Friday, September 2nd, 1988, was supposed to be a clarifying day, which would solve all the doubts after the withdrawal of both the Ferrari cars in Spa. Instead, Ferrari leaves Monza with even more uncertainties, questions, unsolved problems, when it is only one week left for the Italian Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger is not able to complete the simulation of the race on Monza’s track: to complete 39 out of the 50 laps, he is forced to stop four times, and finally he gives up the race. When the weather clears up, the Austrian driver starts again, the aim being to complete the 50 laps. After 5 laps, he stops, to clean the radiator from the leaves in the heat reduction system. He starts again, but is forced to get back to the box after 12 laps, because the gearbox is broken. The fixing imposes an hour’s break, then he goes back on track, but must return to the box after 7 laps, to replace a defective sensor. The direction of the Autodromo had reserved the track for Ferrari until 6.00 p.m., but allows them to stay 45 minutes more. Berger is determined to end these troubled tests in the best way possible. So, the car number 28 starts again, and the Austrian driver sets a time of 1'30"03, which is quite good, even though it is still far from last August’s time (1'27"45). So Ferrari is going through a final dilemma: when it is only 11 laps left, they decide to go back to the box. The Austrian driver tries to explain that but does not sound totally convincing.
"The gearbox got stiff again, so it was useless to continue".
The other team supervisors state:
"We were supposed to end the test at 4.30 p.m., we could not overdo".
It is strange though, because there was still enough time to complete the 11 laps regularly. The most plausible hypothesis to solve this little dilemma is that of engine superheating. Eng. Cappelli, responsible for sport management, declares:
"We are, let’s say, 80% satisfied, because we did not finish the simulation. We wanted to verify our hypothesis about the engine breaking in Spa, and check whether the engine improvements worked. The aim is getting a better power distribution and use less fuel usage. Our goal now is to end this season in a positive way, without neglecting the most important project, which is, the naturally aspirated engine".
In the meantime, after some uncertainty and the spreading of conflictive rumours, Frank Williams finally decides to continue with Riccardo Patrese. So, most likely, Michele Alboreto won’t race with Williams. Ferrari had previously replaced him with Nigel Mansell for the 1989 World Championship. A happy moment for Patrese then, who will race together with Thierry Boutsen next year. On the contrary, a sad moment for Alboreto: he had hoped that he could race with a competitive team. Besides, Williams will have a great advantage next year, which is, the ten-cylinders aspirated engine by Renault. We have to say, Pratese’s renewal is a fair decision: the driver’s behaviour with the teams he had run for during a long time was always absolutely flawless, also during the difficult times, such as Brabham in 1987. He has never complained, he has always given his 100%, with a total commitment. Riccardo is a brave, determined, fast and capable driver, who has never lost his spirit, even though he has been racing in Formula One for more than a decade now. Maybe it is precisely his attitude that has gained him his renewal with Williams. Certainty, the designer Patrick Head, who is getting more and more important in the English team, has influenced this decision. But also, Bernie Ecclestone is said to have helped Patrese, since he is of his biggest admirers. Michele Alboreto is now going through a difficult moment. He has not many options now, since the best seats are already taken. Maybe he could go to Lotus, but Nelson Piquet has already got a contract as the first driver. So Alboreto would have to be the second driver, and for someone like him, who has achieved the best positions in the value ranking, it is simply impossible to accept it. Another possibility for him might be March: they need to arrange a second team, completely new, for the 1989 World Championship.
But in this case, since Alboreto would have no points, he should pass through the pre-qualifying. So, there is only one option left, which is the most probable: going back to the origins, which is, Tyrrell. Michele started racing in Formula One with Tyrrell, and he's had a good debut, winning two races, that were also Tyrrell’s last two wins. Tyrrell has recently approved a relaunch project, after some troubled years. They hired Harvey Postlethwaite as technical supervisor, and Migeot as the aerodynamics supervisor, both coming from Ferrari. Should Alboreto choose this option, he would face a new challenge. Despite some bureaucratic troubles, the Autodromo of Monza will keep existing and hosting prestigious races, being an authentic temple for car racing. The Milan municipality should define the procedures for the structural renewal before the Italian Grand Prix. This is necessary to get the grant for the Italian Formula One Grand Prix from FIA, for the coming years. FIA had previously clarified that, should the renewal not take place soon, the Grand Prix would be cancelled. So, the days before the most important sport week of the year start in a good way, the tension is easing, unless there are other complications. Now that this long-standing matter is over, the focus is on two main questions, waiting for the twelfth race of the World Championship. The first one is, who will the winner be? The competition between Prost and Senna is now at the last stretch. Despite the capitulation of the French driver after the Belgian Grand Prix, a reaction is to be expected from the two-times World Champion. Overall, this track suits well to his qualities. Someone thinks that Prost wants to influence his rival psychologically, acknowledging his superiority and trying to make him lose his concentration. It is simply not possible that Senna would arrive in Monza thinking that he has already won. The Brazilian man will give it all, both during the qualifying and in the race. It is possible that he could win the championship before the end: actually, a win would still not give him the mathematical certainty, but would give him such an advantage that he could consider himself champion. Ayrton could even be disadvantaged, though, for a matter of mere probability, since he has achieved an incredible series of positive results and four consecutive wins.But anyway, it will be very hard to beat him, because of his great maturity and determination, that leaves nothing to the control of fate.
For those of you who love statistics, we shall say that Prost is the record man of wins (32) in nine years of career, he debuted in Formula One in 1980. Senna is five years younger, he debuted in 1984 and has 13 wins, so he is much more longing for success. In comparison with his opponent, the Brazilian driver participated to the half of the races (73 against 132). Nevertheless, he maintained the first position during 4616 km, against Alain's 7580 km. This means that with a reliable car as McLaren, it is easy enough to predict his win again. The second big question concerns Ferrari: will the Maranello team be able to get close to McLaren? And what concerns mostly the Ferrari fans, is there any hope to win at least a race before the end of the season? It is quite hard to answer this question. In Francorchamps, despite the withdrawal of both Berger and Albereto, there have been some improvements in the lap time. The team has worked a lot both in Fiorano and during the practice in Monza on Friday. The aim is to solve the problems that affect the engine and the fuel usage, but also reliability, that apparently has gotten worse, in favour of some improvements to make the six-cylinders engine faster. It seems almost impossible, and it cannot be expected to give good result on the short run, which is, in Monza on Sunday. But there's always hope. It would be wrong to instil hope and then disappoint the fans. Nevertheless, there is a chance that Ferrari could be a rather dangerous outsider in the Italian GP, maybe to decide in some way the Prost-Senna duel. A favourable episode would be enough, for instance, a pole position grabbed with a little bit of luck, to instil hope in the fans' hearts. Anyway, the Ferrari fans should be cohesive and support the Maranello team, stay close to Albereto and Berger, because they are the only ones that can counteract the McLaren-Honda binomial. Moreover, Formula One needs a liven up this year, it has been rather boring, even though the Senna-Prost duel is always a great show. While the fans are waiting for the start of the Italian Grand Prix, on Wednesday, September 7, 1998, Fiat officially acquires Ferrari (they already possessed the 50% of the shares). The Turin company informs through an official statement that they have acquired the 40% of the Ferrari shares in the last months, since the passing of Engineer Enzo Ferrari.
"Fiat acquires this further percentage of the Ferrari company in compliance with the agreement settled in the proper occasion".
Fiat is now controlling the 90% of the small but very prestigious Maranello company. The remaining 10% is held by Piero Lardi, Enzo Ferrari's son and currently Ferrari's vice-president. Such an acquisition costed Fiat 19.000.000.000 Italian Liras.
"The price has been set by both parts at the time".
