Losers in the British Grand Prix waste no time. Tuesday 14th July 1987 they all descend on the Hockenheim track, where the German Grand Prix will take place on Sunday 26th July 1987. Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus carry out a day of testing with Michele Alboreto, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. But the results are not exciting. Very few laps, many pit stops. The best time is set by Michele Alboreto (eight laps in all), who laps in 1'49"72. A far cry from the pole position obtained last year by Keke Rosberg, with a time of 1'42"013. Worse still were Alain Prost (five laps, 1'50"27) and Ayrton Senna, who dragged himself along the circuit without significant lap times. Ferrari sent a laboratory car to Mannello. It is also true that these tests often do not have a precise or in any case understandable meaning if you do not know the research being done. The impression of the observers, however, is that of a certain confusion, in all three teams present. Still with regard to the Maranello team, nothing particularly different from what has been seen in the last few races has been noticed. There are many problems with the systems. Maybe you work on the engine, aerodynamics and chassis at the same time. At the end of the day, the Ferrari mechanics credit Michele Alboreto with an applause of encouragement for the platonic pole position conquered for the occasion.
"We got the best possible result: four cars in the first four places. We are satisfied, but we must continue to work because the road is still long".
Thus, in calm terms, Jositoshi Sakurai expresses himself on Sunday evening, after the British Grand Prix. The engineer Sakurai He is responsible for Honda for Formula 1. An anonymous Japanese, like many others. And this is one of the main characteristics of the powerful Japanese company. Technicians are just interchangeable pawns. No characters in sight, no wizards to revere and incense. The technicians and mechanics sent from Tokyo to follow the teams stop for a few months at Williams and Lotus, then disappear into thin air, often replaced by other teams. They are specialists in various sectors, with very specific tasks. It can also be assumed that one does not know what the other is doing. The mastermind is in Tokyo, in the research department, and his name is Nobuhiko Kawamoto. He is the president of Honda Research and Development. He too is rarely seen, preferring to stay in one of the three offices that he manages, where prototypes for mass production, racing motorcycles and racing engines are developed (to which 100 technicians are dedicated). Honda had competed without great results (two victories) in Formula 1 from 1964 to 1968. But in the aggressive development policy of the Japanese brand, the world of Grand Prix had always remained in its sights. Thus in 1982 a long-term participation program was launched. Preparation of a six-cylinder turbo engine entrusted in 1983 to a second-tier team, Spirit, then the contract with Williams and, this year, with Lotus. initial investment $100.000.000. A few crushing defeats, many disappointments. And the smiles of some naive. But nothing has affected the Honda men who have continued their meticulous work. Photographers unleashed in all the circuits to understand the secrets of the other single-seaters, comparisons, checks, modifications, experiments, research of new materials. The engines have been rebuilt and redone several times. On some occasions they were brought in pieces, from Japan, by plane, as hand luggage by several people, to speed things up. The Williams and Lotus pits are now invaded by the Japanese. Away from prying eyes, they maneuver science-fiction tools, computers, radio data transmission systems. Everything is under control, moment by moment, thanks to highly advanced electronics. Camshafts, heads, pistons, compressors, turbines, exhausts are subjected to continuous radiography. But Honda doesn't just want to win, it wants to overturn Formula 1. While the Williams drivers compete for victories, fighting each other and against Senna (this is another secret to becoming more competitive, making teams and drivers rivals, without partiality), it seems that various naturally aspirated engines are already running in Tokyo: an eight, a ten and a twelve cylinder. Next year, it is known, the pressure of the turbos will have to be lowered to 2.5 bar and the naturally aspirated ones will become more competitive, even if at the moment it seems that the supercharged ones will still have some advantages in terms of power.
