#407 1985 San Marino Grand Prix

2022-08-05 18:55

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#1985, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Siria Famulari,

#407 1985 San Marino Grand Prix

On Friday 26 April 1985, over 2,000 spectators challenged the fury of sudden bad weather, spending the whole day in the grandstands of the Imola racet


On Friday 26 April 1985, over 2.000 spectators challenged the fury of sudden bad weather, spending the whole day in the grandstands of the Imola racetrack, waiting to see any new products presented (in a series of free practice sessions also attended by Renault and Ligier) from the Maranello team. Cold and rain didn't make these irreducible fans give up as they left in the first shadows of the evening without being heard. Absent Michele Alboreto. slightly influenced, the Ferrari fans were forced to content themselves with seeing the new driver Stefan Johansson make his first laps on the circuit where the San Marino Grand Prix, third round of the World Championship, was held on Sunday 5 May 1985. Lots of applause and only a few boos welcome the Swede as he enters the track. Those who expected to see a demonstration in favor of René Arnoux, who is very popular in these parts, are disappointed. Once again, this is proof that only Ferrari counts in the hearts of the fans and the driver is just a complement that is added and taken away depending on the moment. The warm welcome does not surprise Stefan Johansson, who is nonetheless impressed by the interest raised:


"It is extraordinary, it seems to be at the stadium for a football match. They had explained to me that I would be the center of attention but I didn't think Formula 1 had such a large following. However, I'm used to certain events because up until three years ago I played football, as a forward, in the junior training of a second division team in my country".


Stefan Johansson completes about forty laps of the track setting, on a wet track, the best time of the day in 1'50"79 (1'51"20 for Tambay and 1'53"55 for De Cesaris). At the end, under pressure, he talks about the present and the future.


"I've been at Ferrari for too little time to make judgments. I am convinced, however, that there is potential this year to win the World Championship. And I think Michele Alboreto is able to aim for the title. I will do everything to help him without losing sight of my goal which is to try to win some races".


Alfa Romeo should also be running on Saturday morning with Riccardo Pairese (the van carrying the car broke down and arrived at the circuit towed by an emergency vehicle). The debut of the Minardi driven by Pierluigi Martini is also expected, with the turbo engine developed by the engineer Carlo Chili. The Italian team's single-seater was ready but it was decided to postpone the debut for one day. Thursday 2 May 1985, on the eve of the San Marino Grand Prix, the city of Imola is crowded, surrounded by the colorful legions of fans. Romagna offers a show within a show in anticipation of this third race of the Formula 1 World Championship. You can no longer find a ticket for one of the 25,000 seats in the grandstand, not even if you pay double its value. And even the coupons that entitle you to enter the vast meadows surrounding the racetrack are becoming increasingly rare. An event that presents itself with ample guarantees of an uncertain struggle at a high level, a series of truly exciting cross-challenges, is the sign of interest. Thousands of spectators were present on Wednesday, just to witness the arrival of the drivers and cars in the pits. And obviously almost everyone around the Ferrari area, eagerly awaited, watched with adoration and almost in religious silence. The three cars for Alboreto and Johansson have been unloaded and secured. They are the traditional cars, already seen in Brazil and Portugal, with some adaptations for this track and a new front wing, arrow-shaped instead of rectangular. Michele Alboreto, leader of the world standings, has been explicit these days:


"We are working hard, because if we want to keep this position, we have to try to win. You can't think of aiming for the title only with placements. In my opinion, however, the McLarens are still the cars to beat".


His teammate, Stefan Johansson, has connected with the team. He likes the people, the support of the Italians and for the moment he hasn't been frightened by the pressures that surround him:


"I'm an apprentice, but at Ferrari there is the possibility of learning early".


It is clear that the Swede feels the responsibility for his position and above all the commitment to make René Arnoux forget. But he doesn't talk about it. His challenge is precisely not to make him regret the Frenchman who has just left Maranello. But if Ferrari presents itself in the obligatory protagonist role (a role that the men of the Modena team would prefer not to have) the underdogs always go to McLaren. Prost and Lauda have already forgotten the misadventures at Estoril and want an immediate revenge linked to a recovery in the standings. Due to its configuration, the Imola circuit forces the cars to consume a lot of fuel. For this reason, last year McLaren with Prost dominated far and wide while many other competitors were unable to even finish the race, running out of petrol. It will be interesting to see if the opponents here too have eliminated the gap that divided them from the two single-seaters powered by Tag-Porsche engines. Elio De Angelis puts Lotus in the role of the outsider and Senna also appears cautious. However, both do not hide ambitions:


"I had a bit of bad luck in the first two races, who knows if my turn will come too".


