On Sunday, October 1st, 1989, Nigel Mansell will not be in the race, but on Thursday, September 28th, 1989, he will appear - barring second thoughts - at 3:00 p.m. at the Jerez circuit for a press conference. After four days of vacation and silence, Nigel Mansell is expected to confess his truths about the events at Estoril. Likely the British driver will reiterate that he did not see the black flag displayed by the race director, that he did not hear the messages sent over the radio by Ferrari and that he realized he had committed an infraction in backing up, but that in certain situations instinct prevails. Meanwhile, in the environment, that's all they talk about. Drivers in general are quite in agreement with the measure, but not everyone approves of the emergency procedure adopted by President Balestre, whose lightning in this manner could fall on anyone's head, with no possibility of defense. And in this regard on Wednesday Scuderia Ferrari intervened decisively, issuing a statement:
"Ferrari filed an application this morning through the CSAI to the FIA Tribunal for a ruling in favor of a suspensive effect of the measure pending the judgment on the appeal filed against FISA's decision to exclude Nigel Mansell from the next race. The decision was made in violation of the principle of the defense and although not aimed at affecting Ferrari severely affects its participation in the Spanish Grand Prix since it is not conceivable to replace the driver in such a short period of time. Ferrari's president, engineer Piero Fusaro, at the same time sent a letter to Jean-Marie Balestre in which he urged him to promote a judgment on the petition with the same timeliness and promptness with which the FISA World Council examined the disqualification proposal put forward by the Portugal sports commissioners. The letter points out that there is no reason to implement the decision immediately and that the effects of the decision would be irreparable if the appeal is upheld".
In essence, Ferrari wants the FIA (chaired by Balestre himself) to have the judgment postponed pending appeal, also on the grounds of a procedural defect. The Maranello team's defense is based on the fact that the regulations regarding pit infractions do not openly speak of disqualification. Meanwhile, Ferrari will always make known the conclusions of the negotiation with Barnard. In parallel, the FIA, chaired by Jean-Marie Balestre, can only handle the affair in a confused and sloppy manner. The facts are these: on Friday, September 29th, 1989, the first day of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix is scheduled. Nigel Mansell, suspended for one race, does not take part in the race (and therefore in qualifying). Ferrari asked Balestre to convene an appeals tribunal to hear the driver's defense. The Federation, in a telex on Wednesday, let it know that it was committed to convening the necessary three judges (out of 50 eligible) by Friday. But then, on Thursday afternoon, it announced that it had been unable to find the magistrates: appointment for October 5. Result: Mansell does not race in the Spanish Grand Prix; if and when the court issues its ruling, should the British driver be proven right, the race could lose its validity for the World Championship; in that case, retroactively, Prost would be 1989 World Champion, since Senna, with only two races to go, could not overtake his teammate in the standings. This is what emerged on a chaotic day in which FISA once again made clear all its weaknesses. Balestre was able to summon in 24 hours via telex 22 jurors from around the world to convict Mansell and could not find three judges in Paris to comply with what was his duty. And so, Nigel Mansell holds a conference under the Ferrari motorhome tent (he was not allowed in the circuit's press room). In calm tones, but harsh words, the Ferrari driver gives his version of Sunday's events.
"It may be that these are my last words as a Formula 1 driver. I got a $50.000 fine and was excluded from this race. How and why? I was ahead at Estoril when I came into the pits to change tires. Maybe I was going too fast, maybe not. In any case, the McLaren men, who had already changed the tires on their cars, with various equipment prevented me from getting a good look. And that would constitute an infringement of Article 132. They also wet the lane with water, which can be dangerous for other single seaters. When I returned to the track, I was fighting for second place. I couldn't think that I had been disqualified, and I didn't see any black flags".
A pause and then:
"Now I ask you questions. I didn't escort the black flag. But apparently Senna who was ahead of me didn't see it either! And apparently, they even radioed him that I was disqualified. He didn't hear from the way he behaved by resisting my attacks. And was I supposed to hear? No one can think that I continued to race and take risks after seeing the black flag. In the race, radio communications are one-way, from the driver to the pits because the noise is such that we don't hear anything. I did not continue to have an accident, but to win".
Mansell continued by reading handwritten sheets of paper, and admitting the mistake in the pits:
"The regulations don't mention a black flag for someone who uses reverse".