For this reason, the Japanese company could open another European branch, in order to broaden its field of action. It seems that Bernie Ecclestone, through a Nelson Piquet intending to return to Brabham, is willing to give his cars to serve as a guinea pig for the new engines. And who will be able to stop Honda anymore? While on the one hand the Japanese engine makers continue their journey with great successes, the Scuderia Ferrari wants to move on. At the halfway point of the Formula 1 World Championship, Mannello's team tries to give itself an image, if not new, at least different. Better relations with the press, more explanations, hoping to understand something more about what is happening and what could happen. This attitude won't make the cars run faster, but it will be a step forward compared to the past and perhaps it will make the environment more serene. John Barnard will arrive on Friday 24 July 1987, after the conclusion of the first day of testing. The English designer is overloaded with work in Guilford and perhaps he would not have even wanted to come to Hockenheim. He's working on the 1988 car, but he should also work on the single-seater that's on the track now to get better results. Harvey Postlethwaite's presence is linked to his position as Head of Aerodynamics. Better to see on the spot if there is the possibility of intervening, also because, according to Marco Piccinini, there are some small innovations to try: a different rear section, new spoilers, air intakes, hub carriers... The turning point takes place on the anniversary of the last Ferrari victory. Two years ago (but it was raced at the Nurburgring) Michele Alboreto preceded Alain Prost and Jacques Laffite on the finish line. Since then only placements. In 1986, at the end of the race, won by Nelson Piquet, the balance was bad: Michele Alboreto retired after six laps due to a transmission failure, Stefan Johansson eleventh at the finish line. Remember the Italian driver:
"It seems like a century ago since I got on the top step of the podium. Now we can't have any illusions about it, everything doesn't change within a week. I hope to get to the end of the race, because if we succeed we can show that this car is not exactly bad. Even if Williams is out of reach of all rivals, it should at least be battling with the others, i.e. McLaren and Lotus. It would be important to be able to fine-tune the F1-87s".
The speech of the Italian driver, very calm, suggests between the lines that he expects a different treatment from the one suffered so far and probably the presence of Postlethwaite should also guarantee a more accurate preparation of the two cars, than Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger. The English coach was absent from the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, except for a few sporadic appearances (at Imola) without precise duties. By removing a part of certain direct responsibilities, Barnard will have no more excuses and above all will not cause environmental damage. Said of Ferrari, we must also speak of Hockenheim. A circuit of around 240 km/h in qualifying and an average of 218 km/h for the race. Nelson Piquet won last year and now Williams is back in full sail, with only one doubt: the Brazilian or his teammate Nigel Mansell, who already has three first places to his credit? It's kind of the last hope for everyone. For Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, if they still want to hope to fight for the World Championship, and for Nelson Piquet himself. If the latter is still beaten, starting from the following Hungarian Grand Prix, all Williams will line up for the Englishman. It was a Scottish, or rather German, shower that fell on Ferrari on Friday 24 July 1987, during the first day of qualifying for the German Grand Prix. Tepid and sweet water for Michele Alboreto (fifth time and moderate progress), freezing and bitter for Gerhard Berger, tenth, and above all author of a spectacular and mysterious exit from the track at about 280 km/h, fortunately without damage, if not to the car. The fastest, once again, is Nigel Mansell, the man of the moment. The Englishman sets the fastest lap in 1'42"616, at an average speed of 238.454 km/h, very close to the track record held by Keke Rosberg who set a time of 1'42"013 last year with McLaren . However, we must not forget that now there are no longer qualifying tires and that the turbos are limited to 4 bar of pressure. Williams' superiority, however, was not as clear-cut as at Le Castellet and Silverstone. Just over 0.2 seconds ahead of Ayrton Senna's Lotus and less than 0.6 seconds ahead of Alain Prost's McLaren.
Nelson Piquet was in trouble, and only in the last few minutes (after being stopped for a long time in the pits due to a problem with a heat exchanger fitting) did he conquer the fourth position by overtaking Michele Alboreto. Even Ferrari, however, is close to the best, lapping 1.3 seconds slower in a circuit of 6797. And this bodes well for the race. Michele Alboreto says:
"I'm satisfied, because the car is well balanced, it drives without problems, we took care of the set-up and the results showed".
