Sunday, April 12, 1987 will start the Formula 1 World Championship number 38. As usual it will be the turn of the Brazilian Grand Prix, on the very hot, sunny track of Jacarepaguà, on the outskirts of Rio, to provide the first indications and remove the many uncertainties of the eve. New cars, mixed teams (especially for technicians), modified regulations: a cocktail from which you can expect everything. Let’s immediately say that a team is a super favorite. It’s called Williams. The reasons are simple. A proven team where nothing has changed, if not for the better, since Frank Williams probably won’t make the mistake of only betting on Nigel Mansell anymore. Two excellent drivers, with the Englishman reaching maturity and a Nelson Piquet obstinately searching for another world title. A car that from year to year evolves in small steps, without revolutions. A powerful and reliable Honda engine, McLaren and Lotus could face unexpected results, in a negative sense. The first, after winning the 1986 World Drivers' Championship with Alain Prost for the third consecutive time, is now without its designer John Barnard. Substitutes are also good, but a break-in seems indispensable. The second part with many pretensions. A driver considered among the fastest, Ayrton Senna, a technician among the best, Gerard Ducarouge, and an engine, the Honda, that seems to have few rivals. But there are some unknowns: Ayrton Senna has never really fought for the world title; Gerard Ducarouge has always made very fast cars for qualifying, but he has often been wrong (too much presumption) in the race cars; the Lotus-marriageHonda leaves room for a few unknowns; the second driver, Satoru Nakajima is not able to help his teammate by taking points from opponents; the probable debut of the so-called active suspension can be both an advantage and a handicap. Benetton is much awaited. Teo Fabi recorded the best times in recent tests in Rio and played the role of outsider, not to mention his teammate, Thierry Boutsen that many, including the same Italian driver, have perhaps underestimated. On the Anglo-Italian team, however, doubts remain about the reliability of the cars. It remains to talk about Ferrari. This multinational Ferrari with Italian arms and foreign brains, from the designers John Barnard and Harvey Postlethwaite to the French (Migeot and Hls) and Austrian (Brunner), to the Spanish-speaking mechanical chief.
The debut of the F1-87, the new car that emerged from the ideas of this new cooperative, was not brilliant. Michele Alboreto says that we will have to wait a few races to evaluate the real potential. In fact, the car has completed too few kilometers: a proper tuning requires more. Probably John Barnard, a technician who loves small steps, will be able to make it competitive. But fans wonder: will Ferrari win this year? The beauty is that Enzo Ferrari doesn’t even know it. A mystery to unravel. In the meantime, black clouds are gathering on the Formula 1 World Championship. It is not so much those full of rain that these days have cooled the still very hot Brazilian summer, as the problems that face the horizon and risk to enliven the beginning of the 1987 season. There is still pending war between pilots and the FISA for the tax imposed on the super license. President Jean-Marie Balestre, after telling Alain Prost, World Champion and spokesman of colleague, that he would review the regulation, threatened measures against pilots who will not meet the requirements (at the moment it seems that they paid only Ayrton Senna, Teo Fabi, Alessandro Nannini and a few others). However, the dispute should be discussed on Wednesday, April 8, 1987 by Bernie Ecclestone, arriving from Europe. A compromise seems possible. Then there is the Incognita of the pressure relief valve, contested because it would not have a smooth operation. And last but not least, here is a double problem regarding safety: first of all, very fast and slow cars are announced on track, those with aspirated engines; and secondly, the asphalt of the Jacarepaguà circuit is deteriorating. In this somewhat chaotic climate the normal competitive tensions are inserted: a cocktail too strong. You can understand how the beginning of the championship is also expected as a kind of liberation. In particular by a man, by that Ayrton Senna that many consider as the future champion.
"I also want to start. It’s my year of truth: for the first time I have the material needed to win the title. That doesn’t mean I’m running as a favorite. It just means that on paper I start on a par with rivals who think of the world. I am very loaded, although I know very well that there will be so much work to do. On the engine, on this electronic suspension, very complicated, that we have developed and that we think we can use here if there will be no unexpected trouble".
