While Nigel Mansell, after having achieved his third consecutive success in the German Grand Prix, which allowed him to reach 8 points from Senna in the World Championship standings, sleeps quietly, the English driver’s opponents are forced to work overtime. Wednesday, July 31, 1991 McLaren is on track at Silverstone to test a new electronic-controlled automatic transmission. Senna himself will check the reliability of the system. If the Brazilian has any doubts, Berger could be the test case in Budapest. Ferrari does tests at Imola, involving both Prost and Alesi. It is clear that at this point of the season Williams has gained a clear superiority. The team of Maranello and that of Ron Dennis can only do everything to try to recover the technical disadvantage. Even if they have different goals: Senna would like to try to contain the wild rival and would settle for winning some races, hoping that someone, including Patrese, will take away some points from Nigel Mansell. The purpose of the Italian team is quite different. With Prost in a negative phase - perhaps the Frenchman also pays for the enormous tensions of recent months - and Alesi growing, but always in need of experience, Ferrari could only try to win one or two races before the end of the championship. Maybe taking some risks: these days tests will probably help to work on the engines. Prost himself admitted that there is an unprecedented air intake system, defined as special, probably the famous variable height intake trumpets of which so far the Maranello team has denied the existence. A secret weapon with which the positions may be reviewed, perhaps starting from the next race. In the meantime, for the second and last test day on the track of Imola, favoured by good weather, Thursday, August 1, 1991, the managers of Ferrari forbid the entry to the paddock and the box of the three cars (a 643 and two 642) to journalists and photographers. The reservation is explained with the intention of testing some technical innovations avoiding any indiscretion. The best time, gained in the afternoon session, is obtained by Alain Prost with a time of 1'26"37. In the last San Marino Grand Prix, the fastest lap was 1'26"531 (Berger on McLaren). Jean Alesi scored a time of 1'28"26 with the 642 with normal suspension and 1'29"09 with the active suspension. Engineer Claudio Lombardi explains to journalists:
"We were the only ones to run in Imola so we wanted to work quietly on the developments of the engine and the car. The result was positive regarding the duration of the test".
At the end of the 1990 season, Nigel Ernest James Mansell looked like a finished driver, ready for retirement. Finally, perhaps, in the cauldron ofIndyCar that collects, with the best Americans, some former Formula 1 drivers, from Fittipaldi to Sullivan, from Guerrero to Cheever. Instead, the former technician of Lucas Aerospace and sales engineer of Girling, a company specialised in brakes - tractors - today is experiencing a magical moment, the best one since, in 1968, at the age of fifteen, took part in his first kart race and decided that in the future, somehow, not having a penny available, he would be a driver, that he would be a champion. Since then, his history has been a continuous swing, low and high: disappointing seasons and other exciting ones, as in 1986 and 1987 when he lost the world title twice. The first time for a tyre burst in Adelaide, in the last championship race, the second time for a terrible accident in Suzuka, when he was forced to return to England and give up his chances to win the title. However, in a way, Nigel Mansell - the driver who apparently is more connected to family than anyone else in motorsports: his wife Rosanne, his children Chloe, Leo and Greg are always in his thoughts and as soon as possible he runs to them - he has already earned a first-class degree, without ever having conquered the world championship. Nineteen victories to his credit, he is the Englishman who has achieved more successes in F1, more than the famous Stirling Moss and more than James Hunt who, in a lucky season, had even got the title from Niki Lauda with Ferrari. He is said to have a vulnerable character, subject to terrible depression states when things go wrong, that he has too little brain, in the race, to be considered a complete and reliable driver. In fact, until last year, Mansell had been more of a showman than a real rival for Senna or Prost. But the situation has changed: in Hockenheim, for example, he did not care much about being in front of his teammate Patrese (who was too far behind, anyway) nor did he squeeze anyone against a low wall, as he did with Alain Prost at Ferrari last year in Portugal.
