#566 1995 Argentine Grand Prix

2023-01-23 23:00

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#1995, Fulvio Conti,

#566 1995 Argentine Grand Prix

The condemned are silent. Michael Schumacher, comforts himself on vacation on an island north of Rio de Janeiro. He lets known, through his manager Wi


The condemned are silent. Michael Schumacher, comforts himself on vacation on an island north of Rio de Janeiro. He lets known, through his manager Willi Weber, that he will not speak until a final sentence is received. Instead, he announced that he had made a will earlier this year in favor of his relatives and that before the end of 1995 he will marry his girlfriend Corinne. David Coulthard, the other disqualified in the Brazilian Grand Prix, after saying he was very sorry on Sunday night, remained silent on his return to London. Evidently his team, Williams, has imposed a total silence on him. Only Damon Hill, who had been forced to retire due to gearbox failure while leading the race, let himself go with an ironic quip, even if he was almost certainly not joking:


"That's fine with me. We are all starting from scratch, with Schumacher and my teammate Coulthard".


Even Flavio Briatore, team manager of Benetton, who does not fail to speak, is silent. Strict confidentiality also by the most directly concerned, ie Elf, the producer of the petrol deemed non-compliant, and Renault which used it. More than decent attitude while waiting for the counter-analysis. Assumptions can be made. Since we will end up in front of a Court, there could be two solutions. Absolution if it is established that the analyzes carried out were incorrect and the petrol was regular. In this case the authentic classification of the race would be restored. If, however, there are doubts, the ranking that led Gerhard Berger's Ferrari to victory will be validated. Meanwhile, there is a strange position taken by Max Mosley, president of the FIA, who according to a German agency declared that he believed Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard innocent (but no one blamed the drivers, who normally ignore the composition of the fuel used on their cars). The English executive thinks more of a possible mistake by Elf than of an attempted fraud. But in this case the disqualification should be confirmed, because the regulation is clear. A nice mistake, however things end up. In any case, it seems that there is no decision before the Argentine Grand Prix: another big problem. In any case, the troubles for Michael Schumacher do not end here: many have pointed out how the German driver at the official weigh-in carried out by the FIA on all the drivers, reported an increase of 9 kilos.


"They're muscles".


Replicate the German. But there are those who suspect a new catch, given that from this year car and driver together must not drop below 595 kg. And since the cars at the end of the race are checked without the driver and then the total is made with the official weight reported for the driver, reporting a driver weight higher than the real one could have an advantage, which some estimate at 0.2 seconds per lap . Max Mosley also intervened on this issue:


"I have ordered the commissioners to recheck the weights".


And so F1 becomes more and more a kind of pharmaceutical laboratory, dealing with chemical analyzes and scales. On Wednesday 29 March 1995, the FIA announces that it will examine the appeals by Benetton and Williams against the disqualifications of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard on Thursday 13 April 1995. Further analyzes of the fuel samples are awaited. No measures, however, for the weight of Schumacher.


"Schumacher at Ferrari?"


The Bild is asked with great prominence. The German newspaper makes it clear that negotiations have started between the Italian team and the rider. But the denial comes from Modena:


"No negotiations are currently underway".