As if to say that he is not afraid of his teammate's exploits. Instead, the Brazilian wants to show that his fleeting triumph in Portugal was no accident. In terms of novelties, we must record the debut of Minardi with the turbo engine prepared by Carlo Chiti (which traveled very well in the tests of recent days), the debut of a new Osella (which, however, has not yet completed even one lap ) and the adoption by Alfa Romeo of Bosch integral injection. The surprise for this Grand Prix could just be the Italian state-owned company with Patrese and Cheever. Formula 1 is synonymous with speed. And the man who best represents it at the moment, i.e. the fastest, is called Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian, back from his good success in Portugal, set the best time on Friday 3 April 1985 in the first qualifying session of the San Marino Grand Prix. It goes without saying that his black Lotus also sets a new circuit record, 1'27"589, at an average of 207.149 km/h. The previous one, by Nelson Piquet. last year, he was pulverized by nearly a second. Which is no small thing, considering that this season's cars were built on the basis of a regulation which was supposed to make them slower and safer. Ayrton Senna is gradually digging a void around his compatriot Nelson Piquet, gaining esteem and sympathy. But it must be said that Piquet cannot defend himself as Brabham at the start of the season is not even pushing it, for many reasons, despite having the most powerful engine tested, as demonstrated by the fifth and sixth place of the surprising Arrows of Berger and Boutsen who adopt the same. BMW engine. Lotus is therefore going strong, and Senna also puts some of his talent into it, considering that last season the same driver with Toleman, on this track, was unable to qualify. 


A demonstration of how important it is to have a competitive car. . In projections for the race, however, assuming that the sky spares another rainy day as happened in Estoril, the second place obtained by Ferrari with Michele Alboreto is perhaps even more important. A Ferrari that appears to be growing and above all hasn't yet complained of any drawbacks. Now the opponents are starting to worry seriously about the Maranello team's exploits, even if everything is always to be verified. The gap between Senna and Alboreto is less than 0.2 seconds, and if it is true that Ferrari has greater reserves in the race (Lotus adopts a special, more powerful Renault engine on its qualifying cars, while the Maranello team limits itself to increasing the pressure of the turbo), we will witness a good fight. However, we have seen the results of the frenetic work carried out in these days at Fiorano: new rear suspension, which probably guarantees better grip, and very strict slimming treatments. Alboreto's single-seater was weighed, and the result was 541 kilos (the limit is 540), and if you think that there must have been at least a little petrol, you can understand how everything is pulled to the max. Saturday everything starts again if it doesn't rain. Keke Rosberg, third, ensures that he will be able to attack the pole position. Ayrton Senna says we can still go a little faster. Michele Alboreto pretends to settle for the front row, but it is certain that he would like to start in front of everyone, even for the Ferrari fans. McLaren camouflaged itself behind the barely acceptable placings for the English team (fourth Alain Prost, seventh Niki Lauda) but it remains the car to beat. For the Italian colors, apart from Ferrari and Alboreto, there is only hope for a global improvement. 


