#508 1991 British Grand Prix

2023-01-16 23:00

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#1991, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero, Translated by Alice Simonin,

#508 1991 British Grand Prix

Silverstone is no longer the temple of speed. The circuit in which speed and brave hearts mattered also changed. For reasons of safety and of upgrades


Silverstone is no longer the temple of speed. The circuit in which speed and brave hearts mattered also changed. For reasons of safety and due to upgrades of the racetrack, the circuit, where thanks to endless bends cars used to go faster than  240 km/h, has become a sitting area, even if the track is very challenging. A little more than 200 km/h of average speed, numerous extra little corners (it went from 4,780  to 5,226 metres long), where it is difficult to overtake, but without removing the dangers, because a couple of sections are risky, fast and close to the walls. There are, however, those who do not care so much about the track on which the first day of official tests will take place on Friday, 12 July 1991. It is the case of  McLaren, which brings five cars, a record. It had not happened since 1971, when B.R.M. lined up as many single-seaters for one single race, but for five drivers. Now, the British team, in difficulty after the setbacks of the last two races, wanted to produce the maximum effort, at home, for Senna and Berger. Actually, there is a plausible explanation for this imposing line-up (which requires the employment of 38 mechanics among other things): this is a matter of engines. To accelerate the recovery, Honda brought here three new 12-cylinders of the evolution 3 type. In order to avoid assembling and disassembling the power units, McLaren therefore decided to resort to an increased number of cars (usually three). Like this, the drivers will be able to climb out and to climb in the cars for a series of comparative tests. However, generally, those operations are complicated and create confusion. And it is clear that McLaren is desperately trying to reverse the situation while waiting to have the new technical and aerodynamic upgrades announced for the German Grand Prix in late July. Thus, the favours of the prediction still go to Williams-Renault, which has also been the fastest in the free practice. Patrese has absorbed the disappointment of Magny-Cours and promises a great battle: 


"I always live in the moment, but to win". 


Mansell, for his part, conducts a simple press conference to ease the pressure that he has to endure following his win in France: the British driver confirms that he has taken up residence in Florida (“So my family will be able to be around me during the American races”), speaks of a fantastic job, referring to his positive moment, praises everyone and says that if he wins in Silverstone he will be the happiest person in the world. Then, he compliments Senna:


"He'll take 23 million of dollars next year from Williams". 


However, the news comes from a misunderstanding, at least regarding the figure - because the negotiations are still underway - since 23 million dollars have cheerfully become 23 million pounds... Then, he claims:


"Ferrari is also dangerous here, last Sunday Prost was faster than me in the first laps with a full tank of fuel". 


Regarding the Maranello team, Prost is absent, Jean Alesi celebrates his Sicilian origins wearing the Juventus jersey, of which he is a fan, to talk about football in the recording of a television program. Jean lets it be known that the alleged controversies against Prost, aggravated by some newspapers, are a mischievous interpretation of a joke ("I wouldn't have let myself be overtaken by Mansell"). Engineer Lombardi, in the end, says that a modified gearbox was brought to decrease the reaction time and that there are different regulations for the engines. Meanwhile, an accredited voice is reported according to which Benetton is about to sell a share of its own team to Ford (which now provides their engines) and to Tom Walkinshaw (who is currently in charge of the Jaguar team in the World Sportscar Championship), who would take over the management of the team firsthand. Last year, in Silverstone, Ferrari had achieved the en-plein: pole position with Mansell, fastest lap in the race with the same British driver and win with Prost. 


For the Maranello team, it was perhaps the most exciting moment of a season that then ended badly. Now, the situation is completely different. To mark the 40th anniversary of its first win (Silverstone, 14 July 1941, with a car driven by the Argentine Froilan Gonzalez), the Italian team is looking for its revival, at the turning point of a championship which has given them very little satisfaction so far. Alain Prost says:


"Making a prediction is always very difficult in Formula 1. Let alone on this occasion, given that among other things we race on a completely redone and redesigned track, without any other reference than the three days of free practice carried out about twenty days ago with the old car, I'm pretty optimistic, for different reasons. But I'm optimistic in the sense that I think that we'll do well, that we'll be able to be competitive. In terms of results, win, podium, good position, I don't want to overpromise. There are the premises of disputing a great race". 


