Thief hunting in the Principality. However, this is not the late Cary Grant, the protagonist of a famous film shot in Monte-Carlo. The villain in question is Alain Prost who, in the guise of hoarding points, presents himself as the man to beat at the appointment with the fourth round of the season in the Formula 1 World Championship. The Frenchman has already won two victories in Brazil and Belgium, and is leading the championship standings. Another victory and the mortgage on the third world title is done. Let it be understood: the World Champion didn't steal anything, he limited himself to taking with great dexterity what his rivals offered him on a silver platter, blocked by breakdowns and accidents. It is for this reason that the various Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna want redemption. Losing is part of the game, but giving away is not expected. Ayrton Senna recently said:
"Alain Prost is undoubtedly the best driver of the moment, the most complete, fastest and expert, hardened by a thousand battles, but in this period he has also made up for the adversities of the past. Everything seems to be turning in his favor".
We must also take into account the fact that Alain Prost won three consecutive times in Monte-Carlo from 1984 to 1986. His McLaren, unbeatable on other circuits, seems to be a perfect match on the narrow streets of the Principality, even in qualifying. And the French driver plays his role wonderfully, driving with aggression and precision. The greatest dangers for Alain Prost should come as usual from the Williams (Piquet and Mansell) and Senna's Lotus, provided that the active suspensions don't slow down the Brazilian. There are also those who say that McLaren, in order to push the talented Alain to sign the contract within the set time frame (end of May), would be willing to give the green light to his teammate Stefan Johansson, who is also second in the standings. Based on what has been seen on two occasions (Imola and Spa) an outsider role should go to the Brabham, the new car that didn't arouse too many comments on its appearance at the start of the season, which is proving to be very competitive. Riccardo Patrese could have achieved a prestigious result in the San Marino Grand Prix and Andrea De Cesaris finished third in Belgium, albeit slowed down by consumption problems. In the Monaco Grand Prix, petrol will not play a decisive role and the two Italians could become protagonists. The same goes for Ferrari, which is growing in terms of performance, as long as it manages to find reliability. The organizers of the Monaco Grand Prix act, as usual, with the perfection and timing typical of the Principality.
Almost by magic on Wednesday 27 May 1987 the pits, guardrails, nets, grandstands appear, the port is already crowded with luxurious yachts, the apartments on the circuit are as crowded as social housing, despite the prohibitive prices (15.000 francs for three nights). This time however, even if the Italian presence is still massive, the bookings come mainly from France. It is the logical result of the situation in the Formula 1 World Championship, after the dispute of three races. Alain Prost is not only leading the general classification, but he is also the man to beat, the driver of the record. Three consecutive victories in recent years (1984-85-86), the record equaled by Stewart with 27 successes which can be surpassed here and, in particular, the possibility of taking precious points towards the conquest of a third world title. This is the main reason for the competition which, however, has a whole series of non-secondary interests as a side dish. There is the danger of accidents on the winding Monaco circuit, also in consideration of the presence of several slower cars, those with naturally aspirated engines. In addition, there will be 26 cars instead of just 22, as was the case since 1976. The pact of concord made this risky choice (all agreed this time) for sponsorship issues. Who gives up this showcase after spending so much money? But that everyone assumes their responsibilities, after the pilots have protested in vain. And, in fact, Thursday 28 May 1987 was a black day for the Scuderia Ferrari in Monte-Carlo in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, and a lot of fear for Michele Alboreto. The Italian driver is involved in a collision with the German Christian Danner on the Casino climb and risks his life, remaining unharmed by a miracle.
Gerhard Berger goes off the track, ending up on the guardrails. Final result: two cars demolished, a thrilling start. Michele Alboreto came close to tragedy - and it is 20 years since the death of Lorenzo Bandini right here in the Principality - a few hundred meters from his home. It is the worst accident in the already long career of the Italian driver. And not only that: Michele Alboreto almost flew off the track, ending up among photographers and marshals lined up behind the guards. However, the Italian driver then got back in the car, setting the sixth fastest time in the first practice session dominated by Nigel Mansell and Williams. The accident occurred at 1:10 p.m., a few minutes after the drivers had entered the track to look up their lap times. Michele Alboreto had been one of the first to leave. He had already made four rather fast passes: he had realized that the situation was quite favorable and he was pushing hard. Ferrari #27 passes in front of the pits launched. Just before the St-Devote bend, the Italian driver found himself in front of the Zakspeed of Christian Danner, 29 years old, 20 Formula 1 races, which proceeded slowly. The marshals wave the blue flag to signal to the German that he is about to be overtaken. Michele Alboreto, at about 250 km/h, takes the slope that leads to the Casino. Halfway along the straight there is a sinuous stretch, a sort of S. The Ferrari sets the curve to the left, tightening to the right. Danner, instead of slowing down further, accelerates and touches the right rear of the Italian's single-seater with his left front wheel. The Ferrari takes off, passing on the Zakspeed (with the risk of taking Danner's head off), and lands on the guardrail. It's like ending up on a razor's edge: the nose of the car is severed cleanly. Then the car, spinning into a tailspin, collides with the rear axle against the guards, and here the gearbox cuts off, bounces to the left and right again, and finally stops half-destroyed, near the Zakspeed. The Ferrari has bent suspension, crushed radiators, uprooted pedals. Only the cockpit remains intact. Meanwhile, the oil released from the car's gearbox catches fire but the flames are immediately extinguished. Michele Alboreto breathes two or three puffs of smoke and gas, but luckily nothing serious. For the Zakspeed a broken suspension and the cockpit torn on one side. The trials, of course, are suspended. In the pits, Michele Alboreto, pale as a sheet, says:
"That Danner is crazy. He was warming up the tires, going zig-zag. I was really afraid of killing myself. To be here unscathed is like winning a thirteen. I'll have to go to some shrine and light some candles for my Patron Saint".