About this, there's rumour of a meeting between Fiat and Ferrari at the beginning of the eighties. Enzo Ferrari polished all the details last June. He was already ill, and had a long meeting in Modena with Fiat Auto's president Vittorio Ghidella, who is now also Ferrari's president. In that occasion, Ferrari decided to entrust Fiat also with the management of the prestigious Formula One race department, Scuderia Ferrari. Fiat started acquiring some shares of Ferrari in 1969. The Turin factory acquired the 50% of the Ferrari shares, so it controlled the manufacturing part of Ferrari, the one that produces Gran Turismo cars. Despite this, Enzo Ferrari still had the control over the race department. Piero Lardi declares:
"We have always had a good relationship with Fiat. I hope that they continue to believe in the potential that this company has, and give a boost to its growth".
Piero Lardi has been designed by his father as the sole heir. In his will, that has been read in these days, he talks about the Modena house where he lived, about the Fiorano track and other buildings, but there is nothing about the Ferrari shares. This is exactly because there was already an agreement between Ferrari and Fiat.
"I will try to carry on my father's charity work as much as I can, in particular for muscular dystrophy".
Fiat is very solid, both from the point of view of manufacturing and economic resources, as the last financial statements confirm. The sales volume was 206.000.000.000 Liras in 1984, and last year has improved (360.000.000.000 Liras). The profit was 7.000.000.000 Liras in 1983 and 14.700.000.000 Liras in 1987. The business is excellent: almost 4000 cars sold in 1987. Fiat offers nine different car models, the price ranging from 83.000.000 Liras to almost 400.000.000 Liras. Ferrari is always a legend, even though its founder departed: despite this, the situation in Formula One is critical. Michele Alboreto is facing a difficult period and still looking for a seat, after Patrese's renewal with Williams. The English team is the protagonist of another astonishing story. Nigel Mansell is still absent, recovering, and Williams had asked Martin Brundle to race, as he had already done in Belgium. The driver had accepted to race in the Italian Grand Prix, but on Wednesday Jaguar forbid him to race on Sunday. This is because Brundle is racing for them in the endurance championship, and they do not want to take such a risk, since he has to race in the Spa 1000 km the following week. Williams asks Ferrari for Roberto Moreno on loan, who is currently leading the Formula 3000 Championship. He has to develop the naturally aspirated engine. The answer is negative, because the two factories have different sponsors and are rivals. Williams is now looking for a driver, but it won't be easy to find someone. On the other hand, there's good news about the technicians. On Wednesday, September, 7, 1988, Larrousse-Camel announces that they have hired the French Gerard Ducarouge for 1989. He will leave Lotus to work for the French company, he will supervise the collaboration with Lola (chassis provider) and Lamborghini (engines providers). Speaking of engines, the new 12-cylinder engine realized for Subaru by Engineer Carlo Chiti, with his co-workers from Motori Minardi, is rehearsed in Milan. it is a rather big engine (a boxer), but it is interesting, because of the used materials and some cutting-edge solutions, such as the five valves per cylinder, more than 600 rpm power.
Motori Moderni has the authorization to sell the engines, thanks to a deal with Minardi. But what are the intentions of the Japanese factory that financed the construction (investing 4.000.000.000 Liras approximately until now)? This is still not clear. There are rumours about a Gran Turismo car, but if the engine is competitive, it will possibly be used for racing. The Monza track is old, out of fashion, and in danger of disappearing. Maybe it is all true, but in these days, the new plan for renewing it is to be approved and could save it from such an inglorious end. The old Autodromo still has its charming, though. So, on Friday , September 7, 1988, The Monza Circuit, the most famous circuit in the word, will be all dressed up for the first day of free practice, with a huge crowd of people as always. Monza and Ferrari. McLaren's dominance has not managed to undermine the Ferrari desire for a win. The Maranello team, after a period of understandable uncertainty, is trying to raise up again. It is risky to say now that Berger and Alboreto could give troubles to Senna and Prost on Sunday. But for the first time, there's a new hope in Ferrari, expressed without ambiguity, as it is typical of the Austrian driver.
"We got closer to McLaren. Unfortunately, in Spa I had to stop after a few laps. But if I understand something about race cars, I saw that we have improved a lot. I could have surpassed Prost in Belgium, and maybe even tried to catch Senna. The lap times are very clear".
How did you get to these improvements?
"For what concerns the chassis, apart from some specific races, we haven't had any big trouble. In the last race it was just perfect. So, it is clear that the improvement is thanks to the engine. With the recent changes, our technicians managed to make the torque better, with a lower rpm regime. This allows us to have a better progression, a complete exploitation of the engine also in the turns, and maybe also less fuel usage. Unfortunately, we don't have the final proof for the last point yet, which will be the race. Overall, we are doing fine".
So, it is possible to beat McLaren?
"Theoretically speaking, at least it is less far. The reliability of the car is always unknown. Also, it is to be seen whether Senna and Prost are driving with some room for improvement. We have to understand whether they are pushing to the limit or if they are sparing their energies. In such a case, if they had some unused potential, it would be impossible to get close to them".
Can Ferrari win in Monza on Saturday?
"Honestly, it is still too early to say. We'll see on Friday and on Saturday during the free practice. Anyway, I am far more optimistic than in the past, and I think that we can do a good race, if there's no reliability problems. Then we will try to get a win in the end of the season. It would be fantastic to repeat at least what we did last year, when we won the last two races".
Berger looks calm and determined. Alboreto, too, looks calm, even though he is less confident than his teammate.
"Maybe this is still not our track. Maybe later, in the next practice session".
For sure, the rider from Milan is not going through a happy moment, after he was rejected by Frank Williams, who had promised him a seat for 1989. Alboreto is working for his future, then, even though he does not neglect his commitment to Ferrari:
"As long as I am here, I will do my best to achieve the best result possible".
He has several contacts, but does not want to reveal them. There's a rumour about Tyrrell, of course, but also about Benetton. The Anglo-Italian factory, after signing Nannini and leaving Boutsen, had set eyes on Johnny Herbert. But the young English driver has had a very serious accident in Brands Hatch in Formula 3000 and has reported the fracture of both his legs. The doctors will say when he will recover completely. Furthermore, it looks like Benetton is not willing to have a team composed by two Italian drivers. It is understandable, considering that their company policy is based on internationality. Anyway, someone appreciates Alboreto's skills. Apparently, Mercedes has offered him 500.000 dollars to race in the endurance world championship. In the meantime, the doubt about Williams is solved: for the Italian Grand Prix, they will race with two cars. Patrese will drive one of them, a usual: Nigel Mansell is still recovering, so he will be replaced by the French Jean Louis Schlesser. This is almost the only choice that the English team has, since they do not intend to take a lot of risks with an absolute rookie. So, they preferred Schlesser, who had already tested Williams cars during some private tests. Schlesser has taken part only to a single Grand Prix in his career, five years ago, in Brands Hatch, in a Race of Champions that did not give any points for the Word Championship. He got a more than respectable sixth place, with a rather mediocre Ram. Schlesser is 36 years and is currently leading the endurance drivers' championship with Sauber Mercedes, which is the official car of the German factory, entrusted to a team. He is now 14 points ahead of Martin Brundle. He has won six out of the eleven races that took place this year. He is quite an extravagant man, with an adventurous past, impulsive, he is engaged to Bjorn Borg's ex-wife. His first statement in the press conference is at least surprising:
"Williams is one of the best cars with the naturally aspirated engine. But in Monza, the turbo engines perform better. Even better for me! This way I will have less pressure on me".
