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#410 1985 Detroit Grand Prix

2022-08-02 00:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#410 1985 Detroit Grand Prix

Saying that McLaren came out of the Canadian Grand Prix in pieces would be an exaggeration. However, Alain Prost's third place (a placing that allows

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Saying that McLaren came out of the Canadian Grand Prix in pieces would be an exaggeration. However, Alain Prost's third place (a placing that allows him to remain in second place in the World Championship standings along with Elio De Angelis on 22 points, five points behind Alboreto) hides a certain crisis in the Anglo-German stable. Beyond the contingent result and the first real defeat of the year, team manager Ron Dennis appeared genuinely concerned about the recovery made by the other teams compared to last year. If in 1984 the Porsche engine and the car complex were a span above the others enough to allow Lauda and Prost a relatively quiet family struggle, now the situation has changed radically. says Niki Lauda, rather down in the dumps:

 

"Of course, things have gotten more difficult. Let's take the Montreal race. Last season I had been able to afford to start from eighth place and place second behind Piquet with a gap of about three seconds. This time, on a track that is particularly hostile to me, I started eighteenth and retired while in eighth place because of engine failure. We undoubtedly lost some of our competitiveness. When a car is superior everything is much easier, now overtaking a Lotus, a Renault, a Williams has become problematic".

 

Many claim that Lauda, once again, after winning the world title has slackened off. It is also claimed that he is once again gripped by the urge to quit, that he no longer has the concentration needed to compete at the top and, above all, that he has no desire to take risks. And to say, however, that he would not lack stimulation. If it is true that Beatrice has contacted him about 1886 and that he has asked for a commitment of $4.000.000, there would be the prerogatives to fight again. 

 

"I'm actually a little tired. But rest assured that if McLaren was competitive I would be there fighting for the win, at least at certain circuits. Instead I'm a little discouraged by the constant mishaps I find on my way. Out of five races so far I have been forced to retire four times, always because of breakdowns. Only once did I make it to the finish line with fourth place in San Marino. I hope that in the upcoming races we can recover some of what we lost on the way".

 

Alain Prost is also very concerned. Not so much about the results achieved (three victories, one of which was taken off the board due to disqualification and a third-place finish are not to be thrown away), but about the future prospects. The reality is that the Porsche engine is no longer the one with the best overall performance, quite the contrary.... In the tank of the car driven by the Frenchman in Canada at the end there was only one liter of gasoline left. And this was after Prost, having crossed the finish line, had immediately stopped to avoid the danger of finding himself with the car underweight. Alain Prost explains:

 

"This means that I could not have badly beaten the Ferraris, even though I caught up with Johansson and Alboreto in the finale after running a race on the cheap in the early part. It is a situation that certainly does not please me and does not leave me looking forward to a bright future. We also have to work hard and run for cover, otherwise my dream of becoming World Champion will fade again. Let it be clear, however, that I am not giving up because in Detroit consumption will be less important. However, the championship is still long and we need to progress if we are to be always at the top. In short, we have to start afresh". 

 

It has made a lot of noise in Formula 1 circles about the announced arrival of the American team Lola sponsored by Beatrice, a multinational food company that seems willing to pour many millions of dollars into the motor sport. The fantasies and rumors that have developed about contacts with drivers to be hired for next year (the debut of the new car for now is scheduled for Monza, in September, with a car driven by former World Champion Alan Jones) and about negotiations with some of the most experienced technicians have perhaps overshadowed the two most important and interesting aspects of the affair. 

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The first concerns the return to Formula 1 of a big name. The news is not yet official, but it seems that on Thursday in Dearborn, Motorsport headquarters, Ford will announce the arrival of a new turbocharged engine, which will take the place of the old, glorious but now obsolete Cosworth. The naturally aspirated eight-cylinder will run a few more races with Tyrrell before also being replaced on the British team's single-seaters (starting with Le Castellet) with supercharged Renaults. The new powerplant is expected to be at the technical cutting edge. It was designed and developed in Europe, also in England by Cosworth and the U.S. company's subsidiary, with materials research support from the U.S. automotive giant. It is said to have been made with carbon fiber components, and it is added that it is ultra-light and compact in size. It would be a six-cylinder V dl 120° The return of Ford then is almost certain and this will probably change the face of Formula 1. The Beatrice has a contract for two years, one of which, 1986, is exclusive. This means that from 1987 many teams will be able to mount this powerplant if it proves competitive. The second factor to be considered (involving Unterò world of sports and sponsorships now indispensable for any activity at any level) is the tendency of financiers to gain direct control and management of teams. How so? Simple: paying billions to advertise can be profitable, but it is an end in itself and one must take what comes in. If a sponsor spends millions of dollars, he or she would like to see it invested in the cars, in development, in parts, in better drivers. Instead, team managers tend to make a profit by taking drivers who pay to race but are often not up to the task. With direct management, you spend the same money, but with better results. And if it goes well, you can even make a return on investment. Plus there is always capital (the team) that can be resold. The same argument is now being made by the Beatrice, and it is not certain that there will not be more action soon. It starts with Formula 1, and who knows, who knows, it may soon come to other sports, such as soccer. 