Elio De Angelis broke the engine on the race car and was unable to do anything with the much less powerful spare one. Andrea De Cesaris is struggling with a Ligier that lacks grip. Alfa Romeo, which inaugurates the new Bosch electronic injection system, is in the middle of the group, in difficulty. The sophisticated device is not yet ready and probably causes problems. So much so that Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever have to qualify with only one car between them, fitted with the old but reliable mechanical system from Spica. The debut of engineer Carlo Chiti's new turbo engine on the Minardi was excellent and without the slightest inconvenience. The young Pierluigi Martini sets the eighteenth time, and this is more than encouraging. Osella, on the other hand, has not yet been able to send the new single-seater onto the track. Saturday, May 4, 1985, the black man of Formula 1 really begins to instill fear. Ayrton Senna, with the pitch-colored stain and overalls, will start for the second consecutive time in pole position, that is, in front of everyone. He is the driver to beat, the reference for anyone who has ambitions of success in the San Marino Grand Prix. He is young, good and also lucky. And the opponents, on a competitive level, already hate him. In practice, everyone is united against him, author of another lap record in 1'27"327, at an average speed of 207.770 km/h. It is as if he were the only danger on the road leading to the world title. The Brazilian has won in Portugal in the storm at Estoril. Should he prevail at Imola too, in front of the 200.000 most demanding spectators in motor sport (about 100.000 people are present for the second qualifying session, 60.000 of whom are paying) Senna would have the opportunity to put all his rivals are in crisis, from Lauda to Prost, from Alboreto to Rosberg, to his teammate, Elio De Angelis, and he would probably become an idol of Formula 1 fans. Ferraris aside. It is for this reason that, weather conditions and car permitting, the watchword for the race is to beat the Lotus driver. Brazilians are divided into rich and poor, like everyone else. But in sport, Brazilians are divided into the rich who are Formula 1 motorists and the poor who are footballers. Ayrton Senna is from the first group. Even Milton Da Silva, his father, says it in almost Italian. Milton Da Silva, who at the sight of him denounces just five years of registration more than his twenty-five-year-old son:


"Honestly, I have to admit that my boyfriend has had a life made easier by my money. I thank God it was like this. Not too much money, not sheikh money, but useful money to start this job, ride a little car at the age of four that I had given him, climb a. eight years on a go-kart, practicing in our races, going to England as a very young man, being ready for the call from Lotus".


The father is a pig farmer in São Paulo.


"I have a psychologist daughter, an eight-year-old son who maybe will be kidnapped by football that I don't love, Ayrton made me go by car, I wanted to be a driver".


Ayrton says trivial things or at least rituals submerged by journalists suddenly curious about him, his father continues to talk to the only one who is listening to him:


"They say my son loves the rain, but they are lies. He loves the sun, he prefers dry driving. But since the others suffer the rain more than him, long live the rain. I pledged to follow him, to help him again, because he won a bet. In other words, he had to achieve a certain result in four races, at least two he was behind the schedule, then he achieved what he had promised me, I had to give in, let him interrupt his studies, try to become a champion".


Cultivate a dream?


"That my son drives a Ferrari: it's the myth. But it's fine with Lotus".


Clay Regazzoni says of Ayrton Senna:


"He already has a career behind him, thinking about minor races. He's on a big car. In the wet, the superior car, like the Lotus, comes out better, and so it too comes out. He is still fresh with enthusiasm. In Portugal he was deconcentrated, he was just realizing what Formula 1 means, yet he won. He's fine here, if it rains he gets excited, but because the rain obliges the best to be truly such".


And finally Ayrton Senna says about himself:


"I can win, I can lose, I'm already satisfied with myself. I fear the McLarens, the Ferraris, the Williams in order. I fear as a pilot especially Rosberg, a fighter. In Portugal I didn't want to win and I won, now I want to win and who knows what I'll do. I did everything to improve in the last hour of practice because I was afraid they would take away my pole position, which will count especially in wet weather. But be careful, I have to love the rain only because others hate it more than me, I don't limit myself to calling myself a wet rider".


He is the classic rich South American, very open, he has European ways of saying and doing. He speaks Italian, English and French, understands Spanish. He delivers a sung Portuguese. He doesn't know anything about football, which is quite an exploit for a Brazilian. His career is extraordinary: in Formula 1 in the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix, after four national karting titles, two British Formula Ford titles, a Euroford title, an English Formula 3 title. Immediate sympathy. Many opinion-leaders move from the Ferrari box to the Lotus box, a journey of half a metre, the thickness of a wall, to cultivate this Ayrton Senna, who looks good on everyone. He is clean, cheeky, naive, confident and at the same time likeable, and since he also drives well, it is difficult to ask for more from him. If it's sunny and he wins, a champion is celebrated. If there's rain and he wins, as in Estoril, a sort of aquatic nephew of all is celebrated. But be careful, because everyone promises to attack, not to spare themselves and this should benefit the show, in a race that promises to be hard-fought also because the performances of these days have been very close. There has been a return to a certain balance of values longed for, after the period of absolute dominance by McLaren. Ayrton Senna will not have an easy fill. At his side is Keke Rosberg, king of lightning starts. Behind are De Angelis and Alboreto, two mastiffs from which it is difficult to break away on equal terms. Rosberg and De Angelis look like twins and announce an identical racing plan:


"If my Lotus is fine, I will attack without sparing myself. The car goes well, the engine is powerful, I don't feel beaten from the start".


