#577 1995 Portuguese Grand Prix

2023-01-12 23:00

Array() no author 82025

#1995, Fulvio Conti,

#577 1995 Portuguese Grand Prix

It is always said that in sports, in the end, you only remember who won. This assertion does not seem to apply to the Italian Grand Prix. While Johnny


It is always said that in sports, in the end, you only remember who won. This assertion does not seem to apply to the Italian Grand Prix. While Johnny Herbert’s success seems to have already been forgotten by everyone, discussions continue about what happened in the race. The negative result of Ferrari, which had also put the most competitive cars of the season on the track, and the Hill-Schumacher incident stir up a series of controversies that do not seem to be dying down. On Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1995, Luca Montezemolo, from the Frankfurt Motor Show, takes stock of the situation, hurling a few barbs at his drivers:


"We were unlucky, but the important thing is not to beat ourselves up and work to win. Schumacher and a young driver who reached the top already at 26 and came to Ferrari convinced of the technical choice. Some people claim that we spent too much. Maybe it’s because everyone talks about Ferrari, while we don’t want to talk about others. But there are teams that were hurt by Michael’s technical choice".


Continued the Ferrari president:


"I’m sorry Berger didn’t stay, although I understand his desire not to run as Schumacher’s number two. Gerhard and a great driver, a friend and a committed Ferrarista not just in showmanship. Alesi made a good choice by going to Benetton. To become true champions you have to have different experiences all the time. Prost, Senna and Lauda changed overalls four times; it is a good way to become more mature. I hope Jean will prove from now until the end of the year that he is a serious professional; a driver’s history is long, certain paths may cross again. For our second driver, there is no rush. We will evaluate carefully. Whoever will flank Schumacher must be good and able to give satisfaction to Scuderia Ferrari".


Speaking of Ferrari, meanwhile, possible replacements for the presidency of the Maranello-based company are being written in the newspapers. But Cesare Romiti, CEO of Fiat Group, Ferrari’s controlling shareholder, makes a statement that leaves no doubt:


"With regard to the inferences reported in some newspapers about a possible change at the top of Ferrari, I reaffirm on behalf of Fiat the absolute confidence in Chairman Luca Montezemolo, all his staff and technicians, and I stigmatize the dissemination of news that is not only false, but also provocative and aimed at hindering the good work of the entire team".


Finally, from London, Bernie Ecclestone, president of FOCA, returning to the Italian Grand Prix criticizes the behavior of Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher:

"They risk too much, if they keep sending each other off the road they could be in serious danger to their safety. That is also fine with me, however, I have to warn them to be prepared to accept extreme consequences. They could kill or seriously injure themselves. In any case, the blame for the Monza accident lies with Japanese Inoue, someone who should not be driving in F1".


Michael Schumachedr, who meanwhile is in Paris to officially receive the post of UNESCO Special Envoy for Education and Sport, forgives Damon Hill, saying he is ready to shake his hand at the next race. The latest news comes from Silverstone, where Alain Prost continues testing with McLaren. The Frenchman completes 51 laps. 


"I did not look for times, but rather worked on the car, which still has many problems. I hope I gave the right indications for Estoril".


After testing, for the first time, Alain makes a half-hearted admission:


"I do not rule out running again in 1996, although the chances are not high".


The challenge has now come to a close. For Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, battling for the F1 World Championship victory, each race may become decisive, as the German has yet to run three races under conditional disqualification, and the Englishman only one, due to the aftermath of punishments suffered in Belgium and Monza, respectively. The Benetton driver was convicted of misbehavior in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Williams driver for rear-ending during the Italian Grand Prix. But the two duelists will not back down. Not least because their respective stables have prepared major changes for the Portuguese Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday in Estoril. Williams-Renault has practically redone the car, and many changes have also been prepared by the Anglo-Italian team. So it is fair to predict a tight battle, also because at the Lusitanian track in 1993 Michael Schumacher had won and in 1994 Damon Hill (but the German was disqualified). Michael would like to wrap things up as soon as possible, Damon, on the other hand, hopes to make up some of the 15 points that separate him from the leader. There is also some hope for Ferrari. An unlucky protagonist at Monza, the Maranello team improves in the days leading up to the Portuguese Grand Prix the aerodynamics of the 412T2, which was one of the car’s weakest points. Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, although disappointed with the latest results, will not spare themselves. Meanwhile, news arrives from Germany. Bmw, which had previously won a world title with Brabham and Nelson Piquet, would return to F1. The German company's plans would include a comeback in 1997 with a V10 engine and its own team. According to the weekly Focus, the powerplant would already be tested in great secrecy and successfully on a Benetton.  