Some say that your designer, Gerard Ducarouge, is a technician better at preparing pole-position cars than single-seaters to win races.
"Ducarouge is a great professional. The right person to manage a team. He has enough will, skills, and enthusiasm to please a driver. If he has not yet won a championship, I think, it is because he has not had the means to do so".
The recent tests have given experts the opportunity to get an idea of what may happen during the season.
"It’s early to talk. Everything has changed. It’s going to take one race to get the cards out and two or three more to get confirmation. I would put Williams in first place, McLaren in second. I think we will soon notice a competitive Ferrari".
A lot of criticism has been directed at Senna: too impetuous, selfish, a prince who wants a second-class driver next to him, as teammate, not to be bothered.
"I don’t think I’m being unfair, even if I’m convinced that to drive in Formula 1 you don’t have to be a young lady. And Nakajima’s choice was not mine. He’s a good guy, calm and sensitive".
It is also said that Ayrton Senna is very attached to money.
"My family is wealthy. My father already had his own plane when I was a child. The only real reason I’m in Formula 1 is this: I want to win the world title. Money? I think it’s fair to demand a certain kind of treatment. After all, the top five circus racers earn as much as a great golfer or tennis player. But we run more deadly risks. I never think about it, but danger is really part of our job".
In Brazil the sun is back and Michele Alboreto spends the last hours of rest by the pool. He reads a science fiction book, the classic Asimov, he seems calm, relaxed. Although in his dark eyes, every now and then, a few flashes of concern transpire: the quarrel between the drivers and the FISA for the super license fee, the season that is about to begin, full as usual of unknowns, radical changes in the team, and many expectations. Four years at Ferrari. What does it mean for the Italian driver, who has been racing in Formula 1 since 1981, with 89 Grand Prix and five victories, two with Tyrrell and three driving Mannello’s cars?
"A period of my life that I will never forget. In many ways. We went to alternate seasons: 1984 bad, the next one quite good, the past one bad. Based on this/alternating, the next should be good. The premises are there".
On the basis of what considerations?
"The only real dilemma is the tuning of the car. We arrived late, we don’t know it well yet. We are here to win as always, but we still haven’t had the chance to bring the F1-87 to the limit of its possibilities. The only information I have is that here in Rio we set a better free practice time than the new McLaren, which is an interesting comparison".
About the car: what is its potential compared to the previous model?
"I think it’s very high. It’s a very sophisticated car, difficult to adjust. But it is also the most carefully designed machine, at the limit of everything, from weight to size, that is poorly driven. I repeat potentially very good".
There has been a lot of talk about the difficulties you have in driving it and the safety of these kind of cars at the limit.
"If you want to be at the top, you can’t make cars like tanks. The protections are the maximum, but when you get to 200 km/h in a flash it is difficult to make a sure means. It was done as much as possible".
But there was some controversy: you have to drive with knee pads, shin pads, elbow pads, as American football players...
"Not only us, but also other drivers. The dimensions of the cabin are very small in all cars. You’d have to have Prost’s luck in the physical hall of a jockey. When I first saw the body I asked if it was a scale model. In any case I would be willing to drive even a narrower car if it was winning".
They say that Michele Alboreto is not a great test driver.
"When I went to Tyrrell, he could barely qualify. After two years he won races. Even Piquet couldn’t win with Brabham when it wasn’t competitive. No, they’re all stories. Give me a good car and I can assure you that there will be no problems, not even tuning".
According to what you have seen so far, what will the World Championship be like that is about to begin?
"Very tough, balanced. With three teams above all: Williams, McLaren and Lotus. Then we come and reserve Benetton for an outsider role. The chassis of the cars of Fabi and Boutsen is fantastic, glued to the ground while cornering. But the Ford engine could be a handicap if they failed to develop it compared to last year".
Speaking of engines, how’s Ferrari’s new 90° V-cylinder?
"Great. It’s the only thing we’re not worried about right now. We are certainly among the best, high power, prompt response, runs almost like an aspirated".
And we come to John Bernard, the technical manager of Ferrari. A first assessment of this relationship?
