#479 1989 Belgian Grand Prix

2021-10-10 01:00

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#1989, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Alice Simonin,

#479 1989 Belgian Grand Prix

Ferrari madness of midsummer: on Wednesday, 16 August 1989, there are 10.000 (paying) spectators present in Monza to greet Nigel Mansell, winner in Hu


Ferrari madness of midsummer: on Wednesday, 16 August 1989, there are 10.000 (paying) spectators present in Monza to greet Nigel Mansell, winner in Hungary, during a hot and humid day. And he, the Englishman, is greeting the crowd, raising his arms, in a triumph of applause and shouting. However, banners for the Brazilian World Champion are not missing: Ayrton, and everything is magic. The success of Ferrari in Budapest has contributed to help the crates of the old racetrack. The almost 100.000.000 lire, together with the amount which will be collected for the next two days of Formula 1 free practice, will be used to soothe the pain of the 13.500.000.000 lire to spend to finalize the new structures in construction. It is a story with a happy end: however, on Thursday, 31 August 1989, only the new garages will be ready, 196 meters long, with 48 boxes. Fourteen teams present, all of them to prepare for the Italian Grand Prix, but also and specially to fine-tune the set-ups ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix (27 August 1989). Forced labor for McLaren with Senna and Prost intent on discovering the forces of a new Honda engine (the fifth of the season), while Ferrari studies set-ups and aerodynamics. On Thursday, a modified power unit (4 valves per cylinder instead of 5), slightly more powerful and flexible, should arrive. In the afternoon, Mansell, whose carousel is accompanied by football-like standing ovations, takes stock of the situation. 


"What an effort, quickly going home and immediately coming here to do testing. But it is worth it when you win. But we are under no illusions: McLaren remains the strongest, especially in the straights, that is to say in the fast circuits". 


A prediction for the next two races, Spa and Monza?


"I would like 15 points, I really hope to take them. Of course, it would take some mechanical failures of the cars of Senna and Prost". 


There is so much talk about the second Ferrari driver for next year. Who would want Mansell? 


"My wife, she is an extraordinary driver. No, seriously, I have some ideas. But wait and see". 


We talk about the overtaking on Senna. It was an error from the Brazilian or a skill from the Ferrari driver? 


"What do you think? I have some feelings, but I keep them to myself". 


How many horsepower should the new engine have? 


"A hundred more than the old one". 


A beautiful way to say nothing. At the end of the day, the best lap time is set by Thierry Boutsen with his Williams-Renault. Mansell places himself right behind Prost (second) and ahead of Senna. But the results are not definitely indicative, for the moment. These are only study phases. Then, they will push to the limits to see who goes faster. The following day, the duel is tight between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. At the end, the Brazilian's McLaren dominates (by 0.13 seconds) but there are many positive notes for the team from Maranello, which leads a modified version of the 12-cylinder engine to debut. In front of all the engine technology staff, Mansell completes a total of 65 laps, without problems, simulating also half a race. In the end, before leaving, greeting the crowd (on Friday, Gerhard Berger will do tests) the English driver says that he is very satisfied: 


"For the first time, I felt a significant difference. This engine has a better progression and is more powerful. We will be more competitive in the next races". 


The new 12-cylinder, which gains 100 rpm and has some extra horsepower, will not debut on Sunday, 27 August 1989, in Spa. If all the reliability tests prove to be positive, it will be ready for Monza, in September. It was noticed, however, that, regarding the speed, Ferrari reported peak speeds (302 km/h) similar to the ones of McLaren. The English team also tests modified Honda power units. Although slowed down by gearbox problems, Senna sets the fastest time in 1'27"02. During the day, a dreadful crash also happens to Bernd Schneider. The German damages his Zakspeed at the Lesmo corner, but fortunately he is uninjured. In the meantime, if Alain Prost feels isolated within McLaren and renews his accusations of differential treatment, Ayrton Senna cannot be said to be very happy with the team's situation. A situation that is not so critical as someone would have us believe, but that could create problems, especially in psychological terms. 