The Finnish is even more explicit:


"So far I have not reached the end of a race. I don't give a damn about finishing third or fourth. Attack from the first meter and then let's go and see".


The second qualifying session sees Ferrari slightly in difficulty, with Alboreto slipping from second to fourth place and with Johansson demoted even to fifteenth place. Things didn't go well for the Maranello team, even if that doesn't mean it's impossible to run a good race. Indeed, the McLaren men, perhaps adopting a pretactic, indicate Ferrari and Lotus as the favorites for success. In any case Alboreto (one of the few who didn't improve his time) was slowed down by the partial failure of the turbo manifold, which decreased engine performance with the first set of tyres. After a quick repair it started to drizzle, the driver waited to get back on track and in the last minutes he was still struggling with the previous problem. Johansson, on the other hand, first complained of understeer and then too much traffic on the track, failing to take advantage of the qualifying tyres. 


Of course, when the loudspeaker announces his placement, some whistles go up from the stands and there are those who ask for the head of the sporting director, Marco Piccinini. Much applause, however, for René Arnoux, present in the pits as a spectator. An unfair treatment for the Swede, who has yet to understand the new car and above all the new team. For Elio De Angelis, however, the recovery was more than satisfactory. The Italian driver improved by about 2.5 seconds, moving up to third position. For the race he will have a more powerful Renault engine, and will have the opportunity to compete with the fastest at the top of the race. Fifth was the surprising Arrows-Bmw of Belgian Thierry Boutsen. Then come the McLarens. Alain Prost is sixth, Niki Lauda eighth. The World Champion says:


"This Ferrari worries me, and the Lotus is strong. This time it will be tough for us. It's been a long time since we've been in such difficulty, even if the races are almost always something else than practice".


And the pessimism of the Austrian driver is also shared by Alain Prost. unnerved by several problems (engine failure) that affected the McLarens. But Michele Alboreto replies:


"I wouldn't give the cars that literally dominated last season as losers. However, I have to admit that we have made some steps forward and that the Lotus is traveling really fast. Rosberg's Williams is also a lightning bolt. In short, we do not make predictions".


But he races at Imola in front of the Italian public…


"We have made some progress, even if it may seem like a decrease compared to the previous race. Here at Imola it doesn't matter so much the starting grid but the race is long and difficult. I won't deny that I aim to win, for many reasons: to consolidate my ranking at the top of the world championship, because winning in Italy must be more beautiful, for a schedule that I have set in the beginning, in which I expect to collect the greatest number of points possible in the beginning of the season. Finally for a psychological reason: success means more stimuli, more morale, reward for the work done. So much so that I would trade the two second places obtained so far for a win and a retirement. I'm not under any illusions but I'll try".


Michele Alboreto is convinced that Stefan Johansson can also compete in a satisfactory race. The Swede wishes it:


"In recent days I have had the feeling of someone who owns a thoroughbred horse and, for one reason or another, is forced to hitch it to a carriage instead of galloping. All I ask is to race without problems and to reap what I will be able to sow".


But don't be fooled. It may seem counterintuitive, but the World Champion and his teammate could be the big surprise of the day, confirming the basic qualities of two cars which, given up for defeat so many times on the eve, then made a vacuum in the race. Once again only the Alfa Romeos, the debuting Minardi turbo and the new Osella were examined, all however in the rear. The weather forecast is uncertain: there is talk of probable scattered showers in the Imola area around noon. But not even an unwelcome drenching in freezing water will be able to dampen the enthusiasm for this third round of the World Championship. Sunday 5 May 1985, before the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, a downpour bathed the Imola circuit. But fortunately, the rain soon stopped falling and the track was able to dry before the start. Jonathan Palmer abandons the start of the race due to problems with the engine of his Zakspeed. At the start Ayrton Senna maintains the first position, followed by Elio De Angelis. Instead, the author of a modest departure is Keke Rosberg, who is passed by both Michele Alboreto and Alain Prost. On the fifth lap Nigel Mansell gave his position first to Niki Lauda and then to Nelson Piquet, favored by the choice of soft tires made by Pirelli.


