Mercedes is ready to unload Nigel Mansell. The withdrawal of the English driver in Barcelona was yet another reason that made lose the patience of the managers of the German company, McLaren’s engine partner. These are difficult days for the German brand (which also has problems in Formula Indy, where Fittipaldi and Al Unser jr with Penske powered by Mercedes have resoundingly failed to qualify for the Indy 500) and for the first time since the beginning of the season the men of Stuttgart express severe criticism against the former World Champion.
"On the assembly line as on the circuits we need people who want to work".
Norbert Haug, the head of Mercedes Sport, says without using periphrasing in an interview with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper. Haug also points out that Nigel, with his 7.000.000 pounds, is among the highest paid Mercedes employees.
"Mansell should help us develop a winning car. We have fulfilled all our contractual commitments, and now we would like to receive a counterpart".
After retiring from the Spanish Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell had stated that his McLaren was impossible to drive and fundamentally flawed. A new source of friction after the British driver had given up the first two races of the season because the cockpit of the single-seater was too narrow, forcing McLaren to enlarge it, making it more comfortable. On Monday, May 22, 1995, McLaren manager Nigel Mansell and Ron Dennis, who are still in London, won’t say if the driver will be regularly present on Thursday, May 25, 1995 at the Monaco Grand Prix. Then, given the growth of rumors that give for sure a new withdrawal of Mansell from F1, McLaren specifies with a statement that his driver will be on track, as expected.
"We are aware that there is still a lot of work to do, but let’s move on".
Despite trying to minimize, the tension between the rider and the team remains high. Nigel Mansell is accused not only of not wanting to risk or fight if he is in trouble, but also of not having any desire to work in the tests to fine-tune the car. In fact, tests are almost always carried out by Mika Hakkinen and test driver Mark Blundell. For Nigel the moment is very delicate: now he is under examination and he has to race right in the street circuit of Monte-Carlo. A track on which, if the car is not in place, there is the danger of crashing into the guardrails and still qualify in the last rows. Will Nigel Mansell still be able to give a real Leo? Or, thinking of the money you have in the bank, will you prefer to let yourself be caught, at the invitation of Mercedes? The answer does not delay to arrive. On Tuesday 23 May 1995, Nigel Mansell was fired by McLaren: the British driver, with F1 should have closed. Maybe he can have fun in some other category, collecting more money. But on this plan he has no problems: apart from the money earned previously, he will not lose a penny of the 7.000.000 pounds of engagement obtained by the munificent English team. His contract, a 200-page volume, is lawyer-proof. Thus, having covered a total of 82 race laps (63 in Imola and 19 in Barcelona) he will remain the highest paid taxi-driver in history. Who wants to hire him as a driver? These considerations become mandatory after the news that emerges the day after the ritual denials: the forty-one former World Champion was left on foot by his team. The marriage lasted just over four troubled months. Announced on Monday by a red-hot statement by Norbert Haug, head of Mercedes that supplies the engines to McLaren, twenty-four hours later came the divorce.
The Lion will not race in Monte-Carlo. His compatriot Mark Blundell, already present in the team as a test driver, will be on the #7 car. It’s the first time that a driver of such a name is kicked out of a team in this way. Accused of being a finished runner, he no longer lives up to the situation. In the past there had been similar episodes, with different motivations. Abrupt, sudden separations. But always for technical reasons, quarrels or money. Alain Prost was also fired in 1991. But it was the last race. For Nigel Mansell, however, no periphrasing was used. While maintaining a certain style, McLaren manager Ron Dennis says:
"We decided to end our relationship at the end of a frank and thorough discussion. Nigel did not get familiar with the car. And this went to the detriment of his ability to engage in the development program. Given the circumstances, I think that was the best course of action. Our relationship was short and clearly did not achieve the goals that the parties had set themselves".
Quiet also the driver’s response:
"I am obviously sorry that the collaboration with McLaren and Mercedes, a relationship that could have produced excellent results, ended prematurely. At this point in my career I expected that going to McLaren would allow me to be competitive with other teams. I have no immediate plans in F1, but I have the opportunity to keep in touch with the team, from which I have separated in the best way".