"The title should be a matter between me and Alain. There's a theoretical likelihood also for the others, especially for Mansell who has already imposed himself in two rounds. But it's only in theory that the Englishman has some chance. In reality, it is difficult to think that Ferrari finishes this high". 


Another family fight thus. But who has the greatest chance in percent? 


"There are still six races in the championship. It's not my habit to make predictions. I'll only say that I've won four races and I've retired in as many. If I'm going to keep this average, I should arrive first in at least two more, totaling at least six full results. We'll see if it will be enough". 


The Brazilian stops there. But it is clear that he is quite optimistic, despite having to chase the Frenchman in the championship at the moment. However, Senna does not seem calm as in other periods. He's not so worried about his teammate, as well as the related technical difficulties he had to face since the beginning of the season: 


"The Honda engine is our strength. It's undoubtedly the best. Regarding the chassis, however, there are some problems. We don't manage - and the clearest evidence was in Hungary - to find the good balance of the car in the coupling between mechanics and aerodynamics. And also, the new transverse gearbox is not perfect". 


Those only are the observations made by the South American driver, but they also sound like accusations against McLaren's technical staff. Senna does not speak clearly, but he makes it clear that his statement has a purpose. Last year, the winning car had been designed by Steve Nichols, the designer who directly deals with the Brazilian. This year, the task was up to Neal Oatley, the engineer responsible for Prost's car. At McLaren, therefore, things are a little tense. And Ferrari can hope that the disagreement inside the rival team widens, that maybe some other trouble in Spa would make the situation escalate. That would be a good help, even if only by making the 640 even more competitive the Mannello's team will have the chance to play an exciting final of the season. Pending these possible scenarios, the three days of free practice in the Autodromo of Monza will end on Friday, 18 August 1989. The best times are set by Senna and Prost with both McLaren-Honda (1'26"0 and 1'26"10). Gerhard Berger is third with his Ferrari (1'26"15): the Austrian remains blocked by a gearbox problem at the end of the tests. Fusaro, Ferrari's chairman, highlights the validity of the work done by the team from Maranello during these months regarding the reliability and the competitiveness, reiterating the no to Bernard. 


"How does it work when you have a technical director living 1,200 km away? With Fiorio, we're trying to form a new organizational structure". 


In the meantime, Gerhard Berger states that Ferrari is becoming a damn good car and that it will be able to fight the others in 1990. The Austrian driver, however, assures that he will offer the highest commitment to Scuderia Ferrari in the next races, despite his commitment to McLaren starting in 1990. Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, the news about Ferrari's second driver for the 1990 season is certain, even sure. But it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't clear up the grey. On Thursday, 24 August 1989, Maranello's team informs the journalists, through its manager Cesare Fiorio, that the second driver for 1990 has already signed and that an agreement would be reached also with the technician who lacks to finalize the organization chart for the development and preparation of the cars. But it does not express any name: perhaps it will be said in Monza, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix. And so, in the paddock of Spa-Francorchamps, the summer game of Formula 1 is unleashed again. Patrese? Prost? Neither of them? A surprise for all? Or is the solution really the simplest one, that is to say the Paduan driver? We can only wait, even if there is so much curiosity, to the point that the numerous reasons of interest of this Belgian Grand Prix, eleventh round of the World Championship which starts on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. with the pre-qualifying, pass unnoticed. And yet, this a race that promises to be interesting. The circuit is one of the best in the world, spectacular and difficult, a sort of little old style Nurburgring. A double duel is expected. On the one hand, Senna against Prost, on the other hand, the attack that Ferrari would like to launch on McLaren to allow Mansell to be part of the fight for the title. The Brazilian and the Frenchman do not hide their heated rivalry. But Ayrton seems very relaxed, as though he was aware of being predestined for a win. Alain, however, seems nervous and grumbling, as in the worst moments. These are only visual impressions, that could be disproved by facts, but we testify of a certain atmosphere. Of course, to see Mansell's smiles and to hear Berger's statements (contrary to the claims made in recent months: the Austrian now speaks of a competitive Ferrari, capable of fighting the McLarens) one might think of a likely exploit of the Maranello team. But it is always best to be careful. A fast track, of engine power as we usually say, should not be too suitable to the cars from Maranello even though they have achieved considerable progress. Unless McLaren and Honda have not lost their mind, they do not make one mistake after another and run into broken or wrong tuning. Berger will also fight against his record of ten DNFs. 