The following lap Niki Lauda also managed to pass Keke Rosberg, who was also forced to give the position to Nelson Piquet. On the eighth lap Alain Prost attempted to overtake Michele Alboreto, first at the Villeneuve bend, then inside the Tosa bend, but without success. On the eleventh lap Michele Alboreto, always closely followed by Alain Prost, successfully attacked Elio De Angelis, moving up to second place. Nelson Piquet, now with tires in crisis, was forced into the pits to change tyres. The Brabham driver returns to the race in thirteenth position. Shortly after, Alain Prost also passed Elio De Angelis, while Andrea De Cesaris ended the race, exiting at the Tosa curve, due to a problem with the brakes, which he had forgotten to recharge, after leaving the pits. During lap 14 Stefan Johansson passes Nigel Mansell, and a few laps later he does the same with Keke Rosberg, thus climbing back to sixth position. Meanwhile Alain Prost tries, still without success, to overtake Michele Alboreto. Niki Lauda passes Elio De Angelis who suffers from a drop in turbo boost. After twenty laps Ayrton Senna leads the race, with less than a second advantage over Michele Alboreto, who in turn precedes Alain Prost by a second, then Niki Lauda (over 6 seconds behind the leader of the race), Elio De Angelis, Stefan Johansson, Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell. Michele Alboreto tries to overtake Ayrton Senna, without taking his position, and then, shortly after, is in turn subject to an overtaking attempt by Alain Prost, who manages to climb to second place. During lap 24 Keke Rosberg was forced to retire due to an accelerator failure. Michele Alboreto was also forced to make a pit stop due to a problem with the electrical system. The Ferrari driver returns to the race far from the top six. In the following laps Alain Prost also tries to overtake Ayrton Senna, until he loses a few precious seconds in dubbing Patrick Tambay. The McLaren driver decides, on signal from his car's computer, to slow down in order to save fuel. At the same time Michele Alboreto was forced to retire definitively due to a fault in the alternator. Niki Lauda loses the position, to the advantage of Elio De Angelis, due to a spin. From now on, his race was penalized due to a malfunction in his car's control unit, so much so that he was passed by Stefan Johansson. On lap 39 Nigel Mansell missed a change at the Acque Minerali, losing two positions. 


Ayrton Senna leads, despite having also slowed his pace, by 3.1 seconds on Alain Prost, 15 seconds on Elio De Angelis, 17 seconds on Stefan Johansson, almost 29 seconds on Niki Lauda and over a minute on Nelson Piquet. In the following laps Ayrton Senna widened his lead over Alain Prost, while Nelson Piquet was overtaken by Thierry Boutsen. Elio De Angelis and Stefan Johansson, fighting for third place, come up behind the lapped Thierry Boutsen and Nelson Piquet, who are fighting for sixth position. On lap 50, Nelson Piquet passed Thierry Boutsen as the two approached Villeneuve corner. Slowed down by this fight, Elio De Angelis was attacked by the Swedish Ferrari driver at Tosa. Even if penalized by the trajectory of Thierry Botsen, Stefan Johansson passes Elio De Angelis. Johansson's comeback continued a few laps later, when Alain Prost also passed, very attentive to consumption, to put up real resistance. Fuel consumption decides the race in the closing laps. The first to have to leave was Ayrton Senna, during lap 57. Stefan Johansson moved into first position, but he too was forced to stop the single-seater due to a lack of petrol, just one lap later. This allows Alain Prost to climb into first position, followed by Elio De Angelis and Nelson Piquet: the latter too is affected by the lack of fuel, and is forced to abandon the race. Thierry Boutsen moves up to third place, followed by Patrick Tambay, who has in the meantime passed Niki Lauda. Alain Prost reaches the finish line first, always at limited speed, being able to enjoy a wide margin on Elio De Angelis. But the Frenchman stops, during the lap of honour, having run out of fuel in the tank. Thierry Boutsen, who finished the race in third place, found himself out of gas even on the finish line. The Belgian gets off his Arrows, to push it over the finish line. At the end of the race, Alain Prost's McLaren, who reached the finish line first, was weighed at 536 kg, four kilos less than the limit established by the regulations (which required the car to weigh 540 kg at the start, or have 200 kg of fuel). This leads to the disqualification of the French driver. All the riders classified behind him move down one position. Elio De Angelis thus finds himself winning the race without actually leading the race for even one lap. This had happened, for the last time, to Alain Prost, at the 1982 Brazilian Grand Prix. Alain Prost, who had already expressed doubts about the weight of his single-seater upon arrival, complains that the race direction he hadn't allowed the single-seater to be weighed, before the race, on the official scales. 


