image-448

#552 1994 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-04-11 00:00

Array() no author 82025

#1994,

#552 1994 Monaco Grand Prix

At the end of an extraordinary meeting held in Paris, in Place de la Concorde, on Wednesday 4 May 1994, the President of the FIA, Max Mosley, awaited

resizer-in-6145d6d385338-1631966947.jpg

At the end of an extraordinary meeting held in Paris, in Place de la Concorde, on Wednesday 4 May 1994, the President of the FIA, Max Mosley, awaited by a large group of journalists, following the dramatic accidents at Imola:

 

"I know very well that if I had stood up in front of this audience today and announced spectacular decisions, such as abolishing winglets, reducing engine capacity and so on, I would have been safe from criticism and tomorrow I would have read comments like: the FIA has reacted seriously. But unfortunately it is not possible to make and unmake regulations for modern Formula 1 cars through hasty judgements and measures suggested by a wind of panic. I don't care if you say we are ugly and bad, but do not say we do not care about driver safety because it is not true".

 

With these words Max Mosley addressed the large audience of journalists who had come to learn about the FIA's decisions following the dramatic San Marino Grand Prix, which questioned the safety of the current Formula 1. At the same time, there was also a meeting of the permanent office of the Formula 1 Commission, attended by Mosley himself, Ecclestone and Jean Todt.

 

"Our first concern was to analyse the five serious incidents at Imola, that is, in addition to those that costed Ratzenberger and Senna’s lives, also Barrichello's off-track during practice, the start collision and the pit stop incident on Alboreto's Minardi caused by the loss of a wheel, and establish whether there were common causes among these incidents or among some of them. But the answer is no".

 

Regarding the various incidents at Imola, Mosley expresses the convictions of the committee:

 

"Barrichello went out because he was going too fast. Ratzenberger lost the car’s nose. Maybe also because on the previous lap he had gone off the track. The telemetry recorded an extra twenty-five metres of track. Senna's accident remains a mystery but we can rule out the loss of the nose or, in any case, a loss of the front aerodynamic load”.

 

And when questioned about the teams’ possible responsibilities, Mosley is categorical:

 

"Should the ongoing investigation prove that Ratzenberger and Senna's accidents were caused by mechanical failures, the FIA will take severe sanctions against the teams. At one point we also wondered whether it might not be better to suspend the World Championship or cancel the Monaco Grand Prix, but after finding that the Imola incidents were not due to a single cause and directly related to the current regulations, we felt there were no extremes to do so".

 

The fact remains, however, that some spectators at Imola were hit at the start by two wheels and debris catapulted over the safety nets, despite the fact that the nets measure 3.9 metres instead of the mere 2.5 prescribed by the regulations. But to this, Mosley replies:

 

"Absolute safety will never exist, but that of the public is a serious problem because people who buy a ticket to go see a show don't imagine they are taking a risk from doing so".

 

Nor should there be, but what about Monte-Carlo, where for years single-seaters have been speeding past the grandstands? What are the risks of an accident like the one at Imola happening in the Principality? This was alsp confirmed by Boeri, president of the Monaco CA, suddenly worried:

 

"These risks exist, and we've known it all along. But what can be done? Years ago, in an accident at the Mirabeau curve, a wheel landed on a balcony on the third floor of a nearby building. We certainly can't think of protecting the stands with nets thirty meters high".

 

To reach this conclusion, the participants in the meeting consulted a number of specialists, medical, sporting and technical, namely Professor Sid Watkins (FIA medical officer for Formula 1), Roland Bruynseraede (FIA race director for Formula 1 and safety delegate), Charlie Whiting (FIA technical delegate for Formula 1) and Gabriele Cadringher (FIA technical expert). The work of the meeting focused on three essential points: improving safety in the pit lane, on the circuits in general, and reducing the cars’ performance. The greatest attention is paid to the first and third points, as a study was already underway on the safety of Formula 1 circuits. No spectacular changes will therefore come into force on the occasion of the next Monaco Grand Prix, but only small adjustments, waiting to be able to intervene with more improvements. All that remains is to hope that good luck continues to protect the Monegasque organizers, and, above all, the spectators. From this year, however, the VIP boxes above the pits have been suppressed. It's better to avoid the risk of hitting some important guest, if by chance there should be problems at the start, or with supplies.

 

"Many people, and in particular Prost, have accused the FIA of the fact that there would be no dialogue with the drivers. This is false. I, and so are all the other federal managers or Bernie Ecclestone of the Foca, are always at the pilots' disposal, ready to listen to them. Well, in the last six months only Berger has phoned me to talk about his concerns. Prost told me one day that he had some things to tell me, I invited him to do so, to phone me in the following days. He never showed up again. Senna himself never did, although I had invited him several times to visit me".

 

Max Mosley, president of the FIA, concludes by saying, while Alain Prost hastens to deny the hypothesis that would have him as the next replacement of Ayrton Senna in Williams.

 

"Out of respect for Ayrton's memory, I will never, ever take his place in Williams. We fought for years against each other, we were opponents, but we respected each other. From a sporting point of view, Ayrton was the only one I respected. The handshake in Adelaide had filled me with joy: then, without each other, our careers no longer had the same meaning".

 

Williams, therefore, for the time being will continue to take part in the Grand Prix with only one car, as well as Simtek, which will not replace Roland Ratzenberger and will run in Monaco with only one car entrusted to David Brabham. On the contrary, there is the presence of Rubens Barrichello, who has quickly recovered from the accident that had involved him during the practice of the San Marino Grand Prix. However, it should be underlined that in Formula 1, meanwhile, everything makes a spectacle, even tragedies. Proof of this is that the FIA is literally assailed by requests for press accreditation for the Monaco Grand Prix, even from big newspapers that can't be refused anything, but that had never been interested in racing in the past.

resizer-in-61463f54c281a-1631993698.jpg

"I had been offered the chance to test Ayrton's car, I was supposed to do a test at Paul Ricard to help Williams fine-tune the passive suspension of the FW16 that Senna didn't like. Then there was the tragedy and I didn't feel like going back to Formula 1. That memory of Tamburello - referring to the accident that involved him in 1992 - made me stop racing in Formula 1, because I had to go back to Williams, but after Ayrton's death I said: no thanks. I proposed myself to the Grove team to give a hand to solve the FW16 passive suspension problems. Senna complained about the car behaviour and Damon Hill had never driven it, therefore my experience could be useful. I had spoken to Frank Williams and Patrick Head - on the Saturday before the accident involving Ayrton - and I had also agreed everything with Senna. I should have tested at Paul Ricard after the Monaco Grand Prix, so much so that on Saturday I left Enzo and Dino Ferrari with Ayrton's promise that we would have started working together. Those were the Brazilian's last words before what happened happened...".

 

This is the testimony of Riccardo Patrese, who just at Imola had agreed with Williams to provide them with his experience, to fix and adjust the behavior of the suspension of the FW16.

 

"I remember that Ercole Colombo called me to write a news item in the Gazzetta dello Sport to anticipate that I would be back behind the wheel of the Williams. While I was talking to him I had a thousand doubts: I hadn't slept at night for twenty days thinking I had lost a dear friend. I couldn't think that a mechanical problem had happened to an experienced champion like him, who was the greatest. I couldn't think that there had been a mechanical breakdown in my team: I raced for five years at Williams and I was perfectly aware of how much care they put into individual details. I matured the decision while I was talking with Hercules, I called Frank to inform him that I was leaving because I didn't have my inner peace to go back to a single seater. If it hadn't been for Ayrton's death I might have gone back to work, but after the tragedy I didn't feel like it anymore”.