It seems instead that the divorce has matured to the term of furious quarrels and of reciprocal reproaches. Nigel Mansell has certainly accused his partners of offering him a car and an engine inferior to rivals. And the team replied that commitment and performance were lower than expected. In fact they were both wrong: McLaren took a driver who wanted to return to F1 just to win the World Championship (no other result could interest him) and Nigel to agree to drive for a team that never loved or at least appreciated him. Ron Dennis has always considered him an incomprehensible man and pilot. On Wednesday, 24th May 1995, in Monte-Carlo, the yachts are rocking in the harbour, making those who are ashore seasick. In the offices still appears, severe, the photo of Ranieri, next to the crown prince, Alberto (no trace of Carolina and Stephanie). The circuit, more or less, is the same, surrounded by guardrails and walls, with some extra protection in the edges. In short, nothing has changed for the Grand Prix, except a reduced presence of the Italians, thanks to the weak lira. And the environment of F1 is unchanged, merciless. No one sheds a tear for the dismissal of Nigel Mansell. Although the Englishman will have to end his career without ever winning this prestigious race, he doesn’t cry. He just says Jean Todt:
"Too bad, another myth that goes away".
But they are words of circumstance. Flavio Briatore, concrete, laughs;
"Thirteenth, fourteenth, who had seen Mansell more? It was as if he was not there".
The dismissal of Karl Wendlinger by Sauber (Jean-Christophe Bouillon will run) does not cause emotions either. Indeed, someone whispers:
"Better for him, he risked getting hurt. He had become a half-driver".
And to say that last year for weeks everyone had followed with passion the story of the Austrian in a coma after the Thursday incident. Even Ayrton Senna, in practice is forgotten, despite someone remembering that the Brazilian driver here had won six times. Perhaps the only ones who are a bit tense are Mark Blundell and Jean-Cristophe Bouillon, the substitutes for Nigel Mansell and Karl Wendlinger. The eyes of the public are on Michael Schumacher, winner last year and candidate to take the place of Ayrton Senna as the protagonist of the race. The German does not hide his desire to achieve another success to crush immediately the ambitions of revenge of Damon Hill. But first he wants to see how his Benetton will behave.
"After the first qualifying round I will tell you how it will go on Sunday".
It is undoubtedly the search for a good result also for Ferrari. Says Jean Alesi, on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix:
"After the Fiorano tests, I am confident. We will use the most powerful engine".
Nothing more. We already talk about the market. Gerhard Berger between the serious and the facetious, says:
"I have two or three negotiations, one with Ferrari too".
It will depend on the next results. Meanwhile there are very bad news for the Monza circuit. The FIA has rejected the work plan presented by ACI. Thursday, May 25, 1995 president Alessi will meet with Max Mosley. They will be decisive hours for the future of the Italian Grand Prix. This time Jean Alesi can rest assured. No one will take away his provisional pole position on Thursday, May 25, 1995. Simply because in the Principality the rules are different. Qualifications are not made one day after another, but forty-eight hours away. Until Saturday, therefore, the Frenchman can dream of starting in front of everyone with his Ferrari and stand on the throne of Formula 1.
"But don’t ask me if I will win the game. It would be like asking Baggio if he will score when he is about to shoot a penalty".
To tell the truth, however, with every race that passes, Ferrari convinces more and more. In the first timed round, Alesi was constantly in the lead and in the end recorded the two fastest passes, ahead of Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger. The latter then, in the last lap, could have been at the same level as his teammate, if he had not blocked the wheels at the Loews and had not been slowed down by traffic. Raconta Jean Alesi
"In this circuit cars are difficult to drive. Every time you make a small adjustment everything can change. However the chassis of our car is great, responds well. And the engine, despite the characteristics of the 12 cylinders, which is a little bit more abrupt than the others, allows us to really push. I’m very optimistic. I have prepared this Grand Prix as never before in my life. I am focused, because I feel that the decisive moment in my career has come and for the return to the top of Ferrari".
In fact Jean from show. On his car are mounted four cameras. As in a video game you can see the Ferrari #27 skimming over guardrails and walls, with the driver always ready to make small corrections with the steering wheel, brake to the limit, take advantage of every part of the track. Ferrari, however, still has some secret weapons to use to repel the attacks that will be brought to it.
In qualifying, the engines used in Barcelona were only fitted for qualifying and can also be used in the race. But Saturday there will be two special with a few more HP. There is also a different rear suspension that could be tested in case of extreme necessity. Even Berger, despite having a few more problems in finding the right set-up of his car, is confident.
"Our technicians worked very well. They prepared a new rear wing that works properly. If we can start at least in the front row we can really fight for success. Of course, we must always take into account a certain Schumacher and Williams. They all have seven lives".