Then he turns to the sporting director of the Scuderia Ferrari, Marco Piccinini, and hisses at him:
"If you don't disqualify him, I'll go find him and smash his head".
Christian Danner's reply is surprising:
"I didn’t see Alboreto. I was doing my trajectory and he hit me right in. I hadn't even set the curve".
A defense that the college of sports stewards rejects. The German is disqualified and excluded from the race. Among other things, it had already been established that pilots who did not respect the marshals' signals would be severely punished. Ferrari's Black Thursday was completed with another accident, and luckily the Maranello team had brought four cars, because now there are only two and a half left. Gerhard Berger, at the exit of the Piscina curve, touches the barrier with the right rear wheel, bouncing against the guards with the front left.
"A problem with the brakes, my wheel has locked up".
The impact is so violent as to compromise - it seems - the body. The technicians are evaluating the possibilities of a repair. So Berger stays in the box watching the others go around. In the meantime, once the danger has passed, everyone is wondering: is another Mansell-Senna duel in sight? Nelson Piquet hopes so, cynically.
"Maybe they start again in the front row".
And he implies:
"So they self-eliminate right away".
Beyond the Brazilian's hopes, it must be said that the Williams driver and the Lotus driver prove to be in great shape. The Englishman sets the best time, always lapping at a faster pace than his rivals, even in the morning in free practice: 1'24"514, still a little far from Prost's record which in 1986 set a time of 1'22"627. But it must be said that there is still a round of tests available. Behind the two litigants is the usual Alain Prost, who is always the main candidate for victory.
"I had small problems, the gear selector and the accelerator sticking. Here is the difference between my time and Mansell's. But I still don't feel beaten in the fight for pole position".
Nelson Piquet, caustic but sincere, does not hesitate to explain:
"I don't like this track, I can't go fast. I can't wait for Monday".
Riccardo Patrese follows. The Italian driver, unlike Andrea De Cesaris who breaks the engine with an over-revving and remains stationary, once again demonstrates that he is going fast everywhere. And Brabham now indulges him enough. Discreet, even for what happened, Ferrari's performance. The new biplane aileron brings no visible improvement. The F1-87s show problems in corner exit and traction. Result: sixth time for Michele Alboreto and fourteenth for Gerhard Berger. Great exploit, however, of Alessandro Nannini, surprising eleventh with Minardi. The Italian driver knows how to drive. Ferrari will make three cars available to their drivers in the second qualifying round of the Monaco Grand Prix, but it is uncertain whether the third will be used. Friday 29 May 1987 is a day of relative rest: minor jobs, some engines to be replaced. For the Maranello team, on the other hand, it was a terrible twenty-four hours, in forced stages, in an attempt to rebuild the single-seaters destroyed in Thursday's accidents. Michele Alboreto's single-seater, or rather what is left of it, is sent back to Maranello. The reserve car is reconditioned for the Italian driver, who will use it in the race. The fourth car was prepared for Gerhard Berger which was kept in reserve and which should have been used for the tests scheduled for the week following the Monaco Grand Prix, which will take place at Le Castellet. Changed the engine, ratios, settings, now it's almost new. The F1-87 with which the Austrian went off the track undergoes an even more radical treatment: parts were brought in from the Maranello workshops. Since it was not possible to repair the damage, given that the chassis was punctured, a part of the nose was cut off at the height of the steering box, in front of the suspensions. Then with special procedures a new tip is glued (the carbon fibers and Kevlar allow it). In short, an enormous and delicate job that thoroughly engages technicians and mechanics.