 

While these issues are being discussed, a long caravan of huge trucks is on its way from Canada to the United States to move Formula 1 cars from Montreal (Quebec) to Detroit (Michigan). On Sunday, June 23, 1985, the auto capital of the world will host the seventh round of the World Championship. A somewhat disheveled street circuit awaits the Formula 1 Circassian for another difficult and highly anticipated race at the same time. Ferrari faces an important counterevidence after its success in Montreal and. at the same time, its main rivals are engaged in an attempt at immediate redemption. The team managers of all the teams, in these hours of relative hiatus, have been analyzing the data from the Canadian Grand Prix, and quite surprising and interesting data have emerged. It was seen, for example, that Keke Rosberg, who finished fourth at 29.821 seconds behind Michele Alboreto, and Ayrton Senna, sixteen laps down, would have been able to fight for victory. In fact, the Finn pitted twice, losing a total of more than a minute. The Brazilian's stop, on the other hand, lasted over nine minutes, which is precisely for the five girls of the final gap. Calculations, of course, are theoretical, because pit stops for technical failures are part of the game. Nevertheless, the figures can give an idea of the potential of Williams and Lotus. Senna's car came to the finish line with 18 liters of fuel in the tank. If he had made five more girls there would have been about three left. enough to complete the race at a pace similar to that of Ferrari. Rosberg, on the other hand, did not save much (his car weighed 549 kg at scrutineering) but without the stop he could have threatened the winner. It is clear that Alboreto, having in turn saved, as far as was known, at least fifteen liters could have forced the pace further. The battle, however, would have been tighter. In any case, the recovery of Williams remains undeniable, whose Honda engine had hitherto thrown too many tantrums. The supercharging system adopted by the Japanese may not yet be completely reliable, but the HPs are there and have been seen. Says the Finn, World Champion with Williams-Ford in 1982: 

 

"For the first time since the beginning of the season and perhaps for much longer, I had fun. I engaged in a beautiful duel with Senna and it was pleasant to drive a single-seater that met my expectations. Now I don't want to be a blowhard, but I think I can say that in the coming races those who want to get into the top places will also have to deal with me and Mansell. We are working a lot and we are counting on giving battle. Last year with a much inferior car I managed to win in Dallas. I will try to repeat myself in Detroit where the track is more or less similar and offers the driver a greater driving margin. Alboreto and all the others are warned".

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Keke Rosberg is not the kind of guy who throws down challenges. It is clear that Williams has given him the impression that he is back on top. There are other figures to back up his thesis: his fastest race lap in Montreal was 1'27"661 against the 1'28"637 of Alboreto's car. A time that the unleashed Rosberg approached more than once. Didier Pironi will also be present in Detroit, but as a French TV commentator. However, the former Ferrari driver has made it known that he intends to return to racing as soon as possible: 

 

"I tested an old Williams ground effect car at a small circuit near Paris. I set the track record. I'm going to ask Ferrari to go to Fiorano to show that I can race again".

 

