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#513 1991 Portuguese Grand Prix

2023-01-12 00:00

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#1991, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

#513 1991 Portuguese Grand Prix

On Thursday, September 19, 1991, on the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix, which could also hand him his third world title, Ayrton Senna clarifies his

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On Thursday, September 19, 1991, on the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix, which could also hand him his third world title, Ayrton Senna clarifies his position for 1992. The Brazilian driver renews his contract for one year with McLaren. This was made known later this afternoon in a statement by the British racing team, and reiterated shortly thereafter by the racer himself. Instead, the situation of Alain Prost remains a mystery, if it is a mystery at all. Ferrari continues to claim that the Frenchman and Jean Alesi are locked in for next season. Prost, who arrived at the circuit at dusk after playing golf all day, and states verbatim:

 

"I have nothing to say, because there is nothing new".

 

Yet French newspapers are writing that Alain Prost may switch to Ligier or even announce his retirement from racing. We shall see. Instead, Ayrton Senna affirms, weighing his words carefully:

 

"I started dealing with Ron Dennis at Monza. At some point I realised that the best choice would be to stay at McLaren for at least a year. At the moment it is the team that offers me the greatest technical guarantees. However, we decided together. Besides, it was good: then we can concentrate only on racing".

 

Have there been contacts with other teams, for example Ferrari?

 

"To be fair, I prefer not to answer. But I don't think I would have had any difficulty in changing if I wanted to do so".

 

A richer contract?

 

"Maybe I can pay for a dinner for all the Italian journalists, although there are many of you".

 

Senna, then, is aiming for peace of mind and to take valuable points away from his rival Nigel Mansell. A victory in Portugal would not give him mathematical success, but in practice the title would be his. The Brazilian also makes no secret of the fact that he expects help, perhaps from Ferrari, which has won here at Estoril twice in the last two years. A favourable track for the Maranello cars, but Alain does not get out of line, while Alesi, who participated in the Mugello tests, appears more confident. On the Maranello team, however, this funny mystery of the possible escape of its top driver always looms. There are rumours that Prost is being pressured politically to go to the Ligier being set up. But it is also clear that, at this point, Alain leaving Ferrari would have to resort to a contrivance, breaking a contract already signed. And it is not necessarily the case that the prospect of going to the team headed by Guy Ligier and where Gerard Ducarouge works would entice him much. All that remains is to wait. In the meantime, the affair stirs up a jumble of gossip in the F1 world: the candidacy of Patrese (but this constituted a change for Alesi) has been joined by those of Piquet and Modena. In short, the more the merrier.

 

"Senna I hate you = Forza Ferrari".

 

On Friday, September 20, 1991, not even the huge banner displayed in the grandstands, right in front of the pits, by a brave (we are in one of the unchallenged reigns of the Brazilian offspring) and unsportsmanlike Italian fan, encourages the Maranello team. Indeed. 

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The words of hope on the eve of the race, the fact of racing at a circuit that had brought as many successes for the Maranello cars in the past two years: all to no avail. While McLaren-Honda and Williams-Renault continued their challenge, with Berger, Senna, Mansell and Patrese in the order of times, the first qualifying round of the Portuguese Grand Prix marked another checkmate for Alain Prost, fifth, and Jean Alesi, eighth, the latter preceded by Pierluigi Martini (Minardi-Ferrari) and Ivan Capelli in the Leyton House-Ilmor. No one expected miracles. But what is infuriating, baffling, is the impotence that Ferrari shows. Other teams have problems too. They solve them, though. And talking about progress (Honda, for example, has still lightened the engines) they are effective, they see results. The Maranello team, on the other hand, makes great rounds of testing at Fiorano and Mugello, seems to find good and interesting solutions, then arrives on the track and staggers, stutters. All this is always in a climate of uncertainty, news and non- news, rumours and indiscretions. Engineer Lombardi, the technical manager, a most amiable and certainly capable person, seems to hold secrets within everyone's reach. To every question the answer is:

 

"We have to evaluate, we will see, we will decide, maybe".

 

Now it is well understood that it is not the case to reveal technical novelties or any advanced solutions, giving advantages to rivals. However, on ordinary business a little more flexibility would end up benefiting the whole already overstretched environment. Fortunately, after the announcement of Senna's contract renewal, it became clear that Prost also abandoned (or had to abandon) his intentions to switch since 1992 to Ligier or to retire. The French driver expresses clearly futuristic speeches, although, as usual, he does not hesitate to hurl some accusations at Ferrari.