"It changed the methodology of the work. But basically it’s always Ferrari that counts. The team is determined, wants to win, from the first to the last of his men. With Berger there are no problems, I always got along with all my teammates. Barnard is a thoughtful technician. I can’t argue that he is like a dad to us, but also an attentive, curious designer, who talks about cars all the time. And it takes into account what we say".
Michele Alboreto will become a father this year. His wife Nadia is expecting a daughter. One more reason for concern?
"I don’t think my family situation will have any influence on racing. In fact, since I’m very happy, the morale is very good. The fans who know me know that I will do my best, without distractions. It’s time for an Italian driver to reach the top. And I’m not just talking about myself. We have to prove that our school is always valid. For those who are there and those who are no more".
A way like any other to dedicate, in advance, any satisfaction to the unforgettable Elio De Angelis. In the meantime, the clash between the pilots and the FISA over-taxation is getting worse, it is getting more complicated. Wednesday, April 8, 1987 representatives of the drivers - Michele Alboreto, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet - meet with Bernie Ecclestone and Leon, Secretary General of the Federation. No one wants to speak, but the pilots call a plenary meeting at 6:00 p.m. to report what happened. It seems thatpositions are always very far apart. According to Alain Prost, the president of the FISA, Jean-Marie Balestre, in agreement with Bernie Ecclestone, would like in this way to carry out a speech to tax heavily all their earnings. According to rumors the drivers would behave in this way: Friday morning they will get on track ready to take part in the tests. But they won’t pay the tax whose deadline has been set for Thursday at 4:00 p.m.. But what is the reason for this new tax?
"Since you are always complaining about safety, that there are no helicopters, that the runways are dirty and so on, you too should make a contribution and we consider this tax to be intended to pay for all the services concerning your safety".
At this point the front of the pilots is broken: some pay, others continue to say no. And declare:
"Very well. If the money is for security we pay, but we want to know how it will be spent, so let us enter a special commission".
Clear and sensible speech. But when this comes to the Federation, the Federation turns around and says that this money is not really for security but to cover the federal budget deficit. Moreover, the federal budget of the Federation will be put into crisis this year also by the well-known judicial judgment of a Parisian court, which forced the FISA to pay several billions to Peugeot for the damages that had caused it with the event of the disqualification at the Sanremo Rally of 1986. It is Alain Prost to revive the GPDA, determined to go ahead in this protest also to increase the political weight, at the moment almost zero of the drivers. The mockery of the FIA immediately triggers even more angry reactions even from the drivers who until now had been distracted by the story. They say the pilots:
"They don’t know how to run the Federation and we should pay the liabilities? Never. And then why just us? Let all our colleagues from other car formulas also pay".
And Michele Alboreto adds:
"The Federation has asked us to pay a super tax as a security fee. We all answered very well, asking immediately afterwards: but what will you do for safety? No one has yet answered us. I know that when De Angelis died last year the helicopter was missing, that days ago in Rio the helicopter was always missing, that the runway was full of mud and nobody cleaned it. When Arnoux almost killed himself in Jerez two months ago, it was always the helicopter that wasn’t there. Then either the Federation tells us what it intends to do or we don’t pay. But I have no illusions, the truth is that we drivers do not count for anything for the Federation and the teams, so in the end they will pay all and the championship will be saved. But the bitterness remains to note that faced with the problems of safety all make empty promises and this is not nice for a sport that is at the top of attention worldwide".
Now we need to see what the Federation will decide to do. If it were to prevent them from trying the race would be compromised. The Formula 1 World Championship will officially kick off on Friday 10 a.m. at 1:00 p.m. with the first round of qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The season opens with news in a climate exasperated on the competitive and technical level. The sport of the car is at the forefront in the professional field, between sponsors, television and entertainment, In a whirlwind of billions that makes the heat of Maradona pale. It is no coincidence that these days there is a new kind of economic relationship between the Federation and the drivers.
