In the last seven races (two held last season and five in the current one) they have won almost as many times as Senna and McLaren. But they are not, at least in theory, in contention to win the World Championship. Who are they? The answer to this riddle is easy enough: Nelson Piquet and Benetton. The Brazilian and the Italian-English team won at Suzuka (Japan) and Adelaide (Australia) in 1990 and Montreal, Canada. The reasons for these repeated successes are easy and have a common denominator. Reliability of driver and car in races that have seen favourites go out of the running for one reason or another. It might seem, this last statement, disparaging to a racer who in reality has nothing to envy to the most celebrated champions now in vogue (he won three championships in the years 1981, 1983 and 1987, with 23 victories and 24 pole positions) and to a team that ranks among the best on the technical and organisational level. But, the truth is: Benetton, at the moment, theoretically has no chance of success except under special conditions. The team's greatest handicap lies, paradoxically, in the engine. Certainly not because of its intrinsic qualities: the 8-cylinder engine from Ford, made by Cosworth, is excellent, as the results confirm. But it cannot compete in terms of power with the more modern multi-cylinder engines, such as the 10-cylinder Honda and Renault and the 12-cylinder of the same Japanese company and Ferrari. Ford executives also acknowledged this disadvantage, who in Canada, on the eve of the unexpected victory, announced the development of a V12 that will be ready in November and can be used in 1992 exclusively by Benetton. The engine will still be made by Cosworth, will have a 75° V (like all those produced so far), will be very compact and will reach a speed hitherto unthinkable for a four-stroke engine: 16.000 rpm. A record in the field. These figures came from Allan Gilmour, president of Ford Automotive. The executive also added that the investment for this project is huge.
And, in a way, the decision of the big American company (although there is the impression that Ford is preparing for a comeback in the Indy Formula currently dominated by Chevrolet engines, should it decide to switch from the current methanol turbochargers to the 3500-cc aspirated gasoline engines, changing all the regulations) rewards the efforts of Benetton, which in just a few years has distinguished itself among the most competitive teams. The commercial operation, which - it must be acknowledged - the family of wool industrialists from Treviso began in 1986 with much intelligence, is thus turning into a sporting success. The purchase for a modest sum of the ashes of the former Toleman team (at the time a figure just over a billion lire was mentioned), the imposition on the stable of the Benetton name, moving from the role of mere sponsor to actual manufacturer, were only the first acts of a program that is yielding extraordinary results. The new impetus, after ideas provided by former sports director Davide Paolini, came with the arrival of Flavio Briatore, the team's manager, a native of Cuneo. In two years, Briatore, in tune with Luciano and Gilberto Benetton and the young Alessandro Benetton, organised a team that has nothing to envy to the most famous ones, even though it had to overcome not a few difficulties. Key points of the venture: the hiring of an experienced and combative driver like Nelson Piquet, alongside the aggressive Sandro Nannini (after the accident replaced by the other Brazilian Roberto Moreno, recovered and revitalised when he was now considered among the rejects of Formula 1); the involvement of a valuable designer,John Barnard, who brought with him a passionate and competent track technician like Giorgio Ascanelli, formerly of Ferrari; the agreements with the reticent Ford always in doubt between total commitment and disengagement; the courageous choice to collaborate with Pirelli, using the tires of the Italian manufacturer as an extra weapon or at least different from the Goodyear of rivals. A system that turned out to be positive in the end. Without forgetting that Benetton, while carrying the name of a certain product, found other sponsors who believed in this team by offering the 60 billion lire (an alleged figure but close to reality) needed to compete in Formula 1.
"I plan to continue for at least five more years".
Says Nelson Piquet. And knowing the driver, gypsy all you want, but always competitive, the common goal, his and the team's, is to win the World Championship. Taking advantage of the day before the Mexican Grand Prix, on Wednesday, June 12, 1991, some drivers visit the nearby, beautiful pyramids of Teotihuacan. Who knows, maybe someone prays to the god of the Feathered Serpent to give them a good result on Sunday. But the thoughts of the possible protagonists of the Mexican Grand Prix, the sixth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, are mainly directed to Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda. It is said in Formula 1 circles that:
"You have to seize the favourable moment when the English team and the Brazilian seem to be most vulnerable".
