Since the beginning of January, an attempt to relaunch Formula 1 has failed. And, perhaps, to entice Nigel Mansell to re-join the ranks in the future and to make Ayrton Senna desist from stopping for a year or racing in the United States alongside the English World Champion. On Wednesday 13 January 1993, near London, the Formula One constructors meet. On the agenda are several proposals of a technical nature and concerning sporting regulations. Declared objectives: the reduction of costs and the improvement of the spectacle to guarantee the public and television more exciting races. In fact, Formula One is paying the price for Williams' supremacy and the general drop in competitiveness and uncertainty in the World Championship. On top of that, anti-smoking legislation in Europe has arrived to cause World Championship revenues to plummet, and many sponsors have withdrawn. In France, for example, there was a long and intricate court case, which was only resolved in extremis with a compromise related to the broadcasting of the races on television: at first, the very re-transmission of the races on television seemed to be jeopardised due to the new anti-smoking regulations; renewing the television contracts however seemed difficult but not impossible. A very valid argument, because at the end of 1992 the TV audience figures in Italy showed a drop of 20.000.000 viewers. All good intentions, however, ran aground in the face of Frank Williams, who was determined to change nothing and maintain the status quo. The owner of the World Champion team does not leave a single crack in the door. And according to the Concordia pact, which will remain in force until the end of 1994 and which requires unanimity for every decision, those who were prepared to find new solutions go home defeated.
Especially the small teams floundering because of the economic crisis. Reducing management costs could have at least allowed Nigel Mansell to resume contact, who left mainly because he was not paid the salary he had asked for ($15.000.000).A regulatory change aimed at rebalancing the values on the track and having more competitive cars would perhaps have convinced Ayrton Senna to stay. These are the various proposals rejected by the inflexible Williams (backed on some occasions by Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal), who did not want to lose the advantages gained through years of research and sacrifice: abolition of many electronic systems; use of the spare car limited to special requirements (destruction of the single-seater race car); reduced practice by one day with a super-qualifying to be held on Saturday afternoon, with the twelve drivers setting the best times in the morning; introduction of the Safety car, which would enter the track during the race in the event of too great an advantage for a driver to reduce the gaps. In private, Frank Williams had agreed to this in the days before, but during the meeting he changed his mind. And since in Formula One no changes can be made to the rules if there is only one member's veto, Bernie Ecclestone decides to leave during the meeting, not before issuing some threats. The first is that of resigning as constructors' chairman. And since he is not only the president but also the man who finds sponsors and television stations, his withdrawal would put the whole Circus, which is already in trouble due to a lack of great drivers and spectacle, in crisis. The second threat, which smacks more of a warning, is this:
"If you continue like this, Ferrari and Benetton will also leave".
And the confirmation comes from Ferrari itself, where there is obviously much disappointment at the failure to approve those changes that, according to the top management of the Maranello sports section, should have revitalised Formula 1. Indeed, Ferrari was counting on being able to present the renewal, which was taken for granted, as its own success:
"Of course, we don't really like a Formula 1 like that, which is in danger of being less interesting this year than it was in 1992. The idea of quitting is not at all peregrine, but it is not feasible right away. Firstly because we have entered the 1993 championship and we will honour this commitment. Secondly, because Ferrari hasn't won for a long time and if it withdrew it would be accused of running away from defeats. We are very interested in Formula Indianapolis (the one where Mansell and maybe Senna will race, ed), but we will see, later on. For now we must try to bring Ferrari back to victory".
In short, total wreck. So much so that the meeting scheduled for Thursday 14 and Friday 15 January 1993, in Paris, by the Formula 1 Commission will be thwarted. Unless the FIA, led by Max Mosley (not forgetting that Bernie Ecclestone, president of the constructors, is also the FIA's vice-president, as well as the one most interested in the relaunch, since he is also a race organiser) attempts some kind of coup de grâce. At this point, however, the Federation's bargaining power is very limited and it will have to put on a good face. The important knot concerning the composition of the petrol, which had raised so many problems last year, also remains unresolved. There is however some news: Agip and Elf have reportedly reached an agreement to propose using 80 per cent normal fuel, reserving 20 per cent for scientific research. All within the framework of environmentally friendly and non-harmful products. But it must be done quickly because the engine manufacturers (including Ferrari) still have no indication to work on the set-up and in two months the World Championship will begin. Speaking of Ferrari, it is not ruled out (but it is not certain either) that on Thursday the F93A, driven by Nicola Larini, will finally be back on track at Fiorano after John Barnard's treatment. The English designer is in Maranello to solve the problems of the new car.A week later, and exactly Thursday 21 January 1993, the news from the newspapers seems incredible, but it is absolutely true: Formula One World Champion Williams has been excluded from the 1993 World Championship. The English team is not on the list issued by FISA in Paris. The list includes thirteen teams, and therefore twenty-six cars. FISA specifies that other teams have expressed their intention to participate in the championship, but have not yet lodged an acceptable request. Evidently, the reference is to Williams who, as is well known, had submitted their entry one day later than the date of 21 November 1992. It is no coincidence that on the following day, Friday 22 January 1993, from Paris, FISA President Max Mosley issued a statement commenting on Williams' exclusion from the next World Championship:
"Everything now depends on Frank Williams, I hope that he will be able to find a solution...".
In practice, Frank Williams had sent the entry letter to the wrong address: instead of sending it to the FIA in Paris, he had sent it to Bernie Ecclestone. A slight bureaucratic error, but the deadline for entries is Sunday, while Williams' letter is only duly filed on the following Monday. Therefore, the bureaucratic error is there and the letter is officially late, so FISA does not admit Frank Williams' team and Alain Prost's entry in the 1993 World Championship. It was known, therefore, that there would be a problem, but it was thought that a purely bureaucratic affair would be positively resolved. Instead, at a Formula One Commission meeting held before Christmas, the situation came to a head. According to the regulations, which require unanimity of all manufacturers, the team representatives were asked to approve a waiver to accept Williams. And apparently - as a voting declaration - everyone agreed. But when it came to making intentions official, someone backed out. Frank Williams, himself, started phoning team managers to ask for a letter of approval. Documents started arriving by fax: on Wednesday evening, however, three were still missing. One was from Ferrari. Harvey Postlethwaite, team manager in Maranello, said:
"We had already spoken in favour. Williams phoned me because he wanted the signature of the lawyer Montezemolo, who was in Milan. The president arrived on Thursday morning and we immediately sent the letter. For us there is no obstacle to Williams' participation".
