The climate of great tension with which the Formula 1 World Championship began (the controversy between the drivers and the FISA for the super license, the uncertainties for the new regulations such as the imposition of the valve limiting the pressure of the turbo, the presence on the track of slower cars with aspirated engines, the rivalries declared and latent, the huge interests at stake) have perhaps made some of the protagonists lose their heads. Among these is certainly Nelson Piquet, who, after having dangerously hit Alessandro Nannini’s Minardi during Saturday’s practice in the Brazilian Grand Prix (at that time the best time of qualifying was his teammate, Nigel Mansell)Monday, April 13, 1987 is at the center of an episode of violence. The Brasilia police say that Nelson Piquet has been denounced by a cameraman of the Globo television network, who accuses him of beatings. Fernando Mendes De Sousa - this is the name of the complaint - complains that he was assaulted by the Brazilian driver, at the exit of a court. According to the complaint, the cameraman was thrown to the ground and then punched by Piquet. He evidently did not like to be filmed leaving the judicial office, where he had gone to deal with the last formalities concerning the divorce case from his first wife. The incident provoked unanimous negative reactions in Brazil. Nelson Piquet, who has not always enjoyed good relations with the Brazilian press, too aggressive and indiscreet towards him, would first hit the camera of photographer Joao Ramid, of the weekly Veja, released with broken glasses. Then, at the moment of leaving the court, the pilot would have lost his patience again launching - again according to reports - iron bars against Adauto Cruz, photographer of the newspaper Correio Braziliense and Fernando Mendes De Souza, TV operator, hitting them both. The second, as has been said, has filed a complaint with the police, and theoretically Nelson Piquet could be tried and sentenced to up to a year in prison. The Williams driver (who came second in the race in Rio, behind Alain Prost) was particularly upset after the Brazilian Grand Prix. He had argued that it was confetti thrown by fans in the stands that forced him to slow down:
"It was the spectators who took away my victory, with all the confetti they threw on the circuit. I was in the lead, but the paper ended up in the radiator and suddenly raised the engine temperature. Prost was lucky: I had never made a better start, and I felt I had full control of the race. Had it not been for this inconvenience, I would have run away, and Prost would have seen me only with binoculars".
Certainly the drawback has damaged Nelson Piquet as well as Nigel Mansell. The fact remains that these drivers are very nervous for many reasons. A situation that seems to have involved Michele Alboreto who, even in conditions of inferiority due to the deteriorated tires, has engaged a duel with his teammate, Gerhard Berger, finishing off the track. A few weeks later, Wednesday, April 22, 1987, on the Imola circuit, which has become a reference point for Formula 1, begins a series of tests ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, May 3, 1987. On the stands, along the track, there are the usual fans, a few thousand people. All waiting for Ferrari, of course. A long wait, as the tests (on track, in addition to the Maranello team, Benetton and Minardi) take the start only after noon. The fans were patient, welcoming Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger with a small ovation, as usual. But the two Ferraris, after a few laps (12 for the Italian, 14 for the teammate), are forced to stop, that of the Austrian due to the failure of a turbine, the other of the Italian for a tuning of the set-up. Prolonged stops and shouts of protest, whistles, screams and unfriendly invitations begin to rise from the stands. But the crowd, then, is silent when an attempt to resume the tests is resolved into a final stop as abnormal data on the engines have been found. What to say again? Everyone at home in advance. People, it is not a novelty, always want everything and immediately. In these difficult times it would be better to show your love in another way. Ferrari needs to work to progress. And it’s certainly not a climate of controversy that can help solve problems. Improvements will come out at a distance. But the idea of facing another season in mediocrity is not tempting. The chronometric detachments suffered in Rio speak for themselves. And there are no prospects for an immediate recovery. In these days it has been said of a modified car, of solutions that would have brought some results. From what little we could see, there was very little again in the F1-87. A bigger radiator for gear oil, a suspension attachment, improved gearbox linkage. On the other hand, they wanted to test engines with some innovation and the results were those mentioned above. The cars highlight the usual precarious road holding: there is a nervous tendency to jump from one side of the roadway to the other at the entrance and exit of the curves.
This is therefore the main drawback to solve, so it seems that John Bernard is preparing suspensions modified to obtain a better set-up, but the time available is limited and it is not known if the material will be ready these days or for the race. At Ferrari, however, the environment is quite serene. Michele Alboreto says that there are no difficulties in relations within the team. One gets the impression that after Rio there was a clarification in that of Maranello and that the Italian driver had guarantees for equal treatment against Gerhard Berger.
"It would take a good result, a win to raise. Unfortunately we started the championship on the wrong foot, but I am convinced that there is potential in this car to bridge the difference with the strongest".
The opinion of the Austrian is identical:
"I have faith in Barnard, although I think it will take three or four races to fix it".
In the meantime, according to rumors, Ferrari had finished preparing the car for Indianapolis. The new single-seater with eight-cylinder engine, developed by the Austrian Gustav Brunner, has already been painted and should be ready to take to the track in Fiorano. To test it in the coming days should be Michael Andretti, son of Mario Andretti. The fact that the car is now in running order could mean that Ferrari has decided to try the adventure by participating in some races already this year of the Indy championship, in the United States. Thursday 23 April 1987 the old car of John Barnard (McLaren) continues to humiliate the new one (Ferrari), after Alain Prost arrives at Imola and marks the second time, completing 56 laps without problems. The two cars of Maranello, however, do not go beyond the fifth performance of the day (Gerhard Berger), making a total of 59 laps. Michele Alboreto breaks a turbine, on the single-seater of Gerhard Berger gives up the engine (even those in crisis...). The Austrian was then stopped on the track for an electrical problem. However, Ferrari, on the chronometric level, made a small progress. At Imola, before the Brazilian Grand Prix, the F1-87 had scored best time 1'30"14; now Gerhard Berger dropped to 1'29"81. The climate that continues to reign in the team is particularly worrying. It seems that the Italian is treated like a pilot of series B by the technical manager John Barnard. An example? During the tests are taken two shock absorbers that apparently would be good from the car of the Italian driver, and mounted on that of the Austrian. And so Michele Alboreto remains stationary for most of the afternoon waiting for the Mazzocchi of Bologna (the house that provides these details) arrive two dampers calibrated in the same way. It is a system that does not like, that is not good for Ferrari, that triggers new tensions in a situation already not very bright. John Barnard doesn’t seem to realize it. He’s a little sensitive. The large group of Italian journalists ask for a meeting at the end of the rehearsal. The coach replied that to help them, since he has something to do, he would explain something to the sports director, Marco Piccinini, his impressions. And that the latter would then report the impressions to the media:
"Barnard said that the reliability problems encountered hampered development and tuning work. However, John believes he has identified the route and direction to move. He is having pieces prepared that should improve the performance of the car".