This single-seater, after some tests, will be available to Alboreto and Berger in case of new problems (and here everyone strikes wood). It must be said first of all that the materials used now in Formula 1 surpass that of traditional metals. Accidents like Michele Alboreto's a few years ago would have given the driver very little chance of escape. And the Italian driver realized he was also lucky. Again on Friday morning he talks about his terrible adventure with a sense of unease, aware of having come close to death. Michele Alboreto talks to Giovanni Agnelli, who is visiting the Ferrari stand. A long conversation during which the president of Fiat inquired about the accident and in a certain sense encouraged the driver with his presence in a difficult moment. Michele Alboreto, after having also been in the hospital for a check-up, releases a statement, publicized by the organizers. The press release reads:
"I'm sorry for Danner's disqualification because it was a hiccup. However, this accident is serious because it is identical to the one that cost Gilles Villeneuve his life. It is absurd to have twenty-six cars start the race, because in the event of an accident, a serious mistake will have been made".
And here a serious controversy about safety is triggered. Perhaps the organizers intend in this way to distance themselves from the Federation in the event of problems caused precisely by the overcrowding of cars on the track. Only twenty-two cars have been hosted on this circuit in recent years. The four more are a serious unknown. In this regard we can reveal a background. Jacky Ickx, former Ferrari driver, here as race director, warned Martin Brundle, Christian Danner's teammate, on Thursday. The Englishman had come out of the pits three times with a red light and the Belgian had threatened him. He had told him:
"Be very careful, because the organizers are waiting to disqualify some competitors to set an example. And you're first on the list".
Then, the free-kick hit Christian Danner. who, convinced in his unconsciousness that he had done nothing wrong, before leaving to watch the race on television, launched a dry accusation against Ferrari:
"If I had involved Caffi's Osella, nothing would have happened. But Enzo Ferrari asked for my head for causing the destruction of one of his cars".
Evidently the German didn't understand anything: he better stay at home and meditate on the fact that another time it might go less well for him. Zakspeed's manager, Zakowski, asked to race another rider, the Dutchman Rothengatter. But permission was refused. 26 cars were to participate in the Monaco Grand Prix and, instead, there will be only 24. But the problem does not change, even if the organizers of the race take advantage of Michele Alboreto's flight to disqualify the German Christian Danner and a minor accident by Adrian Campos to exclude the Spanish driver himself, in a state of confusion. A way to cover their backs, to let it be known publicly that they are not responsible for FISA's decisions. It was the Federation, or rather the Select Executive Committee of Formula 1, that increased the number of participants from 22 to 26. A sacrifice to the advertising goddess, a question of money. The sponsors pay and want to participate in a showcase like the one in Monte-Carlo, without being excluded a priori by the regulations. The pilots protest but they count for nothing. Their association, the Grand Prix Drivers Association, carries no weight. And so the risks increase on a circuit where speeds approach 280 km/h, on narrow and winding roads, between seven kilometers of guardrails. It is true that Monte-Carlo boasts one of the best and most experienced organizations in the world. Hundreds of people patrolling the track, cleaning and quickly moving cars from dangerous positions. But why increase the risk, why fuel the controversy, why make people understand that, once again, money is everything in sport?
Formula 1 has accustomed us to its inconsistencies. We have raced for years in a parking lot in Las Vegas, we have seen cars destroyed in an incredible toboggan in Dallas, we compete in a kind of racetrack in Adelaide. Monte-Carlo is a world showcase, it enjoys millions of television viewers around the world. Why ruin even this wobbly toy? The strongest rope can break. FISA (Balestre), FOCA (Ecclestone), the so-called legalist constructors (Piccinini for Ferrari) dribble the responsibilities. They say they didn't agree, that it was the others who weighed in the balance of decisions. Let's hope that all these are words thrown away, that the race is beautiful, regular and serene. But the problem remains, sooner or later to honor the commitments (and receipts) the pilots will also be forced to do a double somersault at the start. In any case, whoever stays in the Palace runs no other dangers than those connected with indigestion. Of power and money, of course. The time has come, it comes back and forth. Twenty-four Formula 1 single-seaters play out on the 3328-metre-long roulette wheel of a street circuit that normally hosts Rolls Royces and Ferrari granturismos full of beautiful girls, in an ever-fascinating setting, the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. It is said that winning in Monte-Carlo is worth a driver's entire career, but that's a lie. Now the racers always want to win, it doesn't matter whether it's a Principality or a go-kart track. It is the philosophy that animates the motor sport show, this Formula 1 which offers enormous powers (1000 HP are a normal fact), super light and technologically refined cars, with monstrous accelerations and speeds. When the protagonists of the Grand Prix were called Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, the power was much less and the driving more important. Now that Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Michele Alboreto reign, cars have become monsters of plastic, metal and special alloys to be tamed, sophisticated machines where computers seem destined to replace hearts and minds. The Monaco Grand Prix, however, remains a race to be seen. For many reasons. First of all for the duel between Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna or, if you prefer, Ayrton Senna against Nigel Mansell.