 

"The problems are always the same. The chassis is not perfect. There are jumps here, the car jerks and also prevents braking properly. And the engine is not powerful enough. On a circuit like this, you can't lose 6-7 km/h to the best. There is a gap of about a second to McLaren and Williams. It's very hard, although in the race the gap is smaller. But the whole team is moving forward: we are working for 1992. We want to win at least one Grand Prix before the end of the season and more in the next championship".

 

A statement that should leave no more doubt about Alain's decisions. But at the same time the Machiavellian French driver, continuing the speech, puts another finger on the sore spot:

 

"We need more technical resources, because we are behind. Investments? Those also need to be increased. All the things that were written were not right, in terms of the budget, that is, the money spent. I think it was much less".

 

Someone had spoken (but they were never official figures) of 160 billion lire for a season, but still one would have to deduct the income from sponsors, wages and bonuses, which are considerable. Even Jean Alesi does not spare some criticism, to justify his performance:

 

"The resignation of my track coach Maurizio Nardon not only hurt me on a personal level, but also constitutes a problem. With the new managers, however, a fresh start is needed".

 

Meanwhile - as noted - in a qualifying session interrupted halfway through by rain, Berger set a new circuit record by turning in 1'13"221, at an average speed of 213.873 km/h. But Senna uses only one set of tires of the two at his disposal (and so do Prost and Alesi). 

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On Saturday, weather permitting, the Brazilian will try to improve, as will Riccardo Patrese and Nigel Mansell. Has the Senna-Mansell challenge reached its final act? With three races to go in the Formula One World Championship, the Brazilian could close the books in the Portuguese Grand Prix. A victory, his seventh of the season, would bring his opponent to his knees. While a success by the Englishman could still be thwarted by the McLaren-Honda driver with a second-place finish that would still keep him on average to win the title thanks to his 18-point lead in the standings. The oddsmakers are clearly in Ayrton Senna's favour. The Brazilian driver himself is quite optimistic:

 

"Never before this year had I been in such an advantageous position. By nature I am always focused to the max and aim to win races. But knowing that I only need placings and that Mansell, on the other hand, is obliged to aim for first place, gives me peace of mind. In any case, I do not underestimate the opponent: I know that he is good and brave and that he will do everything to force me to fight until the end of the championship".

 

Nigel, in turn, admits inferiority status to Senna:

 

"I am forced to live in the moment, while he can make plans, programs. Plus he has numerous allies, because all drivers would like to win at least one race. All obstacles for me".

 

Only Riccardo Patrese is betting on Mansell, although he may be doing so mostly out of superstition and team duty:

 

"I wouldn't count my chickens. Nigel is a driver with a huge heart. If he is not unlucky, he will know how to play his cards again. And I'm here to help him out as much as I can. If Williams succeeds in winning the world championship, it will be competitive and I will make Ayrton suffer".

 

For Berger, the South American's teammate, there is even no comparison:

 

"Senna is now too experienced, too capable, to make mistakes. And you will see that he will triumph big time, as only he knows how he does it. For my part, it is clear that at this point I am free to push hard. I can also aim for first place as I would still take one place away from Mansell. It is the best situation also a little bit because of me".

 

The Ferrari men, on the other hand, vote for Senna. For Prost Ayrton is unbeatable:

 

"Mansell has never hit the target when he has been able to do it and has also had better chances. He is a fast driver, but emotional. Senna also possesses an extraordinary capacity for self-control that he combines with great determination".

 

Alesi adds:

 

"With an 18-point lead and only three races to go, Senna can do whatever he wants. He also has on his side a team that never makes mistakes and a car that is perhaps more reliable than Williams. If he has won six races so far since the start of the season, it is no accident. Of course, it would be nice for the interest of the show and the fans to go on until Australia. But if the challenge ends here or in Spain, it will ultimately be better for us. Maybe someone will get distracted and Ferrari".