"The car is more reliable, I'm going to have to break this negative series". 


Even Boutsen, who clinched his first win in Canada and will celebrate his Formula 1 race number 100 on Sunday, is convinced that an unexpected result will come. But not in favor of Ferrari. 


"This is a track that I know very well and I know that it offers a great grip. So, I think that McLaren is unbeatable here. But in the event of a car crash involving Prost and Senna, we'll be looking for success at Williams-Renault". 


Racing at home, the Belgian perhaps hopes to be dragged along by the cheers of fellow countrymen. 


"Our engines should be suitable for the track that requires power and flexibility. If it rains on Sunday…". 


Dry or wet track, it is certain that once again no one will be spared. The stakes are important and no one wants to leave them on the way. And meanwhile, the Italian clan of journalists continues to rally us on the second Ferrari driver. While waiting to see one of the Italian drivers in Maranello, the latter must settle for the debut on the Coloni of Enrico Bertaggia, 25 years old, from Noale (Venice) who had won in Formula 3 in Monte-Carlo and in Macao last year. But it won't be easy for him, because he has to go through the Caudine Forks of pre-qualifying. As Prost and Senna prepare to face each other in a race that could give the green light to one of the two McLaren drivers in the race to the title, and Ferrari tries to contain the damage in a circuit, that of the Belgian Grand Prix, which in theory should be favorable to their English rivals, Formula 1 is indirectly involved in a financial scandal. An affair that could have serious repercussions and that in any case will certainly not help the image of one of the most popular sports. What happened was that Joachim Luthi, one of those people who suddenly made an appearance to the fore with loads of money, was stopped by the Swiss police in Aarau and arrested because he was apparently involved in a crack of 100.000.000 dollars. 


One of those modern stories that we have already followed several times in different versions even in today's chronicles. Unscrupulous finance companies that promise very high interest rates, investors who pay small and large sums a little naively, receiving for some time what they promised. Then the payments are reduced, difficulties occur, the money disappears and people have no choice but to press charges, with little hope of recovering the disaster. What does this have to do with Formula 1, someone will say? The problem is that since last year Mr. Luthi has been the owner of Brabham, the English team, a prestigious past, two world titles in the last ten years with Nelson Piquet, withdrawn in 1987 by Bernie Ecclestone because the business was no longer going well, remained steady a year and then sold for not much money. A team that, among other things, since the beginning of the season has obtained some flattering results, thanks to the commitment of the technician Sergio Rinland who has designed a competitive car, at least in some kind of circuit, thanks to the talent of the drivers, Martin Brundle and the Italian Stefano Modena, who at the beginning of the season said:


"I'm good in this team for which I signed a two-year contract. We are working seriously and we have good prospects for the future". 