Did he hope he could win, even though it is just his second race in Formula One, the first actual Championship race? For sure, he has guts. On Friday, September 9th, 1998, all the other drivers are on track until the very last minute, trying to improve their times, to gain just a few tenths of a second. Instead, he is in the box, watching and smiling. This is how Ayrton Senna ends the first day of qualifying of the Italian Grand Prix. He is the leader, as usual, even though in the end, the friend and rival Alain Prost got dangerously closer. The Brazilian driver set a time of 1'26"160, with an average speed of more than 240 km/h. The French man is just 0.117 seconds behind, which is nothing.
"My McLaren was not bad, but it is clear that in the second session of free practice we will need to do better. After using the race car, I wanted to set up also the second car. I made a mistake at the second chicane, and I ruined the floor of the car and degraded the tyres completely".
This means that Senna could not show his full potential. Prost, too, says that he has had several problems with the traffic and the engine. So, we will witness a great battle between McLaren's drivers on Saturday for the pole position, which does not seem to be within other teams or other drivers' reach. Ferrari is once again the second factory: Albereto is third and Berger is fourth, despite several problems. The Italian driver ended up stuck in the middle of the track because of a problem with the transmission, while the Austrian driver broke the clutch of the second gear. This problem could not be fixed on time, so Berger was forced to stop. The sports director, Marco Piccinini, explains:
"There was a second car ready for Alboreto, and it was not possible to change it all, set-up and regulations".
When the Italian driver got back on track with the second car, the tyres degraded. Hence, Ferrari too did not manage to unleash its full potential. It is unlikely that they could have the same pace as McLaren, as Alboreto himself declared:
"We improved the engine, in order to get a better progression during the race, we changed a lot of things. Despite this, we are still not able to prepare an engine apt for qualifying. Anyway, we are now focused on the race".
Because of the questions of the journalists, the Italian rider talks about his situation and about the fact that he did not go to Williams. He states:
"I had been called by the English factory, and told them my conditions. They have not been accepted. Anyway, I have not signed for any factory yet, nether for Tyrrell. I still have time, until March".
"I did not want to be in the same technical situation that I found in Ferrari in these years".
A blame for the Maranello team, then. There is a rumour that Mansell will leave at the end of the season. In this case, wouldn't Alboreto want to stay in Ferrari?
"No, no way".
Neither with the new management?
"Least of all, with the new management".
Serious declarations, maybe they are due to the hard moment that the driver is facing psychologically. In any case, Piccinini states that he has phoned Mansell, who is recovering, and denies that the English rider will leave at the end of the season. A rumour spreads about a contact with Prost, but this is denied, too. Instead, it is true that Marco Piccinini will leave his position as Ferrari sports director after 10 years. He himself announces it, alleging that it was a very important experience both professionally and personally. It is likely that Ferrari will call Cesare Fiorio, who is currently sports director for the Alfa-Lancia race department. Speaking of goodbyes, Alboreto talks about his next team.
"There is still nothing sure. The talks with Tyrrell are going on, for sure. Lotus? It remains to be seen".
The engine suppliers are also about to change. Honda announced formally that in 1989, it will provide only to McLaren the ten-cylinder aspirated engine.
"We expect to have a huge competition, so it is better to gather all our forces".
They will leave Lotus, that from now on will be equipped with Judd engines. There is a new Japanese factory: Yamaha announces that they will equip the German factory Zakspeed. It is an 8-cylinder engine, which comes from the one used in Formula 3. It is based on the Ford Cosworth engine, but there's a difference: the cylinder head has 5 valves for each cylinder. It is a V8-engine, 75 degrees, 3489 cc, 600 hp, 11000 rpm. It is light and small: the Yamaha engine could be a dangerous weapon. Also because Zakspeed, which in these years was always a less important team, got stronger. They hired the Austrian technician Gustav Brunner: a very important personality, who worked also for Ferrari. About the drivers, the young Schneider should be confirmed, while there are talks ongoing with Andrea De Cesaris. Going back to the free practice, there was also a little surprise: the Arrows are back in the first positions. Cheever is fifth, Warwick is sixth. What happened? They simply modified the forced induction system of the Megatron engine. As a result, they got more power at their disposal and an incredible speed, to the point that Cheever is the fastest driver on the finish line, 311 km/h.
Will the Arrows be dangerous also in the race? This remains to be seen. Sandro Nannini finished P8, and he is the best of all the riders driving with an aspirated engine. He is six tenths of second ahead of Ivan Capelli; an inglorious debut for Schlesser with Williams (P21). But we have to say that the English cars did not feel at ease in Monza, indeed, Patrese got only P12. Ayrton Senna is looking for new records. The pole position on Saturday to overcome Lauda, Peterson and Piquet, since it would be nine pole positions in the same season. On Sunday, a victory to achieve seven victories in the same season, a record that he shares with Clark and Prost. If all goes well, he will get 10 pole positions and 8 victories, surpassing all the great champions of the present and the past. This is the goal of the Brazilian driver in the Italian Grand Prix, the twelfth race of the Formula One World Championship. The McLaren driver, obstinately, does not want to talk about the World Championship yet.
"Even if I won this race, I would still not be World Champion yet. So, we'll wait".
Superstition? Caution? The fist hypothesis is more likely. It is not to exclude that the conclusion of the championship shall be postponed. But it is practically sure that Senna could not be surpassed in any case. To win the championship, Prost should win in Monza, and also in three out of the four races remaining. The probability to achieve such a result is extremely low, for three main reasons. First, Senna was always the fastest in the last free practice, the French man himself recognized it. Second, Prost has managed to finish all the races this year, except for the English Grand Prix, when he willingly left the race. So, it is increasingly likely, for a matter of mere probability, that he will have a negative day, for some technical problem or something. And, most of all, there are other teams, especially Ferrari, that want to get at least a win before the end of the season. It is not sure that they will achieve that, but also this fact should be considered. In such a case, Prost would be disadvantaged, while Senna would find an accidental ally.
"My only concern is racing".
"Senna is a real devil, he's understood it all. It is difficult to beat him also from this point of view. He is too careful and precise. Every move he makes is the product of a long study. He talks for hours to the designers and the mechanics, in an exhausting interchange of questions and opinions, almost a questioning. And after such a questioning he rarely makes any mistake. So, he is as strong on the track as he is outside. How could anyone surpass him?"
Is this an unconditional surrender? Hopefully not. Not like the reigning World Champion has already done, who together with Prost, is the most representative driver on the starting grid: he's got three Word Championship titles, 20 victories, 24 pole positions. He is also the "king" of Monza, where he has won four times, starting from 1980. Nelson Piquet is not facing a positive moment: Lotus has betrayed him. He has arrived in the team lead by Peter Warr at the beginning of the season, after he surprisingly left Williams. He was hopeful and had the ambition to achieve good results with the new car. The experts had said:
"Thanks to Piquet, Lotus will come back".
Instead, the exact opposite is true. Neither the Brazilian driver, who is famous as test driver, managed to fix the car designed by Gerard Ducarouge, as much as he is a good designer. Nelson Piquet states, smiling but a bit disappointed:
"This is why a lot of people think that I am finished, that I gave up. They argue that I am distracted, that my personal issues took over the public ones, which is, my driver career. This is absolutely not true: I am always willing to win. Just give me a McLaren and I will show you that I can still win".
Speaking of McLaren: Piquet is certainly one of the insiders that can better analyse the situation the day before the Italian Grand Prix. The race shall be decisive for the Championship, as it happened also in other circumstances in the past.
"Given that almost certainly even my teammate Satoru Nakajima, could win the championship if he drove one of those red and white racing cars that Senna and Prost drive; I can say that Ayrton will win the Championship. The gap is too huge to fill. This is the first time Piquet publicly acknowledges that Senna is really fast. We had a personal argument, and we are not friends. But this does not mean that I do not recognize the ability of my compatriot. Senna is a great driver, for sure he is the best at the present time, always taking into consideration the car at his disposal. Even he could not do much better than I am doing, if he was to drive this year's Lotus. Anyway, he has proved that he has learned a lot, that he matured, that he is racing also using strategy and intelligence. That is what he lacked before, because he was already fast. He deserves the title".