"How beautiful. I’ve been dreaming about him every night for two years. You should see my room: ikt’s wallpapered with his picture".


Because of his famous father, Gilles?


"No, because of him, Jacques Villeneuve. I adore him. Since he’s been racing in Formula Indy, I think about him all the time".


The speaker is Diana, a girl from Masate, Italy. She is present at the racetrack with her class, on a school trip. And she finds, surprise, her idol. On test with Williams. One of the many tests planned by the British team to launch the young driver in the 1996 F1 World Championship. Twenty-four years old, Canadian by birth (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), but a citizen of the world because since childhood he has done nothing but drive from one country to another, nonstop. Jacques has a gentle appearance, different from that of his father who was more naïve. Brush-cut hair, blue eyes, the face of a child, but a beautiful, lived-in adult voice. He speaks fluent - and well - Italian, French and English. And he has no brakes. Except he is silent about how much he will earn in F1. Racing in America, and winning the Indy 500 and the title, he grossed about $3.000.000 this season. He had said at the beginning of the year that F1 did not interest him. Why did he change his mind?


"It’s simple. I had a great opportunity to drive in a competitive team. I was not the one who asked. They sought me out and I decided, regardless of the results in the United States. I would have come even if I had won the championship".


Contacts with other teams, with Ferrari?


"Never serious things. With Ferrari there have only been jokes. I don’t think it’s that important for a driver to drive for Maranello. Although he has a big name and has been in F1 forever. He has done a lot in the past and now he is growing a little bit. And I also think it’s necessary to go to Ferrari to end a career. That doesn’t mean that if one day they call me and an agreement is reached, it can’t happen what is unthinkable at the moment".


The comparison with his father Gilles is inevitable. Was carrying the Villeneuve name an advantage or not? 


"Overall, it favored me. From the very first races, when I debuted in Turismo with an Alfa Romeo, I had everyone’s eyes on me. That got me very used to taking all kinds of pressure. As for Dad, it is not possible to draw parallels. Apart from the fact that so many years have passed and now you drive differently, I really don’t know what Dad did, I was too young. I watched the footage of the old races, I found them very entertaining and that’s all. In my life I didn’t eat only bread and racing. I know that people will not leave me quiet because of Dad’s story. Gilles is always alive in the hearts of the fans, and I am happy to be his son. But I don’t know if I can ever reach his level. And in any case, I’m not here to beat him".


What talents does Jacques Villeneuve think he has then, like Prost or Senna?


"I hope to be a good mix. Collecting the best of Prost, Senna, Lauda, etc. However, I have my own philosophy. I am convinced that first you have to get the car right. You can gain half a second a lap with good tuning. Then it is up to the driver to win the other half a second. By the way, I’m never interested in ending the day with a record. I prefer to be satisfied with my work. A time achieved at 5:00 p.m. has a very relative value, better to go hard and to the limit when necessary. Even if you have to push every now and then to see where you’re at".


What do you think about Schumacher?


"He is a great driver who puts his car together well".


Relations with Damon Hill?


"Good. We will be equals, at Williams there will be no first or second diver, otherwise I would not have accepted".




"We haven’t talked about that with Frank William. But it seems clear to me. I came to win".


