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#514 1991 Spanish Grand Prix

2023-01-10 23:00

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#1991, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#514 1991 Spanish Grand Prix

They have already called it: el padre de todos los circuitos. In fact the new Montmeló circuit, twenty kilometres north of the capital of Catalonia, i

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They have already called it: el padre de todos los circuitos (the father of all circuits). In fact, the new Montmeló circuit, twenty kilometres north of the capital of Catalonia, is spectacular. The structure, which takes over the baton in an ideal relay from Jerez de La Frontera to host the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix, cost over 6500 million pesetas. Equipped with the most modern equipment, it has a 4747 metre long track, whose asphalt surface was made in six different layers. A circuit which will from now on be a benchmark for anyone who wants to engage to build another stadium for car and bike races. But the inauguration of the circuit comes in a very delicate moment. Spanish newspapers avoid the subject, preferring to minimise certain problems. But there is a reason for the alarm. Next year, in this city, Barcelona, tormented by traffic jams and the enormous work in progress, the Olympic games will take place. And there are those who fear that the appointment with the Formula 1 could be taken as a showcase for complaints, with the precise purpose of creating psychosis, trying to endanger the course of the 1992 Olympic Games themselves. Even if, quietly, it is spoken about possible actions of the ETA, the armed fringe of the Basque separatists who recently have been heard both in Spain, in France and in Italy. For this reason the circuit is discreetly guarded by police and security officers standing at the various doors of the paddock and the boxes. According to some rumours, the bulk of the work was carried out by military secret police, who would have installed a real operational commando to avoid any attacks. A confirmation comes from the fact that a special metal detector to control all entrances would also be used. It is not the first time that the touring circus of Formula 1 is in the middle of worrying situations: it was so in Argentina at the time of general coup leaders and in South Africa when it came close to racial unrest. Wednesday, September 25, 1991, meanwhile, the circuit, still in phase of frantic finish, received the baptism of a raging storm. Lightning, flooded roads in the surroundings, considerable damage, but the circuit, well drained, seems to have held very well. Tuesday, instead, there will be the general test of the infrastructures with two sets of free practice, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (rain permitting). Many drivers make a few laps on the track. The opinion of Nelson Piquet, usually very critical, is interesting:

 

“I didn’t expect such a beautiful track. It’s wonderful and it’s gonna be hard. There are large support curves, very fast, where the violent accelerations will make the race a martyrdom for us drivers, subjected to a huge centrifugal force. There are, however, several places to overcome, the track is wide, and I think the Gran Prix will be spectacular, also for the course of the track itself, with continuous climbs and descents.”

 

Barcelona already hosted Formula 1 in the past, four times from 1969 to 1975, in the street circuit of Montjuic. The feeling with the Catalan capital was interrupted on Sunday, April 27, 1975 when the German Rolf Stommelen with a Lola flew over the crowd causing a tragedy: four dead and ten wounded. The various Spanish circuits have never been too friendly with Ferrari, who won only four times: in 1954 with Hawthorn, 1974 with Lauda, 1981 with Villeneuve and in 1990 with Prost. Talking about Prost, there is no news on his decision. There is never peace for the team of Maranello. To the various problems, one issue about mechanics is also added. It is said that in Portugal, for accusations directed to them by the sports management due to an inconvenience to Prost’s car (which caught fire) during the warm-up, they would threaten a protest action. On Wednesday, however, everyone is working to prepare for this new challenge. A race that could mathematically give the world title to Ayrton Senna. Tuesday, September 26, 1991, the baptism of the Catalan racetrack is celebrated, with no rain and with pink confetti donated by the drivers, who at the end of two hours promote the track and the facility: the circuit is great and fun, there are many overtaking points, safety is respected. There were just some difficulties with the bottom, a little slippery for the dust and with some undulations. The one who set the fastest time is Nigel Mansell (1'22"239, at an average speed of 207.799 km/h) which precedes by about 0.5 seconds Ayrton Senna and the increasingly surprising German Michael Schumacher (Benetton). Further afield there are Martin Brundle, Nelson Piquet, Riccardo Patrese, Jean Alesi, Stefano Modena, Mika Hakkinen and Alain Prost (tenth). For Nigel Mansell, this Spanish Grand Prix is his last hope. He has to win, hoping that Ayrton Senna does not take points. The opportunity is also great for Ferrari, which in Magny-Cours, in a similar circuit, had a good race. 