As is known, John Barnard is not present, but Harvey Postlethwaite is. A smaller (but double-winged) rear wing was mounted on Michele Alboreto's single-seater and air intakes were inserted for the turbines of different periscope designs. The new aerodynamic configuration has reduced top speed (Piquet 342 km/h, Alboreto 329 km/h) but evidently improved traction and road holding. On the other hand, the accident involving Gerhard Berger is worrying. The Austrian's car skidded at the end of the straight of the pits starting off for the tangent in a spin, a driver attempted a desperate braking and it went well. Ferrari, after a long carom, ended up with the rear end against protections made with piles of tyres. Only the wing and one rear suspension were damaged.
"How scary, the car suddenly took off at the braking point. Certainly something gave".
When the Ferrari #28 is brought back to the pits, it is noticed that even the front left suspension, despite having remained completely attached to the body, is bent. Marco Piccinini explains later:
"We are investigating, it could be an assembly defect or something was wrong with the material. We will see in Maranello with careful checks".
The suspicion remains that these suspensions designed by John Barnard and made by suppliers in England are in any case too weak, given that if not identical but similar problems had already occurred at Le Castellet and Silverstone. A suspension that gives way suddenly is one of the most dangerous breakdowns that can happen. The consequences are unpredictable. A problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. But there are also those who have hypothesized an error by Berger himself. It seems that the Austrian has a habit of cutting the chicanes to go faster, passing over the curbs. And a blow at those speeds could also have caused damage, progressively accentuated up to bending the suspension arms. But this is, as has been said, an assumption. The fact remains that the serious inconvenience has occurred on several occasions. In the meantime we are now in the final squeeze of the market-drivers and there are rumors of large movements. At the center is Ayrton Senna who would like to change team. The Brazilian is not satisfied with the Lotus organization and the results. He would have had offers from McLaren and Williams. If Senna were to become Prost's team-mate, he could bring Honda engines to McLaren for next year. The young man is linked to the Japanese company and for this reason he would have denied himself to Ferrari. Williams did not renew Nelson Piquet's contract by offering Thierry Boutsen the job. As a countermove, Benetton asserted its option on the Belgian driver, who however could free himself by paying a penalty. Should the mosaic be completed with Ayrton Senna at McLaren and Thierry Boutsen at Williams, Nelson Piquet could return to Brabham or end up at Lotus. Games that should be completed shortly: teams and drivers want to find stable arrangements within a short time to plan for 1988, in which naturally aspirated engines will make a comeback, even if turbos should still have some advantages. The heart of the fans always beats for Ferrari. Criticisms, controversies, a few shouts from the grandstands in front of the pits, but also banners of encouragement and flags.
There are those who would like the coach (Barnard) to be kicked out as happens in football when results are lacking, but in the end love and the hope of a comeback prevail. A comeback that John Barnard does not foresee in the short term. On Saturday morning, the English designer is the protagonist of a kind of press conference, in which he tries to clarify doubts and problems. Seated with folded arms (psychologists argue that it is a defensive attitude), next to Marco Piccinini, with the two pilots, Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger alongside, John Barnard almost undergoes a trial in front of about fifty photographers and journalists. The result is a sort of curious happening, between jokes and brutal questions. Why isn't Ferrari working?
"Ask the pilots...".
How did the story of the interview with the Sunday Times end?
"I received a letter from the director. He admitted that some statements were fabricated. And even the translations in Italy have in some cases been misrepresented. The story is closed".
Why didn't he show up in the first days of testing at Le Castellet and here at Hockenheim?
"The time has come when it can be more important to stay in the office and work. It is a very busy period, with programs that will be decisive for the future. If that's the reason, I think I'll also miss some races".
Will you have a turbocharged or naturally aspirated engine in 1988?
"No decision yet".
Is it true that there will be a new car at Monza?
"No. I'm working for next year, but there will also be constant development of the current single-seater".
Do you foresee that something better can be done before the end of the season?
"Yes. The car can become more competitive. We have already studied several modifications and others are planned".