Indeed, the result in Canada, with the retirement of both McLaren-Hondas, has excited the spirits of rivals. Moreover, Senna also stumbled into an accident that, in some ways, could make it less difficult for those who wanted to attack him. On Sunday, June 9, 1991, in Angra Dos Reis, the beach resort near Rio de Janeiro where he spends his rest periods, while travelling over the waves on his jet ski, Ayrton fell and was slightly bumped on the head by the vehicle of a friend who was following him. Some fear, a few stitches on the back of his head, nothing serious, although the accident could have had dramatic consequences. McLaren downplayed it and Ayrton Senna, over the course of Thursday morning, stayed at the hotel to rest. He should have no problems for the race, although it is not ruled out that the South American's helmet may be modified to avoid any inconvenience for the necessary dressing. And, meanwhile, his rivals are preparing for the challenge. The fiercest are Patrese and Mansell with Williams, who dominated in Montreal without having won. The Italian driver says:
"Our cars are now the most competitive, we must aim for full success".
In the team, however, there is dissatisfaction. Renault is not happy with Williams' treatment of the Italian and especially disappointed with Mansell, accused of throwing away first place in the last race. For this reason, they may aim for Senna, but would also settle for Prost. The rumour is immediately denied by Ferrari, which lets it be known how the two drivers are under contract until the end of 1992. That may be true, but everyone knows how every agreement has loopholes if certain conditions are met. In any case, on Monday, June 10, 1991, Frank Williams flew to Turin with his plane, perhaps for a survey. At Ferrari, however, there is not too much concern about the driver market. Thursday, June 13, 1991 General Manager Claudio Lombardi explains what was done to try to remedy the troubles that forced Alain Prost and Jean Alesi to retire in Canada.
"We have increased the air intakes to cool the gearbox, and set up a different engine management to avoid risks when it is at maximum revs. For the rest, it will be a matter of finding the best balance of the cars on a circuit that presents problems for the engines because of its 2,200 metres in height and because of its nature as a track, with a very fast part and a mixed part, it imposes compromises".
It may be recalled that in 1990, despite not having had a good qualifying (Nigel Mansell P4, Alain Prost P13) Ferrari won resoundingly with the Frenchman ahead of the Englishman. However, Jean Alesi states:
"We have no illusions, although we have made some progress".
Lombardi, among other things, also lets it be known that the new 643 is almost ready but will be used only when it is proven to be faster than the current car, whose development continues. On Friday, June 14, 1991, practice for the Mexican Grand Prix begins and for the first time in his long Formula 1 career, Ayrton Senna risks his life.
It is about 2:00 p.m. and the Brazilian is making an extreme attempt to snatch the provisional pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix from Riccardo Patrese. The Paduan, shortly before, had shattered the circuit record, turning in 1'16"696 at an average close to 210 km/h. Practice had been interrupted due to a sensational run off the track by Bertrand Gachot in a Jordan, as the Belgian's car was in a dangerous position. Ayrton Senna, as is his habit, waited until the last five minutes: he went out like a fury and racked up a lap that seemed very fast. Then, however, as he arrived at the entrance to the big curve leading to the pit straight, the McLaren is seen to suddenly unwrap, reel in a series of spins and plunge into the rubber guards. The car subsequently jumps into the air, flips over and the right front wheel flies off, while the driver remains stuck upside down. Rescue is swift, and it must be said that the marshals remove the driver from the uncomfortable position by first overturning the single-seater without regard to special care. Senna touches his head: the Brazilian driver appears dazed, but intact. So much so that he walks away on his own two feet, only to be loaded into an ambulance and taken to the emergency room where he undergoes further examinations. Aside from the fear and some pain from the blow he received, (the accident occurred at about 260 km/h), the Brazilian reports no other injuries. Later, Ayrton gives explanation of what happened:
"It was my mistake, that's a corner you usually take in fifth gear; on my McLaren, that gear is too short, so I tried to do it in sixth. On entering the curve, I tried to downshift, I let my hand off the steering wheel, and the car had a gap: you've seen the rest".