 

Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello was contacted by Frank Williams, with the intention of replacing his compatriot Ayrton Senna. However, to get rid of the contract signed with Eddie Jordan, the Brazilian driver would have had to pay a fine, which would have been supported by the food company Arisco. But since Williams is sponsored by Rothmans, the Brazilian would also have had to give up his personal contract with Marlboro, in order to realize his dream of driving a truly competitive car. Despite good terms, the deal would fall through, and Rubens would remain with Jordan.

resizer-in-61464320d895a-1631994675.jpg

Wednesday 11th May 1994, in Monte-Carlo, two workmen at the top of a ladder put the finishing touches to the facade of the Casino. The Hotel de Paris seems polished, the Hermitage is freshly laundered. Everything is ready for the first Monaco Grand Prix. The Principality reflects, but thinks and works for the future. Close to the curve of the Sainte Devote, theatre of many clashes, there is an enormous void in the rock. It is difficult to remember the building that was there, for now it is full of cranes. Next to it is a very popular brewery. The guardrail is half a meter from the entrance door. Monte-Carlo is also this: the racing cars touching the shops, the windows, the cafes, the restaurants.

 

After the drama of Imola, the changes made to the Monte-Carlo street circuit are not so many and not so visible. A walk around the track is enough to notice them. Above the pit lane garages, for example, there is still a long loggia designed to accommodate the guests of some major sponsors. At least, that's what a sign at the entrance to this prefab specifies. Around the windows of the La Rascasse restaurant on the curve of the same name that precedes the entrance to the pits, voluminous polystyrene rafts are applied, similar to those in use on ships. But they are of little use in the event of an accident.

 

The good fortune of the Rascasse lies in the fact that it is the slowest point of the entire circuit because the great monsters of Formula 1 go at no more than 50 or 60 km/h. What is missing is the famous and mysterious pavement that on Wednesday 3 May 1994 in Paris was indicated as the panacea to slow down the speed inside the pit lane in order to avoid the repetition of an accident like the one of Alboreto at Imola, which in Monte-Carlo could have very different consequences. The asphalt is always the same.

 

There is no sign of any special flooring and no one knows what it will consist of. Finally, at the entrance to the pit lane, there is still the small grandstand that has existed for years. Perhaps some numerical adjustments to the available grandstand seats have been made, but frankly you need a microscope to notice. The port quay at the tobacconist's corner is almost completely empty but only because it will be used to accommodate the many yachts arriving on race day. And what are the drivers doing? For now, they complain against everything and everyone. Alboreto had started, followed by the criticism of Damon Hill, Senna's team mate, who will be the only driver to represent Williams.

 

"Those gentlemen in FIA blazers understand nothing about safety. Talking to them is impossible or completely useless: it would be like trying to teach democracy to Stalin. These people, who have never been in a Formula 1 car, cannot understand what it means to drive at over 300km/h on a narrow track between two concrete walls and with twenty-five other cars behind. I believe that the responsibility for our safety should lie with the authorities. Drivers continue to drive in the most dangerous conditions because the competition is so tough. There is always someone willing to do anything to win. We need regulations even to protect us from our own urges".

 

Hill points out that on today's single-seaters no driver could survive a collision that takes place at over 300 km/h. But what proposals does Hill have to make to improve this practically untouchable circuit? What proposals does Alesi have to make, who says that he doesn't want to race at Spa at the end of August because it's too dangerous? What proposals does Alboreto, who has known all the circuits for so long, have to make? And Schumacher? Maybe he has something in mind too. Everyone has something in mind in these days of fury.

 

What is certain is that it is time for the drivers to take matters into their own hands and make their voices heard. It is precisely the drivers who arrive in Monaco in droves, and on Wednesday they begin to exchange some ideas to put in writing for Friday, the day they will hold their first union meeting. In the afternoon, meanwhile, it will be Max Mosley, president of the FIA, who will make the short and medium term projects on safety public. At Monte-Carlo, important documents will certainly be discussed and drawn up. And equally certainly the FIA will welcome these pieces of paper. But then what? It is up to the drivers, and to them alone, to prove that Senna's death is not off anyone's mind. After that, Mosley will have to face the Italians, namely Marco Piccinini president of Csai. If Mosley doesn't present today a detailed program on how and when to reduce power and speed, the proposal not to run in September at Monza will become a sad reality.

 

The drivers, in short, can count on the help of Italy but they have to be serious, united and with clear ideas. Their leader is already ready: Gerhard Berger, if he decides to continue his career. At Monte-Carlo everybody says that he will race, but a minimum of doubt pervades the minds of the experts. And in fact Ferrari, not by chance, brings Larini too. In the meantime, however, most of the same insiders of Formula 1 seems wanting to remove as soon as possible from the mind the tragedy of Imola. Briatore's statements in this regard are illuminating:

 

"Don't criminalize us, our first goal is to win. People will always die in racing, but less than in other sports".

 

But everyone has a story: there is Berger, who lost two friends and saw two funerals; there is Schumacher, who ran a Grand Prix without knowing about Senna and who, for days and days, didn't sleep more than three hours a night, perceiving for the first time the risk and the fear of death; there is Larini, who seven days after Imola went to race in Germany. There's Hill, Senna's teammate, who is only now finding the courage to attack the International Automobile Federation. Is it possible to put them together?

 

Is it possible for them to resist the allure of an engagement, the risk of a penalty, of an unsatisfied sponsor? We'll soon know, but the point is not this: a driver must have the right not to run at Monte Carlo, or at any other circuit. The death of Ayrton Senna has made motor racing understand that nobody is invulnerable, that safety measures are compulsory. Drivers can decide to race or not, but they should at least be given that choice. Ferrari's position seems clear:

 

"We will respect Berger's decisions in any case".

 

Wednesday 11th May 1994, Stefano Modena, Alessandro Nannini, Riccardo Patrese, Pierluigi Martini, Jean Alesi, Andrea De Cesaris, Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger arrive, at 5:30 pm, in the cathedral of Monte-Carlo, and stand in a corner, waiting, silent, dressed in blue or grey. Even earlier, around 5:00 pm, two women slip into the cathedral, through the left doorway: Mrs Senna and, enclosed in a black dress, what remains of the youth of Adriane Galisteau, the last girlfriend of the driver. The two women sat on two chairs side by side in row six, then Adriane began to cry - a silent, endless cry - and Mrs Senna gathered her hands in her lap, intertwining her fingers. She would not move them again.

 

Between 5:15 pm and 6:00 pm, about a hundred people arrive. Many elderly and silent ones, a couple of inexhaustible Italian signature hunters, a few Brazilians, numerous Japanese and many women, all with glazed eyes. Then Jacky Ickx and his wife, very handsome and very distraught, Ron Dennis, owner of McLaren and Senna's boss for years, Jean Todt, also distraught, and Flavio Briatore, manager of Benetton. At 6 p.m. we start, it says on the notice board at the entrance of the cathedral, lowered on the top of the Rock of the Principality, the old city.