So who are the two teams that did not want to accept the proposal? In the environment the names of Benetton and Minardi are mentioned, but behind it all there would be Bernie Ecclestone, who evidently wants to take advantage of the opportunity to bend the will of Frank Williams. The Didcot-based manufacturer, in fact, has not accepted the recent proposals for changes to the technical and sporting regulations to reduce costs and improve the show. And now it is Ecclestone who has the upper hand. The situation is delicate. It is said in Formula 1 that the championship, after losing Nigel Mansell and with the risk of losing Ayrton Senna, cannot afford to leave out the best team and a character like Alain Prost. The regulations by the way do not provide for such cases, but in reality the constructors could meet at any time to decide otherwise. The danger is that in the event of a new vote, someone will not accept Williams. The most probable thing is that the English team, in order to get back in, will have to accept a barter, i.e. submit to certain regulatory impositions such as the adoption of the Safety car, which should intervene when the advantage of those in the lead is too great.
And, in fact, on Saturday, 23 January 1993, Flavio Briatore confessed and explained why, as team manager of the Benetton team, he was against Williams' readmission request:
"I have nothing against Frank Williams, whom I have known for many years and appreciate for all he has been able to do in Formula 1. I don't hold it against him, but I have no difficulty in admitting that I voted against his entry for the next world championship. I was not the only one, but I speak for myself and I independently decided to vote against him. The substance of the problem is more complex. For many years, and perhaps fans don't know or remember this, there has been this rule in Formula One: that to approve any change to the regulations, you need the unanimity of all the constructors. This means that all it takes is one vote against and nothing is decided. This absurd governing formula has been in place for a long time, and when I arrived I found it already in force. It is a formula derived from the famous Concord Pacts signed in Paris I think in the 1970s and then renewed. All this might have been fine back then, when Formula One was an embryo that was developing: to avoid hand-wringing it was established that to change any situation all the constructors had to agree. It is not I who is blackmailing Williams, but it is Williams who with its veto to the bitter end is blackmailing all of us in the other teams. In the sense that with its veto it prevents any change in Formula 1, which still lives on very old rules no longer suited to the times. Let me give you an example. A few years ago we wanted to ban active suspensions even before they became established, because we immediately realised that they would have entailed very high extra costs, which today are in fact bringing many teams to their knees. All it took was one vote against, and nothing came of it".
"Ten days ago in London, we put on the table all the proposals for changes that had been rumoured for some time. And Frank at every argument raised his hand and said no. Ten exhausting hours of useless discussion. So I said enough is enough, now I'm going to use my right of veto and hang on to every bureaucratic loophole so that I can show you what absurd results the veto to the bitter end always leads to. Williams sent the entry late? Well, regulations are regulations, you always invoke them to say no? And now I say no too. You sent the entry late, and I don't accept that you can still enter the championship. It's absurd, I know that, but at least this way we get to the real bubble of Formula 1. I, or rather we because there are so many of us, are fed up with being governed by this system where it only takes one person to blackmail us all with his veto. As in modern nations, as in companies, we want to govern ourselves with the vote, not the veto. We want to govern ourselves with majorities".
Then, he concludes:
"Of course, there were absurd proposals, such as making those in the lead slow down, but that was just one of a thousand proposals. It's perfectly fine with me if the majority rejects it, I don't care. But there were also a lot of serious things that didn't even make it into the newspapers and that weren't even talked about in ten hours. Do you know how Formula One is governed today? The constructors meet in carbonara meetings and approve some change only if they all agree. Then that change is presented to the Federation, which ratifies it, because it knows that everyone is already in agreement. It is a convoluted way of governing this sport, which moves two thousand billion lire. It is an unnatural way to influence the choices of companies like our teams, which on average are worth forty or fifty billion each a year. Right now Williams is no longer a Formula One team, so it will be up to all the others to make a decision. If we all agree, the system of governance can finally be changed. We are all sorry that Williams is out of the championship and we are perfectly aware that a championship without Williams is halved, but there was no other way to bring everyone back to reason, to reshape a system that no longer works. Formula One is old, it needs to be modernised, adapted to today's times, to the economic crisis that grips us all.Look at football, which used to be a sport anchored to old and seemingly unchangeable rules: it has changed some things and the spectacle has come alive again. We must do this too, and we must above all create a more agile system of government. Ridiculous proposals will never manage to coalesce majorities at the ballot box. There are two urgent needs today: to curb the spiralling increase in costs and to offer the public, the press, and television a more concentrated, more interesting show. All of you often wrote in 1992: what a boring race".
In the meantime, on Thursday 21 January 1993, at Maranello, Gerhard Berger turns up with his cap askew and his usual playboy air, casting interested glances at the beautiful hostesses accompanying him. But the Austrian driver, in his first public appearance as a Ferrari driver, immediately says that he wants to take this second adventure with the Maranello team very seriously. The Austrian talks about programmes and objectives, concretely, leaving no room for dreams and easy optimism.
"For Ferrari it will be very tough. Just make a simple consideration: there are at least ten cars equipped with Ford engines, starting with Benetton, McLaren and Lotus. If we don't stay ahead of all these, it's pointless to think of winning a race, should the Williams have a problem one day".
Not even to think, therefore, of beating the World Champion team, assuming it is there, in the 1993 World Championship. How did he see Ferrari?
"The means are not lacking, it's a matter of knowing how to use them well with competent people. The new car is a remake of the old one, revised by Barnard's staff. I have a lot of confidence in the English designer. I believe the chassis will be good and competitive. The knot to be solved will be in the engine, which needs to be improved".
Relations with Alesi?
"I repeat: I had a very good offer from McLaren. I also chose Ferrari for a reason of the heart. But I also wanted to bring my experience, which is superior to Jean's, to bear. I think I can make a good contribution to the preparation of the car, thanks also to my knowledge of what McLaren and Honda have done. So I will have priority for the reserve car, which will in any case be at Alesi's disposal when he needs it. I hope to establish a very good relationship with him as I did with Senna".
Someone recently accused Ferrari of distorting itself by depending on what Barnard does in England.
"The important thing is that Ferrari gets back to winning. Nobody had anything to say if McLaren used an American gearbox and Italian brakes. You have to take the best where it is. We are also trying to create a school with young engineers working in London. From next Tuesday I will test at Estoril with the F93A and the modified engine. Then we will know where we are at the moment. We can give ourselves six months to know if we are on the right track. I am confident and ready to give 100 per cent".