According to Bild, Michael Schumacher is fed up with Benetton after the disqualifications. Meanwhile, the FIA World Council meets in Paris. Among the decisions adopted, the registration of the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza, in the F1 calendar provided that the guarantees on the safety works arrive before Wednesday 28 June 1995. And remaining on the subject of Grands Prix, Sunday 9 April 1995, after fourteen years of absence, Formula 1 returns to Argentina. The last test held on the Buenos Aires circuit, in 1981, was won by Nelson Piquet with the Brabham-Ford. For the record, the first race carried out on the same track went to the Ferrari driven by Alberto Ascari and the Maranello team did it again in 1956 with the Fangio-Musso couple (the drivers of the same team could alternate). The return to Argentina will have a double meaning on this occasion. On the one hand, the recovery of an important square for the Circus of motors, which has always lived with great interest, passion and participation (just remember the names of Fangio and Reutemann). On the other, a sort of counter-proof after the case born in Interlagos. The race will be based on a provisional general classification that sees Gerhard Berger in the lead among the drivers and Ferrari (14 points) among the brands, pending the ruling of the Court of Appeal on the disqualification of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard for the petrol deemed non-compliant by the scrutineers, after a repeated series of tests. However, it is difficult to think that the values expressed in São Paulo will be distorted. Williams and Benetton will in all probability still have a good margin of advantage. The only difference could come from a minimal recovery from rivals. From Jordan Peugeot who disappointed, from McLaren-Mercedes who showed something good, without overdoing it, from Ligier-Honda who, after Olivier Panis left the scene on the first lap, was unable to express his potential. However, the greatest leap in quality is expected from Ferrari. If Berger took a lap behind Schumacher in Brazil, it is unthinkable that the gap is completely filled. 


The 412 T2s should have step 2 engines, that is the second version, a little more powerful, tested, apparently, with some success at Monza. The modified regulation will make it possible to reuse the air-boxes that should give breathing space to the 12-cylinder engines produced in Maranello. This is within Ferrari's hopes. Juan Manuel Fangio, who is in less ill health than has been said and written in recent times, but who has to live with the risks of a serious kidney problem for which, at almost 84 years old, he is forced to undergo hemodialysis three times a week, Wednesday 5 April 1995, he let it be known that he was very happy that Formula 1 was back in Argentina and hoped that a great race could take place. The old champion doesn't seem to care much about what happened in Brazil. He's probably used to it: even more serious things happened in his time. So here we are at the Oscar Galvez racetrack, named after a famous runner in these parts for road racing. In this plant built on the ashes of the ancient Almirante Brown, two free practice sessions are scheduled on Thursday 6 April 1995. From 11:00 am to 12:00 am and from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm. It seems that the asphalt is discreet and the track quite slow, due to heavy braking and sudden accelerations. There is a lot of curiosity about these tests, but it must be said that the wait regards in particular the question of fuel which led to the disqualification of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard in Brazil, with the victory assigned to Gerhard Berger's Ferrari. The word curiosity is a euphemism: let's just say that the environment is poisoned by petrol fumes. Elf, indicted and punished in Sao Paulo, lets it be known that it has brought exactly the same product to Argentina, homologated by the FIA. And if there were still problems, even if no one explicitly states it, the seven teams (out of the thirteen present) supplied by the French company could be blocked. That is Williams, Benetton, Ligier, Forti, Symtek, Pacific and Sauber. A threat that evidently no one would like to carry out, but which is always a good deterrent. And the Circus is divided. There are those who argue that the sentence will be confirmed by the Court of Appeal and those who think that the FIA will have to back down. 


However, it is believed, more generally, that in the checks carried out in São Paulo something illegal actually emerged and that the current ranking will not be affected. But perhaps a trick will be found so as not to make a bad impression on anyone, with the thesis of an involuntary mistake on the part of the oilman. On a technical sporting level, there is the novelty of restoring the air-boxes, the forced air intakes of the engines which could bring a few more HP to some teams. Among these, as mentioned, there is also Ferrari, which among other things brings a modified, more powerful engine to Buenos Aires. We look forward to seeing it in action though. Jean Alesi has completely redone the seat that had transformed his race in Brazil into an ordeal, Gerhard Berger says he is quite optimistic. And some new features on the maranello cars also concern aerodynamics. Also in Buenos Aires is the president Luca Montezemolo, who on Wednesday evening inaugurated the headquarters of the new Ferrari importer Auto Giallo. The presence of the president is also meant to be an encouragement to the team which is leading the World Championship with 14 points, but which does not know if this advantage will be made official on Thursday 13 April 1995, when the Court of Appeal will give its sentence on the appeals of Williams and Benetton. A very brilliant Montezemolo, as usual, willing to joke about the rumors of his imminent marriage to Edvige Fenech:


"My children called me to tell me that there was the news in a weekly. I honestly don't know anything about it...".