It is not specified when these pieces will be tested. Regarding the discomfort felt around Michele Alboreto, the Ferrari sports director says he has no intention of fueling the polemics, defined as conflicting, of recent times. In any case, the air is tense. Pilots say nothing, but they can not hide their discomfort. The technical directors don’t think they have to explain anything. The sports directors talk enough but they don’t say anything. And more cars lack competitiveness. It is worth pointing out that many other new cars have not denounced so many troubles as those of Maranello. And the tests? There is to record the fastest lap of the usual Nigel Mansell, a finishing work of Nelson Piquet without looking for time, an Ayrton Senna Hovering between Lotus with active suspension and normal suspension, the arrival of Riccardo Patrese, Derek Warwick, a total commitment from Minardi. Benetton with Thierry Boutsen breaks a Ford engine.
Good for Teo Fabi, who will take the place of the Belgian and will find a fresh engine. Sunday, April 26, 1987 conclude the free practice of Formula 1. On track the small teams (Charro, LC. Arrows, perhaps the Ligier with the Megatron engine). The big teams leave the circuit. Before telling what happened on April 25, 1987, it must be said that at the Imola circuit there is a strange conversation that raises many questions. Alain Prost, during a stop, talks for about twenty minutes with John Barnard on the Ferrari van. In order not to be too mischievous you can think of a meeting between old friends, an exchange of views, since the driver and the technician worked together for four years. But is that wise? Just at the moment when the air of controversy inside Ferrari blows, while talking about a disgraced Michele Alboreto, replaced at the end of the year by the reigning World Champion, it was not better to meet somewhere else, away from prying eyes? The two protagonists of the story are certainly not jokers (like Nelson Piquet) who enjoy creating awkward situations just to laugh once. Then you have to believe something serious. The alleged intention of John Barnard to convince Alain Prost to leave McLaren and return to his side is becoming increasingly consistent. It is not excluded that McLaren itself is making some form of pressure, to force the driver to sign a contract renewal immediately and that Barnard has made immediate counter-proposals. Another hypothesis, but more sci-fi, is that the English designer is trying to involve Alain Prost in the English company (the Gto) put together with Ferrari. The Frenchman has never hidden the intention, at the end of his career, to found his own team or to manage a team with other members. Meanwhile, the tests at Imola have made it clear that Alain Prost will present himself at the San Marino Grand Prix as a favourite. Its the best time these days, 1'27"21, although contested by Benetton, who tried an active suspension system. A result that other teams did not detect for the different positions of the photocells. The fact remains that Alain Prost simulated a whole Grand Prix (61 laps) without the slightest inconvenience. Senna was also good with the Lotus with active suspension, despite a spectacular triple spin to the low variant a few minutes from the end. The competitiveness of Riccardo Patrese with his Brabham also increases, while for Ferrari there are only small progress, with Gerhard Berger still on track for electrical problems. The Austrian says he has done a good job but that there is no expectation of a competitive Ferrari in the short term. Two words also from John Barnard:
"We do experiments on everything: engine, trim, aerodynamics and therefore it is also a problem to find reliability".
Meanwhile, tickets to attend the San Marino Grand Prix are flying like hot cakes. All 23.500 tickets for numbered seats and a large number of grass tickets have already been sold. Last year there were about 200.000 spectators between rehearsals and races. It is therefore predictable that we will go towards a fabulous record. These are the prerequisites for the San Marino Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, which on Sunday, May 3, 1987 will bring into the Dino Ferrari circuit motoring enthusiasts from all over Europe. An advance was made in these days of free practice, which in practice was attended by the majority of the teams that will be the protagonists of the race. Grandstands always crowded, an audience attentive to every detail. And nobody misses the performance of Alain Prost, author of the best lap time. The French winner of the opening race in Rio de Janeiro, is therefore the biggest candidate for success, even if there are many opponents, starting with Williams, to finish at Lotus and Benetton.
"Winning at Imola is my goal, for many reasons. Because it is a track that I like, technical and difficult, where car and driver are engaged thoroughly. Then, because a first place would allow me to earn valuable points in the ranking of the World Championship. I am convinced that this season will be the most difficult and fought in recent years. And that’s why I want to take advantage of the situation, since my McLaren proved immediately competitive. Gradually, continuing the season, our rivals will fine-tune their cars and everything will become problematic. In any case I don’t consider myself the number one favourite for Imola: I think that especially Piquet and Mansell will have a good chance to win".
But the Frenchman has one more goal to reach. And this could be the leitmotif of the race: reaching Jackie Stewart at the top of the ranking of the drivers who in their career have won the most races. The Scotsman won 27, Alain Prost with the last success in Brazil came to 26. Another step and the McLaren driver will support - with the declared intention of beating him later - the great Stewart.
"It’s platonic, but I care a lot. For a driver it is perhaps more beautiful to win a race than a world title, even if obviously on the level of popularity, earnings, satisfaction, the world helmet is everyone’s dream. I could then combine business with pleasure, because in order to overcome the Scotsman, I would aim directly for the third title".
Alain Prost will therefore be a great protagonist, under the eyes of Ferrari fans. It is not a mystery the relationship that binds him with John Barnard, and the fact that he absolutely wants to drag him with him to the Maranello team for next year. One more reason to show what it is worth and win, if it hasn’t already, the heart of Ferrari fans. Without forgetting that in Imola Alain Prost won in 1984 in front of René Arnoux, it was repeated in 1985 (but the first place was assigned to the late Elio De Angelis, as his McLaren was found underweight at the technical checks) And it has also asserted itself in the last edition of the race, the past year, preceding that Nelson Piquet that then passed at the end of the season in the fight for the World Championship. There remain a few words to say what will be the role of Ferrari in the San Marino Grand Prix. Needless to say, the F1-87 is not yet competitive. The tests have shown. It is only to be hoped that John Barnard, whose technical skills are not in dispute, will be able to find solutions to give Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger two cars able to make at least a decent figure. Six months after the Australian Grand Prix, Alain Prost took the title from Nigel Mansell in Adelaide in the last race. From that moment, many men in Formula 1 said that the Englishman would never recover morally.