In fact, if the German with his usual progression, gradually brought himself very close to pole position, Damon Hill and David Coulthard encountered difficulties. The Englishman got the fourth time and thinks he can fit in the challenge of the times. The Scotsman, who had never run here, has yet to understand the trail. No particular problems for Mark Blundell who replaced Nigel Mansell. The McLaren driver scored the eighth time (fifth his teammate, Mika Hakkinen) committing to the maximum.
"It is clear that a slow street track hides the aerodynamic problems that a car can have. But I am satisfied and I will certainly improve again. I hope to have a fantastic season".
The Englishman will probably be able to race in Monza. In the meantime, in fact, good news for the Italian Grand Prix. ACI President Alessi and FIA Vice President Marco Piccinini meet Max Mosley. And all the misunderstandings about the September race fall away. But now it will be necessary to work intensively - and seriously - to do the work required for track safety. But there are not only sporting discussions. Just a stop for a day to reflect. In a hectic Formula 1, with the events that follow, it is not often possible to think. So on Friday, May 26, 1995 a cry of alarm is launched. Amply justified. The speaker is Walter Toma, president of Philip Morris Europe. A company that invests huge capital in motor sports, from motorcycles to promotional formulas, to Formula 1. In practice sponsors pilots, stables, races, everything. The annual investment is definitely over $100.000.000.
"Last year was very difficult for Formula 1. There were tragedies. We asked ourselves: is it worth continuing? The answer was positive. We know the risks of this sport and we accept them. But we want it to remain a sport. In this sense, 1994 was one of the worst in history, amid suspicion and controversy. We wanted to forget. We thought the new regulations had made things right. Instead, 1995 began, if possible, in an even more negative way: the history of the fiasco of the Brazilian Grand Prix, and the subsequent sentences, was incredible. We can’t accept it. Sponsors are looking for sport, but sport. And not just a circus. We’re asking for credibility, image. Otherwise we could leave".
And there are a lot of people who think that way. Including some important builders. If the FIA fails to change course, there will be an exit of sponsors and the program may even break. In a way, the Monza event is exemplary. The Italian Grand Prix has been targeted, softening the problem of safety. In fact, the reasons that led to the danger of blowing up the race are also political and economic. An attempt by Bernie Ecclestone to seize the event, as he has already done for other races. Now it seems that there have been clarifications and that if the organizers can carry out the planned work to make the track safe, there will be no problems. But considerable pressure had to be put on, from sponsors to teams and manufacturers. The role of Ferrari was important, as it made its weight felt to try to reverse course.
The first steps have been taken, now we expect a decisive attitude from the FIA, starting from the technical checks on cars to end up respecting the sports regulations. That said, the word passes today to the cars and drivers. Alesi in the role of hare and many hunters with a rifle pointed. Who will hit the all-important pole target? In the Principality it is a question of dynasties. While the Grimaldis have long ruled the small state happily, even in the Grand Prix, success can be handed down from father to son. That’s what Damon Hill tries to do. His father Graham Hill had won the race five times in the '60s. Sunday, May 28, 1995 the Williams driver will have a great opportunity to increase the booty. Starting from pole position, he will be able to take the first place, add a sixth trophy in his home collection and, perhaps, even return to the lead of the F1 World Championship, overtaking Michael Schumacher. A nice en-plein to try on the roulette of a difficult and spectacular race. On the same wheel, even if you can always expect everything from car races, the #27 and #28 of Ferraris will hardly come out. After the exploit on Thursday, on Saturday the Maranello team lives another difficult day. Dreams, hopes, everything is back in the drawer. A kind of curse that persecutes Alesi and indirectly involves Gerhard Berger. From the provisional pole of the Frenchman and from the third of the Austrian, we move to a fourth and fifth place that, given the characteristics of the track, do not promise anything good. After leading the dance until the end of free practice in the morning, when he had still scored the best time, Alesi has to deal with bad luck. At the last moment he bends a suspension of his car. On the first lap of the qualifying, Jean stays at the Rascasse with the engine off. A drop in pressure in the gearbox hydraulic circuit and everything goes haywire. The stewards push him to the pits. But the rules are clear: if you are broken down you can no longer use the same car and it is forbidden to use the spare car. So Ferrari is immediately presented with a negative scenario. One car available, that of Gerhard Berger. You can make two choices. Sacrifice Jean Alesi completely and keep the Austrian going. But, admits Jean Todt:
"I didn’t feel like taking away Alesi’s chance to try. He was always the fastest. If it happened again I would do the same thing".
