Goodbye old Ferrari. An ensign, even if a bit crumpled, leaves. The engineer Mauro Forghieri, 52 years old, married and with three kids, rich man of hid, an amazing technician and character of the races, at Maranello since 1960, Monday 4 May 1987 resigns and moves to Lamborghini, where he will head the competition department and advanced studies with the aim of creating a Formula 1 engine. The fact leaked from Detroit, where the Chrysler, since Tuesday 23 April 1987 new owner of the Lamborghini for about 20.000.000 dollars, gives the news to the delegation Fiat that arrived at the American capital of the car with Vittorio Ghidella, then awarded an important recognition for his work. Ghidella, at the top of “FIA Auto” and Ferrari, says that Mauro Forghieri, after the recent changes on the technical sector of the team of Maranello, maybe he felt he had little room for maneuver and therefore sought an alternative. Chrysler claims that the negotiations for the transfer of Mauro Forghieri to Lamborghini had begun before the purchase of the Lamborghini. A stress that shows how the American company doesn’t want to spoil the good relations with the Fiat group. Mauro Forghieri until now was the director a particular section of Ferrari, dedicated to advanced research and studies on behalf of the Maranello team and external customers. He left the team management the 10 September 1984 after 24 years as one of the protagonists, in the good and in the bad. As developer he signed, for Ferrari, about thirty cars, about twenty of gearboxes and as many engines. With him, for example, the team of Maranello won the World Championship of Formula 1 of the 1975, of the 1977 and the 1979. Niki Lauda, on his book, wrote:
"I believe on the ability of Mauro Forghieri. He is a genius. My bad luck is that I can’t deal with geniuses".
In so many years of races, working side by side with famous drivers, also a technician ends up being known. Mauro Forghieri, even, on the tracks around the world had become a bit 'the emblem of Ferrari and, if we want, of the made in Italy. Extrovert, disruptive, very active: he was a bit the man who represented the Italian motor school in times in which the Ferrari was little and they needed to fight as an artisan company against richest team.
"I was tired, the rhythm of the races it was too much monstrous. With the turbo the Formula 1 made giant steps, in every way: on the research, on the costs, on the daily rhythm of the work. And it cannot be a big family anymore. So, I decided to say enough".
This trusted after he leaved the Grand Prix. Actually, Enzo Ferrari wanted to face the new times in a different way, breaking with the past.
"Too much centralizing, behind him nothing".
That what is said, recently, by Enzo Ferrari. And now, after few years on the shadow, after he declared that wasn’t coming back in Formula 1 for any reason, Mauro Forghieri is close to arrive, directly or indirectly, on the world of the races. And if the team of Maranello is hiding - for now - behind the classic no comment, from Sant’Agata Bolognese, Daniele Audetto, on the behalf of the Lamborghini, to know that Mauro Forghieri, world-famous design of high-performance-cars, has taken over the technical direction of the competition and advanced studies department, during the establishment phase. First targets of this department are the realization of an engine of Formula 1 and the development of new technology for the mass production. This means that the Lamborghini, for the first time in his history (was founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini on the 1983), want to compete on the Grand Prix. The debut should happen in 1989, the engine could be a 12-cylinder aspirated. Forghieri and Formula 1. The draw is clear: the Chrysler, trough the Lamborghini, want to boost its image and stimulate the sales of luxury sports cars on the American market, now ruled by the European company. In the meantime, Sunday 17 May 1987 the circus is back in Belgium. After the exciting San Marino Grand Prix, the World Championship arrive in Spa, on a spectacular track, for the third race of the season. A victory (in Brazil) for Alain Prost and the McLaren, a victory on the San Marino Grand Prix for the Williams of Nigel Mansell. It's already time for a run-off between the two teams that are dominating the scene from time.
With the return of the injured Nelson Piquet to add to the interest to the race to be held in Belgium. And the usual outsider (Ayrton Senna, the Benetton of Teo Fabi and Thierry Boutsen, the revived Brabham of Riccardo Patrese and Andrea De Cesaris) trying to win. The most waiting one is always the Scuderia Ferrari. The third place of Michele Alboreto, behind the Brazilian of the Lotus on the race won by the English, feeds hopes. Although the logic and the men of the Maranello team preach calm, the circuit of Francorchamps is one is one of those where chassis and aerodynamics have a decisive weight in the results. And it doesn’t seem that at the moment these two factors are a strong point in F1-87. But, you know, when you take the right path, everything gets easier. You work, if possible, with more fierce on the results, the drivers charge and even luck can help. From Spa no one expects a full success, but a confirmation of growth. The designer John Barnard recently said that he understood in which direction to operate. The time that they have is not enough, but in Belgium we could see improvements on the performances and on the reliability, with measures on the engine, on the suspension and front wing. Michele Alboreto repeats:
"It will take at least three more races to get to the top, if everything goes well and if we do not make mistakes".