"I wasted the great opportunity of his life".
Making him a sort of predestined victim, a driver forced to go down the value scale, after reaching the top. Some even went so far as to suggest his early retirement. In fact, the 32-year-old rider from the Isle of Man, with his tears at the end of the race, gave the impression of being a broken man, too psychologically fragile to fight on equal terms with samples with nerves of steel. Now, however, Nigel Mansell is ready to resume the battle, with the same enthusiasm, the same desire to win as before.
"The experience was certainly bitter and frustrating, but not negative. You always learn something, even in the most difficult moments. I don’t deny that I had terrible days, but then I made up my mind. First of all, it wasn’t my mistake that made me lose. Prost didn’t beat me because he was faster than me. I was simply a bit unlucky, with that damn tire blown, nothing more".
But certain facts leave their mark.
"Not that of Adelaide. Now I feel stronger than before, strengthened by having forgotten everything, as if 1986 had slipped on my skin without touching it. Not only the episode in Australia, but the whole season. The naive negotiation with Ferrari, the championship lost, some race wrong. I still have the ability to concentrate on racing, to try to do well what I consider both a job and a passion".
Last year, at Williams, Nigel Mansell was able to take advantage of a privileged treatment or at least of consideration. Maybe it won’t be the same now.
"In the past season we missed Frank Williams. Now our manager, at the price of a thousand sacrifices, with a will that has few comparisons, has returned to personally lead the team. I think there will be no problems. Meanwhile ours is always an individual sport. Everyone runs for himself. The games the team can only be done at the end, when everything is already decided".
The Williams box is always divided into two parts. On one side Nelson Piquet, on the other Nigel Mansell. The two drivers do not speak. The exasperated rivalry between the teammates could be an advantage for Alain Prost:
"I have nothing against Piquet. I consider him an opponent like everyone else. As for the exchange of technical information, our engineers will take care of it, alternating to prepare the cars. In any case, I don’t think I’m an idiot for tuning my car. Who took pole position in Rio? And in Imola I also intend to push the accelerator. The fact that they do not allow me to participate in the development of certain solutions makes the task easier for me. Less work and more concentration on other problems. For example, electronic suspension is very dangerous. If it breaks in the race are trouble, you can fly on trees without noticing".
It’s not just Nelson Piquet to beat.
"I know that very well. It will be a very hard championship, uncertain. Although it seems to me that McLaren has started it on the right foot, immediately taking a considerable advantage. Alain Prost is a driver ready to overcome any difficulty. And your team, it turns out, didn’t lose direction after the divorce with John Barnard. However, it remains to be seen what will happen at a distance: normally a stable lives on income on the laurels passed for some race. If others are to make progress, they must be able to maintain the initiative or at least keep their distance. However, it will not be the driver, that is French, who will create problems. He, after the lessons of Lauda, has learned to assert himself".
Does this mean that Nigel Mansell has also borne fruit from his disappointments?
"I would be a stupid robot if I didn’t treasure the experience. We are all a bit crazy, otherwise we will deal with fishing and golf. But repeating past mistakes would be too much. So expect a determined Mansell, ready to take advantage of every opportunity. I’ll never be an accountant pilot, but I’m not willing to give anything away. I think I did Santa early last year".
Ferrari flags are already on the stands. The faith does not waver, although starting from Friday, May 1, 1987, at the hottest circuit in Italy, the typhus will be split. Eight Italian drivers in the race, each with his fans. Some foreigners who have been able to win the sympathy or the esteem of at least a small part of the audience, from Nelson Piquet to Seine, from Alain Prost to Nigel Mansell, expected protagonists of the San Marino Grand Prix. There will be cheers for everyone, even if the majority of the eyes will be on the Maranello team, hoping for a miracle that will bring the cars of Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger at the level of the best. Yet there is also a driver who can aim high, which could polarize attention. We talk about Teo Fabi, the little Italian driver who has built a solid reputation with his enterprises in the United States. They call him the man of Indianapolis thanks to the pole position obtained a few years ago in the most prestigious race in the world, that of the thrilling speeds, with averages above 300 km/h.
"It’s strange and also a bit annoying that a driver is remembered for only one race. And to say that in the past I have won enough, in the minor formulas, and also in Formula 1 I have done honor, even if I never got to finish first. Anyway, I don’t want to hurt anyone, that’s how the world works. I only hope to make Indianapolis forget with another result of prestige as soon as possible, maybe in Imola. I’m ready to do anything".
That of the Italian driver is not a brag. His Benetton is a competitive car.
"At the chassis level we are in place, on par with McLaren. Having a great chassis is a great advantage, in terms of fuel consumption and tires. The problem lies only in the engine: a few less horsepower and a quick turbo response. On a technical track like Imola it can be a heavy handicap, even if I am convinced that we have the chance to go at least on the podium, even if my prediction is for McLaren".
The engine is the supercharged six-cylinder Ford that last year had lived the unhappy relationship with the Loia-Beatrice team. A powertrain that had little chance of being properly developed for the chaos that existed in the team. Now the American company, albeit a little late, has started to work on forced marches and the results could arrive at any moment.
"If the car doesn’t betray me, I can show you what I’m worth. Many people, including some drivers and former riders are convinced that those who drive today do not matter much, at most a 10-20% compared to the car. I am of a different opinion: the driver counts at 50%. It is true for his sensitivity, for the tactics he is able to set, for intelligence. We take the tyres: you can ruin them in two laps or keep them almost perfect for half the race. It depends on the driver. Give me a valid car and there will be no problems".
One evening in Rio de Janeiro, the Englishman John Barnard, after drinking a cup of champagne, had confessed to a beautiful blonde journalist, sent by a weekly specialist, his fears in facing the San Marino Grand Prix.
"The appointment at Imola worries me. Not only for how the Italian sportsmen are waiting for the new Ferrari. What frightens me is also the idea of the assault that I will suffer from the journalists".