But, leaving aside controversy and arguments, the dominant motive of this championship is not only that of the rivalry between Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna or between Williams and McLaren. It is not even represented by the interesting technical innovations, such as the revolutionary active suspension of the. Lotus, the theme of the 1987 season is the Japanese challenge. Sport and industry go in symbiosis and so the companies of the Rising Sun also assault the Formula 1 seen as a world showcase. After a brief stint in the 1960s, Honda returned to power in 1983. With a lot of effort, regardless of the initial failures, the Japanese giant pursues veryspecific objectives that are also commercial. With an annual investment of over $50.000.000, Honda has seized two of the most prestigious Formula 1 teams, providing them with engines. First Williams with which last year he won the Constructors' World Championship, then Lotus, imposing among other things a Japanese driver, Satoru Nakajima. This is all part of a big strategic plan. Because along with the engines, there’s electronics, turbines, fuels. And then there will be tires and more, while technicians learn, copy, improve, invent, until they create a real school. A plan that includes not only Formula 1 but also Rallies (Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan), and the track in other specialties with the goal of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A real invasion for which you can disturb the rhetoric but always valid image of danger. Crowds of Japanese reporters (there are those hired only to photograph all the cars in detail), and several journalists. And at the end of the year we will compete in Suzuka, for the penultimate race, on the track that is the property of Honda, which carries out its tests there. And to think that once Formula 1 was exclusively European heritage with some American support.
It is also said that in the short term Honda will align a single-seater with all its. Meanwhile two teams with the Honda engine are candidates for the title. Williams that focuses on the experience of Nelson Piquet, the favorite for the victory of the World Championship, and on the grit of Nigel Mansell. And the Lotus that has Ayrton Senna as its spearhead. Against them the McLaren, orphaned by John Barnard, but helped by the Porsche engine and the skill of Alain Prost, will have to stand up. Ferrari, which may be growing but still needs to break in both the new F1-87 car and the setup of the mixed Anglo-Italian team, remains for the moment a disturbing role waiting for positive developments. And then there is the Benetton that apparently has a great chassis, but which weighs the unknown of the turbo Ford engine. Race in the race, the presence of some cars with aspirated engines, in future operation, i.e. for next year when 1 turbo should no longer be competitive for regulatory restrictions. Tyrrell and March with 3500cc Cosworth engines, and their drivers will race for the Trophies Colin Chapman and Jim Clark, but creating safety problems being much less fast. These in summary the premises of a Grand Prix that will be held regularly, after the drivers and the FISA find Thursday evening the agreement. The leaders of the Federation, in a press conference, announce that the registrations of all drivers for the World Championship have been accepted. This means that the problem of super licensing fees has been resolved by compromise. The FISA has announced that it will review the system of counting sums due before the San Marino Grand Prix. During the same conference, Alain Prost stood up and clarified the situation further:
"First of all the pilots have reconstituted their association, of which will be president the World Champion in office".
In this case the same French.
"Secondly, the payment system will be that of an equal division for all of the sum due to FISA".
Basically each driver will pay about 3.000 dollars. The agreement is valid for five years and will be subject to inflation-based increases in France. Alain Prost also says that drivers will continue to disagree about the 26 cars that should start in Monte-Carlo and that as far as safety is concerned, many of their demands have not yet been met. The agreement reached between FISA and pilots for the payment of super licenses has interesting implications and offers the starting point for some consideration. The Federation believes they have won the battle, having obtained from the runners the payment of over 50.000 dollars required.