 

At 6:00 pm the Advent Mass begins, within which prayers will be said for Senna and Ratzenberger. But at 6:08 pm nothing has started yet. Someone is missing. At 6:09 pm the left door moves, from which the Ranieri family of Monaco enters, who will sit in the first row, in front of the altar. During the mass, the white head of the father will never move, the slightly undressed head of the son will instead be restless, almost as if he were looking for someone.

 

Explanation of choirs and chapel masters, of first and second officiants, of readers of gospels and epistles. Then nothing. There is communion - Ayrton Senna's mother remains seated, obstinate - the Royals swallow the host, like Alesi and Paul Belmondo. When the officiants announce that Missa est, and the Royals flee for home, the cathedral empties. Outside there is the sunshine, a heap of people photographing and surrounding familiar faces. We leave the old city and descend towards the new one, already busy with the long and rich weekend.

resizer-in-614608ed602f8-1631979805.jpg

Thursday 12 May 1994 at 1:00 pm the first official practice day of the Monaco Grand Prix begins. Alesi was back at the wheel of Ferrari, as well as two of the three Ferrari mechanics who were hit by the wheel lost by Alboreto's Minardi coming out of the pits at Imola. Only Maurizio Barboni, who had a leg in plaster, remained in Italy. On Friday, during the day off, there should be an event organized by Berger's fans, who announced a massive presence with leaflets on the circuit, while on Sunday, to remember Ratzenberger and Senna, the first row of the starting grid will be free.

 

With an increasingly tense atmosphere the race weekend of Monaco Grand Prix started. Not even the time to start, that immediately the drama broke out again in the world of Formula One: during the first practice session, Karl Wendlinger lost control of his Sauber at the exit of the tunnel, and crashed violently against the barriers outside the Nouvelle Chicane. Due to the very low cockpit edges, which offer little protection to the drivers' necks and heads, Wendlinger slams his head directly into the crash barriers, which are poorly protected by a row of cushions filled with water.

 

The situation was immediately serious: rescuers pulled the driver from the car, who was in a state of semi-consciousness, stabilised him and took him to the Saint-Roch hospital in Nice, where Wendlinger was put into a medically induced coma to help the serious head injuries to heal. In the minutes that followed, there was much speculation about Wendlinger's accident. The first is that the car, having jumped over a slight bump, lost its grip on the ground and became unmanageable. In support of this theory, Pierluigi Martini confirms that there is a patch of concrete at that point in the tunnel:

 

"I went slow in the first few laps just to figure out how to avoid jumping in that spot".

 

And Michele Alboreto also confirms that the Sauber has already come out of the tunnel slightly unhinged, but the Swiss team issues a statement hinting - albeit indirectly at another hypothesis - that it was the driver who made a mistake by braking too late:

 

"The telemetry data reveals that Wendlinger braked thirteen metres ahead of where he had braked on his previous best lap".

 

At the moment of braking, the car spun off at the speed of 210 km/h, hitting the protection on the right side and then hitting the barrier placed on the corner of the variant. In the collision, the Sauber suffered minor damage to the right side (breaking the rear suspension and the radiator); worse was the fate of poor Karl, whose head absorbed all the force of the side impact. His helmet was broken behind his right ear and he suffered a severe head injury. There is no doubt as to why Wendlinger lost control of the car, his team-mate Frentzen, who was driving behind him:

 

"I'm sure the car got out of hand under braking. Probably an imbalance in the set-up caused a wheel to lock".

 

That's likely, given that - as mentioned - the drivers come in braking on a series of asphalt irregularities that cause the rear end in particular to lose grip. Peter Sauber explains:

 

"There are bumps left by the weight of trucks passing through normally and often a that spot the road surface is dirty".

 

But it is also true that Karl, launched on his fastest lap, pulled away very late:

 

"We didn't have many telemetry detectors on board at the time. We can attempt a comparison though. Karl braked thirteen metres later than on the previous lap, and thirty-six metres later than Frentzen. However, Heinz-Harald, by his own admission, was not forcing, and then Wendlinger usually delays braking instead of modulating the pressure on the pedal as others do".

 

Meanwhile, however, the team excludes the hypothesis of a mechanical failure, nightmare that haunts after the shock of Imola:

 

"Readings show no abnormalities in the suspension or brakes. Everything was normal until the moment of impact".

 

The accident, inevitably, questioned the validity of the plastic protections placed for years on Monaco circuit and about to be adopted also in Barcelona, in the riskiest point of the track. According to those responsible, the barriers hadn't been half filled with water because the drivers feared a flooding of the track in case of breakage (as it would happen, in fact, with Formula 3 two days later).

If this is true, even the hypothesis that Wendlinger was hit on the head by one of the protective canisters would have little effect; it is more likely that it was the kickback that caused the helmet to break. In any case, the way the protectors were secured was far from optimal, and this episode once again raises the issue of how to protect drivers from side impacts. It's also true that any leaning of the single-seaters, which travel close to the ground, can trigger a dangerous skid. But at least in this case, the return from active suspension to conventional systems cannot be blamed. The Sauber C13 is an evolution of the 1993 car, which was a passive single-seater. And even the Monte Carlo-induced changes, which only affect the bonnet area, are irrelevant.

 

And also the sixteen minutes elapsed between the Sauber's collision and the first hospitalization in Monte-Carlo are not many, if we think that they include the first necessary aids given to the driver on the spot. The third hypothesis is that a tyre may have been deflated, which would have altered the car's set-up and made it unrideable. It's an eventuality that can happen and it happens quite frequently but in MonteCarlo the situation has become very serious because in that, as in almost all the other points of the circuit, there are no escape routes: the impact with the very strong metallic guardrails is immediate. The speed goes from 250 km/h to 0 km/h in the space of a few meters, many less than those available at Imola.

 

No one is openly pointing the finger at the suspension, but in many teams the engineers are thinking about it. They were lightened and many people suspected that they were no longer built in such a way as to resist the stresses of today's cars, much more powerful and much lower on the asphalt than they were before. While theses and hypotheses are proposed, following the crash Sauber decides not to take part in the following qualifying sessions and in the race, withdrawing also Heinz-Harald Frentzen's car.

 

“The Monegasque weekend for us is over here: we don't feel like racing, none of us feel like it".

 

Later the situation would reveal itself in all its gravity. On Thursday evening, Norbert Haug read - with his voice broken by emotion, in an unreal silence - a brief communiqué on Karl Wendlinger's condition:

 

“He's in a coma, surgery is being considered, he still has a chance".

 

What will Prince Rainier do now? He could say enough: already touched by Senna's death, the prince could decide not to run the Grand Prix if Wendlinger doesn't make it. The rumours came in the course of the evening. His stage at the finish line had already been armoured and armoured for fear of crashes, as happened at Imola when a tyre ran over spectators.

resizer-in-6145d74538ec9-1631967064.jpg

Thursday night there is an air of dismay and fear; there is no longer the festive air of the old Grand Prix. Some mega-yachts move away, while others begin preparations to set sail. With Formula One in the eye of the storm, many preferred not to be seen. Before that, though, incredibly, it had been a partly happy, partly quiet day. As Wendlinger crashed out of the tunnel, people on the boat and in the city had continued the normal, regular Formula 1 weekend experience, with the grandstands, discussions about Ferrari, shops, cafes and restaurants being taken by storm. This was because of television, which on this occasion - mindful of what happened at Imola - did not broadcast the incident that brought the whole of Formula 1 into question. Without television broadcasts, the seriousness of facts and news emerges with an exasperating slowness; only in the late afternoon the foreigners who had come to Monaco for the great race set out for home, frightened. By now the tourists are almost all commuters who can't face a night in a boarding house at dizzying figures.