For now, it seems that Pironi may start again as a test driver: in fact, Ken Tyrrell has reportedly offered him to test the new car that will make its debut, with Martin Brundle, at Le Castellet. On Thursday, June 20, 1985, with a Hollywood party held at the Westin Renaissance Center, one of the most spectacular hotels in the world (1.400 rooms, dozens of restaurants, a 70-floor tower about 250 meters high from which one can see the huge city of Michigan, the Detroit River and the south coast of Canada, a hotel that also has, among other things, a half-mile-long indoor track to warm up the muscles), located inside the circuit, the Formula 1 Grand Prix program begins. The party is attended by the sponsors of the race, i.e., representatives of 35 companies that guarantee about $70.000.000 in spending of the event. All in black ties, extravagant suits and bejeweled ladies, these millionaires look cheerful. It seems they will not lose out this year; in fact, they will recoup something of what they had spent in previous competitions. There is considerable anticipation for the Grand Prix, tickets cost from $10 (but you can hardly see anything with these) to $150 for the best seats. Numerous personalities are expected to arrive. The entertainment world will have its spearhead in Paul Newman, actor, successful driver, stable owner and currently also king of salad dressing; that of politics in George Bush, vice president of the United States. It is said here that this race will surpass in success the Superbowl of American football, the World Series of basketball and the Open of golf. As in, it will be the sporting event of the year. The 4,023-meter city track on which the first day of practice is scheduled for Friday, June 21, 1985, with official qualifying from 1 to 2:00 p.m. (7 to 8 p.m. Italian time) has not changed from previous editions. It is still an angular track, with 20 corners, slow, difficult, with many jumps, manholes, rails and narrow passages, with a dangerous chicane located before the pit straight. So there will be no problems with fuel consumption (the race is over the distance of 63 laps, totaling 253.449 km) but it will still be a very demanding and tiring test for cars and drivers. Last year Piquet in a Brabham, who also held the lap record, 1'40"980, at an average speed of 143.434 km/h, surprisingly won. Only six cars out of twenty-six started arrived at the finish line. Then Tyrrell, second with Brundle, was disqualified for irregularities. There was an accident at the start that eliminated Surer and forced Alboreto to take the reserve car. The Ferraris both retired. Says Michele Alboreto: 

 

"This time things should be different even though there is always the possibility of running into some inconvenience. However, I have a lot of confidence: in Monte-Carlo our single-seater went very well, we won in Canada. In short, there are all the prerequisites to continue on the same path. By the way, I won on this track in 1983 and I must say that it suits my driving characteristics. I am optimistic even though I realize that the opponents will not make life easy for me, especially Prost".

 

For Stefan Johansson, this is his first contact with Detroit, so his race could be an apprenticeship race, especially in qualifying. On the technical side there are no major new features, except the necessary aerodynamic and set-up adjustments for the type of circuit. Very important here are the transmission components, brakes and the arc of engine utilization. Among the interested spectators is Australian Alan Jones, who will soon return to Formula. 1 with Lola-Beatrlce and who on Thursday attends Ford's press conference at which the American company's plans and the new engine are discussed. Ford officially returns to Formula 1 with a six-cylinder turbocharged engine developed by Cosworth (but the electronic part will be taken care of by English Ford). The announcement is made in Dearborn, at the headquarters of the U.S. company, by the president, Petersen. 

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The U.S. company has invested, it seems, $4.000.000 to have such an engine built by Cosworth and run it for the first three years by the Beatrice team. The team would make its World Championship debut on Sunday, September 8, 1985, at Monza, with a car driven by the returning Alan Jones, but with a Hart powerplant. The Ford-Cosworth one will arrive in 1986. There is much talk in the circus about the inclusion of Formula 1 in the Italian Totocalcio. The championship is owned by FISA, which should protect its rights. Bernie Ecclestone, president of FOCA, says he will watch to see if the initiative is successful. And drivers are also curious to observe the results of the competition. And who knows, someone may be contemplating asking the CONI for interest. On Friday, June 21, 1985, the Detroit Grand Prix program officially begins. With four girls, three launching and one at full speed, Ayrton Senna inflggr a remarkable gap to his competitors: more than a second to Nigel Mansell and Michele Alboreto. Senna's was an exploit, exceptional. Merited by him and by the excellent tuning of the Lotus, which once again proves to be the most versatile car on any type of circuit. Senna turns in 1'42"051. A time slower (about one second) than the one that granted pole position to Nelson Piquet (1'40"980) in 1984. But it must be considered that on the first day of practice the track is dirty and forces the cars to travel at lower speeds. There is a risk that in the second practice session Ayrton Senna will not be overtaken by anyone, as the weather forecast predicts rain over Detroit on Saturday. The circuit of the car capital confirms all its dangerousness: practices are repeatedly interrupted due to numerous accidents die do not cause serious damage to drivers but still damage many cars. The most spectacular accidents are recorded in the course of the morning, with Alain Prost. who sustains a contusion to his right wrist, and Elio De Angelis and Patrick Tambay, who emerged unharmed from a violent collision. In the afternoon, Gerhard Berger, in the Arrows, ended up against a protective wall. The Austrian driver manages, with the help of the stewards, to extinguish the fire but sustains, in the collision, a blow to his back for which he is hospitalized for observation. He is expected to return to the track on Saturday. Prost breaks the gearbox on the race car, takes the reserve car, and suddenly lacks brake assist. 