A figure that, all in all, does not affect the earnings of the men of Formula 1. According to an estimate by Marco Piccinini, Scuderia Ferrari’s sports director, on information from Bernie Ecclestone, they will collect this year a total of 27.000.000 dollars. The drivers for the moment are 26. But you have to consider that some pay to run through personal sponsors while the top five earn an average of 3.000.000 dollars per year. The FISA, whose pompous and arrogant president Jean-Marie Balestre has lost his time by issuing a long statement to attack a French journalist of the Team, guilty of having criticized him, has not realized that it has stimulated the pilots not to suffer more passively, as has been the case so far. The riders called for the abolition of the tax to climb based on the points obtainedthe previous year and publicly argued against the intention to race 26 cars in Monte-Carlo. But, above all, they dusted off their old association, the GPDA, appointing Alain Prost to the presidency. A combative Prost who intends not to give in easily on the safety issue. The first objective of the pilots is to obtain a place in the executive committee called FISA. Meanwhile, they spread a rumor: why not tax the profits of manufacturers, given that in a few years of activity many of them have become multi-billion, with jets, helicopters and castles? Waiting for this dispute to be resolved, Friday, April 10, 1987 took place the first day of practice of the Brazilian Grand Prix, opening race of the Formula 1 World Championship. On the level of results no surprise: it is still Williams to dominate the scene. Nelson Piquet placed his stock in the very last laps: 1'27"822, at an average of 206.231 km/h. Last year Ayrton Senna got the pole position by turning 1'25"501. But if the new rules have managed to mitigate the performance of these cars, not everything goes as it should. The new turbo pressure supply valves first of all. The device imposed by FISA does not work as it should. In the morning, during the not timed tests, five of these devices were broken (on the two Ferraris of Alboreto and Berger, on the Benetton of Fabi, on the Brabham of Patrese and on the Lotus of Senna). The real problem, however, is another. The valve (15 cm long), placed between the charge system and the air intake over compressed to the engine, does not have a smooth operation. It is calibrated for a maximum of 4 bar- of pressure but during the tests, after a few minutes, it adjusts causing, among other things, a drop in engine power. He says, about this problem, Nelson Piquet:
"Our car right now is certainly the best but we ourselves risk doing everything for nothing. In fact, these missed engine adjustments can cause changes, especially in the race. We risk stopping prematurely if we do not run for cover".
Ayrton Senna is of the same opinion and is also struggling with a new system of active suspensions, controlled by a complex computer system; the adjustment of the car is difficult. The debut was not entirely negative for Ferrari, which marked the seventh time with Michele Alboreto and the ninth with Gerhard Berger. If you consider that the two F1-87 cars used in the day had not yet covered a meter, you can consider it less serious than the gap between the cars made by Barnard and Williams. Alboreto and Berger also had the misfortune of finding a lot of traffic on the track and could not make a lap without being obstructed. Says the Italian driver, at the end of the tests:
"You could not expect more. In any case it is a very difficult car to drive, which requires special care in tuning. I am always convinced that Barnard has the tools to give us a competitive car but it will take some time to be at the level of the best".
The traffic on the track damages especially Nigel Mansell. The Englishman criticizes Teo Fabi, guilty of having hindered him while trying to make a very fast lap and having made him lose the provisional pole position, snatched from him by his teammate in the last few minutes available. Why such a situation? Simple: with tires that do not wear out all the teams send the cars inside the circuit at the same time and for almost the entire qualifying hour. It becomes almost impossible to find, as in the past, a ride with few competitors on the track. Among the other news of the day a series of spin Andrea De Cesaris and a misadventure happened to the Spanish Adrian Campos, debutant with Minardi. The Iberian driver did not stop at the entrance to the pits to check the weight of the car and risked disqualification. Sunday, April 12, 1987, at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell, who started in pole position, was overtaken by three opponents.
The most skilled of all in the shot is Nelson Piquet, followed by Ayrton Senna and the two Benetton of Teo Fabi and Thierry Boutsen. Then, Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto. However, Nelson Piquet’s dominance was short-lived: during the seventh lap, the Brazilian entered the pits to change the tyres. He had a 2.38 second lead over Ayrton Senna and got back in the race on the next lap (twelfth, at 25.9 seconds), starting a quick chase. Ayrton Senna risesto first place, with his Lotus equipped with electronic control suspension. But you immediately understand that the pilot of São Paulo could not have lasted long. Behind him came Alain Prost, throwing, and Nelson Piquet, in recovery. And in fact, during the eleventh lap Alain Prost passed Nigel Mansell, who returned to the pits to change the tires. During lap 13 Alain Prost is already leading the race, followed by Ayrton Senna and Thierry Boutsen, while Teo Fabi, betrayed by the electronics of his Benetton, is forced to retire. Alain Prost begins to detach opponents. But the stops are not yet over. With Alain Prost in the pits, Nelson Piquet, back from the rear, leads the race, ahead of the tough Thierry Boutsen. But also for the Brazilian the glory lasts very little. With the car sliding from one side of the circuit to the other due to the worn covers, Nelson Piquet is forced to return to the pits for tyre changes, and from now on Alain Prost has no problems to lead the race undisturbed. The Frenchman took the lead and held the first position until the end, winning his first win of the season, the number 26 in a career that began in 1981. Another step forward in his distance duel with Jackie Stewart, stopped at 27. Behind the French driver, the fight is still lively. Ayrton Senna seemed to be able to resist with the best when, first for pit stops, then for the engine failure, he was forced to abandon. Even Nigel Mansell gets too excited. At the start of the race, some pieces of paper thrown from the grandstands got into the radiator of his car, overheating the engine. He then starred in an episode similar to what had cost him the World Championship in 1986. The left rear tire of his Williams suddenly sags. It is not an explosion like that of Adelaide, but enough to force him to the box. It remains to be said of Ferrari. Gerhard Berger’s fourth place may be interesting in some respects but Maranello’s cars have never been competitive with the best in chronometric performance.