On Wednesday, September 20, 1995, the primes continue. Meanwhile, Jacques scores with a poorly adjusted car a time of 1'27"1. Just 2.7 seconds off the pole marked on Saturday, September 9, 1995. A good start. The art of driving is a strong family affair: a matter of who knows whether it is a matter of DNA or money or habit or many things together. It happens in so many other places in the sport and the world tout court, but in Formula 1 and in any case in great speed motor racing the sense of kinship and family continuity is very evident, and not even misfortunes are worth a brake, which on the contrary often mean stimulus, mission. 


Now comes to Formula 1 Jacques Villeneuve, blessed with American successes in Formula Indy. He grew up on the circuits, with his mother Joanne hanging out his baby boy’s freshly washed underwear on the wires outside the motorhome. The lives of children of champions are varied, ranging from gyrating behind the parent to armored stays in places of great luxury and fiscal comfort. Jacques breathed in combustible gasses from early on. In contrast, Mario Andretti did not bring along his son Michael, who became a racer on his own, seeing his father on TV more than live. In America he raced against Al Unser Jr., the son of a great rival of his father’s; in Europe he had to race against his father’s memories, which was much together: he did little in Formula 1. Also racing his brother Jeff, his cousin John. Family affair, not just blt transmission of talent and desire from father to son. The Fittipaldi’s, the great Emerson and the modest Wilson, are brothers, now there is also Christian, Wilson’s son: his father is a Calabrese who emigrated to Brazil for bread, without even a driver’s license. Brothers were the two Mexican Rodriguez, Pedro and Ricardo, talented - especially Ricardo - billionaires, both died on the track, still young. So, in a rush, the Fabi brothers, Teo and Corrado, skiers before racers, also come to mind. And the Brambilla brothers, cars and also motorcycles. Outside Italy the Germans Von tuck, famous father, barely celebrated son. It comes to fathers and sons with the two Hills, Graham who died in his plane, attempting a landing in fog, near London. Twenty years ago, when Damon was a boy. Graham had been a two-time world champion, had married a famous rower in England, who knows what there is of mother in Damon. 


Or going further back with the two Ascari drivers, Antonio who died on the Monthléry circuit in France in 1925, and Alberto who died at Monza, thirty years later, to prove himself, rather than the car: he had plunged into the sea four days earlier in the Monaco Grand Prix, just as he had taken the lead. A great of early motor racing Antonio, two-time World Champion Alberto, who had a son who knew how to count decided not even to attempt that career that even the surname offered him. Be that as it may, on the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix, everyone expects sparks in the challenge between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill. And in this regard, on Thursday, September 21, 1995, the environment also appears poisoned. Suspicions of technological espionage lurk between the teams ahead of the last five races of the season. And, as if that were not enough, an anonymous letter also arrives to heat up tempers. A missive sent to Max Mosley, president of the FIA, on Benetton letterhead, initialed at the end by someone who describes himself as a mechanic very much into things, but without a name. Two and a half pages for what might appear to be a kind of self-disclosure started within the team. It accuses the team of Michael Schumacher and Johnny Herbert of making use of traction control, prohibited by the rules, on slow tracks and in wet weather. But, the spiel, which is also in some parts rambling (it speaks of brake sabotage on Damon Hill’s Williams in Germany and that if the Englishman won the World Championship he might even be injured or killed…), lacks real essence to be taken seriously. It does not reveal where on the Benetton cars the irregular system would be found. The work of a mythomaniac, a denigrator. In response, lets Michael Schumacher known from his spokesman:

"It’s all baloney, it’s probably people who want to raise tensions that are already high".