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As for Ferrari, something new should come for the engines with the changes studied at Mugello, because on Friday the parts were not yet ready. Who knows, perhaps, something may change. However, on Saturday, September 21, 1991, it was Riccardo Patrese who saved the honour of Italian motorsport. The Italian driver, driving his Williams-Renault, will start on pole position in the Portuguese Grand Prix, the race that could prove decisive in the challenge for the world title. A dart, a lap that the Brazilian star himself describes as perfect and elegant, and the dean of Formula 1 drivers beats everyone by setting the track record, thanks to a time of 1'13"001, set at an average speed of 214.518 km/h, the fourth pole position of the season, the seventh of his career. A result that Patrese obtained at the second attempt and - absurdly - somewhat unwillingly, with his teammate's spare car, which he had never tested in these days. At the end of the first flying lap, in fact, the 37-year-old Italian driver had the misfortune of having his single-seater's engine, the most advanced available, shut down. He went down cursing his misfortune, already resigned, since the reserve car by contract is at the disposal of Nigel Mansell. Returning to the pits he was surprised to see the mechanics setting up the car for him: he did not even want to get in, convinced that it would be useless. 

 

It was his wife Susanna who pushed him to try. And the results showed. Riccardo Patrese being on pole position complicated things for Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda, because if everything had gone normally, the South American and Gerhard Berger could have occupied the entire front row. But in the end it is not a big problem for Ayrton: a victory by Riccardo Patrese would not create complications for him. The fact remains that Patrese will also have to be a team player for Nigel Mansell, committed to the world challenge. Then the race gets complicated; it will be a tactical test. The Italian on the run to pull the sprint to his English teammate. Gerhard Berger (who remained in second place) will probably have to let Ayrton Senna pass and slow down Nigel Mansell, who will be forced to try everything to get at least ahead of the Brazilian, even if the only useful result to continue hoping for is to win, hoping that Ayrton does not immediately place himself behind him. A real mess in which the start and tire changes will count a lot. Will Ferrari play a role in all this? Theoretically, Alain Prost and Jean Alesi (who made small improvements by settling into fifth and sixth positions) will only be able to get on the podium, assuming they make it to the finish line, if someone in front is forced to drop out. Alain Prost repeats:

 

"Our car is very competitive on a full tank of gas. As it gets lighter it starts to jump and performance drops. It is a problem that has lasted since the beginning of the season".

 

Aerodynamics engineer Jean-Claude Migeot explains that the drawback is related to the inability to keep the car at the same height above the ground at all times without making compromises. Simply put: this is a technical solution that other teams have solved better. Remaining with Prost and the Frenchman's statements about the Maranello team's insufficient investment, Piero Ferrari, head of the racing team, responds by saying:

 

"Our budget is constantly increasing, higher than annual inflation. The drivers don't know how much we spend. And Ferrari's engineers have always had everything they have asked for, with no limits. There is even the possibility of going beyond the budget".

 

Are any measures planned against Prost?

 

"The contracts stipulate that drivers cannot speak ill of their team".

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But Piero Ferrari goes no further. And Alain, when told of the talk, smiles: however, there could be a showdown in Maranello soon. On Sunday, September 22, 1991, during the warm-up held in the morning, the engine explodes on Prost's Ferrari; the Frenchman will take part in the Portuguese Grand Prix in the reserve car. At the start, Riccardo Patrese keeps the lead, while Nigel Mansell overtakes Ayrton Senna with a rather aggressive manoeuvre; the Brazilian tries to recover the position, but the Williams-Renault driver defends himself and also overtakes Gerhard Berger at the first corner. At the end of the first pass Riccardo Patrese leads ahead of Nigel Mansell, Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna and Jean Alesi; the Italian maintains the lead of the race until lap 18 when Nigel Mansell overtook him on the main straight, then gained a good margin over his pursuers. The English driver returns to the pits on lap 29 to mount a new set of tires, but the tire change is disastrous: due to a misunderstanding among the mechanics, the right rear wheel is badly fixed and when the English driver restarts, it rolls away after a few metres. The mechanics rush in and manage to fit another wheel, but it all happens in the middle of the pit lane, thus violating several rules; Nigel Mansell returns to the track in P17, beginning a frantic comeback, but on lap 51 he is shown the black flag because of infractions committed by the team during the pit stop. His teammate's misadventures hand Riccardo Patrese the first position; behind the Italian, Gerhard Berger precedes Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost until lap 37, when the Honda engine of his McLaren breaks down; two laps later, Alain Prost is also forced to retire due to the same problem. So, Jean Alesi is now in third position, pressed by Pierluigi Martini and Ivan Capelli; however, the Frenchman makes no mistakes and the racing order remains unchanged until the last few laps when Ivan Capelli has to retire after an off-track caused by a broken front wing (lap 64). Riccardo Patrese wins the Portuguese Grand Prix and takes his second triumph of the season, crossing the finish line ahead of Ayrton Senna, Jean Alesi, Pierluigi Martini, Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher. Losing a world championship to a badly tightened bolt. A curse. 