But he finds the punishment exaggerated, and claims he is the victim of a kind of lynching by McLaren, where some would like him to retire. In short, a real j'accuse to McLaren, to Senna, to the FIA. And now Mansell, though guilty of an infraction, becomes a victim of FISA's inability to settle the problems of a difficult sport to manage. Mansell's case overshadows an important piece of news: Ferrari announces that the relationship with John Baraard will end inderogably on October 31st, 1989. For the Maranello team, an act of courage and confidence in its own means. Barnard will go to Benetton-Ford. And Mansell will watch, perhaps in front of the television with a cold drink in his hand. But it is clear that the Englishman is suffering from his exclusion from the Spanish Grand Prix, a disqualification he considers unfair, excessive. In fact, looking at the facts calmly, the punishment was heavy, at least for the episode that generated the whole affair, that is, the pit stop to change the tires, when he engaged reverse gear instead of being pushed by the mechanics. However, the original sin remains, namely Mansell's failure to abandon following the black flag display at Estoril and the subsequent incident with Senna that could affect the entire championship. Now, however, McLaren's Brazilian must think about winning all three remaining races.
"I will try. I will not be easy, but I will leave no stone unturned, because I do not want to give in to this verdict. The championship was already compromised because of my withdrawals caused by breakdowns, but I still had a chance to defend myself. In any case, I can say that if the final result is what I think it will be, it will not be true. Whoever wins the title will not be the best, the true World Champion".
Senna does not mention Prost's name, as has been customary for some time now. But it is clear that the attack is for the Frenchman, who is guilty according to the Brazilian of taking the lead only by luck. Ayrton Senna has a good chance of winning this race, also because in all likelihood he will win a very important pole position tomorrow. On this track starting in front of everyone is a great advantage, because overtaking is very difficult. Another advantage for the McLaren driver will be the absence of Mansell, who was the most in-form opponent at the time. But it must be said that Gerhard Berger, who will have three Ferraris at his disposal, is not willing to make it easy for him.
"I will do my race, and if I can win, I will not let the opportunity pass me by. In our business there is no room for games. I am a Maranello driver until the end of the season, and I will behave accordingly".
Berger's words should be borne out by action, although Gerhard, by possibly giving Senna the green light, would guarantee himself a good income at McLaren for next year. These are the vagaries of a drivers' market that has now been taking hold since the beginning of the year and unfortunately poisoning the World Championship. The reasons for the Spanish Grand Prix are these. However, it will also be necessary to consider a surprise solution: if on October 5th, 1989, the date designated for the appeal process at the FIA tribunal, the judges should ever agree with Mansell and annul the decision made by the FISA World Council, as mentioned, the validity of the Spanish race could be lifted and in this case we would all have been suffering for nothing since Alain Prost would have won his third world title already in Portugal, that is, last week. Quite a mockery for everyone except the little Frenchman, who would be the only one rubbing his hands and coming out ahead in this situation that certainly does not do Formula 1 any good.
In the war of the flags, if the Englishman was disqualified for ignoring warnings at Estoril, on Friday, September 29th, 1989, in the first qualifying round of the Spanish Grand Prix, the Brazilian deliberately continued to spin after the race director displayed the red flag signaling the interruption of practice. And meanwhile, the stewards along the course waved black drapes forcing the drivers to slow down immediately and if possible, to return to the pits. What happened. Gregor Foitek (the Swiss driver two years ago who was the protagonist of an accident in which Johnny Herbert broke his legs) went off the track due to the detachment of the wing of his Rial, hurling pebbles and stones into the air (demolished the windshields of four Formula 1 trucks and slight contusion to the head for John Barnard, who is close to the scene of the accident). The single-seater remains in a dangerous position and the race director decides to stop qualifying. At the same time Ayrton Senna launches into one of his very fast laps. The McLaren driver, ignoring the warnings ("I didn't see anything"), continues, getting the best time and overtaking Martini in the Minardi, moments earlier in the lead. The sports director of Minardi itself and Brabham rushed to the race direction, later joined by Fiorio for Ferrari. But the stewards had already decided: the time was cancelled, and the World Champion was fined $20.000. The episode deserves to be highlighted coming on the heels of the sensational controversy involving Mansell. In theory, Senna's infraction is even more serious because it was committed in a situation of real danger. But above all, the Brazilian has in a sense proved the Englishman right when he argues that these flags may as well not be seen. Says Ron Dennis, McLaren team principal, shortly afterward:
"Senna did wrong; it is right to fine him, we will pay".