 

The Casino remains empty, and one wonders if it will fill up in the next few days; in front of the Hotel de Paris there is no longer the coming and going of Rolls Royces, VIPs and drivers. These are difficult times for those who come from outside, as well as for the people of the little Principality, which this year - for the first time - sees the state budget in deficit. That's why it was hoped that Formula 1 would bring people back to MonteCarlo these days, reviving the country's economies, but the events at Imola and this latest accident risk putting this historic Grand Prix on the books of the accused, and definitively drive away those who came here in search of an escape from everyday life to enjoy the spectacle of Formula 1. And even at the hospital in Nice, at 7:00 pm, where Wendlinger was taken, not a single familiar face is yet to be seen. There's Sophie, his fiancée, who already has no tears left to cry, and it's only just beginning; there are three members of the Sauber team, in the company of a couple of friends; and there are the journalists.

 

"We'll go tomorrow".

 

Todt and Alesi say, while at 8:00 pm Berger arrives, accompanied by his girlfriend and two friends. He must be tired, at least he is, of having his friends and fellow countrymen taken away from him by fate. He must be and tries to say so, in these days, seeking silence, solitude, attending to the doubt: to stop, or to continue? In silence he enters the hospital, crosses the corridor and locks himself in a room with Sophie. To her he promises affection and hospitality, on the boat he keeps moored in Monte-Carlo. Here he will also welcome Wendlinger's parents, who have left the Tyrol in the evening, having learned from the radio that their son is in danger of dying.

 

Even Berger, at 2:00 pm, when the France Presse news agency had brought news to the circuit that Wendlinger was in a coma, didn't understand, like many of his colleagues. Before Ferrari's Austrian spoke to the press, Alboreto said he had been told something about the accident and warned:

 

"Keep in training, because you will have to write more stories like this this year. It was foreseeable that something would happen again, it's a bad moment, but destiny has nothing to do with it: we keep on running more and more at the limit, Schumacher's lap time was lower than last year's. So all it takes is nothing and tragedy strikes".

 

He still didn't know how badly Wendlinger had been hurt: he was still saying that from the drivers' meeting scheduled for Friday morning the request would come, for the FIA, to create a commission that would include a driver.

 

"It's crazy here, I can hardly see the road: I know the route, I go by intuition".

 

Says Pierluigi Martini, as if nothing else could be done, such as stopping the car, turning it off, and getting out.

 

"If I do, I'll find my suit and helmet on the ground outside the box, accompanied by a letter of dismissal. We all have to do something together, although if someone doesn't want to attend our meeting, it's not like we can force them. But it's certainly time to reflect, we have to do it and find solutions".

 

Berger himself, during his early afternoon press conference, didn't seem very far from the same driver who had announced the day before that he wanted to continue.

 

"As in dreams, every now and then I see Ayrton's face again, I hear his voice: then yes, then I don't feel like racing anymore; but when I'm in the car and I concentrate on the steering wheel, on the pedals, on the curves coming forward, I don't see that face anymore and racing is still easy for me, and pleasant".

 

It won't be so pleasant for him, perhaps, in the evening, when he will witness Wendlinger's fight in person, after that also others, having learned the truth, had finally begun to say that yes, that it was impossible to go on like that, that something had to be done. And this was Alboreto's complaint, two days before, when he heard that Berger had decided to race at Monte-Carlo: that a leader was missing and with him, all the others, the courage to take the decision to stop. However, this last incident seemed to have also soured Max Mosley, the FIA president, who at the end of a meeting with the teams' managers announced urgent measures for safety:

 

"We have already agreed to reduce the pit entry speed to less than 80km/h, but now a review of the whole of the Formula 1 tracks is required, studied with the collaboration of an active driver (it will be Berger). We have to develop measures to avoid damage in the event of going off the track. In addition, starting with the Canadian Grand Prix, there will be new rules to limit the speed of the single-seaters and to reduce the ground effect".

 

On the other hand, Mosley cannot have ignored the stance arrived during the day by Ferrari and Renault. Just the team of Maranello had urged - with a statement - the adoption of the fastest regulatory changes, recalling its proposals developed in the field of safety after the accident occurred to Alesi at Mugello. Now decisions are expected to be taken. A concept, this of haste, also expressed by the president of Renault, Patrick Faure:

 

"It is no longer possible to run in insufficient safety conditions".

 

On Thursday evening the team directors were summoned by Bernie Ecclestone for an impromptu meeting on safety in which Max Mosley also took part. At the end of the meeting it was proposed and accepted by the FIA that, in addition to the decisions already taken during the previous week in Paris, the speed in the pit lane should be limited also during the race to 80 km/h, a higher limit than the 50 km/h in force for years for practices. The decision, which many had been predicting for some time, is in addition to other decisions taken for this race, such as the installation of the speed camera at the end of the pit lane, or the position of the Stop&Go area. On the other hand, the decision, announced in Paris, to draw lots to avoid more cars entering the pits at the same time has not been respected. This is because all the teams agreed among themselves to make only one stop.

resizer-in-6145e1426e3f8-1631969617.jpg

On Friday 13 May 1994, on a sunny afternoon, with a hot, humid wind that made the yachts anchored in the harbour rock a few metres away, everything stopped and the streets of MonteCarlo were reopened to the public as usual. In the meantime, the Municipality of Milan decided to satisfy the pilots, and to welcome a representation of them for the following week, before signing with Sias - the company that manages the circuit - the renewal of the agreement until 1999.

 

"They are the ones who have to tell us if the track is safe. If the opinion is negative we will not grant the use of the race track, and the race might even be skipped".

 

This even provoked a clash between the majority and the opposition in the Italian parliament, as the Italian political party Lega Nord called for the chicane after the start to be deleted and replaced by a bend to be taken at no more than 50 km/h, while the opposition called for the Grand Prix to be cancelled. From this debate comes the next compromise: it will be the drivers who will have to decide. In the meantime, they meet and reconstitute the organization chart of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. It all began on Friday with a meeting at the Automobile Club headquarters. A difficult meeting, since it lasts five hours. Niki Lauda is entrusted with the direction, with the task of acting as a link between the drivers and the organizers. Berger, Schumacher and Fittipaldi will be the field representatives of the association.

 

Already from the following week, after the meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, the drivers will get down to work to examine the interventions to be made on the circuits considered dangerous, and to speed up the times they will distribute the tasks: the first mission is for Schumacher, charged with making an inspection on the Barcelona track, modern, without fast bends and with wide escape ways, but with a dangerous point. Gerhard Berger declares:

 

"The fast esse behind the pits at the top of the circuit has the barrier too close. Maybe the chicane will have to be removed from the track, even though the Grand Prix is very close. In other cases we will have to move walls. I know it's expensive, but our lives depend on it".