It really comes to say: watch out for those two. The Englishman starts from pole position, the Brazilian almost alongside him. There are old grudges and new rivalries, there is underneath a world title waiting. It's hard to make predictions. If everything were to be normal, i.e. based on simple numbers, the Williams driver shouldn't have any problems: on Saturday 30 May 1987, in an infernal carousel of cars, he imposed his law, that of risk calculated to the millimeter, of passing close to the guardrail. Nigel Mansell laps in 1'23"039, at an average speed of 144.279 km/h. An average that the normal motorist is unable to achieve even on a completely straight motorway. However, Nigel Mansell's advantage over Ayrton Senna is limited: just 0.7 seconds. And the Brazilian complains about his car, he says it understeers too much. And he curses the traffic, each lap the obstacle of a slower car. The duel probably also excited Nelson Piquet, who scored the third time, albeit with a delay of 1.7 seconds compared to Nigel Mansell, a teammate who he hates at least as much as Ayrton Senna. Behind the trio is Alain Prost lurking, apparently with some problems, but always ready to win. The Frenchman is still chasing records. After matching Stewart's in Belgium | (27 wins,) he wants to overtake the Scotsman and set a record for consecutive wins in Monte-Carlo. If he comes first, he will do it for the fourth time, from 1984 to today. A beautiful series. On Saturday, the French driver stops on the track due to problems with the electrical system. But it's always like this: McLaren sobs in practice and laughs in the race. Then begins the row of outsiders: Michele Alboreto fifth, an excellent Eddie Cheever sixth, the very regular Stefan Johansson, Gerhard Berger, Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese. All people who will try to emerge on occasion. Ferrari rises from the ashes on Friday and is awaited as usual by its incredibly numerous fans. They are the majority of the at least 100.000 spectators who have already bought tickets. The cars are not doing badly, but they are still having trouble coming out of the corners due to lack of traction. However, the race - as Alboreto himself maintains - is long, 78 laps, and there is room for hope. Michele Alboreto fought with grit to achieve his time, throwing a lot of courage into the challenge. The last and decisive qualifying session had a merit: apart from the confirmations of the first in the class, it also highlighted the value of riders who are usually relegated to the back rows, and through no fault of their own. What about Alessandro Nannini, thirteenth time with Minardi?
The Italian is really strong, and in Monaco he took to the track without the slightest fear. And then still we imagined an Alessandro Caffi almost a rookie, sixteenth with the Osella? the Turin-based manufacturer is struggling with health problems. He hasn't slept through the night, is restless and nearly collapses. The performance of the young Caffi restores his strength and helps him overcome the crisis. In total crisis Instead it is Teo Fabi, a lover of high speeds, of Indianapolis-type rings. Struggling with a Benetton burdened by terrible understeer and with an engine whose response comes a moment late, the Italian driver doesn't hide his weakness. This is also a form of courage. As always happens, the race should be split into two parts by tire changes. The pits are tight, the risks of making a mistake are great. It is part of the game of this roulette. They could have a determining weight, given that some teams fear even two stops. The battle between the cars with naturally aspirated engines promises to be exciting. They are slower than those with the turbos, but the fight between them is very close, without quarter. On Saturday the best is Jonathan Palmer with the Tyrrell, fifteenth in the classification of times. But Philippe Alliot and Ivan Capelli will hunt him down. And it's not excluded that if the selection is tough among the top single-seaters, some of them won't finally end up in the points. In the meantime, the driver market seems to have fallen asleep. Perhaps having arrived at the crucial stage (it is always in this period that negotiations are started or concluded) the indiscretions become fleeting and uncertain. Much depends, in all probability, on the decisions that Alain Prost will take. If he stays at McLaren, movement will be quite limited; if he changes, it could cause a jerky movement capable of transforming several teams. But if the drivers at the moment think above all of this World Championship, that doesn't mean that there aren't movements in Formula 1, even important ones. Tires for example. It has always been said that tires play a determining role in results, that you can work a year to gain 0.5 seconds a lap with aerodynamics and engine power and you can lose a championship for a tire that blows. Well, something important is maturing in this field too.
We are currently in a monopoly with Goodyear supplying all the teams. But the contracts that the American company has with some of its favorite teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, Williams and Arrows) will expire at the end of the year. It is therefore not excluded that other brands are pressing to enter or return to Formula 1. There is talk of Pirelli which is allegedly seeking an agreement with Ferrari itself, there is talk of Michelin, intending to revive its laurels, there are whispers of the Japanese ready to get in the front row, either with Bridgestone or with Yokohama. Goodyear itself, moreover, does not like the current situation. When there's a monopoly, a win isn't worth much, given that everyone rides with the same tyres, while if there are problems (see Imola) the supplier is immediately accused. The technicians of the Akron company have prepared a document from which the reasons for the difficulties encountered can be understood. First of all - they say - it is impossible to avoid pit stops to change tires. Due to the considerable power of the engines, the cars need enormous traction, which can only be obtained with relatively soft compounds. Harder tires would constantly skid under acceleration and wear out quickly. One possible solution would be to increase the size of the tires. However, the measures are bound by the regulations, established by the Concorde Agreement, studied when the engines had 500 HP and not 900 HP. The technical discussion continues with other details. Radial tyres, for example, are ultra-sensitive to inflation pressures. Getting this delicate operation wrong means losing traction in case of excess and a fall in lateral grip in case of defect. You could increase the tread thickness, but too thick a size would cause more heating. A lot also depends on the downforce And then there are variable factors. While running, the tires can pick up small stones or metal fragments which cause slow or immediate punctures. Cars with a full tank of petrol and an empty tank cause different tire wear. A real puzzle, difficult to solve. Despite everything, however, there are those who are thinking of entering Formula 1.