He resisted Senna, then he started to push on the accelerator to create a safety gap, then he turned like a clock, on the tenth of a second, without making the slightest mistake. A surprising maturity reached suddenly, thanks also to the opportunity to drive a car, the Williams-Renault, which is the best and allows him to get the pole position and win without doing crazy stuff as he had to do before. Nigel is not the ideal teammate for the other drivers. Selfish, individualistic, always ready to complain (this year he claimed and got by contract to be considered first drive and also has the spare car available in all races), he is however a loyal fighter, brave, normally correct, even if in the phase of defence and attack it generally still exceeds in its actions. Evidence of this: overtaking outside Prost in Magny-Cours. He was good but he also did well, another opponent probably would have closed him and sent him inexorably off the track, risking an accident, making him look like a fool. There is however a talent of Nigel Mansell that few people know and it is not often considered. Many people believe he is incapable of tuning up cars. But it is not absolutely true: the Englishman is actually faster than Senna or Prost to understand what are the limits of a single-seater. And when he says it is fine, he is not wrong. Enrique Scalabroni says:
"Mansell prepares the set-up of his car in five laps. His judgments are always right. As a rule, people think that he is not good at the difficult task of testing because in reality he does not like this kind of work: he is a racing animal, a thoroughbred of the steering wheel".
So Nigel Mansell, who will turn 38 on Thursday, August 8, 1991, became the number one challenger of Ayrton Senna for the 1991 World Championship. And from Friday he will aim for the tenth World Championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, to a fantastic poker, the fourth consecutive affirmation that could launch him at the top of the standings if the Brazilianman were to run into another unfortunate withdrawal. But we know that Nigel is not the one to expect favours: he wants to beat Senna on the track, crush him to say that he is the strongest, the best.
"Now I’m waiting for him: I will not be thrown out again. Indeed I will be the one to hit him, without regard".
It sounds like an attacker being grounded inside the area by an unpunished defender. But it’s not. Alain Prost said these words at the end of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. A sentence said in the heat of the moment, perhaps gone beyond the true intentions of the driver. But since they travel at 300 km/h, the threat becomes heavy. And here, in Formula 1, there is no disciplinary law capable of punishing the guilty. The Federation is always at large. In France, they had imposed a $10,000 fine on Gugelmin for failing to let Mansell lap him . On this occasion the sports stewards were watching. They did not have the courage to intervene given the importance of the characters involved. And, honestly, it would have been difficult to find a single person responsible because the accident, anyway, was what is called normal racing, since no one has openly broken a specific regulation. Prost was naive to enter that gap, Senna was too clever to take advantage of the reckless manoeuvre of the rival. The problem is another. In a sport where the risk is already at the limit of human possibilities, a controversy becomes particularly serious, so much so that it has been dragging on for three years between the two most talented champions of racing. Teammates since 1988 at McLaren, Prost and Senna have only experienced the first season in apparent harmony. The first year, the South American won the title with 8 wins against seven of the Frenchman who overall made more points (105 against 94) but lost because of the rule of dropped scores since it was only possible to sum up eleven results. The real troubles came out the following year, as it can be seen from the summary published later. The controversy of Imola started the quarrels then resulted in continuous accusations of impropriety, in withdrawal resolutions (immediately abandoned, because the billions of engagement are an excellent cure for all ailments...), in the fake peace of 1990 in Monza, until the last episode. Why, one may wonder, Senna and Prost have to be like the dog and the cat? The answer is easy: because they are two perfectly equal champions in their diversity.
Selfishness, fastidiousness, impatience, cunning, skill, talent, are shared equally between Ayrton and Alain and for this reason they cannot live together. Like two primadonnas in an opera. They always end up singing to each other. Now fear travels in F1. If the two contenders were to implement their intentions (Senna has not retorted, but on track they will certainly not turn the other cheek) there could be an explosive situation, also because Prost has made things worse saying that now he will help Mansell to win the World Championship. There is the hope that the respective teams (McLaren and Ferrari) will work to avoid the crash, in the truest sense of the word, not to turn races into a deadly rollerball. However, an intervention by FISA would not come out of the blue, perhaps with an official warning. And then if the scuffle continues in these terms, a good disqualification would be the right punishment for both. Speaking, however, of the fight that involves Ayton Senna and Nigel Mansell for the victory of the World Championship, many people wonder: what if the overtaking occurred at the Hungaroring? An undisputed domination of Senna in the first four races, then the announced offensive of Williams, materialised first with the triumph of Patrese in Mexico and then with the three consecutive successes of Mansell in France, England, Germany. It was above all the latter to impress, because the ease with which the British driver - accused of risking too much, of being distracted from time to time - could freely set his own tactics, left both the opponents and the managers of his team surprised. But what is the supremacy of Williams-Renault in this central phase of the championship? Riccardo Patrese explains:
"It’s easy to say, we have the best chassis and an engine that has more horsepower than the others, both at mid and high revs".