Waiting for the moment of truth (maybe in Le Castellet, on the French Grand Prix) better aim at a convincing placement that is not an improvised attempt to fight on equal terms with the best, that is Williams and McLaren. But the Belgium Grand Prix it also presents a series of primates that risk being surpassed or equalled. There's the one of Jackie Stewart (27 victories) threatened by by Alain Prost, arrived in Brazil at 26. There's also Ayrton Senna that wants to equal the Scottish on the pole position gained (17), even if the absolute limit is by Jim Clark (33). Then there is the the Ferrari that is in the process to establish, reluctantly, a unique personal best of 26 Grand Prix without victories. In fact, since the4 August 1985 that a driver of the team of Maranello (Michele Alboreto) is not on the high step. The chance that the Ferrari can avoid this negative record in Spa are minor, since the circuit seems not to fit the characteristics of the F1-87 and, mainly, there’s substantial changes on the cars (there’s only a rear wing with more wings, designed for this type of track) to turn the situation upside down. A placement can be within reach of Michele Alboreto and Gerard Berger, but to think to a victory It would be at least an illusion. Unless you put the luck, maybe in the form of rain, since on Thursday 14 May 1987 it rains in Spa and the forecasts are not optimistic even for race day. But also in this regard there are doubts about Ferrari as it has never tried so far in the rain. Waiting to see what may happen during the practice and during the race, the eve is spent talking about the rumours about the market-drivers, with the usual speech of Alain Prost to the Ferrari, Michele Alboreto to the Williams and the news of Ayrton Senna at the McLaren. Marco Piccinini, sports director of the Scuderia Ferrari, says with a smile on his mouth:
"We don’t have ongoing negotiations. It would be premature to think now about next season. We have two valid drivers. The choice made by the engineer Enzo Ferrari. Hiring Berger instead of Johansson has served to rejuvenate the team. The limit now is not in the drivers but on the drivers".
A critic, this last one, to the work of John Barnard or an admission of impotence? For the drivers, are not always the young to make more in F1 and it’s not a matter of age: there are no negotiations in progress, it does not mean that it has not already been made a contract.
"The Ferrari had always the pleasure to not make the negotiations but to be contacted by the drivers. And then what may seem done in May, can change in September. Just a few sponsors can change their minds. As for the cars excluded that you are working to prepare a new one. Study and changes, this yes".
Friday 15 May 1987 all the managers meet with Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FISA, to talk to all of the problems of the Formula 1. But the drivers are ferment for the Monaco Grand Prix, where at the start there will be 26 cars instead of the usual 20. The drivers do not accept this imposition considered dangerous, due to the characteristics of the track. And, in the meantime, the Ferrari go back to dreaming. At the end of the first qualifying session of the Belgium Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger is at the first place, Michele Alboreto at the third. In the middle, Nigel Mansell with the Williams. A provisional pole position that could be a nice injection of confidence for the team and the drivers. It did not happen for two years: in 1985 in Brazil Michele Alboreto started ahead of everyone. In the same year, in May, always on that track, the Italian driver obtained the best time. Then the race had been postponed because of the crumbling asphalt, among many controversies. The exploit of the team of Maranello, to be fair, is favored by circumstances and, probably, a very elastic motor. A very cold day with rain and hail repeated and small patches of sun. In practice the track has never been perfectly dry. Just look to the times: Gerhard Berger is the fastest, lapping in 2'06"216 (to an average of 197.946 km/h). Last year Nelson Piquet had turned in 1'54"331. But little matter. As the Catalan philosopher would say, better to be the best in the wet than the worst in the dry. And then it is not excluded that the race can be held under the rain, even if the forecast speak of cloudy weather. Gerhard Berger records his fastest passage at the end of the practices. Here in Spa the Austrian has two cars. One that was prepared with harder springs and normal set-up, the other with soft shock absorbers and wet adjustments. It is with the second one that the Austrian sets the best lap, in a moment in which the track wasn’t too wet. His team-mate, Michele Alboreto, instead, with only one car available opts for an intermediate solution. So risking with the slick tires is the fastest at the half of the session, but then will no longer have a further chance to improve. Such a risk benefits also Alessandro Nannini, hero of the day, that takes the Minardi, for the first time in his history, in seventh position, ahead of drivers like Alain Prost:
"I saw that the circuit that was, for the most, dry and I tried. It went well".