Ferrari did not have much time to bring some upgrades on the new car, the 643. However, two days of tests in Maranello with the development driver Andrea Motermini allowed them to set up a gearbox that should give a faster response than it did until last Sunday. This is one of the weak points reported by engineer Claudio Lombardi, manager of the race team, after the French Grand Prix. Also, different adjustments were done to the engine to adapt it to the specifications of the circuit which now has some very fast corners and several slow ones, so much so that the expected average speed is a little more than 200 km/h. But there are those who accredit Ferrari with a possible win. It is an authoritative voice of a former Ferrari driver, big favourite for Sunday's race, that is to say the one of Nigel Mansell. 


"It's true that in France I've overtaken Prost twice and I've arrived first at the finish line. However, the Italian team cannot be trusted because it has nine lives like cats. In the first few laps at Magny-Cours, among other things, the car of the Frenchman was faster than mine when we had the tank full of fuel. Then, apparently, he had gearbox and tyre wear problems. Thus, it would be enough to achieve some improvement of the set-up to find them all over us. We're not here to take them on, since we want to take full advantage of this magical moment and in the next races we'll also have some new technical upgrades to put on track. But we distrust our rivals, before claiming victory".


But on Friday, 12 July 1991, Williams-Renault proves to not be scared and continues dictating the law. McLaren-Honda, although among many difficulties, is rewarded for the effort of lining up five cars and seems in recovery. Ferrari pays for being the newcomer (in terms of track and car) and slows down its recovery, positioning Jean Alesi sixth and Alain Prost seventh, behind a wild Andrea De Cesaris with the little Jordan-Ford. The Italian driver modestly affirms:


"It's not certain that I'll manage to remain there, ahead of Alesi and Prost but I'm still satisfied, even very happy. Fourth in Canada and Mexico, fifth in Magny-Cours. Within the first six for three races. And the prospects are good. I think that I will also be able to fight for the points on Saturday, perhaps - if everything goes very well - also finish on the podium, given the reliability of our car". 


De Cesaris, who has just turned 32 years old, is one of the veterans of Formula 1. He has 157 races under his belt, from 1980 until nowadays, he has been racing with many different teams: the debut with Alfa Romeo, then McLaren, Alfa again, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Dallara and now Jordan. He has never won. His best results are a pole position in Long Beach in the now far away 1982 and three third-place finishes. Yet, he does not give up. 


"One day, my time to win will also come. Until now, I didn't have the means and at the beginning, when I was considered among the fastest drivers, I wasn't very experienced actually. Now I feel complete, in tests and in race. I don't feel like I'm making many mistakes. At Magny-Cours, to catch up from P23, where I had fallen because of a spin that I had been forced to do stunts to avoid two cars that were driving in front of me, I did at least fifteen overtakes. On a track where - it is said - it's impossible to overtake". 


One wonders from where does this half miracle, this unexpected recovery, come from. 


"There are no secrets, you just need to have a car that doesn't break all the time and that is quite fast. Jordan is proof that also in F1 you can do a lot with little. Without having monstrous budgets, with four mechanics and a good technician, our Gary Anderson who was a simple worker at the start of his career, we have managed to build a very competitive car, considering that we have a Ford 8-cylinder as an engine. Great but obviously less powerful than the various Honda, Ferrari, Renault and so on. In my own small way I'm living a magical moment, I hope that it continues. Indeed, I promise that I'll do everything I can tomorrow to continue my series of good-position finishes. My dream is to be ahead of one of the greatest".


Just like after the first day of tests of the British Grand Prix. A day that sees Nigel Mansell as the protagonist again: best time and wirewalking shows to delight his fans. All in a round of tests disturbed by a cold, annoying and variable wind that annoys even the boss, Bernie Ecclestone, who lets slip a sentence that, with a good taste, could be translated as “evil England”. In fact, nobody seems to rejoice at the end of the hour of timed laps. Mansell himself complains about the irregular behaviour of his Williams-Renault on the new track: 


"I did the time with the first set of tyres. During the second attempt, I almost spun and I ended up in the grass to avoid hitting the Larrousse of Suzuki. I'm glad to be ahead, but we hope that it will rain today". 


However, Riccardo Patrese does not feel like making jokes (fourth time, behind Berger and Senna too). For once, the Italian complains. 


"My Williams is not great. There's no grip, it's difficult to drive. And the McLarens are back racing". 