Now only eight points separate Nigel Mansell from the championship leader, Ayrton Senna.
"They can be many and they can be very few. I don’t want to make predictions, too many times I have been burned by easy illusions. Look at Senna: after the four victories in the first four races, it seemed that he had killed the World Championship. But now he is haunted by bad luck. Everything is going well for me, but how long will it last?"
The Englishman is realistic. In fact, the thing that prevented Senna from having a greater margin was the wrong calculations of the Honda technicians, who for two races in a row have frustrated the efforts of the Brazilian. It is frustrating for a driver to run out of gas in two Grands Prix, and always on the last lap. Ron Dennis says:
"McLaren is doing everything it can to react to the rivals' superior competitiveness, soon we will have something new on our car".
Yes, but in the meantime, with another Senna retirement and a Mansell success, those eight points that remain between the two drivers could suddenly be cancelled and in Hungary the overtaking could take place. Mansell goes on to say:
"At the Hungaroring, the aerodynamic values will be as flat as the engine values. So I predict a group race, with many close-up cars. It will absolutely have to start in pole position".
Riccardo Patrese, who is eager to return to the top, still has dreams in the drawer. Ferrari is an unknown. The advances in chassis and in aerodynamics have not been matched by as many advances in engines. Alesi and Prost said it without many constraints in Hockenheim. However, it is a Ferrari that in Germany had been able to control well at least one of the big three, McLaren; And this is a good symptom. Of the others, one team to watch out for is the Scuderia Italia, which with Pirro, Lehto andPirelli tyres hopes for a redemption, Jordan, Benetton and Tyrrell permitting. Thursday, August 8, 1991, on the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix, apparently the big ones do not care about the race.
It looks like the Grand Prix will be played out in qualifying on Friday and Saturday. So the drivers say. Ayrton Senna says:
"On this track the most important thing is to start in front of everyone with a well-balanced car. All things being equal, you do not pass. I am ready: I still have a good lead in the standings over Mansell, I hope to keep or increase it".
The Brazilian, for the first time in a long time, is not pessimistic:
"I tried the new McLaren and Tag automatic transmission at Silverstone. It’s great. Those who don’t have such a system are now cut off. I didn’t realise it until I had a chance to run some tests. And since fuel consumption should not be a problem here, I am confident".
To those who ask him about Prost, he answers:
"Talking about a person like him is like wasting time".
If Senna makes his plans, however, rivals do not stand by. Williams-Renault has a good tradition at the Hungaroring. Victories in 1986, 1987 and 1990, three pole positions in the last four years. Nigel Mansell, who turns 38 on Thursday, came first with Ferrari in 1989.
"It’s a track where the skill of the driver, the aerodynamics and the elasticity of the engine count. So the accounts are soon made".
And his teammate, Riccardo Patrese, adds:
"I trained mentally for the starts. If I can get a good start, they will have difficulties also with me".
So, McLaren with automatic transmission, Williams always on the shields and ready to use its Elf super-fuel (which many, including Renault men indicate as one of the most important factors to maintain the current superiority). What about Ferrari? Maranello’s team has also prepared something special. That is, the evolution 4 engine, defined as the most relevant of the season. Lombardi explains:
"A powertrain that has its own particular fuel, which should offer better performance in power. We will certainly use it in testing. For the race we will decide on Saturday, based on the results".
Ferrari drivers do not show up until late at night. But it does not matter. tThe presence of many VIPs these days is instead whispered and announced, for what could also be the last Hungarian Grand Prix (lack of money, the most serious fault for those who want F1). The president of the FISA, Jean Marie Balestre, is expected to start - like other of his more important political counterparts - a propaganda campaign for his re-election, since the mandate expires in October. Meanwhile, Friday, August 9, 1991, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost publicly make peace. Yet another one. How long will it last? Last year the same thing happened in Monza: kisses and hugs, then a couple of months later, in Suzuka, Ayrton crashed into Alain’s Ferrari, the fierce controversies and total mutual hate. The two were summoned to the Elf van (equipped with a good television set) to clarify the episode of Hockenheim, when Prost had gone off track being pressed in a chicane by the opponent.
