It's official: on Tuesday, January 3rd, 1995, Nigel Mansell becomes an inconvenient individual in Formula 1. Williams confirms the hiring of 23-year-old Scottish driver David Coulthard - already referred to somewhat prematurely by some as the heir to Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart alongside Damon Hill - the old British Lion is basically a luxury unemployed driver. A laid-off driver who, however, does not want to give up the business.
"I am glad that Williams made a decision about the drivers who will race for them in 1995, and I am very happy that David has been given this fantastic opportunity. However, I would like to thank the team, Renault and Rothmans for allowing me to participate in the last three races of the last season, which led to winning in Australia. As for my future, I think it is too early to make any kind of comment".
But in the old lion's entourage it is also made known that the possibilities of a retirement or a return to Formula Indy, in which Mansell was champion in 1993, are ruled out. The reason that led Frank Williams to opt for Coulthard are obvious: he is a very promising young man, if it is the case he can be Damon Hill's squire for at least a year without any complaints. And he costs about one-twentieth of what it would have taken to get to the exorbitant Nigel. The Scotsman will receive an annual salary of about 1.300 million liras against the 26 billion liras that - according to rumors - Mansell would have wanted. But the 41-year-old mustachioed driver has become unwieldy for many reasons, not just for money. For example, age: how do you set a program on a champion who could hang up his helmet at any moment? Rumor has it, however, that Bernie Ecclestone, F1's patron, is doing everything he can to still have Mansell, in spite of everything, considered an indispensable showman for the motor show. Reason being, all possible hypotheses come up. It's all chit-chat, although it's obvious at this point that some attempt to fix the former World Champion will be made. Let's look at the theoretically viable scenarios: Mansell goes to McLaren, the only top team that still has a spot available. Since Nigel will apparently still receive about 9.000.000.000 liras from Williams or his sponsors for keeping himself committed for the year 1995, or rather he moves to Benetton-Renault and Schumacher goes to McLaren- Mercedes. Mansell is taken by Ferrari, which would give Berger to McLaren, since Ron Dennis's team should, by contract with its backers, take a driver who has won at least something if not a world title. Mansell buys or is bought by a team (Lotus?).
Nigel takes the money he is owed and resigns to quitting. We are also in the realm of fantasy-Formula 1. But too many examples over the years have accustomed us to not underestimate fantasy scenarios and to think that even what is thought impossible is instead possible. Of all these hypotheses, surely the one involving Lotus will not be viable. That is because on Tuesday, January 17th, 1995, a very terse agency statement announced from Wymondham, England, that Lotus is retiring from racing. The reasons are purely economic. David Hunt, brother of James Hunt who was World Champion in 1976, and Peter Collins, the two latest owners, who had taken over a previous bankruptcy, have failed. They lack the money needed to participate in the F1 World Championship. Gone is a historic piece, both of motor racing and speed. Since 1958, when it was founded by Englishman Colin Chapman, a brilliant driver and technician, Lotus has lived a happy life for many years, with cars that have made a big part not only in the history of World Championships, but also of other motorsport categories - in 1965 they won at Indianapolis, with Clark. Many celebrated drivers have been part of their team, such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Peterson, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, and for three years, from 1985, Ayrton Senna, who in just his first Lotus season began his winning streak, in Portugal. In another statement, sent to the newspapers directly from Lotus, it said:
"Together with Ferrari, the name of our team is reasonably the strongest in the Grand Prix world".
David Hunt himself writes the following: one can truly speak of Lotus as the Ferrari of England, not only because of the palpable successes but also because of the decisive experiments conducted, the vast racing fields frequented, and above all the sense of technical or moral supremacy, spread over everything and everyone. Hunt also says that to continue without it would have meant forcing a glorious house to a backwater life, in the mud. And the last few years of Lotus had been bleak indeed, especially thinking of past glories: at the beginning of 1994 it had been driven, housing Honda engines, by the likes of Johnny Herbert, Alessandro Zanardi, Philippe Adams, Mika Salo, Éric Bernard. Lotus' 36 years in the great world of Formula 1 are represented in the freeze-drying of figures. Here we add that engines with historic names also entered Lotus’ world motoring in a very broad sense: Climax, B.R.M., Ford-Cosworth, Renault, Honda, Judd, Lamborghini. But then there are the drivers. Above all Jim Clark, great, always in Lotus from 1960 to 1968 when he died at the age of 32 in a Formula 2 race on the German Hockenheim circuit after winning two world titles and 25 Grand Prix, creating his own racing style. As for Clark, money and success had not stifled the boy, who was from an even noble Scottish family, who lived the school vacation months each year at the pastures on the plateau. He won much but less than it could be predicted, race after race, thinking of his class and the car's prestige. The second great Lotus figure was Jochen Rindt, an Austrian, his last two years with Lotus: he died at 28 in 1970 in practice at Monza, winning that season's world title in his memory, after he had already triumphed in nine Grands Prix. Then Graham Hill, an Englishman, Damon's father, who died at 46 in an airplane crash after much motor racing: six championships in Lotus out of a seventeen-year career, and the title in 1968 aboard the Chapman's car. And Ronnie Peterson, from Sweden, crashed at age 34 in a race at Monza. Peterson also got behind the wheel of the March, for the first three years after his debut (1970) he did three seasons plus one Grand Prix with Lotus, then went to Tyrrell, back to Lotus to die in the Italian Grand Prix, victim of the consequences of a terrible carambole just after the start. Another World Championship in 1972 with Emerson Fittipaldi, Brazilian born in 1946, in a Lotus for the first two seasons of a career that ended, in Formula 1, in 1980. Finally, another Lotus man was also, and for a long time, Mario Andretti, the American from Istria or the Italian from Pennsylvania, in 1978 World Champion for the British team. He raced for a lifetime and was done with F1 last year, joking by making Italian-style curses when Lotus, combined with John Players, sent its black cars to the track with the sponsor's name, cigarettes, in gold, just like a hearse. David Hunt says:
"Maybe we will come back".