But not everything goes well for Ayrton Senna's team either. Gerhard Berger, during the first attempt, breaks another of the valuable Honda engines, leaving an oil stain as big as a puddle on the asphalt. The commissioners are forced to end the session, right when Senna was about to complete his fastest lap, among a thousand sparks caused by the car crawling on the ground. Like that, Berger is forced to qualify himself with the racing car of the Brazilian. Senna qualifies shortly after using the spare single-seater, powered by the evolution 3 engine. 


"Wrong set-up and tied engine, we still have to work a lot". 


And the Japanese bow their heads: on Saturday, they will give the evolution 2 12-cylinder engine, the old one, to Ayrton Senna. Atmosphere of great tension at Ferrari, not so much for the positions, but for the gaps (Alesi at 1.8 seconds from Mansell). Alain Prost sadly says:


"There's no grip on this bouncy track, the tyres don't get into temperature. Unfortunately, the tests of twenty days ago with the old 642 didn't help at all. We have to start all over again to try to understand". 


And his teammate increases the dose: 


"We must change patterns in the development of the new car, otherwise we get stuck". 


Impressions confirmed by the engineer Claudio Lombardi, who admits that they are still a little stumbling around in the dark regarding the adjustments to the suspension, aerodynamics, the height and so on. In short, a work that would require some days of tests. Those who did not carry out tests in Silverstone beforehand are struggling: like Minardi, last with Pierluigi Martini and out, for the moment, with Gianni Morbidelli. In the meantime, Benetton confirms the rumours of Thursday: Tom Waikinshaw has indeed bought 35% of the Italian-English team ("the figure is a secret between the Benetton family and myself"). A joint venture which could bring technical advantages, given that TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) has an organisation of 200 people with numerous technical centres. But this is a talk about the future. Because on Saturday, 13 July 1991, Nigel Mansell, leaving a long line of sparks on the asphalt, clinches the pole position of the British Grand Prix, the number 16 of his career, with Williams-Renault. And he makes a promise: 


"I gave it my all to be at the top, even if we're talking about only five metres of advantage. I hope to immediately disappear off the horizon of my rivals and to let them fight for second place". 


In fact, the Mansell-Williams pair would not leave room to anyone if the F1 races would not also be, on many occasions, like winning the lottery, a sport full of unknowns and of possible surprises. However, at the end of the second round of qualifying, a tight and spectacular fight, exciting and uncertain until the end, Mansell sends into rapture his countless fans, also making the little princes William and Henry, sons of Charles of England and Lady Diana, guests of Jackie Stewart at Silverstone, do a leap of joy. A breathtaking lap, with the Williams-Renault that runs in a cloud of flames (caused by the crawling on the ground of the small skids of ceramic material placed under the car) and Mansell establishes the official record of the new circuit driving in 1'20"939, at an average speed of 232.421 km/h. A speed that was considered unimaginable, given the specifications of the track which had been modified this year: from five to 14 corners, hoping to slow down the drivers. And, in addition, the asphalt is different in various sections of the track which, among other things, widens and narrows down. At the end of the fight, the British driver, who performs his entire repertoire of grimaces and gestures in the intervals in the pit, is ahead of Ayrton Senna (McLaren-Honda), Riccardo Patrese (with the other Williams-Renault), Gerhard Berger (the other McLaren-Honda) and the Ferraris of Alain Prost and Jean Alesi. None of the rivals dares to challenge the supremacy of the British driver. And each of them gives an explanation. 


"Williams is stronger".


Admits Ayrton Senna. While Riccardo Patrese performs in a subtle consideration: 


"He pushed very hard, congratulations. But during the free practice of June 27th, I had set the time of 1'21"76, Nigel did 1'22"21. This time, he came down to 1'20"93 and I remained at 1'22"109. The truth is that when it was needed to be ahead of Senna, there wasn't any problem. Now that the Williams are faster…". 


For Berger, there is the excuse of a mis-shifting in his best lap: 


"But the British was uncatchable". 


Regarding Ferrari, there is a clear improvement in lap time and a place gained at the start for both drivers. With Alain Prost in fifth, after having overtaken his teammate, and Jean Alesi in sixth.


"But how does this Alain drive? I’d kick his ankle".