And what happens now? Will Brabham be able to continue the championship without Luthi's support? The budget allocated was of approximately lire. Has the money already been paid out, or gradually, will the cars not be looked after and have to be withdrawn, leaving the drivers free, given the lack of money? There are many questions that the intricate episode leaves unanswered for the moment. But there are already those in the environment who say that the fact will not remain isolated, that sooner or later, in the short term, similar scandals could involve other teams. Joachim Luthi's crack is frightening to many people, especially those who live on Formula 1 by supplying material, preparing engines. The mirage of easy earnings, of a hastily won popularity, has certainly even attracted in the environment people who are not very recommended. It would be up to Bernie Ecclestone, former owner of Brabham, president of the FOCA and now also vice-president of the FIA, to do some cleaning, avoiding certain interference. But perhaps Ecclestone is too busy running the business to realize that cracks are opening up in the program that he himself has - if not invented - certainly promoted with great skill deriving great gains and power. On Friday, 25 August 1989, Ferrari, taking advantage of a gray sky that discharges water at alternating rhythm, sometimes dense, sometimes sparse, on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, cages McLaren in the first qualifying round of the Belgian Grand Prix. At the end of the first day of tests, Gerhard Berger is ahead of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, with Alain Prost in P5, behind Riccardo Patrese. It will be the case, it will be the luck or the skill of the drivers helped by a chassis that provides some advantage (and do not forget the gearbox with electronic control which allows to drive with two hands on the wheel), but this Ferrari now threatens the McLaren. On Saturday, with the sunshine or a rainstorm, everything could also change but, meanwhile, the Maranello team is at the top. Indeed, more than the competitiveness of the cars (Berger's best lap time in 2'11"102, at an average speed of 190.569 km/h, with a gap of 0.069 seconds from Senna), this time the team is the author of a good strategy. With the qualifying session already started under a light but annoying rain, the Austrian and Mansell immediately rush to look for the result while Senna is taken by surprise, going out a bit later, when the intensity of the rain is higher. Berger, author again of a harmless spin, says at the end of the tests:


"Anyway, our chassis is slightly better than the one of Senna's and Prost's cars. This is why we are ahead". 


The feeling is confirmed by Mansell, who despite not being happy (no driver voluntarily accepts to be overtaken by his teammate), reiterates: 


"There's no longer a huge difference between us and McLaren, I also believe in the dry. I did a couple of laps behind Senna when he was pulling and I had to slightly slow down. We're on the right path". 


And Cesare Fiorio, team manager, concludes: 


"It seems to me that, above everything, our rivals start to feel a bit of pressure on them. This doesn't mean that we're stronger, but it's a good confidence boost". 


And trust is what it takes, because McLaren has no intention to give up, but is making intense programs for the future. As Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal, says:


"We have 35 persons involved in the electronics, and 160 work in the car manufacturing. We'll take other engineers and, once the season is done, we want to do a lot of tests". 


With the McLaren manager it is not possible to avoid the statement on the future of Prost. 


"I told him to stop for a year, to lie on a beach. I don't want however to say anything on his possible contact with Ferrari. I'd even pay him the recruitment provided that he gets some rest for twelve months". 


But Dennis does not specify if he would spend 7.000.000 dollars to ensure that the Frenchman goes in a rival car or to have him in shape for 1991. Prost, when questioned about it, answers: 


"All the hypotheses are possible. You'll have precise information within fifteen days". 


For the rest, the day reserves a surprising performance by Warwick with his Arrows (P6), some difficulties for Nannini, stuggling with his Benetton which is damning him on the wet, problems of grip on cars equipped with Pirelli tyres (with little rain they do not hold while they are very good when it is pouring: but you go faster on a dry track). It is obvious that the race will thus be uncertain and full of unknowns, also regarding the weather. If the sun were to shine again, Senna and Prost may be more likely to win, while the rain may level the values and start a roulette race, as had happened in Montreal when Boutsen won with Williams. Always taking into account that, without inconvenience, the Brazilian driver, the reigning World Champion, has always been very fast on the wet tracks. 


"Rain or sunshine, it doesn't matter. However, it will be decisive to choose the right set-up for the cars. Those that will guess the best mechanical and aerodynamical set-ups will have the race under control. And, at this point of the championship, I can't afford many mistakes, also because my teammate Prost can always take advantage of them". 


Will Ferrari be able to join again as a third wheel? 


"Of course, just like some dangers could arrive to Williams and to some outsiders. But it's not true that a success of Mansell, Berger, Patrese or anyone else will only favor Prost. I've got fewer results under my belt, but I've got an extra win. And a few good finishes in front of my teammate would also be good for me. It is clear, however, that I am aiming for full success, because a first place would cut the head off the snake, seriously putting my main opponent in the fight for the world title in serious difficulties". 