One can celebrate Lotus in a new way. In the meantime, Ferrari will start this year in the Formula One World Championship in a better state and with a solid chance to be a leading player at the top: this was the gist of the speech made on Thursday, January 19th, 1995, by Jean Todt, Maranello's head of sports management.
"Compared to last year, we will be ready earlier and have a team that has been taken care of in every detail and will work methodically and programmatically".
Todt presents the team's organizational chart: no longer appearing, among others, are the names of Bianchi (technical director), who has no direct replacement, Ciampolini (track manager) whose place has been taken over by Ascanelli, and, of course, that of Lombardi, who has taken over from Martinelli. Todt also reports other details about Ferrari's plans. Discreetly and sparingly. The new car designed by John Barnard's group will be unveiled at Fiorano on Monday, February 6th, 1995. It will run immediately and then make its first comparisons with the other teams at Estoril from Thursday, February 16th to Monday, February 20th, 1995. It is a completely new single-seater of reduced dimensions, very streamlined. It will mount the 3000 cc engine derived from the 3500 cc, but in April it will run on the dyno a 10-cylinder engine that can be used if necessary on the same chassis. Full confidence in the two drivers, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, and in a team that, after a year and a half of work from now on, should not be much tweaked, barring personal requests from the various members. Goals set, particular concerns?
"I am sick with anxiety and worry about everything. There will be a big battle, just look at the names in contention: Williams-Renault, Benetton-Renault, McLaren-Mercedes, Jordan-Peugeot, Sauber-Ford".
As in, the presence of so many big car companies who want to win makes everything harder. Last year one Victory achieved, how many there will be in the next season?
"I hope for at least a middle ground, between a success and winning the title".
Will it again be a year troubled by doubts about regulations?
"In 1994, not all the teams played the same game. There are many new things, especially as far electronics is concerned. We have confidence in the strict controls carried out by the FIA".
There is already a problem, however. The test team returned early from Jerez because the new engine broke down.
"We know what it is about - the distribution gears. We have new materials and different designs ready. We'll go right back to the track and try them out".
A word of hope?
"A winning Ferrari is everyone's dream: ours; yours, the fans. We hope to turn the dream into reality".
Guido Forti is a man who loves speed, but adopts the policy of taking small steps. He entered motor racing as a team manager and constructor in 1975, and after a brief experience as a driver, this year he will land in the simultaneously golden and difficult world of Formula 1. The Parmalat team (a major sponsor re-entering the motor racing Circus after a brilliant experience with the now defunct Brabham) Forti Corse will be the luxury rookie in the World Championship that will begin in March in South America, probably on Sunday the 12th in the Argentine Grand Prix. The calendar will be finalized on Thursday, February 2nd, 1995.
"I had been thinking about this for some time, but it was only this year that the necessary conditions were in place to get off to a good start, with a development program that will continue over the next few seasons. Obviously, in the short term, the goal is to gain experience and progress little by little. Then we will see, we cannot hide that we have some ambitions".
The Scuderia, which has its operational headquarters at Via Einaudi, n. 33, in the Scalo industrial area, was established in twinning with Brazil. The nation where one of the partners, Carlo Vallarino Gancia, resides, and from which it will draw other sponsors and at least one driver, young Pedro Paulo Diniz, who has already made a name for himself in Formula 3000. Since the world no longer has insurmountable borders, Forti Corse has been working across the board. The car’s aerodynamics will be ready a few days before the start of the races – they were studied and fine-tuned in a South African wind tunnel in the capital Pretoria. This is what British designer (who had collaborated with Argentine Sergio Rinland, formerly of Brabham and Scuderia Italia) Chris Redage wanted.
And, it seems, with excellent results. The technical director is very well known: engineer Giorgio Stirano, individual of considerable experience in all areas of racing. The employees will be about 40 at the time of racing, almost all of them come from the province. The planned spending budget for the sixteen scheduled races ranges from $13.000.000 to $17.000.000. Guido Forti has ongoing negotiations with several drivers, from Italians Andrea Montermini and Emanuele Naspetti to the other Brazilian Roberto Moreno. Naspetti and Montermini had driven the team's cars in the past in other categories. The cars will adopt 8-cylinder Ford ED engines, which are considered among the most reliable and also competitive, since in 1994, with a slightly more advanced series, Schumacher's Benetton won the World Championship. In almost two decades of operation, Forti Corse has accumulated 51 victories so far. Six titles have been won: four in Formula 3, the Italian championship, with Franco Forini, Emanuele Naspetti, Enrico Bertaggia and Gianni Morbidelli. Previously, in 1977, the team won the Formula SuperFord tricolor thanks to Teo Fabi, who later became a protagonist in Formula 1 and Formula Indy. A success, also in Italy, in the Formula 3000 championship with Claudio Langes and nine victories in the Intercontinental of the same class. Rubens Barrichello, one of the emerging stars of Formula 1, had also driven for Forti, in Brazil. Barrichello is currently engaged with Jordan-Peugeot, running some races in a Dallara-Alfa Romeo. And the Argentine Larrauri had also raced in the team.
"We have done a lot of hard work, technically and also commercially, as marketing operations are important".