Meanwhile, the team picture of 1996 is being defined. Rubens Barrichello signs a new contact with Jordan, while as far as Ferrari is concerned, it would seem that the choice should only be between David Coulthard and Nicola Larini, when Professor Alain Prost announces his intentions towards McLaren-Mercedes. On Friday, September 22, 1995, the challenge gets tough. On and off the track, in driving and on the psychological level. No holds barred. Michael Schumacher versus Damon Hill. Last year the battle for the F1 World Championship ended at the last race. The German went off the road in Adelaide hitting a low wall and bounced off his rival’s car, knocking it out of commission. The Benetton driver had virtually lost, but by forcing Damon Hill rear-ending Michael Schumacher at Monza. The two drivers have suffered conditional disqualifications. If they repeat certain improprieties they will be punished. But the spiral of tension seems unstoppable. Still Friday morning, during free practice, an episode occurs that shows how the war between the two has reached guarded levels, Damon Hill tells: 


"I came to a narrow part of the circuit and saw Schumacher in front of me going very slowly. As I pulled alongside him, he suddenly accelerated, closing the road to me. If I hadn’t braked, I would have ended up off the track".


Bernie Ecclestone, patron of Formula 1, is very concerned. And just in the days leading up to the Portuguese Grand Prix he issued a warning:


"If they go on like this, they will end up hurting themselves. They take too many risks".


And perhaps, just to try to find some antidote, the FIA, after three days, reinstates doping controls. The top three drivers in the standings (Schumacher, Hill, Herbert) and three by lot (Berger, Bouillon, Diniz) are called at the end of practice to undergo a control, conducted by Dr. Hiemmermann. The tests will be processed by one of the IOC’s specialized centers, but the results will probably not be released. The FIA seems to be jealous in this area. But certainly the test is not random. So a deterrent is being sought to calm tempers, to make it clear that certain excesses can be regarded as the effect of a drug. Meanwhile, the first round of qualifying takes place as predicted on the eve. The fastest cars are the Williams-Renaults of Damon Hill and David Coulthard, ahead of Michael Schumacher, then the Ferraris of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Hill laps in 1'21"322, averaging 193.010 km/h, pulling 0.1 seconds ahead of Coulthard, 0.5 seconds ahead of Schumacher, one second ahead of Berger and 1.3 seconds ahead of Alesi. An exceptional time when one considers that in 1994 the Austrian’s Ferrari, which had been the best, with the 3500 cc engine and greater ground effect had taken pole in 1'20"608. And this shows how technical progress is always very high. For Ferrari the situation is much the same. The 412T2s, despite having the most powerful engine, continue to suffer from aerodynamic problems. To hold the road well they have to load the ailerons and they lose in both the slow and fast parts. Better set-ups could be found on Saturday, but the situation should not change much; if anything, the Maranello cars, reliability permitting, could do better in the race. It must be said that Alesi and Berger appear unmotivated. Jeans says he hopes to erase at least half of the disappointment suffered at Monza. But there is tension within the team because of the drivers who will have to leave and Schumacher who has to arrive. Friday night the German driver and his manager would have liked to invite the Italian press to a dinner, to establish some kind of better relationship. But Ferrari let it be known that it would not be sympathetic toward Benetton, and the appointment was postponed until a less sensitive time. The following day, Saturday, September 23, 1995, David Coulthard and Damon Hill confirm the competitiveness of their Williams- Renault, and on Sunday, September 24, 1995, they will occupy the front row on the grid for the Portuguese Grand Prix, thus making a desperate attempt to take valuable points away from the German. But it cannot be said that Damon Hill found a natural ally to beat his rival. On the contrary, the young Scot could become an extra, very uncomfortable opponent, especially for his teammate. David Coulthard, the 24-year-old racer born in a small village called Twynholm, where his family runs a successful and profitable transport company, is on his third pole position of the season. The young man offers a real lesson in how to drive on a difficult circuit at top speed. And, in a way, he mocks his British teammate. 


"I didn’t know how to adjust my car that wasn’t on the road, and I asked the technicians to prepare it like Damon’s. It went quite well".


Despite the indirect help he got from Damon Hill, however, as a good Scot, David is not willing to give gifts:


"No team orders. Everyone will do their own race".


