#450 1987 Mexican Grand Prix

2023-01-07 23:00

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#1987, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Michela Petrillo,

#450 1987 Mexican Grand Prix

On Saturday October 3, 1987, in Maranello, Enzo Ferrari should have watched, like in a film, at least half a century of his life, frame by frame. And


On Saturday October 3, 1987, in Maranello, Enzo Ferrari should have watched, like in a film, at least half a century of his life, frame by frame. And in the end he doesn't succeed in holding back the tears that flow copiously on his face. 


"You were the ones to create Ferrari. Without your support nothing will be here". 


An emotional moment that engage everyone, a moment that brings back good and sad memories at the same time. The meeting happens in the hall of the restaurant Cavallino in Maranello where, on the occasion of the celebration of the 40 years of drivers and Ferrari cars, Enzo Ferrari find in just one time his drivers of the past and the ones of the present. Famous personalities from all over the world, the most incredible one, the most extraordinary, and also the most picturesque group of elders that has ever been collected. Seated between Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilan Gonzalez, Enzo Ferrari looks like a genuine patriarch. Older than everyone with his almost 89 years, but clear-headed and happy. Around him a long list of drivers, from Alboreto to Allison, Andretti, Arnoux, Berger, Brambilla, Casoni, Chinetti, de Adamich, Maria Teresa De Filippis, Fangio, Frère, Galli, Gendebien, Gonzalez, Phil Hill, Johansson, Ireland. Maglioli, Marzotto, Merzario, Munaron, Perdisa, Piper, Regazzoni, Scheckter, Schetty, Serafini, Surtees, Tambay, Taruffi, Taraschi, Trintignant, Vaccarella, Jonathan Williams. A few of the ones called upon: Niki Lauda, busy with his airline, Chris Amon, who calls from New Zeland where he is taking care of his farm. Also Baghetti and Jacky Ickx are busy with their work and Gigi Villoresi, Mario Nadretti, from the United States, takes advantage of the situation to go to Germany to test the Porsche that maybe he will drive next year in Formula Indy. He's always the same: a sprinkle of grey hair, but so much desire to race.


"Looking at Ferrari, I think that I will retire after 2000...". ("Give me some Lambrusco")


They look at each other, these eternal youngsters. More wrinkles, a little extra belly but all animated by a huge passion for cars and Ferrari. It's like the tifosi, of their faith for Maranello. But they are the first real tifosi, the drivers. It's strange to hear that these personalities  linked by a knowledge of some words of the modenese dialect.


"Dammi mo ben del lambrusco".


The Scottish Innes Ireland says, with a ruby nose, to Phil Hill, distinguished gentleman with ice eyes. And the American, class 1927, who was part of the team for 8 years and he was the first American to become World Champion in 1961, replies: 


"It's extraordinary, I feel at home. I saw Ferrari during the last historical Mille Miglia, during spring, and I already felt the desire to meet him again. Your mind is always like the one of a time, it makes me younger".


Gino Munaron replies, from Turin, who moved to Brescia because of work, winner of various races with sporting cars, who has just finished a beautiful book con the Ferrari cars with four-cylinder engines: 


"We are terrible youngsters, on track we did all sort of things, the rivalry was huge. But after all we were friends, ready to have fun together. A big family that Ferrari created in the years".


And then at the end of the banquet the hugs, the group photo, the family portrait with Enzo Ferrari. 


The constructor gifts the present ones with his book Drivers, what a people. A happening of youngsters follows, exchanging autographs with each other, remembering, thanks to the book, a lot of facts. Smiling faces of youths of the era between the pages and some moments of loss, seeing Eugenio Castelletti or Didier Pironi, that were in the list of the guests of this private meeting, when he was snatched from life by the offshore accident. During the afternoon relocation to Imola, where they are waiting, the Ferrari, the cars that have been making everyone dream for 4o years. A review that will make the fans go crazy, from 125 F1 of 1949 to the car of these days, the F1-87. Old and modern cars, prototypes, four, six, eight and twelve- cylinder engines. Powerful rhombuses that send shivers to the spine of the people on the stands. Then everyone on track. Also Berardo Taraschi is seen whizzing around in his 166 F2, then Clay Regazzoni with an adapted sport that he can drive with just his hands. And the cars belonging to Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, René Arnoux and Michele Alboreto. On Sunday the party continues: all the drivers, together with the members of the Ferarri Club Italia, will perform on the Imola track. There should be just a few laps of show, but there is to bet that someone will find the way to engage in a duel with the rivals. So the Ferrari Club celebrates the 40 years of racing of the Maranello team and of its drivers. A show that attracts at least 30.000 people on the grandstands of the track named after Dino, missing son of the Modenese constructor. A beautiful happening, the cars as main protagonists, single-seaters and grand tourers, but also two new flaming F40, berlinettes of the future with incredible performances. The meeting gives also a perfect occasion to talk about the actual Ferrari, with people who attended it and knew it during the last years. A sort of panel discussion was made, in which we report the most significant  ratings. The Belgian Jacky Ickx, arrived last minute, talks about his next participation to Paris-Dakar, with a Lauda Niva ("I do it for the money, I didn't earn much... And then I don't have a Ferrari, they were taken from me when I went away..."). But let's hear him on Ferrari:


"Crisis? Yes, with no doubts. However, I think that Ferrari goes through cycles like all the things in this world. Maybe it has already reached the lowest point, now it is coming back to the top. I think it's ready to get back winning. In Italy, in any case, they are used to create a lot of dramas when they lose and they are too overhyped when they win. It's the latin temperament. Now it is going too far. It's important to remember that the fight is hard and there has been a massive operation of big automakers".