In fact, after few moments hail also falls. Satisfaction, but also a lot of calm at the box of the Ferrari. Marco Piccinini explains:
"It’s not only the pole of Berger or the third time of Alboreto to encouraging, but it is the fact that both the cars were strong and we are near".
The Austrian driver says that it wasn’t difficult to get the best time.
"There was a lot of aquaplaning, the tires slipped, but I did not take any risks. For the race I am fine, rain or dry, as long as I can stay ahead".
Alboreto, as stated, he needed to take risks with slick tires:
"I was at the top. Down from the slopes I seemed to be Biasion of the Rally. Only that my car, unlike the Lancia, it does not have four-wheel drive".
For the others it’s a chorus of complaints. Declares the returning Nelson Piquet:
"It was like winning the lottery".
Alain Prost reply:
"We never had the car with the right settings on the right moment".
But it’s also like this that you return on the first place: maybe with a little luck, but without making any mistakes. For the Ferrari is a big progress after many mistakes. The Ferrari is back on top (a position that needs to be confirmed on Saturday; if it rains maybe nothing will change, but if there should be a pause the ranking could also be revolutionized) under the eyes of Mauro Forghieri, the designer that after many years of glory has passed to the Lamborghini. The Italian engineer did not show up to a Grand Prix since the start of the 1985. He preferred not to go to the box of the Maranello team not to disturb, even if someone goes to meet him to greet him, moved. Forghieri, great talker, melts in a very long speech.
"The programs of the Lamborghini are not defined yet. Engine of 12 cylinders to provide to two cars or to eight teams? We don’t know. We are gonna make a car for the Formula 1? We haven’t decided yet. I saw many beautiful car. I liked a lot the Benetton, maybe for the colours. The winning car are not always the advanced one, but the easiest one".
The grit is always that of a time. But, in every house awaits a difficult work. Saturday 16 May 1987 two sun rays on a day of rain and hail are enough to take Ferrari’s pole position. But even if Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto will start, at the Belgium Grand Prix, from the fourth and the fifth position, for the first time in this season the team of Maranello has a chance to fight for victory. This is the response of the last day of practice, at the end of which Nigel Mansell imposes, once again, the law of his heavy foot. The time made by the English of the Williams is incredible: 1'53"028 on the lap, at the average of 223.020 km/h, almost 1.5 seconds less of his team-mate, Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian drives the chasers, ahead of Ayrton Senna and to the two Ferrari drivers, themselves precede Alain Prost, Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese. The exploit of Nigel Mansell It deserves two considerations: first, the intent of FISA to block the escalation of powers, and therefore performance, has already completely failed, at least on this track. The imposition of the valve limiting the charge pressure of the engines to 4 bar and the abolition of the qualifying tyres have not prevented the cars to be faster and faster, because seven drivers drop the record of last year. The previous record that belonged to Nelson Piquet, 1'54"331, was almost ridiculed. Secondly, the Honda (three engines on the first three places) obviously has special engines for the practices, which can reach higher speeds than in the race. And it is the latter given to comfort the progress of Ferrari that does not have special engines to be used in test. Four seconds of detachment in Rio, two in Imola, less than 1.5 seconds in Belgium, that is a much longer track. Not to mention that Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto They could also have done something better if they had not been slowed down by different problems.
The work of John Barnard is not seen but begins to have its importance. There’s a lot of work to do, on the chassis and on the engine, but at this point the prospects become interesting. There are still differences to be filled (the Williams of Nelson Piquet, on the straight of Les Combes, reach the 327.174 km/h, while Gerhard Berger hits the 316.344 km/h, also passed by Nigel Mansell, Eddie Cheever, Derek Warwick, Ayrton Senna, Stefan Johansson and Alain Prost) but the progress are promising. Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto manage to fight, almost on equal terms, in an exciting timed practice session, where the dominant motives are the battle for the pole position and the one between the team-mates of almost every team. Nigel Mansell wins the duel with Nelson Piquet, Gerhard Berger pass Michele Alboreto, Thierry Boutsen ahead of Teo Fabi, Riccardo Patrese is ahead of Andrea De Cesaris. Only Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna have it easy, since Stefan Johansson and Satoru Nakajima are the second drivers to all the effects. First the English, then the Brazilian, then again the English, at the end, with that time that leaves all annihilated. Even Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto fight at a distance. Prevails the Austrian, also because the engine of the car of Michele, in the last fifteen minutes, had few electric problems. In any case at the end of the practices no one can improve, because the sun of the beginning, that had dried the track, black clouds take over that immediately discharge a violent rain on the circuit. It will be the weather that will affect this Grand Prix.