Sunday 31 May 1987, at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell sprints in front of everyone, with arrogance, to immediately make it clear that he is the strongest. Ayrton Senna lets him do it. Only Michele Alboreto, increasingly loved by the crowd of Ferrari fans, didn't give up. And at the start Alain Prost passes, a somewhat uncertain start, perhaps fearful of getting involved in an accident. And, in fact, something happens behind the first ones: Philippe Alliot, Satoru Nakajima and Piercarlo Ghinzani touch in S. Devote. The Frenchman was forced to return to the pits to carry out a check, the Italian changed the nose of his Ligier, the Japanese remained stationary on the track, let himself be pushed by the marshals and then continued with a full chase, finishing in tenth position. Shortly afterwards, at the Portier curve, Stefan Johansson also ran into an oversight: author of a spin, the Swedish driver loses precious time. He was in the rear when he was forced to retire due to the failure of his McLaren's engine. Thierry Boutsen (he was eighth) also out with the Benetton transmission not working, Nigel Mansell begins to increase the pace. Followed by Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Michele Alboreto, Alain Prost, Eddie Cheever and Gerhard Berger. The English accumulates a ten-second advantage over the Brazilian. But at the exit of the tunnel, during lap 29, the turbine pressure drops and Ayrton Senna takes the lead of the race. For Nigel Mansell all that remains is the withdrawal from the race. Shortly after the drivers return to the pits to change tires. First Michele Alboreto (stop of 9.11 seconds), then Alain Prost (7.55 seconds), then Gerhard Berger and finally Nelson Piquet. These stops allow Ayrton Senna to conquer, thanks also to a much higher pace, an unbridgeable advantage: over 45 seconds over Nelson Piquet. Basically, the Brazilian with his Lotus active suspension, driven by a sophisticated computer, is no longer reached by anyone. The Brazilian performed a series of very fast laps, obtaining the fastest lap in 1'27"685. When Senna also entered the pits to change tyres, his rivals could only fight for second place.
Nelson Piquet firmly anchored in second position and Alain Prost, moved into third position, after overtaking a wild Eddie Cheever (perhaps author of the best performance among the pursuers). Finally, Michele Alboreto. slowed down by overtaking and by an insufficiently competitive car. But even Alain Prost, already warned by signals of black smoke coming from the engine of his McLaren, is not calm. While the two Arrows retire in a few moments (Cheever with a melted engine and Warwick with a broken gear lever), the Frenchman is forced to slow down. With two laps to go, the McLaren slowed down dramatically and the World Champion returned to the garage. So Michele Alboreto moves up to third position and Gerhard Berger, despite struggling after having lightly rear-ended Arnoux (the Frenchman signaled him to pass, then closed the trajectory), moves up to fourth position. Ayrton Senna wins the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by Nelson Piquet, Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger. Much further back, physically at least seven kilometers away, Jonathan Palmer finished in fifth place and Ivan Capelli, reigning Formula 3000 European champion, conquered that sixth place which is not only worth a point but also a precious affirmation for his team. It should have been the day of Nigel Mansell or Alain Prost and instead it was Ayrton Senna who dominated the Monaco Grand Prix, a boring race, without jolts, good for propitiating a good night's sleep in front of the television. Not an overtaking, not even one. Senna, however, ennobled this race with a perfect driving, without errors, preceding his compatriot Nelson Piquet and Michele Alboreto on the finish line, who finished for the second time in the season on the lowest step of the podium. Ferrari's positive balance is completed by Gerhard Berger's fourth place, but the merits are relative. The Austrian arrived at the finish line one lap behind Ayrton Senna. For the young Lotus ace there are a series of firsts to his credit: he is the first Brazilian driver to win at Monte-Carlo, the first to bring success to a car with active suspension, the first to establish himself with a car powered by a Honda engine. And furthermore Ayrton Senna has fully relaunched himself and others in the World Championship, given that Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell have not scored any points. Ayrton Senna, who is not in the habit of praising his car, says:
"It was a difficult race. My Lotus wasn't perfect and I had to work hard not to go off the track. I don't want to sound immodest, but this success is above all due to the commitment of the rider".