 

On the contrary, a more difficult task awaits Martin Brundle, called to inspect the circuit of Montréal that will host the Canadian Grand Prix. The track's problems have been known for years and mainly concern the road surface, which even has protruding manhole covers. Berger explains:

 

"The problem with today's single-seaters is that they travel too close to the asphalt to make the most of the ground effect. i myself realised, with this year's passive car, how dangerous it can be".

 

The next appointment on the calendar is Magny-Cours, a brand new track; the critical point is the fast left turn after the straight. The two Ligier drivers, Olivier Panis and Eric Bernard, will be in charge of the inspection. In the meantime, they are already thinking about Spa and Eau Rouge, and in this respect Michele Alboreto admits:

 

"If a chicane is not made at Raidillon, we will not race in Belgium".

 

What if the organisers turn a deaf ear? Berger answers:

 

"We want a written response to our requests, I think we have enough pressure on us to listen".

 

After the usual day's break, waiting for comforting news coming from Nice hospital, on Saturday 14th May 1994 Formula 1 continued its sporting event in Monaco. The fastest, in Thursday's session, had been Michael Schumacher with a time of 1'20"239. Berger was fourth, Alesi fifth. Tension was high in the pits after the accidents of Barrichello, Ratzenberger, Senna and Wendlinger: a state of mind that was not only projected on the Monaco Grand Prix, but on a whole season of very fast circuits.

 

A state of mind that is also disturbed by the fact that Wendlinger risks infirmity. Or at least that's what the doctors at the Nice hospital say, while the Austrian driver is in a coma, with the hope of being able to save him; forty-eight hours more, then he will start a barbiturate treatment. Wendlinger has suffered a cranial trauma, and has a diffused cerebral edema: since Thursday he is in deep coma, he has a reduced cerebral circulation and he is helped artificially to breathe. A valve has been applied to his skull to maintain constant internal pressure.

 

He has been given sedatives, and if he survives the next forty-eight hours the treatment will be intensified, so that a guided coma situation will result. The aim is to slow down the activity of the central nervous system: the drugs reduce metabolic activity and energy requirements. In addition, the brain cells are protected from further damage due to a possible worsening of the general condition. At the moment, surgery is ruled out, and it is impossible to make any firm predictions about Wendlinger's future, whether he will make a full recovery or remain infirm.

 

However, while in the Formula 1 environment people talk almost exclusively about Wendlinger, in Monaco, at the end of the qualifying tests, in the stands, on the street, and even in the most secret corners of the teams, they only talk about Schumacher. The German driver smashed the record of this difficult circuit by going one second under the magic time set two years before by Nigel Mansell: 1'18"560, against the English driver's 1'19"495. Everybody was in raptures, the girls sunbathing on the yachts and the engineers of the teams. Not even on such a day, which is also the day of the first pole position of his career, does Schumacher get upset. He shoots straight through the streets, barely stretching his hands out to sign thousands of autographs. The smile is on his handsome face, although he doesn't express himself much, given his proverbial shyness:

 

“I would have liked to have measured myself against Senna today".

resizer-in-6145eae5262a3-1631974122.jpg

And you can read on his face that it is a pain for him not to have anymore the companion, the friend but also the great adversary with whom to measure himself and to compare himself with. Senna is no longer there, and on the tracks there is still no one able to beat the German driver. Not being able to compete with Senna anymore, he is becoming like Senna himself. For example, what did the Brazilian driver do that set him apart from the others? The former Williams driver, not content with a pole position or a record, often returned to the track to beat himself, and most of the time he succeeded. He didn't stand with his arms folded in the pits and watch on the monitor what others were doing. And this is what Schumacher also does, going out more than once to beat himself. Behind these gestures the fans feel the value of the man, as well as the driver, and adopt him as an idol.

 

But behind the scenes of this growing admiration, concerns and curiosities of a technical nature remain in the shadows. Because this resounding time, set by Schumacher, hides an interesting and at the same time worrying question: how is it possible that they go so much faster (even too much, given that Pedro Lamy was fined 5.000 dollars for having exceeded the speed limit by 18 km/h in the pit lane; the Portuguese driver of Lotus entered at 68 km/h instead of 50 km/h, as foreseen by the new safety rules) than the cars that had already been limited to make them go slower?

 

Two years before Mansell had wider tyres, active suspensions, traction control. Then they started talking about costs and dangerousness of certain automatisms, and they arrived at their abolition and the introduction of narrower tyres and the return to the use of passive suspensions. How it is possible that it has come to this a team manager confesses it, as long as he is guaranteed anonymity:

 

"Formula 1 engineers are diabolical people; when we come back from Grand Prix I see them staying up until dawn working with the computer. They've seen some small but interesting solution during the race and they work on it until they find a way to gain maybe just a tenth of a second, but that's what makes the difference. In fact, none of them are surprised by Schumacher's time. They expected it and almost all of them, in fact, are faster than a year ago, because this seems to be a closed world but in reality it is an open world where ideas circulate, are copied and then almost always improved, and copied and improved again".

 

But recent accidents show that these vehicles, despite their brilliance, don't seem so safe.

 

"Mind you, this is partly true, partly not. Where there is real teamwork, the doubts that one specialist may have are assessed and taken into account by other specialists. And the machines do well. Where there is more centralisation and less exchange, it can happen in good faith that a detail turns out to be insufficient. And I mean insufficient in terms of performance or safety. The imponderable is always there, but we must try to keep it to a minimum. Do you know what the real danger is now? That these new rules will widen the gap between small and large teams. The rich ones were already studying for some time the new rules and already know how to exploit them well. The small ones, on the other hand, have no money, can't do research, will make do as best they can and risk seeing their cars become dangerous. We hope not, but there is a risk".

resizer-in-6145f3135f5cc-1631974217.jpg

The fear, apart from the serious accidents and the higher speed of the cars, also spread to the confessions and words of the team principals and drivers to the press and journalists. It's not by chance that on Saturday afternoon, in the middle of the drivers' conference, a telephone suddenly rings near the counter behind which Schumacher, Hakkinen and Berger are sitting. Since no attendant answers, Hakkinen decides to operate on his own:

 

"Hello? Yes? It's for you...”.

 

And ends the call. Who did Gerhard talk to? Someone jokingly asks the Austrian driver to say the name of the girl he spoke to, but he replies:

 

"No, it wasn't a girl. It was Bernie Ecclestone saying not to talk too much...".

 

This sudden call by Bernie Ecclestone to the Ferrari driver is immediately rejected by journalists, being perceived almost more as a gesture of censorship, rather than the search for maintaining steady nerves. Therefore, still struggling with the issue of safety, Gerhard continues to stress:

 

"I'm not afraid to run. At least, not while I'm behind the wheel. Many people, when they get in the car in the morning, are afraid. Now, then, we are more relaxed. With Ecclestone we're in tune, we have the same objectives. Our commission is already at work, the next step will be to draw up a list of proposals and give them to the Federation".

 

On the contrary, his team mate, Jean Alesi, didn't like some statements made by Flavio Briatore ("drivers are paid to risk their lives"), and the Benetton manager replied:

 

"Even policemen and carabinieri are paid to take risks, but everything is done to protect them. We are idols, to the people, but we don't have to die for that".