Right. But in this way Berger is forced to finish his test in eight rushed laps (each driver has twelve available). Then his teammate gets on a car modified for him only as far as pedals and seat and has exactly two minutes to get on track and try everything for everything. With a car that he does not know, with a different set-up Alesi, no matter how good and brave, is not even able to improve the time he had obtained on Thursday with great ease. Logic then speaks for a contentious race between Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher, who start in the front row, with the Englishman leading by seven meters. Everything could happen at the first corner, if the German could manage to skip the English at the start. So there will be pit stops (only one for tires and fuel, here you can not recover if you stop several times) that will give more shocks. The rest is in the hands of Providence. On a circuit that does not forgive mistakes, they may even not miss the surprises. As in the past. But for Ferrari it will still be hard, as in addition to the two challengers, it will also have the other Williams of David Coulthard in front. At this point Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi’s goal is above all to score points. Of course Alesi is always on credit with bad luck. If he could get his share of the world title back, he wouldn’t miss it. And so, while Damon Hill celebrates the sixth pole position of his career and Michael Schumacher says that he does not consider the game closed at all, reserving excellent chances to win, Ferrari men are already in the stands thinking about what happened. No drama, of course, but so much disappointment. As in Barcelona, the initial first place was transformed into a series of lower placings not only to the expectations but also to the real possibilities of the 412T2. Jean Alesi says sadly:
"I have no words. My feelings now are more of frustration than anger. I want to thank the mechanics and Berger who allowed me to give it a try. But honestly it was impossible: you can not jump into a track like this without knowing the car you drive. When I realized it was gone for me, I tried to concentrate on seeing if I could do anything else. But the reality was somewhat chilling. At this point I can’t even think about turning everything around in the race: starting from fifth place, I will not be there, I cannot be myself, I will have to adopt a waiting tactic. I can’t risk everything at the first corner, I have to think about the team and the points in the championship".
Gerhard Berger, who was hoping for a recovery, is also dazzled.
"Unfortunately, among other things, I had laps without traffic but they were not good. Small smudges, just enough not to improve as much as we could. In my opinion the first row was within our reach. Hill’s time was fantastic, unreachable. When Todt asked me to lend the car to Jean I agreed. In the short term it was hard for me, but in the long run I think that sooner or later I will be repaid for this gesture. We all work for Ferrari and it was right to give a chance to Alesi, even if in a sense this affected my test, at least psychologically, because I felt too much pressure on my shoulders. For the better race do not make predictions: on Hill goes as in qualifying no one sees him anymore".
And Ferrari has not consoled even the Typhus of Maradona, present with his wife Claudia and the president of Santos, the team for which should play the next Brazilian Championship.
"My idol was Senna, but I’m a fan of Maranello cars".
The main drama of the day occurred after the practice session was over. Inoue had turned and blocked his Footwork, which had been towed back to the pit lane by a recovery vehicle when he was hit from behind by the Renault Clio safety car - which was undergoing rapid demonstration laps of the circuit in the hands of rally driver Jean Ragnotti, with the press delegate of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile as a passenger - at the center of the Piscine complex. The impact was enough to overturn the Footwork and make it a write-off: the FA16 suffered serious damage to the engine and gearbox, while the tow rope, attached to the structure of the car behind the driver’s head, pulled the roll from the chassis.  Inoue, who was still sitting in the cockpit with his helmet fastened, but with his belts undone, suffered two blows to the head, the gravity of which was demonstrated by the fact that a piece had been removed from the helmet. He was taken to the Princess Grace Hospital Centre for a brain scan, and although he was found to have suffered only a slight concussion, he was not allowed to take part in the afternoon qualifying session as a precaution. Jackie Oliver, head of the Footwork team, was outraged by the accident and wrote an official letter of complaint to the Automobile Club de Monaco, the body responsible for organizing the event. He said that Inoue would be killed if he did not wear the helmet, and questioned the ACM organization and Ragnotti’s attitude:
"Why was Ragnotti out there? It’s just a lack of discipline. I understand that he had made a couple of laps earlier at a million miles per hour with the handbrake turning at the Loews hairpin".