Almost two hours of talks, first in presence of some members of the security committee (the Belgians Roland Bruynseraede and Corsmit) and then alone. Shortly before the FISA had sent to the same Corsmit, head of sports stewards, a message in which he announced, unprecedented fact, a resounding measure: a one-race suspension, with parole for Alain Prost and a warning to both drivers for two different reasons. The text of the statement states that, in relation to the German Grand Prix and the statements made by Prost after the race on French television:
"It was decided to issue an official warning to riders Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for their behaviour during the German race and to give Prost the suspension for a Grand Prix, with the conditional, because of his statements against FISA".
The French driver, after the accident in Hockenheim, declared:
"I put the wheels on the grass twice at 320 km/h because of Senna. He was also braking on the straightedge to obstruct me. It was really incorrect. I tried everything to overtake him. But next time I’ll do it inside and throw him out. Then I’ll play Mansell and Renault until the end of the championship. The Federation fined Gugelmin and Suzuki $10.000 for two episodes at Magny-Cours and Silverstone. But nobody does anything about top-drivers. If there is a regulation, it must be respected by everyone".
And this time Prost was satisfied. They hit him hard, even though the use of parole always emphasises a certain form of fear or respect for those who matter. If there was a will to set an example, this was the right opportunity. Instead, an exemplary decision is undermined by the way in which it was presented and once again affects Ferrari, after the day of suspension imposed on Mansell in 1989 in Spain because the Englishman had broken the regulation by driving in reverse at the pits. From the serious aspects of the story we move on to the comic ones. There are few words to tell what happened when Prost and Senna faced the door of their confessional. Time to get them both to say:
"Let’s make peace for the good name of the sport, we agreed so that certain episodes do not happen anymore on the track".
And to Prost to respond to a no-comment on parole. Screaming and pushing, photographers thrown into the air, journalists crushed in the crowd, while the two with a pulled smile shake hands. Ayrton is the first to turn right to Alain. A tight shake, a half hug. But the reporters, blinded by the flashes of their colleagues, demand the repetition of the scene. Alain Prost declares with narrow lips:
"If he is available, I am ready".
But Senna opposes a disdainful refusal. Prost later found again his smile, commenting on the rumours that he would like to Ligier in the next three years for 75 billion lire:
"I take that money from Ferrari in one season".
The constructor Guy Ligier confirms that he wants to take a great team in two or three years but he has not yet chosen the driver. Speaking, instead of tests, it must be said that in the past tires were the cross and delight of motor racing. Now the situation has changed: the general attention, especially in Formula 1, has shifted to fuel, which has become fundamental.
This would explain, among other things, the return to the top of McLaren-Honda in the first round of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix: first Berger, second Senna. Behind, about a second, the Ferraris of Alain Prost and Jean Alesi, then the Williams of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese. It is true that the Englishman and the Italian have had some problems, but there are already those who suspect that the Senna team has found yet another magical petrol. In fact, in the morning, Shell (supplier of McLaren) announced that they had prepared a new mixture, synthetic fuels produced in a laboratory using one or two hydrocarbons among the many known. Just think that Elf (Williams) would have produced at least 150 different gases since the beginning of the season. The road was opened last year by Agip (Ferrari) and it began to talk about fuels with an unpleasant smell. Now the stink is unbearable. Gasoline must give more power and elasticity to the engines (even a 10% more horsepower), have resistance to heat, lightness, ability to cool, adaptation to temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and so on. So, Saturday, August 10, 1991, everything in Formula 1 falls within the norm. Ayrton Senna got tired of not starting in front of everyone, and after five waiting races, the Brazilian strikes again with lightning. And this time, in a circuit where the pole position counts at least half a race, he is there ready to return to the victory that eludes him from Sunday, May 12, 1991, when he completed a sensational initial four-of-a-kind winning the prestigious Monte-Carlo event. Statistics say that the talented guy from São Paulo also got the pole position number 57 of his career and yet another lap record: 1'16"147, at an average speed of 187.595 km/h, which shatters Boutsen’s previous record, which last year with Williams get a time of 1'17"919. Almost two seconds less. But the most important fact is not about Senna himself. In fact, after more than two months underperforming, McLaren confirms its return to the top. It is true that Ayrton always puts something of his in these qualifications, but without the car, the driver could not do anything. The British team, however, with the help of Shell (engaged in a fuel war) and Honda (lighter and more powerful engine) seems to have recovered on Williams.