Who will win in Monza?
"Logic says Senna. If nothing unpredictable occurs, such as a technical problem. I don't think that Prost will be able to battle with him, also because I think that the french man has been defeated also psychologically. At this point he has understood that his rival can always beat him".
What do you think about Ferrari?
They have lost ground in the last years. They could not compete with the best teams, despite all the means at their disposal. A clever approach lacked. They are trying to come back now, and I think they will do it in no time. Although I don't think that they will bother McLaren in Monza. Maybe in the last two races, Suzuka and Australia, like it happened last year. In any case, they will be a team to beat next year. If they manage to create a good car. The next day, Saturday, September 10, 1988, Ayrton Senna gets his tenth pole position and is looking for a win on Sunday in the Italian Grand Prix, which would be the completion of his successful career. The Brazilian driver starts from pole-position for the tenth time this season. Nobody did never do better from the very beginning of Formula One. Niki Lauda got nine pole positions in a single season, twice, and the same did Rennie Peterson in 1973 and recently also Nelson Piquet. Senna surpassed them all. But what the Brazilian driver wants is winning, is success, is the Word Championship. On Saturday he will try to take an incredible full win: to take the eights victory in a single season, surpassing Clark and Prost, who both had seven seasonal victories. If Senna got a win, Prost would be in a great trouble for the championship, and for Senna it would be just a formality. Senna again, McLaren again, the duel with Prost again. The Brazilian did not even have much difficulty in the last qualifying session. His time (1'25"974), with an average speed of 242.864 km/h, was even worse than the time he had set in the morning in the free practice (1'25"733). The French driver tried to stay close to him, but had a spin in the end, because the transmission gripped. The big question for this Grand Prix, at least for what concerns the two rivals, is the following: will the Frenchman try everything to fill the gap with Senna or will he just accept his superiority? And also, will the two McLaren keep performing perfectly, never any problem, allowing the two lucky drivers to battle for the victory? As for the first question, only Prost can answer, on the track. As for the second one, it seems granted that the answer will be positive. Ferrari, who is in the second raw, hopes in a McLaren failure. The Maranello cars improved a lot on Saturday, but they still don't have the means to stand out in the free practice. The race could be very difficult, but this is a leitmotif repeated since the beginning of the championship.
There's the risk of having problems in terms of fuel usage and reliability , who has been proved to be still unsure in these days (gearbox problems). Berger surpassed Alboreto, gaining the third position, and claims that he could have surpassed Prost, too. But Senna is out of reach. Despite this, Ferrari still has the determination of the Austrian driver, who is ready to take risks, maybe cutting off the chicane, which is a fundamental part of the track. Also, Michele Alboreto wants to finally get a satisfying result, since he will race for Ferrari for the last time in front of the home crowd. But it would take a miracle. Also, because Ferrari, in its desperate attempt to battle with McLaren, will have to pay attention to the surprising Arrows, driven by a wonderful Cheever and Warwick. The English team got dangerous thanks to some important improvements to the engine, but in the race, they shall not perform as well as in the qualifying. And then there are the others, the ones which have no hope for a victory. From Piquet to the two Benetton drivers, Boutsen e Nannini, Patrese, Capelli. They push hard, too, but have not the same means that McLaren or Ferrari have. They too will give a great show to the Monza fans, who are showing the usual passion for car racing and the Italian colours. The two Minardi did quite a good job, the cars are renewed and more competitive: the two drivers, Martini and Sala, are moved and moving for the improvements. Osella (Larini) has improved a lot, thanks to the great commitment of the team (many nights in the garage), together with Daliara (Caffi). It shall be a great show, and hopefully there will be some Italian car or driver on the podium. Johnson finished P3 in 1986 with Ferrari. The Ferrari fans had some great satisfactions in the past, culminated with the World Championship won by Jody Scheckter in 1979, which in any case now is far away. Their desire for a victory has grown more and more. There's just nothing ahead, around and behind Ayrton Senna. There are no rivals, with the exception of the champions of the past, there are no problems and no Grand Prix, because the circuits end up being all the same, just like the victories. Nothing, apart from the straight line of a perfect season. The only possible challenge is the one with the statistics and the records.
"People usually think of me as an impassive, calculating person, a computer. This is not true. I got emotional today. Ten pole positions in a single season are a great achievement. There's a lot of work behind and the commitment of a lot of people. It is a great car. But I also think I deserve it. I always had to push and to take risks".
As he did on Friday.
"Yes, but I was not really thinking about the timing. I wanted to test the setup in the fast lap".
He has beaten everyone, but he never relaxes, a real perfectionist. If he has no opponents, he invests them:
"If I got a win here, it would be another record, but I still would not have the championship guaranteed. I know how Prost is like, he will never give up".
But maybe Prost has already given up. At the end of the free practice, he shakes his head after exiting the second chicane.
"I don't know what happened. Maybe some mechanic problem. Senna is so fast; we have to try all the viable solutions. But it is getting harder and harder".
In addition, the French drive does not particularly like this track.
"You have to cut off the chicane, and this is not really my cup of tea. Some drivers even go out of the track with the whole car. I have had to adapt to this tecnique, otherwise, I would have lost too much time in the free practice session. This situation should be regulated, raising the curb or changing the turn design. But here it is not possible to do anything, the ecologist have already threatened even to cancel the Grand Prix".
The rivalry in the McLaren family it keeps latent, covered by a show-off team spirit. Prost says:
"Now I have got to consult Ayrton. As for the race, I still don't know whether I will adopt some of his solutions, or he will adopt some of mine. Eventually, we have two cars at the very same level at our disposal, and, unless there is some technical problem, it will be a McLaren double. We have got no problems".
A McLaren double: does it mean, another Senna victory?
"You'll say... I always give my best, but Ayrton is simply perfect".
Prost gives a hint of a smile. He is going through a long but conscious process of realizing that he is at the end of his career. The other day, he confessed to the old Balestre, with a sigh and a little bit of craftiness:
"It's hard to feel old…".
One of the worst places in the world to get a catharsis before the race is Ferrari's box. Every year, one would say that it could not be more crowded, chaotic, the fans could not get any closer. Instead, the escalation has no limits, despite the results, despite being the first race in Monza since Enzo Ferrari's passing. Or, better, without his shadow, because the Drake had not come here for a long time. Ferrari is the second team in the minor championship, after McLaren. But it is possible for a Ferrari to battle with McLaren? Berger is ready to take risks to achieve that. He made it clear in the free practice, for he ended out of the track in the first chicane:
"A cross-country race, but the only possible way is to take the biggest risk. McLaren are better and better, and Monza is a super-fast track, there are no curves nor particularly difficult sectors. The only choice is to brake as late as you can, but if that does not work, you end up spinning".
For a moment, Berger even though that he could start the race ahead of Prost.
"But there was something wrong in the front of the car, and I had troubles with the gearbox. Otherwise, I could have been half a second faster".
Instead, Michele Alboreto is not that optimistic.
"Beating Prost? I don’t think it is fair to delude ourselves, and also to give people false hopes. It will be difficult even to try to stay close to him and if we try to, it is likely that we will have fuel usage problems".
For the twelfth time then, it will be McLaren v/s all the other factories. On the background, the internal duel in Ferrari, which has tightened more and more recently, and not only recently. Alboreto is celebrating, let’s put it this way, one year as Berger’s second driver with a joke.
"If he is always in the first positions, it is not only his credit".
Can he explain this? No, he can’t. He shrugs his shoulders.
"You interpret this, I think it is more than clear".