What would he have done if the stewards had disqualified the driver for a race? The tension did not prevent Senna, a driver nonetheless extraordinary, from going out one more time with a few minutes to go in practice and setting the best time of 1'21"855, averaging 185.509 km/h. Ayrton thus cools the enthusiasm of Pierluigi Martini, who was quivering ahead of everyone, after running with both feet bandaged from falling off the team truck. The standings are atypical. Apart from the smallest gaps, we find Gerhard Berger in P3, Prost in P4 ("My McLaren is not balanced, plus they make me lack material because Senna had the spare car that in this race would have been my turn."), then the revived Piquet (close to Benetton and Barnard for the 1990 season), Capelli, Palmer, Larini with a surprise Osella, Alliot and Modena. Far away, struggling with poor grip and traction, the Benettons and the new Williams. The Mansell-orphaned Ferrari is forced to deal with some engine problems; Berger thinks he can do better on Saturday. A new rear bodywork with an increased air intake should be tested on the day, which in theory could give some advantages. The competitive and technical fact of the day, however, remains that Minardi has become quite a reality. With an old engine like the Ford Cosworth, a car designed and honed by two young technicians, Aldo Costa and Weith Coperthwaite (both 29 years old), not too many means at his disposal, a young but already recycled driver (he had been out of Formula 1 for almost two years, from 1986 to 1987), he is now together with McLaren and Ferrari. A classic Italian miracle, or rather Romagna-style. Meanwhile, John Barnard throws off the mask, donning the multicolored robes of Benetton. The designer announced his move to the British team as of November 10th, 1989, that is, the day after his contract with Ferrari expired. In fact, Barnard had long since decided on his plans, and the last talks with Maranello had been an awkward attempt to squeeze more out of him. But the posting will not be without trauma: the Englishman will reportedly bring with him 17 technicians, 13 from Guildford and four from Maranello, including his deputy Gordon Kimball and chief mechanic Villa del Prat. Barnard will build with Benetton (and with Ford money) a mega-technical center near Witney (London), where the Benetton stable is located.
"It will be bigger, better, more complete than the Ferrari one that wouldn't sell me the Gto".
Why did Barnard never consider an extension of his relationship with the Maranello team? Simple: he was the absolute technical manager, hired by Enzo Ferrari with carte blanche, the boss to whom everything had to be accounted for. A new role would have been subordinate to the current staff. Nor did he like the reduction in salary, i.e., the current billionaire appanage. Barnard will be in charge of the Benetton single-seater of the next few years (no rush), fine-tuning ideas, inventions, insights, trying his hand in all fields.
"Even the commercial ones, if Benetton and Ford wish".
Maybe the designer who designed the McLaren will one day make a new Nordica boot (part of the Veneto group) or a Ford. Barnard also talks about the past:
"With Ferrari I had problems. Some you know about, some you don't. However, I would never have felt like going to work in Maranello. I think I took over a team that was struggling, is now at the top and I think it can stay there in 1990. There have been quite a few changes in the structures since Ferrari's personal management, and I think we are on the right track. I got to where I wanted to be".
With Barnard's hire, ably operated by Flavio Briatore, the team's commercial director (the presidency is held by Alessandro Benetton, son of Luciano), the team should make a further quantum leap. The contract is for five years (better that way, Barnard took 36 months to make the Ferrari 640) but the British technician himself hoped it would last longer. Saturday, September 30th, 1989, untamed, Ayrton Senna tries again: in the race, the Brazilian will start on pole position in the Spanish Grand Prix. He is alone against everyone; if he does not win, he will have to bid farewell to the title. An almost desperate feat, but the World Champion offers in practice another demonstration of exceptional skill. Ten minutes from the end of the second qualifying round, when he is in P5, he goes down the track and completes a fabulous lap. Result, 1'20"291, at an average of 189.122 km/h, an all-time record. This is Senna's pole position number 40 (out of 92 races), an even staggering quota: second in the ranking of fastest drivers in practice is Jim Clark (33), and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, while winning five titles, remained at 28. Will the Brazilian's determination, desire to battle with Prost until the end of the season, and anger be enough, however, to win the race? Or will it be his future teammate, Gerhard Berger, in a kind of negative nemesis that will take away any chance he has? Alongside Senna's McLaren is Berger's own Ferrari in the front row. A Ferrari that, at least on certain circuits, is now on a level with the British team. Only 0.274 seconds separate the McLaren-Honda from the Maranello car. And by now it was clear that Ferrari was stronger in racing than in qualifying, where, by the way, Berger ran into an uncertainty on the first lap on soft tires, had to restart a second time, perhaps with a little less of a chance since the tires were already nicked.