Out of this exciting exchange of roles remains Ferrari. It seems to witness the game of the three cards: move right, left or centre, but the team of Maranello never comes out on top. In fact, the pair Patrese-Mansell is behind Ayrton, with the Italian driver brilliantly ahead of the English teammate. You have to climb to fourth place to find Alain Prost, then the unlucky Gerhard Berger (but the Austrian still denotes limits) and Jean Alesi, sixth. On Friday, the two Frenchmen were third and fourth respectively. Apart from Senna (who detached Patrese by 1.2 seconds), the margins are minimal: 0.010 seconds between Patrese and Mansell (who mocks the vulnerable Englishman...), 0.3 seconds for Alain Prost. However, here it is important to start well, because then overtaking is difficult. On Saturday, Prost complained about the new engine, which in the afternoon in qualifying is less competitive than it appeared in the morning’s free practice. Ferrari had also changed it on Alesi’s car, to have fresh forces. Engineer Lombardi admits that there has been a small drop in performance; evidently between one engine and another in varying conditions of heat, special gasoline for testing, tires that always change, there are differences. Anyway, it was decided that the 12-cylinder evolution 4 will be used in the race. A very interesting race for Italians, as in addition to Patrese also Emanuele Pirro, Stefano Modena and Ivan Capelli (respectively seventh, eighth and ninth). Under the threat of disqualification by the FISA for incorrect drivers, a great tussle to grab the best seats at the start is expected. Patrese has trained and seems to have understood that he must save less engine and clutch at the green light for overtaking and for dubbing, also taking into account the great heat, the wear of the tires, the various possible strategies. But the main points of interest are two: the battle between Senna and Mansell for the leadership of the World Championship (8 points for the Brazilian) and the new peace between Ayrton and Prost. Both drivers involved spend the day saying how happy they are to have restored friendly and normal relations. But in the competitive challenge, everything can happen. And, among other things, the Frenchman says that Ferrari in race conditions is very competitive:
"I’m calm, the clarification with Senna has done me very well. We have given ourselves a serious hand. I know that once there was a certain Judas. I hope he’s dead".
Jean-Marie Balestre, Southern French, former journalist and publisher, father of world motoring, wants to use the iron fist. Starting with compatriot Alain Prost: disqualification on parole. The 70-year-old president of FISA, a couple of heart attacks and three by-passes to his credit, being close to a possible re-election (would be his fourth term) has no doubt. Why that disqualification? Drivers, organisers, constructors are in the crosshairs. Everyone, small and large. He will not admit wrongdoing anymore. And then, the first time Prost makes the same mistakes, making incorrect statements, he stays home. It seems like a sudden awakening of the federal sports authorities.
"So far we have worked for active and passive safety, on cars and in circuits. For cars we think we have done a lot. On the tracks you will still have to work in depth. But we could not forget the human element. It is time to discipline the drivers, in the race and after. We will have no mercy. But how will you apply the rules on doubtful episodes? We have set up a Commission of Inquiry for safety (composed by the same Balestre, Ecclestone, Torres, the secretary Leon and the Swiss Buzer, president of the kart federation, top expert on accidents, ed). He can intervene at any time, in an irrevocable way".
Have you already taken any further action?
"For the moment only preventive measures. Drivers will no longer be able to zigzag during the deployment lap, nor will they be able to stop for starting tests, otherwise they will be excluded from the race. Those who slow down the formation of the starting grid will also be disqualified".
There has also been talk of sanctions against race organisers...
"Even the circuit masters have to adapt. For example, we forced Hockenheim to remove the chicanes and make other turns, because he had become too dangerous. And there are other ambitious projects in the pipeline. Maybe the race will be held again in South Africa and maybe a second race in Japan, in Autopolis. And before I quit, in four years, I want to organise a Grand Prix in Moscow. About seventy billion lire will be enough to build the circuit. I want at least two American drivers, a world title for an Englishman and an Italian, safe tracks, respectful racers and even three Ferrari wins a year".