And he has a point. After all, Williams dumped him for next year, confirming Damon who will have young star Jacques Villeneuve by his side. The team’s only chance to intervene in the outcome of the race, if the opportunity arises, will be to slow down the #6 car in one of the planned pit stops. Coulthard, however, remains the most valuable piece of the still vacant drivers’ market, disputed between McLaren and Ferrari. The British stable offers more possibilities, already having an option on the driver. But there is always the possibility that Alain Prost will decide to take the vacant seat. In any case, the young Scot’s stock continues to rise. In qualifying David Coulthard runs his best lap in 1'20"537, averaging 194.891 km/h. This means that the Scottish driver sets a lower time than the one (1'20"608) that had enabled Gerhard Berger to achieve pole position in 1994. With an engine of only 3000 cc (it was 3500 cc) and with cars modified to reduce cornering speed. Basically, Formula 1 technology made another overtake. At least as far as Williams-Renault is concerned. The same does not apply to Ferrari, which places Gerhard Berger in fourth place with a time of 1'21"970, that is, with a single-seater 1.3 seconds less fast than last year. What’s worse, Jean Alesi slips from fifth to seventh place, also preceded by Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert. The real performance for the Maranello team is that of the Austrian, as the Frenchman fails to get the most out of the car, despite his efforts. Jean once again, at the end of practice, does not hold back, and says:


"What you have seen is the real difference between Ferrari, Benetton and Williams. Our car is plateaued, not improving. They have made great strides, we are backward".


With ironic punchline:


"But you’ll see next year. With the V10 engine and the World Championship there will be a revolution…".


Jean Todt, head of the team, explains that the new aerodynamics prepared in recent days do not yet offer guarantees but will be tested along with other new features after the European Grand Prix, which will be held at the Nurburgring circuit. Then he says that the test at Fiorano on Wednesday, September 27, 1995, with Gianni Morbidelli, Luca Badoer, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierluigi Martini will have nothing to do with the choice of the second driver. And he lets it be known that Nicola Larini, if he will not race with Michael Schumacher, will no longer be a test driver. So the search for the test-driver position remains open. The theme of the race is obviously centered on the Coulthard-Hill-Schumacher triple challenge. The German works wonders to bring a strangely nervous and unstable Benetton-Renault to third place. But racing always holds surprises: and with tires lasting short here, pit stops will be decisive. An activity in which Michael Schumacher has so far been a master. On Sunday, September 24, 1995, at the start of the Portuguese Grand Prix David Coulthard holds the first position, but at the rear a major accident involves Ukyo Katayama and Luca Badoer, with the Japanese driver’s car overturning several times and coming to a halt on the track with a capsized roof. The Tyrell driver is taken to the hospital and will have to miss the next European Grand Prix due to injury, before returning for the last three rounds of the season. The race is stopped by the display of the red flag. On the second start David Coulthard holds the first position, while Michael Schumacher overtakes Damon Hill on the outside at Turn 1. Gerhard Berger is fourth, ahead of Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi. However, the Williams already seem competitive, so much so that after ten laps David Coulthard has a 6-second lead over Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, who stays close to the German Benetton driver but never manages to attack him. Gerhard Berger is 15 seconds behind the leader, Johnny Herbert at 20 seconds and Jean Alesi at 23 seconds. Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill stop together, but while the German’s stop lasts only 7 seconds, the Englishman remains stationary a full 16 seconds. David Coulthard stops the next lap and re-enters the track easily ahead of Michael Schumacher. 