 

The Frenchman crashes, not even too violently, into a small wall, but head-on with the nose of the car. But in the accident he turns the steering wheel, blocking his right hand. A painful sprain ensues, treated by Willy Dungl, Lauda's masseur. The Frenchman, with his hand bandaged, now fears that he will not be able to run a regular race: his right hand is the one he needs for the gearbox, which is highly stressed on this type of circuit. Finally. De Angelis and Tambay. The two drivers are protagonists of two particular episodes. During practice, the Frenchman is the author of a spin and goes down the track in the opposite direction. De Angelis avoids him by a few centimeters. On a second occasion, however, the collision is unavoidable. Tambay, proceeding at a very low speed, does not see in the rearview mirror the Lotus, which is coming in at about 240 km/h, and swerves into the trajectory. De Angelis rear-ends Tambay and the two cars, crumpled together, crawl along the guardrail for about 200 meters. De Angelis accuses the organizers of not being up to the situation, of not having set up proper signaling for such cases and of not having cranes to remove the cars immediately. What about Ferrari? Alboreto and Johansson struggled with the set-up of the cars. It was thought that the set-up prepared in Monte-Carlo would also be effective in Detroit. Instead, the Maranello single-seaters were jumping around the circuit. Mechanics had to change springs and shock absorbers, but the work was not enough and further work will have to be done. Good performance by Eddie Cheever. who always shows great character and drove the Alfa Romeo to seventh place. In trouble were all the Pirelli-tyred cars, including Nelson Piquet. who ran very few laps. Among the news of the day was a statement by Bernie Ecclestone. who is reportedly planning to prepare a challenge between Formula 1 and the American Indy Series cars. It would be a double confrontation to be held either in Detroit on the street circuit, and then on a Michigan oval, or in Cleveland. But Mario Andretti, current leader of the Indy championship standings, argues that the challenge between the two types of cars is untenable, given the completely different characteristics. A race-roulette, from whose wheel many numbers can come out. This is how the Detroit Grand Prix, the sixth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, appears, which for the fourth time engages the world's fastest single-seaters, 1.000 HP cars, in a street circuit full of pitfalls and dangerous. 

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Accidents and mechanical mishaps are easier here than elsewhere. In the three previous editions three different drivers have won. In 1982 Watson's success with the McLaren after an incredible chase from the rear; in 1983 there was Alboreto's exploit with the Tyrrell, a car clearly inferior to its rivals; last year Piquet triumphed with the Brabham. In short, the predictions of the eve here were never fulfilled. After a useless second qualifying round, due to bad weather (thunderstorms and rain showers, but clear skies are forecast for Sunday) the starting grid remains as it was on Friday, with only Berger dropped from P25 to P24, to the detriment of Pierluigi Martini. Ayrton Senna, the rising star of Formula 1, therefore also retains the pole position. The Brazilian driver is of Italian descent. Just as for the Argentine Carlos Reutemann a Piedmontese descent had been discovered (ancestors from Castellazzo Bormida, in the province of Alessandria), in Detroit we learn that Ayrton Senza has maternal grandparents, one of whom is still living, from the Neapolitan territory. In the morning, during free practice (which was practically suspended due to rain), chatting with the Lotus driver (who speaks Italian very well, having spent three summers as a guest of friends in Milan and again in Alessandria when he raced karts) one came to ask him his full surname. It is known that Brazilians normally like to adopt all sorts of nicknames and diminutives. 

 

"My name is exactly Ayrton Senna Da Silva. The maternal grandparents are from southern Italy, exactly from Naples. The paternal ones are one Brazilian and one Spanish. I kept my mother's name for reasons of practicality: it seems shorter and easier to remember".

 

The Italian colony in Formula 1, therefore, increases. Seven drivers of full nationality, Cheever of American birth but Roman by adoption and Italian by license, plus half a Senna. But that is not to say that the Italian-Brazilian oriundo will make concessions to Michele Alboreto or Elio De Angelis who precede him in the World Championship standings.

 

"The championship is still long and very open. I have been rather unlucky so far because I have finished only one race out of the five held. That is not why I consider myself beaten even though I recognize that right now Ferrari is the most competitive car overall. I intend to fight all the way starting with the race. Winning in Detroit would serve me for an immediate revival in the World Championship standings".

 

What is necessary to finish first in the Detroit Grand Prix? 