The gaps from Williams-Renault have reduced and also and above all from McLaren-Honda. The set-ups have been modified and the drivers say that the cars (the third 643 had also arrived during the night) have a significantly superior roadholding. They make progress, but, however, there were some complaints about the qualifying engines used on Saturday: they did not lead to the expected results. Alain Prost explains:


"The one put on my single-seater had a progressive drop in power starting from the morning". 


And then, on particular demand, he specifies: 


"I think that the others have done step forwards with the fuel, us, we stood still". 


A great jab against Agip, just to get a message to Rome. As if to say: get busy. The climate, however, is more serene inside the Maranello team, so much so that engineer Claudio Lombardi - after agreeing with the drivers about the engines, arguing that the 643 is competitive - is even willing to make jokes: 


"In a Rally, I would occasionally get a little pimple in my face because of the tension. I got plenty here…". 


Given that poor Andrea De Cesaris is the only one of the thirty drivers on track to not improve his time (and he drops from the fifth to the thirteenth position because of a cut off electrical cable on his Jordan, but he swears that during the race he will be among the protagonists) and that the Italians generally do not shine, even if the Minardi powered by Ferrari is saved from exclusion. The race could be a Mansell-show again or an exclusive of the Williams-Renault for the win anyways, with some chances also for Riccardo Patrese. Ayrton Senna, still uncertain if he will use the Honda type 2 or 3 engine (on Saturday, Berger broke another one), makes it clearly known that McLaren is not up for the job. But he is not to be trusted. Ferrari has the role of the outsider: however, they should not disappoint except in the case of unforeseen circumstances or reliability problems. The usual game of tyres is important. The left tyres especially wear out fast. It is the turning point of the World Championship, thus the positions for the teams that go up or drop in the pre-qualifying will be decided. Jordan, Scuderia Italia and Lambo are in the promotion phase, while AGS will almost certainly undergo relegation; instead, the results of Footwork are worth seeing.


On Sunday, 14 July 1991, at the start of the British Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna gets away very well, overtaking Nigel Mansell and bringing himself to the lead; however, the Brazilian is immediately overtaken again by the Williams-Renault driver, who gets past him at Stowe. In the meantime, Riccardo Patrese retires after having been pushed off track by Gerhard Berger. Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna immediately break away from the group of the chasers, led by Gerhard Berger, Alain Prost and Jean Alesi; the latter retires successively after a contact with the lapped Aguri Suzuki, over the course of lap 31. On lap 41, Andrea De Cesaris is the author of a terrible crash, caused by the failure of a suspension at Abbey corner; the car of the Italian driver bumps against the barriers and crosses the track again, narrowly avoiding the Tyrrell-Honda of the oncoming Satoru Nakajima. Andrea De Cesaris comes out unharmed from the crash. Nigel Mansell remains in the lead during the whole race, on his way to win the British Grand Prix and clinching his second win in a row; Ayrton Senna, who remained without fuel during the final lap, finishes fourth; the image of Nigel Mansell giving a ride to the Brazilian in his Williams-Renault will become famous. Gerhard Berger and Alain Prost finish on the podium, followed by Nelson Piquet and Bertrand Gachot. To avoid having to dispute the pre-qualifying starting from the incoming Grand Prix, Brabham would have needed to finish among the first seven, but neither Martin Brundle nor Mark Blundell finished the race. Nigel Mansell kept his promise. Off he went and he disappeared from the view of his rivals, to arrive by himself at the finish line, with a cheering crowd. Second win in a row, the number 18 of his career, but also and above all a full relaunch of the World Championship. Williams-Renault now know which of his two drivers they will bet on. The British driver is 8 points behind Ayrton Senna who was about to finish in second place, when he ran out of fuel right at the final lap. The Brazilian had to content himself with the fourth position. That way, Gerhard Berger, who had the foresight of pushing off track poor Riccardo Patrese at the first corner, and the usual Alain Prost also ended up on the podium. 