This statement by Ayrton Senna is enough to remove the McLaren label from the World Championship. Black day for the English team, with Stefan Johansson never in the race and Alain Prost retiring two laps from the end, when he was in third position, both due to the failure of the Tag-Porsche engine. It's not little. If the show hasn't been there, at least Ayrton Senna has prepared it for the future. And, fortunately, there were no serious accidents, even if some risks were taken (see Philippe Streiff crashed into a guardrail). The cries of alarm, the headlines of the international press, the speeches of these days have at least served to avoid rash actions by the pilots. The dreaded start did not register any incidents and Ayrton Senna let Nigel Mansell let off steam with a burning but useless sprint, given that the Englishman was blocked after 29 laps by the failure of an exhaust which caused the turbo pressure to drop. As far as Ferrari is concerned, the situation has not changed compared to the recent past. The overall result is positive, 7 points between two, but the gap with Lotus, Williams and McLaren remains, even if compared to Alain Prost's team, the Maranello team has regained its reliability. Michele Alboreto confirmed his skills as a combative driver. A few words also for the derelict naturally aspirated engines that should represent the future of Formula 1: in Monaco, for the first time two cars without a turbo engine entered the points zone. Jonathan Palmer fifth with the Tyrrell, sixth the excellent Ivan Capelli with the March. They fought and fought, but few noticed them. Lee lacocca, the boss of Chrysler, the Detroit giant, is present in Monte-Carlo to read into the future and also to get some publicity, he who opens the race with the flag of the Principality clutched in his hands on an amaranth-colored Chrysler Maserati, with the people applauding, the sky and the sea. Looking satiatedly around the crowd and the sun, Lee lacocca replies:
"Yes, it will be nice".
He smokes a cigar, and in the pocket of his black jacket he keeps a brown comb, which he takes out every now and then and straightens his hair. The question is: president, today you set off first, would you like it if tomorrow the pole position fell to one of your cars? And under the black glasses, and further down still, the sweet thought that maybe everything is a new mine, where you just need to dig to find the treasure. One hundred billion graciously offered on the plate to Prince Rainier. Monte-Carlo is a bedlam of heat and cheering. Glued to the wall of the Rocca, patient under the sun, clinging to the eaves of the houses, to the balconies of the skyscrapers, one hundred thousand people, the faithful subjects of the car, have paid their tribute. And in return? What did they get in exchange for so much love? Not even an overtaking, an emotion, a moment to suffer and rejoice. The most complete boredom: or is it only the result that counts? Lee lacocca, who shows that he enjoys the evolution of an airplane, even before the competition, and points to the sky and laughs, perhaps he was amused. The noise, the colour, the flags and the people, all of this must have reminded him of his America of him, who knows, certain electoral campaigns, perhaps the race for the White House. Giovanni Agnelli, on the other hand, is not on the starting grid, if we can put it this way: the lawyer is a man of sport, and apart from the placement of the Ferraris, the podium for Michele Alboreto, all good reasons to celebrate, he must have sensed boredom and preferred to stay elsewhere. What about the atmosphere, the secret charm of Monte-Carlo all dressed up for racing? It's a script that repeats itself, the boats in the bay and the cars on the track, the beautiful people, the tremors and tremors before the start, the struggle to see a fragment of the road. When Ayrton Senna, as everyone has known for a long time, has won the Grand Prix of his dreams and takes the stage to receive laurels and honors, the tension melts away and the boy puts his hat on his head, before bowing to Ranieri, and then takes it off to listen to the national anthem.
Next to him, Michele Alboreto draws a smile from his exhausted face and Nelson Piquet has the sulky look of a child left without a toy. Then Ayrton Senna takes up the winner's bottle, like a rifle, and shoots splashes of champagne at everyone, princes and princelings included. Ranieri starts laughing and Caroline, in a pink dress and hat and dark glasses, moves away with a vaguely graceful step.
"It's not the most beautiful victory, because my joy would be to finish first in Brazil. But for now I'm happy: this is a prestigious race and I'm happy with the success I've built up in practice and lap by lap in the race, without letting myself get carried away by the desire to overdo it. I knew that Mansell risked a lot by attacking and I let him. He paid with a break, we also have to think about the car".
Says Ayrton Senna, the first Brazilian to add his name to a long line of champions who have made the history of a glamorous Grand Prix. But it was a Sunday without emotions, without history, made up only of retreats, of little troubles. There were no thrills even on the dreaded route. Only one thrill was experienced during the ride. Starring Philippe Streiff with his Tyrrell. The Frenchman, who had already been involved in a terrifying accident in the Belgian Grand Prix, with the car broken in two, this time ended up against a guardrail. It happened on the tenth lap, on the climb that leads to the Casino, before the bend that leads into the square. The pilot says:
"I braked, but the car continued along its trajectory as if I hadn't pressed the pedal. I ran into the barriers at full speed and the car got stuck in the metal. The cockpit squeezed, I couldn't get out. How scary, then the commissioners managed to get me out. I didn't hurt myself, but it was a miracle".