"A difficult situation. I want to win, I race for Ferrari and for myself. But I would hate to have a problem at the first corner with the driver who will be my partner in 1989. We will have to be very careful. The truth is that we are closer to McLaren than to Estoril. Our engine has improved a lot. And in Portugal we came first".
The Austrian is worried for many reasons. Because he knows he is in the crosshairs of everyone, old masters and new masters. Not to forget that at the very beginning of the championship Berger and Senna touched in Brazil at the first corner. What a bang. But any hesitation could be misinterpreted, and poor Gerhard is in a very delicate situation. Not least because behind the two we find an Alain Prost who has many reasons to laugh. The Frenchman, with the help of a little luck, could celebrate his third world title on Sunday. All he will need is a third-place finish (if Senna does not win) to become unreachable. Prost has crossed the finish line twelve times out of thirteen this year (only one retirement, in Montreal, due to suspension failure). It would be very strange if he were to be betrayed by the engine in Spain of all places, even taking into account that the very statistics are against him because sooner or later some trouble might come. But we are at the limits of fantasy. Should the Brazilian win instead, then everything would be postponed to Japan. The title fight absorbs attention in a tense atmosphere. The race will be affected by the heat and the usual doubts regarding tires, with pit stops to change tires likely to play an important role. But it should also be noted that the Spanish Grand Prix presents other reasons for great interest, especially for the Italian clan, Ferrari aside. The big confirmation comes from Pierluigi Martini with the Minardi, P4, still a step ahead of Portugal.
Absolutely extraordinary times also for the small Romagna racer who has an excellent car, but an engine that is certainly less evolved and above all less powerful. Bravo to the driver, encouraging this continuity of the stable. But if Martini (who also occupied the provisional pole position for several minutes), all things considered, is not a surprise, the P5 of Alliot's Lola arouses some astonishment. It is the first real highlight of Mauro Forghieri's 12-cylinder Lamborghini engine, which until now, among a thousand difficulties, had not yet had a chance to shine. Then we find the increasingly rediscovered Piquet (his Lotus is not so bad), Brundle with the Brabham, the rampant Alesi (Tyrrell), Emanuele Pirro with the Tyrrell (perhaps he is an underrated driver), Larini and Modena. There are two Osella at the start for the first time this season, and for the surveyor from Volpiano it is already an achievement. Less well Nannini with difficult setups of his Benetton, Patrese (he is sixth, but had to take the old Williams), the Dallaras who suddenly lost seconds on the road, the March of Capelli and Gugelmin always struggling with so much trouble. Not qualified Arnoux (Ligier, 1'25"190), Raphanel (Rial, 1'25"443) and Foitek (Rial 1'29"226). But the race should ultimately offer the usual topics: McLaren-Ferrari duel with all the implications we have already discussed and behind the two the usual Patrese, Boutsen, Nannini, Piquet. However, this little group will be joined in a third wheel role by the sparkling Martini. Everyone expects a lot from the Romagna driver. Before the start of the Spanish Grand Prix, Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FIA, makes his small but ominous show exclusively for the Italian media.
"Here the law, the regulations, I make them".
Proclaims the FIA president, opening his indictment against Nigel Mansell. The British driver will appear before the FIA Appeals Tribunal on Thursday to discuss the complaint filed account the suspension of a race (served in Jerez) for the Estoril incidents. Mansell argues that the procedure used against him was not regular.
"We acted according to the regulations. We had the right to do what we did. Article 152 says that regardless of the rules of the subsequent articles, upon the proposal and report of FISA observers or international commissioners appointed by FISA, it is possible to directly give a penalty or fine to anyone".