This is a particularly unfortunate time for the Brazilian, who, after winning four consecutive races, was forced to retire in Canada, was the victim of the ski-jet accident while on vacation, and now has been the protagonist of this adventure, the ugliest of his dazzling career, although the whole thing, at least on the surface, has been resolved without too much damage. It will have to be seen, however, what will be the psychological reaction of the star driver on Saturday and especially on Sunday, in the race. Senna's accident ends up monopolising a qualifying round that reaffirms the competitiveness of the Williams-Renaults that have the two best times. One must also consider that Riccardo Patrese disputes practice in a debilitated condition because he was struck by the classic Montezuma's disease, with violent stomach pains and nausea. Ferrari is slightly improved from last year, but not too close: P4 for Jean Alesi, P7 for Alain Prost, rather detached, with some engine and set-up adjustment problems. Finally, surprising is the performance of Olivier Grouillard with Fondmetal, in P8, after coming out of pre-qualifying. Not all bad things come to harm. In Canada, Riccardo Patrese had neck pain and started on pole, this time in Mexico he is debilitated by a gastric infection but is still on top. The physical condition of the Italian is the unknown factor of the race. Nevertheless, the Williams-Renaults are the favourites for victory, as Nigel Mansell (who will have no regard for his teammate) is also on the front row. On Saturday, June 15, 1991, the last round of qualifying brings no changes in the top places because of intermittent rain. Only twelve drivers improve from the rear and the highest leap is made by Stefano Modena in the Tyrrell-Honda, now in P8. A race full of unknowns, with a Ferrari that can only play catch-up (Jean Alesi remains in P4, and Alain Prost in P7) and with a McLaren-Honda less competitive than usual: Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger (who ends up against the rubber guards ruining the nose of his car), however, are certainly not beaten at the start. In between sprinkles of rain, discussions continue about the accident from which Ayrton Senna miraculously emerged unharmed in the final minutes of Friday's practice session. Incidentally, the impressive accident occurred in the same spot where Ricardo Rodriguez died 29 years ago. The tragedy occurred on November 3, 1962, during qualifying for a Grand Prix that was not valid for the World Championship and was meant to homologate the track for the following year. The 20-year-old Mexican driver lost his life at the Peraltada curve, the banked corner, going off the road in a private Lotus Climax. Rodriguez had run five races with Ferrari and was considered one of the most promising racers of the time. Times have changed. Back then, a high- speed accident was almost always serious, if not fatal. Now the cars are safe. FISA-mandated crash tests (chassis are dropped from a certain height to assay their strength) and regulatory standards to improve active and passive safety have paid off.
Of course, the imponderable is always lurking, and in a dynamic like the one involving McLaren-Honda and Ayrton Senna, it would have taken little to turn a great fear into a tragedy. The Brazilian, perhaps for courage, jokes about it.
"I feel great, and I'm ready to do another one. Basically it scared my father more who was in the pits. When certain things happen you don't have time to think, it's all over in an instant. I confirm that it was my mistake: I wanted to go into sixth and when I realised I couldn't do it, that the car was sliding sideways, I tried to put it into fifth to get traction. The moment I left the steering wheel to grip the gearshift, I flew off".
Could this have psychological consequences?
"I don't think so, especially not in the race. I've had bad incidents before, maybe less spectacular, but probably even more risky. And I don't seem to have been conditioned. On the contrary, in a way these are important experiences for a driver: I think I will not make the same mistake again".
The World Champion then takes the talk to the race.
"I'm totally comfortable in the standings, I could even afford just one placing. But what I consider decisive is to regain the competitiveness of the car against the Williams. I would be, all things considered, happier with a last-lap retirement finding myself in the lead of the race than with a third-place finish detached sharply from Mansell and Patrese".
After Friday's big scare for Ayrton Senna, another accident - also without consequences - shakes the Formula 1 world a few hours before the start of the Mexican Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 1991 World Championship. In the half-hour warm-up that precedes each race, Jean Alesi ends up off the track, risking not taking part in the race. Due to a spin, the French driver hits a small wall in the S-curve preceding the banked corner. The Ferrari's two right-side suspensions bend and the driver limps out of the cockpit.