 

"A great concentration. You must not make the slightest mistake that would be fatal to the result here. And then adjust the car well, but this applies to all circuits. It's a track that I don't like, it's dangerous, but I have to admit that it completes the panorama of the world championship by presenting a traccialo different from all the others".

 

Saturday, June 22, 1985, the drivers who took to the track on the wet asphalt perform numerous spins (two Cheever, four Surer, one Alboreto, and so on), but they cannot change their starting position. So it is Ayrton Senna who takes the pole position, flanked by Nigel Mansell's Williams, ahead of Michele Alboreto and Alain Prost. The Brazilian is very fast and in theory could dominate the test. But it will not be easy. He will be attacked by everyone, perhaps in turn, and much will depend on the reliability of the Lotus that has so far proved excellent for Elio De Angelis (five times in the top six) but very bad for the Brazilian, only once at the finish line in the points with the victory in Portugal. Needless to say, all eyes are on Ferrari and Michele Alboreto. While an honest race is expected from Stefan Johansson (ninth at the start), another confirmation is expected from the Italian driver, leading the World Championship standings after his triumph in Canada. 

 

"I know very well what my responsibilities are and I will not back down, while also competing with ti brain. Taking nine points in Detroit means taking a big step forward in the title fight".

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The Ferraris do not present any major changes. There is some change in the engine accessories: it seems that in the overhauls carried out in Maranello immediately after Canada it was noticed that the alternator was particularly tried, bordering on failure. It must be said that the 156/85s mounted this important system connected directly to the crankshaft while the other cars normally had it attached via belts and flywheels. For this reason, in order to make it more reliable, they tried to add a constant velocity joint that would give greater resistance to stress. A focused Ferrari then, but always cautious in its predictions. For that matter, it is obvious: one has to take into account opponents such as Alain Prost (who is better, although his injured right wrist is still sore and could give him trouble in the race), with a McLaren that seems to have discovered the reasons for the mysterious gearbox breaks that occurred on Friday. Apparently it was a series of reinforced parts without the necessary race testing. Then one must consider the two Williams of Nigel Mansell and Keke Rosberg (the latter is a magician on city circuits), the Renaults, especially Derek Warwlck's as Patrick Tambay is not competitive on this track. Elio De Angelis is a bit behind but had his race car completely rebuilt by Lotus mechanics who worked until 4:00 a.m. And it also comes down to Alfa Romeo, with Eddie Cheever particularly busy at this track, since he is American. This time there are no gasoline consumption problems and it is already a step forward. Close behind, but without much hope, are Lauda (back to being a bit too cautious), the two Brabhams of Nelson Piquet and Marc Surer, and Teo Fabi with a Toleman lacking power but quite driveable on this circuit. In short, the reasons to make the race spectacular and uncertain are all there. If Ferrari can pull off a one-two, the feat will be even more exciting. But - as mentioned above - the unknowns are many. The presence of many Ferrari fans, famous drivers such as Mario Andretti and recent Indianapolis winner Danny Sullivan, actor Paul Newman competing in the event reserved for Can-Am series cars, and favorable weather forecasts should help the public turnout. Organizers are hoping for 80.000 people, a record for Formula 1 in Detroit. On Sunday, June 23, 1985, at the start of the Detroit Grand Prix Keke Rosberg goes wild, and although he started from fifth position he moves into second, overtaking his teammate, Nigel Mansell, then Michele Alboreto and Alain Prost. 

 