A few days later, on Monday 25 January 1993, Alain Prost, present at the Estoril circuit in Portugal, smiles mockingly and tells the journalists around him:
"Guys, let's not talk about the problem between the Federation and Williams. Nor about Senna".
But then, seeing the disappointment of the reporters around him, Alain Prost does not hold back and opens fire.
"The affair of the non-registration and the fact that FISA has still not granted me the super-licence necessary to participate in the World Championship, upsets me. And not a little. It is above all a psychological problem: you don't feel calm".
The French driver, thanks to his long militancy in Formula 1, knows that sometimes it is necessary to dramatise. But he knows that, sooner or later, a solution to the double problem will somehow be found. It is not for nothing that Williams undauntedly continues testing at the Estoril circuit, which also hosts Ferrari, Benetton, Sauber, Lotus and Jordan the day before. Alain Prost is, after all, willing to talk. He tells his story and explains the reasons that led him to return to racing after a year's holiday.
"I have prepared myself physically as never before. Age is advancing and it is important to be fit, to be able to face tests and races at top form. Some people think I wanted to come back for money. Instead I did it for passion, I want to win at least one more World Championship".
And what if this renewed feeling should vanish mid-season?
"I would stop immediately. I would go home. But I don't think something like that will happen. I will last longer".
The objective of winning a fourth title is facilitated by the absence of Mansell and the possible forfeit of Ayrton Senna. What does Alain Prost think of this situation? Doesn't it take interest away from Formula 1?
"Senna and Mansell? If they were there it was fine with me. If they don't show up, that's fine too. My job is to beat the drivers who are there. And they will be twenty-five".
Too easy with the World Champion car...
"You say that. The team is great, the car competitive. But, in Formula 1, you start from the beginning every time. The regulations have changed, cars and tyres will be different. We will probably have to make more pit stops to change tyres. There will be new strategies. And then we will have to see how the other teams will have improved. Maybe Benetton, McLaren or Ferrari will find winning solutions. In short, everything is to be verified, at the first race and not in winter testing".
In any case, Williams starts at an advantage, as they have already done a lot of testing.
"So far I have participated in seven test series, and more are planned. It's tough for me anyway, more than people think. I have been stationary for a year. I have found many technological innovations. Many people think that the biggest problem is to use the active suspension well. Instead, the difficulty lies in mastering the anti-skid system that imposes a completely different type of riding. I had to erase from my brain what I had learnt in 20 years of driving. In addition, we still have minor reliability problems. A lot to do, then, even though I openly say I want the rainbow helmet. But there are risks".
Will Alain Prost be sincere, or will he make the situation appear more difficult than it is? Will he be able to bring the #1 back to Williams? He drives the #2 car, he left the #0 to teammate Damon Hill:
"Because zero is not a number, and then it is not good for the image".
Almost as if to prove him right, the best time is set by Michael Schumacher, who laps in 1'14"40 with the old Benetton. Remarkable result if one considers that the track record is 1'13"041 (set by Riccardo Patrese in 1991) and that in the last tests with narrow tyres it had reached 1'13"60 with Damon Hill. Behind the German are Alain Prost (1'15"88), Damon Hill (1'15"89), Rubens Barrichello (Jordan, 1'19"35), J.J. Lehto (Sauber, 1'19"96), Johnny Herbert (Lotus, 1'19"98) and Karl Wendlinger (Sauber, 1'23"62).
Ferrari practically starts on Tuesday, as Gerhard Berger makes his debut in the late afternoon, after four years' absence from Maranello, completing only two laps, interrupted by a lack of time and a problem with a cable on the active suspension electronics. While Jean Alesi leaves the pits when practice is over and comes back. Primary objective: to seek reliability. Meantime, an indiscretion arrived from Ireland: Ivan Capelli was close to sign for Jordan. The place had been offered to Thierry Boutsen, who presented himself with a good sponsor. But when the Belgian tried the cockpit he realised he didn't fit in it. And he had to give up. Things happen in Formula One. And so perhaps a window opened for the Italian driver. In the meantime, Alain Prost in addition to the entry diatribe, also had another problem to solve: a few days earlier, Max Mosley wrote a very harsh letter to Frank Williams to remind him of the fact that he had hired precisely the French driver, who in previous years had been guilty of the serious fault of having pronounced unhappy judgements on the FIA, speaking of bad organisation and zero consultation.
"We have to seriously ask ourselves whether the interests of Formula One and the FIA coincide with allowing such a person to participate in the championship. A person who believes he has to control everything, who talks about subjects he knows nothing about, and who talks about government organisations using offensive terms. He even accused Formula One of caring too much about money, when he himself enjoyed the highest salary, even higher than some members of the FIA, who earn nothing. I don't think you or your sponsors can control that. I am sure you have clauses in your contract that can solve certain situations, but they have had no effect. He will continue to poison the atmosphere just when we need to improve it".
The implicit message of Mosley's letter to Williams is that he does not want to give Alain Prost a super-licence. In the meantime, however, on Tuesday 26 January 1993 Alain Prost with Williams flies and comes close to the Estoril circuit record. Ferrari, on the other hand, takes its first steps and struggles predictably. In fact, Harvey Postlethwaite, head of the Maranello team, admits:
"If I think of the times of the best, I am terrified. But right now we're not looking at the stopwatch, we're looking at reliability. When everything is working properly, we will fit the new engines with pneumatic valves, we have two versions, and we will make the first judgments".
Forty laps with Gerhard Berger and nineteen with Jean Alesi. The first day of public testing of the F93A is laborious. The Austrian and the Frenchman break a tie rod in the bottom of the cars and make long stops. Then follow brake problems. But above all, it is difficult to understand how the active suspension works and to fine-tune it. Says Gerhard Berger, back driving a Ferrari after four years:
"The positive note is that we have driven more than half a Grand Prix without any real mechanical failures. But it is clear that I cannot make any judgements or comparisons with the McLaren. It is too early. The car is not yet balanced and so you can't really push hard. However, I adapted immediately to the gearbox and the rest. The engine? I don't want to comment for now".
Isn't it a risk to start with the difficult solution of intelligent suspension?
"Ferrari last year was too far behind Williams to go for a conventional car in 1993. It is a forced choice to try to catch up".