Moving from one young team to another, to having been a near-failed drummer, a failed journalist, and a fairly good former driver, Eddie Jordan has been quick to understand the craft of being a constructor in Formula 1. Since 1990, that is, since he landed in the Circus, he has come a long way. Thanks in part to a good star - being Irish, he adopted a lucky green four-leaf clover as his symbol - and exceptional flair, in just a few years he became a leading figure and owner of the team that made the most progress in the shortest time. Drivers such as Jean Alesi (in Formula 3000) and Michael Schumacher have driven for Jordan before; now Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine, two young drivers, race for Jordan. And the results have not been lacking. So much so that Peugeot, after the traumatic divorce from McLaren, bet on this young and highly motivated team. Few people - 50 mechanics and technicians - a lot of contract work and great speed of execution. The choice of the French company to supply the engines was immediately rewarded by Jordan with success: on Friday, January 27th, 1995, the volcanic team-manager from Ireland first presented the single-seater for the 1995 World Championship. It is precisely called the Jordan 195: narrow sidepods and a beak- like nose, bears an unprecedented livery with yellow, blue and red colors and is fitted with an unprecedented semiautomatic gearbox that can downshift 7 gears in 0.15 seconds. The prototype car costs about 7.600.000.000 liras. Says Eddie Jordan, touching the wig he wears with extraordinary ease, otherwise he would be bald:
"This year our goal is to win races. And I believe that with the help of Peugeot, which has prepared us a very good, new, 10-cylinder 3000 cc car and the skill of Barrichello and Irvine, we will succeed. In fact, we aim to place ourselves among the top four teams".
A real provocation, since the teams considered to be at the top in F1 are Benetton, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren. The threat is on for everyone, but the challenge particularly concerns those who were behind, namely Ferrari and McLaren. The new Jordan will be on track in the week following its unveiling, at Silverstone. Meanwhile, the FIA publishes the entry list for the World Championship. Fourteen teams and eighteen drivers: thus, ten drivers are still not on the list, including that of Nigel Mansell. As for the calendar, there are still doubts concerning the first two races - Argentina, Brazil. And there are also uncertainties surrounding Monza and Imola, because of the work required at the circuits. Benetton's stated goal for the year 1995 is disruptive, shocking, provocative, like the advertising designed by Oliviero Toscani. Says Flavio Briatore, introducing the Benetton team for the coming season:
"We want to win both drivers' and constructors' world titles. For us to finish second at this point would be a defeat. For now, however, here is the new car, the B195, on which we have worked hard and which will be fast to make its debut in the best possible way. You can see the number 1 placed on the single seater, brought back to Italy after so many years".
In the splendid setting of Villa Minelli di Ponzano, the group's strategic headquarters, Luciano Benetton, 59 years old, does the honors. A significant presence, alongside Alessandro who is president of the team.
"We continue to present the team here because we wish to emphasize our nationality. We operate in many areas of sports, basketball, volleyball and rugby, and always out of passion. But it must be recognized that if Sisley were to win the volleyball world title, only a few thousand people would notice. Formula 1, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. It is universal".
Last year, however, Benetton was also talked about critically, with controversy and suspicion. But Luciano Benetton responds:
"I was always convinced that we were in compliance, as our technicians claimed, and in the end we proved to be right. Evidently attempts had been made in order to destabilize us. I was only worried about the team, about the morale of the boys. Then everything was clear, but it is known that they tried to destroy us because we were bothering those who had always been in charge and dominated. Today, after all, this is how it is done even in politics".
Is it true that Benetton also wants to rival Ferrari in popularity?
"I can't hide the fact that people in Italy think and dream about Ferrari. Let's say that we can become a good alternative. Maranello however is not our main rival. Last year we had to struggle to overcome Williams. Against Ferrari in 1994 it would also have been too easy".
But how much will you spend to try to win the world titles again?
"Exactly I don't know, Flavio Briatore doesn't tell me. In any case I know that we have the budget covered almost entirely by sponsors. So it doesn't cost us much. I don't think these successes in motor racing make us sell more T-shirts, but they certainly contribute to brand awareness and our image".
The investment figure is then revealed by Alessandro Benetton:
"We planned to cover the racing season and all expenses with 30.000.000 pounds, about 10-15 percent more than last year".
A figure that obviously does not take into account the supply of Renault engines, which was the first to accept the challenge of simultaneously supplying two top teams aiming to win the World Championship: Benetton and Williams. To do this, the French company has divided its team of engineers and mechanics into two: each of the two teams will have during the season 40 engines and will operate autonomously. Only three engineers will have the opportunity to intervene unconstrained on Benetton and Williams - head engineer Bernard Dudot, the head of design Jean Jacques His, and the head of research. Claude Robin. Significant commitment.
Patrick Faure, general manager of Renault Sport, also has set the same goal expressed by Briatore. To win both titles, drivers’ and constructors’. Among Flavio Briatore's many inventions is the long bench. His teams, Benetton and Ligier, will both basically have three drivers each, plus possible test-drivers. After taking in the French team Olivier Panis, Martin Brundle and Aguri Suzuki; in the Anglo-Italian one he confirms Michael Schumacher, hires Johnny Herbert and retains Jos Verstappen, who may take over from the Englishman in some races. Turnover obviously does not concern the German, who wants to win the title again even if he prefers not to get too excited for now.
"We have everything to get back to the World Championship: chassis, engine and drivers, but it's too early to make predictions. All the cars will be new and we don't know what the others have done. There could also be surprises, for example from Jordan-Peugeot or Sauber-Ford. However, it is clear that the No. 1 rival for us remains Williams, at least in theory".
How did the first practice at Silverstone go?
"Hard to understand, because it was raining. Now every week we will have a series of tests. I can say that we will be ready for the first race".