So, Senna is not backing down. After all, he never did. He has a fighting spirit, the Brazilian is a driver who does not race to participate, but to win. To humiliate his rivals even. Ayrton would like to give a lesson to everyone, prove that he is always the fastest, the best. 


"This is the most delicate moment of the season, because if the results of the beginning of the championship can always be remedied, now it is not allowed to miss opportunities. By the way, if I were to retire once again, I would not even be able to add up the maximum allowable points. And this would be a serious handicap for me as Prost could take advantage of it. In short, I don't have to look neither at Ferrari, nor at my French rival or the others, but I have to concentrate to the fullest, aiming for the win, practically the only goal that I have left". 


Last year, Senna won the race with a certain ease, ending the race ahead of Prost, Boutsen and Nannini. Subsequently, the two Benettons were disqualified for using irregular fuel. The two Ferraris did not reach the finish line. So, this is a good opportunity to make yourself forgiven. In the pre-qualifying session on Friday morning, Stefan Johansson's Onyx topped the time sheet for the fifth consecutive Grand Prix, while his teammate Bertrand Gachot qualified in P3. The other two pre-qualified are the Larrousse-Lola drivers, Michele Alboreto in P2 and Philippe Alliot in P4. Among those who did not manage to pass the main qualifying sessions, there are both Osellas; Nicola Larini and Piercarlo Ghinzani have respectively ended in P5 and P6. Roberto Moreno does not go beyond P7 with his Coloni, while Gabriele Tarquini's AGS finishes in P8. The Zakspeed drivers, Bernd Schneider and Aguri Suzuki, respectively end in P9 and P10. 


The other AGS of Yannick Dalmas is ahead of Gregor Foitek, who drives the old EuroBrun ER188B. At the end of the time sheet, there is the second Coloni of the rookie Enrico Bertaggia, who does not manage to put together a lap properly timed. The driver suceeds Pierre-Henri Raphanel, who left Coloni to go to Rial after the dropout of Volker Weidler. On Saturday, 26 August 1989, the theme of the Belgian Grand Prix does not differ from the previous ones: McLaren is on the run, Ferrari is chasing. But this time the unknowns are greater, after what happened in Hungary. The predictions are more cautious, no one dares to put a precise face to the probable winner. Unlike what has happened two weeks ago in Budapest, during the tests the English and Italian teams did not appear in crisis, in fact they have shown excellent shape. Senna and Prost take over the front row. Berger sets the third best time, while Mansell is in P6, behind the Williams of Boutsen and Patrese, also because he did a lap slowed down by the traffic on track. Behind the wheel of a car back on top of the performance, thus, Ayrton Senna did not need too much effort to set the record of the circuit: 1'50"867 for his fastest lap, at an average speed of 225.351 km/h. The previous one was set by Mansell, in 1987, with a lap time of 1'52"026, behind the wheel of the Williams-Honda turbo. The limit has been passed by 1.2 seconds. And this is a measure of how the current single-seaters with a naturally aspirated engine have improved with regards to roadholding. It is Senna's pole position number 37 of his career, the eighth of the season. And the Brazilian smiles with satisfaction after this feat. But he doesn’t go too far: 


"If it doesn't rain, there shouldn't be many problems. If the track was to be wet, everything would become more difficult and also dangerous". 


Prost does not differ much either from what was told by his teammate: 


"I'm confident, the car is alright, the renewed engine is very powerful and should be an extra weapon on this track". 


However, it is clear that both teammates will not rest. This is the crucial race of the season, not only in the title fight. A part of the future of the Frenchman may depend on his result in Spa. In the event of a win, with greater confidence behind, Prost could also remove the doubts regarding his future intentions. And on next Wednesday perhaps he will say yes to Ferrari or to Williams. Coming back to the race, Ferrari hopes to repeat the big score of the previous round of the championship, but honestly the hopes are much smaller. Berger, even though he did better than Mansell, is not very optimistic: 


"I could have improved by some tenths if I hadn't taken a curb almost putting my car sideways. But McLaren seems uncatchable, if anything we'll be able to fight with Williams". 