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Engineer Lombardi, meanwhile, denies that a fine has been imposed on Prost, and states that in his future there will still be Ferrari (unless he retires). Good was Alesi, P7 but with race tires. Riccardo Patrese got a taste for victory. After the success in Portugal, he would like an overwhelming season finale. But his enthusiasm, the desire to extend the magic moment, collides with a situation far from favourable. In the Spanish Grand Prix to be held on the new circuit of Montmelò, in Catalonia, the Italian driver will be forced again to favour the teammate, Nigel Mansell, as it happened in Estoril, even if he is in the lead of the race.
 

"No one told me anything, certainly not Nigel and Frank Williams. But what is clear is that as long as the Englishman has hope to continue to fight for the world championship, I have to play his game. It’s right, after all. Anyway you also have to realise that for my team the World Championship for Makes is very important. So, it will also be necessary to think about the placings to get the 11 points in the standings that separate us from McLaren. Indeed it seems to me that, given the way our cars travel, it will be much easier to hit the second aim than the first one".

 

As always, Patrese is very clear and precise. In fact, he doesn’t even hide that he received a message from the magician Giucas Casella who had predicted his victory in Portugal. 

 

"He wrote to me that he will concentrate for me also in the next race. If the result is the same, I will not abandon him until the end of his career... No, seriously, it is a happy period that I’m living, which repays me from so much bitterness. Now people can see a Patrese who is reliable, who is strong and determined. They say I found out the elixir of eternal youth. Totally wrong: I am the same, but when you drive a car that is not competitive you can’t defend yourself. What you only make is bad impressions and someone thinks you’re finished. Luckily, for several circumstances, there’s always been someone who believed in me. Now they can say they were right".

 

About the next race, Patrese is quite cautious:

 

“Today we tried the track for the first time. Afterwards we can make some judgments. It seems a really interesting and challenging track to me, valid for Williams but also for McLaren and Ferrari. However, I think the fight for first place will be between us, Senna and Berger, because it’s difficult for Prost and Alesi to cover all the gap they had until the last race. The Maranello team surprised me negatively: last year at Estoril, Mansell scored the pole position in 1'13"5. We dropped this time to 1'13"0 while Prost’s best time was 1'14"2. Not only did they not improve but they regressed. For this reason, even if I like to think of a Ferrari capable of opposing us in this race, I cannot be optimistic". 
 

The race weekend begins, to the delight of Ayrton Senna, with the official lack of confirmation of Jean-Marie Balestre at the head of the FISA, which leaves the presidency to the English lawyer Max Mosley, the winner of the last elections. An election that leaves everyone amazed. In fact, before the meeting in Paris there was a veiled assurance that Balestre would have ended up winning, even with a minimum difference in votes. And instead, with 43 votes against 29 of the outgoing president, the British lawyer Max Mosley, thanks to the votes of Asian voters, part of those Africans and some European car clubs unhappy with the management of Balestre, wins the challenge.

 

Given the explanations of vote received, Balestre had to win this election, obviously many friends have betrayed him".