A hot topic: isn't it a problem to work in England and then build the cars in Maranello?
"There are no difficulties. The reference is Enzo Ferrari, he decides. For me he is just more tiring. I have to travel a lot".
Marco Piccinini intervenes:
"The English headquarters will never have the possibility and the ability to replace Maranello. It's just an open door on world technology: A review after nine months. What is there really to change at Ferrari? 'Difficult to answer in a few words. The central problem is the current car. When we're more competitive, everything will be easier".
Are the failures recorded so far attributable to the experiments you are carrying out?
"We are not looking for risks. As for Berger's accident, with the bent suspension, it could also have been caused by an accidental factor. Everything is under control and when we have found defects we have changed and strengthened".
Were you surprised by the sudden confirmation of the two pilots?
"No. It's a time when it's not easy to take riders away from a team. Better to play it safe".
Problems with the Italian press?
"I take care of the technique. If I had to read everything that is written, I could end up in a mental hospital".
But does he feel at war?
"All Formula 1 is a war".
Are you shy or careless?
"I try hard not to get involved in controversy. Of course he will never become an avid reader of Italian newspapers".
It seems that you don't even like the current Ferrari single-seaters...
"The team's structure is designed to manage the available cars well. However, it is normal that we work for the future, without forgetting the present".
How are things going with Michele Alboreto?
"There are no problems. It is an invention of journalists. We have to work together".
Let's go back to the results. When a win?
"If I had been able to work with my own car it would have been easier. But it is difficult in any case. And even more difficult to make predictions".
A few hours already late, a rainy, gray and sad day made the second qualifying session null and void. The line-up for the German Grand Prix, therefore, does not change compared to Friday: Nigel Mansell remains in pole position (the sixth of the season out of eight races), followed by the other three Formula 1 musketeers. In order, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. Behind them follows Michele Alboreto. If in Alboreto the new wing had guaranteed the third row, it didn't bring much benefit to Gerhard Berger, given that it detached and flew onto the fortunately semi-deserted grandstands, causing a spectacular crash. When the car was brought back to the pits, the Ferrari men realized that nothing had been recovered from the spoiler. Hence a protest from Ferrari with the organizers, who are generally required to keep the wrecks stationary on the side of the track. And so, out of zeal, the organizers themselves start asking for help over the loudspeaker, transforming everything into a gigantic joke that makes the whole of Hockenheim laugh:
"Whoever has found a red and black aileron is asked to hand it over to the management".
The loudspeaker repeats this message in English and German for a long time, until finally someone introduces himself:
"Interested in this little black piece?"
They ask for the crowds of people intent on bringing crumbs of what was a wing, for the simple reason that the rightful owner, Ferrari, had promised in exchange a wing of another type and a ticket to follow the race from the pits. The presence of the Brazilian from Lotus in the front row next to the English from Williams brings back the duel - and the risks - of other races, even if the main reason for the race concerns the battle that Nigel Mansell will have to engage in for 44 laps with his direct rivals, including his teammate, Nelson Piquet. The points up for grabs are too precious right now for an exaggeratedly reckless start. Nigel Mansell is quite calm and aware of the importance of the moment, and tells the media:
"Four of us can win, my car is going very well, I'm in good shape".
The Englishman asks the photographers (a sign in many languages was hung in the Williams pits in this regard) not to shoot flashes to film him before the start:
"At Silverstone I was fired upon at close range and at the start I had stars in my eyes which prevented me from seeing normally".
The weather forecasts are not negative, but the British driver points out that the Hockenheim circuit becomes very dangerous in case of rain:
"Under water it's terrible, the worst in the world. Asphalt does not absorb and visibility is nil. Also due to the trees surrounding the track, the dust remains suspended in the air. Distances shorten and when you think you are 100 meters from another car, maybe you find yourself very close".
The others, namely Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet, are not pessimistic, at least they are hoping for victory.