If there is one marriage that the president of Ferrari absolutely wants to do, it is the one with the F1 World Championship, but the road is still long and full of very gifted suitors, unwilling to step aside. Nevertheless, a good start, they say, is half done. And on Thursday 6 April 1995 Ferrari, even without using the modified engines (reserved for competitions and official tests) set the best times in the free tests which allow the pilots to get to know the new circuit which will host the Argentine Grand Prix. Watched by Luca Montezemolo, former Ferrari drivers Carlos Reutemann , Clay Regazzoni and Froilan Gonzalez, Jean Alesi was the fastest, lapping in 1'35"187, ahead of David Coulthard by 0.328 seconds and Gerhard Berger by 0.443. Results provisional, subject to changes, but it is still a sign that at least the chassis of the 412T2 is not working badly. In fact, the circuit is slow (average 161 .076 km/h: some call it a go-kart track) and the are reduced to one hour due to the rain.Admits Jean Alesi:

"I felt at ease, but it's too early to talk. We hope to have improved something compared to Brazil".


Meanwhile, the controversy regarding the disqualifications for the petrol used in Sao Paulo has not died down. Michael Schumacher (seventh with a gap of 1.035 seconds) and David Coulthard await the verdicts of the appeal court. The German doesn't want to make judgments or forecasts: he limits himself to recounting an mishap that occurred to him while he was on vacation in Brazil in the days leading up to the Argentine Grand Prix:


"I did a dive off Bahia, with my masseur and hotel manager. We were underwater for half an hour with tanks. When I surfaced, the support boat was gone: it had broken free. We began to shout, to signal, but no one could see or hear us. So I started swimming and after thirty five minutes I finally found help. It was the biggest fear of my life, other than F1".


On the other hand, those who are thinking intensely, with the help of an entire platoon of lawyers, are Elf and Renault, affected by the disqualification of São Paulo. It is clearly stated by the oil company that if the judgment on appeal is not favorable and if the real classification of the race is not reinstated, with Michael Schumacher's victory, the lawyers will also resort to ordinary justice, with huge requests for damages. A situation of total tension which confronts the FIA with a series of possible actions with unpredictable consequences.


"Gasoline was perfectly legal, and we want justice".


And Briatore adds that he had been sent by Luciano Benetton to sue anyone who wants to damage their image: according to the Italian manager, Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger would have made heavy statements speaking of irregularities. Ferrari, which took the win with Berger, is officially silent. Luca Montezemolo says:


"It's not our problem. We aim to win races on the track with our cars, trying to grow from time to time".


On Friday 7 April 1995, after leading all day, Jean Alesi was forced to give pole position to David Coulthard at the end of a first qualifying session of the Argentine Grand Prix played on acrobatics and thrills. Pouring rain since the morning, then the track was drying out at the end of practice. In about twenty minutes you are forced to do everything. Jean Alesi drives brilliantly, with exceptional control of his Ferrari 412T2, well into the lead. But he had run out of laps at his disposal and had to go back to the pits. Just in that instant the Scot of Williams beats him. Jean Alesi says, at the end of the tests:


"The asphalt was becoming dry visibly. If I had only had one pass still available, no one would have overtaken me".


President Luca Montezemolo replies:


"In any case, I would already sign for a front row tonight, however things go".


The forecast is for more rain, but everything could change on Saturday. The best in the wet are in order David Coulthard, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald F rentzen, Damon Hill, Gerhard Berger and Mika Hakkinen. Michael Schumacher was only relegated to ninth place, more than 2 seconds behind. The German did circus acts, including a 360-degree spin and a collision with Wendlinger's Sauber, but remained far from the fastest. Well done Luca Badoer and Gianni Morbidelli, respectively in P11 and P12. Ferrari shows growth and the modified engine seems to be able to provide some useful HP more for speed. But obviously confirmations are expected in the second qualifying session and above all for the race. Meanwhile, Elf takes an official position on the case of petrol bans in Brazil. Michel Bonnet, sales manager of the French oil company, takes stock of the situation through a very tough speech against the FIA and also against Ferrari, guilty - according to the French manager - of unwelcome verbal interference in the statements after the race held in St. Paul.


