beginning of the season. It was superior to us technically. Winning at a disadvantage is a greater merit, especially for a driver. The important thing is to arrive first: you can do it from behind as it happened two years ago in Suzuka, with a beautiful comeback. But remember, I didn’t win the championship in Japan. It matured race after race, with the first, second and third places. The last was just one of many episodes of the season: Prost was forced to impose himself. If he had thought more, at the first corner he would have given me space and then maybe he would have affirmed himself at the end. For me it was totally wrong".
And so Ayrton pronounced the sentence: Alain Prost is a naive, he had to bow down and let him pass. But what can happen now? Apart from the possible measures of Balestre, it will be necessary to wait for the press conference that traditionally precedes the tests of the Australian Grand Prix to know the intentions of our heroes. That for the moment color their already bronze face in some tropical island. Meanwhile, after the doctors' care, it will be the tranquility of the Sienese countryside and the affection of the family to complete the miracle on the arm of Alessandro Nannini. Monday, October 22, 1990 the Tuscan pilot leaves at noon the microsurgery department of the CTO of Florence. With his wife Paola by his side, Sandro reached the car at a casual pace, at whose driving there was a police officer: he went to his parents' villa in Belriguardo, a few kilometres from Siena. Says Professor Bufalini, the chief of microsurgery author of the surgery a few hours after the accident:
"The patient was in good general condition and the replanting is now out of danger, at home he will recover better, even if very slowly".
Nannini will have to return to the CTO in the next few days for checkups. In a month, a splinter of bone will be taken from his pelvis, to complete the reconstruction of the replanted arm. Villa Belriguardo is immediately transformed into a real fortress: a barred gate and an absolute prohibition of entry to strangers. Papa Danilo becomes the first bodyguard, intent on defending Alex’s privacy.
"Enough, the worst is over, Sandro now just needs rest. There has been so much noise, all right, I understand that he is a character, but now Sandro is here to spend in peace the convalescence".
He too is tired: he supported his son all these days, now he seems to let go.
"What should I say? Sandro prefers not to speak. Shut up, his arm hurts, his wounds still cause him a lot of pain. It is too early for any prediction: time must run its course. We have to wait six months to be sure of the outcome of the operation and eighteen months to be able to ascertain the complete recovery of the arm. The doctors said that we must be optimistic, Sandro is strong, however he needs so much peace".
Danilo Nannini is inflexible, does not let anyone pass: friends who want to communicate with the Tuscan pilot can only send him tickets.
"Look, it’s only been a few minutes and he’s already gotten all these messages".
And it indicates a large wicker basket where greeting letters were collected in the entrance of the house.
"He will see them tomorrow or maybe in the next days, now he can not think about all this, he just needs to rest".
On Tuesday, October 23, 1990, the French sports newspaper L'Equipe published the results of a flash poll carried out on a sample of 500 French, from which it emerges that 79% consider Prost’s behaviour normal, 77% consider Senna’s behaviour dishonest, and 93% are in favour of imposing sanctions on pilots to curb excessive heat. The most interesting data, especially for Balestre, is the question of who should judge and apply sanctions: 36% answer that this task should be carried out by the Federation, 33% prefer that a more impartial and competent commission, formed by former pilots, should decide. With these premises, on Thursday, October 25, 1990, the president of Ferrari, Piero Fusaro, sent to the president of FISA, Jean Marie Balestre, a letter in which he takes stock of the Formula 1 World Championship and the incident between Prost and Senna in the Japanese Grand Prix. In the letter, in addition to recalling that for the second time in a row the credibility of the World Championship has been damaged, Fusaro asks from the beginning of the next championship concrete measures in case of similar accidents.
"The dignity and credibility of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship have been seriously undermined, as the conclusion of the title race was marked by an accident between the two pretenders. It is not for us to suggest the nature of the sanctions that the sporting authority will decide to apply, nor to define the framework of responsibilities, but only to invite you to take appropriate measures. We do not even claim that the result of the championship is changed, but we believe that the fact of representing the only team that participated in all editions of the Formula 1 championship, oblige us to formally raise the issue of participants' behaviour and the worrying worsening of the situation".
Fusaro also recalls three passages of the judgment of 31 October 1989 of the Court of Appeal of the FIA, following an overtaking manoeuvre of rare temerarity made by Senna against Prost in the Japanese Grand Prix, in which are listed all the things that should not happen on the track.