Damon Hill, on the other hand, is a few laps behind the Ferrari of Jean Alesi, who has not yet stopped in the pits to refuel. When the Frenchman pits, Damon Hill is a full 16 seconds behind Michael Schumacher. After 30 laps David Coulthard leads the race by 6 seconds over Michael Schumacher and 22 seconds over Damon Hill, while Gerhard Berger, Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi close out the top six. Halfway through the race David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher stop to make their second pit stops, followed a few laps later by Damon Hill. The Scot can still count on a 4-second lead over Michael Schumacher, while Damon Hill is now 28 seconds behind the race leader. However, the Scot and the German have to stop in the pits to make their third stop with 18 laps to go, while Damon Hill will not have to stop again. David Coulthard comes out of the pits 8 seconds ahead of his teammate, who is now ahead of Michael Schumacher. The German with new rubber is clearly faster than his title rival and passes him immediately under braking and passes him immediately under braking at Turn 9. Behind the top three is still Gerhard Berger, now ahead of Jean Alesi and Heinz-Haralad Frentzen, while Johnny Herbert pays for the three-stop strategy and is now seventh. Nothing more happens until the finish and David Coulthard wins his first career race. Michael Schumacher settles for second place and gains two points over Damon Hill. Gerhard Berger follows in fourth place, followed by Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. A Williams was supposed to win. And it did. But not with the right driver - David Coulhard and not Damon Hill won a Portuguese Grand Prix that had a dramatic start and a finish that saw Ferrari embroiled in yet another internal storm. Again a Scottish driver, then, in the limelight in F1. David Coulthard, in his 21st race, hit the top target, which is not for everyone. As was to be expected, the Williams driver proved to be one more opponent for Damon Hill, the big loser of the day. While his teammate imposed the law of the fittest, the Englishman experienced one of the most bitter moments of his still short career. Damon got a lot wrong, especially his race strategy. And this cost him a humiliating overtaking by Michael Schumacher. The German finished second, in a visibly inferior car, driving with intelligence and determination. Damon Hill finished in third place. A result that dropped him two more heavy points in the challenge for the world title. With a 1-point lead and four races to go, Michael can continue quietly. Behind the three frontrunners were the two Ferraris. With Gerhard Berger fourth and Jean Alesi fifth. A result that would in itself be unexciting. But there is more and worse. Gerhard and Jean risked being lapped, and above all, their cars never got into the thick of the race: two modest extras, in the background, even in the very first laps. And as if that were not enough, the Frenchman triggers a very harsh controversy. 


"I drive proudly for Ferrari. And I have to go away. But if there is one person who should go home, this is Jean Todt. He is to blame for everything that happens. For ten laps, during the race, he asked me over the radio to let Berger pass. It had already happened in Brazil. I had to pretend I didn’t hear so I wouldn’t respond in a certain way. I basically changed the Todt channel".


Unrelenting in his accusation, the Frenchman goes on to say:


"Todt broke my balls. Everything in the team works badly. Engineer Ascanelli, who is in charge on the track, only takes care of Berger. At most, if it emerges that we have found some good adjustments, they come to see what we have done. At this point I really don’t know what I will decide in the next few days, whether to run with Ferrari again. I’ll go and talk to Montezemolo, but it’s the last straw that I always have to talk to the president".


Then Alesi leaves with his fiancée Kumiko, his brother Jose and his parents, to return home aboard a private plane. Todt’s response is calm, but certainly the racing team manager makes a great effort to restrain himself:


"We know Jean. He’s hot-blooded. When he talks, he doesn’t take into account the team’s strategies. We had two tire changes scheduled for him and three for Berger. Gerhard was faster and being behind Alesi’s car he was losing a second a lap. So we asked him to let him pass. Since he did not agree, we were forced to stop the Austrian a few laps earlier. And that could have compromised our whole tactic".


Will the fracture be made up in the next few hours in Maranello? Probably yes. We will see Alesi in a Ferrari again in Germany, at the Nurburgring circuit. No disciplinary action will be taken against him. Only if he leaves the team will the team be forced to call up Nicola Larini.


"I had noticed that Damon was having problems under braking in that corner. So I waited for a good moment and passed him. It was a bit risky, because I had to leave the right line. But if you don’t do that, you always stay behind".


Never had second place made Michael Schumacher so happy. The German, however, maintains the utmost caution in making predictions:


"There is still time to talk about the title, let’s wait two more races".


Caution is never too much. Damon Hill, dark in face but serene, as a true British sportsman says: 


"Well done Coulthard, he deserved the win, he drove well, even in qualifying. I decided to change strategy during the race: I had to make three stops, but after a bad start I was behind Schumacher and I thought the only way to try to beat him was to stop once less. But I found myself with shredded tires and couldn’t break. To avoid overtaking, I would have had to center the Benetton. And that was not the case. The championship? Too many points to make up. It would take a miracle".