Immediately afterwards Keke Rosberg overpowers Ayrton Senna, who had made a good start in pole position, and on the eighth lap climbs to first. Eddie Cheever is immediately forced to return to the pits, due to a flat tire. Alain Prost, with brake system problems, gives way to Michele Alboreto and Elio De Angelis. Ayrton Senna fails, due to his choice of tires that are too hard, to distance himself from Keke Rosberg: on the eighth lap, the Brazilian returns to the pits but, due to a communication glitch, the Lotus mechanics still remount tires of the too hard compound. Senna re-enters the race in 14th position. The two Williams of Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell are in the top two positions, although the Briton complains about an incorrect tire choice, like the one made by Ayrton Senna at the start. The two are ahead of Michele Alboreto, Elio De Angelis, Alain Prost, Stefan Johansson, Derek Warwick, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda and the two Tyrrell cars of Stefan Bellof and Martin Brundle. Niki Lauda retired with a brake problem, Nelson Piquet was forced to return to the pits because of a debris blocking an air intake, while Derek Warwick, also penalized by the brake system, began to give up positions. On lap 11 Elio De Angelis passes Michele Alboreto. Two laps later Stefan Johansson, who is catching up, passes Alain Prost, bringing himself behind Michele Alboreto. On lap 14 Stefan Bellof hits the rear of the car of his teammate, Martin Brundle, also losing part of the bodywork, but without dropping out of the race. A lap later Stefan Johansson passes Michele Alboreto, while Ayrton Senna hits the guards at Turn 3. A row of tires ends up in the middle of the track, and the marshals take a minute to restore order to the track. Another incident involves, shortly after, Patrick Tambay, who spins out and is forced to abandon. On lap 18 Martin Brundle overtakes Alain Prost, while three laps later Nigel Mansell, in a brake crisis, has to give up second place to Elio De Angelis. On the same lap, for the same problem, Alain Prost decides to retire, while Martin Brundle also passes Michele Alboreto. Meanwhile, Keke Rosberg leads by 25 seconds over Elio De Angelis, 36 seconds over Nigel Mansell, nearly 37 seconds over Stefan Johansson, and over 43 seconds over Martin Brundle. They are followed, in order, by Michele Alboreto, Stefan Bellof, Ayrton Senna and Jacques Laffite. On lap 22 Stefan Johansson overtakes Nigel Mansell. The Briton stops two laps later in the pits to change tires. On lap 26 Ayrton Senna also makes another stop, his second. 

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This time soft tires are fitted on his car. The Brazilian re-enters the race without having lost any positions. Nigel Mansell's race ends on lap 26, when he loses control of his single-seater at the third corner, right at the point where the row of protective tires had been damaged by Ayrton Senna. Mansell hits the wall, and exits the car with a bruised thumb. On lap 28, Elio De Angelis damages the car's nose after hitting Gerhard Berger's Arrows during a lapped car. The Italian driver returns to the pits, to also change tires. On the same lap, Michele Alboreto passes Martin Brundle. After 30 laps Keke Rosberg has a lead of 38.6 seconds over Stefan Johansson, and 46.8 seconds over Michele Alboreto. Martin Brundle is still close to the Italian driver, and is 5.3 seconds ahead of Stefan Bellof, his teammate. The race for Martin Brundle ends when, on lap 31, he finds himself, along with Michele Alboreto, lapping Philippe Alliot. The latter, at the exit of the tunnel, moves to the inside to leave the ideal trajectory free for Michele Alboreto for the next right turn. The Frenchman, however, resumes the ideal trajectory too soon, leaving no room for Martin Brundle, who fails to avoid the pileup. The damage on his Tyrrell forces him to retire. Keke Rosberg manages to maintain a large margin over all the other drivers, but his race is made more difficult by an overheating of the water inside the engine cooling system: this is due to a sheet of paper, which obstructs one of the radiators. Ayrton Senna, who with new tires is the fastest on the track, meanwhile moves into fourth position after overtaking Stefan Bellof. On lap 50 Keke Rosberg returns to the pits so that the mechanics can clean the radiators. Against his instructions, he decides to change tires as well. The Finn manages, however, to get back into the race while maintaining first place. On lap 51 Ayrton Senna, who had recently set the fastest lap, and who was getting dangerously close to Michele Alboreto, makes a braking mistake in turn 3, and completes his race against the protective wall. Next, Keke Rosberg again experiences water cooling problems, due to another debris blocking the air intakes. This allows Stefan Johansson to reduce the gap to less than three seconds. The Swede's comeback cannot be completed, however, due to the malfunction of the right front brake; Johansson is then forced to slow down. Keke Rosberg wins the Detroit Grand Prix. 

 