And so, Thursday, April 30, 1987, when the Maranello team, the last one to show up with his van in the Imola circuit box, the designer does not show up. To replace him, however, there is the chief mechanic, the Spaniard Joan Villadelprat, who took care to put on the role of the bouncer, immediately hunting everyone, journalists included, were prowling around to see the cars. Nothing wrong. Apparently there is nothing new about the three F1-87, at least visible, compared to the debut in Rio. Certainly in Fiorano the work to prepare some news, do not stop. But it was not possible to change the cars for the race that starts Friday, May 1, 1987 with the free practice of the morning and the first qualifying round in the afternoon. This means that there is not much to expect from Ferrari. To be optimistic we can say that the cars of Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger are mysterious objects that could highlight some small progress, or remain far from the best. The dominant motive of the race is however another. There is to be established immediately if the victory of Alain Prost and McLaren was propitiated, on the track of Jacarepaguà, by a series of circumstances or if it is a matter of true supremacy of the driver and the car. The Imola circuit is known to penalize fuel consumption. Many will remember the sensational scenes of recent years, with drivers trying to push the cars to the finish line. In this sense, the talk should favor Williams and Lotus, equipped with Honda engines, while the skills of Benetton, Arrows and Brabham are still to be discovered. In terms of lap performance, that is qualifying, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell should have no rivals. It is said that Honda has prepared special engines, obtaining more power by increasing the number of laps. In this case the Brazilian and the English (Senna permitting) should fight for pole position. But on a track like this is the tuning for the race that counts. It is necessary to find the best compromise between power and consumption and in this, until now, McLaren has almost always been queen, even if risking a lot on some occasions. And then there’s the tire talk. A change of tires is expected during the race, but those who will be able to exploit them better will have great advantages. We must not forget that Alain Prost has as his teammate a driver of the value of Stefan Johansson, a guy who comes out at a distance and who last year managed to bring to fourth place a Ferrari that was certainly not competitive. Should the World Champion fail, his teammate could replace him in an attempt to stop the opponents.
Along with the debut of a new Zakspeed and the Lo (the car of Gérard Larrousse, driven by Philippe Alliot) there is nothing more to say. Imola, although betrayed, at least in the predictions, by Ferrari, has prepared to welcome the Grand Prix with the usual warmth. If then John Barnard will be able to reverse the situation, all the better, everyone wishes it. In the opposite case you will see firsthand whether your fears were true. Since he has assumed without modesty the role of savior of the automotive homeland, we will see which We’ll see what explanations it will be able to give. In the meantime, someone claims, despite everything, that Formula 1 is in crisis. There is talk of important sponsors leaving, of teams in financial difficulties. But these assumptions are denied by the fairy. On Thursday, April 30, 1987, two important groups confirm their commitment, and these are not trivial names. We are talking about Ford, which presented its programs, and Leyton House, a Japanese clothing brand that is part of a powerful financial company with interests in all fields, from real estate to catering. Let’s start with the American car company. Always present in the sport, the giant of Detroit had recently sidelined from Formula 1. Even the agreement with Cosworth had been considered only as a marginal insertion. From this year, however, the world’s largest industry is committed in first person, alongside the Benetton team.
"There is a five-year program, which includes the management and direct development of turbo engines for the next two seasons and the construction of a 3500 cc aspirated engine for the following. The supply will be exclusive to Benetton for three years, then we will see. It will be the technicians of Detroit to carry out the speech, always together with Cosworth (head of the project is Martin Walters) regarding electronics and materials that will be studied by the Aerospace division".
Ford has not yet announced whether the aspirated engine will be 12-cylinder and will be used in the 1988 season.
"Maybe the turbo will still be competitive next year with 2.5 bar of pressure and 150 liters of gasoline. In any case we are ready".
Leyton House, however, has propitiated the return to Formula 1 of March, a fairly prestigious name that ran from 1970 to 1977 and from 1981 to 1983, We remember a victory in the Italian Grand Prix of 1976 in Monza of this car driven by the late Ronnie Peterson. The March has chosen the path of the engine aspirated immediately, as do Tyrrell, Charro and Lo, hoping to prepare for the future. The Japanese sponsors have bet everything on an Italian driver: Ivan Capelli, 24, the youngest currently in Formula 1, the only driver who won a championship in all the categories he participated in. The car is not very nice to look at, but it is said to be very effective. Also the color is strange, an aquamarine blue. But the new team has already noticed: on Thursday, the British mechanics all wear a kimono and the driver has a Japanese ceremonial dress. An increasingly massive presence of the country of the Rising Sun: after Honda in the industrial field, now also arrive the deadly yen that lately have shaken the dollar on the world currency markets. Who can say now that Formula 1 is not always on the crest of the wave? That said, Friday, May 1, 1987 begins the weekend of the San Marino Grand Prix with Nelson Piquet who, in fact, sees death in the face. But he is saved practically, almost unharmed: indeed, Saturday he would have liked to participate in the second qualifying round and Sunday at the San Marino Grand Prix. The doctors, however, do not want to grant him the authorization. Dr Watkins, head of the health service, says he will give him seven days of prognosis and then suspend his driving license to prevent him from competing.
"We did all the checks. Piquet is fine, but it would be crazy to let him get back in the car right away".
The incident took place at 1:18 p.m., when the first qualifying round started just 18 minutes ago. The Brazilian made two fast laps, recording a time of 1'25"997, a result that will remain unsurpassed.
"I had just warmed up the tyres and felt that I could get below the limit of 1'25"0, also because I had made a couple of small mistakes before. When I got to the fastest corner of the Tamburello, I think at over 280 km/h, I felt something had caved in the back of the Williams. From that moment I didn’t see anything, I just had a few moments of clarity, enough to understand that I was still alive. Of course it was a terrible experience".
The car turns and slams like a bullet against the wall on the right of the track, turning backwards. This may have been the luck of Nelson Piquet. The two-wheeled front and rear wheels remain on the concrete. Two more caramboles follow and another disruptive crash, on one side. The bodywork, the suspensions, the ailerons come off and are destroyed, after flying on the asphalt. But the shell, the survival cell, resists impact. Williams engineers argue that it is not possible to trace the causes of the race. They talk about tires that do not withstand the effort. But many of those who have observed the remains of the car are convinced that it is the breaking of a suspension. Goodyear, however, while stating that there is no correlation between the two episodes, makes arrive during the night of new (and different) tires from England. It never happened before. A kind of air-bridge develops between Italy and England to carry the Formula 1 tyres needed to race the San Marino Grand Prix. Goodyear organizes it on Friday night, after serious tyre problems emerged in the tests of the day. What happened? In practice, on the covers of the rear wheels, in the external area of support, alarming bubbles are formed.
"Ours was a prudential move, a matter of professionalism, and that’s it".