But it doesn't go too far in predictions, also in order not to be contradicted by the facts. Sunday 26 July 1987, at the start of the German Grand Prix Nigel Mansell is a bit slow in sprinting. And in fact both Ayrton Senna pass it, very fast as usual, and Alain Prost. But after a few hundred metres, the Englishman overtook the McLaren and followed the Brazilian to immediately break away after completing the first lap. Good start from Gerhard Berger and immediate attack from Michele Alboreto. The Italian driver tries to pass Ayrton Senna. The difficult manoeuvre, gives the Belgian driver of Benetton, Thierry Boutsen, the opportunity to take advantage of a gap. But Michele Alboreto replies immediately, standing in front of the Belgian's car. The illusion, however, does not last long. During lap 10 Michele Alboreto can be seen slowing down to enter the pits with a turbine out of order. On the twentieth lap Gerhard Berger (seventh) also gets stuck along the circuit with the engine. The Austrian was forced to return to the garage on foot, after a kind of forced march of a couple of kilometres. Eddie Cheever (broken throttle wire, lap 9), Andrea De Cesaris (engine, lap 12), author of a good race, Riccardo Patrese (ignition problem, lap 5), eliminated by the failure of the electronic control unit, also disappear from the scene , then Derek Warwick, who arrives in the slow part of the circuit with the car on fire during lap 23, Teo Fabi (lap 18) and Thierry Boutsen himself (lap 26), forced to retire due to failure of the Ford engines. In short, the platoon is thinning a lot. . Meanwhile Alain Prost continues to set the pace, also giving the impression of containing well the ambitions of Nigel Mansell. the Frenchman stops first in the box to change tyres. However, when it's Nigel Mansell's turn to make the plt stop, the situation is restored and Alain Prost increases his advantage, bringing it to 4.4 seconds. The British driver therefore decides to force the pace to recover the disadvantage against the French driver, but his action is interrupted due to the failure of the engine. Perhaps Mansell also demanded too much, as he sets an extraordinary fastest lap of 1'45"716, a track record, at an average of 231.462 km/h. For Prost the game seems to be done, given that even if he competes in absolute safety, with high times to avoid danger, he cannot be bothered by Nelson Piquet, who is in turn struggling with an unstable car.
The Brazilian recovers something and goes up to 17 seconds. But during lap 39 he sees himself giving the victory to the McLaren # 1, blocked by the alternator failure. Nelson Piquet thus wins the German Grand Prix. Behind him the very good Alessandro Nannini, with the Minardi, had managed to climb up to sixth position and was even fifth. But it is only an illusion: the turbine on his car breaks down during lap 25. Thus Stefan Johansson comes out in the distance, while Ayrton Senna with the Lotus defends third place. Followed by Philippe Streiff and Jonathan Palmer with the two Tyrrells and Philippe Alliot with the Lola, then ready to celebrate the placing which coincided with his thirty-third birthday. To conclude, a thrilling last lap for Stefan Johansson, victim of a burst left front tyre. The Swedish driver completes a full turn on three wheels. Nelson Piquet has shrugged off the label of the eternal number two, even before seeing it stuck on. After finishing second five times at the start of the season, the Brazilian champion returned to victory (he hadn't finished first since the Italian Grand Prix in September 1986) in Germany. A success that can be described as surprising, achieved at the end of a massacre race, characterized by a series of clamorous retirements, so much so that in the end only seven of the twenty-five cars that had started reached the finish line. Out Mansell, betrayed by the engine of his Williams-Honda, out Alain Prost, eliminated due to failure of the alternator of his McLaren while he was on the way to victory, Ayrton Senna forced to a mediocre race due to problems with the active suspensions, the game for Nelson Piquet it was easy. Even if the South American was driving in precarious physical conditions due to the aftermath of a flu and unaware of the consumption situation, as his on-board computer was not working. Another beating for Ferrari, thirty-first race without a win (but this is now becoming an almost superfluous statistic) and third consecutive Grand Prix without bringing a car to the finish line. Michele Alboreto retired on lap ten due to the failure of a turbine, Gerhard Berger followed him ten laps later with the engine out. A negative balance, which includes only a few theoretically and partially positive notes: the cars are once again competitive at a certain level, but reliability is zero.