The Tyrrell got stuck in a very dangerous point, thirty meters after the crane that is used in these cases to move the damaged cars. The rescue men had to work with long metal levers, while the racing cars darted a few meters away. Luckily a fire didn't break out, otherwise the pilot wouldn't have had a chance. Then Streiff jumped out, limping, but unharmed. Nelson Piquet is certainly a sincere driver. He hides nothing at the end of the race: his happiness for finishing second in a race that he absolutely doesn't like, the problems that tormented him, the superiority shown on this occasion by his teammate, Nigel Mansell:
"These six points are like a gift, I didn't expect it and honestly if there hadn't been so many retirements I might have finished further back. I hate this circuit. And as if that weren't enough, the race tormented me, again due to the after-effects of the accident at Imola. I had a bandaged ankle and my neck ached, with every braking, with every acceleration. I arrived at the finish line physically exhausted, I couldn't take it anymore. In addition, I had some problems: the second and third gears that didn't fit well. When I realized that Senna was traveling at a pace that was impossible for me, I had to settle for it. Mansell? We have identical cars, the difference was made by the driver".
The Englishman hears nothing of this compliment, as he had gone away, furious, after the forced withdrawal. Nigel Mansell had released only a few bad words and a few fragmented sentences:
"The car was perfect and I feel like I drove as well as I could. I only slowed down when they warned me not to risk too much from the pits. I could have even gone faster. Then I felt the turbo give out and that was the end of it. Too bad, it was a magnificent opportunity and I deserved a full result".
Prost can also complain, but the Frenchman, who is still firmly in command of the World Championship standings, is more diplomatic:
"It happens, so is racing, one time it's good, another time it's bad. I quickly realized it wasn't my day. After twenty laps I noticed black smoke in the rear view mirrors. An oil leak. So I couldn't force it. In fact, I was a long way behind Alboreto and Cheever, who didn't hinder me. It was my car that didn't allow me to overtake them. I still thought I'd at least get to the end, to collect some points. But right on the penultimate lap the engine gave way with a seized cylinder due to lack of the necessary oil. Now it gets tougher, because in Detroit it will be another lottery".
Among the unfortunate also Riccardo Patrese, considered one of the most dangerous outsiders.
"It was not a race but an ordeal. The electrical box of my Brabham has never worked properly and I was forced to make a series of stops. I'm sorry because it was a favorable moment and the car, apart from the contingent problems, isn't bad. Time passes, I've been in Formula 1 for a decade and I can't express myself as I could".
A few words also for Gerard Ducarouge, technical manager of Lotus:
"This victory does not mean that electronic suspension is infallible. It went well, but it's not a revolutionary system like miniskirts. It can give some small advantage in certain circuits and there is still a lot to work on. Perhaps in the future it could be a winning weapon".
Meanwhile, the media tell Michele Alboreto, who is glued to his chair with black eyes and covered in sweat, that he looks tired. And he touches his neck and his feet, and shows his hands. His skin peels off in shreds.
"I didn't bandage them, I was afraid my fingers would swell. And her feet ached near the end. I had to grit my teeth, my problem, mine not the car, was physical resistance. Do you remember the incident on Thursday?"
Tired yes, but cheerful and happy. After the race and the interviews, both tiring in their own way, Michele Alboreto goes to seek some peace under the Ferrari awning. However, he doesn't know that the fans are waiting strong and compact, ready for the siege. The faithful of the Maranello team descended from their positions under the Rocca. A sign says, to the tune of a song:
"Ferrari, you can give more... to Alboreto".
Michele set off to the race to applause, he returned to the ovations. Under the red tent there is a party and champagne. Says Piero Lardi Ferrari, the son of Enzo Ferrari, and all more or less, amid so much confusion, agree in their judgments:
"We took the two cars to the finish, and that means the cars are reliable and competitive. Well done Michael. With Prost we could have fought, with the Honda engines there was nothing to do".
Well done Michele, and Michele shuts himself up in the motorhome and calls Maranello on the phone.
"I am satisfied and it seemed to me that the engineer Ferrari was too".
And so the party goes on. Michele Alboreto praises the organization of the team, the radio connections are perfect, the instructions are appropriate, then he allows himself a bit of relaxation.
"We have reached the maximum goal, I couldn't do more. Whoever was in front of me was faster. Prost? Everyone breaks their engine, don't I have to thank heaven for that? We had the usual problems with traction, cornering and then we lost compared to the others. And then the tyres, good at the start, but goodbye grip as you warm up. I had to stop earlier than expected to change them, I had Johansson and Brundle in front and I couldn't pass them. After that I tried to keep the pace high and not make any mistakes. All ok, but I was more satisfied with the third place at Imola: it was the first podium after a long negative series. Now there is another street circuit, Detroit, and we have to work hard to improve".
Michele Alboreto speaks in one breath, while the Ferrari faithful try to touch him like a sacred relic and he explains how and where we need to improve.
"We have to work to unleash the full power of our engine".