In case of wet asphalt, you can attend a surprise race where the water magicians, from Ayrton Senna to Eddie Cheever, to Gerhard Berger and Stefan Johansson, could win the race. If, as the the weather forecast says, the sky will be overcast but without precipitation Williams remains the team to beat, with Alain Prost as the third wheel and with Ayrton Senna and the Ferrari as outsider. By Riccardo Patrese expects a confirmation after what he showed at Imola, while on points could also finish the two Arrows, more valid than the time standings say.
"Mansell is good. He obtained an amazing time. That’s why last year we wanted to hire him".
With this words Marco Piccinini, sports director of the Scuderia Ferrari, starts his brief press conference after the qualify. Then he talks to the team:
"It has been a solid result, even if we could have done something better. On the chronometric plan we went ahead. To the race the arduous sentence".
The fourth time of Gerhard Berger and the fifth of Michele Alboreto convince John Barnard to unbalance slightly. With crushed hair on the head by the rain, but the bright eyes and an unusual smile on the mouth, the English designer says:
"We had few chances to battle for the victory. The car aren’t so bad, we hope not to make any mistakes. We managed to understand in what direction we have to work. Now i’m waiting for some new particular that I have built to see if in the next tests we can make another jump to the best".
Instead Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto are complaining about the car, even if they confirm that the F1-87 are improving.
"I found too much traffic, I could have made, at least, half a second less. Mansell was not approachable, but the first row could be within my reach. The race? I don’t know, depends on the weather".
The Italian driver, that managed to overtake the team-mate until the first half hour, then he was overtaken.
"I didn’t have the chance to defend myself on the last minutes available before the rain the engine started to falter. But we are in increase and i’m enough satisfied, even if I could be ahead".
Many drivers, now, more than on the rivals they relate on the team-mates. Therefore Nelson Piquet is gloomy. But also the Brazilian has an excuse. The gearbox of his Williams does not work well and in his best lap Nelson messed up with the gear, before the straight of the box.
"I’m surprised by the Ferrari, I knew that they would improve, but I didn’t expect this soon. It will be a difficult rival".
Nigel Mansell, unlike, does not talk about the rivals. The English driver performs in a praise of their own merits and in a speech full of obvious phrases:
"More of that I could not do, I got the right time for the pole. I’m happy, I shown that I’m fast on the dry and on the wet. I pray only to god that sends us a day without surprise for the race, with stable conditions. I’m not asking nothing else".
There’s always the issue of the tires, with a predictable stop at the half of the 43 laps planned. The only thing that we hope for, however, is that the weather will be really good or really bad. Between the rain and the sun could happen everything. We can talk about the voices that are moving into the paddock of Formula 1. On Saturday morning Marco Piccinini denies any contact with other drivers, saying that he will be happy to have the same one also in 1988. Unfortunately, that someone attended a lively discussion, on Friday evening, between Ron Dennis and Alain Prost and on Saturday morning Michele Alboreto, once again, he went to see Frank Williams, a builder who values him for what he’s worth. Saturday 17 May 1987, at the start of the Belgium Grand Prix Nigel Mansell keeps the first position, followed by Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Michele Alboreto: in the back René Arnoux and Andrea De Cesaris, touch each other slightly, while Thierry Boutsen collides with the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger spinning his car. A more serious accident involves Philippe Streiff, that hits violently the wall at the Eau Rouge. After a little the damaged car of the French is struck by the arrival of his team-mate, Honathan Palmer. Both leave, the cars, unharmed but their Tyrrells are reduced to scrap. The race is suspended, and a re-start is required. At the second start Ayrton Senna is forced to retire. But it seems that, according to Nigel Mansell, that Ayrton Senna had slower acceleration, as if he had missed a march; so the British driver tried to overtake on the outside, even if difficult on that point, but Ayrton tried to resist.