"The car is bouncing and it is difficult to keep it on the road".
At first it appeared that the consequences of the collision were serious, but Jean Alesi and the Ferrari team soon calmed down. After taking an X-ray at the circuit's emergency room, doctors rule out any fractures to the affected foot, the left. Dr. Benigno Bartoletti, the specialist following Ferrari, intervenes with ointments, dry ice and a bandage that is removed before the race. And Alesi declares himself ready for the challenge, although he appears nervous. He feels the pressure surrounding Ferrari: on Saturday, among other things, he had a fight with Maurizio Nardo, the technician in charge of his car. At the same time, Riccardo Patrese (who set the best time in the warm-up) is rejoicing over his Padova's promotion to Serie A. Riccardo, who will start on pole position with teammate Nigel Mansell alongside, had been misinformed and believed the team had lost. There are always surprises, then, in Formula 1. And some certainly are not pleasant ones: in fact, there is an air of crisis in the air. While the top teams (McLaren's Ron Dennis and Williams) are earning billions, many teams are threatening to close. Larrousse, for example, participated in this trip with two cars and a few mechanics. The managers stayed at home. More or less similar situation for other teams, but for different reasons. In trouble would be the Leyton House for which Ivan Capelli races. A stock market meltdown by Japanese owner Akira Akagi would have put a strain on the development program, which had included funding for the 10-cylinder Ilmor engine, among other things.
Then there is always talk of Brabham, which, despite Yamaha's intervention, is reportedly for sale again. The French Ags was given over to an Italian group because it could no longer make ends meet. Several teams also have problems with hotel accounts. It must be said in this regard that the Formula 1 circus in a sense becomes a victim of itself. Because everyone wants or would like to make money, hallucinating situations are created. People of few scruples have obtained conventions with the majority of hotels in the cities or areas hosting the races. Thus prices are sometimes tripled: a room that normally costs $120 is sold for $300. The borderline case at Magny-Cours, for the French Grand Prix, where someone has snapped up rooms in most of the hotels near the circuit. Reason being either sleeping prohibitive distances away or paying a supertax. The economic problem is so serious that some teams have had to seek new funding by implementing systems that are bordering on gambling. In fact, there is a Belgian group that, backed by major British insurance companies, accepts bets of all kinds. The rookie Irish team, Jordan, bet at the beginning of the season that it would win at least 9 points over the course of the season. An expenditure of $150.000. If they reach the goal (they are at 5) they will take $1.500.000. And there are those who even did the double bet, to win and to lose, betting money on different groups, calculating that in each case they will be able to pocket something. Sunday, June 16, 1991, at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix, Riccardo Patrese gets off to a bad start, slipping to fourth behind Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi and Ayrton Senna, who immediately manages to overtake the French Ferrari driver.
Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger's race ends on lap 5 due to engine failure; moments earlier, Pierluigi Martini slips on oil leaked from the Austrian's car, spins out and goes off the track, retiring. After overtaking Jean Alesi, Riccardo Patrese completes his comeback by also passing Ayrton Senna at the first corner and also threading his teammate Nigel Mansell on lap 15; the Englishman immediately loses ground as he is slowed by overheating problems. A lap later, Alain Prost is forced to retire with alternator problems, while Ferrari's other driver, Jean Alesi retires on lap 42 with clutch problems. Riccardo Patrese continues to lead the race to the end, maintaining an unapproachable pace for all and crossing the finish line ahead of Nigel Mansell in the other Williams-Renault, Ayrton Senna in the McLaren-Honda, Andrea De Cesaris in the Jordan-Ford, Roberto Moreno (slowed by a problematic pit stop) in the Benetton-Ford and Éric Bernard, in the Larrousse-Ford. The finale of the Mexican Grand Prix is enlivened by the case of De Cesaris, who was first disqualified and then reinstated with his fourth-place finish. On the last lap, the Italian's Jordan stops near the finish line: the fuel system remains without pressure. Incited by his team, Andrea gets out of the car and pushes the car. The Italian driver at first is joined by RAI correspondent Ezio Zermiani, who climbs over the wall dividing the pits from the track, and with a microphone is about to conduct an interview with the Jordan driver. De Cesaris looks at his compatriot, stops for a moment and says panting in his beloved Roman dialect:
"But instead of telling me all this nonsense, why don't you start pushing too?"