The Englishman, in contrast, is cautious:


"In qualifying set-up we are too far away. I also had problems with the traffic. During the race, however, the gap is small and I'll push to win. Here, the track is larger, the overtakes less prohibitive. It will be very important in the morning to look after the car and study the choice of tyres". 


Too much confidence? A bit of superstition? Mansell never ceases to impress, even if honestly more from him was expected in qualifying, given that he stayed behind Berger. Cesare Fiorio is the clearest of all when he says: 


"Repeating Budapest will be much difficult. Instead, a situation similar to the Castellet's one may occur. With McLaren ahead and us not too far away". 


All of this obviously under normal weather conditions, because the possible rain could disrupt any approach. The Williams of Boutsen and Patrese will also have to be taken into account, with the Belgian unleashed on his home track that he knows very well. Little to no chance however for all the others. You can still give some chance at least to be second leads to the various Stefano Modena (brilliant, in P8), Gugelmin, Warwick and Caffi that are in the early backline. Nelson Piquet will not take part in the race. For the second time of his career (Long Beach 1982), the Brazilian did not qualify. Because of an off-track caused by an overtaking on Grouillard. But above all because of the Lotus that is sliding further down, since Nakajima will not be racing either. In the history of the prestigious English team, it had never happened to have both cars out. 


On Sunday, 29 August 1989, the start of the Belgian Grand Prix is delayed of about half an hour, waiting in vain for the rainstorm that had started in the morning to stop. But the wait is useless and the start is equally given in conditions of extreme risk, so much that some of the main protagonists, after a couple of laps, would have willingly abandoned the race. During the formation lap, both Brabhams are missing: Brundle is the first out by bending two suspensions, thus Modena is forced to let the car along the circuit. The Englishman is the first to come to the pits and gets in the spare car, while the Italian is lucky enough with the delay which allows the mechanics to fix Brundle's single-seater and to make him start last from the pit lane exit. Wasted effort, however, because the British has to retire because of brake problems and the Emilian because of an unstable grip. At the green lights, Senna starts from pole and holds the attack of Prost, followed for his part by Berger and by Mansell, who completes his first thrilling masterpiece overtaking both Williams on the outside. In crazy water trails, Senna moves away from the group, facilitated by his skills and by the difficulties faced by the others behind him. In fact, the Brazilian leaves the scene to then be reached only after the finish line; the McLaren driver does not face excessive problems during the race, except some difficult lappings. Berger, for his part, tries to threaten Prost. But the pursuit of the Frenchman costs him dear, the eleventh DNF in a row, record again beaten for Ferrari drivers and hardly equaled. During lap 10, while he tries to lap Alliot's Lola (who together with Arnoux and Grouillard had already performed in incredible numbers of bumper cars), goes off track at the Eau Rouge corner, sliding on a pool of water. Patrese is also out (lap 20) because of a crash with the lapped Alboreto, the first three places will not be at hand as Senna (now running solo), Prost and Mansell are unreachable. The highlight, however, is from lap 15, when the Brazilian is ahead of Prost by 8.7 seconds. The latter, for his part, is chased by Mansell 2 seconds behind. In front, there are Alboreto and Cheever who are lapped. 