Sunday, May 28, 1995, at 11:00 a.m., there is a warm-up session lasting 30 minutes, in dry weather. Jean Alesi set the fastest time, followed by his team-mate Berger; both Ferrari drivers test their race and reserve cars. Michael Schumacher is third, ahead of Mika Häkkinen, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill, worried about the development of understeer in the maneuverability of his racing car, especially in the slowest corners of the track. David Coulthard set the eleventh fastest time and the Williams team, concerned about the pace of its cars in race set-up, decided to change its pitching strategy from a two-stop, hoping that cars can better handle the relatively lighter fuel load. Meanwhile, Sauber’s mechanics fitted a new spare car for Heinz-Harald Frentzen (who now drives the spare car after the damage to his racing car proved irreparable) and also repaired Jean-Christophe Boullion’s damaged car. Team Jordan does a similar job on Eddie Irvine’s car, while Rubens Barrichello’s car has a broken rim. Taki Inoue was allowed to run and scored the slowest time of the session with Footwork-Hart in reserve. As usual in Monaco, the race starts relatively late, at 3:30 p.m., allowing Prince Rainier and his family to have lunch before attending the event from the royal stage on the starting straight. The race takes place in warm and sunny conditions, with an ambient temperature of 23 ºC, and is followed by a total of about 48.000 spectators. When drivers complete their reconnaissance laps from the pit lane to the starting grid, they discover an oil leak on Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Sauber, then the German driver switches to the newly built spare car in time for the start. When the green light signals the start of the race, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher are both authors of a fast start, while behind them a multiple collision between David Coulthard and the two Ferraris of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger causes the exposure of the red flag. Coulthard was slightly slower at the start and was passed outside at the first corner by Berger, and inside by Alesi. As the track narrows at the entrance to Sainte Devote, there was not enough space for the three cars to run side by side, and Alesi came into contact with the right rear of Coulthard’s car, which in turn was pushed against Berger’s car.
The Williams was thrown into the air and spun, before crashing again and stopping at the top of the curve with the suspension broken, while the two damaged Ferraris also had further contact with each other before stopping at the same point. Most of the drivers in pursuit, led by Brundle, managed to avoid standing cars, while Eddie Irvine damages his front wing , Jean-Christophe Boullion suffers a broken speaker and Ukyo Katayama, Mika Salo, Gianni Morbidelli, Taki Inoue and Domenico Schiattarella are all forced to stop while overcoming obstacles. With the track completely blocked, the race is interrupted. Coulthard, Berger and Alesi’s cars are irreparably damaged; all three are thus forced to race with the reserve cars of their teams, claiming the usual Monegasque practice of Ferrari to bring one more car for each driver. Gerhard Berger’s spare car, however, is equipped with an engine with previous specifications that does not produce the same power as his racing car or Jean Alesi’s spare car, while the accelerator on David Coulthard’s car will not be fully calibrated; a forgetfulness that is the result of the haste in preparing the car. Eddie Irvine’s Jordan-Peugeot and Jean-Christophe Boullion’s Sauber-Ford are repaired, while the other drivers stuck at the first corner manage to restart with their cars, except Mika Salo and Domenico Schiattarella: this is because the Yamaha engine has overheated, forcing the Finnish driver to resume the restart from the pit lane with the reserve Tyrrell, while the Italian driver’s Simtek was damaged by the stewards in an attempt to move it from the crash site. however, the team does not have a spare car, so Domenico Schiattarella will no longer take part in the race, and Simtek’s participation in the event ends - without either car completing a race lap - when on Verstappen’s car problems emerge again just before starting the second training lap. At the restart, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher hold their positions again, while David Coulthard leads the Ferrari drivers before facing Sainte Dévote. There were no major incidents on this occasion, although Ukyo Katayama suffered minor damage to the front wing of his car following a collision with Gianni Morbidelli’s Foorwork-Hart. When the drivers complete the first lap, Damon Hill is leading with 0.5 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher, followed in turn by David Coulthard, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger.
In the first laps, Hill gradually creates a lead of almost two seconds over Schumacher, and in parallel the two break away from David Coulthard, who at the end of lap 10 is 8 seconds from the German driver’s Benetton. Meanwhile McLaren’s Mercedes engine of Mika Häkkinen fails due to a transmission problem of the fuel pump, and the Finnish driver is forced to retire during lap 8, while Roberto Moreno is the victim of a spin at Sainte Dévote, after a brake fluid leak causes him to lose control of his Forti-Ford one lap later. In parallel, Gianni Morbidelli makes an unscheduled early stop to eliminate a serious vibration of the tyre, caused by a section of rope of a heating blanket that has jammed in one of its rear wheels. This is the third event that takes place with electrical sensors that monitor each car for early starts and, at this stage of the race, six drivers (Barrichello, Brundle, Montermini, Frentzen, Morbidelli and Panis) receive the 10-second Stop & Go penalty. All but Andrea Montermini promptly return to the pits to serve the penalty, and some will even have to queue, waiting for the penalty to be discounted in the Commissioners' pitch. Otherwise, Montermini could not return to the pits within the three laps of the reception, therefore the Pacific-Ford driver was disqualified from the race, having risen in P17 before paying the penalty belatedly. The drivers penalized all back because of the loss of time, with the result that after 16 laps completed, the race order sees Damon Hill, in the lead, followed by Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Jean Alesi, Gerhard Berger and Johnny Herbert. Then, surprisingly, during lap 16 David Coulthard is forced to stop by the breakage of the gearbox, and Jean Alesi begins his pursuit. Damon Hill, who chose the wrong strategy, stops at the pits for the first of his scheduled pit stops to refuel and replace the tires. Michael Schumacher takes advantage of the rival’s mistake and walks away, while Jean Alesi - who like the German has to stop only once - is in second position. After the pit-stops (first Schumacher and then Alesi who takes the lead of the race for a single lap, the 36) the situation gets heated, also because Damon Hill increases the pace. But the story ends shortly after. On lap 42 the double accident Brundle-Alesi makes silence fall on the circuit.