After a few metres, Andrea De Cesaris was also joined by McLaren manager Ron Dennis, who urged him to stop because he would be disqualified. The Italian driver would indeed be disqualified, but then, after protests from the Jordan team, the stewards would overrule the measure by accepting the argument in the regulations that drivers can push single-seaters on the track for safety reasons. In essence, a manoeuvre justified by the fact that the car was stopped in a dangerous position. Which was not true: an embarrassing episode. But it matters little. What really matters is that finally another Italian driver, Riccardo Patrese, made it to victory. It was from the beginning of the season that the Italian driver was aiming for victory. He succeeded at the sixth attempt, in a Mexican Grand Prix that recorded three starts, a no-holds-barred fight between the Italian's Williams and Nigel Mansell's, the Englishman's desperate chase in the finale, and the De Cesaris affair, which haunted the conclusion of the race with the Italian driver first disqualified for pushing the car that ran out of gas and then readmitted to the fourth place he had painstakingly won in the race. The stewards accept the complaint of his team, Jordan.
Still in trouble was Ferrari, which for the third time this season could not even get a car to the finish line (Prost immediately out with an electrical problem, possibly the alternator, Alesi retired when he was in fourth and could perhaps have fought for the podium because of a clutch-gearbox complex failure that sent him into a spin). But back to Riccardo Patrese, whom someone calls faster than Montezuma, with an obvious reference to the typical disease that strikes like a curse the unwary tourists in eating in Mexico and that the Paduan had caught in the days before the race.
"I was physically debilitated, almost without strength. It has to be said that if it hadn't been for Mansell, given the talents of the Williams that is going so strongly, it could almost have been a walk in the park. Instead, the Englishman put me under pressure and gave me quite a few problems until the end. I don't know what would have happened if there had been a few more laps to go".
The Italian driver's strength is beyond imagination. He has to fight against the bad luck that so often haunts him, against angry opponents and also, in a sense, against his own team, a Williams that hangs totally, not only because of the first-driver contract ticked off by Mansell, toward the British driver. Suffice it to say that in the final laps the British team's pits were buzzing, an excitement when Nigel was about to catch up with the escapee and give the impression that he could overtake him. Then, when Patrese came first to the finish line under the chequered flag, silence fell over Williams, people seemed petrified. Only after a few minutes was he finally greeted by well- deserved applause. However, Riccardo has no illusions:
"I don't think about the World Championship, I try to live for the day, I will try to win again. I am convinced that McLaren and Senna will soon be competitive again, and then I will always have to deal with my teammate. To achieve certain goals, such as the world title, in addition to going strong you also need to be fully supported by your team. I just hope that if things go this way, a decision will be made in the middle of the season to see which rider we can try to aim high with".
Having won the Mexican Grand Prix and beaten teammate Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese left the Williams-Renault of his triumph and rode out of the circuit with a friend, on a motorcycle, anonymously, to avoid post-race traffic. First Patrese, a veteran of the Formula 1 world, enjoyed - that's the right word - the joys of an ultra-deserved success. Fourth victory in Formula 1, but above all, proof that at 37 years old one can still be young, full of determination and grit. The Italian driver, married, three children, is a bit of a shut-in, introverted guy, who can sometimes seem grumpy or rude. But it is part of his no-nonsense character, of a moral uprightness that leads him to always try his best, not to complain, to measure himself against others, but also and above all against himself, to implement a rigour of life that some of his colleagues, enchanted by the fatuous world they frequent, just cannot imitate. This, perhaps, is the secret that has brought Patrese, a former swimmer and great lover of skiing, golf and all kinds of sports, to the limelight, perhaps a little late. Patrese has also serenely accepted hugs from Nigel Mansell, a driver who on the track becomes a wild fighter, unable to measure risk, but who outside turns into a gracious gentleman.