The response of the chronometers, even though we are just at the beginning, is merciless: Prost, lapping in 1'13"49, very close to the track's official record (1'13"001), and a new absolute limit on narrow tyres, beats Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi by more than 6 seconds. The Frenchman is also the protagonist of a spectacular spin to avoid Johnny Herbert's Lotus, which is proceeding slowly. It is clear that the Williams starts from a clearly superior car. The professor, however, is undermined by Michael Schumacher, who sets an excellent time of 1'13"93 in the Benetton. Slower are the Sauber (Wendlinger, 1'17"06), the Jordan (Barrichello, 1'17"44) and the Lotus (Herbert, 1'17"72), but all ahead of the two Ferraris, which do not go beyond 1'19"64.
Wednesday will continue and it will go on until Saturday, maybe Sunday. Meanwhile, there are two pieces of news to shake up the environment. One is important and concerns Ayrton Senna, since Penske announces that it has engaged the emerging Canadian Paul Tracy alongside Emerson Fittipaldi. So, door closed in Indy for the Brazilian, who was perhaps aiming at that team, the best one, to move. Also because the Penske team manager says they will not run three cars as some had predicted. Senna, therefore, can only stop for a year or run with McLaren in 1993. Unless Tracy agrees at some point to vacate the seat. The other fresh news concerns the Williams case. It has been announced that the Formula One Commission will meet on Friday 12 February. On the agenda: 1994 sporting regulations; 1995 technical regulations; granting of super-licences; Concord Pact. The exclusion of Williams and the driving licence that Alain Prost has not yet received will be discussed. It is not excluded that in exchange for some concessions FOCA will ask to blow up the Pact of Concord, which requires unanimity of all manufacturers to make any decision. Thus new regulations to improve the show could also be passed. Those that Frank Williams had refused to sign up to. Wednesday 27 January 1993 the picture changes, but not for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher and the Benetton take the baton from Williams, setting the best time of the day in 1'I3'71. However, it is not only the chronometric results that count these days. Everyone is also looking for the tuning of the cars. Riccardo Patrese, for example, is struggling with the Benetton's new automatic gearbox and laps much slower than any other driver. The Maranello team, on the other hand, is busy solving problems with the use of active suspension. Gerhard Berger, author of 19 laps, explains:
"Every hour we learn something, but the path will be long and full of problems. At the moment the car is not balanced and I don't even dare to think what condition we will be in at the first race".
Jean Alesi completes only a few laps, first due to a break in the gearbox hydraulic circuit, then a leak in the suspension circuit. The Frenchman is a temperamental guy. But precisely because of that he goes from one excess to another. He is either soft or hard. Lately, the French rider has been controlling himself, but his talk is sincere.
"It would be nice to sit in a new car and immediately set a record. Unfortunately that is not the case, you have to work hard to achieve results. The two years at Ferrari have been difficult for me, full of sacrifice and stingy with satisfaction. And, I'm not afraid to confess it, at one point I thought about leaving and accepting one of the offers made to me".
The French-Italian driver is not naming names, but it is known in the environment that he is still being courted by Williams and that Peugeot has his name in the notebook should he attempt, as it seems, the Formula 1 adventure.
"I wanted to stay, also because I had a contract for two seasons, when I was presented with the technical programme with the arrival of Barnard. I was nervous, restless, insecure. The Ferrari plans calmed me down".
So, at least one more year with Ferrari. But what are Alesi's objectives?
'Two are my goals, which are identified with desires. The first is to become competitive again, with a valid car. Let's not talk about victories: too easy to say and complicated to do. Let's think about fighting near the top and making progress. The second concerns my future and therefore Ferrari. Berger has a two-year deal. I know very well that Maranello is courting Senna, who is the best. If the Brazilian comes to Maranello, there will be no more room for me. So my only chance to stay, provided the situation becomes interesting, is to make Senna forget. That is, I will have to be good enough to force the Ferrari managers to confirm me. An almost impossible task, but I will try".
So much trust, that of Jean Alesi, to be mistaken for love. Let us not forget, by the way, that the driver lost out on a few million dollars to arrive at Maranello when he was already tied to Tyrrell and Williams. Jean Alesi, therefore, is willing to walk on his pride, to file down the edges of his impulsive character.
"With Berger I want to establish a fair and friendly relationship. We have made a good start these days, and he has also shown himself to be open and helpful. Of course the team must do everything to put us on an equal footing, there mustn't be an A and a B rider. It will be an advantage for everyone, especially in this difficult moment in which we are trying to catch up. If then Ferrari returns to the top, everyone will be able to play their cards on the track, as always".
In the meantime, there is an air of coup d'état by the drivers against the Federation. In Portugal the drivers are meeting in a restaurant, led by Alain Prost, to discuss the problem of the super-licences allocated to some, and so far denied to others. A joint action to force FISA to take a clearer attitude is not ruled out. Thursday 28 January 1993 Williams continues to grind out kilometres. Alain Prost simulates a Grand Prix, completing 81 laps, the best in 1'13"60. More problems, however, for Ferrari. Jean Alesi (1'18"93 and 7 laps) and Gerhard Berger (1'19"03 and 17 laps) are blocked by the breakage of the actuators, the aluminium cylinders that replace the shock absorbers and are the most delicate part of the active suspension mechanics. The Austrian also tested one of the two engines with pneumatic valves, but was unable to push hard. The drivers led by Alain Prost, meanwhile, are also in turmoil because Bernie Ecclestone has sold their image to a Japanese video game company, without asking the drivers' permission in advance. Friday, 29 January 1993 Alain Prost is the victim of a terrible accident, but he gets off without injury, apart from a severe pain in his neck. In the course of the afternoon, at 3:45 p.m., while the Frenchman is busy completing a series of tests with his Williams, he loses control of the car, which is semi-crashed at the Do Tanque corner, while travelling in fourth gear at around 230-240 km/h and crashes with the rear of the car against the guardrails. Immediately rescued, Alain Prost is taken to the infirmary where he remains in a state of shock for half an hour.Then, followed by a physiotherapist, the French driver left the circuit driving the car himself. The Williams co-driver made no statement. A spokesman for the team, however, rules out driver error and admits that perhaps this was due to a fault. Apart from this incident, Williams comes out of the Estoril tests with very positive notes about its competitiveness. Good signs also for Benetton, Sauber, Jordan and Lotus.