 

Benetton who, in the meantime, acquires control of Ligier, leading to a close collaboration between the two teams for the 1995 season. The announcement to the press is made on Saturday afternoon by Flavio Briatore, who holds a substantial share in the French team. The majority goes to the Benetton group, while Tom Walkinshaw rejoins the share capital. The Anglo-Italian group has thus won against the consortium Streiff-Larousse-Williams, and has obtained the full confidence of sponsors and technical partners. It should be noted that Briatore has promised to keep the team's headquarters at Magny-Cours and to retain 80% of its current employees. The study of the cars will be carried out in Enstone, at the Benetton headquarters, whose design department will be reinforced with thirty people specially dedicated to Ligier.

 

Remaining on the Benetton theme, Schumacher instructed Berger to let it be known that neither he nor Hakkinen knew at the end of the race that Senna was fighting death in hospital. On the contrary, they were told that the Brazilian driver was in a coma, but not really understanding the level of gravity, they cheered on the podium at Imola. In the meantime, however, on the subject of the possible suspension of racing in case of serious accidents, the German expresses a rather articulate opinion:

 

"You can't make a decision at the table. It depends on the type of incident, whether it is caused by mechanical failure or by the circuit: Only in the latter case, you can think about stopping the race".

resizer-in-6145f17143271-1631973768.jpg

Under a marquee in the paddocks, Clay Regazzoni stopped watching television, parked his chair in front of a table, and then started talking:

 

"There it is, Formula 1 slowed down by the abolition of electronics: these go two-three seconds faster than before. And there is no safety. They didn't understand me when I said that. They thought I was criticizing the circuits, they accused me. The truth is that it's these cars that make the tracks less safe, when you're going 300km/h, if you don't have very long escape routes you're going to get hurt, you're going to die. It's a simple argument, since you can't change the circuits completely, you have to intervene on the power, on the speed. Elementary, isn't it? But it's not. Ratzenberger died, Senna died, Wendlinger is in a coma: all this had to be put together before the drivers decided to do something. What did they do? An association that will meet, discuss, decide. But it will only express itself on the circuits. That is something, of course, compared to the nothing that has been done up to now; but what about the manufacturers, the cars, who is watching over them? There's a risk that the drivers' commission will become a tool in the hands of the manufacturers, who will probably be happy if one or two circuits are rejected".

 

It goes on:

 

"Besides, what is the point of a drivers' commission headed by Lauda? He is a former driver but he is also an employee of Ferrari. Niki, before deciding even the smallest thing, will have to talk to his employers and maybe even Ecclestone. The truth is that these guys, today's drivers, have no balls. In 1973, at Barcelona, we made an inspection of the circuit: there was Stewart, Fittipaldi, Beltoise. We found out that the guardrails were loose, they were badly fixed. We had to start the tests, we went to the organizers and informed them that in those conditions we wouldn't have gone on the track. And we didn't: the first day of practice was cancelled, they fixed the guardrails and we went back to racing. That was a different time, when there was a union conscience. She left with Stewart: when he retired, it was all over. The commitment, the teamwork, the desire to protect ourselves. No balls, no security. I realized that in 1981, after my accident. Some American friends persuaded me to sue the Long Beach circuit, partly to set a precedent that would force the organizers to be more careful. I asked a few drivers to sign the document. They told me to let it go, not to look for more trouble. Even Andretti, a friend, said no. It was all over, even then".

 

So he concludes:

 

"Besides, this is the Formula 1 that the FIA and the constructors want. With electronics they had created perfect cars that could be driven from the pits: all you had to do was stick a dummy in them, any kind of driver, and they would go. Now we've taken a step backwards, and we can all see what's happening. Not only the circuits, but also the drivers are unsuited to these machines. Once upon a time you really drove, here at Monte Carlo you had fun: you struggled, but you drove. And if the car didn't work, you made it go anyway. Schumacher, Alesi, Berger: of today's drivers, only they could have driven twenty years ago. And maybe they would have learned to live in a group, to be respected. But nothing, they have no courage, no ideas. They say they're afraid of being fired, that they can't strike. Well, I suggested, then try to ask for some changes to this circuit, but right away: from the way the FIA will react, you'll understand how much strength you have. Nothing, they didn't listen. I understand that they didn't go to see Wendlinger, I didn't do it myself in the past, and they have never gone to a driver's funeral. The real scandal is that they waited until there was another serious accident before making a move. Whether something will change, but seriously, can only depend on them. I hear people say we're in sync with Ecclestone now. Maybe. But I can't forget an afternoon twenty years ago, at Watkins Glen, in America. Peterson had an accident, we drivers were nervous. Bernie grabbed me and took me behind the pits, off the track. We were alone, he and I: he made me understand that it was better for everyone if we kept quiet, he used an English expression. He said, "Clay, I scratch your back and you scratch mine. It was windy, we were standing in the middle of a sea of garbage".

 

This further serious incident, as well as infuriating Clay Regazzoni, only fuels the controversy unleashed by the Italian political class. The Alleanza Nazionale MP, Gustavo Selva, asked the government to promote to car manufacturers and organisers all the safety measures on cars and circuits, while the Lista Pannella asked for the cancellation of television contractual obligations: an impossible initiative, because the televisions that buy the Formula 1 rights cannot not broadcast the Grand Prix.

 

But there is not only political insurrection to govern the climate of tension around Formula 1, in Italy. A survey carried out by Gr Rai, which receives 20.200 telephone calls, shows that 82.39% of the people interviewed want the Formula 1 world championship to be stopped immediately, without running the Monaco Grand Prix. And yet, on 15 May 1994, in Italy almost one viewer in two watched the race: 4.825.000 viewers tuned in their television sets, recording a share of 46.05%.

resizer-in-61460b1a448e9-1631980337.jpg

Sunday 15 May 1994, a few minutes before the race, all the drivers gather on the front row of the grid and celebrate the memory of Senna and Ratzenberger with a minute's silence. The two Brazilian drivers, Barrichello and Fittipaldi, also hold up a flag of their country on which the effigy of the Brazilian and the words Adeus Ayrton are written. A few tears fall down the face of young Rubens and the emotion is general. Then the usual commotion before the start of the race brought everyone back to reality.

 

"Formula One will continue".

 

Admits lawyer Gianni Agnelli who arrived on Sunday morning to visit the Ferrari pits. Arrived by sea with a small motorboat, Agnelli talks about Formula 1 and the difficult moment that motor racing is living. As a fan, but also as the owner of Ferrari.

 

"It's happening a little bit like what happened in Spain when Manolete died. There was great emotion. And so now. The newspapers are very emotional about it. And so it was right to change the rules of the game. You have to be careful to assess the consequences of the changes that have been proposed, but I think that Formula 1 will continue even if it is clear that you must always work to improve it. Each team has its own problems: some for suspension, some for aerodynamics, some for petrol".

resizer-in-6145f20d2bbd5-1631973918.jpg

At the green light Schumacher took the lead, while behind him Hill tried to overtake Häkkinen on the stretch that arrived at Saint Devote bend. The cars touched, and the Finn was immediately forced to retire after ruining the nose of his car, bounced back on the guardrail. Hill, on the other hand, ran for a few hundred metres but was forced to retire because of a broken steering wheel, irreparably damaged in the contact with Häkkinen's rear wheel.

 

"I had made my best start of the year. I had already passed Berger and was approaching Hakkinen who also watched me and so knew what I was doing having enough space to overtake him on the left, but he suddenly moved off his line moving to the left. At that point I had no more room, I hit the wall and then into his car. I broke the steering column and my race was over".