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Admits the former president’s French entourage. From the very first moment, there were many doubts about Mosley’s candidacy, also due to his decision to announce that in October 1992 he would resign to be tried in a new election after a year in office. It is said about Mosley that he does not seem to have the charisma to govern a rich and politically difficult sport, also because the latter, a friend of Bernie Ecclestone, is seen as a man of little importance, put in the right place at the right time to grant total power to the British manager. Thus, this is the end of an era in which the president of the FISA stumbled into spectacular gaffes, or did whims if the airport could not find the limousine with flags in the fenders and the motorcycle security, or on the starting grid insisted on taking a driver out of the cockpit to fit the granddaughter. It should nevertheless be remembered that Balestre also managed to stop the bullying of the English teams, giving space and voice to Ferrari and other continental teams. But as already said, at least for now it is Ayrton Senna who rejoices, who believes he has freed himself of a very important political obstacle. Friday, September 27, 1991, in Barcelona there is a great battle for the provisional pole between McLaren-Honda and Williams-Renault (with the final flicker of Gerhard Berger overtaking Nigel Mansell, turning in 1'18"751, at the average speed of 217.751 km/h), who bring their four cars in front of everyone. In fifth place there is the usual Michael Schumacher, who precedes Jean Alesi and Alain Prost in the order, sixth and seventh. The German is no longer a surprise. Aided also by the Pirelli tyres, thanks to the smooth asphalt and not too high temperature, Schumacher proved once again to be very fast. Nelson Piquet is irreverent towards his teammate, he pushes deeply on the accelerator and drives with the determination of the rookie but also with a very refined technique that allows him to obtain certain exploits at a high level. Returning to Ferrari, which also adopts more advanced engines (evolution 5) and some new technical solutions (different exhaust valves and shock absorbers), finds on its way the usual obstacles. Prost says he could not use the tyres well and that the car was jumping a bit. Alesi does not complain but he can’t explain well the reasons why the times are so high (or low, according to the point of view): 1.4 seconds late, they are on average standards, that is not competitive. The fact of not being able to get a significant performance that would put an end to many speeches (and perhaps even to Prost’s doubts...) has no other result than not to lighten the pressure on the Maranello team. Even if there are moments of joy. For example, during the morning a journalist from Turin perfectly imitates the voice of engineer Lombardi, in an imaginary interview:
 

"Yes it is true, Prost has decided to leave us. We are looking for young talents, we are interested in Schumacher...".

 

The recording of the play goes around the boxes. And someone believes it. So the phone calls in Rome to ask for an extra page available for the clamorous case, requests from satellites for television broadcasting. It seems that even Flavio Briatore, the director of Benetton, went to Ferrari to say: 

 

"Schumacher? I won’t even leave him in death". 

 

And Alain Prost pretends to be surprised: 

 

"We agreed to say it after practice". 

 

While Lombardi is having fun: 

 

"Well done imitation". 

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Fortunately, it can also be played down. But in reality, the story of Prost continues to hold sway and there are those who swear that the Frenchman, within a short time, will know that he has decided to leave, at least for a year, the activity. But it is clear that many factors always intervene in these things. There are those who amplify simple assumptions for personal interest (for example, a manager who has a driver to place) or those who do it for the sheer pleasure of creating confusion or difficulty. At this point you just have to wait. It is reported, for the sake of reporting, what is rumoured about in the paddock. If Prost leaves, Ferrari could choose between Capelli, Martini, Modena, Morbidelli and the Italian-American Michael Andretti, current leader of Formula Indy. Who knows. There are those who also relaunch a Patrese-Alesi trade, taking advantage of the fact that Frank Williams left suddenly for London as if he had a business commitment. Were the men from the Maranello team waiting for him? Good story. All these amenities are partly hiding the problems and reality: it is precisely in Spain that we celebrate a year that Ferrari does not win. It is not a good event. Formula 1, last act? In fact, on Sunday the World Championship will have many chances to end the match between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. The Brazilian has a real chance to win his third title. If the English driver does not come at least first or second, hoping that the rival of McLaren is behind him, the speech will be closed with two races before the end of the season. It will be a very important race for the moustached British racer who, in case of defeat, will see it slip out of hand, for the third time in recent years, at the last moment, the iridescent helmet. Williams-Renault is competitive, but perhaps, at this moment, the British driver does not have a high morale. But he is well-known: on the track he will forget all his misadventures and will only think about getting to the finish line in front of everyone. Therefore, it must not be excluded that  the challenge will be postponed to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, next October 20. Are drivers hiding their intentions? Perhaps, but every hypothesis is valid at this point. An important role will be played once again by the respective teammates of the two duelists. 