So, both went off track. Right after Nigel Mansell resumes the race during lap 17. After the retire of Gerhard Berger of the third lap, the Ferrari also lose Michele Alboreto that, while he was at the second place, suffers from a break in the crankshaft that forces him to abandon; two laps after also Nelson Piquet, while he was in first position, retires due to the rupture of a turbo tube, and leaves Alain Prost, followed by Teo Fabi and by his team-mate Stefan Johansson. The pit-stop change a little the situation, and the French easily accumulates 25 seconds of advantage, after having feared the worst because of excessive fuel consumption, non-existent and due only to a defective indicator. Alain Prost wins the Belgian Grand Prix followed by Stefan Johansson. For the McLaren is a double obtained after the retire (engine fault) of Teo Fabi. Andrea De Cesaris takes his Brabham on the podium after an intense battle with Eddie Cheever, Satoru Nakajima and René Arnoux. From the race a total superiority of the McLaren team emerges, with an almost historic double, since all the others have been dubbed, including the third, since Andrea De Cesaris A few hundred meters from the finish line, he ran out of gas. Poor guy: no one told him that would have been on the podium because the fourth, Eddie Cheever, was too far. So Andrea risked the heart attack trying to push, while they were all stop, his Brabham towards the fateful white line. Obviously, he didn’t succeed, but in the end he got the prize of this beautiful placement that raises his shares after a long time. It was worth the sacrifice.
"Amazing. Amazing. He is great. I don’t mind about my record".
Jackie Stewart, here as a TV commentator, does not express words of envy to Alain Prost who matches him with 27 victories. From a kind person like the Scotsman, one could not expect a different behavior. Even the French driver doesn’t talk much about his new record:
"I’m happy: Stewart and Lauda were the drivers that I admired most when I was young, even if I can’t say that the Scottish was my idol, my reference point. It’s more important the World Championship. And it’s far. Now there will be two races very close, Monte-Carlo and Detroit, and you might have to start over, in July at Le Castellet with the French Grand Prix. In any case it’s better to stay ahead, to have points ahead. It has been an easy race and at the same time a difficult one . The tires were vibrating quite a bit after the tire change. And then I had a malfunction in the on-board computer that marked my use of the fuel. I asked instructions, to my box, via radio and they answered me with data based on those reported by my team-mate Johansson. It was all good".
Andrea De Cesaris, finished third at the finish line, says:
"Finally. But what an effort. The team thought that I could have done all the race without a pit-stop. And they were right. Our car with the race set-up it was so balanced that it does not consume the tires. I didn’t have any problems of drive. Unfortunately there was a little mistake on the calculation of fuel consumption and so I had to perform in the thrust of a 560-pound car uphill. I’m strong, but not enough for this kind of muscle tests".
Very satisfied is also Eddie Cheever, that suffered a lot to obtained the fourth position.
"I reeled like I was the protagonist of a radio transmission. I knew I had problems with fuel and I had to call the box every lap to have information. However it’s a good result already".
Nigel Mansell, after the match with Ayrton Senna, reiterates its convictions;
"I overtook him already. He widened it to throw me out. A guy like that on the track doesn’t have to move anymore. I couldn’t help but go and say how I feel about him".
A way to explain pretty clear, the one of the English driver. Right after the race Alan Challis, head mechanic of the Williams, goes to the box of the Lotus to apology of the team to the team of Ayrton Senna. Nigel Mansell, instead, after being the protagonist of the shabby assault to the Brazilian driver, he’s going home.
"He could brake, because I had already passed him with half a car. Instead he insisted, causing the collision. He’s an incorrect runner, everyone knows. He deserved a lesson. And he can count himself lucky because he’s been dealt by man to man, so for the next time he knows how to behave on track".
While the Brazilian answer:
"I wanted to overtake him where it was impossible. No one would try an overtake at that point of the circuit. I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck against the roadside. I braked too, but he deliberately came at me to throw me out. He was acting crazy. About my attitude at the box, I let others judge. I was forced to defend myself".