Will the marriage with Benetton last long?
"I don't know, it depends. I will see at the end of the year what opportunities will be offered to me. If it is necessary, I might even change".
Meanwhile, McLaren will soon make official the signing of Nigel Mansell for the 1995 Formula 1 World Championship. The mustachioed British driver had announced his first retirement in 1990 when he was at Ferrari. He then changed his mind and moved to Williams. He became World Champion in 1992 and abandoned F1 for Indy where he won the title the following season. Last year he took part in four races again for Williams, winning the last one, in Australia. It seemed certain that he would have a commitment to the World Constructors' Champion team for the next championship as well. But Frank Williams set his sights on David Coulthard. Mansell at that point seemed ruled out, forced to hang up his helmet. Instead McLaren came, which was left with only Mika Hakkinen. Ron Dennis (who never liked Nigel) was forced to come to a deal. At the behest of Mercedes, which supplies the engines (the German company needs an experienced driver to test its 10-cylinder cars) and its main sponsor, Marlboro, which demands titled drivers. So the two sides started talking about money. The driver wanted £10.000.000; the scuderia offered £5.000.000. In the end it seems that a deal was struck at £7.000.000, although talks became lengthy because Nigel also demanded to have personal sponsors on the suit to round out his already hefty earnings. Money aside, Nigel Mansell is convinced that he can still give a lot to Formula 1. Asked about his umpteenth comeback, he has always said:
"If I do it, it's to win the title. I don't think the young people are faster than me".
Not of the same opinion is Michael Schumacher who, speaking precisely about his British rival, says:
"I think his nails are dull now. He can go strong for a lap, in qualifying, but in the race he doesn't perform as well as he used to".
It will be seen. Nigel Mansell's task, however, will not be easy. He will have to keep at bay within the team a young hot shot like Mika Hakkinen, and he also risks preparing the seat for Michael Schumacher himself. Should the McLaren-Mercedes pairing prove successful, Nigel in 1996 may have to give way to the German. But in the meantime, the Lion's presence guarantees spectacle, as F1 patron Bernie Ecclestone, who has been one of the English driver's great electors, wants. For the stats, Nigel Mansell in F1 has run 185 races in fourteen seasons, driving for Lotus, Williams and Ferrari (with Ford, Renault turbo, Honda Turbo, Judd, Ferrari and Renault engines), taking 31 pole positions and 31 victories. He won the World Championship only once, in 1992, but finished second in the standing three times. With better luck he could have won at least two more titles. A driver and showman, Nigel Mansell constitutes an added attraction for a season that promises to be very heated and uncertain. One of the title contenders, Jean Alesi, is a guy who has Ferrari in his heart. And his excitement will be genuine when, in Maranello, Ferrari takes the veils off the single-seater with which the 1995 Formula 1 World Championship will be contested. Be careful, however, not to confuse yourself: the love of the Sicilian-born French driver is of the visceral kind, in no uncertain terms, but not such as to prevent him from thinking, reasoning, criticizing, if appropriate. In the blackest moments of the four years already spent in the Maranello team, Jean has been vocal, arguing and protesting. Now, however, all is forgotten and the 30-year- old from Avignon is ready for a new challenge. What does Jean Alesi expect of the season beginning on Sunday, March 26, 1995, with the Brazilian Grand Prix?
"I want to win, to fight for the title. I am not frustrated that I have never yet climbed the top step of the podium. Because there has never been a genuine opportunity. When the car has been competitive, I have always been able to show up. My goal as a driver is to win the World Championship, and I really hope to do that with Ferrari".
The same story has been repeating itself for a long time. You start out with great confidence to do well, then disappointments come. What has changed this year to justify this level of optimism?
"It is the atmosphere in the team that is different. There is the right tension between us, gaps have been now covered, which were a source of our problems in the past. For example, the arrival of Giorgio Ascanelli as track manager, with all his experience. The work organization, the mentality. Some time ago I went to Barnard in London to prepare my seat. I found him helpful, focused. And then there is the great charge of President Montezemolo. It is he, together with Jean Todt, who are pushing the hardest to return to the top".
But it will be a challenging World Championship ahead. Let's make a short list of pretenders to ultimate success: Benetton, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari. Then there are possible outsiders, namely Ligier, Sauber and Jordan. All teams among others backed by major automakers. From Renault to Mercedes, Ford to Peugeot, Mugen- Honda...
"It is obvious that it will not be easy. But it never has been. The advantage this year is that we are all starting from scratch, new technical rules for the cars, new 3000 cc engines, even different lineups than in 1994. And that can be an advantage. When you are forced to chase your competitors, as has always happened in recent years, everything is more complicated. You have to take two steps at a time when others only take one, and the risks of making mistakes are doubled".
Last year was also one of great tragedies, controversy and uncertainty. Will all that has been done for safety purposes be enough?
"We experienced terrible moments. In motorsports, with speed, there will never be a certainty that something serious, dramatic cannot happen. But I think progress has been made, with cars higher off the ground, chassis that are even more resistant to frontal and side impacts, less powerful engines. Work still needs to be done on circuits, on passive safety. Our drivers' association is evaluating a dossier presented by the FIA, track by track".
By the way, work has been approved for Imola, while for Monza, apparently, there are still uncertainties.
"I am Italian from my family. I drive for the red national motor racing team. It is normal that I want to race at both Imola and Monza. But, let's face it, what happened for our two tracks is ridiculous. People around the world are laughing at us behind our backs".
Back to the championship. Who are the favorites? Can Schumacher make an encore?
"In theory the challenge is very uncertain. However, the Benetton Renault-Schumacher trinomial is in pole position in the predictions. The team works very well on the technical level. And I don't think you can discuss the value of the German driver. He is very strong".