In any case, the German Grand Prix, confirming the supremacy of Williams in terms of conclusive result, recorded important innovations. With his success, Nelson Piquet takes the lead in the World Championship standings with 39 points, four points ahead of Ayrton Senna, nine over Nigel Mansell and a good thirteen over Alain Prost. A situation that could embarrass Frank Williams, who some time ago said that after the German Grand Prix whoever of his two drivers found himself in front of his teammate would have decisive support. The German Grand Prix confirmed that in Formula 1 nothing is certain until you cross the finish line. McLaren, which had been in a serious crisis at Le Castellet and Silverstone, returned to the top very quickly. The breakdown that prevented Alain Prost from crossing the finish line didn't erase the car's performance. The Frenchman remained in the lead until lap 39 and if he hadn't broken that little detail which is the alternator belt, Nelson Piquet would never have been able to take it back. Among other things, the day was especially unlucky for Alain Prost because the Frenchman had within his reach a victory that would have consigned him to the history of Formula 1 as the driver with the most successes, in a long-distance duel with Jackie Stewart continues with 27 first places and it is quite easy to predict that within a short time Prost will be able to overtake the Scotsman. We start again from the halfway point with a new man at the top of the standings (a Brazilian, Piquet, chases away the other, Senna) but also with the conviction that, all in all, it won't be as easy as it seems for the Williams men to win the title and who will have to fight until the end of the championship. Eight more races full of uncertainty with a very probable conclusion only in November in Australia. Behind Piquet were Johansson, a great long-distance racer, and Senna, this time put into difficulty by an inconvenience to the extremely complicated active suspension, controlled by a sophisticated electronic system. Was it an exciting race? Full of twists certainly, but not as spectacular as it could have been if all the protagonists had had the opportunity to fight to the end. Just one thrilling overtaking, the one on lap eight, when Alain Prost passed Mansell on the outside in the very fast corner that precedes the second chicane, before entering the Stadium. A masterpiece of timing, skill and courage on the part of the Frenchman, who in any case doesn't need much praise or confirmation for his abilities, which have already been amply demonstrated. Nelson Piquet found himself on the top step of the podium when perhaps he least expected it. The Brazilian, however, does not make triumphant speeches, he is very calm and calm, aware that, for once, he has been helped by a favorable fate.
"The race car I used had been tested very little because the bottom always came off. On the warm-up lap I noticed that my Williams was very bouncy, moving like a ping-pong ball from one side of the track to the other. I took a very regular route and tried to force the situation, taking some risks, so as not to let the others in front of me escape. I passed Senna quite easily who was clearly in difficulty but I couldn't keep up with the pace of the first two, i.e. Prost and Mansell, because I was afraid of going off the road or breaking an axle shaft".
But these weren't Nelson Piquet's only problems:
"Even the on-board computer was off. I didn't know the water and oil temperatures, nor the fuel consumption. After the tire change, which was excellent, they gave me fuel information via radio from the pits, but they certainly weren't precise calculations. With 10 laps to go, however, the display came on again and I was able to understand that there were no problems. I put more pressure on the turbines but when Mansell retired I had to slow down again to avoid the risk of an early retirement. I could hardly have taken Prost. Obviously it was my lucky day. Sometimes you have amazing races and nothing suits you. On other occasions you dispute dull races and find yourself the winner. At Silverstone, for example, Mansell achieved a resounding success, and as soon as he crossed the finish line he ran out of fuel".
The World Championship?
"I've never been in the lead so early in the season, not even in the years in which I won the title. Honestly, I like it better, as a psychological situation, to race in recovery than to be in the lead. In any case, I welcome this position".
Is McLaren more competitive?
"I don't think so, it's always been good where there are long straights followed by tight corners. You will see that in Hungary, at Zeltweg and at Monza there will still be a clearly superior Williams".