 

In the chaos generated by this collision, always at Sainte Devote, Martini crashed into Morbidelli: both Italians found themselves out of the race after two hundred meters. At the end of the first lap, also thanks to the slowdown caused by the accident at the start, Schumacher was already three seconds ahead.

resizer-in-6145fb3620b65-1631976287.jpg

On lap five Fittipaldi started approaching Alesi, while De Cesaris was blocked by Comas, who had also some problems with the automatic clutch, which tended to block the wheels. On lap seven, the Roman tried to overtake and succeeded at Beaurivage, at the top of the climb. On the following lap Schumacher already made the first lapping against Belmondo and on lap 12 it was the turn of the other Pacific driven by Gachot to suffer the same fate. Between one overtaking move and another, on lap 17 the German overtook his team mate, Letho. The Finn was fighting with Beretta for thirteenth place and the Frenchman did not realise that the other Benetton was now behind him. Beretta tenaciously resisted every assault by not only closing the door everywhere, but also zigzagging. Schumacher has fortunately sensed the danger and is waiting for the right moment to overtake him without risk.

 

On lap 22 Brundle was the first to go back to pits to refuel. The operation was carried out in eight seconds and the English driver thus lost only one position starting again sixth, behind his countryman Blundell at the wheel of a Tyrrell. Meantime, Alboreto and De Cesaris continued their good race: they got rid of Katayama and were by then respectively seventh and eighth. During lap 24 Schumacher and Berger came back to the pits, whose refuelling, even if not timed, was clearly faster than the one made by Benetton (in eleven seconds). The German driver restarts fast and is in fact dodged by Panis, who arrives. Schumacher is always in the lead, with a six-second advantage over Alesi, followed by Fittipaldi, Berger, Blundell, Brundle, Alboreto and De Cesaris. When Barrichello had to restart from the pits, the engine turned off and wouldn't restart. Berger, meanwhile, was still behind Fittipaldi but, despite his best efforts, could not get past him.

 

Subsequently Beretta stopped at the pits on lap 32, Blundell on lap 33, and at the same time Fittipaldi and Alesi on lap 34. The Brazilian's refuelling was very quick and he was able to start immediately behind Alesi. On lap thirty-six, while Alboreto stopped, Bernard ended up spinning at the port variant. The Frenchman crashed, just like Wendlinger, but was luckier and finished his skid without hitting anything. On the next lap Panis stopped at pits and then it was the turn of De Cesaris and Herbert on lap 37. On lap 39, while Brabham stopped to refuel, Katayama retired among a cloud of smoke at the end of the starting straight: the gearbox broke. Two laps later, at the same point, it was his team-mate Blundell - who was sixth - who left a blue cloud behind him: the V10 Yamaha broke down and the Englishman ended up in the Sain Devote escape route, leaving a dangerous oil trail on which Schumacher and the lapped Panis slipped and managed to control their cars.

resizer-in-6145fc1258ec3-1631976485.jpg

It didn't go like that to Berger, who ended up in a spin but managed to restart just in front of Brundle. The English driver didn't believe his eyes and took advantage of the situation (knowing that the Ferrari was unstable because of the tyres still dirty) to flank and overtake Berger along the Mirabeau downhill. A few months after the Peugeot V10's debut on the track, a McLaren gained a second place that Brundle kept till the end, in spite of a second pit-stop on lap 46. Meantime Alesi ran into the lapped Brabham, who closed him at the swimming pool variant: the two drivers touched each other. Ferrari has to go back to the pits to replace the nose while Simtek retires. Brabham will say:

 

"I knew Alesi was approaching and I wanted to let him pass. Instead he surprised me when he tried to squeeze past and broke my suspension".

 

Two laps later Fittipaldi also stops, with the semi-automatic gearbox of the Foorwork that doesn't work properly and selects the gears without a logical sense. On lap fifty Schumacher made his second refuelling stop and two laps later Berger did the same. At the end of the race Beretta annoyed De Cesaris, who overtook him at the port variant showing his fist. The Roman driver ran towards a fabulous fourth place, while Schumacher at four laps from the end let Letho, who had two laps' gap, pass him and so he split at least once. So Michael Schumacher won, followed by Martin Brundle and Gerhard Berger. Andrea De Cesaris, who arrived fourth at the wheel of the Jordan, and Alboreto, who scored points at the wheel of the Minardi for the first time in this season, thanks to the sixth place, stood out. In the middle Alesi, fifth with his Ferrari.

resizer-in-6145fd3f4cf31-1631976788.jpg

This is the fourth success in a row for the German driver, who in the days following the dramatic accidents at Imola did not go to the funerals of Senna or Ratzenberger, because he was struck by the tragedies. Michael spent several sleepless nights, perceiving for the first time in his career the danger of death. Then, he went on track at Silverstone to prepare the car, and he also won at Monte-Carlo. But of eventual titles of World Champion, at least for now, he doesn't want to hear about it.

 

"I'll only talk about it when I've done it".

 

He says with a hint of annoyance, but the black cap he always wears on his head also helps him to hide the idea he has had in his mind for some time. Besides, this is the very reason why he spends most of his time in the car, between tests, trials and races: to win the Formula 1 World Championship, to dominate the races, to go faster and faster both in trials and in races: exercises that he is good at, almost like Senna, of whom the German driver says he was the fastest ever.

 

But now the future belongs to this twenty-five-year-old with a long face that willingly opens into a shy smile. Michael Schumacher comes from Huerth-Heuerhlheim, a small corner of Germany, not far from Belgium, and was born into a family that was neither rich nor well-to-do. Indeed, while his father was fixing karts, Michael was giving him a hand. At the age of ten he was already driving, at fifteen he won the German championship, then he never stopped.

 

"I didn't have the money to think about Formula 1. I was content to race and win in the minor formulas, without fantasizing too much".

 

He was going fast, anyway: first Willy Weber, then Mercedes noticed it and put him under contract. At that moment, not later, Schumacher was born. Not the driver with the heavy foot, but what you can see of him. He learned to deal with sponsors, the public and the press. He learned to smile and to show affability. He learned to speak a lot by saying little, so as to leave the interlocutor with the doubt that much more could have been said. So don't ask him what he thinks of the Naziskin, of the problems of the Turks or Africans in Germany, of Bosnia or South Africa. He will not answer. Instead, ask him how he spends his money (he has reached 3.5 million dollars a year, nothing compared to the 20 million dollars Senna earned), and he will tell you:

 

"I invest so as to make a fixed income, I don't play on the stock exchange, nor do I attempt reckless investments: money as it comes, goes. And whoever says it doesn't make a difference is telling a lie".

 

He will also tell you that he has a Bugatti and a Harley Davidson, that he hangs out with a few select drivers, and that the apartment he bought in Monte-Carlo has allowed him to meet nice people who live in the Principality.

 

"I'm a normal person, and my family is a normal family. I've never thought of myself as a star. Never, not even now that I'm winning".

 

But talking about yet another race won, the fourth in a row, the German driver admits:

 

"It was easy, even too easy. In the lead from the start, I only struggled because this is a circuit all about driving".

 

The car?

 

"Perfect".

 

The future?

 

"To be watched with confidence".