During the evening a team of twenty-five mechanics removes the damaged tires with the special equipment available. At the same time several trucks leave empty towards Bologna and stop in the airport area, waiting. At the same time, orders are issued to the Wolverhampton depot in Wolverhampton, Goodyear’s European base for Formula 1. In Great Britain, about 1000 tyres are transported to Manston Airport, Kent, where a specially chartered propeller cargo plane, is loaded by another team. The departure takes place at 11:00 p.m. and at 3:00 a.m. the aircraft lands in Bologna. After having quickly completed the customs procedures, thanks to the collaboration of the Italian authorities, the shots quickly set off towards Imola, At 6:00 a.m. the new tires are inside the circuit and the mechanics begin to mount them on 1000 rims.
"These are the same tyres used in Rio de Janeiro and in the tests last week on this same track. Here there are no problems of abrasion of the circuit of Jacarepaguà and should work properly. The operation was complicated but everything went perfectly. And also the costs were not high. We paid for overtime and plane rental. A few million lire".
It is difficult to quantify the cost of the operation. But if over 1000 tires were to be destroyed (at a theoretical cost of 500 dollars each), only for this the expense should exceed 500 million dollars. The new tires are built with a more robust carcass and a tougher compound. But back to what happened Friday afternoon. Immediately after the accident the young Adrian Campos with the Minardi passed in the same spot of the track. The Spaniard returned to the pits terrified, believing he had seen the Brazilian dead in the meadow on which he had been thrown. Instead, the rescuers laid it on the grass. Nelson Piquet is transported to the infirmary: The first rumors are worrying, they talk about head injuries, fractures. Then, after the summary examinations, the doctors understand that there is no reason to be alarmed. Nelson Piquet is obviously in shock, losing and regaining his knowledge. Then he is transported to the Bellaria Hospital in Bologna by ambulance, escorted by the police. X-rays and a head CT scan rule out complications. Only bruises, blows, minor traumas. As said, just recovered, Nelson Piquet announces his intention to return to the circuit. Now we need to see if the doctors can stop him. For the moment, however, the Brazilian still has the pole position, ahead of Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. Michele Alboreto, victim of a lot of trouble, is eleventh. He hopes to improve, but the big favorite for the race, if Nelson Piquet is absent, is more and more Alain Prost, even if McLaren breaks three engines doing mysterious experiments on fuel consumption.
A Grand Prix without Nelson Piquet can lose value. But it doesn’t mean the race can’t be spectacular, lively, compelling. Ayrton Senna, who won his sixteenth pole position, sets a record when you think that the Brazilian is in Formula 1 for just three seasons, one of which is the current one, just begun. With his Lotus equipped with the new hydro-pneumatic suspension with electronic control, Ayrton Senna marks a time of 1'25"826, at an average of 209.894 km/h. It is not a record time, but it is still exceptional if you think that the qualifying tires have been abolished and that the turbines can not climb over the four pressure bars. The limit, however, remains that of 1986, still the same Ayrton Senna, set at 1'25"050.
"It is an injection of confidence for me and the team, but the race will be something else, very hard, conditioned by consumption".
And Ayrton Senna puts the index on the sore point, that of gasoline. How can we forget the last two editions of this race? In 1985 the same Lotus driver, who dominated the test, was forced to stop three laps from the end without a drop of fuel. And in 1986 Alain Prost crossed the finish line victorious, shaking his McLaren to fish in the tank what remained. It was supposed to be a party day for Williams. Ayrton Senna, on the other hand, has ruined the plans by taking the pole position from Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet cannot run. However, the men of the team also participate in a meeting with the media: Frank Williams, moving in his commitment, the designer Patrick Head and Nigel Mansell, talk about Formula 1. And the first topic, of course, concerns the accident of Nelson Piquet. Patrick Head says:
"We checked the car and watched the TV footage. There is no indication that anything broke in the car. The shattered remains of the car are not enough to establish the origins of the runway exit. We think there may have been a problem with a tire, but even that is not provable. Spaniard Adrian Campos, who was behind Williams, told us that it was definitely not a driver error".
Some argue that these cars touching with the ground on the asphalt could put in difficulty the driver’s driving.
"The sparks that people can see in the circuit or on TV are caused by titanium strips that we have mounted in the crucial points of the single-seaters. We try to make a lot of sparks, with the metal sliding on the asphalt. But we have never heard a driver say that contact with the ground endangers the stability of the car. We do not seek continuous contact, but repeated contact. In short, they do not crawl to the ground".
Why do Williams cars consume more tires than other cars?
"I’m not sure it’s always true. Maybe because we’re faster than others. Our engine is very powerful, I think it is the most powerful of all, but it is not brutal enough to deteriorate the tires".
Patrick Head then provides a valid explanation about the problems currently affecting tyres.
"They are too small. Until 1981 the tyres were larger and the engine powers were lower. Now we have double the horsepower and the wheels are reduced. The intention was to decrease the speed and I think the goal has not been achieved. This is why the covers do not resist. Wider would also be safer and for aerodynamic issues would slow the cars".
A question for Nigel Mansell: is it true that he paid a penalty to Ferrari, paying a sum to the Association for the fight against dystrophy, for not honoring a contract already signed with the Maranello team?
"After shave Denim is excellent, I use it before and after racing, and I signed a two-year contract with Williams...".
Have the pilots finished their battle for safety yet?
"There is a meeting with Balestre. We asked and already obtained at Imola to enlarge the space between the cars at the start by one meter. For the twenty-six cars at the start of the Monaco Grand Prix we are still talking".
Conclusion for Frank Williams: is it true that you contacted Alboreto for 1988?
"I deny it categorically, we have never had contact".
Inside the Ferrari box there are no particular emotions. Gerhard Berger says:
"With the first set of tires the pop-off valve gave me less pressure. With the second set I could not make perfect laps, I found Boutsen on the road, then I did a half-spin to Tosa, then I found more traffic, then the tires deteriorated. I could really get a time less than a second".
What about the Grand Prix?
"I might even say I’ll end up on the podium if everything goes well. Also because, at the end of the story of Piquet, there is one less Williams at the start. But I am not a crazy optimist, so I simply say that I am counting on doing well".
Michele Alboreto adds:
"I’m calm, but I’m five tenths short of the optimal yield (ndr: there were eight, those that Berger has the advantage over him). The car is fine, not great. And on the track I always found great traffic".
Meanwhile, the fanciful rumor emerges that Michele Alboreto would ask Ferrari to immediately switch to McLaren, in exchange for Stefan Johansson who could return to Maranello immediately. A nice game, but Marco Piccinini, sports director of Scuderia Ferrari, says:
"Alboreto has not asked us anything, I don’t think he will ask us anything, in any case the change is not practicable".