Sunday, August 11, 1991, at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna and Riccardo Patrese sprint well, keeping the lead of the race; Nigel Mansell, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi follow. Despite Nigel Mansell being stuck behind his teammate, Ayrton Senna was unable to gain a substantial margin; meanwhile, Alain Prost retired during lap 28 due to an engine problem. When Nigel Mansell manages to pass Riccardo Patrese, he tries to recover against Ayrton Senna, but the narrow and winding Hungarian track makes any attempt to overtake impossible. Ayrton Senna won the race ahead of Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese, Gerhard Berger, Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli, who scored a point with his Leyton House-Ilmor. An announced victory. Ayrton Senna returned to success in the Hungarian Grand Prix, after five waiting races, and completed a five-place poker that once again puts him again in the World Championship standings safe from the attacks of Nigel Mansell. Twelve points ahead of the Englishman are not a lot, but enough to prevent in any case an attempt to overtake in the next race, in fifteen days in Belgium. But above all, the result is also an injection of confidence, for him and for McLaren-Honda. No triumphalistic tone, but the satisfaction of having achieved the goal of catching up at the first favourable opportunity presented. Put back in the shoes of Super-Senna, the South American driver has brilliantly resisted the useless, timid and even unconvinced moves of the two Williams-Renault drivers to try to overtake it.
So, Mansell and Patrese, both struggling with brake problems, had to settle for second and third place, leaving Gerhard Berger, Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli behind. The race of the Austrian was absolutely anonymous, that of the Frenchman of Ferrari surrendered only at times, while the Italian driver was finally able to close a race positively, for the first time since the beginning of the season. The usually brave Andrea De Cesaris came seventh, an increasingly dissatisfied Stefano Modena came twelfth, Gianni Morbidelli thirteenth and Nicola Larini sixteenth. A little bit shabby, as usual. And also for Ferrari, the dark period continued: Alain Prost was forced to retire after 28 laps due to the failure of the new engine (for new obviously means an evolution, the fourth, of the classic 12 cylinders). There were also positive indications. As long as he was in the fray, Alain gave the impression of being able to keep the pace of the best and the Red 643 seemed to match McLaren-Honda and Williams-Renault. However, it is not with illusions that good placements are brought home. It takes concrete facts. There is little to say about the race. Apart from the start episode, during which Senna squeezed Patrese at least suspiciously, there was not a single significant overtaking in the top positions. At most some difficult overtaking, which could have questioned the victory. But Senna played everything well: the choice of tires (softer to the left, harder to the right), that allowed him to be quite competitive at all times, without risking a pit stop to change tires. In addition, the Brazilian opted for an aerodynamic solution that gave him perhaps some disadvantage in the slow corners (where, however, no one could disturb him), but allowing him that small extra margin of speed in straight, not to be caught in the wake of the cars that followed him. In short, a test of tactical intelligence more than a test of skill at the wheel, even if the mere fact of not having made any mistake driving is already a merit. So Ayrton controlled the situation, while behind him first Patrese and then Mansell took over to try to get him back. But the Italian driver had to give up for brake problems and then his teammate was slowed - as we said - by the same trouble.
In the fight for fourth place, Gerhard Berger did not have the slightest discomfort, after the abandonment of Alain Prost who until his return to the pits had never been more than 4 seconds behind him, despite the game of overtaking and the various spring-pullers. Jean Alesi, who started with soft tyres, had to make a pit stop and in the final, after only passing Ivan Capelli, he was slowed by a drop in the engine. The rest is history to forget. But it must be said that the professionalism of Riccardo Patrese has perhaps saved the victory number 31 of Ayrton Senna. The Italian driver, in fact, did not want to publicly denounce the Brazilian, guilty of having forced him to squeeze through at the first corner. A start that saw McLaren-Honda sprint on the left, bend towards the middle and go to block the Williams-Renault, which was almost on the same line. To avoid a possible collision, Riccardo was forced to remove his foot from the accelerator and let the rival pass, who was now with the wheels locked and could not correct the racing line. A manoeuvre that allowed Senna to take the lead and win undisturbed. Certainly, Patrese had to contain his anger for all 77 laps of the race. And when, on the podium, Ayrton reached out to him, he let off steam. Difficult to decipher the words, but it was clear from the tone that they were not the usual compliments. Shortly after, the Italian also expressed his disappointment to McLaren manager Ron Dennis. Patrese had already shouted in the parc fermé of the cars and the verbal controversy had not escaped the commissioners, who officially summoned the Italian and Senna in the race direction. Up there, in front of the representatives of the sports authority, both reported that the episode had already been clarified between them and that therefore they had nothing to add. So the file, as there is no charge, has been filed. Patrese who later took refuge in a no-comment, however, has the opportunity to express his disappointment to Roland Bruynseraede, the race director.