 

Berger on one side, Patrese on the other. The former may disturb the men of Williams if they take the lead and he will try to force them to make a mistake, the latter will have to act as a squire. Protect Mansell at the start, let him pass if he will go in the lead and then remove valuable points to the Brazilian. In short, a delicate and precious task. Otherwise, there seems to be no story. Few chances for the still very good debutant Michael Schumacher with Benetton-Ford, even if the German is lightning fast, still a waiting race for Ferrari that in theory is not in the situation of being able to undermine Williams-Renault and McLaren-Honda. There was not enough progress on the cars of Prost and Alesi to hope for something more than a good finish. A victory could help Alain to decide to stay with the Maranello team next year. There are, however, those who wonder whether it is worth keeping the Frenchman at this point. It is true that in the drivers market there is nothing more tempting (all choices could be at risk), but on a scale there is on one side the value of a driver who with a car able to win hardly misses, and on the other the opportunity to start over, maybe from a lower step, but with greater serenity. The only trouble is that maybe the last word will be up to the driver and not the team. Except surprises. Saturday, 28 September 1991, Ayrton Senna, aware that he could never conquer the pole position, managed to freeze the Spanish Grand Prix grid, taking advantage of a negative event (a dramatic explosion of the Honda engine at the start of a qualifying lap) to shelter his teammate Gerhard Berger from any attack. A beautiful strip of oil that is two hundred metres long floods the asphalt and the game is done. Because on the slippery slope no one among the best can make progress. So Gerhard Berger will start on pole position (it is the seventh time in his career) and will try to help the astute South American. Goal: to block the Williams-Renault of Nigel Mansell (in the front row) and Riccardo Patrese (in the second row next to Ayrton Senna). Michael Schumacher follows with Benetton-Ford and, in sixth place, Alain Prost with Ferrari. Once again, just before the break - in any case the improvements would have been difficult because of the wind - Alain managed to score a better time, for 0.2 seconds, and to precede the young Alesi. 

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But Prost in Formula 1 is almost no longer spoken of for results and performance. The thirty-six-year-old St-Chamond driver continues to be the protagonist of the stormy relationship with the Maranello team. When radio-box gave for imminent a possible announcement of the abandonment of the activity by Prost, Piero Ferrari, responsible for the sports management of the team and vice president of the company, intervened instead. For the first time since rumours invaded the environment, it is admitted that there is a Prost case.

 

"We didn’t give the driver any tickets. But there’s no point in denying there’s a problem with our relationship with Prost. The issue must be clarified as soon as possible, even if it must not be precipitated". 

 

Doing something to hold him on?

 

"We have to thoroughly check this possibility too. Because at this point of the season there are no top-drivers on the market anymore. It is necessary to meet to clarify other aspects of our past, present and future collaboration". 

 

But didn’t you get caught unprepared, if Alain decided not to race with Ferrari?
 

"No, because we were strong with a contract for 1992 that the driver himself had solicited and signed at the beginning of the season. And there was no reason to think that he would change his mind". 

 

Then a conversation takes place between Alain Prost, Piero Ferrari and the engineer Claudio Lombardi. At the end the driver, pale in face and very tired (in this regard, a French newspaper overshadows the hypothesis that the driver is suffering from mononucleosis and still suffers from the intoxication from the fumes breathed on Sunday at Estoril, when his Ferrari caught fire during the warm-up), informed of what the head of his team had said, does not comment. A very intricate story, difficult to explain. But now the positions are quite clear. Prost decided to leave Ferrari to go to Ligier, as a driver or as a manager, maybe taking a year off. But the Maranello team wants full compliance with a contract that provides for strong penalties (3,000,000 dollars). In addition, the Frenchman may not receive a portion of this year’s engagement that he had asked, for personal reasons, to be paid in the next season. This is the real reason for his reticence. He wants to get out of the cage where he slipped in with his wallet swollen. If he realises that the divorce will cost him too much, Prost might as well back off. But in the meantime, the lawyer Peter, Ferrari’s legal counsel, is the author of an interview with Ron Dennis, boss of McLaren. Why? Simple: the English team has an option on Michael Andretti, candidate to replace the French. This is all about finding a formula for redemption. 