A result that does not satisfy the Maranello team, given that both drivers could have been theoretically able to do a double podium behind Nigel Mansell. The cars from Maranello proved to be a little more competitive than the McLaren-Honda, thus the second force in Formula 1 at this point. Williams-Renault is quite far, but the 643 still has a significant opportunity of development, even if Alain Prost is once again very critical. In any case, the points that Jean Alesi could have been able to score are missing as he was the victim of a crash with the Japanese Aguri Suzuki against whom a fierce and also justified controversy is raised. The issue of the day, however, concerns McLaren. To recover lost ground, the British team and Honda have produced a great effort; five cars for this race and two types of engines. But it is a sign of shortness of breath. It is not excluded that from the next race everything changes. The fact remains that, by now, the overtaking of Williams-Renault is largely confirmed and reaffirmed, now Ayrton Senna has to chase, even if it will be difficult to reduce his lead. Unless the situation does not deteriorate and Ferrari (or any other team) does not get in the way of the fight at the top. The race did not deliver much. As always, when there is an absolute dominator, it has been rather boring, and it has lived on the episodes that have happened behind Nigel Mansell and on the discussions at the pits about the actions of the sports commissioners. The ones who, once again, despite all the promises of Balestre and the FISA, show that they are disconnected from the race, that they are not ready to reflect and that they do not have the courage to make decisions. After the crashes, Patrese and Alesi are requested by the direction to explain their point of view on what happened. Then, a few hours later, another useless measure: Suzuki is fined 10,000 dollars. In the morning, there was a precedent during the drivers' briefing. Gugelmin had asked president Balestre himself to explain the reason for the fine of 10,000 dollars and the thick penalty at Magny-Cours for having obstructed Mansell in a lapping. The Brazilian had protested because he believed he had not been the only one to have committed a similar misconduct. In short, the problem exists and a solution must be found. All the more so since Gerhard Berger is a repeat offender: he has already pushed off track a lot of concurrents. The Austrian defends himself saying that the responsibility is completely Patrese. But the Italian driver responds saying:


"Watch the television, I don't really think I have committed a mistake". 


Going back to the race, after the initial breakaway of Mansell, finished with the victory, the dominant motif was the failed attempt of Prost and Alesi to overtake Berger. Alain tried but did not manage to do it. Then Alesi engaged the extra gear, did an overtake on his teammate at the limit. And he brought himself behind the McLaren driver. On lap 22, Jean overtook the Austrian, immediately followed by Prost, and Berger came into the pits to change his tyres. On lap 31, while he was chasing Senna, the Frenchman stumbled on the obstacle represented by the Larrousse of Suzuki and crashed through the car, chassis included. While s teammate (who had done a spin in the straight) was losing ground, he found himself in third place. But he was relegated to fourth when he had to change his now used tyres from the previous multiple car accident and from being plunged to the ground and from the debris left on the track by a scary crash of De Cesaris (nearly unharmed). There was a surprise on the final lap: Senna was without fuel and left the places on the podium to Berger and Prost. And like that, he joins the two faces of the representatives of the Scuderia Ferrari in the post-race. On the one hand, the face of the technical director, Claudio Lombardi, calm and self-controlled. On the other hand, the face of the drivers, one of them critical and rather harsh towards his own team, the other bitter and angry at the same time for a lost good result. Let's start with Alain Prost. It is not clear if the three-time World Champion is too clever or if sincerity takes his hand. However, his judgments are always sharp as a blade. First, he talks about the race: 

"At the beginning it was impossible to take Berger because he was in the middle of the track and was pushing hard like us in the good parts to overtake him. At some point, Alesi surprised me. He did a dangerous attack, with his rambunctious behaviour. Then, I got oil on my visor. While I was manoeuvring to take it off, I bumped into a curb and I spun. Then, I ended behind De Cesaris when he went off track. Dust and debris damaged my tyres, thus I had to stop to change them, otherwise I wouldn't have stopped, and I lost my position". 


The car? 


"During the first few laps, it was perfect, really great, even if the engine had a small drop in power. Then, as the fuel was consumed and reduced, the 643 showed the same flaws as the 642. When the tank is empty, it bounces, it is difficult to stay on track. I would have been fourth if Senna would not have stopped. Thus, the podium is a beautiful treat". 


The future? 


"We don't need to be too pessimistic. It's difficult to make progress because the others are not stationary either. But it is also difficult to dominate for a long time in the current Formula 1, holding for a season is nearly impossible. Right now, it's Williams' moment. Well, the free practice is coming for us as they start on Wednesday at Hockenheim. It is the first opportunity to do thorough tests with the new car, we also hope to have an updated engine". 


In short, when will the first win come for Ferrari? 


"When we'll improve and the others will have problems". 