The American is forced to chase the others as a few minutes after the start he had lost a wheel badly bolted and was forced to come back to the pits. Senna, as usual, immediately overtakes the two slowest cars. And extends his lead. Prost faces some difficulties but succeeds after a couple of passes. Mansell, however, stays behind the Arrows for six laps, losing almost 19 seconds. When he finally manages to overtake Cheever, Senna is uncatchable. The Englishman in the Ferrari with some stunts (also a right to the first chicane) manages to catch up on Prost in the last laps, but the McLaren, faster in the straights, resists the attacks of the British driver. Thus, Ayrton Senna wins the Belgian Grand Prix, followed by Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Thierry Boutsen, Alessandro Nannini and Derek Warwick. If Flavio Buzzi, offshore world champion, had won the Belgian Grand Prix of Formula 1, he would have probably taken a stroll. It was a bit harder, however, for Ayrton Senna, who is nonetheless considered as the rainmaker. On a soaking track, under a heavy rainstorm, at the limits of the correctness and for sure out of the limits of the security, the Brazilian has thus achieved his fifth win of the season, an important success which not only allows him to recover three points in the standing on his rival-teammate Prost (second at the finish line) but also allows him to increase the number of top positions to five to three, which will ultimately play a decisive role in the fight for the world title. Senna won, as it was expected, when it was understood that the rain would haunt the day, but the true protagonists were Prost and Mansell, authors of an extraordinary final duel. The Frenchman has redeemed the bad performance of the previous year when, in Silverstone, he had retired in almost similar weather conditions, resisting the attacks of an unleashed Mansell. To the Ferrari driver, however, the third place is a little tight, also because it was certainly the one that he risked the most. Ferrari, though, despite the new McLaren 1-2, showed that the win in Hungary was not exactly random, that the gap with the English team is slowly but surely closing. At the end of the race, Ayrton Senna only confesses it to Brazilian journalists in a post-race TV interview, but the sentence - which everyone hears repeatedly - seems to be a revelation: 


"Mansell attacked Prost. But in reality, he just showed up with his Ferrari on one side and on the other behind the McLaren. If I were in Alain's place, I'm sure he wouldn't have given me the same soft treatment, he'd probably have gone over me. He certainly couldn't put his next teammate in any more trouble". 


Such confidence would suggest a done deal. But Cesare Fiorio, Scuderia Ferrari's manager, keeps saying: 


"It's not Prost". 


So, is Patrese really the Ferrari contender? Since Saturday, the Paduan seemed very nervous while during the previous days he was showing off an Olympic calm. What happened? Yet even Boutsen, the Paduan's teammate, claims that Patrese has already signed for Ferrari. However, the manager of an important team who, negotiating with a driver, tells him: 


"Hurry up and sign, because Patrese is working for our team again". 


Who is lying? Someone is likely not well informed, but still, there is definitely someone orchestrating the situation. The truth is probably that Prost has not yet completely decided with which team to race in 1990. He will say it just before the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza. And the choices are Williams or Ferrari. Back to the race, to the post-race actually, in this sense the Belgian Grand Prix is characterized by a harsh accusation from Ferrari against Eddie Cheever, guilty of having slowed down Nigel Mansell's speed, despite being lapped. Cesare Fiorio, who had gone to the race director to ask to show the black-and-white flag as a warning for the Arrows driver, seems furious. 

"The attitude of Cheever has deprived us of the opportunity to fight for the win. The race was falsified because of this incident. What was the point of that resistance? We were stronger and we have to content ourselves with a third place. I know that Eddie is a great guy, but this time…". 


Cheever's reaction is immediate. The driver tries to speak with Fiorio, but the Ferrari's manager is busy. Thus, the American driver takes it out on the journalists:


"I've raced for ten years in Formula 1 and I never had problems, I feel like I've always behaved correctly. I let Senna pass as I saw him. I backed off for Prost. I didn't really noticed Mansell behind me, maybe he was too far away. I saw some blue flags, but after three corners there were gone and I thought that there was no one. With these trails, it was impossible to look in the mirrors".


The controversy eclipsed the interviews, including the one of Gerhard Berger, who declares at the end of the race: 


"I went off track because of a problem of aquaplaning. If I was behind Prost, the McLaren exuded the water. As soon as I stayed a little further away to lap Alliot, I ended up off track. It's a shame as the car was doing great". 


While Nigel Mansell says, with regards to his race:


"I did everything, taking a terrible risk at the start when I went with the wheels on the grass. But if I was behind both Williams, it would have all been immediately finished. Cheever blocked me, but I also managed to reach Prost. I tried to overtake him in different ways, but there was nothing to do, he was a fantastic rival. His car was faster in the straights and in some corners. The result is fair, in Monza we'll have a more powerful engine and perhaps it will be better". 