It should be noted that Michele Alboreto has, according to the most acute observers, shown a kind of passive resistance to events. No explicit anger, but a way of doing resignation, absent. As when John Barnard leans over for a long time on Berger’s car, to decide details of the tuning, while Michele Alboreto, near his car, seems blatantly ignored. There is the impression that in these days of rehearsals the teams have done pretattica. Techs were looking at each other for secrets. The problem is to find the best compromise, that is, the greatest power with the least consumption. In theory, if the pop-off valve was not involved, the winner would be the one who could cross the finish line with the last of the 195 litres available. With cars from six different teams in the top seven starting places the race promises to be hard-fought, although Honda engines continue to make a difference. Nigel Mansell, with the team upset over Nelson Piquet’s accident, makes mistakes between the race car and the reserve car, but considers himself the biggest favourite. However, we must not forget Professor Prost who is like a cat with seven lives. In these days McLaren has had a real epidemic of engines exploded but on Saturday, in the last minutes, the Frenchman enters in third position and then says that if he had still a little time available he could do even better.
Already other times McLaren and Alain Prost were defeated on the eve and then dominated the race. Ferrari aside, there is to record a relaunch of the Italian drivers after a long period of darkness. Teo Fabi will start in fourth position, then there is Michele Alboreto and then we find Riccardo Patrese, seventh, and Eddie Cheever who is American, but can be considered Italian, in ninth position. Would an Italian victory at Imola be too risky a dream? Who knows, sooner or later it must come because there is a percentage of attendance equal to a third of the total. Certainly for the various Alessandro Nannini, Andrea De Cesaris, Piercarlo Ghinzani, Ivan Capelli, Alex Caffi and Gabriele Tarquini, it is almost a utopia only to finish the race, given the difficulties they face with cars that are not competitive. Let’s not forget (but this will be a problem for everyone) that this year the races are divided into two parts: from one the very powerful and very fast turbo engines, from the other the aspired. For Lotus, Williams, McLaren and Ferrari, finding a much slower car on track is a danger not to be underestimated; for others a thrill that requires coldness and concentration. Sunday 3 May 1987 the San Marino Grand Prix is held on the distance of 59 laps, one less than 60 expected. The reason for this reduction is due to a double start. No accidents, but a fake route, blocked at the last minute by the raised and agitated arms of Martin Brundle: the engine of his new Zakspeed had died. Therefore, the cars are started again to complete the grid without refueling and a ride is cleared by those scheduled. The second route allows Andrea De Cesaris to line up in his place after the first route had been pushed, and then he was forced to leave last. Ayrton Senna struggled to hold the first position ahead of Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost when the green light of the traffic light turns on. Beautiful start of the two Ferrari drivers, who pass Teo Fabi, already struggling with a faulty turbo that then would have forced him to abandon. Michele Alboreto is faster than Gerhard Berger and we have the impression that between the two cars of Maranello we could unleash a good challenge. But the first to take the initiative is Nigel Mansell, who on lap two angrily passes Ayrton Senna at the Tosa curve. Almost immediately it is clear that Lotus is not perfect: the Brazilian begins to lose ground, and during the fifth lap Alain Prost can easily pass.
But the race of the French McLaren driver does not last long. While he’s making up ground on Nigel Mansell, the already undisturbed leader, and having taken risks in overtaking Pascal Fabre’s slow Charro, still inexperienced, during lap 14 the French driver noticeably slows down at the Tamburello bend due to the breakage of the alternator belt. And the race immediately loses a protagonist. Previously, during lap 13 Michele Alboreto had already left behind Ayrton Senna, at the Tosa corner, also putting himself safe from a possible attack of Gerhard Berger who was him. But the hopes of glory of the Austrian lasted very little: during lap 17 he was forced to return to the pits, after having had to give up his position to Riccardo Patrese. In the pits the mechanics lift the hood of the engine, to try to discover the trouble. There is nothing to do. The Wastegate valve plug came off. Meanwhile Nigel Mansell continues undisturbed in first position, while Michele Alboreto climbs to second place, in a blaze of red flags. The Italian driver is 8.7 seconds from Williams of Nigel Mansell. And Teo Fabi returns to the pits in an attempt to remedy a malfunctioning turbine. During lap 22 Nigel Mansell is obliged to return to the pits in advance, compared to the floors, to replace the tires because of a wheel that vibrates abnormally. Michele Alboreto passes in first position and remains there for three laps, before returning to the pits to replace the tires, leaving the lead to Ayrton Senna. The pit stop for the Italian driver is particularly slow, with the car stopped for more than ten seconds due to a swing on the easel in the front. The glory for the Brazilian lasted only two laps. After that, Ayrton Senna stopped at the pits to change the tyres. And Nigel Mansell is back in first place, followed by an incredible Riccardo Patrese. The Italian is one of the last to change the tires. Ayrton Senna, Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson and Thierry Boutsen with Benetton follow. Having stopped in his turn Riccardo Patrese in the pits, for the change of tires, Nigel Mansell has a remarkable advantage against the pursuers and the battle develops mainly behind him. During lap 43 another roar of the crowd rises from the hills: Michele Alboreto overtakes Ayrton Senna with a maneuver at the limit between skill and recklessness in the descent of the Mineral Waters. And also Riccardo Patrese passes the Brazilian. The fans stand up, to better enjoy the situation.