So, the Federation had the right to punish Mansell with a $50.000 fine, to exclude him from the race in progress at that time, i.e., the Grand Prix of Portugal, and to propose him for suspension of a championship round. Moreover, Mansell after the withdrawal had also been heard and had been able to state his reasons, even admitting his own faults. Of this there is no doubt. But Balestre insists, he plays on words about the FIA's right to suspend the driver for the next race by bringing together, so to speak, with telexes the 22 members of the FIA's world council. Any trial, however, should be held at least after hearing the defense, and this did not happen, as the judgment was issued without Mansell appearing before the council members. The FIA Tribunal will therefore be asked to hear Mansell's appeal on the grounds of an alleged procedural irregularity.
"We had beautiful blue skies, a full circuit, a close and spectacular race, and two imbeciles ruined everything. I would have liked to jump on the track myself to stop the Englishman by putting the black flag on his face".
A heavy reference to Mansell and also to Senna for their accident.
"The truth is that both do not yet have the stature of true champions, as the Brazilian demonstrated here by passing in red-flag practice. They are not complete. Look at Prost: he is not the fastest, but he is a champion. This affair has caused a mess. You think I'm a clown, a Punchinello, but I went to 30 pilots' funerals. I love pilots and their lives are sacred. Sometimes I feel alone when I have to make important decisions, but my first goal is safety. A racer must always be in control of his head and the car".
And here he is right, but in anticipation of the 1990 World Championship he threatens, again as a safety factor, to exclude journalists from the pits. Sunday, October 1st, 1989, at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix Ayrton Senna remains quietly in the lead, followed by Berger, Prost, Patrese, Martini and Pirro (excellent among other things, the Roman's performance, unfortunately thwarted by a spin caused by tire wear). In the laps following the start, Gerhard Berger remained close to the McLaren remaining its shadow at less than a second's gap for 20 laps, only to be progressively detached when from the pits came to the Austrian driver the order to slow down because of an oil leak, perhaps coming from a gasket, which risked breaking the engine. Positions locked then until the end of the race, with some palpitation only in the lapped cars, difficult on this track. Prost always remains in P3 with the visor soiled by the Ferrari's oil, and with the gearbox not working perfectly. And at the back Senna, after fretting in the cockpit on live television with the camera mounted on his McLaren, railing against Alliot who does not let him pass, has to fight only with fatigue, which grips him, but does not miss the full result. Behind occurs a collision between Nakajima and Capelli. And the Japanese Lotus driver gets the worst of it, forced to leave the race. Then Capelli's retirement due to transmission failure after he was in the pits for a long time to replace a damaged suspension arm. Out clamorously comes Larini who detaches two wheels of his Osella, out comes Nanilini for a spin following tire change, there is also a spectacular collision between Gugelmin's March and Sala's Minardi. The latter literally flies into the Brazilian's car, fortunately without creating physical damage, then finishing his race in the sand. In the end, behind the immovable leading trio, composed of Ayrton Senna, Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost, emerges Jean Alesi, who at one point even manages to split from Senna. Then he slows down to avoid losing P4 and so is forced to contest a sprint across the finish line with Riccardo Patrese, who almost catches up with him. A little excitement for at the conclusion of a tremendously boring race. He had to win, and he won. Ayrton Senna asserted himself in a Spanish Grand Prix without a fight, with the top positions already defined at the start. The Brazilian seized his sixth win of the season (number 20 of his career) but above all the hope that he could still fight for the world title.