Not lucky, however, is Damon Hill. Williams had prepared a special car for him to beat the German. But on Saturday night the engineers discovered that the new gearbox was putting a bearing out of order. And on the night they had to rebuild three single-seaters in the previous version. And maybe that fooled the Englishman, who in the past few days was the one with the modified model consuming the least tires. After the initial accident involving Ukyo Katayama, on the second start David Coulthard was the quickest. And Schumacher (another winning move) moved up to second by stealing Hill’s place. From then on it was a continuous chase after the Scot. But the albeit numerous pit stops did not change the situation. The decisive episode on lap 62, after Michael Schumacher had arrived behind Damon Hill, with fresh tires mounted on his Benetton. A few kilometers behind his rival to check what was the best spot for overtaking, then the decisive action in the slowest hairpin bend of the track, where the danger in case of a collision would have been less anyway. Schumacher passed on the inside. Speaking of the drivers’ market, Alain Prost finally speaks out, saying: 


"I will not race next year. I enjoy driving but I feel I can no longer bear the burden of a long challenge. If I had agreed to return to competitive racing I would have done so only to win again. And that would have been too hard, it would have undermined the quality of my life".


Prost, 40, will not stay away from F1. He will have a role in McLaren-Mercedes, almost certainly as a test driver, adviser and manager. The FRenchman’s no should also end talk of a second Ferrari driver. David Coulthard at 90 percent will be blocked by McLaren. So that leaves the Larini hypothesis, barring any surprises. In any case, the Maranello team - it is not official but it is rumored in the environment- has obtained an option on Mika Salo for 1997 (the young Finn will also be in 1996 with Tyrrell). Thus we go from Jean Alesi’s controversy at the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix to the choice of the driver who will replace the Frenchman in 1996, flaking Schumacher. So, it now seems certain that Eddie Irvine, a Northern Irishman, 30, in the Jordan team since his Formula 1 debut in 1993, is on his way to the Maranello court. After Alain Prost announced he would not return to Formula 1 with McLaren, Jean Todt, head of Scuderia Ferrari, said:


"By now there is very little chance of getting Coulthard".


As is well known, the green light for Maranello depended indirectly on Alain Prost’s decision. If the former French champion had said yes, all well and good, otherwise McLaren would take the Scot, let loose by Williams, which had set its sights on rising star Jacques Villeneuve. So what? So on with the surprise Irvine. The Northern Irishman, whose best result is a third place this year in Canada (big celebrations on the podium with Alesi himself, who had won his first Grand Prix), is a fast driver who never backs down. For example, on his debut, in the Japanese Grand Prix, in the rain, he even held out for a long time against the great Ayrton Senna in a McLaren: lapped but indomitable and unscrupulous, he drove the Brazilian champion crazy. Who even, later, pinched him, sparking a post-race confrontation.


"When I’m on the track I just try to be as fast as I can. Lapped or not, I don’t care".