Then, Jean Alesi, nervous like a caged lion. 


"I had waited to overtake Suzuki at the place when I had lapped the others. I slipped on the inside and he completely hit me. It's dramatic. He was a lap behind and was racing as if to win. However, he is not the only responsible: it's the Fédération's fault as it's not up for the job, it doesn't take immediate measures. The fines are not enough: some people need to be immediately excluded from the race. Regarding the car, it was going great: I was attacking Senna and I think that I could have finished second. Unfortunately, I came back home with nothing. The overtake on Prost? I saw that he couldn't pass Berger and I wanted to try it myself, but I don't think I've done anything wrong". 


Finally, the engineer Lombardi: 


"We are partially satisfied. I think that Ferrari matches McLaren and that we can make progress. Unfortunately, the crash of Alesi broke the car body so we are back to having only two of them available. I wasn't worried about the overtake of Jean on Alain. At certain times of a race, I can understand that one goes faster than the other. What's important is that they don't crash. We have to think about improving, particularly in qualifying".


The champions, when things do not go their way, easily lose patience. Once Nigel Mansell, with magnanimous gesture, picks up Ayrton Senna along the track (and the Brazilian gives a good kick in the legs to a commissioner who wants him to hop off the Williams), the Brazilian expresses very harsh words against McLaren and - especially - against Honda. 


"The championship isn't only compromised. It's lost. It's true that I still have a great lead, but the prospects are bad: our engine is terrible. And I don't think that Honda will be able to catch up, there's too much work to do. Looking at the future, I don't see myself being able to resist the attacks from Williams". 


Ayrton also explains that the on-board computer was signalling to him that there was still fuel in the tank. 


"I had to do the entire race without changing the tyres and things went according to expectations. Towards the end, the front left tyre deteriorated. It was procuring vibrations, but it wasn't a huge problem. Halfway through the final lap, the engine turned off. I only knew later what happened. These are huge trouble because Ferrari is improving and we're doing down". 


A very different climate around Nigel Ernest James Mansell. A similar invasion by the crowd on the track had only been seen in 1979 at Monza for Jody Scheckter, World Champion with Ferrari. Union Jacks are waving cheerfully. When the winner comes in the press room, with wet eyes, he expresses himself through many sweet words: 


"I thank my wife, my children, my fans, my friends, Williams, the technicians, Renault, Elf, Canon, Goodyear, the sun, Magneti Marelli, Fondmetal, Florida that now hosts me. A fantastic win, fabulous, one of the most beautiful days of my life". 


An easy race? 


"Quite the opposite. It was hard. I nearly passed out because of the fatigue. I wanted to watch the crowd but I couldn't get distracted. And I had some problems with the gearbox. The championship? We're halfway through the season. It's useless to make predictions. To aim at the title, we need to win again". 


Not far away, an unsuccessful protagonist, Andrea De Cesaris, counts the wounds: an almost useless knee, a cut in the hand. 


"A terrible crash. I had already stopped to change my tyres that had senselessly deteriorated. I was catching up from P24 and I was nine. In the straight, at 300 km/h, something collapsed on my Jordan, in the rear parts, and I ended up against a wall, then on the track where Nakajima and Prost miraculously dodged me. I don't know whether to swear at the bad luck or thank my lucky stars for saving me".


On Sunday evening, right after the race, John Major, the Prime Minister, also writes to Nigel Mansell. The letter comes, via fax, from Number 10 Downing Street, official office of the head of the British Government: 


"Congratulations on a wonderful victory. You have done a great race and the entire Country is deeply grateful to you. Signed John Major". 


And he, Nigel Mansell, swells with pride. Especially because of the joy of having once again made his fans happy. 


"Sure, an important win, ten points that really help me. But the road is still long, we'll need three more wins. It's not over. The Williams goes really fast, I'm in great shape. However, the reaction of my rivals will certainly be hard and angry. From Wednesday, we'll already all be on track at Hockenheim, on track for a series of tests that will last for three days. Williams will have something new to test and I hope that it gives me other advantages. But, I already know as of now that the Brazilian and Ferrari will do everything to catch up and try to counter our current superiority". 