Thierry Boutsen is second, and conquers his first podium of his career, while Patrick Tambay, climbed to third, celebrates his eleventh (and last) podium. Followed by Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell and Stefan Johansson, classified in sixth place. Who won the San Marino Grand Prix? Not Ayrton Senna, who dominated the race at the wheel of the Lotus until almost the end, and not even Stefan Johansson, who took the lead immediately after with the Ferrari. So did Alain Prosi finish first, crossing the finish line in front of everyone? Wrong answer. The winner is called Elio De Angelis. second on the track with the Lotus #12, but first in the standings due to the sensational disqualification of McLaren, found 2 kilos underweight during technical checks. Everything really happened at Imola in the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship. A beautiful race, full of tension, exciting duels, twists and turns and, as if that weren't enough, with a final case that once again changed mourning. The race was decided above all by fuel consumption, which in the final stages eliminated some protagonists, such as the Ferrari of a great Johansson, who started from fifteenth position and found himself in the lead with four laps to go. And like Ayrton Senna, who has now confirmed himself as an authentic talent. The petrol nightmare conditioned the performance of the test for its entire duration. Now one wonders if it is right that a sophisticated sport like Formula 1, like such a risky competition, can be decided by a few drops of fuel or by the scale. But these are the regulations and you have to respect them. Who makes a mistake pays: there is nothing to be done. And who wins is right. It may feel sorry for the pilots who are perhaps the victims of this technical situation. But they too have the possibility, by fine-tuning the cars, and with correct race conduct, to avoid bitter surprises. So Elio de Angelis was right as he is seen carrying the press release where he was first in the standings while celebrating and being interviewed for second place.


"I was credited with luck for what happened to me this last year. Sure, it's an unexpected win. But that's why it's more welcome. After all, without presumption, I must say that I deserved it. If I hadn't had some brake problems in the final laps, I would have overtaken Prost on the track".


Now the Lotus driver has taken the lead in the World Championship, overtaking Michele Alboreto in the Ferrari. Two Italian pilots at the top. De Angelis talks about the fate that he had hitherto faced. This time she was kind. But there is also an amusing backstory: during the week, partly as a joke, partly out of an open form of superstition which he always takes into consideration, he had gone to a magician, the holy man of Rocca di Papa, near in Rome, which is a petrol station in the city.


"There's something holding you back, you'll see that soon you'll be free and you'll be able to move forward".


By pure chance, the prophecy was immediately fulfilled.


"At least we entertained this wonderful crowd".


The regulation is clear: 220 liters of petrol in the tank or 540 kilos in weight. These are the minimum conditions under which cars must start for a Grand Prix. We already knew about the excessive fuel consumption at Imola: the same thing happened last year. It was thought that with the adoption of the new electronic control systems everyone would have solved the problem, but this was probably not the case due to the pace impressed on the race. The same technical regulations of Formula 1 state that refueling cannot be done during pit stops. Which is why the technicians, before setting off, calculate fuel consumption and adjust the pressure of the turbos accordingly. But pilots currently have the ability to increase or decrease the pressure itself as needed. This obviously causes imbalances in forecasts. And it also explains how a Ferrari, a Lotus can finish the race three or four girls earlier than expected. The fact that De Angelis managed to reach the finish line and that Prost did the same thing can be explained simply: the Italian driver has never pushed to the max and his engine, different from Senna's, is more frugal in consume. As for Stefan Johansson, it was the long chase that burnt the 220 liters available. 