Still in difficulty on the other hand is Ferrari, who set slow times with the F93A equipped with an engine with pneumatic valves: 1'19"25 with Berger and 1'19"97 with Alesi (against 1'13"40 set on Wednesday by Alain Prost). The Maranello team has not yet managed to fix the active suspension and the car is not balanced, so that all other tests are practically useless. Therefore, tests were scheduled at Fiorano and Imola before further tests at Estoril. The first round ends with nothing. In the sense that the week of testing at the difficult Portuguese circuit shows that Williams is still the team to beat. Even though the cars have been modified for the new technical regulations (for this new season, the main changes in the regulations concern the tyres, as the maximum width of the full wheel goes from 18 to 15 inches, a reduction of 7.6 centimetres, while the width of the car goes from 2.150 millimetres to 2.000 millimetres, and the height is reduced by 50 millimetres. In addition, each single-seater will only be allowed to have seven sets of tyres per practice session, and each team will not be allowed to use more than two cars per practice day; this means that spare cars will disappear from circulation. Another novelty is the use of the Safety Car, so in the event of an accident a service car will enter the track forcing all single-seaters to line up without being able to overtake each other), Alain Prost and Damon Hill set the best times, coming dangerously close to the track record. The French driver, even though he was the victim on the last day of a worrying exit from the track due to a mechanical failure, showed that he had perfectly adapted to the role of great favourite for the World Championship. And his team-mate was no different, confirming his not inconsiderable speed skills. However, if Ferrari makes it clear that the road to recovery is still fraught with difficulties, interesting signs were seen from other teams. Discreet results from debutant Sauber, good ones from Jordan and Lotus.
But the best things were seen by Benetton, which had already proposed itself as second force in the championship last year. The Italian team - with English roots - at the moment presents on paper not only the best driver line-up with the Schumacher-Patrese pair, but also the greatest potential for progress, given that automatic gearbox and active suspension, apart from a few minor mishaps, work well. The first to come out surprised by this initial test is Riccardo Patrese himself, who thought that the path would be hindered by major problems.
"Instead, everything worked out for the best. True, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the prospects are good".
Ready, then, for a new challenge at the age of forty? Riccardo, showing all his temperament, doesn't even want to hear about age.
"First of all, for the moment I am only 38 years old. And then I like doing this job, I love running and I have the enthusiasm of the early days. I have already taken a lot of satisfaction and I continue driving in Formula 1 because I feel I still have something to say. In fact, I aim to win that world title that has eluded me so far for so many reasons".
On the basis of what prospects?
"I think I can be the only one to make a comparison between the champion team, Williams, and the emerging one, Benetton. There are many similarities between these two teams. Williams is perhaps more introverted, closed. The Benetton more cheerful, sympathetic. But the spirit and enthusiasm are the same. The secret for both teams is stability: a group of people who have been working together for a long time with the same goals".
But there is an aggressive and fast driver like Michael Schumacher to keep at bay.
"With Michael I immediately established a very good relationship, which is the basis for working together. He is very mature for his experience, strong and determined. A difficult customer, but that's not a problem: in our sport you always have to deal with your teammate. The important thing is to start on an equal footing. And that's what Benetton has guaranteed me".
But Williams still seems to be unbeatable.
"For now it is: it has the advantage of starting with a higher competitive edge. It's up to us to narrow it down little by little. In any case, Williams has also made mistakes that could pay off over time. It has let both of its drivers go at once, relying on two new ones. And this is in breach of that team's policy of continuity. They have also let Paddy Lowe, the technician who brought forward the active suspension discourse, slip through their fingers. He has gone to McLaren. A small but important crack".
"I am not focused on this problem. I will start to worry if and when it is in front of us. I don't wrap my head around a headache that I no longer have. For the moment I prefer to look at Williams".
Would Patrese then sign for another second place in the championship?
"I'm not signing anything. I hope to win and that this is the right year".
Also at the end of the tests, we learn that Ivan Capelli has been signed by Jordan alongside Brazilian rookie (originally from Treviso) Rubens Barrichello. Thus happily ended the adventure of the Italian driver who last year had been dismissed before the end of the season by Ferrari. For the Milanese driver it is a good opportunity to make a comeback in a team that had surprised on his debut in 1991, and that last year had not shone due, above all, to the Yamaha engine. This year it will have V10 engines made by Brian Hart. Ivan Capelli, 29, soon to be married to his fiancée Jasmine, of Swedish origin, raced his first season in Formula 1 with Tyrrell in 1985 and was Formula 3000 champion. His best finishes were two second places in Portugal and France (1988 and 1990). However, the situation remains difficult for many other Italian drivers still without a steering wheel: Martini, Modena, Tarquini, Morbidelli, Naspetti and Zanardi will probably be forced to choose other categories. On Friday 12 February 1993, Formula 1 finally found its way out of the tunnel of crisis that had been gripping it for some time. In London, during the meeting of the commission that regulates the sport, important decisions are taken. For the present and for the future. Actually, the twelve members of the assembly, i.e. Max Mosley (FISA), Bernie Ecclestone (FOCA), Harvey Postlethwaite (Ferrari), Ron Dennis (McLaren), Frank Williams, Flavio Briatore (Benetton), Giancarlo Minardi, plus three race organisers (San Marino, Brazil and Monaco) and two representatives of the sponsors (Agip and Marlboro) do not find the agreement that should have smoothed out the discussions. So, without having the unanimity required by the now obsolete and damaging Pact of Concord, thanks to a ploy, Max Mosley, president of FISA, imposes a series of decisions. The astute English lawyer in essence refers the final judgement to the World Council of the FIA (the great federation of 80 countries on which FISA depends), which will meet on Thursday 18 March 1993, four days after the first rainbow race in South Africa, at Kyalami.Already in the next few hours, however, delegates will have to vote by fax, and since only a relative majority - 41 votes - is required, it is almost certain that all proposals will be accepted. This is the first time the sporting authority has managed to circumvent the obstacles, overriding the individual interests of the teams.