The episode should not go unnoticed. The Federation sent a letter of disapproval to Pascal Fabro (Charro) for his misconduct at Imola. In that case he should intervene more strongly against Nigel Mansell. And it is not excluded that the same Williams to pay, in some way, the intemperance of the driver. And this, while only in a day Alain Prost reaches Jackie Stewart He was at the top of the winning list and took the lead in the Drivers' World Championship, winning the Belgian Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Stefan Johansson. The Swedish, last year kicked out from Maranello, it’s the only driver to have reached the points in the three races held so far. The Ferrari missed it once again, but on the other hand on the podium ends up a dazed Andrea De Cesaris, the Italian driver not had a chance to relive this satisfaction from the far 1983, when he arrived second in South Africa with the Alfa Romeo. Also a good race, especially clever, for Eddie Cheever, fourth. A depacle of the cars with Honda engines, whose balance is saved only by Satoru Nakajima that, by the virtue of being gifted with points, will end perhaps to become a man from ranking. Note that three cars with BMW engine (or derived) on the first six places.
Not bad for a company that was forced to remain Formula 1 when they wanted to leave. What a Belgium Grand Prix. Continuos emotions, suspense and second victory of Alain Prost, that takes over the first place on the ranking of the World Championship. What more could you ask for the entertainment, at this third race of the year? Two start, constant accidents, bagarre on track and outside, fights between drivers, the Ferrari that delude in the tests and disappoints in the race, an unexpected Italian driver on the podium (Andrea De Cesaris) after an incredible final. And then again, on the numbers, Alain Prost, that reach Jackie Stewart, becomes, with 27 victories, the driver with most victory. It seemed an easy race, maybe also flat. But everything happened, also a match of box between the lightweight Ayrton Senna and the mid-maximum weight Nigel Mansell. It's not the first time that the drivers release tensions and fears in a violent way. We remember, for example, that in the 1978, in Spain, Vittorio Brambilla give a big punch on the helmet of James Hunt, guilty of misconduct with his car. Then also in 1982 at Hockenheim, Nelson Piquet that he kicked the ass and he beat the Chilean Eliseo Salazar. In Belgium the protagonists of the fight were Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. Two talent drivers, different from each other, often criticized for their impetuousness by their colleagues, near the unconsciousness. Already last year they had self-eliminated themselves on the first race, in Brazil. This time they did worst. After an accident that took them both out of the way! They performed in a fight tavern, worthy of two drunkards. We need to say that was the English to provoke the Brazilian. The accident happened almost immediately, after the second restart. The Lotus driver, in third position on the grid, overtook everyone, slipping between the Williams of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell, and he took the lead, the tough Nigel does not accept the thing and, three-quarters of the first lap, in a corner call Pif-Paf, while Senna turned on the right, attempted an overtake at the outside. He closes the trajectory, the two cars they hooked themselves and they went off track. Then the English managed to restart the Honda engine of his Williams, he returned to the box, he changed the tires and he has resumed the race already lapped. His pursuit did not last long. At the lap 18 is forced to the definitive retire due to floor of his car, damaged. So, Mansell walked off the car as a fury, he went to the Lotus box where the Brazilian was looking at a monitor of data of the race and he faced him with fists raised. Ayrton Senna, lined in face, says:
"He is crazy. I saw him coming with the foaming at the month. He grabbed me against the wall, and he hit me. I had to defend myself, returning the shots. Maybe I also gave him a kick in the groin".
After a little, the two drivers were barely separated by the men of the teams. What to say more? Ayrton Senna was right, he was the victim. And maybe Nigel Mansell has taken out on him the anger of old disagreements. It had to be a positive day, the one of the proof of the progress emerged on the practices. Instead, the Scuderia Ferrari return in Maranello from Belgium, with empty hands. Gerhard Berger retired during the second lap, for an engine failure. Michele Alboreto is forced to the retire after nine laps for a transmission problem, when he was in second position, behind Nelson Piquet. So the men of the team of Maranello immediately leave Spa without making speech. The sport director, Marco Piccinini, says:
"Maybe we found the competitiveness, but it’s not good our reliability. Two strange problems, the engine fitted, on the reserve car of Gerhard Berger, it was new. Now we will get ready for Monte-Carlo. We are going to make practices in Fiorano and then in Le Castellet, before the travel at Detroit. The balance is not positive, but we think that we are on the good road".
Gerhard Berger is very honest.
"I made a mistake at the first start. I slipped the chicane with too much enthusiasm, maybe the tires were not warm enough. I started into a spin, I made a great crash against the guardrail. After all I was lucky, a great day. Instead, we need to wait again for a victory".