And Alesi will still pair up with Gerhard Berger. Is it a good pair?
"Immodestly, I think we are one of the best pairings, in terms of potential and experience. We both have a great desire to win. We are friends in the sense that we never get in each other's way, we cooperate. But ours is an individual sport, when you go on the track the others are all rivals. It's also difficult to play a team game, unless you have clear superiority and one of you for reasons of points achieved is at some point forced to give up their ambitions".
Could Monday, February 6th, 1995 be the first day of a new era more favorable to Ferrari?
"I hope so, in fact I am convinced of it. I will not set myself aside, I will give it my all. I have prepared very well, even physically to face a tough championship. I ask my team for a competitive car, if not better than the others, at least on par. We, as drivers, will put the rest of the work in. Also because a World Championship won with Ferrari is worth more, even double".
Just on Monday, February 6th, 1995, when Nicola Larini and Gerhard Berger (Jean Alesi arrives in Maranello late, due to fog) discover the new Ferrari, President Luca Montezemolo says:
"It is ugly, in fact very ugly".
It is obvious that the president in his heart thinks exactly the opposite. A downplaying joke also, mixed with a kind of superstitious ritual, because Enzo Ferrari claimed that his cars became beautiful only when they won. At the presentation of the 412 T2, the single-seater with which Ferrari will aim for redemption in the F1 World Championship, schooled by what has happened in the more recent past, the men of the Maranello team are cautious in their predictions.
At the full house in the Civic Center, filled with 250 journalists and photographers from around the world, the men of the Gestione Sportiva staff, joined by Piero Ferrari, the manufacturer's son, speak only of the great amount of work done, of hopes and confidence.
"If I say we have to win the World Championship and then we don't even manage to win one single race? It's better to keep our feet on the ground: we have tried our best, we have tried to improve the organization and methods of the team, we hope to have achieved a competitive car for our drivers and fans. However, we cannot hide the fact that it will be a very tough competition, more difficult than in the past. There is a good engine battle with the participation of many big car manufacturers, there are aggressive sponsors. Many people think that Ferrari has unlimited funds, but that is not true. Everything we do bears a cost obviously, but there are those who have stratospheric budgets, with staggering investments".
To finance the sporting activity, Ferrari retains its traditional sponsors and suppliers (Agip, Marlboro, Magneti Marelli, Fiat and Pioneer) and adds a new technical partner with the Stet Group - initially Telecom Italia, identifying broader areas of development with other related companies. Among other things, for data transmission between cars and pits and for a satellite transmission of the results themselves, in real time, from the tracks to the Fiorano workshops. The car that chief designer John Barnard illustrates in a few words:
"It is smaller and more compact, because it has a fuel tank of only 140 liters, I was able to better distribute mass and weight".
It appears far too simple to be considered a final version. Especially in terms of aerodynamics, which the British designer himself describes as constantly evolving. Certainly there is something secret under the bodywork and it does not only concern the complex electronic part (wireless throttle, clutch with steering wheel control, only two pedals for brake and accelerator), but also the suspension, at least the rear ones. Beak-like nose, facing the ground, very sharp at the front, with large air intakes on the side bulkheads for the engine. The powerplant is all new: 3000 cc, as per regulations, 600 hp declared, but probably several more. It weighs 10 kilograms less than the previous version thanks to a brand new steel crankcase (previously it was made of cast iron) and is 7.5 centimeters shorter. Ferrari confirms that it also has a 10- cylinder under construction, ready to run on the dyno at the end of April: it will be used only if it shows itself clearly superior to the current one. The car, however, is already prepared for a possible swap. Declares Jean Todt, head of the racing team:
"We have the potential, desire and determination to win. But we are waiting for the confrontation with rivals on Friday, March 24th, at the track in Sao Paulo, Brazil".
As always between Alesi and Berger there is an honest disparity of views. Matter of temperament. Says the Frenchman with a smile, speaking of the 412 T2:
"I like it, you can see that it is cared for, down to the smallest detail. A car that is easy to tune, to modify if necessary after the first tests. And easier to drive".
Instead replicates the Austrian:
"How can I judge it if I haven't even entered the cockpit yet. Let's wait to make judgments. I am convinced that our technicians have worked well, but we also need to know what the others, the rivals, have done".
He has knowledge, however, Nicola Larini, test driver. He has already thoroughly tested the new engine.
"Nothing to compare with the old one. More agile, no gaps, elastic. I'm convinced it will do well".
Starting Tuesday, the first tests will take place at Fiorano for the next three days. And the first answers on the gifts and faults of the new Ferrari single-seater will come. However, it is an unfortunate debut that of the new Ferrari 412 T2. Amidst a thousand difficulties, due to poor weather conditions with heavy rain, on Thursday, February 9th, 1995, Gerhard Berger manages to make only one lap in the morning. In the afternoon he makes a few passes without being in the position to force the engine, rhyming to run into an accident: the car slides on a kerb and beats violently on the bottom. The Austrian driver says he made a mistake. Engineers, later in the evening, examine the damage, especially to the gearbox, which could block practice again on Friday. Friday, Feb. 17th, 1995, McLaren and Mercedes also unveil the long-awaited fruit of their F1 collaboration: the revolutionary the MP4/10, with which Nigel Mansell hopes to win his second World Championship. It is a car that will cause controversy, because what is revolutionary is above all an interpretation of regulations on the edge of legality. The most obvious element is a wing - never before had a team adopted such a solution - fixed on the engine dome, behind the driver. McLaren took advantage of a deficiency in the new regulations, which do not consider that area of the car structure. A technical cleverness, if you will, but perhaps decisive.