 

Nigel Mansell is no lucky driver. In Portugal, the English driver had to bid farewell to his title challenge with Ayrton Senna because of a badly mounted wheel during the pit stop to change a badly mounted wheel during a pit stop to change tires, in a bittersweet Grand Prix for Williams. Title practically lost, but full and deserved success for Riccardo Patrese, the second of the season, the fifth of the Italian driver's very long career. Protagonist of the race, however, was Nigel Mansell. Victim of an incredible historical boomerang: last year precisely at Estoril he had caused his teammate to lose the chance to fight for the title to teammate Prost by squeezing him against a little wall at the start and denying him success. This year it was him who was hit on the same track by a malevolent fate. It is not the first time. It happened to him in 1986 (a blown tire in the last race in Adelaide, world championship to Prost) and in 1987 when he lost a wheel that was not secured properly in Hungary and then crashed into a wall in Suzuka, ending the season in the hospital with a cracked vertebra. He could take advantage, good Nigel, of the proximity of the Fatima shrine to be blessed. The chronicle of the race has two crucial points. At the start, Patrese was very good at keeping the pole position and a wild Mansell overtook Senna at the limits of risk and fairness. First a crazy zig-zag on the straight, then a kamikaze entry on Gerhard Berger and Ayrton Senna at the second corner that allowed him to install himself in second position. At that point the two Williams-Renault went on the run. Riccardo was forced to get away from the McLaren-Honda, Nigel being close. At lap 18 of the scheduled 71, the Italian driver let his teammate pass, as expected. The Englishman has been in the lead for 12 laps, protected by his trusted wingman, until the scheduled tire change. And here the troubles began. Mansell entered the pits, he stopped. Sport director Peter Windsor held up the sign instructing the driver to stand still. The practice is for the four mechanics in charge of the guns to take off and put on the wheels to raise their arms as soon as the task is accomplished. Three finished it and made the gesture while in the right rear of the car, the attendant had not yet finished his work. But the man who had handed him the tire to be replaced lifted his arm (here's the culprit) and the director of sport signalled the driver to take off. Poor Nigel kept going until the end of the exit lane on the track, when he lost precisely the right rear tire. 

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And it stopped on the outside. Mechanics rushed in with tanks and guns, brought another rim with the tire and mounted it. The Englishman restarted one lap later, in 17th position. Like a madman, Nigel Mansell climbed back up to sixth place when the race director black-flagged him with the #5 indicating the racer's immediate exclusion from the race. Why? The regulation is simple. Article 133: in the case of a pit stop beyond one's station, the car must be returned to the work zone by hand. A task that would have involved the stewards. Instead, the mechanics arrived first and triggered the disqualification. History repeats again: two years ago with Ferrari, Mansell had been suspended for one Grand Prix for running the same pit-line (again in Portugal!) in reverse... So Patrese picked up his beautiful win (which he should have surrendered to Mansell), Senna finished second and Alesi, third, made another podium for Ferrari. Prost and Berger are out due to engine failures, a beautiful fourth-place finish for Pierluigi Martini and the Ferrari-powered Minardi after a long fight with Alesi himself. Then the Benetton pair, but with Nelson Piquet this time ahead of Michael Schumacher. And so, at the end of the race on the one hand, one notices the beaming face of Riccardo Patrese enjoying the Mameli anthem on the top step of the podium, and on the other the moustachioed, weeping face of Nigel Mansell, whom not even his beloved Rosanne could console. Williams won a battle and almost certainly lost the war. Once again, after all, the wrong car came out on top: in 1990 Prost's Ferrari was supposed to win and it was Mansell’s instead, this time the Englishman's car should have crossed the finish line first but the Paduan's #6 single-seater did instead.

 

"I must tell you a secret. I did an exorcism. No, I was miraculous. No, it was magic. I mean: months ago during a TV show I met the magician Giucas Casella. They say he has extraordinary gifts. He looked me in the eye, put his hand on my forehead and whispered: You will win in Portugal. After Monza, dejected and disappointed, I saw him again. He repeated to me: Take it easy, I will triumph in Estoril. In short I am here, first and happy. Now I almost take him to the races".