From the others, from the defeated, only choruses of laments rise into the air. Nigel Mansell says after the race:
"I was having a good race, Prost was fast and I didn't want to take any risks. Then, suddenly I heard the car lose speed and it was all over. It's a shame, especially if I think about the final standings".
While Ayrton Senna talks about the problems that have slowed him down:
"In the middle of the race, my electronic suspension control unit went haywire. The car had rested on the ground and I was undecided whether to stop and see if I could fix it. All in all it went well, even if I was hoping to have a good race".
For Alain Prost one more retirement. But perhaps this was the bitterest:
"The alternator belt broke, the same problem that stopped me at Imola. But with the car up to that moment I was perfect. The World Championship is still open. The progress of the engine that has brought us back to compete with Honda and that has eliminated consumption problems is significant. But you can't waste certain opportunities".
The only really happy one is Stefan Johansson, who finished second, at the end of a rather anonymous race
"I got really scared when a tire blew on the straight, right on the last lap. I did the whole track on three wheels. I got to the bottom because the corners are right-handed, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to finish the race. The steering rod was also snapping. I can only be happy, even if I would like to win a race once in my career".
Few words and always gloomy faces in the Ferrari box, due to another negative result, another double retirement that mortifies the happy emotions for a probable, desirable and perhaps even possible recovery. Ferrari won a race: it was the first team to leave the German circuit where the two single-seaters driven by Alboreto and Berger retired on the tenth and twentieth laps due to the failure of a turbine and engine. Such haste is not justified only by bitterness at another negative result or by shame. Ferrari returned to Fiorano to immediately carry out a series of tests on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 July 1987. The engine is under accusation this time, after the aerodynamic modifications have brought the cars back to a good balance. It should also be noted that Koni shock absorbers were mounted on the F1-87 for the first time after some time. The turbine-engine issue is closely linked: when the supercharging system fails, the engine is often compromised as well. So you work in this area. This is not a happy time for the Maranello team.
For Gerard Berger it was not a happy weekend, always problems, never the opportunity to express himself to the maximum:
"Already in the morning's free practice I had had many problems with road holding. And in fact the car didn't go well even in the race. I had adopted a different aerodynamic solution from that of Alboreto. But I wasn't fast enough and I wasn't even able to keep up with cars that were usually inferior to mine".
Short speeches also by Michele Alboreto. By now the Italian driver no longer knows what to say either because he is convinced that he is being persecuted by bad luck as well as by a car that absolutely does not allow him to fight with the best, at least as far as results are concerned.
"Honestly, in the first laps, I didn't struggle to keep up with the pace of the leaders. I cautiously kept my distance but I realized that there was good potential. I had been able to overtake Boutsen easily and I reserved myself, in the second part of the race, to also go on the attack. But my conviction did not last long. A turbine gave way and the pressure dropped suddenly. I came into the pits already knowing that I wouldn't have gone a meter further. Sin. In any case we have found a bit of competitiveness. I hope that in the next races there will be some satisfaction for us as well".
Ferrari, as I said, ran for cover with regard to the suspension problems, in a somewhat empirical way for the moment, but it is certain that the technicians of the Maranello team will have to take remedial measures in a more definitive way. The lower suspension triangle of the cars was reinforced with carbon fibre. It is evident that a break similar to the one that had thrown Berger off the track last Friday was feared. Now there is a whole work program to check, to set up and to conclude. In the meantime, a controversy arises in Formula 1 regarding the Italian Grand Prix, which will take place in Monza on Sunday 6 September 1987. The entry of some cars that have not participated in other races has been announced. There will be another Italian team, Coloni who will perhaps sign Andrea Larini, Osella will bring a second single-seater for Gabriele Tarquini, then there will be the third Benetton, with a BMW engine, for Emanuele Pirro. This enlargement of presences does not find agreement with some small teams, such as Ciarro, through the mouth of its owner Manlio Muzzili.