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Sunday 29 September 1991, the Spanish Grand Prix starts with the circuit still wet after it had rained in the morning. At the start Ayrton Senna sprinted well, behind Gerhard Berger, while Nigel Mansell was also overtaken by Michael Schumacher, who moved into third position. At the bottom of the group there is a collision between Érik Comas and Éric Bernard: both are out of the race. The track is extremely slippery and this heats up the race, with Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell and Jean Alesi competing from the second to the fifth positions and Gerhard Berger who slowly detaches the pursuers. Nigel Mansell had the upper hand over Michael Schumacher, then chased after Ayrton Senna. Then, the Williams driver overtakes his rival on McLaren and overtakes him on the main straight, which the two run side by side, with the wheels brushing dangerously. The first of the leading drivers to be fitted with dry tyres was Alain Prost, followed shortly afterwards by race leader Gerhard Berger, whose pit stop was slow. Mansell and Senna entered the pits on the same lap: McLaren’s mechanics are faster and the Brazilian is back on track in first position, ahead of Berger, Mansell and Schumacher. The following lap Ayrton Senna let the fastest team-mate pass, to prevent Nigel Mansell from chasing both; in the meantime, it starts raining again and the Brazilian goes off the track at the last corner, sliding to fifth place. On lap 20, Nigel Mansell overtook Gerhard Berger, who was then joined by Michael Schumacher; however, the German driver went off the track in an attempt to pass his rival, returning to the race in sixth position. On lap 33, Gerhard Berger retired due to electrical problems; this allowed Alain Prost to advance to second position. Further back, Riccardo Patrese surpassed Ayrton Senna, taking third place; later, Jean Alesi also gets the better of McLaren’s Brazilian, taking fourth place after Michael Schumacher’s pit stop. There were no further changes and Nigel Mansell won the Spanish Grand Prix, ahead of Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Jean Alesi, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Ultimately, in Barcelona, Nigel Mansell had a huge fight with Ayrton Senna, then he beat him on the track and won the Spanish Grand Prix. A deserved and significant success, given that first place was the sole objective to remain in the race for the conquest of the World Championship. A match point missed for the Brazilian who is forced to settle for a skimpy fifth place. For the McLaren champion, the road to the world title is always open, but he will still have to postpone the appointment with the triumph at least at the Japanese Grand Prix. The new circuit of Catalunya, however, has not only relaunched the championship. A very good race finally marked a small surge in Ferrari’s actions. Alain Prost’s second place and Jean Alesi’s fourth (preceded by Patrese) return the best overall result of the season, on a par with the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. But this time the Maranello team could perhaps have achieved something more if the young Jean had not run into a 10-second penalty. Alesi paid for everyone because of a risky start, after in the morning in the driver briefing there was a real tussle. A quarrel that ended the so-called “pax auto”. From now on there will be a few hugs and smiles on the podium. President Jean-Marie Balestre had announced that he no longer wanted to tolerate reckless actions at the start, after what had been seen at Estoril. Nigel Mansell, very nervous (he had already taken by the neck Gerhard Berger who had made a bad taste joke, stretching a leg to trip him), felt suspected of crime and had exploded: 

 

"Look at Senna, she’s done all kinds of things". 
 

And the Brazilian, furious, replied: 

 

"Then we take the registration of the races played from the beginning of the season and we will see who is incorrect". 

 

While Nigel Mansell was leaving (risking a fine) in advance, Nelson Piquet came out and it didn’t seem true to attack the two enemies in a single shot:

 

"It is time to end it, those who make mistakes must be hit". 

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And under the javelins of the sports stewards went Jean Alesi, who was stopped with a special signal, had to return to the pits where he waited 10 seconds and left. In total, Alesi lost in two laps 32.340 seconds. Looking at the classification, the Frenchman finished fourth, 22.772 seconds from Nigel Mansell. So in theory he could have won. Actually it would have been necessary to see what pace the Englishman could have kept if it had been attacked thoroughly. However, it should be noted that the race has been quite irregular due to the adverse weather conditions. The track was wet at the start and a few drops then still fell after a few laps. The uncertainty caused a prudent choice of tyres that ended up conditioning, at least partially, the whole race and perhaps also the result. In practice, all the cars have been fitted with rain tyres and had to stop almost immediately to change them. But there is also a backstory: on Saturday, Goodyear had only six sets of D-tyres, soft, the most suitable to face the cold and even wet asphalt that were assigned to the top drivers. Not everyone has been able to prove it well and this has suggested some doubts. Senna in fact made a safety choice by asking on his McLaren two type D right and C left. This move put him into trouble. And the Brazilian has always run, without grip, forced to manage to take 2 points and avoid a debacle. The gap has been reduced to 16 points. But Ayrton Senna is still sitting in a comfortable chair in the challenge with Nigel Mansell. In the two races that remain to be run he will need only 5 points to win the crown, while the Englishman will always have to win to continue to hope. In Barcelona, at the end of the race, the atmosphere is reversed in the two opposing teams. Calm and relaxed at Williams, tense and agitated at McLaren, surpassed by a point in the standings of the Constructors' World Championship. Frank Williams, among other things, in his wheelchair, goes to the Ferrari box to thank for the help, even if involuntary, given to his driver, taking points from the Brazilian. Meanwhile, Nigel Mansell says:
 