Only German fans are celebrating. Disappointed Damon Hill hoped to win to revive the glory of his father Graham, the disappointed Ferrari, despite the third place of Gerhard Berger, returns home with regret. Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell and Heinz-Harald Frentzen followed. To Pierluigi Martini (Minardi), goes the tin medal of the seventh place for the best placement of the season. It now seems obvious: Ferrari, to try to pass from hell in recent years to heaven, must stop in purgatory. There is no other explanation. After the mockery of Saturday’s rehearsals, another disappointment, spiced with anger. The Maranello team had to settle for the third place of Gerhard Berger, behind Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, for an accident that has brutally removed Jean Alesi while he was second with the possibility, at least theoretically, to attempt the attack on the German. The episode, which provoked a polemic reaction from Alesi, took place on lap 42. The Frenchman was forcing the pace to put pressure on Michael Schumacher, when he found himself following the Ligier Mugen-Honda of Martin Brundle, sixth and rounded. After the Tobacconist’s turn, an area facing 200 km/h, the Englishman lost control of the car and immediately spun. The Ferrari driver found himself facing the car in the opposite direction. And, to avoid an impact that could have had serious consequences, he was forced to aim at the guardrail. A terrible collision, however, that made us fear for the pilot, extracted with arms from the cockpit. Fortunately, it was only a momentary state of shock, due to a blow to the head. Jean Alesi immediately recovered and went to protest against Martin Brundle, against whom he had already had something to say on other occasions. Alesi’s accident, in addition to depriving Ferrari of a possible excellent finish, also took away all the interest that the race had until then. Michael Schumacher has lengthened the pace on Damon Hill and Gerhard Berger, now too far away to think of giving some trouble to the World Champion. Who went to win with extreme ease, without problems. Michael Schumacher thus achieved his second consecutive success in the Monaco Grand Prix. And it must be said that Michael did not steal anything. Perfect tactics, precise driving, great determination, perfect choice in all overtaking and dubbing, use to the millimeter of every space of the narrow circuit. Good, very good indeed.
Now, with three wins in the season (and in his career he made 13) the Benetton driver has taken another advantage over Damon Hill. Five points are starting to weigh in. While the Anglo-Italian team also took the lead in the constructors' classification, with 4 points ahead of Williams-Renault while Ferrari slid to third place, 5 points away. Sleeping race, it was said, but not without great emotions, in the initial part.
"One more Ligier".
They scream from the box, taking their fists to the sky. When the flags of the team of Maranello are lowered, it was 5:00 p.m. and Jean Alesi is with the head reclined on the steering wheel, the car stops at the Tobacconist’s bend. That’s how the dreams of glory ended.
"I got hit pretty hard too".
Says Jean, after the stewards pulled him out of the cockpit. Martin Brundle, from his Ligier Mugen-Honda, however, stood up quickly.
"His fault, as always".
Jean grumbles a few minutes later, walking towards the Paddock.
"But what should I do to him? I’ll have to smash a table in his head".
At 5:00 p.m. Ferrari loses his dream, Jean Alesi withdraws from the race, and someone bursts. Giancarlo Baccini, the head of the press office in Maranello, takes off on television:
"We just want to point out that this is the third time this year that we have problems with Ligier, which happens to be owned by a gentleman who is also team manager of a team fighting with us for victory".
Then, when the race ends, it repeats itself in front of a crowd of notebooks:
"We see only a few coincidences. And there are a few".
Here they are, with names and surnames: Martin Brundle is one of the two drivers of the Ligier Mugen-Honda; the other is Olivier Panis and three times Jean Alesi had trouble with them, in Argentina, in Spain and here in Monte-Carlo. In Barcelona, Alesi had spoken out with Anne Giuntini, a reporter for the Team:
"Once again I had a Ligier who wouldn’t let me through".