"I have nothing to say to Nigel. As was the case in Phoenix everyone did their own race, with no team orders. If anything, to see certain things a blow to the heart might come to Frank Williams".
Said the Italian in response to a question about his teammate's improprieties. In order to overtake the Englishman and take the lead, Patrese had to try his hardest, risking being thrown off the track.
"I dedicate this victory to my wife Susanna, because I can imagine her shaking in front of the television. The World Championship? I repeat, at the moment I don't care about that. I think about going strong, winning as many races as possible. I think I did a good race: I didn't get a good start but I recovered right away and gave a good gap to everyone. However, to attack I must have worn out the tires because in the final Mansell was faster. In any case I could control the race, although I took a lot of risks in the last laps. I couldn't make any mistakes, especially in the lapping".
But within Williams, Mansell seems to have greater weight.…
"I don't ask for anything. If there is a contract that grants the spare car to Nigel, it doesn't bother me. More than one car at a time cannot be driven. I have a very fast and competitive car, that's enough for me. Also, it is not true that I am not considered: I think the team, technicians and mechanics, Renault, Elf love me very much, they appreciate me. Give me a Williams that goes like a bang and then I'll take care of it. In the race, at one point, I was spinning twice as fast as the others".
You also have to dispel a reputation as an unlucky driver....
"Sometimes fate has not been in my favour, on other occasions I could not complain. Here in Mexico I think I was even with luck and bad luck. On Friday I was very sick with an intestinal infection, on Saturday I felt a little better, in the race I was fine. I can't complain: out of six races I had one first, one second and one third place. Maybe something more was in it, but I'm content. I always said I was racing to win".
Given the way things turned out, better not to have gone to Ferrari?
"I don't care. This is useless talk. Now we have to think about maintaining this level. In the tests at the end of June in Silverstone we will have an aerodynamic and engine evolution, we are launched. The only sorrow I received from my Padova footballer friends who missed out on promotion. I had dedicated Saturday's pole position to them, hoping to encourage them. Life goes on guys, look at me how long I waited to reap certain satisfactions. And now I will go to the French Grand Prix to win again".
A goal shared by an exultant Frank Williams, who, however, maintains his composure:
"Happy? So much so. What do we do now? We try to get little sleep. Tomorrow morning we'll try to get up early so our opponents don't get to work before us to catch up with us".
Among the rivals, of course, was Ayrton Senna:
"Patrese was very good, he had a remarkable race. We, on the other hand, have to get busy. I have been saying for months that our successes were ephemeral. We need to fine-tune the chassis and especially the Honda engine, which is inferior to the Renault and even the Ferrari in some ways. The only positive fact is that the Japanese have understood and will try to prepare something profoundly innovative to return to the top".
In his youth, Frank Williams had been a mediocre Formula 3 driver. But because he was a go-getter, he quickly realised that it was better to be a team manager. So, in 1967 he began a career that has led him, at the present age of 49, to become one of the most prestigious constructors in Formula 1. Forty-four victories to his credit and three World Championships (in 1980 with Jones, in 1982 with Rosberg, and in 1987 with Piquet). As is well known, the leathery Frank, a man who loved sports and physical activity, has been nailed to a wheelchair since 1986. A car accident while returning from a series of tests from the Le Castellet circuit rendered him a quadriplegic. But that is not why he lost his courage and determination. On the contrary, racing has become his sole reason for living, and he continues to run the team himself. What is the secret of these successes?
"Application, seriousness, determination, planning. It's like running any business, you have to make a good, quality product to sell. But this is not enough for me. I am happy that my machines are going strong. However, it is the results that count, the first places. And I can't blame the roast-beef, he does everything he can, he is a driver who exposes himself by temperament".
The reference to Mansell leads to other talk. Why does the Englishman have a privileged position in the team? Just because of nationality?
"No. It's a matter of contract. With Mansell we made an agreement for one year during which he would be entitled to the reserve car exclusively. I know very well that Patrese complains and is sometimes disappointed. However, Riccardo must recognize that he has a very good car at his disposal and he should be happy".