"The car, mechanically, was perfect. But the adjustments had been a bit changed in anticipation of the rain. Other than that, I took unnecessary risks in some lapping. Everyone resisted the limit and when I passed Berger I was afraid that it would touch me on the rear wheels. The championship? I can only live by the day. After Portugal I was depressed, now I can also have fun. The pitstop was a bit long. But at least I’m back on track with all four wheels...". 

 

On the other hand, Ayrton Senna is puzzled and continues to look at the tires: 

 

"We made a mistake. We made a careful choice that turned out to be very bad. The car was undriveable. So this was the hardest race of the season for me. There are people who act like they are on bumper cars on the track. Mansell was faster on the straight, but at the entrance to the corner he came menacingly close to my car. Alesi threw himself in without scruples. He did it because he had nothing to lose. But it won’t go on like this. Mansell has to say clearly if he wants to make regular runs or if the judges are looking for hard play. In any case with my lead in the standings I still feel in a strong position". 
 

Look who's talking. Senna is a champion, no doubt about it. But he’s certainly not the subtle type. Maybe he already forgot he hit Prost last year in Suzuka to win the title. Speaking of collisions: the debutant Alex Zanardi, commendable for his commitment and certainly to be reviewed for a judgement (but it seems that Schumacher is from another class) at the end of the race makes a mistake.

 

Stretching the braking, the Italian driver hits the Minardi of Morbidelli. The latter ends up against a low wall and, bouncing off the track, hits the car of his teammate, Pierluigi Martini, who is coming. Poor Giancarlo Minardi: among many troubles there were also two cars badly damaged. Among the other protagonists, Riccardo Patrese says: 

 

"At the start I was on the dirty track line, the wheels slipped. So I was delayed. Then the car started to turn well and I could recover, but it was too late to aim for the second position".

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While the Ferrari box is experiencing the anger of Jean Alesi, the poison of Alain Prost and the satisfaction of the engineer Lombardi. So Ferrari lives its most beautiful day, in the after-race. After an hour and a half of heartbreak, of apprehension, of great tension. The only real fact to put in the archive is the most beautiful race of the young Jean in Ferrari. Grit, determination, skill: this is the real Alesi, who in the end suffers above all the frustration of being once again behind the astute teammate, despite having been overall faster than him. 

 

"I’m furious, because I didn’t do anything irregular. At the start Schumacher almost stood still and I had to discard to the right to move forward. Then I came back. When they told me that I had been penalised, I had a hard time. I had to grit my teeth. The drama is that, being second, nothing counts. In a few days a placement is forgotten. I could be on the top step of the podium. And compliments don’t really matter to me. They don’t matter much. I could have won, given how things went". 

 

On the podium, on the step below that of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost ended up fourth in the standings, on a par with Gerhard Berger. But the Frenchman does not celebrate. It is clear that in his head now he has only the problem that concerns his decision for the future. Alain does not clarify anything directly, but his statements now seem to show an unjustified hatred towards Ferrari. After making it clear that he has no intention of staying still for a year (and this is perhaps the problem that torments him, because running for another team will cost him a lot of money), he says:
 

"When I came to Maranello I wanted to see Ferrari win. But to achieve this goal I think it would be necessary to change many more things. In any case, this placement makes no difference: I do not take one direction or another just because a result is good or bad. That would be stupid. But it’s better to give an example to understand the situation: if it weren’t for the damn pressure inside and outside this team, I would have started with slick tires. And I might as well win the race".
 