As early as Monday, at Le Castellet, where the teams will carry out tests and trials in view of the next Grand Prix in the United States. Gerhard Berger, on the other hand, is furious with René Arnoux. The Austrian driver participates in the party, a fourth place is not to be refused, but that maneuver by the Frenchman has remained in his throat, as annoying as a fish bone. Ten laps to go, out of the tunnel and before the chicane.
"Arnoux was in front, I started overtaking and he signaled me to pass. Then he changed his mind and we touched: I lost 14 seconds, and after that my car was useless".
And while the others smile from afar, a team finally relaxed, he stays gloomy and secluded. Men more than machines, fate more than technology. Says the technical director of Scuderia Ferrari, John Barnard:
"It wasn't the active suspension win, it was Mansell's loss. I don't think active suspension is the future".
And the sporting director of the Maranello team, Marco Piccinini, concludes:
"I was more satisfied at Imola, I confess, but with all the troubles that have happened to us, the accident at Alboreto, the race against time to get Berger's car back on track, let's just say that third and fourth places are not to be thrown away. Indeed, it is a result that opens up good prospects for the near future. We also used the radio for the first time yesterday to communicate with the drivers, and I have to say that the results were excellent. Alboreto knew exactly when it was time to change the tyres, for example: this too is a very useful detail that we will have to take care of and perfect".
For March it is a great celebration, almost like a victory, thanks to the sixth place conquered by Ivan Capelli. Leyton House's Japanese sponsors almost go mad with happiness. The point earned will allow the team to enter the Builders' Association, and that's no small thing.
"I'm especially happy for the team, because this was a good injection of confidence. I had a good start and could have even fought with Palmer for fifth place, but my tires were in bad shape and I preferred not to risk too much. I hope to repeat myself in Detroit, another track where naturally aspirated engines can say something, at least for placings".
Great performance by Alex Caffi, forced to retire due to a fault in the electronic control unit. The Italian rider rode like a small champion, with great care and for three laps he even managed to stay in tenth position. A good demonstration, given the limited resources available. Unlucky race, however, for Alessandro, who had to race with the reserve car as he had broken a joint on the starting lap. Monday, May 1, 1987, Michele Alboreto takes a boat ride, just to distract himself. Sport is a constant passion for the Italian driver: driving he loads and unloads, it doesn't matter if it's a Formula 1 single-seater or a motorboat. We need to dispose of the toxins accumulated in a Monaco Grand Prix which perhaps marked an important turning point for the Ferrari driver. After a negative start to the season in all respects, Michele Alboreto has finally begun to reap the first results of his commitment. Third at Imola, third again in the most prestigious race. But maybe it's not just the results that give Alboreto the feeling of being able to face the future with greater confidence. Perhaps it is the Alboreto man, more than the pilot Alboreto, who has found satisfaction and recognition. Good for morale, an incentive to seek what has been denied up to now. First of all in the family: his wife Nadia is expecting a baby. It is a completion, the filling of a void that pilots, aware of living a risky life, often leave open. Better not have problems running through your head. Instead Michele wanted, just now, because he feels mature, to increase affection. Secondly the racing. The visit of Giovanni Agnelli on Friday morning, the words of encouragement from the president of Fiat. And then the support of the fans. The crowd loves him now. People understood the dedication of the pilot and also understood his value. Before the relationship was quite cold.
"Those applauses, those shouts of support did me a lot of good. They gave me the strength to fight in a difficult moment. And Sunday's race wasn't easy either. Unfortunately, our Ferraris are not yet competitive. There is a lack of traction, perhaps we go better on fast circuits. For the Detroit race we should have a new suspension which I hope to test at Fiorano next week. Maybe".
Senna's victory does not impress Michele Alboreto.
"I think Williams is still the top car at the moment. If Mansell didn't break the engine, he was sure to win. They have a very powerful engine, the best traction. They, Mansell and Piquet, are my favorites for the title. Always with an eye to Prost who is good and has exceptional experience".
But aren't relations within Ferrari a problem?
"Relations are now good, the Italian bloc is perfect, after three years of working together. We are getting to know the others now, we need to give them time. After all, I've always said that I have the utmost confidence in Barnard, as a coach".
And with Berger?
"It's not a problem. It is normal for riders to have competitive rivalries. I think Gerhard values me for my qualities, as I appreciate him for his. As long as they don't pit us against each other, in the wrong way. We must not misrepresent the facts and then everything will be fine".
"Ferrari is doing everything possible to return to the top. Unfortunately, the work to be faced is a lot, many small things to put together. A difficult puzzle, with many tiles. But I believe in it, otherwise I wouldn't have stayed in Mannello".
We talk about Michele Alboreto at Williams:
"Maybe that means I can still Interest some teams… No, all made up stories. It is normal that in the context of the riders market many names come up. There are no problems: I'm calm about 1988".
But when will we win again?
"This is an unanswered question. Let's say that we hope to get there within a few races".