And Ayrton Senna, talking about his win in Spa, admits:


"A beautiful win, even if I don't like racing in these dangerous conditions. I had the front tyres that were too low in pressure and the car wasn't balanced. Also, in the end, the engine was not perfect. For this I slowed down, but there were no serious problems". 


Finally, Alain Prost says, regarding the defense done against Nigel Mansell: 


"It wasn't too difficult to resist Mansell. I hope that it will be different at the Italian Grand Prix".


Strange fate for two dear friends: in Spa, during the Belgian Grand Prix, Michele Alboreto kicked out Riccardo Patrese, surely robbing the Paduan of a good result. But there is no quarrel between the two, since the Milanese immediately admits his own responsibilities. 


"It was my fault. The race conditions were cursed. We couldn't see anything. It was impossible to control if there were cars behind. I noticed a blue flag which was signaling a lapping and I backed off. Boutsen passed. I resumed my trajectory and unfortunately there was Riccardo's Williams in the middle. An unavoidable collision". 


And Riccardo Patrese practically confirms Michele Alboreto's version: 


"Alboreto widened, I followed Boutsen thiking that he had seen us both. But he didn't. What a blow, I lost two wheels and a third one almost went off. I could quietly go into the points". 


In Spa, Alessandro Nannini achieved a fifth place taken by force, Pierluigi Martini changing his tyres (he was also the author of a couple of fastest laps) finished in P9, ahead of Emanuele Pirro, Andrea De Cesaris and Ivan Capelli. Alex Caffi went off track following a spin, Stefano Modena was forced to retire because his Brabham had no grip. While awaiting day by day the solution of the mystery of the year (at least regarding Formula 1), that is to say the announcement of the second Ferrari driver, likely for the end of next week ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna celebrates his win number 19. Another pearl in the brilliant series of successes which includes also 37 pole positions out of 89 races disputed. The Brazilian, as stated, was awarded a Belgian Grand Prix made dramatic by adverse weather conditions, under a heavy rainstorm, which has confirmed the exceptional skills of equilibrist of the McLaren champion already nicknamed the rain king for some time. With this success, among other things, Honda took its win number 50 and the Japanese company will probably be grateful to the racer. Now Senna is at only 11 points from Prost, but the Frenchman will be able to add up another result before having to start to dismiss, while the South American will still have five good finishes. In other words, even though it is the little Alain that is at the top of the World Standing, Ayrton Senna becomes at this point the true favorite in the fight for the world title. Senna will even reveal, during the dinner, a little moment which could have cost him a lot. Precisely because of the rain, the Brazilian driver had put on a helmet specifically prepared by a friend who is a technician, with louvers which should have prevented fogging of the visor. The goal was reached, but it is precisely through these slits that the water came in. Senna took advantage of a break to raise his visor and clean it with his gloves. But, just at that moment, a spark came from Sala's Minardi, who was ahead of him (lapped), and hit him next to his right eye. 


"I screamed in fear and pain, but mostly because I was scared. If the burning fragment had hit me in my pupil perhaps I would have finished off track or I would have been forced to retire anyway. This also went well". 


It also went well for McLaren which has clinched another 1-2. But Ferrari has shown some progress. Besides Nigel Mansell, superb protagonist of the race, forced to settle for the third place because of the desperate defense of Prost and because of the sudden slowing down in the difficult lapping of Cheever's Arrows, the Maranello team took its fifth podium in a row. But above all, the cars (Berger was also in the running for the first positions when he went off track while attempting to overtake Alliot) confirmed that, in certain conditions, McLaren is not that far away. The problem particularly concerns the qualifying: both McLarens constantly finish on the front row and during the race the Ferraris are forced to chase them with all the risks involved. In Monza, in two weeks, Mansell and Berger should have more powerful and more flexible engines at their disposal. Maybe they will not manage to beat Prost and Senna in the fastest lap, but they should get a lot closer on the grid to then try to attack their rivals. Mansell who, with his achievements has now already entered the heart of the tifosi, promises that this time he will aim for the highest step of the podium because he is tired of being behind the two McLaren drivers. 


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