"We needed the maximum aerodynamic advantage".
Says McLaren team principal Ron Dennis:
"We are close to the limit of the regulations, but the most important thing is that the car is within the legality. The new regulations allow us, with this design, to achieve all the goals we set out to achieve. It was about recovering some of the lost ground effect".
But someone is already talking about the aileron of discord - and all the other novelties - the raised nose like Benetton's, the new underbody aerodynamics, the abundant use of carbon fiber- go by the wayside. Says Nigel Mansell:
"This is the first time I have seen it, and I can say that if the speed matches the beauty our rivals will have to be very careful. The car has been designed and prepared respecting the regulations’ limits, taking advantage of our mechanics’ skills. I am really optimistic".
The presentation is given at the Science Museum in London, in all too transparent symbolism. Says Ron Dennis:
"The best of chassis and the best of engines".
The powerplant is a new V10 designed by Mario Ilien for Mercedes: power output-unreported-between 650 and 700 horsepower, top speed 17.000 rpm, 40 valves, and not even a cc given away at the 3000 limit.
The engine will be exclusively given to the triple-M team, Marlboro-McLaren-Merccdes. Says Jurgen Hubbert, Mercedes technician:
"Our official return to racing took five years of preparation".
Initially it will provide twelve thrusters; and then, as many as are needed.
"It is the most beautiful".
Comments Mika Hakkinen, the second driver joined for the first time by test driver Jan Magnussen, the 22- year-old Dane who won the British Formula 3 championship last year. They will be the ones who will carry out the first tests at Silverstone; although a decisive confrontation with the other novelties of Formula 1 will take place only the following week, on the Estoril circuit. At the center of attention, aileron aside, is Nigel Mansell.
"I had a great desire to return to F1, especially with such an innovative single-seater. It is so revolutionary that I feel strongly motivated, an integral part of the team. I am fascinated by its technology and sophistication. This can be a winning car. I know it will deliver on its promises, it could take me to the title".
On Tuesday, Feb. 21st, 1995, the veil falls from another of the eagerly awaited protagonists of the upcoming F1 World Championship: Williams unveils its latest, the FW17. And there is no shortage of surprises. Leaving aside its traditional policy of small steps, the british team that won the constructors' title last year makes a single-seater which differs completely from its predecessors. A line already seen in the front (it closely resembles the Benetton, with the raised nose and low wing, like a shark, or hammerhead fish). But overall the shape is very tapered, like a missile, and keeps the Coke-like rear. Only the colors of the main sponsor, Rothmans, remain the same. So do the names of what's Italian on the Williams: Magneti Marelli, Ruote Oz, Sparco and Segafredo. Frank Williams declares:
"To design the FW17, our aerodynamicist, Adrian Newey, has been pretty much locked in the wind tunnel since June. We finished the assembly tonight. The car looks very nice to me, but it doesn't mean anything, it's just an aesthetic judgment, we'll have to see how it goes on the track".
What is the philosophy that inspired your technicians?
"With the new regulations we were forced, like everyone else, to start from scratch. So we tried to somehow recover the aerodynamic support that we would have lost with the 1995 regulations. And it is not certain that after the first tests we will not be forced to change something - we will be at Silverstone today or tomorrow, then we will stop in Jerez from Feb. 25th until March 10th".
What do you think of the wing placed on the engine hood by McLaren?
"We have also studied something like this. We believe that advantages and disadvantages add up. However, McLaren has already achieved one result: we have never heard so much about such a small wing. We slept regularly the night after we saw it…".
How do you rate the other cars already presented?
"We would need to know what is underneath the body and chassis. We have some surprises, too. You say our car looks like Benetton? Well, I get along with Briatore, he passed me the drawings, so we split the expenses".
Regrets about losing Mansell?
"We opted for Coulthard, for reasons I don't want to explain. But I am convinced that Nigel will be a fearsome rival. We give our drivers total freedom, they start on par. I hope that if one of them takes some advantage, the other will help him. And that they don't do stupid things".
What about Ferrari?
"I want to ask Alesi how he is so friendly with Berger. I wish my two, Coulthard and Hill, would learn from him and not fight each other beyond measure. I phoned Le Castellet yesterday to get news, but my informant had forgotten the timing".
Besides traditional opponents; who do you fear?
"It will be a tough and uncertain championship. We will have to watch out for Tyrrell, Ligier and Jordan as well. And I hope that the races will not be decided in pit stops".
In 1994 there was controversy and suspicion. Is this a story that can be repeated?
"I have a lot of confidence in the FIA and its controls".
And then you always have the support of FOCA, the builders association....
"FOCA no longer exists, there are only two masters - Mosley and Ecclestone".
After a long time there will be no Ayrton Senna...
"We have not forgotten it. We calmly await the judgment of the magistrates. And we are not afraid to come to Italy. Of course, it will be psychologically very difficult for us to compete in Brazil".
Is there a man to beat?
"Without a doubt, Schumacher; he really is a champion".
The fact that we have the same engine as Benetton?
"We don't like it, but Renault can do whatever they want".
"Winning the World Championship, first Constructors and then Drivers".
Meanwhile, in the tests held at Paul Ricard, the Ferrari registers no obvious problems and runs smoothly. On the track, which has slowed down somewhat compared to previous days, with the narrower chicane, Jean Alesi sets the best time, lapping 44 times around the track, the fastest of which was 1'09"92.
"We have done a good job, although we are only at the beginning and there will have to be several developments. I remain of the opinion that this single-seater is good and easier to adjust, much better than the 1994 one".