John Barnard will try to tighten the times. The English technician already have in mind few changes to be made at the F1-87. We speak about the front suspension, of the front bumper, of the wings. Something is going to make on the electronics, with the “Magneti Marelli”. So, the team of Maranello does not stay still, even if this recovery becomes longer and more stressful. And in the meantime the rivals go away in the ranking. Or at least the rival that matters right now, that is Alain Prost. It's said that the French has already a contract, presented by the team of Maranello, for the 1988. He only needs to sign. But it will take more positive practices to convince him to take the road that take at Maranello. As it will be problematic, for the Lotus, to keep Ayrton Senna for another year, even if there’s a deal for two seasons, but the Brazilian begins to have problems with mechanics and with Gerard Ducarounge. And there are rumors of a possible pass at the McLaren. Michele Alboreto has not even returned to the pits. He went straight to the motorhome Ferrari, where Gerhard Berger and John Barnard are already present. After a little talk with the two, the Italian driver says:
"I’m really sorry. I had trouble keeping behind Prost, but we were both recovering on Piquet. The French overtook me on the straight when I heard a strange noise behind be. Maybe it failed a joint".
But the car was valid?
"We had a good rhythm. In my opinion we could have won, because Prost took off because no one managed to upset him".
In which part of the track the Ferrari could be able to keep up the McLaren?
"On the corners there was no problem. That means that the chassis and the engine are good. Prost was the fastest on the straight, that means better aerodynamics and maybe more horses available".
The Italian driver leaves with a sad face. To a friend tells:
"I’d almost want to cry because I felt that this could be a great day. Instead we need dalay the appointment with the victory".
Lately the environment on the box of the team of Maranello it’s not idyllic and familiar to resounding results, as demonstrated by what happened on Friday, when a new mechanic just arrived, that at some point placed himself behind the engine with the gun on the hand to turn it on. And was there ready to Insert the barrel of this compressed air tool in the appropriate orifice of the six-cylinder turbo. But another mechanic pounced on him just in time like a fury, saying:
"What the hell are you doing? That’s the gun to unscrew the wheels".
Lucky that was not a crucial moment in the practices. This was the third stage of the World Championship, held ahead of a discrete public in a beautiful circuit. It's a shame that the hospitality has not been up to the expectations of the place. At the end of the race a sixty of journalists and photographer, of all around the world, have been threatened by the police and wolfdogs and pushed out by the circuit. The paddock have been transformed in lager with locked gates and nets everywhere (were trapped also Marco Piccinini and John Barnard, and the cars were sent in the crowd in narrow passages, with the danger of lynching for the occupants. On top of that, the parking lots that should be free for the service members and instead they get paid for 17.500 lire. But Bernie Ecclestone bought half of the circuit, also a couple of restaurants. And at Spa, even with the bad weather and everything else, the Formula 1 circus will have to come back every year.
Rarely a similar massacre has been seen at the first lap of a race. Three different accidents, a lot of fear but no damage to the drivers and the start of the Belgiu Grand Prix it had to be repeated two times. A series of spectacular accident that terrified the circuit of Spa, full of spectators. At the box no one understood it all and many people have feared a tragedy. Then a sigh of relief when it was informed that all the drivers involved didn't even get a scratch. The safety in Formula 1 has really improved. But we see in sequence what happened at the first green light. Starter the Belgian Roland Bruynseraede. Even before to deal with the narrow turn of the Source, the Ligier of René Arnoux hits the Brabham of Andrea De Cesaris. A tyre of the car of the Italian it collapses, and De Cesaris needs to make an entire lap with a low pace to return to the box where he takes the backup Brabham. Also Arnoux change his car, taking advantage of the fact the race was suspended. Then, before the drivers had completed the first lap, Gerhard Berger (that was in fourth position) at the chicane called Club House, placed before the fast curve which precedes the short straight of the box, makes a mistake. Comes out unbalanced from the narrowing, his Ferrari breaks down and hits the protection, then he returns in the middle of the track. Boutsen, that arrives with the Benetton, can’t avoid the Ferrari. The impact is violent, the two cars are seriously damaged. The other drivers avoid to invest Berger and Boutsen with reckless maneuvers. It's not the end.