As for the weight of the cars, it may come as a surprise that a well-prepared and serious team like McLaren found itself unprepared. But this is certainly not an attempt at subterfuge. The cars are calculated to the millimetre, including the wear of the brake pads and tyres. Perhaps there was too optimistic a belief in the on-board computer that regulates the turbo pressure and fuel system of Prost's car. Already in Rio de Janeiro the Frenchman's car had been weighed at 242 kilos with 8 liters of petrol on board. This time perhaps the Tag-Porsche technicians had thought, in their calculations, of arriving at the end of the race with a margin of reserve that would have also covered the less weight of the car. Instead it wasn't like that. When he thought he had won the San Marino Grand Prix, Alain Prost said:


"Between the tenth and twentieth laps I started thinking about petrol. The computer told me that I owed a ride on the tank, and therefore that it was necessary to save money. I also tried to take the lead to slow down the race a bit, to somehow limit consumption. And in the end I succeeded. A few laps from the end, given that despite everything I was always indebted to the computer, I decided to slow down completely. I told myself that others must have the same problems as me, sooner or later. I thought I was going to finish well. Let's say I was lucky but let's also say I made an intelligent run, smarter than the others, from a tactical point of view".




"Alboreto and Senna drove me crazy. Both went to the limit, to overcome them you had to take risks. I'm not talking about incorrectness, no, I'm not talking about full correctness. In any case, of the two Sennas, he was the one who performed better, or less badly".


More on petrol:


"If I didn't hold the car, I had a second per lap ahead of everyone. In any case, we at McLaren regulate consumption as if the liters were 216 instead of 220, and I think I won precisely because of this precaution, given that I only covered a kilometer after the finish line".


And the people, the boos?


"I don't want to talk about it. Let's say it's a lack of FairPlay, that sport is something else".


When he learns that he has missed the San Marino Grand Prix, due to lack of weight of his car (he gradually learned about it, first the rumors, then the black and white of an official statement: 538 kilos instead of the 540 regulation) Alain Prost says:


"We will continue with the counter-claims, I think this matter will still be discussed for a long time. All I'm saying is that before the race they didn't let us weigh the car on the official scales. For us, for our internal scale, everything was fine. Perhaps the official balance would have put us on the alert, perhaps it would have clarified [something. It seems crazy to have to lose a race like this and maybe even the World Championship".


And finally, with rather philosophical sadness, he says:


"The downside of it all is that the riders do things right, they risk their lives, they give their best, and then they are punished like this, and they feel that they are the only ones paying for regulations that are foreign to them. As well as the petrol regulation, which forces you to go slowly, which partially nullifies your enthusiasm and your skill: but at least it is well known by everyone in all the details".


At Ferrari, despite everything, there is satisfaction. The cars traveled well, there were some drawbacks, but in the end there was no lack of good performance. And Michele Alboreto has no great regrets. Sure, he would have liked to win at Imola, maybe he could have, but that's how racing is done.


"It was a tight and beautiful race, with a messy finish. If I had stayed in the race until the end maybe I could have won because I didn't have to do a chase like my teammate and I would have consumed something less. However, it is useless to make speeches when things have already happened. I had adopted a special tactic in preparing my car to beat McLaren. And I think I was right. I had set up the set-up to be very fast on the straight and a little less on the slow section where it was more difficult to overtake. So Prost couldn't pass me. Unfortunately there was the alternator problem. Stefan was good, especially in overtaking De Angelis. He kept his foot down and despite risking a little he managed to pass in front. Senna pushed hard and this cost him a probable victory. I always consider McLaren the team to beat".


Stefan Johansson is mostly surrounded by kids. For Ferrari fans he is already an idol. Smiling, signing autographs. He doesn't know if he's completely happy or a little disappointed:


"It's nice to have a point, but it would have been great to take 9. How do I view Prost's disqualification? If the car was underweight, it's only right that he was removed from the standings. Now we still have to work a lot but we are really on the right track. Above all, I'm happy if Commendatory Ferrari enjoyed my race, as I hope. If I hadn't started so far back it probably would have ended in a different way. But I had to pull like a desperate man and consumption went beyond expectations".