Benetton also made a good debut, with Michael Schumacher clocking a time of 1'10"003, while his teammate Johnny Herbert did not go beyond a time of 1'11"51. Rather far behind is Ukyo Katayama in the Tyrrell-Yamaha: the Japanese driver scores a time of 1'11"83, but continues to cover miles. Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, 1995 Michael Schumacher, reigning World Champion, puts his foot on the accelerator of his Benetton-Renault and sets the new record of the Paul Ricard circuit in the configuration that hosts Formula 1 testing these days - with a narrow temporary chicane placed about 200 meters before the Signes curve. Schumacher, who stops the chronometers in 1'09"03, says he is delighted with his new car, although much work remains to be done. At Ferrari, however, they do not consider the overtaking as a disappointment. Also because Gerhard Berger, him again, leaves the track after seven laps, and in the afternoon heavy rain interrupts practice for everyone.
"I went straight right at the chicane. With the change in technical regulations, which requires single-seaters to be driven in the style they used to be, I thought it would be others who would make more mistakes, for example Alesi. Instead I went off the track at Fiorano, causing many problems, and here at Paul Ricard".
Fortunately, the 412T2 was not seriously damaged. Only a few small grazes due to one of the cones delimiting the track, which slipped under the car. At Ferrari they are quite optimistic about the results obtained these days: comforting is the data that refer to aerodynamics, mechanical setup and chassis.
"We are not looking for performance yet, we mainly want to see if everything is working well. We are running without overworking our cars, with a lot of gas and old tires".
However, in the seven laps made, Gerhard Berger's time is also improved by Johnny Herbert in the second Benetton (1'09"78) and by Ukyo Katayama, who scores a time of 1'10"82. Gerhard turns in 1'11"09, a time achieved, however, with extreme ease. Also on the track comes Brazilian rookie Pedro Paulo Diniz, with the new Forti.
But he tries only for a couple of laps on the wet asphalt (1'45"38), just to see if the engine works correctly. Days go by, but controversy does not go away. It was too good. It seemed that the F1 season could begin peacefully. But it didn't: the drivers didn't want to sign the documents necessary to obtain the superlicense and were in conflict with the FIA. Gerhard Berger, one of the heads of the drivers' association (GPDA), says some clauses in the regulations have been changed.
"The federal leadership wants us to sign a rule that we will not be able to take any legal action against anyone if something happens. This is not acceptable. The FIA also wants to decide which press conferences we can attend. This could cause a lot of problems because of the many interests involved".
Berger also adds that he is having talks with FIA president Max Mosley and that both are working to settle the disagreement. However, a tug-of-war before the start of the 1995 World Championship cannot be ruled out: most of the top drivers do not intend to sign for the time being. And among them are the World Champion, Michael Schumacher, and Jean Alesi. Only a few young drivers, such as German Heinz-Harald Frentzen, have bowed out. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, February 28th, 1995, practice continued in Portugal, at the Estoril circuit, where almost all the teams were engaged. Eddie Irvine in the Jordan-Peugeot, setting a time of 1'22"49, improves the previously set record (1'22"53) just the day before by Damon Hill, Williams. Also during the day, David Coulthard (Williams, 1'23"63) loses his engine hood in the middle of the straight. As far as we can tell, for the moment there is a fair balance among many teams. Slower, but it's early laps, the new McLaren-Mercedes driven by Mika Hakkinen (1'23"73) breaks down its engine in the afternoon. Wednesday, March 1st, 1995, the habit of running on the track with no limits is likely to cost Damon Hill dearly. The Williams driver, second in the 1994 F1 World Championship, is sentenced for speeding by the court in Bicester, England, to a one-week suspension of his driver's license, a £350 fine and payment of court costs. But not only that, his participation in the 1995 season is now in question. Hill had been caught by police on Dec. 5, 1994, traveling on the highway near Oxford at 165 mph on a stretch where a 112 mph limit was in force. The British champion acknowledged that he was at fault, explaining his haste by the fact that he had to intervene at a television broadcast in Birmingham. Incidentally, Hill had previously been stopped for a similar reason on his way to Silverstone to take part in the British Grand Prix: he had been found speeding at 193 km/h. After introducing himself and clarifying where he was headed, the English man had gotten away with a simple recommendation not to push too hard on the accelerator. But what is the problem associated with the license suspension? Simple: because of the measure, the British sports authorities cannot renew his special driver's license, which is essential for racing in the World Championship. Hill, until he gets the document back, will not be able to do all the paperwork for which it takes at least fifteen days. This means that he has only four days left before the start of the World Championship: any unforeseen event could therefore prevent him from taking to the track. For this very reason, the British driver's defenders had fought to limit the stopping period as much as possible. Leaving the courtroom, Hill refused to comment on the ruling, which he said, it speaks for itself. According to his lawyers, the measure could truly jeopardize Damon Hill's next World Championship and even tarnish his entire career. While waiting to see how the matter will be resolved, on Monday, March 6, 1995, the new Minardi M195 Ford, which will contest the F1 World Championship, is presented to the public. Aerodynamically, there is no shortage of new features: a first is the large arch supporting the front wing, which is followed by the raised nose, the two pedals for brake and accelerator, low, contoured flanks with a very pronounced recess (making it unique) and side guards close to the body in the cockpit area instead of included in the flanks. The M195 also has a fuel tank of just 110 liters and a very short wheelbase, making it the most compact car in F1. Aldo Costa, the engineer leading the technical staff, explains:
"We started practically from scratch, there is not even a point in common with the old single-seater".