"The FIA erred by interpreting the regulations in an irregular manner. In the morning he had announced that the classification would be provisional, two hours after the race he gave the official one by imposing two disqualifications on the two riders placed in the first places. We have also obtained a second homologation for the same fuel used in the first round of the championship, giving the FIA all the elements on the manufacture of our petrol. And then the checks carried out were superficial: it took them 45 minutes for an examination that we do in eight days and with much more sophisticated hubs. We feel clean and at the same time denigrated. Now we await the decisions of the appellate court. We will provide Williams and Benetton with all the elements for the defence".


Referring indirectly to Ferrari, Bonnet declares:


"After so many years of sporting activity, we are surprised and sorry that a red team allows itself to make certain statements, while it should be red with shame for having taken a lap behind".


The offending sentences would be those of Gerhard Berger, Niki Lauda and Jean Todt. The driver and former world champion had spoken of possible influences on the performance of the cars if the fuels are irregular, while the manager of the Gestione Sportiva had limited himself to saying that the FIA had to do its duty and enforce the regulations. Later Todt and Bonnet talk to each other and explain their respective points of view : peace is made with the Maranello team. Moreover, Elf let it be known that it is waiting for the events to make any decisions, but it seems confirmed that if further checks establish that the fuels are not compliant, it will leave Formula 1 and the seven teams it currently supplies. A very serious threat. In addition, the FIA has been challenged to carry out other tests, but the technical commissioners do not take action. The whole affair is very unpleasant and complicated. But one wonders: if the race direction in Brazil took such a drastic decision by excluding the first two disqualified riders from the race, they will certainly have had the necessary elements in hand to do so. On Saturday 8 April 1995, ten minutes of respite were enough to revolutionize the starting grid of the Argentine Grand Prix. Ten minutes during which the rain, which began to fall furiously just before the start of the second qualifying session, slowed down slightly and stopped flooding the circuit. At this moment all the pilots take to the track, starting an infernal carousel amid spray and clouds of water, taking all the risks involved. Skill and even a little bit of luck rewarded the young up-and-coming Scotsman David Coulthard who, already in the lead on Friday, confirmed his supremacy by taking the first pole position of his career after just ten races. Beside him was Damon Hill, driving the other Williams-Renault, while Michael Schumacher miraculously climbed from ninth to third place. A leap forward that makes the German smile as if he had won a lottery. On the other hand, the two Ferrari drivers, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, who fell back to sixth and eighth position respectively, did not find winning tickets. The Frenchman, who was among the very first throughout the weekend and who thought - if the asphalt had remained dry - that he could fight for the front row, says he hasn't found a single valid lap. That is, it has always been slowed down by some other competitor. But it seems that someone, either the team or the driver, made an error of judgement: in fact, Jean Alesi starts lapping too early, perhaps hoping to hit the right moment. But when there are unstable situations, logic and experience tell us to do exactly what stronger opponents do. And Jean Alesi should have tried his hand at the same time as David Coulthard, who explains to journalists:


"It was the team that played the right cards. They kept me informed by radio of what was happening and who was in front of and behind my car. So I was able to slow down on the straight opposite the pits and create a space for myself to push hard without having to overtake slower competitors. The Williams was obviously fine".