Regarding the drivers, Ickx doesn't mince words:


"I'm part of of the same category. I avoid taking positions. I can just say that one time we were really close, friends, between teammates and rivals. Now everything is more difficult, there is a lot of pressure. To arrive in Formula 1 is necessary to be good in every case".


And here Nanni Galli's opinion :


"There has been an internal revolution. Before Postlethwaite, then Barnard. It wasn't easy to overcome the transplant rejection. However, now they are back at the top, and the race family just lacks of reliability and a bit of luck. The drivers lacks of human warmth. Having two roosters in a chicken coop makes the handling difficult, there should be a sports management more cautious...".


The speech on Ferrari's politics is reviewed in a careful and meticulous analysis of John Surtees, unforgettable champion of the world in 1964: 


"I think that Ferrari's crisis has arrived with the transformation from scuderia to agency, from crafts to industry. A coordination hub lacks. We have to take Williams and McLaren as an example: there is just one who takes decisions, only one to rule. And then the sports direction looks lacking: at times is better taking bad decisions rather than not taking them. The drivers: Berger is amazing, but it's obvious that he lacks of experience. Alboreto looks like having low spirit. The Barnard topic is aside. Ferrari did well to set up a research centre in England, where there is the majority of the teams and of specialized suppliers. But thinking of making cars half here and half there looks a bit risky. Maybe it would have been easier to hire a technician like Ducarouge, closer to Maranello's mentality".


And here Mario Andretti, known by all, very celebrated, applauded at every step:


"This recovery was needed, like it happened in the last two races. Berger is good, you'll see. There is no discussion on Alboreto. As for the Formula 1 in general, to me it looks that lately it is a bit reduced. Being in the USA I can also foresee the results with little room for mistakes. In my opinion Mansell deserves to win the championship, he was faster than Piquet. But attention: in 1988 my son Michael will be free from Formula Indy and he can come in Europe. He is a competitive driver". 


An offer for Enzo Ferrari? We'll see. To end a colourful note, to take as a wish. Alboreto was to take part into a manche of show with a old Ferrari 275 GTV. On the starting line he noticed that the engine was making a strange noise and he preferred to pull to the side, withdrawing. It's the tenth withdraw of the season, let's hope that he has run out of his massive dose of bad luck. A few days later, on Wednesday 7 October, 1987, in France, in Place de la Concorde, everything unfolds as per script: general meeting of FISA, had in the french capital, confirms Jean Marie Balestre as president of the Federation. And the president announces that on Friday she will suggest Bernie Ecclestone (President FOCA) and Marco Piccinini (sports director of Scuderia Ferrari) for the vice presidency of FIA, meaning the managing body of world motoring, not only sport, of which he is president. A cake divided in the family, in the end, from which inexplicably the big motor industries are excluded. Anyway, the Formula 1 World Championship is heading to its end. 3 races to run are left to assign the title still in doubt, on the pure maths base, between Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, even if the Brazilian of Williams remains the big favourite thanks to the considerable advantage in the general ranking. While waiting for the heated final fight, with no exclusion of plot twists, the teams are already preparing for the future, so for the 1988 World Championship. Games are almost done for the configuration of the teams, just an important place has to be assigned, the one that probably Teo Fabi is going to leave in Benetton. Instead there is a lot uncertainty on the technical aspect with the nagging doubt on the adoption of engines: different teams are still looking for valid solutions, others are in doubt between the aspirated and turbo. The only sure fact is that next year there should be a participation enlargement with another german team (Brut). But there are important news also for a future not that close, meaning for 1989, when turbos will be definitely abandoned. They are just rumours, leakage that also have a solid base of truth.  


They involve an Italian group that should have the intention of making a pool, very similar to  the one in the sail, especially for the American Cup, that started back in time and with success the adventure of Azzurra. Let's try and make some hypothesis. Lamborghini, after being sold to the American Chrysler, has hired Mauro Forghieri full time. A technician that doesn't need to be introduced, seeing the credentials conquered with a lot of years of success with Ferrari. The project of Sant'Agata Bolognese brand was probably that to make a Formula 1 car, after having accomplished an engine fit for the purpose. However, this initiative could have found insurmountable obstacles on the economic side. At the moment Lamborghini produces 400 cars per year and it won't be able to finance such a demanding business on its own. Also because sir Lee Iacocca, manager-owner of Chrysler, doesn't seem to be the type to embark on certain economic-sporting adventures. To overcome the obstacle, having carte blanche to find other solutions, Mauro Forghieri, talking right and left, could have noticed of having around him a group of friends and admirers (mainly referring to industrials from Brescia) able to support the idea. Apart from technology (metals, fibers, pottery, laser transmissions for the telemetry, electronics) Azzurra project (obviously with a different name) for Formula 1 can become a reality in the next years, with a probable debut at the end of next season. As a function of the 1988 one. The fact is funny and interesting at the same time. But attention: to avoid failures and controversy (that had affected the life of the consortium of American Cup and the same for Italy), it would be necessary to operate in the right direction from the beginning. Task and roles have to be specific, medium-long terms investments, involvement and coagulation of forces with set goals. There are few examples: French team LC (Larrousse-Camel) also managed to move local authorities, like the region of Upeer Normandy. But at the same time it avoided political interference that in the sport are always the most dangerous. 