Since his arch-enemy Alain Prost seized third place with a perfect accountant's race behind a Berger who could not express himself at his best due to a problem with the Ferrari's engine, Senna will, however, be forced to impose himself in the next two races (Japan and Australia) as well in order to end the challenge well. Prost leads with 76 points to the South American's 60. With two full scores Senna would rise to 78, a result that in any case the Frenchman could not approach since by now he must also discard second place. A very clear situation then: the Frenchman in theory might as well stay home and see if someone manages to deprive his teammate of a victory or if he himself retires because of some failure. So, it was a race with an announced result, with no thrills except for the shocks (in every sense) caused by the drivers in the rear. Not even Ferrari managed to give excitement to the day. Berger, after a somewhat cautious start, stuck to the McLaren for about 20 laps and then slowed the pace with his car smoking conspicuously. A retirement was feared but the engine held and the Maranello single-seater took its eighth consecutive podium. Of course, with Mansell on the track perhaps Senna would have had it less easy, but it is precisely the Englishman, who saw the race on television in Mallorca, who must recite a mea culpa for the mistake he made in Estoril. And in this general mediocrity, with everyone in the grip of their own problems, psychological and technical, the fourteenth round of the World Championship lived on the comprimarios, among whom soared a very great Jean Alesi, P4 and for the third time in points in five races run, the usual stout Patrese, P5 with the old Williams and Philippe Alliot with the Lola. The Frenchman brought for the first time among the first six, and therefore in points, the 12-cylinder Lamborghini engine wanted and built by the team led by Mauro Forghieri. Also noteworthy was De Cesaris' gutsy performance seventh in a Dallara that was no lightning bolt and, on the negative side, the disappointment of Minardi, which struggled well at the top for a third of the race, with Martini fifth. But the Romagna driver (who had had to have a novocaine injection in his ribs to stifle the pain caused by a bump he took at Estoril) ended up spinning out in an attempt to overtake Warwick after changing tires.
"I'm happy, but also so tired that the joy of victory has gone from me, a feeling I haven't had in a while".
At the end of the Spanish Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna is woozy and limp:
"Everything seemed to have gone smoothly, but a cramp in my right leg and shoulder was tormenting me. This track is terrible physically because it does not allow moments of rest. However, it went well".
Was Ferrari a danger?
"Actually, no. I was very worried in the first few laps because I could see Berger very close in the rearview mirror and I couldn't tell if he was just waiting for the right moment to attack me or if that was his limit. Then I realized that I could pull away from him and I focused on taking the pain and not making any mistakes".
No dangerous moments?
"I sweated to pass Alliot's Lola going from one side of the track to the other, and De Cesaris also gave me a hard time. There is also to say that in the final I had the brakes on the limit and the gearbox did not always work perfectly. In short, a hard-fought victory".
"Sure, very important for the championship. At least I will have the satisfaction of carrying the challenge forward to Japan or Australia even though the task of absolutely winning is not easy, for so many reasons. This, however, was the track I feared the most".
And now for the title?
"The situation is clear: I have to win both remaining races. There are no alternatives. And it's not a game. In any case let's wait, if anything I will say everything at the end of the World Championship".
Alain Prost, who on the podium obviously does not shake hands with his teammate, does not get too out of line. The Frenchman has signed a non-belligerence pact with his team.
"This is exactly the result I was looking for. It was very difficult to overtake on this circuit, and I could not pass Senna and Berger with my car at the start. Since I could not attack, I settled for the minimum result, taking a point with third place: my rival will have to risk everything in the final. As for the race, shortly after the start I had visibility problems as my helmet had become smeared with oil and later the gearbox gave me some trouble. However, I led my cab smoothly to the finish line".
And this final is the only sarcastic quip from Prost, who, it is clear, still thinks he has a different car from Senna. Self-criticism from Riccardo Patrese, in P5 with the old Williams:
"I am disappointed with my race conduct. I had technical problems, with understeer and the front tires wearing more than the rear tires because of a wrong aerodynamic configuration. I should have loaded the front wing more. I had to change tires twice and misjudged the second stop made too late, when Alesi by then had become almost uncatchable. I still managed to catch up with him, but by then we were at the finish line, and he had Senna pull the sprint".
Called into question, the young Alesi, says:
"For me it was great. In the morning I had ruined my car with a run off the track and used the spare car that I adjusted with engineer Migeot because our technical manager, Harvey Postlethwaite, was caught in an appendicitis attack. He was rushed to England where he was operated on immediately. All is well".
The #28 was fatal to Gerhard Berger. The Austrian driver's car began to emit subtle smoke signals just on lap 28, when the race could have entered its crucial phase and the Ferrari attacked Senna's McLaren, which had followed like a shadow until that moment.
"The oil pressure was perfect, and just after changing tires I started to attack, even setting a fast lap that was the track record at that moment. After a few passes I saw a sign at the pit box telling me to slow down. I was also warned by radio and continued without any more bite. I knew I could stop at any moment".