Now we wonder what will happen in the race. Normally on this type of track, slow, winding and narrow, the racing becomes quite spectacular. Because groups of several cars are formed, because overtaking is almost impossible. The start (where Michael Schumacher intends to surprise both David Coulthard and Damon Hill) and the usual pit stops to change tires and refuel will count for a lot. Unless someone plays the joker of not stopping at all. The Ferraris, starting from behind, have limited possibilities to fight for the top positions. Even if there is some progress in terms of performance and the race could go better than the one in Brazil in terms of gaps. But for now in the pits of the Maranello team you can only see faces dark with anger, as well as the slightly disappointed one of the president Luca Montezemolo and, above all, the face of Jean Alesi, who when things go badly just can't hide it.


"I was optimistic, because my car was fine. With both dry and rain I thought I could attack. Instead it went badly, I was never able to push to the max, I always had some obstacles. We hope well for the race".


It's interesting to see what Eddie Irvine will do with Jordan-Peugeot and Mika Hakkinen with McLaren-Mercedes. There are some unknowns that could give interest to the race. Even if the forecasts, at this point, must take into account a duel between the Benetton-Renault of Michael Schumacher and the two Williams-Renaults of Damon Hill and David Coulthard. A battle of accelerations and braking which, however, could also be decided by the best overall tactics. On the case relating to fuel, among other things, neither the teams nor the Federation say anything. Barring surprises after the race. Sunday 9 April 1995, at the start of the Argentine Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher tries to overtake Damon Hill, but the Englishman manages to keep his position. Meanwhile, behind, Jean Alesi spins at the first corner, causing a series of carambolas that lead to the retirement of Luca Badoer, Bertrand Gachot and Karl Wendlinger. The red flag was thus displayed and a second start was necessary, in which Jean Alesi also took part with the reserve car. At the second start Mika Häkkinen, hitting Eddie Irvine's Jordan-Peugeot, punctured the rear left tyre, retiring; Michael Schumacher got off to a good start, moving into second position behind Damon Hill , and Jean Alesi also had a good starting point, finishing fifth behind the surprising Mika Salo on Tyrrell-Yamaha. Setting off to make two stops, unlike the Williams and Benetton drivers, Jean Alesi shows great difficulty in overtaking Mika Salo, thus losing precious seconds, while his teammate, Gerhard Berger, punctures a tire after a few laps and compromises his competition. The Williams prove to be superior to the competition, especially with regards to the chassis, and pick up the pace. On lap 16, however, David Coulthard retired due to accelerator problems; so Damon Hill and Jean Alesi remain dueling for the victory who has the advantage of making one stop less on his side than the Englishman; Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, was unable to find the ideal race pace, even though he kept third position without problems. The race was decided with Damon Hill's third pit-stop: the Williams mechanics made no mistakes and so the Englishman maintained the lead of the race, taking his first success of the season ahead of an excellent Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher, Johnny Herbert, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Gerhard Berger. 


On the other hand, the two Forti-Fords of Pedro Paulo Diniz and Roberto Moreno surprise in the negative, as they reach the finish line 9 laps behind Damon Hill and, not having completed 90% of the total distance, are not even classified, despite having actually finished the race. Ferrari is close: after Gerhard Berger's third place in Brazil (later promoted to winner due to the disqualification of Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard), the Argentine Grand Prix sees Jean Alesi on the second step of the podium behind Damon Hill, ruler of the race. But the placement of the Frenchman - even if we must take into account the type of circuit, very slow and tortuous - has a very different meaning from those obtained two weeks earlier in San Paolo. We finally saw a Ferrari that was competitive in terms of timing. And it must also be said that if the lapping phase had gone differently perhaps the Ferrari driver could have even disputed a final sprint with the Englishman from Williams-Renault. But let's be satisfied with the step forward and the progress shown by the 412T2s which also brought Gerhard Berger to sixth place, despite various drawbacks. Michael Schumacher with Benetton-Renault comes out beaten from the second round of the World Championship. The German - who says he was basically held up by two sets of tires that didn't work - finished the race in third place. Apart from a few spurts and a few fast laps, the Benetton driver was never a protagonist and appeared at the mercy of Williams and Ferrari. In terms of performance (Damon Hill inflicted a gap of 6.4 seconds on Jean Alesi) Ferrari was up to its rivals. Damon Hill made three pit stops, as did Michael Schumacher, while the Frenchman stopped twice. So he raced on less competitive tires and with a heavier load. And he was very good because he had to drive the reserve car due to an accident at the first corner after the start which forced the organizers to repeat the start. In these cases, the regulation allows the cars to be replaced. In the meantime, while waiting for the verdict of the court of appeal, following the appeal by Benetton and Williams against the disqualifications imposed in Brazil, Ferrari remains at the top of the championship standings. With Gerhard Berger in the Drivers' World Championship (Jean Alesi is third) and in the Constructors' World Championship. An excellent encouragement for the next San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, at the end of the month. But the most comforting fact certainly comes from the track, where we saw a Ferrari protagonist as everyone expected. 