Another bad episode for a story that is about to finish.
"I have some wonderful memories of these five years, about Enzo Ferrari and other friends. Now I will have to focus on the new project. Considering how things are going, I will only see Ferrari when they lap me".
An indirect confirmation that he is likely to race with a minor team, maybe Tyrrell. The driver from Milan leaves Ferrari after five years, mostly of deceptions, and becomes an ordinary driver again. He knows it and leaves with a sad awareness: he will not be missed.
"Whoever takes my place in Ferrari, from that day will be idolized. The fans don't care the name nor the nationality. Being Italian does not matter so much at the end of the day. Ferrari is what matters".
Eleven victories out of eleven Grand Prix so far. That's how McLaren-Honda arrives to Monza. An unprecedented record in Formula One's history: this was possible thanks to the high performance of MP4/4, an almost perfect car. MP4/4 is a very shallow car, it just seems flat like a sole. The McLaren designers have reclined even more the driver's seat and almost removed all the car body at the two sides of the driver. The accurate research in terms of aerodynamics can be seen also in the careening of the engine compartment, that allows the rear wing to perform perfectly. The MP4/4, like all the McLaren cars of the last years, has got am important rear tapering, which improves the Drag coefficient and permits the construction of a big rear (Condotto Venturi). The aim of this is giving lift decrease, which is, a negative lift towards the floor, in the back of the car, giving more grip and motility. The internal aerodynamics is really refined as well, and it ensures the cooling down of the heating parts and strokes the air vents. McLaren built the first carbon-fibre chassis in 1981, and still is one of the few factories to keep the shell separated from the car body. This particular kind allows to change the aerodynamics in any moment, without interfering on the structure of the car. Currently, Prost and Senna's monocoque car is considered one of the most rigid and balanced thanks to the good suspensions. The MP4/4 kinematics is as always the double overlapping triangle, the transverse tie-rod pushing on the spring-damper group. This outline has been tested a lot, and together with the perfect aerodynamics of the car and the chassis, allows the tyres to perform at their best. And to have less stressed tyres means gaining precious seconds with respect to the rivalries. But the true secret weapon is the turbo six-cylinder Honda engine. The Honda technicians were the ones who best adapted to the restrictions imposed by the FIA new regulations (maximum allowed pressure: 2,5 bars and 150 litres of fuel). The engine currently has between 600 and 640 hp, with an impressive progression. Unlike Ferrari, they have no fuel usage problems. An impressive performance, also thanks to an extremely advanced electronic management. This is also thanks to the huge investment Honda made in Formula One. Suffice it to say that MP4/4 raced with three different engines in 1988: one is for street circuits, the second one is for average-fast tracks, the third one is for super-fast tracks. Near the McLaren box, journalists go to the Ferrari box, where they find Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat Auto's CEO and Ferrari's President.
"What would you like to know?"
The answer is: everything, everything about Ferrari. Ghidella talks about Ferrari's problems, programmes and expectations. The first question is about the sport director, Marco Piccinini. He has been in charge of the Ferrari sports management since 1977, but in the morning, he announced that he is going to leave at the end of the season. Piccinini has been the real speaker for Enzo Ferrari, his eyes and his voice outside Maranello. Ghidella says:
"I can confirm what you already know. The press always finds out everything, and in most of the cases it is all true. Piccinini had asked, first to Enzo Ferrari, and then to the new management, a reduction of his huge burden of responsibilities, which he had for a long time. He will stay with us as a consultant, and as my contributor for the public relations and surely he will help us a lot".
Who will replace Piccinini? He himself had previously answered this. It will be Pier Giorgio Capelli, who is already in charge of the race team management, with all the related responsibilities that Ferrari has in the technical and executive Formula One commissions. Pier Paolo Gardena, who is already Piccinini's vice, will be in charge of the planning and the secretary. The press office will be directed by Franco Gozzi. Let's move to the technical part. How is the relationship with John Barnard? Ghidella's answer leaves no place for doubts.
"It is really good. He does his job, what he is paid for. The new car he designed is performing good, even though there are still problems to solve. Bernard knows that he is risking his reputation, and we are risking our own. Until now he has worked rather slowly, but the chassis, the engine and the gearbox are ready. I hope that we manage to set up the electronic control transmission, a difficult challenge. This is why we also have a manual gearbox, the car will need some changes, of course".
Will the team be further reinforced?
"The team is being formed. Someone may leave, someone may arrive. We are totally open. If someone skilled was available and useful for us, we would hire them. For sure, we would like to have only Italian technicians, there already a lot of them, but this is a highly specialized field. Unfortunately, we are late, we need to work. We also have Guildford, which we will keep. It is a technical investment. I do not mean that it is better than Maranello, but we hope that it is useful".
In the meantime, Japan is getting more and more important in Formula One...
"I think that every Japanese business wants to enter the Formula One world. There will be some inflation and unfortunately the costs will increase. This is the equivalent of Nasa in the motor racing for what concerns technical research. And they are desperately trying to increase the value of their products".
And what about the driver's issue?
"The team for next year is already set. Berger and Mansell will race as peers. They are really good, and I hope that they can fight between each other for the championship. About Mansell, as far as we are concerned, also from the medical reports, he suffered from an infection. As far as we know, his back is not giving him any problems. After all, in such cases, all the examinations shall be made, it is also stated in the contract".
Will Ferrari come back to win?
"I haven't got the crystal ball. I hope that the car will perform well next year, and maybe that the championship will be open. I say it again, we are a bit late, we got to work, and we will do it, for the Ferrari tradition and for our own".
Sunday September 11th, 1988. Prost is faster than Senna and takes the pole position. But once again the Frenchman is ahead only for two thousand meters. The Brazilian driver is a cut above (it is not the car, it is his personal skill) and runs away. He has a little advantage since the beginning. Prost will then claim that his engine is not performing well when on a low Rpm, and he has difficulties with the gearbox. He had already complained about this the past days, during the free practise. Nannini is missing in the first positions: his Benetton had a problem during the formation lap and was stuck on the starting grid, so he had to start from the box, and to start an amazing pursuit until achieving the ninth position, in spite of a problem to the engine. The usual group of cars has formed in the first positions: Senna, Prost, Berger and Alboreto. Behind we find the two renewed Arrows, Cheever is defending his position, while Warwick is forced to pursuit (he will finish the race in fourth position). Nothing really worth noting happened, except for a fight between Capelli and Patrese and some riders who got out of track, without any further damage, like Piquet. Senna gained a lot of advantage at the beginning, then Prost got closer to the Brazilian driver again. The same did Berger and Alboreto, they are equally close. When one half of the race is gone, the Brazilian man starts pushing, and Prost starts losing ground. Lap 33: Prost has 20 second advantage on the first of the Ferraris, but then something unexpected happens. The Frenchman's McLaren starts slowing down making a strange noise. Senna has a big advantage in the meantime, he is completely out of reach in normal circumstances, based on what happened in the previous races. Now that Prost is so far away, nobody got worried when Ayrton's pace started being a bit slower. In the meantime, Alboreto could even take Berger's second position, one record lap after the other. And the Austrian driver is forced to push. Twenty seconds, ten, five, four.