All free to take advantage of the initiative on the promotional and advertising aspect, but with the effort of letting direct the team professionally, without sort of deviation. Now the project of an Italian consortium of Formula 1 is maybe still in the embryonic state, however, there are the premises for a possible success. Unless the story ends even before beginning. But it would be a pity, seeing the probable protagonists. Talking again about Formula 1 and the 1987 World Championship, in Mexico the inflation is always high but the economy of the country is in constant recovery: this explains the huge enthusiasm with which the Mexicans embrace Formula 1 for the second time after a long break. On Wednesday October 14, 1987, everyone witnesses the real celebrations for everybody at the airport, just like a not pleasant surprise: the ones who were expecting a mild ambience, is now disappointed. On Wednesday morning the temperature didn't go higher than  8 °C, even if then the sun heats the ambience. By the way there is no need of scorching heat to higher the fever thermometer for the World Championship arrived with the Mexican Grand Prix at its fourteenth stage.  An appointment that can be crucial for the title assignment if the win should go to Nelson Piquet. A single success of the Brazilian of Williams will in fact eliminate Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost from the fight, while Nigel Mansell should obtain second place and hope to win the two left races, Japan and Australia, to continue the fight. But this rush has also other motivations, one technical and the other sentimental. 


The first one concerns the usual discussion on the habit. The Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez track is located at more than 200 meters altitude. This means that the engines lose power. But while the aspirated ones can not remedy, for the turbo ones there is a possibility of retrieving horsepower. It's about increasing the air flow of the whirlwind. But this year, for the first time, there is an unknown factor. The use of the valve that limits the pressure to 4 bar could create drawbacks. This valve indeed acts on the basis of internal and external thank to a spring, and changing the parameters it has to be seen who will be able to take the best advantage. The Japanese from Honda tried not to be overwhelmed by working like usual on the simulation in  the pressurized rooms. But also Ferrari didn't wait for the rivals: the cars have oversized whirlwind that in theory should allow to keep the power had in the last races. It's since the Great Britain Grand Prix that the team from Maranello has been making steps forward in terms of competitiveness. The possible wins and missed in Portugal and Spain have given the measure of Ferrari's potential. It's because of this, from Piquet to Mameli, from Prost to Senna, that everyone looks at the cars from Maranello like possible referees of the championship. Sure is, a Ferrari success would give a great help to Nelson Piquet, who has never been too calm in the comments on the Italian team. But now they say they are ready to win. Gerhard Berger likes the speech, and among the others things he obtained last year, with Benetton, his only claim in Formula 1, here in Mexico. A peculiar feeling with the track, so here is the feeling that makes everyone thinks about a possible success. The Austrian is quite categorical: 


"I haven't read the Italian newspapers, I don't feel accused. I will do my race. If the engine is going to lives up to the situation, it is not excluded that for me and Alboreto the spell won't be broken and we will be able to end the negative series of 36 races without a win".


A sort of promise: maybe Berger doesn't want to feel accused for the mistakes that have been pinned on him, but a success would serve for forgetting and being forgiven. For many years now, apart from 1985 when Alain Prost won  two races at the end of the season, the World Championship end in the last race, at the last breath. But this time Nelson Piquet had the chance of ending the game in advance. In this Grand Prix of Mexico that takes start on Friday October 16, 1987, with the first round of qualifying. In tennis jargon it can be said that the Brazilian has a match-ball available. In order to hit the target he has to win and hope that Nigel Mansell doesn't arrive second. However, also in this case, with his teammate in second place, practically the game would be over because, to call into question the world title, the English should win both left tests and the Brazilian shouldn't arrive not even one time second. So it's possible to say that Nelson Piquet is in an iron barrel, no one can take the world title away from him. But Nelson, a bit for superstition and a bit because he was taught by the previous and especially for the great respect that he nourishes for Formula 1, he doesn't go too far. 


"McLaren has been until now too discontinuous to  give Prost great chances. Mansell and Senna instead have competitive cars, with which they can win. A Williams's failure would be enough, engine or mechanic, and my 18 points lead points would be halved".


This means a Piquet careful in the race?


"No. I wouldn't need a strategic race. I need to win, not to accumulate other points, but to take them away from my rivals. However, there is a dilemma: attacking means risking more, both in terms of possible accidents, and also for breaking. In Spain I decided to play for time, I decided not to deteriorate the tyres. Then I was forced to push and I made a series of mistakes".


What can happen?