Afterwards, Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director Cesare Fiorio explained:
"It was us through the data provided by the telemetry to understand that something was not working. Apart from seeing smoke, there was also a slight increase in temperatures. So, we decided to opt for caution. If we had had two cars running it would have been different. So, we had to settle for second place. A result we are not fully satisfied with, but we welcome it because we are on our eighth consecutive podium, the ninth since 1989".
Ferrari, however, for one reason or another, has yet to finish a race with two cars. And this time it took a big risk.
"The engine problem was quite abnormal. We started the powerplant after the race and it was perfect as oil pressure. Maybe there was a small leak that didn't affect its functionality".
The head of the Maranello team this time does not make controversy. But it must be said that in theory the mishap can be explained by the tactics adopted by Berger, who was glued to the McLaren for so many passes. When you stay behind a car for a long time, the one following never gets enough air to cool the engine, temperatures rise, and a gasket may even lose its seal. This is not to say that Gerhard voluntarily adopted a suicidal tactic, given the characteristics of the track. But knowing his temperament, if there were not certain understandable conditioning, he would have either attacked right away to pass Senna or allowed himself to pull away a bit to try the overtake again in the finale. A team from Ferrari, meanwhile, leaves Maranello for Estoril: scheduled are tire tests. Berger himself will drive on Tuesday, test driver Letho will probably be employed on Wednesday and Thursday. Mansell remains at rest. Rumors are circulating in Jerez that the Englishman would really express his intention to retire from Formula 1. It sounds strange, but this is also a crazy world. McLaren, on the other hand, will move to Italy, to the Imola track, with Senna. At the Romagna circuit, behind closed doors, the Anglo-Japanese team will try out some secret innovations. Prost is excluded from these tests. Perhaps the young Scottish driver Alan McNish, currently involved in Formula 3, will be made to make his debut for a tryout. With the European season over, Formula 1 is given a brief competitive rest (the week is nevertheless devoted to a series of tests, five teams with Ferrari in Portugal, McLaren at Imola for secret tests) before moving to the East for the last two championship races, Suzuka in Japan and Adelaide in Australia. After the Spanish Grand Prix and Senna's sixth victory, the challenge for the World Championship will be prolonged at least until the penultimate round, with the Brazilian forced to win every time. A difficult feat even for an outclassman like Ayrton Senna, although on his side will be the total help of the team. Prost, who, he himself admitted, drove a cab, meaning that he had at his disposal a car that could not compete with his teammate's, might as well stay home and wait. If Senna wins, the Frenchman will lose his third title; if, on the other hand, he has any trouble at all, from a puncture to a breakage to a run off the track, the rainbow helmet will be his.
Prost, however, all things considered, would like better to beat himself in another way, on the track, especially at Suzuka where last year he suffered the decisive thrashing by his teammate. But this time Alain cannot even speak, protest, complain, because his mouth has been sewn shut with a letter signed by three hands (the driver, Ron Dennis manager of McLaren and an official representative of Honda) in which he pledged not to discredit the image of his current team. He will therefore have to suffer in silence, but it is easy to imagine that if anything unforeseen ever happens to Senna, we will see the little transalpine jumping out of McLaren to shout his joy. Meanwhile, Ferrari is also trying to prepare for the season finale. The Italian team would love to give Prost a hand for the title, looking for his fourth win of the season. With the return of Mansell certainly the Maranello team should resume its full potential and confirm the progress of recent months. In Jerez, Gerhard Berger was slowed down by a small problem determined by an oil leak. But it must be acknowledged that, as long as it had no mishaps, the Ferrari was up to the task, even giving the impression of being faster than the McLaren at certain moments of the race. Otherwise, the Italian patrol disappointed once again. Apart from Alesi, fourth, who is French with Sicilian ancestry, and the usually combative Patrese, Nannini and Pirro with the Benettons were missing. Capelli with a March that has given him little satisfaction this year, and even Martini's little Minardi, which, however, was also unlucky, eliminated by an accident while trying to overtake Warwick's Arrows. The Romagna team will also need confirmation just as Pirelli, now at the top with qualifying tires, will need to find more competitive teams for next year and good race tires for everyone. On the rise was the Lamborghini 12-cylinder engine that brought Alliot's Lola to sixth place. But there was no doubt, the team led by Mauro Forghieri, although with limited means, is a safety. Now it's just a matter of moving forward with development, because on the level of competitiveness a lot has already been done.