But the two Italian drivers are not lucky. Michele Alboreto already from several laps is struggling with a decrease in the pressure of the turbines. With 200 HP less, the Ferrari driver is overtaken by Ayrton Senna on the straight, while Riccardo Patrese - first for power problems and then for an electrical fault - is forced to slow down and finally to stop during lap 57. So Nigel Mansell crosses the finish line first without any worries and wins the San Marino Grand Prix, followed in the order by Ayrton Senna, Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson, forced to two stops, otherwise he could also aim for success, then Martin Brundle and Satoru Nakajima. The Japanese gets what he had defined a few days before his seasonal goal: to take a point. Williams returned to victory after six months and Nelson Piquet commented on his team-mate’s success on TV. Nigel Mansell, among other things, took the lead in the Formula 1 World Championship. But the San Marino Grand Prix, with 110.000 paying spectators on the circuit and millions of fans in front of the television, marks the long-awaited return to the top of Ferrari. Michele Alboreto finished third behind Ayrton Senna. A result no longer an extra placement, propitiated by the trouble of others but a race by some laps in the lead, for a positive final balance, although depleted by the withdrawal of Gerhard Berger, when he fought in fifth position, in the early part of the race. Now is not the time to speak of miracle or resurrection. Nor is it by surprise. John Barnard may be a shy man of few words, he will have personal ideas and methods but no one can challenge his professionalism and, above all, the ability, demonstrated by the results obtained It was therefore logical that the team of Maranello could progress, since he made his debut in Rio de Janeiro with a completely new car, chassis, body, gearbox and engine. And further developments are expected for the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix. A beautiful, eventful race, full of episodes. Thanks also to the track that allowed thrilling overtakings, which did not torment - as happened in Brazil - public and drivers with too many pit stops. Even the tires did their duty this time. And, with Ferrari relaunched, with a Alboreto capable of seizing the first opportunity that was presented to him (he did not get on the podium of last year’s Austrian Grand Prix), the San Marino Grand Prix has above all made rediscover the value of Italian drivers too often forced to accept passive roles. Comparisons are always unfair, difficult. But the double overtaking of Michele Alboreto to Ayrton Senna reminded a little of the times of Gilles Villeneuve, of aggression, of Riccardo Patrese with Brabham made it clear that in the Italian driver after so many years nothing has broken: the desire to win and the talent are always the same. But if Alboreto was rewarded in the end, not only by the placement, but by the embrace of the fans (and by the telephone compliments of Enzo Ferrari), Riccardo Patrese once again leaves Imola with his nerves in pieces. Richard was betrayed by the car when he could take second place. The road to beating Williams and McLaren is still long. John Barnard says:
"Our opponents are even stronger, in the chassis and in the engine".
This is supported by Marco Piccinini, sports director of the Maranello team:
"I know exactly how much work we still have to do".
And Michele Alboreto? The Italian driver says:
"Let’s not talk about championship, about upcoming victories. We put this third place in a drawer as a nice memory".
Then the Ferrari driver hides behind a no comment, when asked if the result can change the situation within the team. Also at Imola the technical solutions adopted on Michele’s car were wanted by the driver and by Maurizio Nardon, his engineer, with the supervision of John Barnard, of course. For this reason, perhaps, Michele Alboreto indulges in a luxury at the end of the interviews. When someone asks him if the result is more about the driver or the car, the Italian driver says:
"Fifty percent, as always. There is no discussion".
Michele Alboreto does not talk about the wonderful start that allowed him to get rid of the dangerous teammate immediately, he does not emphasize the double overtaking at Senna. And if the first was facilitated by a mistake of the Brazilian, the second appeared by manual, with a thrilling braking down from the descent of the Mineral Waters, Ferrari and Lotus wheels smoked both but those of the red car a few moments later. And taking off your foot after Ayrton Senna is not easy. This was followed by the satisfaction of all the Ferrari men, at the final passage of Michele Alboreto. And Enzo Ferrari’s phone call to John Barnard, who was called up to the motorhome. Says the British engineer at the end of the race:
"Since our margins for improvement, given the starting point, were large, it is logical that great progress has been made. Now comes the difficult, that is to progress further, since Williams and McLaren are definitely ahead of us. We hope to start from Spa, a difficult circuit for our cars, but of a difficulty that could evolve positively, with stimuli and satisfactions".
Gerhard Berger stopped to remove the wastegate control: long the identification of the inconvenience, trivial and decisive. No drama from the team. Very intense his personal drama, his anger. Finally, Michele Alboreto, who opens and above all closes the declarations for Scuderia Ferrari. During the press conference, the Italian driver says he had the engine pressure valve will be, explaining his slowdown in the final. Then the tests found the failure of a collector for supercharging.
"However, after I passed Senna I found myself with the pressure at 2.9, and with 200 HP less. At that point I thought only to finish the race, even when Patrese passed me I had no other thoughts, believe me. I am satisfied, and I am aware of the work ahead . Already in the next Grand Prix, at Spa, we will have the problem of the support curves, demanding for the set-up of our cars. But it is precisely the problems that we must face and solve. For now Imola has told us that we are better than Lotus, compared to Brazil and a big progress, but Williams and McLaren are ahead".
No problem with gas?
"None. And apart from the loss of power, car in place, as I had told the last tests in the morning, better and more than the tests on Saturday".
A difficult question: was the reserve car ready for Alboreto or Berger?
"For Berger, according to the program".
At the start he had some problems with Berger, since the two Ferraris seemed to touch each other, and for someone to touch?
"They are normal juxtapositions, everyone is looking for space, however we have neither touched nor touched, I simply found a little space on the right and I threw myself there".
Passing the word to the winner, Nigel Mansell, he is asked: was it an easy victory?
"Easy? No for sure. Indeed very difficult. It is true that my Williams was superior, but I had problems with the rear brakes and I was disturbed by the vibrations of a wheel up to the change of the tires. And what a nuisance the wind that blew sideways in the straights. In short, I sweated this victory and I think also deserved. At a certain point I also risked, going straight to the high variant, which I crossed without turning. It’s always nice, however, to arrive first. I almost didn’t remember. And then, win at Imola...".
These are the words of Nigel Mansell, who expresses before boarding the helicopter that takes him to Bologna where the plane to London awaits him. Now he is in the lead of the World Championship and can aim again at that title that last year he missed the last race. On the podium, with the Englishman and the Italian driver of Ferrari, a rather perplexed Ayrton Senna climbed. His record in this trip did not It’s not negative, but the young Brazilian is one who likes to finish first.
"The active suspension put me in a difficult position. After half the race it started to work intermittently".
Stefan Johansson is not satisfied with fourth place at all. The Swedish driver is almost furious:
"I could possibly win, I could at least take second place. At this point I would also be leading the World Championship. Instead everything went wrong. I started with caution not to exploit the car too much and emerge at a distance. After changing the tires I attached and was recovering. In the decisive moment, while I was behind the Brabham of Patrese, the left baffle of the front wing began to vibrate fearfully. I was afraid that it would come off. So I had to make an extra stop that compromised my whole race. Too bad, it was a missed opportunity for many reasons".
One of the reasons is certainly the withdrawal of his teammate, Alain Prost. Without the Frenchman on the track, the Swede would have been free of McLaren. For his part, Alain Prost, who had to retire in the race, says:
"It was the alternator. My run ended when it was supposed to start, as I was approaching Mansell".
A French journalist said he had the impression of having seen Alain Prost resigned already in the days before the race.