And in a way it rewards Ferrari, which had pushed hardest for a change of direction. But let's take a look, point by point, at the decisions taken concerning the 1993 sporting regulations and the technical rules from 1994 onwards. A half-revolution to reduce costs and to allow even the less wealthy teams to be competitive and to improve the spectacle, enhancing the human role in racing, namely that of the drivers: Prost and Williams. The Frenchman obtained the super-licence and the World Champion team the championship entry. Prost will, however, have to go before the FIA tribunal on Thursday, 18 March 1993 for certain statements he made to a French magazine in the past weeks, which are considered damaging to FISA. It is likely that the driver could be disqualified for one or two races. A rule is being studied not to use more than twelve engines per season in two cars and to reduce ground effect. In addition, a project will be examined to change the bottoms of the single-seaters to make them more robust for racing on American oval circuits. This last is clearly an indication wanted by Bernie Ecclestone to try to challenge Formula Indy on its own ground. It is a wake-up call for Formula 1, which has - at least seemingly - exercised judgement. It is clear that a few hiccups will still crop up before the season starts. But it is moving in the right direction. Waiting for the capricious Ayrton Senna to decide what to do: in the meantime, the new McLaren is presented. Will it be a car capable of enticing the Brazilian to race? We will see. In the meantime, what is important is that now the Formula 1 teams can seriously think about the World Championship starting on Sunday, 14 March 1993, in South Africa. Having solved the problems that have animated the winter season with minor changes to the sporting regulations and with the announcement of profound technical changes for 1994, the hunt for Williams, who is the major favourite to win the title, is officially on.As early as Monday 15 February 1993, the majority of teams will be back on track at Estoril for a week of indicative tests, in which Ferrari will not participate, preferring to train at Imola with Berger and Alesi. Also absent should be McLaren, which after presenting its new car, the MP4-8, prefers to run at Silverstone with Michael Andretti and Mika Hakkinen. Ron Dennis's British team, meanwhile, announces that they also have Ayrton Senna in the line-up.
Three drivers signed up then, but only two will be able to race, unless McLaren obtains a special dispensation and makes a special effort to field an extra single-seater for the Brazilian. Senna is evidently waiting to see if the MP4-8 will be competitive and then decide. Tongues are wagging that it is just a matter of money: Ayrton is asking for $18.000.000, Ron Dennis is offering less. The question therefore remains unresolved, while weapons are being sharpened. The moment is, however, strange. The designers must prepare to study simpler cars, without electronic devices, according to the new technical choices, for next year. And in the meantime, the challenge in the season that is about to begin is mainly based on the most sophisticated computer-controlled devilry. Almost all the cars will use active suspension, and McLaren itself lets it be known that those fitted to its cars, developed by Tag Eletronic and Bilstein, will be able, thanks to a coded radio transmission system, to modify the set-ups from the pit lane. In addition, the cars of the Woking stable will have a semi-automatic six-speed gearbox, capable of memorising the track of each circuit. The driver will only have to put his foot on the accelerator. These are important innovations that could bridge the gap with Williams, and certainly also serve to try to convince Ayrton Senna. To return to Ferrari, the tests at Imola have yielded some positive results. It seems that the right path has been taken on the active suspension, even if some hiccups are still to be expected. Now the Maranello team has to work hard on the new engines with pneumatic valves in order to make a decent debut.
Of course, it is frightening to think of the amount of commitments awaiting the Maranello team: the F93A to be fine-tuned, John Barnard's car to be prepared for August, and then everything to be redone for the following year. Having achieved a change of direction on the regulations with reduced costs and less sophistication was perhaps a success. But the price to pay is very high. Without forgetting that the fans are expecting Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi to produce some positive results in order to dream again. It has to be said that the Portuguese circuit does not bring Prost luck. On Monday 15 February 1993, the Frenchman is forced by a sinus infection to run only a few laps in his new Williams: 1'15"0 is the best time. The new McLaren Mp4/8 that was supposed to run at Silverstone also fails to make its debut. The car, entrusted to Michael Andretti, immediately experiences technical problems. And there is an unforeseen epilogue also on the second day of Ferrari testing at Imola: on Wednesday 17 February 1993, testing is interrupted due to gearbox problems in the three cars present, the two F93As entrusted to Berger and the F92A driven by Alesi, while at Estolli the Williams dominance continues: Alain Prost, with a time of 1'13"48, sets the test record. A week later, on Thursday 25 February 1993, Ferrari renounces to make the debut of the new car (the 645) of the English technician John Barnard, who would have a short life after the new regulations came into force. Barnard will be able to devote himself to building a completely new single-seater for 1994, as the current championship will be contested with the F93A. From Paris, meanwhile, comes news that the FIA has reinstated the French Grand Prix and the Williams team, with its driver Alain Prost, for the 1993 World Championship. Proposals by Max Mosley, FISA president, to reduce costs in Formula One are also accepted.
"We have made a decision over the past few months: we want to become World Champions, and we will succeed".
Michael Schumacher declared on Monday 1 March 1993, and Riccardo Patrese echoed him:
"I put my experience at the service of Benetton. Together we can go far: the war against Williams is open".
These two declarations encapsulate the entire programme of Benetton, the Italo-English Formula 1 team, the most accredited antagonist of Williams, which presented the team and the car, the Benetton Ford B193A, which will take part in the first Grands Prix to make way for the new single-seater, the B193B, completely renewed, when the World Championship moves to Europe. Numerous VIPs are present, from Luciano Benetton (in the company of the inseparable Oliviero Toscani) to Jean-Paul Belmondo, here in the guise of an interested parent: his son Paul will be one of the three test drivers, with Andrea Montermini and Alan McNish. There is a special air, at Villa Minelli: the certainty of having done a great job over the winter makes more than one technician smile. And this cannot escape Luciano Benetton:
"Yes, the mood has changed, from last year to today. I see that there is now optimism; we have made a quantum leap with the arrival of an experienced driver like Patrese, while we kept Schumacher, perhaps the best of the new generation. In 1992 we came within a step of second place, now we are there with the best. We'll see".
Inevitable the poisonous question about Ferrari: will that day ever come when Benetton takes the place of the Maranello cars in the hearts of Italians? Benetton does not play along and replies decisively:
"I think not, and I sincerely hope not. Ferrari is irreplaceable; it looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa: it hangs, all right, but it never falls. It's in everyone's interest for it to be competitive again. In 1992 the clash pleased us, but without a top Ferrari, the whole FI suffers from a decline in interest".
The one who is pampering the new car with his eyes (externally it has not changed, it has the same unmistakable duck bill but in addition it has a semi-automatic gearbox and intelligent suspension) is Riccardo Patrese. The driver from Padova, in his sixteenth year in Formula 1 and with 240 Grands Prix behind him, is strangely talkative:
"Maybe it's the environment's fault; in so many years I had never seen so much togetherness and so much desire to win. But don't come and ask me if I'm the first driver or not: we start as equals, the championship will decide. Is Michael a fast driver? So am I. He says he wants to win? Why not me? The difference is that if last year I promised the world, now I wait before talking. The car is going well, we are satisfied, the work is 85% done, but we have still covered a few kilometres (about 3,000, ed) to say if we are competitive. That is why I always put Williams first: they had four years to develop the car, we only had four months, quite a difference".