"The script is still to be written. The only sure thing is that it will be necessary to attack starting with today's tests. In qualifying it will be necessary understanding the real potential of the cars. The conquer of the pole position will also have a morale value, it can threaten the rivals. This track is not the Jerez one, where Senna manages to keep behind everyone for half the race. Here the overtakes are not a problem so it will possible to lead a race in crescendo, without taking risks. For what concerns me, in each case there is something to take into account. Seeing that I have already reached the limit of 11 positive results, I won't need a placing beyond third place".


Williams and Lotus are there to win?


"No. Each race makes history itself and this is even more peculiar because of the height. There can also be another surprise from Mclaren, just like also Ferrari has an excellent chance. But it doesn't bother me: I will be the first one to cheer for Alboreto and Berger. A success for Maranello will knock out Senna and Prost, taking away possibilities also from Mansell".


In the meantime, Ferrari, just in extremis, is presenting the requested dossier to guarantee the right to compete, even with the turbo engine, in the next World Championship. The presentation of the dossiers on the turbo cars that will be used again next year clarifies something about the technical choices that the teams will make in the 1988 World Championship. FISA had imposed the limit of October 15, 1987 to ask for authorization to race with current chassis in the 1988 season which will start in March. Those who have not done so will have to build new cars according to the regulation, according to which the pedal boxes, for safety, must be behind the front axle of the wheels. The documents necessary to compete again with the current single-seaters have been presented by Ferrari, Minardi, Osella, Zakspeed, Benetton and Arrows, six teams that keep the door open to send this year's cars onto the track (the chassis cannot be modified ) with possible aerodynamic, mechanical and suspension changes Tyrrell, March, Lola, Charro, Coloni and Williams will instead mount naturally aspirated engines.McLaren, Lotus and Brabham are missing, but that doesn't mean that these British teams will give up the turbos. The first two will instead build new cars (with set back pedals) to accommodate the supercharged Honda engines. Lotus took this decision because it believed the chassis currently available was too old, while McLaren had no other choice, switching from Tag-Porsche to Honda. For Brabham, the situation is still nebulous: it doesn't know which engine it will adopt. In any case, he will have to design a single-seater that complies with the new regulation. All this applies to the start of the 1988 season, while by the end of the championship new cars with naturally aspirated engines will enter the contention (including the Ferrari designed by Barnard) in anticipation of 1989, when turbos will be definitively banned. The challenge for the future, therefore, at least on a technical level, is already open. It will remain to be seen who will take the best path and if the turbo-charged cars will really be even better overall than the naturally aspirated ones, with the fuel tank raised to a maximum of 150 litres. 


Friday 16 October 1987 Ferrari is also competitive on high ground and Gerhard Berger confirms himself as a class sprinter, one of the fastest drivers in Formula 1.The Austrian, in the first qualifying round of the Mexican Grand Prix, puts everyone in line, with a series of thrilling passages that force the more titled rivals to contend for the positions of backup. The Austrian driver leaves behind Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Thierry Boutsen and Michele Alboreto. It was known that Gerhard Berger is above all a qualifying man, but the demonstration given on the first day of the North American race impressed everyone. The track, very undulating, in the previous days was smoothed by a special machine coming from the United States with the aim of making it less dangerous. But the result is quite disastrous: the very smooth asphalt makes the cars slide all over the place, so much so that the circuit record, established last year by Senna with a time of 1'16"990, is not not even close.But it must also be said that this year the race will be held without qualifying tires and with the turbo pressure limited to 4 bar.


"The car was amazing, especially the chassis. I think that in this moment we have the best chassis of F1. Also the aerodynamics is good, the engine is fair. But I don't think that arriving at these levels would be enough. On Saturday the tarmac will be cleaner and it would be needed to go down by at least a second to remain in the first rows. I especially fear the cars with Honda engines, even if in this occasion Prost was the one to get closer to my Ferrari".


Less brilliant performance for Michele Alboreto. But once again the Italian driver, who also pushes hard, isn't too lucky. His racing car at a certain point showed clear signs of failure as far as the engine was concerned. Very high response time and perhaps some problems with the turbines. Michele gets on the reserve car in the last minutes, but even in this occasion he doesn't have good luck on his side and he finds the track flooded by the oil left by a Zakspeed. In any case, Ferrari, as had already happened in Portugal and Spain, can aim for success and Gerhard Berger will certainly try to repeat last season's race on Saturday, when he dominated with Benetton. We were talking about the dirtiest track, full of dust and jumps.At one point, when the carousel of cars for qualifying begins, there seems to be fog, there are so many impurities flying in the air. And this situation causes an illustrious victim: Nigel Mansell sensationally goes off the track, while trying to get close to Gerhard Berger's Ferrari. When the Austrian sets his best time (after lowering his best result twice) the English force the pace. Coming out of the pit bend, at about 250 km/h, in full fifth gear, the Williams can be seen ending up on the left-hand side of the track, putting two wheels on the dry grass and starting a spectacular spin. Two or three thrilling laps at high speed, then incredibly two hundred meters in reverse along the entire straight, to crash violently against the wall at the exit of the pits, right in front of the Williams position. It is feared for a moment that Nigel Mansell may have been hurt: the pilot does not get out of the cockpit, he just shakes his head. Then after a few moments, helped by the rescue men, the Englishman leaps out of the passenger compartment limping. 