Three laps to go. Everybody is thinking that Senna is just playing, now he will show what he can do. And indeed, the Brazilian man is starting to push again. But still slower than it could be expected, though. It looks like he is in a little trouble, maybe we will see a final sprint. No: wrong prevision. The rookie Jean-Louis Schlesser with his Williams is ahead of Senna. He could wait a moment and lose two tenths of second more. Instead, Senna goes into the fist chicane as if he was alone. Schlesser tries to avoid the contact, but he cannot. The McLaren's suspension brakes, Senna is out of the race. A triumph for Ferrari. Ferrari flags are waving again in Monza, the Autodromo that has contributed so much to the building of the Ferrari legend. After nine years, Ferrari has won the Italian Grand Prix. In 1979 Jody Scheckter won; and now, Gerhard Berger, ahead of Michele Alboreto. As it is proper, he immediately dedicates his victory to Enzo Ferrari, who passed away in August. An unexpected victory, with a final thrill, since Berger could be disqualified. During the first technical examination after the race, Berger's Ferrari seems to be irregular. The capacity of the petrol tank seemed to be of 151.5 litres, while the Formula One regulation permits 150 litres. A further examination clears all the doubts: actually, it is 149.5 litres, so Berger can celebrate his victory. A surprising victory, indeed: nobody in Ferrari hoped they could interrupt McLaren's amazing series of victories, with its drivers Ayrton Senna e Alain Prost (11 wins out of 11). Instead, the miracle happened. Senna and Prost led the race for a long time, followed by Berger and Alboreto. The Ferrari cars have proved to be more competitive and reliable than they have been recently, even though not fast enough yet. But Prost gives up, because of some troubles with his McLaren, then Senna is pushed out by the Schlesser in the chicane at the end of the grades straight. The Brazilian driver wanted to surpass at all cost, pushed also by Berger and Alboreto, but he paid a high price for it. Senna blends his disappointment with a joke:
"Someone loves them from up there".
It is clear that he is referring to Enzo Ferrari. Apart from the joke, there's a happy reality: Ferrari has come back, like in the best days; Ferrari fought bravely in front of the Monza crowd; Ferrari is improving and took the chance. Monza's victory has a romantic side, but also a technical one. It is the first success of the new management, led by Vittorio Ghidella and the Fiat group, who took the control after Enzo Ferrari's departure. It is not an easy challenge, but they are facing it with passion. The Japanese factories, Honda above all, have chosen Formula One to show off their high-tech products. This time, Made in Italy got them the first disappointment of the year. In the glorious name of Ferrari. Endless thrills, also after the race. The Italian Grand Prix gave a great joy to the Ferrari fans. But the usual technical examination of the cars, which started when the fans were staring to leave, nearly turned into a hoax. The FIA commissioners were just doing their job, when one of them becomes all pale. They had just checked the capacity of the petrol tank on Berger's Ferrari.
According to the regulation, it can be 150 litres maximum. The commissioner counts again and again. The result is scary: 151.5 litres. This would mean the immediate disqualification for the Austrian driver. Ferrari would still keep the win with Alboreto, but there would be controversies and suspects. What happened? A mistake, a silly mistake in an addiction. Since they have not a 150 litres container, the commissioners empty the petrol tank and then refill it using seven 20-litres containers. Which is 140 litres. The remaining part is filled using 2 litres bottles. But six bottles have been used instead of five. This is why the capacity of the petrol tank seemed to be at least of 151.5 litres. Then all the process is repeated again, and the capacity was exactly 149.5 litres, 2 litres less than the previous check. Of course, a little group of people gathers in the parc fermé, mostly the sports directors of the other factories. The commissioners finally publish an official statement: Berger's engine is in order. A sigh of relief. Fraud was not taken into consideration, but it could have been a mistake in the construction of the petrol tank. It could have turned a happy day into a nightmare. To be fair, the sports director Marco Piccinini was the only one who never lost his temper.
"I was calm, because I knew it could not be possible".
Anyway, he was very pale. These have been agitating minutes, and the whole day was full of emotions. The race itself has not been really brilliant, apart from the thrilling end. Everyone expected this to be the day of the records for Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian man was supposed to achieve the record for the highest number of victories in a single season, surpassing Clark and Prost, and he was to win the world championship. Instead, it has been one of the worst moments of his career. It was a most likely win, almost certain, gone when it was only two laps to go. His face darkened, discouraged, the McLaren driver honestly admits he made a mistake.
"It was my fault. I should not have gotten into that trap. I thought that I could surpass Schlesser's Williams, since I have got a better car. But there was not enough space for both of us. I got hooked and the race was over. What a pity. But i will not get discouraged. Such things can happen".
There is still a doubt: considering the end of the race, could the two Ferrari have surpassed Senna?
"I do not know. I had gained a good advantage in the first half of the race. The box told me to be careful. The Honda engines broke both on Prost's car and Nakajima's Lotus. They were worried. So was I, there was something strange with the engine that upset me. This is why I slowed down noticeably, so as not to take any risk. When Berger got closer to me, I increased my pace, to keep him at some distance. I tried not to give him any slipstream, and I was trying to save the tyres. In case of a sprint end, I could have battled and won".
And what about the championship now?
"Nothing has changed really. Prost did not win, and since there is one race less left to run, in some way I have increased my advantage. But I do not want to talk about the championship now, it is not a concern".
Do you think Ferrari can be a threat now?
"Sure, you have seen it. But Alain shall be more worried than me, because he must win. Any other result is useless for him. Anyway, I am happy for Ferrari, this is their home after all, and it is fair that they got a success here. I saw them behind me during the race, and I understood that the were fine as much as I was. This is a disappointing result more for the team than for me. Maybe today there was someone up there that did not want us to win at all".
While Senna is in trouble, Prost is calm. He is balanced, honest and precise.
"I quit because my engine broke. But it was due to an eclectic problem. The same problem I have always had these days. I had also some trouble with fuel usage, I think that Senna had the same problems. I don't think he could have used the full power in a sprint. About Ayrton's accident, I do not intend to judge, it can happen, we all make mistakes. You have a lot of pressure on you in such cases, in the last races, I know it very well. About the championship, nothing changes. We are 7 wins to 4 for Senna, he has already won. I am happy for Ferrari, though, above all here in Monza. It is the best way to remember Enzo Ferrari. Without his team, Formula One would not be so important and popular. Every year, even if they are not the strongest team, they manage to do something positive. And it is positive for us all. People keep watching Formula One. I saw a more competitive Ferrari, they have improved the engine a lot".
Jean-Louis Schlesser, the french rookie involved in the incident with Senna, speaks very little:
"I saw him coming. I saw the blue flags, slowed down, stepped aside, on the right, my wheels were almost out of the track. I could not go out of the chicane to let him through. Ayrton and I have not talked to each other yet. But at the end of the race our eyes met, and he has admitted he has made a mistake. It can happen to anybody, it is not his fault, he is a great champion".
The day before the Italian Grand Prix, McLaren's manager, Ron Dannies, stated:
"We will win all the races, because we are the strongest team".
He had even bet on it last week, against Bernie Ecclestone: 2.000 dollars, a nominal sum for him. But he lost, since Ferrari surprisingly got the first and second place in the Italian Grand Prix. There were over 100.000 fans in the Autodromo, and they were insanely happy. Now the question is the following: did Ferrari win or did McLaren lose? For sure, had Senna not made that mistake with just two laps to go, things would have been different. It would have been interesting to see whether Berger or Alboreto could have engaged at least a final sprint with Senna. Nobody will never know, though, since Senna went out of the track with his McLaren after the incident involving Schlesser. This could have an impact both on the fight for the championship and the comeback of Ferrari. For what concerns the championship, Senna has still an advantage. Actually, the fact that Prost did not finish the race (he retired after 35 laps because the Honda engine broke), is an advantage for Senna. The Brazilian driver only needs a victory to win the championship. But at this point, Prost might have a little psychological advantage. He might have understood that even is teammate is not unstoppable. Prost has to face a difficult challenge too. Senna will be the driver tipped to win in the next race, on the winding Estoril track. A track he likes, where he will be able to attack and to definitely win the championship. But what is most important is the incredible Ferrari comeback. One month ago, it was slow due to the fuel usage, and Berger and Alboreto could not race properly. They had a lot of difficulties in the first part of the race, in order not to lose contact with McLaren, and then they were obliged to slow down, because there was not enough fuel to finish the race. The exact opposite happened in Monza. Ferrari had a rather slow start of the race, and then they had an exploit. The Maranello technicians have solved the fuel usage problem, then, in spite of the final thrills of a little final mystery: a commissioner made a mistake while checking on Berger's car. But it was all in order, and in the end, they even laughed at it. Gerhard Berger says:
"Well, if they had taken this victory away from me, I could have committed suicide. No, I am just kidding, life is too beautiful. Most of all in this moment. To win in Monza with Ferrari is a dream for a driver, and I have achieved that. To be honest, last night I had a premonition. I dreamt that McLaren cars would both retire. And this is what happened, even though Senna did not retire for a technical problem but for an incident. The best thing is that now my car is more competitive. We are still not as strong as McLaren, but this is the right path. Now we have to work and improve even more. I will give it all. I want a fantastic end of the season".