After a little Nigel Mansell pass the finish line as first, followed by Ayrton Senna that precedes Nelson Piquet (at the start the Lotus driver closed, in a very dangerous way, his compatriot at the Source), Michele Alboreto, Alain Prosy, Thierry Boutsen and Teo Fabi. And it’s good for everyone that the third accident takes place at the end of the group. On the fastest straight of the circuit the Tyrrell of Philippe Streiff rears up. The car fly for at least five meters of height and return at the ground split in two, the engine on one side and the cockpit on the other with the driver inside still belted. The other Tyrrell with Jonathan Palmer falls into the dust, overwhelms the pieces of the Philippe Streiff and he skid to the side. Alex Caffi with the Osella, started as last, avoids a terrifying impact for few centimeters. The race director shows the red flag, the Grand Prix is immediately suspended. According to the regulation, in this case the race procedure needs to be repeated. Gerhard Berger, Renè Arnoux, Thierry Boutsen, Andrea De Cesaris and Philippe Streiff take the reserve cars. It takes advantage to change the car also Ivan Capelli that had to start with the reserve car of the March and now he has the official car ready to use it. It needs about 40 minutes to compose the new grid. Luckily at the second start there’s no other accident. Philippe Streiff (he will end the race in ninth position) can say that has been protected by a good star, in addition to the safety belts and by the strength of the car in carbon fiber. Looking at him, as a driver of a expelled jet with the seat and with a parachute, it would even make you laugh if had not touched a tragedy. Now the Tyrrell can be impeached- Philippe Streiff says:
"The car went from one side to the other of the track without knowing why".
But someone says that the engine detached form the cockpit. At the end, when it starts the World Championship of Formula 1, they make predictions. Every season presents new reasons for interest on the technical and human plan, the cars change, the rule, the man and – they think – also the favorite. At the showdown, instead, four years until now it comes out a unique denominator, represented by the trio Prost-McLaren-Tag Porsche. Until now it has been held three races and, now, the French won two times and he is in the lead on the ranking ahead of his team-mate Johansson and the English team dominated. What is behind this success? It's enough the talent of Alain Prost to justify a similar supremacy? The French is good, indeed great, obviously the most complete of the moment. It doesn't miss nothing; he drives with an incredible perfection; he is also lucky. As in the Belgium Grand Prix, where the possible rivals are partly self-eliminated or taken out from the race by failure. But this is not enough to explain a series of impressive claims. The McLaren won 24 races of the last 51 made since the 1984. An average that is near to a victory every two races. So, what are the secrets of the English team? After the divorce from the engineer John Barnard, gone to the Ferrari, someone hoped that the McLaren would have had a negative backlash. But this is not the case. We need to start to think that this team has something more than a valid designer.
In the McLaren case the man is called Ron Dennis, 40 years old, ex mechanic. An unpleasant and grumpy guy, but successful. He is the one that convinced the Marlboro (main investor) to pay for the return of Lauda in 1982. And he is the one that is aimed - with the money of the Tag - to the Porsche to have a Turbo engine. It is Ron Dennis that continues to run the team with discipline and almost a maniacal fussiness. He is the one that wanted Alain Prost. Now the McLaren manager is doing everything to have the French driver also for the 1988. In these days, careless of popularity of Alain Prost, of his magic moment, the English manager dropped, to the World Champion, an ultimatum:
"Or you sign now, till May, or we would be forced to search a new driver".
Alain Prost, that is not stupid, knows that is better not to accept a contract now for many reasons. It seems that there is an offer of the Ferrari (attractive for the bond with Barnard), other teams would do fake cards to have him. And there’s the money factor: the more he pulls the rope and the more he engagement. So, Ron Dennis prepared the countermove. I would not be surprised if the voices of this days about a passage of Ayrton Senna to the McLaren being his work. In the meantime in Formula 1 they are wondering how the McLaren continue to have so competitive cars in every race. While the Ferrari is trying to return, the Williams is lost behind the qualify engine of the Honda, the Lotus is engaged on the battle with the active suspension, the McLaren has developed another weapon. It seems that the secret of the victories of this year is also linked to a new sophisticated electronic system that allows you to control automatically the turbo pressure according to the needs. In curve the pressure drops, goes on the straight, always providing the required powers, with considerable savings of fuel. So, now it seems that Alain Prost has within reach the third World title. In the meantime, at the chalet Fourcroy, near the Eau Rouge, are celebrated the ten years of permanence in Formula 1 of Riccardo Patrese and Bernie Ecclestone, already intent, for a long time, to sell the Brabham for a price of 26.000.000 dollars, with Nissan and Chrysler giving interest on it during the night, after few glasses of wine, announce to his employees that he will sell the team and he is willing to do it at any price. But Riccardo Patrese intervene, that exclaims:
Bernie Ecclestone reply:
"You are the one that I sell to the highest price".
Then, the English manager starts to laugh.