Prost’s speech has the taste of hindsight. As the engineer Lombardi explains: 

 

"The track was wet, the situation uncertain and there were twenty-five other cars at the start with rain tyres. It’s true, we had to have the courage to start with dry tyres, but the choice was very difficult and could also have been a resounding mistake. As for the result, it was a positive day. Alesi had an incredible race. Very good. I did not understand and do not agree with the decision of the sports commissioners for the penalty. We went in the race direction but they did not listen to us, Balestre did not want to talk to me. Ten seconds have cost us a lot, not to mention the psychological problems that have triggered in our pilot. Prost was skilled and experienced as usual. Will he change teams? We don’t know that yet". 

 

In this regard, uncontrolled rumours are reported from the pits: given Alain Prost engaged in long talks in the van of the sponsor Marlboro (in common between Ferrari and McLaren) there are also those who speculate a resounding exchange between the two teams: Prost-Senna? Prost-Berger? They seem crazy, but in Formula 1 there is nothing impossible anymore. Monday, September 30, 1991, under a sky that promises storms, Alain Prost leaves the Catalan capital, bringing with him his worn-out bag of golf clubs. The French driver leaves for Lisbon, where from Wednesday 2 October 1991 Ferrari for three days will be engaged in a series of tests. His pale and drawn face, his curly hair dishevelled as if he had slept badly, the Frenchman will probably meditate on the greens, between one hole and another, in his future. An uncertain future, even if it will depend mainly on its decisions. 

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The Maranello team, in fact, seems to have chosen to wait for the driver’s moves. Not out of ineptitude, but out of pure convenience. It is a real war of nerves. On the one hand a character who has always been uncomfortable, selfish, miserly, but also a champion of the steering wheel who is still very valid, albeit less brilliant than in the past. On the other hand, a team undergoing reconstruction that would need to make use of the experience of the transalpine runner but that at the same time needs to find the lost serenity, not only for sporting events. The situation changes practically continuously. Radio box takes divorce for granted, inevitable. But there are also those who say that the last word is not spoken, that Prost could reconsider and honour the contract for 1992, already signed some time ago. Instead, he seems to have lost the idea of a sabbatical, to rest from his labours. But let’s analyse all the odds that arise, taking into account that a decision could come today as in February. Prost leaves Ferrari: it is the scenario with the highest percentage of chance, even if it seems to understand that the breezy transition to Ligier would not be much appreciated by the driver for the risks involved in running in a completely renewed team. Two options: drive for another year or two then become team manager and co-owner (he would be offered 38% of the shares for free). Or take on the new role of sports director. In both cases, Alain would earn a lot of money, and perhaps politically solve his tax problems on the land of France. Downside: in order to discharge the driver, they should pay a huge penalty. It is for this reason that Prost does not make the first move, limiting himself to arouse controversy to induce Ferrari to make mistakes and to put himself on the side of the wrong or of those who unilaterally violate the agreements. Without forgetting that the Maranello team, beyond all considerations, could reluctantly accept another year of cohabitation. There are those who say that, Ligier aside, Prost is also desperately trying to find a place of prestige. But at the moment only Williams-Renault and McLaren-Honda are attractive and have already confirmed the teams for the next championship. Only a Prost-Senna, Prost-Berger, Prost-Mansell, Prost-Patrese trade would solve all the problems. Or there is the option of Alain Prost staying at Ferrari. But he will only do so if he is compelled by events. The driver, among other things, only waits for Ferrari to contact another rider officially to go to his lawyers and ask to be set free, upon payment of what he believes he should receive. It is for this reason that Ferrari, if it talks to other drivers (Martini, Capelli, Modena, Michael Andretti) does so with extreme discretion and not in an official way). Last chance: Alain Prost could abandon Formula 1. But it is the least interesting choice. Alain can earn a lot even staying a year. However, the Frenchman is afraid that a stop could damage him, that in the meantime young people will grow up and he will not be spoken of anymore, even if there is the example of Niki Lauda returning to racing after a very long period of inactivity, and he still became World Champion. Prost will come to this solution only if obliged. Or if it will become the least painful choice on the practical level. Meanwhile, Alain launches one of his messages, saying among other things: 

 

"I hope I can win the challenge I launched when I got to Ferrari, win the World Championship. However, many things still need to change in the team".

 

Haven’t there been too many revolutions? 


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