The Austrian managed his single-seater well and eventually overtook Michele Alboreto who, however, was in trouble with a car that touched the asphalt with the bottom. The Italian driver tried again to resist, but this cost him a possible placement in the points. In fact, because of the car he touched and the tires now completely worn, he is the author of a spin, finishing at the side of the track, stopped three laps from the end. The professor taught another wonderful lesson. Alain Prost, winning a strange Brazilian Grand Prix, opens the season triumphantly. It was expected to be a fierce fight between Williams and Lotus, an all Brazilian duel between Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna but in the end the World Champion emerged with his McLaren, a car that resists the passage of time. Abandoned by the designer Barnard, who emigrated to Ferrari, McLaren has proved, once again, to be able to improve its cars for small steps and to be unbeatable in the race. The conditions were very different: Williams had dominated in practice, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet had split the front row at the start. But then in the race the music changed and Alain Prost directed, as he alone knows how to do, this waltz of the tires. It was precisely the tyres that affected the result of the Grand Prix, although it can be said that perhaps Alain Prost would have won equally. The abrasive asphalt of the Jacarepaguà circuit and the scorching heat (30 ºC) forced the teams to schedule an incredible series of tyre changes. Almost all the drivers stopped three times in the pits, And this was perhaps the reason for the dominant uncertainty of the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship. A series of very quick pit stops led to an alternation of drivers in the lead, at least in the very first laps. Then Prost imposed his pace and the race lived only for the placings. In front of 100.000 spectators crazy for the show and the heat (crowded grandstands, hundreds of fainting), Ferrari got only a fourth place with Gerhard Berger. Michele Alboreto, who was struggling with his team-mate, spun on the third lap and was placed eighth outside the points. It is difficult to determine if the debut of the Ferrari of the John Barnard era was positive or negative, certainly the men, of the Mannello team first appeared disappointed, maybe they had made illusions, after Sunday morning just Michele Alboreto, During the half hour of free practice, he had scored the second half. But there was not much hope for this car that has not yet taken on a definitive set-up. A few kilometers, a lot of work to do.
The three points won by Gerhard Berger are a small incentive. At the end of the race, Michele Alboreto rushed back to the locker room to leave for Italy. Dark on the face, sweaty, fatigued but also clear in speaking, as always:
"It was my mistake, I trusted the tires too much, and the car spun in the last lap. Maybe if I had slowed down, I would have gone all the way and scored a point. But that’s hindsight and I was working hard to keep my position".
How come you only made two tyre changes while your teammate, Gerhard Berger, made three?
"There was an optional third change. I didn’t see any signals to return, so I thought the team thought I could go on like that. Actually I had to slow down, but it was like running on ice and the risk of going out at every turn was very high. As it happened. Moreover my car from the beginning touched the bottom of the ground and gave me some not indifferent problems. This was clearly seen when I tried to resist the attack of Gerhard Berger: the sparks were flying high in the sky. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. I was hoping for a better result because in the morning I had fixed the car for the race and I had obtained the second time behind Prost. We are still very far away, however, from McLaren".