And to say that the race had started badly. For the Italian colors there is an honorable ninth place by Domenico Schiattarella with Simtek and the usual beautiful race by Gianni Morbidelli who was sixth when he was eliminated by an electrical problem. For Minardi, however, another day to forget. Luca Badoer did not compete while Pierluigi Martini ended up being passed over on dirt carried on the asphalt by another competitor. Not even the fact of having to immediately go towards the race direction (together with Eddie Irvine and Olivier Panis) to testify about the accident at the start did not take away Jean Alesi's smile. This time the Ferrari driver really enjoyed himself:


"I went well at the first start. I got off to a terrible start, and to avoid being passed by everyone I went inside the corner. So I ended up in a dirty spot on the track and the car spun as if it had gone on ice. Then there was a whole series of collisions".


Is it a problem to race with the spare car?


"No, it ran like clockwork. Rather, the race demonstrated how important it is, especially on certain circuits, to start from the front, in the front row. Of course the engine on my car was a little better, but the other one worked great too. I am very happy because we are heading towards Imola with excellent morale and significant improvement prospects. At Ferrari there are many new things to try and I think we will still be able to make some progress".


Jean Todt echoes the French driver :


"Nice race. The Ferrari reality today is the one seen on the track. The modified engine ran great. The gas? Let's let the others do the talking".


Less satisfied Gerhard Berger:


"It was a bad day. I think I had a slight flat tire after Hakkinen's crash. I went into the pits but the radio didn't work well and we didn't understand each other. They figured I had a shock absorber problem (and I did, as it turns out later) and they were already pulling me to the garage. I lost almost a minute and a half. Then I also had other small problems, but by now the race was compromised. The only satisfaction: I remained at the top of the World Championship standings".


Damon Hill says everything was perfect, he didn't have the slightest disturbance and enjoyed seeing Schumacher's Benetton in the rear view mirrors. The German spoke instead of his troubles with the tires in the first two changes:


"Otherwise the race would have been different".


Speechless instead the Finnish Mika Salo of Tyrrell. After being blocked for a long time by Aguri Suzuki, he went directly to the Ligier pits to punch the Japanese. But the meeting was stopped before it escalated. In the morning the entire Fiat delegation had been to visit Ferrari and on Monday they will sign a contract for an investment of around lire in front of Argentine president Carlos Menem. The amount will be used to build a plant in Cordoba for the construction of the 178. A plant that will give work to 6,000 people. Paolo Cantarella and Umberto Quadrino are present together with the managing director Cesare Romiti. Paolo Cantarella, number one at Fiat Auto, jokes:


"We have to spend a lot to be able to come and see a Grand Prix".


And Cesare Romiti adds:


"Fiat and Ferrari are two independent entities of the same family. We give Maranello all the necessary means. Luca Montezemolo often comes to cash in, but what he has has to be enough for him. As far as I'm concerned, I'm ardently rooting for Ferrari and for Alesi and Berger who are the best. Fiat has made great progress in recent times, thanks to the excellent product offered and the style of the company. If Ferrari wins, it's good for all of us".


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