Last coincidence: Ligier was bought last year by Flavio Briatore, who is Benetton’s team manager, Michael Schumacher’s car. Are we at the plot? Baccini almost denounces him. Jean Todt escapes with the bad face:
"I don’t want to say anything. I’ll go see the video first".
And after she sees him, her face doesn’t change:
"It’s like Jean says".
Alesi walks over to the paddock at half past five, his suit undone and his helmet in his hand, chased by the cameras. And he tells this:
"Brundle cut me off, didn’t let me pass. For two laps they waved the blue flag. I have no words. Some people in Formula 1 shouldn’t be racing. I can’t understand how a dubbed person can do these things, how he can bother me that I’m fighting for victory".
The reporters besiege him, and he explains the incident:
"Brundle with the right rear touched the guardrail, his car got sideways and I could not do anything but end up against the guardrail".
The other, the Ligier pilot, scratches his head, his eyes burst:
"But that’s not true. I didn’t obstruct him at all. I saw the blue flags and then I looked at the mirror to see which way he wanted to go. And at that moment, unfortunately, the car ran sideways and I ran into the guardrail. I was going fast, in Monte-Carlo it can happen".
That’s it? Ligier engineers swear yes:
"Absurd controversy. It is clear that Alesi was stronger and passed him".
Yet it does not end here. Although Alesi partly denies Baccini, when there are those who ask him if he thinks of some strange team game:
"Well, I don’t think so, let’s not bullshit. I know Fiorio very well. I know he’s a fan of mine, he’s not mad at Ferrari. The only thing I know for sure is that Brundle and I have too much animosity. It’s been going on for years, it’s happened before when I was at Tyrrell and he was at Brabham. I even tried to talk to him a year ago and he told me that I’m wrong, that he’s not mad at me, that from now on he’ll be more careful. I’ve seen him. After the accident, I ran to the commissioners because I had not digested it and then because I had taken a hit, I was hurt, but next time it could be worse. And they immediately said to me: Don’t worry, we have seen everything. So what? What should I do? Either the FIA intervenes or I break a table on his head".
Why don’t you try talking to him again?
"Because he’d get into a fight over television".
The Monaco Grand Prix, meanwhile, ends like this. There is the sun on the water, the boats sound the sirens. Alesi smiles bitterly. And Briatore listens to the reporters who come and poke him. He has a hoarse voice, and a little poison:
"Brundle was running, running at his own pace. We too have been slowed down several times by McLaren and we have not pulled out that it has the same sponsor of Ferrari".
More poison. Frank Dernie, technical director of Ligier, says:
"After the first incident, the one at the start, there was no need to stop the race. They promised this morning, look, we’re not stopping. Then, because there were two Ferraris involved, they changed their minds".
And Tom Walkingshaw, co-owner of Ligier, adds:
"The person who makes those accusations is an idiot".
By now, the heroes are tired. Gerhard Berger is resigned:
"With the spare car I could not do more".
Third is little or nothing, when dreams were many. Alesi still has a devil in her hair:
"I’ve never seen one more unfair than Brundle".
He repeats it to the French reporters.
"We would even be afraid".
The heroes of Thursday to Sunday are always sad. And these quarrels are other wounds. Cesare Fiorio, sports director of Ligier, tries to close it here:
"Certain polemics are bad for everyone. Then you end up like in football".
That is, with wars. There is the last sun on the skyscrapers of Monte-Carlo. And the kiosk of Gerhard Berger:
"This is a circuit where it is wrong to bite the neck of the opponent. You have to be patient. I had to wait 15 laps to pass Herbert".
But you can’t tell if it’s a message of peace.
"We have a problem".
Meanwhile, Frank Williams confesses, a little down:
"This Schumacher is very good and goes too fast".
A statement of surrender? No, of course not, but words that can also sound like an accusation against Damon Hill. The Englishman was only good in the two starts, when he kept the pole position. Otherwise, his test was not particularly brilliant.
"My car has oddly changed from practice to race. And I can’t understand why. I’m very disappointed that I didn’t win here, because there was a real chance to do it. I don’t think about the championship too much anyway. We have something new for our cars and I still took some points that allow me not to be very far from Michael. We’ll see, I hope to win in Canada".
But Michael Schumacher has the same intentions:
"I had a difficult start to the season, with the disqualification then returned from Brazil and then the tyre problems in Argentina and the accident in Imola. The Benetton improves from race to race and so if I won here, where it is particularly hard, I can go even stronger elsewhere. I am satisfied and calm and I want to congratulate the team".