Eddie, who lives in Dublin, was born Nov. 10, 1965, in Newtownards, Northern Ireland. His father is a car dealer. A British Formula Ford 1600 champion in 1987, he raced in Formula 3000, the training ground for many F1 drivers, from 1989 to 1993. Recruited by Eddie Jordan, who had appreciated his qualities, he came to attention several times but never succeeded, partly because of the lack of competitiveness of the small team’s cars. Irvine is a likeable, outgoing bachelor who enjoys female company. He is certainly not closed-minded and, they say in Dublin, should please Ferrari fans as well. He certainly doesn’t displease Michael Schumacher, who has reportedly given Ferrari his approval for the hire. The Northern Irish driver and his team manager Eddie Jordan will finalize the details of the move on Monday, September 25, 1995, by traveling to Maranello, and on Tuesday the official announcement should come from Luca Montezemolo himself while on Wednesday Gianni Morbidelli, Luca Badoer, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierluigi Martini will conduct a series of tests at Fiorano for a possible test driver role. Nicola Larini’s candidacy as Jean Alesi’s replacement thus declines. Yet the Italian seemed to enjoy some appreciation from Ferrari. In any case, a pair of sprinters will be running on the Maranello cars next year, with Michael Schumacher committed to defending his now almost certain world title and Eddie Irvine determined to rise to prominence with a team in search of great revenge. Meanwhile, David Coulhard celebrates his first victory, Michael Schumacher savors the scent of his second world title, Damon Hill does some soul-searching thinking about the many mistakes he has made and missed opportunities, and Ukyo Katayama waits to get out of the hospital, still a bit groggy after his incredible accident at the start of the Portuguese Grand Prix, but happy to have pulled through. Brilliant situations and less so. But certainly the worst day was experienced by Jean Alesi. An almost sleepless night, tormented by anger, with a thousand dark thoughts. On Monday, September 25, 1995, the Frenchman is at home in Avignon. His brother José answers the phone: 


"Jean is here, he doesn’t want to talk to anyone. What he had to say he said on Sunday afternoon. He had been keeping so much bad feeling to himself for a year and he blurted it out. You have to understand him, because he is a guy who always gives his all and would like to receive an equivalent counterpart. We believe that he will finish the season with Ferrari and run the last four races. In fact, he wants to make it known that he hopes to win at least one".


Of course, poise is not one of Alesi’s gifts. After the firing, unfair on this occasion, against the Maranello team and Jean Todt, he assumes the role of alleged victim. But he will not fare well. It seems that Luca Montezemolo is really furious with the driver this time. Rumors filter through. Alesi telephones Ferrari in the afternoon asking to speak to the president, but the latter does not want to hear from him: and has him tell him to turn to Jean Todt and the two apparently clear the air. The French manager confirms to the driver maximum help until the end of the season. Montezemolo had called Alesi’s shot:


"Outrageous behavior for Ferrari".




"He is dead wrong".


Now, assuming, as it seems, that the situation will somehow be recomposed, Jean Alesi will be punished. A hefty fine, probably, for twice breaking his contract with his team: he did not obey the team manager’s orders to let Gerhard Berger pass, and he spoke badly publicly about Ferrari and some managers. Everyone understands that Jean Alesi acts on the impetus of deep disappointment. He who is generous, courageous, and fast, fails to reap the results he thinks he deserves. But this is not enough to explain certain reactions. The truth is that the Frenchman is having a very difficult time. He felt betrayed by the Maranello team that hired Michael Schumacher, forcing him to emigrate, even though he would have had the theoretical possibility of staying with the German. Above all, though, the Frenchman is irritated by finding himself Gerhard Berger at Benetton next year. Gerhard and Jean apparently can coexist; in reality they have incompatible characters. Extroverted, cunning, opportunistic the former; jealous, selfish, if you will, even naive the latter. Alesi was assured by Flavio Briatore to be first driver in the Anglo-Italian team. But he was never told that at his side he would have Berger, the driver who this season, out of thirteen disputed races, has been in front of him ten times in qualifying. The man with whom he has already quarreled furiously more than once. Alesi in short is tormented in the present by the fact that he cannot win and for the future by the presence of this inconvenient teammate. He is not serene, he does not think about the fact that he is a lucky professional who earns a lot of money, who is an activity he enjoys and who has become one of the most popular and beloved sportsmen. Of course, character cannot be changed. But evidently Alesi is also misguided (assuming it is possible to do so) by those around him. To think that Ferrari wants to boycott him is really misplaced. Not out of love, but simply because it would be an action against the interests of the team. Whether there are ten things that do not work well, that is another matter. But when there are problems, discretion is a must. Even in F1. But then again, this is not the first time Ferrari has had problems with its drivers. As indeed has happened in the majority of the other major F1 teams. And the story goes on. 


©​ 2022 Osservatore Sportivo


Contact us


Create Website with | Free and Easy Website Builder