Mansell suffers a severe contusion to his right leg and goes to the infirmary to be checked. However, the accident should not compromise his physical integrity and participation in Saturday's practice. But it is clear that Mansell, psychologically, can be affected by what happened. Behind the Ferrari, with a certain regularity, is Alain Prost, who passes Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, in order, driving two Williams without active suspension.McLaren appears to be progressing, even if at the chassis level the car is not yet very balanced. The race of shivers, fear and tension is about to start. Here is the x-ray of the ante penultimate round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The battle will certainly be bitter because there are so many interests at stake. As mentioned, the world title is at stake, which could end up definitively in the hands of Nelson Piquet. if the Brazilian wins. But there are also other reasons of great interest, including Ferrari, which once again proves to be up to the task. If Nigel Mansell did not miss the appointment with his eighth pole position of the season on Saturday 17 October 1987, the Austrian Gerhard Berger managed to keep himself in the front row and perhaps he could have even done better, if the practices hadn't been continuously disturbed by accidents and interruptions. More unfortunate as usual Michele Alboreto, relegated to ninth place due to a series of problems that slowed down his progress, including the failure of an engine during qualifying. However, an attacking race is expected for the Maranello team and it wouldn't be a surprise if that long-awaited victory finally arrives. 


It must be added that never before have so many cars proved to be so competitive as on this occasion.Suffice it to say that between the time that allows Nigel Mansell to start in front of everyone (1'18"383) and that of Gerhard Berger there are less than 0.04 seconds, that Nelson Piquet is third at 0.08 seconds, that the Belgian Boutsen is by just over 0.1 seconds. Alain Prost (fifth time) and the two Benettons are also in the running, given that Teo Fabi is also among the very first. Ayrton Senna appears in difficulty. Speaking of Nigel Mansell, it should be added that for the fifteenth time in the season he starts from the front row and this represents an absolute record, better than what Alberto Ascari managed way back in 1953. This second day of qualifying was one of the most tense in the whole championship. Mansell overtook each other, but also behind them, all sorts of things were happening, and the climax came a few minutes from the end, when three accidents occurred almost simultaneously, the first involving Nigel Mansell, nothing serious. His Williams spun and damaged a suspension. The English driver stops next to the track and the marshals, due to an incredible mistake, also open the fire extinguishers on the car, which however did not catch fire. A few moments later it was Nelson Piquet's turn.The CCTV cameras had just framed the already stationary Williams #6, when Ayrton Senna's yellow Lotus fell like a bullet against a pile of tires placed to protect a turn. A scary off-track, that of the young Brazilian, which completely damages the car but resists the impact very well. The driver remains stationary in the cockpit for a few moments, then is helped by the rescue men and comes out limping, before bending over, probably due to the shock and also to some blows received. Senna is then admitted to the medical centre for checks on the case; he is suffering from stomach problems, but should regularly start the Mexican Grand Prix. Before qualifying, Michele Alboreto experiences the happy event of Alice's birth, hanging on the hotel phone, before going to the circuit, waiting for the start of free practice. Her name is Alice, she weighs 3.5 kilos and was born in Milan, at 4:00 p.m .. at the Pio X hospital. She is the eldest daughter of Michele Alboreto.


"I wish I was there, with my wife Nadia. The birth was scheduled for next week. But I was still calm, I knew that everything would have gone well". 


Drivers, mechanics, technicians, all Formula 1 ambience congratulates Michele, moved and radiant. But inevitably, after the cheering, the discussion moves to racing, to a difficult championship. Still the time for a joke:


"At least she, Alice, has arrived first...".


Then the questions and answers. The first question: on 13 races until now held, Gerhard Berger has qualified 9 times ahead of Michele Alboreto. How can you explain it?


"He is a guy that goes really fast. He is not just ahead of his teammate, but also of people like Mansell, Senna and Piquet. This is also a gift. But maybe there is a deeper explanation. Because of his driving style, because of his choice. Gerhard risks a lot, he cuts chicanes, takes curbs. It's the typical behaviour of youngsters, of the ones who have to arrive at all costs. An example: Mansell, who has to demonstrate something, is faster than Piquet, but it can't be said that the Englishman is globally better than the Brazilian. Now I don't want to compare myself to Nelson, but I just want to clarify the situation".


So Berger will always be the strongest in qualifying?


"It's not yet said. There are also practical and psychological implications. During this year I was plagued by problems: breakdowns, accidents. It's clear that in this way one loses at the same time the possibility to do better and the confidence. And the morale is very important. But said so I don't think that Berger is unbeatable. It's his moment and he is surely a driver that will bring Ferrari great satisfactions".


And Alboreto?


"Nine consecutive withdraws, a series of burning disappointments. But the desire to do, to show that I'm capable of winning is still there. And who know. I had to do a positive series, I could forget everything fast. The race will be really tough. This track is deadly. The had the  tarmac milled to eliminate the jumps and in the points where the track is more deteriorated cement was putted. The ripples remained and a deadly dust of cement is everywhere, in the engine, in the turbines. The breaks are in ambush. And in addition all these pitches lead to cracking the structures of the car: yesterday we had mounts of two ailerons. Meaning a lot of problems, that exist for everyone. But we need a result".