Michael also points out that he brought a Renault engine to victory at Monte-Carlo for the first time. After seventeen entries came the first success. And Bernard Dudot, technical director of the racing department of the French company ends up bathing in the harbor, thrown of weight by his men. A nice risk, given the water pollution... One defeated and one winner. For Ferrari, instead, a hybrid position, not being favored. But Jean Todt specifies some things:
"Although I don’t usually like to do this, this time I have to say that this weekend Ferrari was unlucky and that the result of the Grand Prix does not reflect the true potential of our cars. We couldn’t get a good position on the grid on Saturday. And that affected our chances. Then there was the accident on the first route that deprived us of the race cars. So the drivers could not make the most of the material they had available. But we have confirmed that the team is working well and I do not doubt that in the future we can take away the satisfactions".
Ferrari will be at Mugello this week for a series of tests. Some new technical solutions will be tested and of course we will also work on the engine. In two weeks we will race in Montreal on a track, with long fast corners that should theoretically favor the 412T2. However, despite everything, the race was more convincing than the previous ones. Progress continues. On Sunday they don’t meet anymore: Martin Brundle goes to the Grimaldi Palace Gala, while Jean Alesi prefers to spend the evening with the beautiful girlfriend Kumiko and some friends. But the anger of the Frenchman has already gone away, after the incident in the race. Although Jean remains convinced that the English driver always behaves towards him with excessive animosity. Ferrari itself, however, dampens the tone of the controversy against Ligier. There are already other reasons for tension in F1. Jean Totd, head of sports management, returned to Maranello on Monday, did not spare criticism of Martin Brundle, but calmed the spirits regarding the suspicions against the team owned by Flavio Briatore.
"What happened is part of the races, especially when the track is like that of Montecarlo. I am sorry that Alesi’s beautiful race ended because of a driver on the point of being rounded that, instead of driving at the limit, should have respected the blue flags already exposed for a long time, letting him pass. Moreover, this driver is not new to similar behaviors that have absolutely nothing to do with the responsibility of the team. In any case, instead of thinking about unnecessary controversy, we look forward to the next Canadian Grand Prix in two weeks".
The Ligier case, however, is controversial. In Ferrari fans there is the conviction, expressed by phone calls and letters to the newspapers, that in fact the behavior of Martin Brundle and Olivier Panis is not correct.
"They are two good drivers, very determined, but when Schumacher arrives they step aside like two little lambs. In the case of overtaking attempts by Ferrari, however, they see their own red. And they accelerate to the maximum".
To comfort this thesis, there is a fact: Martin Brundle made his fastest lap exactly when Jean Alesi arrived behind him. Random? The situation since Flavio Briatore bought Ligier has certainly complicated. The Italian manager directs Benetton and at the same time guides the destiny of the French team. There is - to our knowledge - no other case of high-level professional championships in which there are two or more teams with the same owner. Cause he’d drop par. At the start of the season there was an attempt by McLaren’s Ron Dennis to avoid such a situation. But on the formal level the problem does not exist, because Flavio Briatore, who bought Ligier, in Benetton is an employee. If anything it is a moral question. Instead, the discourse regarding overtaking and dubbing. For many years now pilots do not respect the blue flags that, according to the regulation, would impose to those who go more slowly to facilitate the maneuver of those fighting for the top positions. But since the Sports Commissars and the Federation have never distributed punishments, many runners pretend not to see, knowing they can get away with it. Cesare Fiorio, former Ferrari sports director and current Ligier sports director, presented a proposal to the FIA in 1991 that had not been accepted.
"I had asked for the rules to be changed. Two solutions could be found. The first was to use the blue flags only for dubbing and not for normal overtaking, during which pilots have the right to defend themselves with their teeth, to the limit of correctness. The other hypothesis was to use two flags of different colors depending on the current maneuver. I was told that the proposal was interesting but that the Commissioners had been used to acting in a certain way for too long to change the rules. It would have created confusion".
The experienced Turinese manager had returned to the charge about twenty days before the Monaco Grand Prix.
"Few notice this, but we also had the same problem in our small Ferrari. I spoke again with the sports authorities and it seems that this time they are determined to do something".
It seems that thanks to the cameras now applied on all cars the race direction will be able to evaluate from time to time the behavior of the drivers, penalizing those who will carry out unnecessary obstructionist maneuvers. But honestly it will be difficult measures to apply that will not fail to arouse further controversy.