"It is useless to talk so much about security when then, in front of certain episodes, you do not intervene in the office, as would be logical. There’s TV footage, the ability to check out the nightlife. Putting ourselves in a position to blame a colleague directly means raising personal controversies, with the results that everyone can imagine".
And so Senna is silent and thanks him, having already a warning: a second one would lead him to a probable disqualification. Of course President Balestre, when the controversy was born, was already on a private jet to the spa of Evian, where he will spend a few days of rest.
The Brazilian talks about the championship that is still very open, a very difficult victory, because the Williams were very fast, the possibility that in the next races the situation can be reversed in favour of Mansell and Prost, of the fact that the complete recovery of McLaren on any type of circuit will not happen before some time. As for Patrese, the Italian driver says:
"I missed another good opportunity. I don’t feel excluded from the fight for the World Cup, but I should win the next two races".
Mansell, on the other hand, compliments everyone:
"Senna was good at conquering a decisive pole position and keeping the first place at the start. Good and sportsmanlike was Patrese, who gave me the green light when he had brake problems. We hope that in the next Grand Prix, in Belgium, Williams will return to being the best car, because here in Hungary it suffered the type of circuit, which put in difficulty the delicate aerodynamics of our car".
Ayrton Senna has balanced the score. Out of ten races this year, he has won five. The others are divided between three drivers: one each at Piquet and Patrese, three for Nigel Mansell. Who expected an unconditional surrender of the Brazilian, is servile. When you have enough class and motivation, even in difficult times, you emerge. But in reality the Hungarian race was not a race like the others. The World Champion built his success by achieving two goals. It was enough to get the pole position during qualifying and then keep the first place at the start (with a manoeuvre that Patrese has considered incorrect, but the FISA has not considered appropriate to take part, immediately refuting all the assertions of these days, according to which the race direction had been severe) in order to cross the finish line for first. So Mansell and Patrese, second and third, were disappointed. After all, it would have been inconvenient to immediately provoke a controversy after the hugs of recent days that have even led to peace between Senna himself and his enemy Prost. They will have to try again in the next races and in particular in Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium, where they will race on Sunday, August 25, 1991, on a very fast track that is more suitable, at least apparently, to the current characteristics of Williams-Renault than those of McLaren-Honda. Senna launched towards the Englishman in the driver’s standings and the attempts of the Paduan to get back in the race have failed; even more serious is the situation of Ferrari, which is still on its way uphill. The Maranello team continues its path with many difficulties, because the long-awaited technical solutions have not yet led to acceptable results. A bit also for bad luck, but also and above all for the inability of the team to get away in a definite way from trouble, the discussions, the problems that still involve a little the whole Ferrari environment, especially for the two drivers.
The controversy with Prost has just ended and there is already tension around Alesi (some even say that he could switch to Benetton). These are provocative frictions, but it must be recognised that the men of the Maranello team fall for it very easily. Unfortunately, the situation is not positive and the fans suffer from it, despite their unshakeable faith so far. The truth is that without victories there is no serenity and without calm one cannot win. This does not mean, however, that engineer Lombardi and the other Ferrari technicians will not do everything to try again and resurrect. From Wednesday, 14 August 1991, in Monza, there will be another three days of testing, before the Belgian Grand Prix. An opportunity to develop chassis and engines with the hope of defeating a disease, due to lack of results, that is risking becoming chronic. Meanwhile, in Hungary, only Jean Alesi, after all, thanks to his placement, has the courage to joke. The Frenchman gets on the Benetton van, together with Piquet, laughing. A move to which someone already gave an interpretation, as it always happens in these cases, connecting the dots. Since Saturday after the tests there was a moment of tension between the Frenchman, always very impetuous, and engineer Lombardi (Ferrari manager admits the existence of the episode, but both say that it is a misunderstanding, that they have explained themselves to each other and that everything is forgotten), Alesi should spend next year to the Anglo-Italian team next to his Brazilian friend. But Jean, of course, does not give weight to inference.