It has to be taken into account the physical effort, because of the 2200 meters of water.


"Obviously. But this is not what worries me. The problems arise since the start: one the most difficult starts of the season. The air rarefaction could disrupt the turbines. And also the ones who will be on the internal part of the track, the one out of the trajectory, will find themselves on a slippery and dangerous tarmac. In short risks from first to last minute".


While everyone rejoices with the new dad in the box, Harvey Postlethwaite is lying on the sofa. Postalmarket, like he is dearly called in Maranello, didn't lose time: not being able to take care of the cars, he embraces a scientific calculus on the spaghetti. It has been 3 days, indeed, since Luigi Montanini, nicknamed Pasticcino, as well as excellent cooker, dishes out to Ferrari overcooked spaghetti. They told him: 


"Cautious, here at 2300 meters they have to be cooked more".


So Postlethwaite - between a stomachache and the other - does a bit of maths building a real curve of cooking on a graphic, from which it turned out that at 2300 meters spaghetti have to be cooked for 6 more minutes. After the test was done, the result was perfect and it is really the end that a pure Englishman has to teach something on an old art for the Italians. Sunday 18 October 1987, at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix Nigel Mansell was uncertain, while Gerhard Berger leapt forward followed by Thierry Boutsen and Nelson Piquet who tried to slip through. At the second of the three initial corners of the circuit, Nelson Piquet's car collided with Alain Prost's. The Frenchman, in an attempt to pass the slower Brazilian, closed the corner and crashed into Nelson Piquet's car, smashing the car. For him, the run-up to conquering the World Championship is over. Nelson Piquet ends up on the side of the track and is helped to restart by the race marshals. This operation will be contested by the teams: in fact, it does not appear that the car has been in such a dangerous position as to require the participation of the marshals. This incident however causes a selection between the group of Gerhard Berger, Thierry Boutsen and Nigel Mansell and the rest of the cars. As he passes the grandstands, Gerhard Berger passes first, followed by Thierry Boutsen.Behind them follow Nigel Mansell, Michele Alboreto and Teo Fabi. Another lap goes by and another accident occurs: Satoru Nakajima crashes into Derek Warwick who widens and ends up against Christian Danner, who hits Stefan Johansson's McLaren with his Zakspeed. Moral: all out of the race, except Derek Warwick who returns to the pits, changes the wing and starts again. On the second lap Thierry Boutsen with his Benetton attacks and passes Gerhard Berger. Nigel Mansell follows the first two with a gap of 10 seconds. The British driver precedes Ayrton Senna, Michele Alboreto, Andrea de Cesaris and Teo Fabi. During lap 11 the engine of Michele Alboreto's Ferrari gives way: the Italian driver takes the car onto the sand and gets out of the car disconsolate and annoyed. Gerhard Berger, on the other hand, continued at a good pace and, taking advantage of a drop in Thierry Boutsen's engine, moved into first place. The swirl of emotions continues: the tires are subjected to crazy wear. Teo Fabi stops in the pits to change them, then Thierry Boutsen slowly returns. 


Meanwhile Gerhard Berger brings his Ferrari to a high pace and increases his advantage over Nigel Mansell, bringing it to 15 seconds, but on lap 21 a blue smoke from the Ferrari engine and the cry of disappointment from the crowd make it clear what is success: the turbine failed. The Austrian returns to the pits and sadly gets out of the car. And so Nelson Piquet's two enemies, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna, find themselves at the top, dueling at a distance with the Brazilian from Williams who quietly recovers position after position. On lap 24, Nelson Piquet was fourth, behind Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Riccardo Patrese who took over from Andrea de Cesaris, who retired. On lap 31 there was a new twist: Derek Warwick's Arrows, in the curve leading to the straight, swooped off the track at breakneck speed and destroyed the car. The accident forces the race director to stop the race. These are the positions after the first part of the race: Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Riccardo Patrese, Nelson Piquet, Eddie Cheever and Teo Fabi. One lap down, René Arnoux, Piercarlo Ghinzani, Philippe Alliot, Jonathan Palmer, Yannick Dalmas, Philippe Streiff, Ivan Capelli followed, followed by Alex Caffi three laps down and Adrian Campos five laps down. It starts again after about twenty minutes and Nelson Piquet, with new tyres, starts immediately very fast and from the first corner he passes Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna and takes the lead. Nigel Mansell, already nervous from the first pit stop, gives the Brazilian no respite and follows him closely. Followed by Ayrton Senna, Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever. There are 34 laps to go and the fight between the two Williams continues at a fast pace. Nelson Piquet continues to ring fast laps and immediately nibbles 5 of the 45 seconds that Nigel Mansell has ahead of him. The pace of the Brazilian increases and his disadvantage drops to 37 seconds after ten laps.When the seconds become 31 from the pits warn Nigel Mansell, who begins to increase the pace. At this point the Englishman has to do nothing but control the Brazilian and, with thirteen laps to go, despite Nelson Piquet managing to recover about 0.5 seconds per lap, the games seem over. There is still time for a few thrills: caused by Ayrton Senna who stops in a dangerous area of the track. The marshals push him out and the Brazilian, like Alain Prost at the start of the race, also bids farewell to the World Championship, which is now becoming just a family affair among Williams drivers. Nelson Piquet tries in every way to recover at the end of the race. 