"We believe that the Court of Appeal has fully identified and highlighted the risks faced by drivers and the championship itself if concrete, immediate and energetic measures are not taken to put an end to the behavior of some conductors. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the supreme judicial authority of motor sport do not seem to have been received by those who should have applied them on the circuits since the beginning of the championship that is ending. There have in fact been many incidents which have affected the 1990 championship, accidents which were frequently the same, as well as the victims, unfortunately for us. In this regard, we would like to recall the letter we addressed to you last August, following the serious events of the Hungarian Grand Prix. There is every reason to believe that, because of the lack of firmness of the race officials, some participants considered that collisions are now a race tactic tolerated, if not authorized, in the Formula 1 World Championship, thus seriously endangering the safety of all and the raison d'être of the very large investments required by this activity. That said, we also propose, in a constructive perspective, that a procedure be initiated for the adoption of concrete measures that should be applied from the beginning of the next championship, the absence of which could lead to more serious and painful consequences. To this end, we are at your disposal to help you find suitable solutions".
Maranello is a firm invitation not to let Formula 1 die. Italian sport has always been proud not only of its successes, but also of the initiatives it has been able to take on many occasions, with managers often at the forefront. As now the Ferrari. In a delicate moment for Formula 1, undermined on the tracks by a creeping violence that in the long run could call into question the very existence of the great circus, the Maranello company does not back down, it takes on a need that is for everyone. Ferrari is the historic leader of Formula 1, the role is certainly not called into question by the sports results that at the moment see McLaren prevail by measure. In this key must be interpreted the letter that President Fusaro sends to the other president Balestre. Ferrari has sensed the danger and calls firmly to curb the escalation of accidents. A lot has changed in the last year and a half in racing. Before the main problem was reliability, it was important to get to the finish line. Today races are hardly decided by sudden withdrawals. Success is played in a clean way with the battle for pole position, since on many tracks overtaking are problematic, or unfortunately less clean with the other battle, that of ramming. Of which Ferrari has made this year heavy expenses.There is no arrogance in this letter. There is a pressing call for reflection. There is no shadow of blackmail, there is no question of the sporting result, but there is great firmness. Where it is said that there could be painful consequences, there is no threat of withdrawal from Formula 1 either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but it is implied that in the long run this could be the only landing place if the tracks become jungles. For Crossbows collect this invitation to draw up an inflexible code of racing is a precise duty. As for the other teams follow the initiative, if they want Formula 1 does not die. The following day, Friday, October 26, 1990, the letter sent by Piero Fusaro, president of Ferrari to Jean Marie Balestre, and the response of the head of FISA, does not take the world of Formula 1 by surprise.
"The World Council and its President will not tolerate a long-term prejudice, in any form whatsoever, to a sporting heritage that has required 40 long years for its development and of which Ferrari is the oldest participant. Fusaro can be sure that the recent incidents did not leave me insensitive".
The exhibition had already been announced in Suzuka. But the tone of the communication, the determination displayed, have aroused different reactions and not a little concern. Ferrari said it was satisfied with Balestre’s response, especially because the FISA President understood perfectly the spirit in which the letter was written. Concern, and here a premise must be made immediately: this need for clarity comes at a very delicate time for the relations between the Fisa and the American Cart, the organization that deals with Formula Indy. Americans are trying to broaden their horizons and announced in the calendar '91 the first race in Australia, at Surfers Paradise, a kind of local Long Beach, where the city is covered with posters announcing the race (March 13, 1991). FISA is in every way trying to block the initiative. The national championships - he claims - must be played in the borders of the countries concerned. And threatens disqualifications. What does all this mean? That the statement of Ferrari, according to which she could no longer be interested in a certain type of violent and uncontrolled Formula 1, adds to a very delicate moment during which Balestre and his deputy, Bernie Ecclestone, they must be careful not to make any more mistakes. Because they risk destroying the winning format. In the environment everyone agrees that it will be necessary to do something to tidy up, avoid incidents like Suzuka. The intentionality of the Senna-Prost collision could be discussed forever. The fact remains that the Brazilian could act in this way knowing that he would remain unpunished. Pilots, managers, insiders, have admitted that it will be mandatory to find a solution to restore credibility to Formula 1. Not only with the establishment of that commission of control of departures announced by Balestre in Belgium, but immediately fell into oblivion. According to the majority, a pilot committee should be appointed to study a code to be respected. The proposals should then be examined by the Federation, and the application of the rules studied and guaranteed by a group of experts. Warnings, punishments (fines and disqualifications) should be made after careful study of the facts. However, many details remain to be taken into account, given the complexity of the arguments. Immediate measures in the race, or for subsequent tests? Cumulative punishments (such as yellow and red cards) or distinct? Replacement of disqualified drivers or teams halved in certain cases? It is already important that this is discussed and Ferrari has already achieved the first goal.