"It was a difficult race, because from the first lap the dashboard display failed. I knew nothing: temperatures, gears, laps and so on. I had chosen soft tyres, because starting in sixth position I knew I had to attack. Then I would stop and change them. So it was, to try to force again in the final. I recovered a bit, but there was a power drop in the engine that definitely slowed me down".
The most striking fact, perhaps, is that Alesi did not know, an hour and a half after the end of the race, that his teammate had retired: no one had warned him. If only that were the problem. In fact, the new engine showed interesting qualities, but it was also the cause of the withdrawal of Prost, who thus lost even a possible podium finish.
"There were no signs, it stuck suddenly. Too bad because the car was really good. At the beginning I didn’t exaggerate, I wanted to save tires, brakes and engine, yet I could keep the pace of the best. When I pushed hard, it’s over. This engine is better than the previous one, but apart from reliability it would take even more acceleration".
For Claudio Lombardi the balance is negative. The Italian engineer says that the fault on Alesi’s car was probably of an electronic nature, while to find out what excluded Prost will need to open the engine in the workshop.
"We still have to do some thorough tests. Constantly changing is always difficult to control everything as we would like".
Just think of fuel: in Hungary only Ferrari had four different types of fuel. First, however, drivers will take a few days off. It seems that Senna, after the comforting victory in Hungary, will go away by boat with Berger (perhaps to Sardinia). Alesi will enjoy the sun on tPiquet’s yacht, near Santa Margherita: no fear of sharks, the Frenchman says that he meets them every day in the circuits and that now he is used to it.
For Prost, however, mini-holidays by his family waiting to return to the track, since from Wednesday almost all the teams (but Ferrari will be present only Thursday) will meet in Monza for a series of tests. A work that should serve for the Italian Grand Prix, but that in reality will be aimed especially at the race in Spa, when McLaren and Williams will be subjected to the test of the truth. No one is in the conscience of Alain Prost and therefore one cannot know if he will sleep soundly in these hours. Because the French Machiavellian, before leaving the Hungarian circuit, on Sunday evening makes a sensational revelation.
"Much has been said about my future at Ferrari and my career. The only thing I can point out is that they are plotting a revolution in Formula 1, before the end of the season".
In pronouncing this sentence, Prost uses the word “mess”. In more common terms: end of the world. And because “chambard” also means noise, it must be a huge thing, a revolution. The person concerned does not give any other explanation. So this is in the field of hypotheses. The first question that comes to mind is this: does the big change affect him directly or is it related to other important Formula 1 characters? There are various possibilities, based on what has been said in these months in the environment. The first one: Prost leaves Ferrari to accept the offers of Ligier that is preparing, along with Renault and other major industries in the sector, to form a large national team. Initially there was talk of John Barnard being hired as a designer. Ligier announced last week that they had appointed the experienced specialist Gerard Ducarouge. If Barnard had been there, the company could not have started before 1993, due to the slowness of the English coach. With Ducarouge it could be anticipated. The second one: Ferrari takes Senna. And Prost goes back to McLaren, because Ron Dennis' team wouldn’t have many options. Another solution, more imaginative, could include a trade of drivers: Senna to Ferrari, Prost to Williams and Mansell to McLaren. The third one: Senna and Prost, who have made peace (it seems authentic, even if both are waiting for counter-tests), are preparing to run in the same team. Ferrari, Williams or McLaren? As specified, it is just conjecture. The only thing certain, according to Prost’s assertions, is that something sensational will happen. And this something (it is the most mysterious side of the story) should happen before the end of the season. And that complicates things even more. All that remains is to investigate and wait. In the coming days there will certainly be reactions and developments. Meanwhile, the Frenchman who always complains about the press, especially the Italian one, could be offered a place as an in-depth reporter with his continuous scoops. This week he once again took Ferrari by surprise, revealing that the Maranello team had tested in Budapest an engine feeding system with mobile horns. A system whose existence was denied by the team…