"No, the car was fine, there were no problems. And I’m not even superstitious. That’s all. If anyone has seen me doubtful it is because I am not a born optimist. In any case nothing irreparable has happened. It went well in Mansell. But it can happen to everyone, during a season, to have trouble in two or three races. At least I have already paid".
Who does not accept the response of the race is, rightly, Riccardo Patrese, who once again remains disappointed after a wonderful race in Imola.
"I don’t want to say anything anymore. If I had to add up all the points I was forced to throw away, I’d be World Champion by now. I don’t know what to do to free myself from the curse that haunts me".
Nelson Piquet concludes his day with a good plate of spaghetti, his favorite dish. It was a different Sunday for the Brazilian driver who had been involved in a terrible accident last Friday. The doctors' decision forced Nelson Piquet into inactivity. The Brazilian driver went out of his way to convince the doctors that he was able to drive, but to no avail. And so he accepted the proposal of Italian television to participate in the live television. Together with Clay Regazzoni and Mario Poltronieri.
"I suffered a lot. I could get nine or six points, given the way things went. Instead, I’m going to start racing again at Spa with a small disadvantage. In any case, it was an interesting, stimulating experience. I realized that the commentator’s job is not easy".
Then it goes on:
"The race was beautiful, Mansell won in my opinion easily, a sign that our car is superior. Bravissimo Alboreto, I was enchanted. If I had to give him the vote, as your newspapers do for football, I would give him the maximum".
Then a shot at his great rival:
"Senna can no longer say that when he loses it is the fault of the engine. It is the same".
Nelson Piquet receives a $10.000 fee for this performance, from which taxes are deducted. But the Brazilian states:
"I didn’t do it for the money. If I hadn’t been on the show, I would have left for Monte-Carlo on Saturday. I had to leave my plane one day stopped at Bologna airport and pay for the helicopter to move. So it’s a reimbursement".
The South American had received numerous offers, even very substantial on the economic level, to comment on the Grand Prix.
"I preferred Italian television because I know I have many Italian fans because I like to speak Italian. I would have done it for free if I didn’t have the expenses I mentioned. I hope I will not be forced to repeat this type of activity too often, as for the moment I still prefer to drive a racing car. Further on, who knows...".
Piquet, however, had distinguished fellow commentators: in addition to him and Regazzoni also worked for television Niki Lauda (Austrian), James Hunt (English). Jackie Stewart (American Abc) and Marc Surer (Swiss).
"I’m going home now. All in all, I have to think about taking care of the beating I took. It wasn’t fun to end up against that wall, where I left a print of my whole car. Thankfully, not mine".
When you’re smart, you gracefully come out of every situation. Nelson Piquet, World Champion in 1981 and 1983, passed with flying colors the television commentator’s exam and made a valuable contribution to the chronicle of the San Marino Grand Prix. Sympathetic, attentive to every phase and every detail of the race, Piquet highlighted situations and moments, above all he revealed details that neither Poltronieri nor Regazzoni, a little outdated by the times, had ever clarified. An example? The use of overboost, the use of telemetry for the transmission of data from the machine running to the pits, and other details like these. The Brazilian driver expressed serene but effective judgments on his colleagues. Alboreto?
"Very good, I would never have passed Senna in that variant".
"He should always run like this".
"It’s a pity for him that I don’t mind his retirement at all".
The presentation by Nelson Piquet ended up stimulating Mario Poltronieri and Clay Regazzoni, more lively and precise than usual. And the duets with Alain Prost first and Frank Williams then, were perky. In addition, before the start, the Brazilian rider decided to take a ride on a motorcycle, without a helmet, along the circuit, to greet the public present and apologize for his absence at the San Marino Grand Prix. The Williams driver was greeted by an ovation and an Ola that accompanied him throughout the lap. Not even the set designer of the Dallas television series could have imagined a more apt ending for the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship. If the secret of the success of a serial novel is to keep the interest alive to the end, then the San Marino Grand Prix was perfect. Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet, who had taken the top two places in Brazil, did not cross the finish line. While their direct opponents, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna, climbed on the top steps of the podium. Everything to be redone then for the major contenders to the title. Beyond the result, however, the race said a lot. He showcased the fact that both Williams and McLaren (although McLaren collected only three points with Johansson) are still on another planet. He confirmed that the presence of cars with aspirated engines along with those turbo is a constant danger, for everyone. He reiterated that Riccardo Patrese, who we all know is good, should go to Lourdes to be blessed. He also made it clear that the Benetton are still far from being able to aim for something more substantial than a partial victory in a race. Of Ferrari, however, the race gave the image of a growing team, on the right track. Let us be clear: no illusion of immediate victories, but small steps towards competitiveness. The same men of Maranello, moreover, preach calmly, with the sports director, Marco Piccinini, to bring up the saying:
"A swallow does not make spring".
Also because an objective analysis does not allow a moderate optimism. The Maranello team has not yet found absolute reliability. Michele Alboreto raced a good part of the race with the reduced turbine pressure and Gerhard Berger was eliminated during lap 17 by a small failure (a valve control that keeps the turbines in pressure). Lap times were also not exciting. If you consider that Nigel Mansell had good reasons not to pull in the final (consume little fuel and not risk an accident), that Ayrton Senna is still struggling with the sophisticated hydraulic suspension, that Nelson Piquet was not there and that Alain Prost did not arrive at the finish line, you can immediately see that between Ferrari and the strongest remains a significant gap. It’s true, Ferrari was the protagonist and not an appearance. And this can be considered a positive fact. From 3-4 seconds to Rio’s lap less than a second at Imola. However, it will take other counter-tests to think that the crisis that has been going on for some time will be over. Michele Alboreto says:
"The car is still difficult to drive and Williams, in practice, if there had not been tyre changes I would never have seen it. In fact, Mansell wouldn’t have seen me, because I was behind. I have faith and I seem to have shown that as soon as there is a good opportunity I am able to grasp it. Nothing more".
John Barnard and his collaborators are called to a difficult task. The Englishman is preparing changes, perhaps even a new chassis. The F1-87 still lacks top speed, traction and, as mentioned, reliability. And he suffers from understeer at the exit of the curves, while the incoming hold seems improved. Piccinini and maybe Piero Lardi Ferrari, son of the manufacturer, responsible for the management of the team, should also be able to convince the designer that Michele Alboreto is a driver who deserves esteem and attention, at least like his teammate, Gerhard Berger. The Italian driver proved once again, at Imola, to be competitive. If this is to be his last year with the Maranello team, he also has the right to see his needs safeguarded. And he must be put in a position to run calmly.