But he can't make much money. Nigel Mansell continues to control the race and wins the Mexican Grand Prix. Nelson Piquet is second, followed by an excellent Riccardo Patrese who manages to bring Brabham back to the podium. Eddie Cheever closes in fourth place, followed by Teo Fabi and Philippe Alliot. Nelson Piquet crossed the line first, but victory went to Nlgel Mansell. A strange result, for a Formula 1 race, determined only by a technical fact: the race was in fact split in two due to a spectacular accident involving the Englishman Derek Warwick during lap 31.His Arrows crashed violently, at 250 km/h, against the tire guards placed at the entrance to the pit straight. The car, which broke down (but the driver was unharmed) could have been dangerous for the other competitors, so it was decided, in a climate of absolute tension and confusion, to stop the race. He recovered later with three girls less as required by the regulation. But in the first segment, everything was decided when Mansell took over 43 seconds ahead of his teammate. This margin was enough for the British driver to control the situation in the second section when Nelson Piquet, really unleashed, tried to remedy a situation lost at the start. But there was nothing to do: Nigel Mansell followed his rival in the World Championship and took away a precious success. It must be said immediately that the race was particularly tormented, precisely because of its division into two fractions. But it is also necessary to underline how in practice everything was decided at the first start, in the first lap. It was at this juncture, in fact, that both Piquet and Prost practically left the scene. The Frenchman, in fact, with his McLaren, in a slow corner, tried to pass the Williams #6, and hit it sending it off the track. The World Champion's car was damaged and Alain Prost had to retire. The World Championship is over for him, just as it was for Ayrton Senna, almost at the end of the race, when the Brazilian, who spun, had to leave in turn.Nelson Piquet was lucky and unlucky at the same time: he could have been eliminated immediately and instead managed, thanks to the thrust of the marshals who believed the car was in a dangerous position, to restart and with a furious chase to then finish, in the total calculation of the times, in second place. Another disappointment from Ferrari: after a good start by Gerhard Berger, who took the lead after a very fast start, and being overtaken by Thierry Boutsen on lap 15, the Austrian was subsequently forced to retire due to engine failure on lap 21. 


On lap 13, meanwhile, Michele Alboreto had already retired due to the same problem. For the team from Maranello, another negative result that leaves us hopeless for the championship finale due to this victory that never comes. Meanwhile, the classification of the Mexican Grand Prix clarifies the situation regarding the fight for the world title. It will be a matter between Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. The others are all cut out, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna have to say goodbye to all their ambitions. A heated battle that divides two teammates, a challenge without quarter, which will certainly enliven the two races that still remain to be disputed in Japan and Australia. Sixth seal for Nigel Mansell and a door that opens to the world title. At the end of the race, the Englishman is very happy, satisfied, not tired at all:


"I struggled only in the first 100 meters, at the start, when Piquet got between me and Berger. He risked touching me, I went on the side, in the dirty zone and I could have also finish my race in that point. I controlled the car and then everything was easier. But it needs to be said that my Williams is exceptional, an indestructible car, always competitive. Now we'll see it race after race. I don't want to say anything on the title, I just want to hope to always be able to do races like this one. In the second half of the test I just checked Piquet, without looking for risks. It was the only tactic that could be adopted. In any case my teammate was very unfair because he tried, when he touched me, to take me out".


Nelson Piquet's reply is immediate and also quite rough: 


"Nonsense what Mansell says. If I really wanted to take him out I would have done it. I would have also won the World Championship. But I behaved in a professional way, with awareness. For what concerns the race, it went the way it went. I went out with Prost and I can't blame him. And after that everything was a chase. Now the fight for the title is really open. I have to win one of the next races at least".


Williams's joy is echoed by the Italian. Riccardo Patrese, finally on the podium, says that when occasions show up he doesn't miss them. For Eddie Cheever, who celebrates the Grand Prix number 100, finally a race without problems with the engine and without problems with consume: he finished the test with 45 llitersin the tank and maybe if he had less fuel, this time, he could have aimed for the podium. But for everyone it went well like this. This time the negative result, another double dnf, looks to have hit Ferrari. Tense faces, astonished, dark faces, little desire to talk. Alboreto is still sweaty for the run he made to get to the box on foot. He serenely talks, but it's clear he is embittered, more than in other occasions:


"I knew that it would have ended like this. For the whole weekend I had problems. I never got to run in the right way, like it happened in the previous races. Unfortunately something happened to the engine and he didn't manage to solve the problems. The car wasn't bad but I wasn't competitive at all, I think the propeller's break is quite serious, not a thing that can be solved in short time".


The analysis is confirmed by Gerhard Berger, disappointed by the forced withdraw, while he was leading the race:


"The car was fantastic on the chassis, brakes and performance level in general. But it's not enough. We need to be competitive in everything, even the engine, even the smallest details. The truth is that we aren't still good enough. There is a lot to work on, we are not delusional for the final of the season. The victory we have been searching for a long time can never come. I am the type of person who doesn't break down easily, if the occasion arise, I will try to arrive first. But it won't be easy, seeing how the things went".