This is also the first victory for a Honda-powered car since the 1967 Italian Grand Prix (with John Surtees in a car built by the same Japanese manufacturer). Keke Rosberg honors with the victory the birth, four days later, of his son Nico. Stefan Johansson is second, followed by Michele Alboreto, Stefan Bellof, Elio De Angelis and Nelson Piquet. Keke Rosberg and his Williams return to victory. Success was in the air, it had already been felt in the previous races, it arrived punctually on the terrible street circuit in the Detroit Grand Prix, the sixth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. It was a very tight, dangerous race, with many crashes and cars damaged in the track exits. Ferrari conducted a painful test but in the end obtained a positive balance: second Johansson, third Alboreto. The two drivers, like almost all the competitors, had brake problems and were absolutely unable to attack Rosberg, who dominated the race. The Finn drove great and returned to first place after almost a year of abstinence. II his last success was in the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, again on a street circuit, where the talents of an acrobatic driver like him can emerge. For Ferrari, as noted, it was a more than honorable result, with Johansson ahead of Alboreto. Both were never able to pull, being grappled with braking regrets that did not work well, overheated by the stresses of this type of track. A problem that, after all, affected a little of everyone and put several drivers in great difficulty. For example, Nigel Mansell, while in the first positions, crashed into the rubber guards and sprained his right wrist. Also eliminated, without ever really being in the race, were Niki Lauda and Alain Prost. The two McLarens could not keep up with their rivals' pace, again due to carbon brake disc mishaps. It is therefore great celebration inside the Williams pit box, with the Japanese from Honda hugging each other without the same shouts of emotion as the British. The lack of success of a strong and focused team like that of the British manufacturer had lasted for a year, and this first place by Rosberg came to crown the hard work done by William itself. Keke Rosberg, at the end of the race, is obviously happy and enthusiastic about his car.

 

"It was a fairly easy victory because everything was perfect. I had chosen fairly soft tires at the start, reasoning that I could maintain a higher pace than my rivals. The engine was a charm and everything worked wonderfully also because we had opted for traditional steel brakes. The only problem came when I saw the engine temperature rising dangerously. For this reason I stopped in the pits, as I had realized that the trouble depended on the radiators not letting enough air through. There was a lot of dirt, everything was putty in ten seconds and I was able to resume the race without almost stopping the pace. My mechanics were great".

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Didn't you fear Johansson's return in the very last laps?

 

"I was not scared at all, because I knew very well that I could control the situation. And in fact, as soon as I accelerated, the Ferrari disappeared from my rearview mirror. Besides, Stefan is my student and he certainly would not have dared to overtake me".

 

A joke, Rosberg's, of course, but one that nonetheless gives the measure of the Maranello single-seaters' inability to attack Williams this time. It is Michele Alboreto himself who explains the situation. 

 

"I took a rather cautious start so as not to risk ruining the car. We already had problems in that we had not been able to do thorough testing these days, and I was afraid I would have to stop the race before the end. When I passed Prost I asked the maximum from my brakes and maybe the forced action damaged me. The wheels only locked at the front, and in every corner there was a danger of going out. Of course, it's more pleasure to win, but I'm happy with this result, honestly you couldn't ask for more in the Detroit Grand Prix, given the way things went. It's still early to talk about the World Championship, but I have to recognize that I gained some valuable points on my direct rivals. Now it's coming down to Rosberg. we'll see how it turns out".

 

As for Johansson, happiness is printed on the Swede's face on the podium. 

 

"I had brake problems too, unfortunately. In the last minutes I had to brake by downshifting because I had absolutely no chance to lock the car in any other way. Still a second place, I'm very happy with that, there are absolutely no problems. We hope to be even more competitive in the next races".

 

For the first time during the season, Nelson Plquet finished in the points. His was not a flashy race, but the Brazilian was content to finish sixth. 

 

"I stopped in the first few laps because the engine temperature was rising unusually high. They cleaned the radiators for me, too, and then everything went pretty well. I'm happy".

 

De Angelis finished in fifth place. But he could have finished among the very first, and maybe even won. 

 

"I had an accident with Berger; he broke my aileron and from that moment there was nothing more to do. And to say that the Austrian had already once before obstructed me in an irregular way. Of pia I could not ask for in this race, but I regret that I was not able to fight at the top".

 

He won the race in the pits, U.S. newspapers wrote Monday morning, commenting on Keke Rosberg's success in Detroit. It cannot be said that local specialists have much experience in this field. The race was incredibly successful (76.000 paying spectators, but at least 120.000 were people around the circuit anyway), but knowledge of the sport is rather limited. Yet the explanation about the Finn's victory is correct, at least In part. Rosberg dominated the race thanks to his great talent, a very competitive car for the occasion, and also to the efficiency of the Williams team, which operated with extreme precision. There are several factors that contributed to the Nordic driver's construction of the statement. One of the main ones, apart from the technical choices made in the preparation of the car, is a little secret of Williams. The British team is the only one currently using two-way radios in the race, with which it is in constant contact with the driver. The pit stop on lap 50 was not planned. 

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"I was traveling just fine, without many problems. But then I noticed that the engine temperature was rising rapidly. First 100 °C, then 110 °C, then 120 °C. It was an anomaly, I realized that there was something obstructing the radiators. So I radioed Frank Williams that I was going back in, and they, when I got to the pits already knew what to do. In all, including the tire change, which was done as a precaution, I lost 9.5 seconds, and that allowed me to solve the problem in the best way. If I had not had the radio the operation would certainly have been longer".