And he concludes with a hint at the new regulations:
"Going backwards is bad for me: I always think Formula 1 is about technological development and I like to win with the best that technology has to offer. But if that means excessive costs, I welcome the restrictions. For the rest, I'm not worried: we'll all start on an equal footing and the best driver will win, not the one who had the best technology at his disposal".
However, the Benetton team will have to watch out for its rivals, because in addition to having to contend for the title with Alain Prost's Williams, on Tuesday 2 March 1993 the news becomes official that Ayrton Senna will test the new McLaren. A spokesman for the British team confirms that the Brazilian will take to the track on Wednesday 3 March 1993 at Silverstone, for a test with the new MP4/8 with Ford engine. A brief statement from the team speaks of positive and constructive discussions at the headquarters of the Brazilian's main sponsor, confirming that Senna's return to racing is only linked to an economic issue. The decision rekindles anticipation for the challenge with Alain Prost. As for Ferrari, bad weather also prevented track work at Imola on Tuesday. For the second consecutive day, the prohibitive weather conditions block the running of the programme on the reliability of the new engine, which was to be carried out by Nicola Larini in the F92A equipped with the 1993 engine. Larini was supposed to carry out a Grand Prix simulation. On Wednesday, an attempt will be made to carry out, at least in part, the planned work. Meanwhile, the new Formula 1 single-seater of the Bms Scuderia Italia is officially presented. After five seasons of collaboration with Dallara, the Brescia-based team signs an agreement with the English company Lola, which is responsible for the design and construction of the chassis on which the 12-cylinder Ferrari engine will be mounted again this year. The car, which will be driven by Michele Alboreto and Luca Badoer, has abandoned the classic red colour and features a new, futuristic and flamboyant livery in yellow and orange. Wednesday 3 March 1993 Bad weather continued to stop Ferrari. No practice at Imola for the Maranello team that wanted to simulate a race with the new engine with pneumatic valves, mounted on the old F92A driven by Nicola Larini. The track in the afternoon is still wet and the technicians decide to postpone the test until Thursday. The plan now is for the Tuscan driver in the morning to test at Fiorano the two cars to be sent to Kyalami on Friday 5 March. Then Larini should return to Imola to carry out the long run that is of interest to see how the engine behaves. For Gerhard Berger, on the other hand, a series of tests is planned, again at the Imola circuit, on the third F93A which will be sent to South Africa at a later date to be used as a reserve car.
For Ferrari these are crucial times. The tests so far have all been interrupted or suspended. Technical problems (suspensions, accessories, engines, broken gearboxes) have disrupted the preparations. And in a week's time the Formula One World Championship will begin with practice for the South African Grand Prix. How is the situation? What are the prospects? At the Geneva Motor Show, Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo is very cautious, and speaks of a year of transition.Taking stock with Harvey Postlethwaite, general manager of the Maranello team, it is clear that the biggest problem concerns active suspension. Ferrari was one of the main proponents of the regulatory changes that would bring about a revolution in Formula 1 in 1994. As you know, most of those sophisticated electronic systems that were turning motor racing into a missile industry and immiserating the role of the driver would be abolished. This political success, however, has forced the Maranello team to revise its plans, which envisaged the arrival of a special new car designed by John Barnard in mid-season. Some claim that these novelties will force Ferrari to abandon the active suspension project carried out in England. But Postlethwaite replies:
"That is not correct. Apart from the fact that at this point it is no longer possible to change, we are proceeding in the same direction. It is true, however, that we have had many unforeseen problems. That is why we will act in two directions: we will still try to fine-tune the system we have tried so far, and at the same time we will develop another, simpler system in Italy together with Magneti Marelli. Since next year we will return to normal springs and dampers, there is no point in breaking our heads. For now, however, the suspensions are the thorn in our side because they don't allow us to run with a minimum of continuity".
It doesn't seem, however, that the engine gives you more satisfaction.
"This is the area that in theory worries me the least. We recently did some tests on a very advanced test bench. The results were positive. We lack, it's true, the counter-test on the track, but I'm not pessimistic. With the pneumatic valves we have increased the power by increasing the number of revolutions. There is more horsepower available. It is clear that engineer Lombardi, who is in charge of the engines, is working on further development as these systems allow, with fine-tuning, continuous and interesting progress".
Ferrari has also focused on cost cutting, because it is no longer the time for crazy spending and because a better balance between the teams will favour the show. How has the team organised itself?
"We have rejuvenated the management a lot and reduced the personnel. Last year for a trip like that to South Africa we employed about 60 people. Now we are just over 40, including the logisticians and the cook".
"At Kyalami there will be a team of designers from the UK office (the FDD, Ferrari Design and Developpement, ed.) led by John Barnard with technicians Baldisserri, Pocock and Perry who will be in charge of the active suspension. The chief mechanic is Fagliarmi, while Boni, Levrini and Paterlini will be responsible for the single-seaters of Alesi, Berger and the reserve car, respectively. Engineer Lunetta will take care of the French driver's car, engineer Fantuzzi that of the Austrian. We have tried to form a close-knit group because in a racing team it is important to have precise roles, as in any company. This will be a decisive, if not decisive, period for the future of Ferrari. The people, the fans, expect results. But we are also deeply involved and we hope to do well".
In this regard, can you make any predictions?
"I have to cross my fingers. At the moment we have no certainties. Ferrari is in a similar situation to that of March 1989, when it was preparing to debut the car with the automatic gearbox, without having managed to run more than fifteen laps in succession. In the first race, at Interlagos, Brazil, Mansell won to the general surprise, including that of Maranello. Now I think it is much more difficult, if not impossible. Because the opponents are very reliable, at least in theory. One question, the first races, between Williams and Benetton. We would already be happy to have a good qualifying and not have too much trouble. But we are, unfortunately, prepared for anything. The road ahead of us is full of obstacles and uphill".
In the meantime, after four months of enforced rest, Ayrton Senna returned to driving a Formula 1 car. The Brazilian driver tested the new McLaren with active suspension and automatic gearbox, completing 31 laps (fastest in 1'21"9, against 1'21"0 by Damon Hill in a Williams, and 1'21"7 by Mika Hakkinen in another McLaren). In this circumstance, Ayrton Senna, suffering from a toothache and seized by neuralgia, watched his new team-mate, Michael Andretti, practice. In his eagerness to learn everything there is to know in what for him is a whole new world, he accelerated disproportionately, creating a deafening noise every time he came in or out of the pits. Stricken with pain, and sitting hunched over a table, when his team-mate returns, Ayrton picks him up in an irritated manner. The Brazilian driver asks him to come closer, and in a rather unfriendly way tells him:
"Look you have to make noise outside, not in here".