This is the sporting director's reply, Marco Piccinini: 


"Even this time, unfortunately, reliability was lacking. We were convinced that we could make it, instead it wasn't like that. Berger was perfect, the temperatures were normal, everything happened suddenly. Instead Alboreto, even if he started quite well, he was already in clear difficulty, and we knew that his effort wouldn't have been enough".


Now Ferrari comes back to Maranello, but not much time is left to work. The trip to Japan is at the door and the engines problem, the heart of a team's car, will not be easily solved. It has been since 1980, year in which it only got 8 points, with Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter, that Ferrari has not had such a terrible season. Two races left to the end of the championship and there is the possibility straighten rankings and budget, but the results until now are disappointing and also mortifying in a certain respect: first with the lack of competitiveness, now because of loss of reliability of the cars. Seven engines (the number is not official, but the truth is not even far) are out of question for the Mexican weekend. Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger again withdrawn. In the Maranello team, there is at this point that sense of frustration of who feels helpless: the goal of the long waited victory seems to appear during the tests days and then disappears on Sunday during the race. What are the reasons? Why this inability to collect the results of a hard work? An Alboreto case exist, seeing that the Italian seems to be in crisis, stunned by ten consecutive withdraws?


"There is no Alboreto case. It is all about overlapping elements and negative situations. When everything goes wrong is difficult to stay positive. Even the anxiety for the recent paternity could have had its role. In any case on Sunday the drivers were not the ones to miss. If in Portugal and Spain we could also put the blame on them, here the cars were lacking, a problem with the engine arose unexpectedly, maybe because of the altitude".


Gerhard Begrer replies:


"Today we have the best chassis, but something is not working properly. If the engine was up to the task, now we'll win all the races. But it also needs to be said that our are small problems. At the beginning of the year we were at 4 seconds from the best. Now it has been different races that we are in the front row".


Berger, disappointed by Ferrari year?


"There are up and downs. I know that Ferrari has always reached the top. I thought that we would have been able to win from half of the season. Instead we still have to wait. We can do that in the last two races, but we lack of a little bit of luck. Williams dominates when it goes well and when it goes bad. We are the opposite".


What do you think of Alboreto?


"Difficult question. I think he has the same material I have. It's a particular moment, but it's always difficult to beat him. I consider him a driver who can win some races and also a world championship. But it's natural that every single one of us follows his path. I would not be surprised if tomorrow he recovers and goes stronger than me".


Michele Alboreto replies:


"It's a very bad period. I have to clear my mind. They say that in the end I can be repaid in a way or another. Let's hope it's like this. Sure is that by now I drive with a sort of psychosis, with the fear that something is going to break. Maybe a good result would be enough, a positive day, to reverse the negative trend".


Does Alboreto reproach himself for something?


"Not much. The break in Spain was my fault. A too low gear in downshifting, an over-revving to try and overtake Senna, who was obstructing me. For the rest I don't think I had responsibility. We are chasing. I'm not looking for excuses. But for example for the engines we are probably paying the fact that we didn't manage to try them this winter. It is about a new propeller and we don't have to forget that instead Honda has been developing its engine from at least 4 years... Explanations, deductions. But it is now 37 races that Ferrari doesn't win. It would be beautiful to break the negative series in the next race, in Japan. Who know, after a lot of problems, it won't come the right day. We'll be ready".


Formula 1 didn't give a beautiful show in the fourteenth test of the World Championship, for the accident that broke in half the race but especially because of the lack of professionalism of the sporting authorities, unable to do the counts. The rules say that in these cases the completed laps must be subtracted from the total and other 3 must be taken away to compensate the fuel used during the slowdown and the following formation lap. Already done 30 (the race was made of 68), it should have been 35, instead the American racing director Bardette gave the chequered flag with 2 laps to spare. Luckily the chaos provoked didn't distort the result of the race, that signed the sixth victory in a season for Nigel Mansell. Now, on the mathematics aspect, Nelson Piquet just needs a victory to conquer the World Championship, while Nigel Mansell needs to get at least one time first position and one time second. Hoping that the rival doesn't get the success. But in reality this comparison looks way too hard on the agonistic level and on the psychological one. Now the two rivals don't have restraint by now. They blame each other, they look at each other with suspect, are supported inside the team by opposing forces: Honda bets on the Brazilian, Williams on the English man. Nigel Mansell says:


"I'm happy, because I beat Ascari's record, with 15 consecutive starts in the first row. F1 is synonymous of speed and I showed that I'm the strongest. I don't ask for anything in particular: let me fight as equals. If there aren't favouritism I'm sure I can make it, even if I don't have to make any mistakes".


Instead Nelson Piquet recriminates:


"If Prost hadn't kicked me out on lap one, I would have won. I lost a lap, over a minute and 20 seconds, and I arrived at the ending with 26 seconds of gap, in the calculation of the two stubs of the race. Do the counts. In each case the appointment with the title is just postponed. I still have two occasions at hand and 12 points of advantage. I will not be scared, Mansell will find a more determined Piquet".


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