In the Ferrari box, Berger and Alboreto congratulate each other, and kiss and hug each other as if they were friends. Just this time, the two Ferrari drivers show sympathy one for each other, united in this success. They are spreading champagne on the crowd, a girl faints. An unexpected win, and maybe for this reason it is even better. Berger is almost exhausted, has collapsed on a chair, then he talks a lot, something which he had not done for a while.
"At the beginning, the temperature of the engine was too high. I forced my pace at the beginning, this is why I had to slow down while the power was decreasing. Then I focused on the pace, also in order not to use too much fuel. In the second half of the race Michele got close to me, so I had to push a lot. He did a great race, I have to acknowledge this, and maybe he even helped me to win".
Then Senna slowed down…
"When I saw it, I tried to force my pace even more, to impress him. But I absolutely did not think I could win. It was amazing. I had already seen an improvement in my car in Spa, in the last free practice. And now I achieved it".
What about the fuel?
"You should ask the technicians; I think I still had a decilitre in the tank. There was a little confusion in the end, luckily it ended up well. But there is an explanation. I had done an extra lap. Before the race, I changed my car three times. I went on the track with the race car, but the accelerator did not work properly. I returned to the box and took the spare one. There was something strange with the engine. They told me via team radio that they had fixed the car, so I returned to the box. I took the race car again, but the problem was still there. So I returned to the box once again and changed car definitely".
Did you find more exiting to follow Senna or to resist Alboreto's attacks?
"Alboreto's pressure was strong, but I think that both situations pushed me to the limit".
Whom do you dedicate this victory to?
"Obviously, I dedicate it to Enzo Ferrari and to this great legend. But I would like to keep also a little bit of the credit for myself, because I think I did a great race. I even think it is the best race of my career. I can tell you a detail. When I was leading the race, during the last lap, I thought: shall I finish the fuel right now and stop in front of the parabolic turn, the fans would kill me".
A great satisfaction for Alboreto, on the podium with Ferrari, at the end of his final season with the Maranello factory.
"For sure, it was a pleasure, but it was not easy at all. At the beginning, the fourth gear did not work properly, so I had to slow down and let the gearbox oil cool down. Then the car performed really good. Had the race lasted for two more laps, I could have tried to win".
Who do you think has the responsibility for the accident, Senna or Schlesser?
"I saw it on TV. Technically speaking, Senna made a mistake. But Schlesser did not check the rear-view mirrors so much during the race. It is not very wise to brake all of a sudden when one is lapped. I could make a joke about it: this has been Mansell's first victory with Ferrari. He left his seat to Schlesser, who was the protagonist of the decisive episode".
Even Engineer Vittorio Ghidella lost his manager decorous, when Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto crossed the finish line one behind the other, the crowd cheering, and the official starter of the race, the Belgian Roland Bruynseraede, waved the chequered flag almost frenetically. The Ferrari president let a sigh of relief, which he had kept until the end the race. As if breathing in such a moment could have been dangerous. He bended his legs, while his colleagues held him. Ghidella watched the whole race this time. Firstly, in the box, then in Magneti Marelli's van. Here there are all the sophisticated electronic devices, which can control how the cars are behaving every second, thanks to the advanced telemetry system, which gives fundamental data (twenty parameters more or less) to know the situation, above all about the engine efficiency and the fuel usage. Ghidella says:
"The credit for this success is not mine. The team, the technicians, the drivers did it, they were amazing. The race was managed beautifully, pushing to the limit. We followed it meter after meter, panting. Maybe, had Senna not retired, we would not have won, but now we are more competitive. We have pushed them, maybe Senna's mistake was due to the fact that we were coming back".
It seemed that Berger and Alboreto slowed down after the first half of the race.
"They had to. We had just half a litre of extra fuel left to get to the end of the race. They managed the race for several laps, then the drivers could push and gain ground".
Can Ferrari get other successes before the end of the season?
"We do not have any certainty yet. We are on the right path, as I said, but there is still a lot of work to do. We do not want to delude ourselves, because Honda will react, for sure. It will be very important to stay focused and try to improve even more. Anyway, the fact that Prost broke his car and Senna was forced to push is a signal. It is clear now that even McLaren is not unstoppable, even though they are really strong. We were also a bit lucky, we hope we can continue like this. In life luck is also important".
You just said that you don't have the credit for this victory. Are you really sure about it?
"If I have some credit, it is giving courage and hope to the team. And this work is starting to give results".
Then the fans invade the track, and engineer Ghidella is almost carried away by the cheering crowd. He gets to the paddock with some difficulty, and there he finds the Ferrari team that is still celebrating. There are all the people who contributed to improve a situation which seemed to be chronic. Magneti Marelli's engineers, Agip,'s technicians, and Brembo's technicians, the important brakes provider. The whole Italian industrial sector is united for Ferrari. The feelings and the happiness move also the foreign specialized workers in Ferrari. The English workers, Hahn the new German engine-mapping expert, working for Ferrari for the first time, and Kimball, Bernard's Canadian collaborator. An international factory, which managed to beat the Japanese rivals this time. The Ferrari president leaves the circuit by helicopter and the fans follow him with the eyes. They recognized him in the box, they listened to what he said. They understood that times change, the circumstances may change, but the spirit of their team is always the same and the motto has not changed: Ferrari races to win, not to participate. De Coubertin was useful. Almost everyone cheered at Ferrari's win. Tyrrell, Benetton, the small Scuderia Italia and the big Lotus. A Ferrari victory, as Prost said, is good for the whole Grand Prix world. But of course, the celebration is mot of all near the Maranello vans. John Bernard is in Monza and declares:
"We still cannot say that this victory is the result of a radical improvement. What I mean is that we are still not as strong as McLaren. And neither I think that it was us who forced Senna to make a mistake. Maybe we only caused him some little trouble. But I think that in the last two races (Japan and Australia), Ferrari can fight with the Honda-motorized cars".
A positive prediction, even though Ferrari fans are already thinking about a series of victories. The Ferrari workers invite everyone to keep calm: even on a happy day like this, they do not lose their temper. Marco Piccinini, the exiting sport director, but still in charge until the end of the season, says:
"This victory can become a staring point after a not so brilliant season".
Piergiorgio Cappelli, the team general director, says:
"We won this race also thanks to the box. We had told the drivers to slow down at the beginning, because the cars were fill up, so they were heavier, and we risked to degrade the tyres too much. During the second half of the race, it was all under control, so we allowed them to push".