"We were told that naturally aspirated cars would be the future of Formula 1, and now anyone who wants to dust off the turbocharged leftovers can do it to our detriment, as we certainly cannot compete at the moment. We agree to compete for the qualifiers with the naturally aspirated ones, but we don't think it's fair to stay out in the race which is worth a whole season for us due to the presence of cars that mean nothing".
A protest that has its justifications and that the Federation should carefully evaluate. The topic concerning the driver market also continues to keep the public's attention high. Big names are still available on the square: Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and even Keke Rosberg, who would like to get back to racing. The Finn would have offered himself to McLaren and also to Benetton. In the meantime, Rosberg has also embarked on a career as a manager, managing the young Finn Jura Jarvis Lehto, to whom the former World Champion has decided to give him a more resonant battle name. Therefore, he now runs under the pseudonym J.J. Slow. As for Ayrton Senna, he seems ever closer to McLaren. He would bring Honda engines as a dowry to the English team. But there is also talk of an active interest in Formula 1 from another important Japanese manufacturer, up to now engaged only in motorbikes, namely Yamaha. Last year, at the halfway point of the Formula 1 World Championship, after eight races, Nelson Piquet was only fourth in the standings with 23 points, behind Alain Prost (39), Nigel Mansell (38) and Ayrton Senna (36).
Now the situation has changed markedly in the middle of the championship in favor of the Brazilian who, as mentioned, leads the championship standings at 39 points, ahead of Ayrton Senna (35), Nigel Mansell (30) and Alain Prost (26). Yet from now on, the Williams driver, paradoxically, will be forced to attack, to risk trying to win his third title. Already having six positive results out of seven races to his credit (he was forced to desert the San Marino Grand Prix after the terrible accident in practice at Imola), Nelson Piquet will have to win more races and will no longer be satisfied with placings. In fact, a first place and five seconds in the final calculation could put him in difficulty, given that Nigel Mansell has already won three victories, while two each go to Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The regulation provides that only eleven scores can be added and the discard game will become decisive.
"In fact, now I will have to look for other victories. So far I have tried to collect the maximum but I have not been very lucky. Apart from the Imola accident which forced me to run in defense in the following races because I was physically not in good shape, I had several problems and Mansell was able to let loose by obtaining two first places at Le Castellet and Silverstone, which together with the success in the San Marino Grand Prix, his basis for aiming for the title. With just one affirmation to your credit, you can't think of reaching the World Championship".
Commenting on the race, the South American also reiterated that he was not particularly surprised or impressed by the performance of Alain Prost's McLaren.
"It's true that I was lucky, because my direct rivals were blocked or slowed down by various problems. However, I don't think McLaren has made much progress. It's a car that has always done very well on tracks like Hockenheim, with long straights and few slow corners. And then I also have the impression that the Frenchman wasn't forced to retire due to a trivial fault like alternator failure, but that he rather ran out of petrol. Prost and Mansell engaged in a duel at the start, driving at prohibitive pace due to fuel consumption. I don't know if my teammate would have finished the race even if the engine hadn't failed".
The Williams driver is convinced that his car will be considerably superior in the next three rounds of the championship, Budapest, Zeltweg and Monza:
"It will probably be a family fight, between me and Mansell. while taking into account the opponents, i.e. Prost and Senna".
"It doesn't seem to me that it has any weight at the moment. When things go badly, problems add up to problems. In any case, even if he manages to recover for the season finale, it won't be worrying".
If Ayrton Senna, after the difficulties encountered with the electronic suspensions, is stepping aside for now (but a new car is also on the way to Lotus...), Alain Prost does not accept Nelson Piquet's verdict:
"There has been progress with the Tag-Porsche engine, and Williams will notice it in the next races. Unfortunately the alternator belt broke, otherwise I would have finished first with a considerable margin of advantage over Piquet. It's easy to win and talk when all is well. I'm not saying that I will definitely beat my opponents but it is certain that I will fight until the end of the championship. Also because since I equaled the record of 27 victories belonging to Stewart, I have been struck by a kind of curse and I have been haunted by bad luck".
The fight, therefore, is still very open.