After this rebuke, Michael Andretti could no longer repeat the times he had set up to that point, showing that the Brazilian's words stung him in the morale. However, the respect the American driver has for the Brazilian is very high, and is confirmed by him a few years later:
"A man of great heart and sensitivity. The best team-mate together with my father, as well as the best driver I have ever met".
In the end, the Brazilian says that the car is not going badly, but that he intends to continue testing before deciding whether to participate in the World Championship. It seems, however, that the matter is now settled: Senna has agreed to a compromise on his salary. No longer - it is rumoured - the 32.000.000 lire of 1992, but a substantial sum nonetheless. An indiscretion (if confirmed, it will cause an uproar) concerns Michael Andretti, hired by McLaren. The American seems not to have made a good impression and would be preferred to the Finnish Mika Hakkinen.We will know by 6:00 p.m. on Thursday 11 March 1993, when the names of the drivers must be communicated to FISA. Two other pieces of news from the world of Formula 1: in Cusago Milanese Ivan Capelli gets married to Swedish model Jasmine Lipovsek. From London, instead, Mobil 1 announces its withdrawal, justified by the current regulatory uncertainties. Ayrton Senna returns to the track after a four-month holiday and, on his second day, Thursday 4 March 1993, surprises everyone. The Brazilian, engaged in a series of tests with the new McLaren Mp4/8, sets the winter record for the English circuit by lapping in 1'20"2, clearly faster than the other drivers on the track, including his arch-rival Alain Prost, who drives the Williams.
"I have to admit that this car is not bad. In fact it feels pretty good to me. But this has not yet led me to make a decision: I reserve one to three days to say whether I want to take part in the World Championship starting on Sunday 14 March 1993".
The usual malignants claim that a no-holds-barred battle is underway between the three-time World Champion and McLaren. There are those who say that the Woking team has gone so far as to provide Senna with a special engine, with a special petrol, to allow him certain performances and convince him to sign the contract immediately. On the other side, Ayrton Senna's supporters think that the São Paulo star pulled out all the stops with a fabulous lap, to put Ron Dennis with his back to the wall and force him to accept the demands of the driver, who demands an enormous sum to drive this year. A tug-of-war that certainly has psychological and nervous implications as well, given that Senna himself maintains doubts and delays the announcement for yes or no. At this point, however, it seems highly unlikely that the Brazilian will take a year off.
"Ayrton is ready to challenge Prost".
They swear from McLaren, and add:
"We hope to make an announcement in the early days of next week".
The announcement, of course, of yes by the Brazilian. Senna, 32 years old, three times World Champion, meets on Friday 5 March 1993 in London with the British team managers. The driver confirms to Ron Dennis that he was positively impressed by the behaviour of the, new MP4/8 in the tests at Silverstone.
"It's quite a fast car. I had the feeling I could go even faster than I did. If I had come here and the car didn't work well, you can be sure I would have given up racing this year. Instead, things are different".
In short, we are indeed one step closer to a happy conclusion. Senna, who lapped with a record-breaking time of 1'20"27 at Silverstone, points out:
"The English circuit is one of the most difficult for tuning a car. In the past I often had the feeling that I didn't know how to be fast on this track. Instead, this time I drove at speeds I couldn't even imagine before. The McLaren gave a really encouraging performance".
In fact, on Monday 8 March 1993, during the afternoon, after Ron Dennis pays the $10,000 fine due to the registration change, McLaren - from its headquarters in Woking - issues a statement announcing that its drivers for the South African Grand Prix will be Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti. Sighs of relief are coming from all over the Formula 1 world (only Alain Prost, perhaps, is snorting), which has managed to keep its jewel after the divorce with Nigel Mansell, who got engaged to Formula Indy. The situation, however, is not as simple as it might seem. The Brazilian driver, in one of his customary interviews with Rede Globo in Rio De Janeiro, is quick to point out that the agreement has only been reached for the first championship race and not for the following fifteen. Astonishment. One would think that Ayrton Senna would want to find out the real qualities of the new McLaren MP4/8 before making a final decision, sensing some deception perpetrated against him in the tests at Silverstone, when he managed to set the circuit record.It would not be the first time that - for example - a special engine has been used to convince a pilot. This time, however, the reasons entangling the affair could be others. We must not forget that McLaren itself, before getting an answer from Ayrton, had engaged a famous driver like Michael Andretti and one of the emerging talents, the Finnish Mika Hakkinen. For the time being, it will be up to the latter to stand by and watch, also because the American champion of Italian origin has demanded an exceptional payout. But it is not certain that the roles will not be reversed in the future. Ayrton Senna might not even contest all races: but it is thought, however, that in the end it will be Michael Andretti and Mika Hakkinen who will alternate. Even for an experienced manager like Ron Dennis, managing the issue at this time must be particularly complicated. It must not be forgotten, in fact, that the father-master of the British team experienced a very heavy tug-of-war with Ayrton Senna. The capricious São Paulo star first wanted to go to Williams at all costs. Then he said that he would not race if the car that would be made available to him was not competitive. But the real reason for the disagreement was mainly financial. According to well-informed sources last year Senna had been given a $20.000.000 contract. For 1993 the South American, given the general economic and Formula One crisis, was willing - he said so himself - to take a cut of $5.000.000. Ron Dennis, on the other hand, had offered eight in total, a little more than half the demand. Eventually someone (let's make the most likely hypothesis: a sponsor?) must have intervened to settle the dispute. But since Michael Andretti or Mika Hakkinen could not be cut immediately, it was preferred to keep the uncertainty, with this statement by Ayrton Senna leaving all doors open for now. A political solution, in short, according to the best traditions even of sport, saving face for everyone. The only really positive fact is that Formula 1, in one way or another, will have Ayrton Senna. An important driver to guarantee the spectacle, with the hope that McLaren will really be able to trouble Williams and worry Alain Prost, announced World Champion on the eve of the race. Waiting to see if Benetton will keep its promise to enter the fight at the top and if Ferrari, after the first, probably inevitable troubles of the season, will be able to become a decent protagonist of the World Championship again.