Anyway, John Barnard adds an important detail, saying that Michele Alboreto probably came out because a bulkhead of the car bottom came off. Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger is not particularly happy with his fourth place finish.
"Ho Berger complained about problems with the gearbox, I did not fit the fourth and this affected me a lot. Then with the continuous tire changes that made it impossible to drive with a certain concentration. For three girls you were fine, the next three you slipped away from all sides. However, it seems to me that we are on the right track, that the new Ferrari can always be considered among the best cars, at least in the first group".
The result did not satisfy even Scuderia Ferrari’s sporting director, Marco Piccinini:
"I honestly expected something more, at least in terms of performance. The gaps are too relevant on the lap and although at some point in the race we could maintain a fairly high pace. Overall I think we will have to work a lot".
What about Alain Prost? He is a champion, a man who now combines experience and skill. He took wonderful advantage of the superiority of his car at the distance and did not make the slightest mistake. Even when he got caught up in dangerous overtaking. At the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Alain Prost is happy, because perhaps the victory was unexpected.
"It’s true, I’m very happy. Not so much because I got my 26th first place and now I’m just more at a length from Stewart but because I could verify that my team is always outstanding and makes me available to the cars that are winning. I feared something with the radical changes that have taken place, but nothing has happened. The race, indeed, apart from the physical fatigue, the great concentration and the terrible heat that I had to suffer, was not particularly hard. I have always acted with extreme caution, without going to the limit. Only at three quarters of the race I preferred to increase the pace a bit to have a certain margin of advantage if something had happened or if I had to return to the pits to change the tires. For the rest I seem to have started in the best way also because as a team we did very well. I think we can go on like this for the whole championship".
Among the Brazilians only Nelson Piquet arrived at the finish line and got on the podium. Nelson got the second place: not bad but it is clear that he wanted to repeat the successes of the past years on the home track. But what scares him is not so much the defeat, but the fact that this McLaren, as a nightmare, continues to affect the performance of all the others. The Brazilian driver says:
"I’m only happy with this second place because I know all the backstory. If I had been beaten by Prost neatly, without argument, I would be worried. Instead, there are facts to be evaluated. After a few laps of paper pieces entered the radiator of my car, the water temperature rose and I had to go back to the pits. This unexpected stop messed up my tyre replacement plans and affected my performance. The water temperature has not returned to normal and I could no longer risk, indeed I had to slow down. In short, toget to the bottom well I did not make the most of the car and this has affected the result a lot. We have considerable potential, and I think we will show it in the next Grands Prix".
Stefan Johansson, also smiling and satisfied after his divorce with Scuderia Ferrari. The Swede says:
"I think I did well, I didn’t push hard because it didn’t seem the case on a car that I don’t know well enough".
The countless tyre changes required during the race certainly affected the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix. The criticism of Goodyear is heavy. Ayrton Senna, facing Leo Mehl, head of the racing sector of the American company, clearly says that the tires were not up to the situation. But Mehl replies harshly:
"The tyres were perfect, the changes expected, given the characteristics of the track. Also they were the same as last year".