 

On the race, little to explain:

 

"I started fast to leave a gap from the McLaren. Then I let Mansell pass, obeying team orders. According to the schedule I was supposed to stop in the pits to change tires two laps after Nigel's entry. I was first shown the In sign and then the Out sign. I realised that something had happened. I regained the lead and it was pretty easy. I just had to check Senna from a distance. I really feel sorry for Mansell, but this was one of the best moments of my career".

 

Previously the Englishman had not spoken much:

 

"I am too distraught to speak. I don't think I have anything to blame myself for: I drove the best I could. Everything was perfect. On the pit line I found myself with three wheels. I cannot comment on what happened. I am happy for the team's success. The world championship? Who thinks about that?"

 

Frank Williams does not want to place the blame on anyone, least of all on the poor mechanic who made the fatal mistake of raising his arm when the wheel had not yet been fixed:

 

"I have to watch television. Of course it's a shame. Now Mansell will have to win all the time and hope that Senna does not get points. A dream. But we can still attack for the Constructors’ World Championship and beat McLaren".

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Williams initially filed a complaint against Senna, claiming that the Brazilian had overtaken in an area of the circuit where a small incident had occurred and yellow flags were displayed. In such cases everyone should maintain their positions. But then the complaint, which was informal, was withdrawn. In any case, the rules do not provide for precise penalties for these infractions: it could have been a warning, such as a 10-second penalty, insignificant for the outcome of the race. It has to be said, however, that Senna, delighted with his second place and this third title now within reach, hints that the peace that has arisen among the drivers in recent times may have suffered a powerful jolt:

 

"Mansell took off like crazy. First he moved in front of me like an obsessive then at the second corner he forced his way to the inside. It wouldn't have taken anything to cause an accident. Under the circumstances, since I was interested in world championship points, I took my foot off the accelerator. But the same thing won't happen again, I assure you".

 

And the race?

 

"The result is superior to how it started out. The Williams are faster than the McLarens. At one point I had let Berger pass to see if he could disturb our rivals. But you saw that he had to drop out. Afterwards, when Nigel had his problems, I just didn't take any risks. The championship? I will do the next races right on Mansell. It is clear that I intend to close all talks as soon as possible. If I can, on Sunday in Spain. But you never know".

 

Meanwhile, third in Monza with Alain Prost, third in Portugal with Jean Alesi, Ferrari marches at medium-high levels, but behind Williams-Renault and McLaren-Honda. And always with reliability problems: on only three occasions (Brazil, Monaco and France) did the Maranello cars both make it to the finish line. This time it was again the engine that betrayed Prost, when the Frenchman was in third position behind Patrese and Senna, after tire changes, during which he had been able to overtake his younger compatriot teammate.

 

"It was a bad weekend” said Alain before disappearing from the circuit to enjoy three or four days of rest, probably in Marbella. “In the morning during the warm-up I had to literally jump out of the reserve car still running because I had the cockpit invaded by burning gasoline, probably due to the failure of a duct. In the afternoon it wasn't bad, I could make a decent result, when the power unit failed without warning. And to say that I had asked for a super-conventional engine to not take certain risks".

 

Like every Sunday, Prost makes his friendly confessions. This time, nothing sensational. He says he was surprised because last Thursday everyone was waiting for an announcement about his future. Too bad it was he himself who had written in the same columns a sentence that he would announce on the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix the decisions he had made. In any case, one should not be alarmed. The torment continues. In the usual Prost-scriptum it is repeated:

 

"I still don't know if in 1992 I will stay at Ferrari, go to Ligier or elsewhere".

 

Perhaps it is just a tease for everyone. But it is still a perverse affair. Who knows that in the days following the Portuguese Grand Prix, in Maranello, while discussing the Prost case (and his statements about Ferrari's insufficient investments), they might decide to punish him. Meanwhile, it takes Jean Alesi to call his teammate to order, telling the Portuguese television commentator, speaking in French:

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"Prost must stop. Let him say once and for all whether he stays or stays. It cannot go on like this. The team, the environment, are tormented by these attitudes of his. As far as I am concerned, I am quite satisfied. I don't think it would have been possible to do more. I had a difficult tire change because the Williams and McLaren mechanics had invaded our lane. Other than that, the car was not bad. And when Martini attacked me I had to push hard to break away from him. I was jumping on the straight and I struggled a lot. But when it ends like this I am satisfied. I will try my hardest. I didn't even get married to my Lulu, as I wanted to, so as not to distract myself from working for Ferrari. In fact, I'll say one thing: if they were to lay me off, I would quit racing. No more".