Meanwhile, however, Mansell enjoys his moment of glory. A career full of strange episodes, culminating last year with the announcement of his retirement while racing for Ferrari, right here at Silverstone. Then the reconsideration, the 7 million dollars offered by Williams to continue and a season started very badly, with a whole series of retirements. The British driver had stayed without a single point until Monte-Carlo, when he finished in second position. Since then, he took a series of good-position finishes: sixth in Canada, second in Mexico again, then the wins in France and in England. He stands out as the most serious rival for Senna. 


"We're friends with the Brazilian. At the end of the race, I stopped to pick him up on my car when he had stopped on track because he was without fuel. He is a fair enemy, a driver that I respect so much because we're more or less cut from the same cloth. We want to win and to go fast in tests and in the race. It's our common denominator. It will be a great duel until the end of the season". 


Then, Nigel Mansell sneaks out, unsaluted guest of a race that saw the fight limited to the claim of the second place. The rage of his rivals is opposed to the happiness of the Williams driver in the post-race. The declaration of powerlessness of Ayrton Senna, furious, the complaints of Prost and Alesi for different reasons, the fear of De Cesaris, deprived of a good-position finish because of a crash of negligent origins, that is to say the collapse of the suspension of his Jordan. After all, the only one to be rewarded was Berger who, after having literally pushed off track the poor Patrese (furious as well), found himself on the podium next to the winner because his teammate remained without fuel. But Formula 1 is a fast sport quintessentially. 


The problems raised at Silverstone are already forgotten. From Wednesday, all the teams will be on track at Hockenheim for three days of free practice in view of the German Grand Prix. Obviously for confirmation purposes for those who are competitive and for revenge purposes for the defeated. But the British round proposed new themes. The first consideration concerns the challenge for the World Championship. Senna has still a considerable lead (18 points) but now the fight is open: Mansell clinched two wins in a row and had already two second-place finishes. And above all, the eclectic British has now a winning car and the whole support of his team. A thing that cannot be said for Patrese who is always considered as a foreign element, even if he is appreciated. It comes natural to ask why Williams has started to go this fast and McLaren, that also had obtained as many successes in the first four races, goes this slow. No mystery: regarding Senna's team, there were favourable economic conditions together with a great dose of skills from the Brazilian, of luck and unreliability of the rivals. It's a different matter for Mansell's team. Working with subtle skill, Frank Williams managed to put together a fanciful Technical Director like Patrick Head and a solid and concrete Chief Designer like Adrian Newey. The latter had already shone at Leyton House with innovative ideas. This time, he refined his work, carrying out the application of a system that, on the whole, frustrated the FISA's intention to reduce the speed of the cars. The new regulation changed the measures and distances of the wings, but allowed, with a type of virtual sills in the front part of the single-seaters in order to regain a deadly ground effect. Williams was the first to make good use of this opportunity and now enjoys the benefits. Obviously there is not only that behind the success. 


The automatic transmission (that has also been designed according to the experiments made by Ferrari because some of the material providers are the same) and the Renault 10-cylinder engine did the rest. The choice of the French company for a lighter, more compact and flexible power unit (the best compromise possible with the research for more power, according to the designer Bernard Dudot) has been rewarded. It is an advanced technology that led, for example, to the adoption of pneumatic valves instead of the traditional ones with the springs, and to the current results. Back to Senna: clearly, beyond the words, the Brazilian will never admit defeat. McLaren and Honda will do everything to bring him back to the top and there will be some upgrades right at Hockenheim. However, the most important news - or better, the rumours - concern the future. We are in the period of the drivers' market and the World Champion has been contacted by many teams to investigate his intentions. Williams would like to have him (you also get figures, at least a billion dollars a race and maybe something more) and it seems that Ferrari also approached him again. But Ron Dennis would have the counter-move ready: between the serious and the facetious, he admitted that the king of the designers, John Barnard, could be coming back to McLaren. If it were true, Ayrton would stay where he is, and he would perhaps be even more peaceful to face the great fight with his friend-rival Mansell. In the meantime, it is clear that if Alain Prost has been contacted by McLaren for 1992 (him, who already has a contact with Ferrari), we can be alarmed because this would mean that Senna is ready to change teams. There is also talk of a possible Ligier-Renault-Prost discussion but everything is fairly doubtful. Alain Prost's morale and attitude will be decisive for Ferrari's immediate future, as Jean Alesi, although aggressive, is still not able to develop the 643 on his own, nor to make the most of all the opportunities for good-position finishes in the race.


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