Highlight is the Ford Edm engine, where the M stands for Magneti Marelli, which will follow the electronic development exclusively. It is a powerplant capable of over 600 horsepower at 13.500 rpm. Minardi is expected to have fifteen engines throughout the season and about seventy standard overhauls included in the rental cost. The first track tests are scheduled at Mugello where the car will test for two days. The car will be entrusted to Pierluigi Martini and Luca Badoer, with Giancarlo Fisichella as test driver. Giancarlo Minardi makes no secret of the difficulties he encountered in bringing the M195 to debut. Then again, the change in regulations sent economically stronger formations into crisis, let alone whether a medium-sized team (with a limited budget) could escape this rule. However, it could console itself, since Footwork would be ready no earlier than Tuesday, March 14, 1995, while Ligier took its first steps three days earlier. Meanwhile, a spectacular accident stars Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger during testing at the Estoril track. The Austrian again goes off the track while traveling at 250 km/h. Fortunately, the driver is not injured, while the car is seriously damaged. The accident occurs between the first and second corners of the circuit.
"I experienced a severe fright. The car suddenly went away and I couldn't do anything to get it back. If I wasn't hurt, it was thanks to the headrest, which, with the new regulations, is bigger and made of materials that absorb shocks. A positive innovation, which also prevented me from the classic whiplash".
Despite the bad adventure, the Austrian does not lose his confidence in this Ferrari:
"For me it remains a good car, and in Brazil, for the first round of the world championship, I think we will be competitive".
Meanwhile, admits Baccini, Ferrari spokesman:
"We think we have pinpointed the problem that caused the off-track but, given the situation, it was decided to stop practice a day early".
Jacques Villeneuve used to say that when he thinks of his father, he remembers him only as a parent and not
as a driver.
"As a kid, I used to come with the whole family to the races, with mom Joanna and my little sister Melanie, but I didn't care about cars".
But Jacques Villeneuve, son of Gilles, who passed away in his Ferrari in May 1982 in a terrible accident, on Sunday, March 5, 1995, won the first race of the Formula Indy season in Miami, carrying a nostalgic #27 on his car. The same one that his father had made legendary and that Maranello's cars, notably Alesi's, still hoist so many years later, in recognition of a racer who has remained in their hearts. Jacques is a boy after his own heart. Polite, intelligent, thoughtful. He recently received in Milan the prestigious Premio Ruote Oz, awarded to the champion driver who has most distinguished himself during the previous year. Villeneuve junior earned the trip to Italy for making a commendable debut in American Cart racing. Second in the Indy 500 and a year-end win at Elkhart Lake, so much so that he received the title of Rookie of the Year. He had begun racing at a very young age (he was born in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec) in 1986, attending the Jim Russel school at Mont Tremblant, after trying, without much luck, to become a skier in the French Alps. He attended another school during his time in Formula 2000 the following year and debut in 1988 with an Alfa Romeo in the Italian turismo championship. Then Formula 3, Formula Atlantic and then Indy.
Always triumphing with wins and getting pole positions, despite always disposing of uncompetitive cars.
"I think the most important thing is to understand what the limits of the car and yourself are".
Exactly the opposite of Gilles Villeneuve who was always over the top...
"That's true, according to what they tell me. But that's the way I am, I'm different from my father. When I started in Indy many drivers were afraid I would do something stupid. Just in the very dangerous Mille Miglia I think I showed that I have a firm head".
Everyone says that in Jacques Villeneuve's future is the #27 of Ferrari.
"I don't see things that way. Maybe one day I will be able to race in one of the Maranello's cars. But if I make it to Formula 1 I will wish for above all a winning car".
But isn't this too dangerous a profession?
"It's a good profession. You travel the world and you don't work too hard. Plus you make a lot of money. I can't say I'm already rich, but I don't have any more worries. Of course, you have more fun doing go-kart racing with friends. But I'm on this path now and I'm happy".
Isn't your mother worried?
"She had always told me that she would like me to do something else. Now, I'm not sure, I think she's quite happy. We don't see each other much. Maybe I, without knowing it, had always wanted to be a racing driver".
The most immediate goal?
"I won a race, the first race of the season. I started well, I want to aim for the Indy title, but I will have to manage myself well because even now I don't have the best car".
Did experienced people, like Michael Andretti, give you any advice?
"Yes, when he's behind me he tries to rear-end me".
What kind of driver do you think you are?
"A great one. I am convinced that there is not a single colleague of mine who does not think he is the best out there".
Going from a future champion to one from the past, on Thursday, March 16th, 1995, it becomes unlikely, they say, that Nigel Mansell will participate in the first two races of the World Championship, in Brazil and Argentina. No, it's not a joke. And at McLaren, by inches, they now don't know how to intervene. After many contractual vicissitudes, it turns out that what is blocking Nigel Mansell is the cockpit of the new MP4/10. Too tight, it is uncomfortable for him and prevents him from moving with the necessary fluency: the second of the two accidents at Estoril, during recent tests, was allegedly caused by this very problem. Mark Blundell, former McLaren test driver and veteran of 46 grand prix races, is ready to replace him. Because, it turns out, the changes require a structural alteration of the car and not just a tweak to the seats. The trouble is that, in the contractual overtime with Nigel Mansell, McLaren engineers had built the car based on the measurements of the other driver, Mika Hakkinen. The Finn is taller and slimmer than Mansell, but perhaps he also has a more compassed, less impetuous driving style. The fact is that when Nigel got into the car, that carbon-fiber suit fit him very tightly. Unbearable. Initial tweakings were tried: a different seat, some filing down of the McLaren's insides. But it wasn't enough. Now the engineers are playing the last card by preparing a new set- up. Mansell will try during the weekend, but if the workshop alchemy proves completely useless, he will be forced to forfeit and wait for the engineers to build him a new custom chassis.