 

And Piero Ferrari, finally, says:

 

"The placements at Monza and Estoril are not bad. But it is not Ferrari's role to fight for third place. Nor do we like to arrive at the finish line with only one car. We have to work".

 

And meanwhile, a few months after his departure, talk of Cesare Fiorio at Ferrari is back. A message seems to have gone out from Corso Marconi to the former Lancia sports director and the Maranello team:

 

"Stand by. Fiat may need you again".

 

The Turin-based company seems willing to renew his confidence. Facilitating Fiorio's return would also be the possible departure of Prost, who in these very days is considering leaving the business. In fact, it is written in his contract that he has time until the end of the season to decide. Fiorio's recovery would be close to the heart of an increasingly large group of Fiat executives who are preparing to convince Agnelli and Romiti to forgive him. A forgiveness that concerns certain mistakes of which Fiorio has been accused and which had repeatedly provoked the reactions of engineer Fusaro. As we wait to see how the internal dynamics within the Maranello team will develop, on Monday, September 23, 1991, Ayrton Senna smiles blissfully. Or rather perhaps snickering, in the beautiful villa in Cascais where he lives these days with his new girlfriend Christina, pampered and protected, as a guest of a Brazilian banker friend. He has practically won his third F1 World Championship, not to say he had it as a gift, at least as far as the finish is concerned. Twenty-four points ahead, three races to go. This time the new regulations, which allow all useful results to be added up, also favoured him. But the question now concerns, above all, Nigel Mansell. What will the Englishman, a man of such fragile character, do? Will adverse fate make him make unforeseen decisions? Nigel's despair stems mainly from the fact that he has been betrayed, albeit unintentionally, by the team. For the third time, through no fault of his own, he has seen his ambitions fade because of a mistake. A justified distrust, magnified by the disqualification he suffered and the unacceptable behaviour of the stewards who excluded him from the race after 21 laps, when he had already been the protagonist of an extraordinary chase. But the mistake of the mechanic who lifted his arm implying that the right rear wheel had also been fixed is at the root of the whole affair. How was such a mishap possible? Williams himself first said:

 

"These things happen".

 

Then he rectifies:

 

"No, they must not happen. We are professionals".

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In reality, F1 teams fall into two categories. On the one hand, the real manufacturers such as Ferrari, Honda, Ford, Renault and Yamaha (engines only). On the other are the so-called assemblers who also bring together the top teams, such as McLaren and Williams. While the former make use of specialised personnel hired on a regular permanent basis, the latter use mostly collaborators and consultants, on fixed-term contracts. British mechanics, in particular, are mercenaries, in the non-disparaging sense of the term. They are paid per week (about 600,000 lire) plus any point prizes won in races, expensed for travel, lodging and one meal a day. At the circuits they normally make do with sandwiches. In this situation they often change teams, depending on what is offered. Normally these are young people who are eager to gain experience and then set up on their own. The racing teams provide for their education and each has very specific tasks. Regarding tire changes in the race, one of the most delicate operations, real training is carried out. The car is pushed to the pit and tires are changed several times, trying to achieve perfection. The record was set just in Portugal with the change on Senna's car done in 5.04 seconds. But these are unofficial timings, which are not always highly accurate. In any case, Ferrari and McLaren are the most prepared. The mechanism of pit stops is always the same. The driver arrives, following directions (often a coloured strip drawn on the asphalt) and stops in front of the person directing the action. This is usually a chief mechanic (in the case of Williams, however, it was the sporting director Peter Windsor) whose job is to signal with a sign (Brakes on or Stop) to the driver until he has to stand still. When the signal is removed, the car can start again. Materially, the replacement is carried out by eight mechanics. Four, with pneumatic guns, must remove and then retighten the bolts (only one for each wheel) that secure the rims on the hubs. Four others remove the used tires and pass on the new ones. But they are the first to indicate, raising their arms, when they have finished their task. Caught up in the heat of the moment on Sunday, one of the wheel delivery workers inadvertently raised his arm when the right rear wheel of Mansell's Williams had not yet been fixed. But what will happen to the poor culprit? Hard to find out. Perhaps he will be left at home (for the British, dismissal can happen without notice), perhaps he will be moved. Only one thing is certain: that mistake took away Mansell's chance to continue fighting for the World Championship. On the dastardly money plane a bolt unscrewed that cost a few tens of millions of dollars in investment.


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