How do you explain so many stops? And how do you explain the tires exploding in the straight to Boutsen and Mansell? Can’t you make a cover that can last a whole race? In a competitive situation, it is also possible to conceive tactics to find more competitive solutions, but in a monopoly year wouldn't it be better to have more resistant tyres also for the benefit of the show and the regularity of the race? The current problems concern not only the duration, but also the continuity of performance. On an abrasive track like that of Jacarepaguà the tyres did not last more than seven-eight laps, then the drivers were forced to slow down to avoid going out of the road. It is not a matter of compounds but also of construction. The tyres were reinforced after Adelaide’s troubles and after other problems that arose during Williams' tests in South Africa and England. Now we return to Europe after this trip that has aroused so much curiosity, many controversies and various discussions. The boost valves will still be modified, perhaps the tyre problems will not be as severe as in Brazil. There will be three weeks to prepare for the second race of the championship: for Ferrari managed by John Barnard this will already be a test of appeal. Alain Prost returns to Europe happy, dragging a bag of golf clubs higher than himself. And leaving behind a fourth, beautiful victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship, together with all the worries of the eve. He’s always the man to beat. And his car, McLaren, while changing the order of factors (ie the technicians) was again the best in the race. The Frenchman will certainly face the next San Marino Grand Prix with high morale. The same cannot be said, however, for Michele Alboreto who starts Sunday evening with a lump in his throat, trying to hide a bitterness that perhaps goes beyond the negative result of the first Grand Prix of the season. The Italian driver, on whose hair have sprouted numerous white hairs - "They are not frightened, but the liver that does not work as it should" - does not speak, does not vent. But he feels a sense of discomfort. Justified concerns, if we analyze the situation. Michele Alboreto risks becoming the predestined victim of an environment that seems to have become hostile to him. It was thought that after four years of Ferrari, of sacrifices and sacrifices he could face a season full of prospects, of chances of success. He deserved the grades on the field. But there are reasons to believe in a reversal of roles within Ferrari. Let’s see the facts. You arrive in Rio and you realize that the reserve car is intended for Gerhard Berger. Says Scuderia Ferrari Sports Director Marco Piccinini:
"The car stayed with #28. As it was at the end of free practice last week".
A simplistic explanation: there was plenty of time to adapt it to the Italian driver. Three days of testing and race. Ferrari has at its disposal three pits, one double and one single separated by a wall. In the larger one the car of Alboreto and the reserve car of the Austrian stop. Wasn’t it more practical to leave the two pilots in the same environment instead of separating them, creating a psychological rift? On the car of Gerhard Berger worked directly John Barnard and the most qualified staff, that of Michele Alboreto was entrusted to Nardon, with whom every now and then the English designer had exchanges of information The Italian driver was forced to try especially for the race, while his teammate could betterset the qualifying. Result: Gerhard Berger seventh time, Michele Alboreto ninth. One way as another to put him in a state of psychological inferiority. In this way a driver is forced to risk more, and can lose concentration, make mistakes like then happened in racing, since Michele Alboreto spun in an attempt to overtake Stefan Johansson and then ended his race finishing off the track and three laps from the end with the tires out of use and a bulkhead of the bottom of the car detached. At this point one can make considerations that do not want to involve Gerhard Berger, nor to question in the slightest its undoubted value. The Austrian was wanted at Ferrari by John Barnard who would have hired him at McLaren if he remained on the British team. A simplistic explanation: there was plenty of time to adapt it to the Italian driver. Three days of testing and race. Ferrari has at its disposal three pits, one double and one single separated by a wall. In the larger one the car of Alboreto and the reserve car of the Austrian stop. Wasn’t it more practical to leave the two pilots in the same environment instead of separating them, creating a psychological rift?
On the car of Gerhard Berger worked directly John Barnard and the most qualified staff, that of Michele Alboreto was entrusted to Nardon, with whom every now and then the English designer had exchanges of information The Italian driver was forced to try especially for the race, while his teammate could better set the qualifying. Result: Gerhard Berger seventh time, Michele Alboreto ninth. One way as another to put him in a state of psychological inferiority. In this way a driver is forced to risk more, and can lose concentration, make mistakes like then happened in racing, since Michele Alboreto spun in an attempt to overtake Stefan Johansson and then ended his race finishing off the track and three laps from the end with the tires out of use and a bulkhead of the bottom of the car detached. At this point one can make considerations that do not want to involve Gerhard Berger, nor to question in the slightest its undoubted value. The Austrian was wanted at Ferrari by John Barnard who would have hired him at McLaren if he remained on the British team. It is clear that the English coach defends his choice. Furthermore, John Barnard makes no secret of his intention to have Alain Prost at Ferrari next year. The accounts are soon made. If there is a protagonist in this story destined to succumb, this is Michele Alboreto. McLaren manager Ron Dennis said he had been forced to divorce John Barnard for his interference in team management. And even the good designer had to sell the team shares that were in his possession. Now, as it is said, he has become a shareholder in the British Ferrari, that is, Gto, the company based in Guildford. But this should not allow him to go beyond his technical duties. Total freedom for machines, not men.