There is talk these days about the driver's market. And there are rumours that Williams is interested in Senna or possibly Prost.
"You want the truth? I have no intention of moving on the 1992 hires before the end of July, or the first days of August. This is so as not to destabilise the teams and the men. And I think McLaren and Ferrari are intent on doing the same. Then if there are those who are stirring up ghosts for convenience, that doesn't interest or involve me".
It must be remembered, however, that last year Williams himself was disappointed by Senna, who after a long negotiation with him stayed at McLaren, and by Alesi who, in order to go to Ferrari, said he would stay put for a season. In any case, Formula 1 stars have reached enormous prices, on the order of tens of millions of dollars.
"It happens all over the sports world. Lowering prices is just a dream. We are in a free market regime. And anyway, it will be hard to get Ferrari to decide to reduce the fees".
But let's look to the future. Where is Formula 1 going? Certainly there is an inkling of crisis. Some teams may close.
"This is also a natural law, the strongest survive. Maybe there will be a reduction in the number of entries in races, but I don't think Formula 1 will regress. Those who remain will be the best, and the races will become even more uncertain and spectacular".
What's in tomorrow's Williams?
"I'd rather think about today even though we have our own plans, very specific programs, sports and technical. Since success goes hand in hand with earnings, I am forced to try to win".
In parallel, at the end of the Mexican Grand Prix, Alain Prost tells the press:
"The Ferrari 642 is finished. Make way for the 643, the car of the future".
Without mincing his words, as usual, the French driver, who was once again forced to retire, thus liquidates the single-seater he has been driving since the beginning of the season and which has brought him more disappointment than joy. But it will be difficult for Ferrari and Prost to solve all the problems, as if with a magic wand, by changing the single-seater. In fact, the Maranello team's engineers have been working in forced gears to prepare the new model. The design was made by aerodynamics specialist Jean-Claude Migeot, the translation into concrete was accomplished by Steve Nichols. And the 643 could already hit the track on Wednesday, June 19, 1991, at Fiorano (or Thursday morning at the latest) for an initial test run pending shipment to Silverstone, England, where tests are scheduled for Monday, June 24 to Tuesday, June 25, 1991. According to what is known, the new car will follow the latest trends in Formula 1 technology: high nose with a gull-wing type configuration, as Migeot himself had already studied for the Tyrrell. Perhaps there will be a further evolution of this fashion named after some other animal, fish or bird. It must be said, however, that engineer Claudio Lombardi, Ferrari's fresh technical manager, is being very cautious on this subject.
"Before arriving at a decision it would be necessary to fully understand what the defects of the old car are. The main problem is to avoid repeating them on the new one. Reason being, the 643 will run when the comparative tests we carry out give positive results in favour of it. It is clear that in theory, based on the elaborations provided by the wind tunnel, the latest one has some advantages. But we know very well that theory is one thing, practice is another".
The drivers, however, are clamouring for the new car. Says Jean Alesi:
"I think I tested here that I am the driver Ferrari had wanted last year. I made a very good start and fought until I retired. Did Senna and Mansell obstruct me irregularly? Maybe they did, but we all know that's how racing is. We are not in a bad situation, but we need something different. No use working on the current car to gain half a second a lap, when with the new one maybe we'll be a second faster. I'm looking forward to testing it".
Prost does not spare some indirect criticism of the team.
"The engine settings over the three days were never perfect, and still on Sunday morning my Ferrari was really unrideable. Then we changed almost everything, flat out, and mysteriously the car became great, so much so that after a cautious start to save tires, I could recover well. Actually I thought I would at least finish on the podium".
Indeed, at the beginning of the race there was the impression that the Maranello cars were competitive. Instead, once again, reliability failed. An engine and gearbox in Canada, an alternator and clutch in Mexico. It is clear that something is not working. The new management certainly cannot be blamed, but from the discontent that is being gathered there is a need to find a driver with total freedom. Engineer Lombardi will have to ask the top management of Ferrari to be allowed to work without interference and perhaps get rid of unnecessary duplication that only creates confusion within the team: too many people are in charge or would like to be in charge. And it is not certain that more news in this regard will not arrive already this week.