Ferrari's managers are talking to the press and organizing the following days: maybe there will be some tests in Fiorano with the new aspired engine by Bernard, driven by the Brazilian driver Roberto Moreno, who was in Monza these days. In the meantime, the mechanics are disassembling everything in the box, to bring everything home. There is a great party in Maranello, it had not happened since 1979, the last time that an Italian car, driven by the South African driver Jody Scheckter, won Monza's Grand Prix. All the Ferrari fans gathered in the streets after the end of the race. They arrived at the gates of the Ferrari factory. Don Erio, the Maranello priest, lets the bells of the church ring. This has been Ferrari's day, but also the day of the Italian drivers. Alboreto got a P2 and Cheever (who is American but lives in Rome since he was 5) got a P3. Capelli in P5, Patrese in P7 and Nannini in P9. Cheever is on the podium for the first time this season and looks really moved:
"I am really happy, because this result arrives in a difficult moment, while I am thinking about my future. It is not my duty to remind that Arrows is not McLaren nor Ferrari. Our strength on this track is the engine, but after the first half of the race I had some troubles, and at the end of the race I had still a lot of fuel. The engine was not really efficient, and all I could do was managing. Today I am not thinking about what I am going to do tomorrow. I was born in he United States, but we usually go there only once a year. And on the podium, I was envious of the Ferrari drivers' red suits".
But there were also some quarrels between the Italian drivers. In particular, Capelli (P5) and Patrese (P7) were the protagonists of a surpass which aroused controversy. Capelli said:
"In the beginning I was not so fast, my Merch had too much aerodynamic charge. Then I started a good fight with Patrese. I am sorry that he complains because I surpassed him at the Ascari turn. Passing under the bridge, we do not see anything. Riccardo broke and I went on. It was a good race anyway, in front of an incredible crowd".
But what happened exactly? It seems that Capelli surpassed Patrese after the race commissioners had waved the yellow flag, which indicates a danger. The drivers are obliged to slow down and to keep their positions. Williams presented a formal complaint after Patrese came back to the box, but it was not accepted. He looks rather disappointed, even though the result is satisfying for him overall.
"After the difficulties during the free practice in the last days, I had still oversteer and understeer troubles. We made a mistake when calculating the speed and we put in less fuel than needed, so I had to slow down. Capelli surpassed me in a sector where he could not have done it, he should have slowed down as I did. You should not do such things, mostly if you consider yourself to be a fair pilot".
Sandro Nannini (Benetton) did a great race, he was forced to pursuit for the most part of the race. His accelerator broke at the beginning of the race, so the driver from Tuscany had to start from the box but managed to get a P9.
"We have waited for nine years, but it was worth it. We just hope that we do not have to wait nine years more for the next victory".
Some of the Ferrari fans are still in the circuit in the evening, as if they wanted to enjoy that unexpected victory for a longer time. They talk about the exiting double of the Maranello team, they conclude:
"How did they do that?"
This is an understandable question, nobody could imagine such a thrilling and dramatic result for the Italian Grand Prix. Only two weeks before, in Francorchamps, Ferrari was facing a difficult moment. The reasons to smile and good signs were very few. The base for this success is a change in the work method of the Ferrari technicians. In the past, they had always compensated the problems with the engine power. As Pier Giorgio Capelli, the race department manager, says:
"The structure of the engine is always the same. We tried to maximize its performance, playing with anticipation and timing and so on, always pushing to the limit. In a few words, we tried to optimize the usage of the 150 litres of fuel at our disposal. Paradoxically, we reduced the power and focused more on the torque. We can optimize the engine performance at a lower rpm regime".
Will this be an advantage also for the future, in the next races?
"Sadly, every track has its own features, the problems are different, even though the issues are always the same. We have to find the perfect conditions every time. And we do not always manage to do so. But I have to say, this is true for everyone, also for our rivals".
Gerhard Berger has confirmed that he is a brilliant rider, always ready to seize the opportunities. But the real protagonist of the race has been Michele Alboreto. He found his fighting spirit again, even if he is still a bit unlucky, and does not manage to get a win. A super balanced Ferrari has helped him. Alboreto did super-fast laps from the fortieth lap on. He managed to get close to his teammate, and he could have gotten the second position. Berger was forced to push and this way he got close to Senna. The Austrian man says at the end of the race:
"I did not watch the board computer, I did not want to know anything about the fuel usage".
Had Alboreto not pushed him, Berger would have been contented with his position. Probably he would have tried to attack, just for pride, but he would have renounced following Senna's reaction. He has behaved like this in similar circumstances. Similarly, had Senna not been pushed, he would not have made that mistake that costed him the victory. Ferrari will give it all, as the drivers have declared after the Monza Grand Prix. The next two races are in Portugal (September 25th) and Spain (October 2nd) and shall not be particularly favourable for Ferrari, but there are hopes for Japan and Australia. In the meantime, the programme for the aspirated engine for the next season is going on. Moreno shall be in Fiorano on Wednesday or on Thursday. Bernard is not going to attend the races from now on, so as to focus completely on this project. The mechanism seems to work fine. The English designer is an experienced man, which is always useful. But to see him focused on the project, so as to make up for lost time, is not bad for anybody. Neither for his employers.
"Businesses go on even if the founder is not there anymore. It is the law of life. The most important thing is that Ferrari is back. This is our goal".
Vittorio Ghidella has been clear when he took the management after Enzo Ferrari's departure. The success in Monza arrives before it could have been expected. It is the prize for a policy aimed at re-founding Scuderia Ferrari in modern times, keeping the team spirit and the traditions. The double in the Italian Grand Prix shall not make lose the sense of proportions. McLaren is currently more competitive. The first steps have been made in June, when Enzo Ferrari decided to also entrust the sports part to Fiat (the factory part was already under Fiat since 1969). As a consequence, two men from Fiat management have been put on charge, Pier Giorgio Cappelli and Pier Guido Castelli. The English designer Bernard have been confirmed. There has been a delicate reconstruction of Scuderia Ferrari. Ferrari is not a simple Formula One team: it is a symbol. On one hand, there's the need to continue the current activity, and improving the 1988 car, on the other hand it is necessary to start programming the 1989 season. Some technicians left, some others arrived, and the working method changed. The jealousy and the secrets of the traditional Ferrari had to left room for new needs. Finally, all the technical resources of the Fiat Group have been used, from the test tracks to the research laboratories. According to Ghidella, Formula One is just like Nasa for motor racing: the best, the state-of-the-art technology. Electronic components, special materials, sophisticated solutions. An amazing mixture to create cars which have the only goal to be fast, as fast as possible, unless some Minister decides to put some speed limit also in the circuits. In order to succeed in this 90's and 2000's Formula One, it is mandatory to follow certain rules, putting aside the nostalgia for the past, when this was more about men and less about machines. A challenge is not just a challenge in itself, but is also commercial and technical, and it is emblematic of a country's business sector, pushed also by the mass-media and the curiosity of the fans. Japanese businesses got that, and they managed to turn Formula One into a place to show off their products. McLaren's success is also Honda's success, and the whole Japanese business sector. This country has not a glorious past for what concern businesses, and is willing to create a good reputation. The Europeans created Formula One, but now they are losing ground and Ferrari did not manage to adapt to the new times. Lancia defeated the Japanese factories in Rally, with Delta, and Alfa Romeo started an interesting developing programme with the 164 Pro-Car. In the meantime, Ferrari was facing a period of crisis, and Enzo Ferrari himself helped to solve it, bravely preparing his succession. We can say that this Ferrari is new, but it still keeps the proud and passion of the old one. Monza is an encouragement, the first step for the future. Ferrari keeps running and winning, with the same commitment and passion. Ghidella says:
"We keep working, we know that Enzo Ferrari would have wanted it this way".
The legend keeps alive. On Wednesday, September 14th, 1988, exactly one month after Enzo Ferrari's departure, for the first time there will be a public ceremony to remember him. The Archbishop of Modena will say miss, family and friends will be present, but the church is open to the public. Before that, the town councils of Modena, Maranello and Fiorano will gather to remember the constructor and his work. Probably a square will be entitled to him.