And these data are confirmed by the technicians: it was thought to lap around 1'33"0, instead the Swede had to come close to 1'31"0 several times. And a two-second difference in Formula 1 translates into several liters of petrol , over the course of 60 laps. Ayrton Senna almost cried at the end of the race, after his sudden retirement while in the lead. The Brazilian barely holds back the tears, but not the anger and bitterness:


"I had fought to the limit with Prost and Alboreto. By now I felt almost sure of the second victory. For this reason I had also decreased the turbo pressure. It didn't help. There was no part of him. His car was fitted with the new Renault F15 engine, which consumes less. Since there aren't many of these engines yet, we have to divide them up. And at Imola it was his turn".


Is it right that Formula 1 is conditioned by consumption?


"We riders should only think about going as fast as possible. Instead we are forced to deal with fuel. Unfortunately it's part of the game, I don't know how it could be done differently, with the 220-litre limit. The only thing I am sure of is that the technicians have to fix this situation. It doesn't seem fair to me for someone to give themselves up to win, not to damage the car, to save the tires and then remain like an imbecile on the edge of the track watching the others race towards the finish line".


Senna's opinion is shared by everyone without distinction. Even Elio Da Angelis, who benefited from the stoppage of Johansson and Senna, admits he doesn't like this formula.


"Considering that if I hadn't had brake problems in the last three laps I could have won on the track, because I could keep a higher pace than my rivals, including Prost, I find it mortifying to run at savings. Even if tactical intelligence must be part of a champion's baggage, it is equally certain that we are not in Formula 1 to go slowly".


Nelson Piquet, two-time World Champion, agrees perfectly.


"I already said it last year. He risks seeing two races every time. The real one, with the real values in the field, up to a few laps from the end, and the victims of an absurd situation. It is a matter without rhyme or reason. The question of consumption is linked to safety and the technical challenge. Perhaps the best solution would be to decrease racing by a few laps".


A solution, the one proposed by the Brazilian, which has a double edge. The day the races were shortened, petrol would be used to have more power. The truth is that the problem can only be overcome by technicians, by finding the best compromise between performance and consumption. Without forgetting that in the next few years, according to the current regulation, the tank limit should be raised from 220 to 195 litres, while the engines should go from 1500 cc to 1200 cc. For the people it was the Grand Prix of pranks. Indeed, many spectators left the circuit convinced they had witnessed another success by Alain Prost and McLaren. The only one to have tasted the joy of a day that ended unexpectedly in triumph was Elio De Angelis, who with the first place obtained also leapt to the lead of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Italian pilot offers a dinner to relatives and friends (his father and brother were present at the race, his mother and sister flew in from Rome in the evening) and reviewed on a television, leaning in the place of honor at the head of the table, second achievement of his career. Beyond the result and the lively controversy aroused by the events that led to the disqualification of Prost and the withdrawal of Senna and Johansson (who ran out of petrol), it must be recognized that the San Marino Grand Prix was one of the most beautiful, fun and exciting of recent years. Johansson's overtaking was exceptional when he slipped between De Angells' Lotus and Boutsen's Arrows at the Tosa braking point. An episode noted by the Ferrari fans who finally surrounded the Swede shouting at him:


"You are Gilles' heir".


In the analysis of the day after, however, many questions emerge. The first and most important of which concerns fuel consumption. Is it right that a sport like Formula 1, synonymous with speed and freedom, should be conditioned by a few liters of petrol? Why has this situation come about? What are the precautions that can be taken to prevent races from being decided solely by the thirst for an engine? What are pilots able to do in order not to fall victim to technical regulations that limit their abilities? But above all, what is in the future of Ferrari? The Maranello team is developing an unprecedented supercharging system, using bi-turbo compressors. These are two-stage fans capable of spinning even at 150.000 rpm. This solution makes it possible to push the air into the feed in successive phases. First from a smaller turbine and then from a second larger one from which it receives an even higher pressure, higher than the three relative atmospheres currently obtainable. The advantages of the two-stage turbo should be: greater usable power, quicker response and at lower rpm. A laboratory car with this system has already driven several times at Fiorano. It was also expected to be tested at Imola but Ferrari preferred to postpone so as not to run risks of reliability. To adopt these turbines it is not necessary to modify the electronic injection system, but special alloys must be studied for the ducts, the turbines themselves, which are stressed to levels hitherto unthinkable.


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