 

This does not mean that Rosberg won only because of the transmission system. The claim was built with the choice of the softest tires (type B, while almost all the other competitors used the harder, and therefore less high-performance, A tires) and the decision to fit steel brakes. A decent chassis, an excellent engine, a perfectly tuned team, and a remarkably talented driver-that's the winning cocktail. Says Frank Williams:

 

"If Rosberg has a single-seater set up well, he never fails. He is an outstanding driver. Someone said that at the end of the season he will leave because they made him exceptional offers. I don't believe that: Keke is fine with us. And Williams has the economic means to meet his demands: with our main sponsors, Honda, Canon, Mobil, and Denim we have more possibilities than Fiat, Renault, Ford, and Beatrice combined. In short, we are not afraid".

 

The yellow peril, as the advent to the top of the Honda engine has been called, does indeed exist. The big Japanese car company may have taken a little longer than expected to get to the top, but now the six-cylinder mounted on the Williams has given the impression of being powerful and economical in fuel consumption. The only unknown for the moment, when on fast circuits the powerplants will be stressed to the max, is reliability. But the answer will come soon because the next two races are held at Le Castellet and Silverstone. Frank Williams concludes:

 

"I believe we will be competitive. The Japanese work in an incredible way. It's hard to understand each other but if they agree on a decision they act very quickly. After Montreal some of the technicians went to Tokyo with the engines carried as hand luggage to make it faster and returned to Detroit in good time. Now we already have some new things to experiment with, some small changes: The victory in Detroit, however, did not raise the head of either Williams or Rosberg".

 

And Keke Rosberg points out:

 

"Let's not talk about the world title, because it's too early. The favorites are always Alboreto and Prost".

 

Ferrari comes out of the double North American trip with a hefty haul: 25 points out of a maximum of 30 available. An overall result, which goes beyond the most optimistic forecasts. The one-two in Montreal, Johansson's second place and Alboreto's third in Detroit, among the streets of Michigan's capital city, reinforce the leading position of the Maranello team and the Italian driver at the top of the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championship standings. The balance is more than positive. If one also considers that the direct rivals collected very little, that McLaren collected very little and in the second race suffered an authentic debacle, that Lotus was saved with the usual, very good, Elio De Angelis, that Renault after signs of recovery, again dropped brutally never entering the race in Detroit, the final balance is even more interesting. This does not mean, however, that perhaps the Maranello team missed a good opportunity to deliver an even more painful blow to its direct rivals. In theory Johansson and Alboreto could have fought for success with Rosberg.

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 Instead they achieved two excellent placings, helped by Senna's culpable going off the track, who paid for his impetuosity and inexperience with a fatal mistake, crashing into the guards

 

"I was afraid of breaking my legs, luckily the Lotus is sturdy".

 

And thanks also to the bad luck of the two incredible Tyrrells, with Brundle moving in his strenuous struggle, thrown out by an error by Alliot, and Bellof fourth at the finish after a race run from the start without the dome of his car's nose. Tyrrell's performance, after all, is no surprise on this street circuit: hadn't Alboreto won with the same car in 1983? Returning to Ferrari, let us analyze the reasons for the lack of competitiveness against Williams and, in a sense, Lotus as well. Engineer Antonio Tomaini explains:

 

"We made some safety choices regarding tires, partly because due to the rain on Saturday we did not have enough elements to take risks. So we fitted harder tires. With good reason, the Bs chosen by Rosberg turned out to be much faster".

 

Michele Alboreto replies:

 

"In fact, we couldn't even get the best out of the chassis. We did not find the Ideal setup. On the brakes, the choice of carbon discs and pads proved to be a risky one. They are more effective but withstand less high temperatures than steel ones. And I assure you that running with wheels that do not lock when you mash the pedal or behave abnormally is very difficult. But it is useless to recriminate. I am happy with third place. Of course Rosberg's victory sounds like a wake-up call. As far as I'm concerned, though, the more we split the successes, the better for me. I think we will continue to be competitive on the next circuits. It will be very important, perhaps decisive to get a good result, on the track that is practically McLaren's home track. I have a kind of roadmap: I think to aim for the title we need at least three wins and a lot of placings. So far I have finished first once, second three times and third once. So I am two wins away, and that is my goal. A goal that I believe is within Ferrari's reach".


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