 

He had to talk a lot about Senna, in these days, but after all it was inevitable: Schumacher is the link between past and future, he is the oxygen of Formula 1 that has lost - among retirements and tragic exits from the track - almost all the champions, those who make the difference. A link to which one can easily hook up in order not to interrupt the chain. The German is on the new safety commission, of which he naturally speaks highly of.

 

"The week after Imola I was in England for private practice. I hadn't been in the car since the previous Sunday. And I stood there wondering what I was going to feel. It was strange, and I think it happened to all my colleagues: for the first time I discovered that I had no idea what I was going to feel with the steering wheel in my hands".

 

And then what?

 

"At the first corner I downshifted, my foot went down and I felt like my old driver again".

resizer-in-6145fda663189-1631976885.jpg

Jean Alesi, angry, at the end of the race gets out of the car and slips into the Ferrari truck. He comes out ten minutes later and shows his hands to the journalists; they are covered with blisters.

 

"Enough of these unrideable cars. I can't take it anymore. It's time for the technicians to wake up. The Ferrari mechanics are wonderful, they work hard and are very competent; we drivers give our all and take risks; the technicians have to work better. It's not enough to be proud of working for Ferrari, you have to learn how to supply cars that are worthy of this brand. Berger, the lawyer and I agree on this point: the technicians have to wake up".

 

Having dealt a blow to Ferrari, Alesi dealt another one to the FIA:

 

"At the end of the race I touched Brabham's Simtek. His fault. It's the fault of the Federation, which lets people like David Brabham and Paul Belmondo into Formula 1, who have no experience and don't deserve to race at this level. The teams open the auction, whoever brings the money runs. I've worked my way up through the ranks because you can't be born a driver or improvise".

 

What about his race?

 

"I struggled a lot because of the car but also because, in the last five laps my neck started to hurt again. It will pass, but this is certainly not a good moment for me".

 

JJ Letho also had to work hard to finish the Grand Prix as he made a comeback to racing after stopping at Imola. The Finn was suffering from neck pain and it was the violent braking in Monte-Carlo that caused him the most problems. To try to reduce the pain JJ Letho underwent several massages.

 

The Benetton men in particular called in Alesi and Martini's physiotherapist, Gualtiero Randi, who managed to reduce the pain felt by the Finn. For future therapies, JJ Letho was invited by his great friend Pierluigi Martini to attend a training session as a guest of the Romagnolo, given Martini's experience with his neck.

 

"Where's Mandingo? Where's that old man ***** Mandingo?"

 

Andrea De Cesaris, alias Mandingo, was changing in the Jordan motorhome; he was tired but enthusiastic and he immediately recognized the voice of someone who was going up the stairs to congratulate him. It was an old acquaintance, Nelson Piquet, and he really wanted to congratulate Andrea De Cesaris, with whom he had shared many years of racing.

 

"I am extremely happy for the team but especially for me. It wasn't easy, believe me, to come back to racing after six months of inactivity and in such a short time to return to these levels of competitiveness. I think I showed today that Jordan is there and that De Cesaris has not lost his edge".

 

Thus ends his adventure with Jordan, as he was called upon to replace Irvine, who was suspended. However, could these results unlock something for the rest of the season?

 

"Well, I don't know. I hope so. I haven't spoken to Eddie Jordan yet, I will, but I don't think there's any hope. He has a contract with Irvine and it's logical that he respects that. All I know is that today I confirmed once again that when I have a competitive car I can often be in the points. My problem now is to find an interesting car and convince a team. Others succeed at the first result and are immediately considered future World Champions. I don't know how they do it, for years I've been fighting hard, showing off, getting results, having experience, yet I struggle to get ahead. I hope this result at Monte Carlo in the best showcase of Formula 1, can help me. But for the moment I don't have any contacts, we'll see".

 

Looking at the situation a bit cynically, it's not the vacancies that are lacking, even in top teams:

 

"Yes, and obviously I'm thinking about those, but you have to see if they think about me. Anyway, out of respect for guys like Senna and Wendlinger, out of decency and simple politeness I haven't really been in touch with those teams for now".

 

Did Senna's death particularly affect De Cesaris?

 

"Very much so. He started in Formula 1 when I was already racing, I practically saw him grow up and become a great champion, who had a unique charisma on all of us. And then he was a good guy who got along with everyone, apart from Prost. But let's not forget Ratzenberger".

 

Speaking of more cheerful things, at the end of the race Andrea seemed tired: was it so hard?

 

"No, at the end I only had strong cramp in my forearms, due to the movements you make to use the semi-automatic gearbox that I wasn't used to. At Monte-Carlo it is very important to keep the temperature of the tyres constant because the slightest mistake can cause you to crash into the barriers. Beretta gave me the biggest problems. The other Larousse also blocked me at the start. Comas was slower but defended his position well and before I managed to overtake him, at the Beaurivage, Alboreto had built up a six second lead".

resizer-in-614600340f6ee-1631977666.jpg

The race ended without further dramas, but a feeling of uneasiness remains in the environment. Karl Wendlinger's health will have to wait a few more days. In the meantime, in order to avoid further serious accidents, after the meeting held on Sunday by designers and drivers, the map of technical modifications to Formula 1 cars can be redrawn as follows:

 

  • Grand Prix of Spain, 29 May 1994, the front wings must be reduced and raised, by eliminating some parts; the extractor that allows to extract the air from under the chassis, realizing the ground effect, will be smaller to reduce the speed in bends; commercial gasoline or elimination of the engine air intake above the driver's helmet.
  • Canadian Grand Prix, June 12, 1994, side protections of the cockpit still to be studied; lengthening of the cockpit opening to facilitate exit or extraction of the driver; reinforced front suspensions. Increase of twenty-five kilograms in the minimum weight of the cars.
  • German Grand Prix, 31 July 1994, bottom of the car with a step to eliminate the ground effect.

 

And for 1995 it is foreseen the introduction of the debimeter, a valve that limits the flow of fuel to the engine; 200 litres minimum fuel tank capacity, power limitation to 600 horsepower; minimum weight of the car, including the driver, to 625 kilos. In addition, again for 1995, there will be a significant increase in passive safety measures for the drivers as well as permanent monitoring of the circuits, with special attention being paid to risk areas. The details of these last two points will be studied by an FIA commission, which will also include an active driver. But chaos continues to reign in Formula 1:

 

"With only eight useful working days available it is very difficult to arrive in Barcelona with the single-seaters radically modified in aerodynamics. In any case, it is inappropriate that the aerodynamic load has been eliminated without a corresponding decrease in engine power".

 

Footwork designer Alan Jenkins, who like many other technicians, is perplexed about the feasibility and appropriateness of certain measures taken by the FIA president, points out.

 

"I think it would be better to introduce the engine limitations first and then the aerodynamic ones. With less horsepower available, the downforce will also be reduced. In any case, to introduce changes to the lower part of the car you have to carry out research and tests in the wind tunnel, if you don't want to run the risk of going on track with single-seaters whose behaviour is completely unknown. I think it is more appropriate to act on the height of the rear wing than to touch the front bulkheads and diffuser. By limiting the front bulkheads, raising them off the ground and banning the turbulators that extend behind the wheels, we risk creating greater sensitivity to height variations and problems for the set-up of the cars both under braking and acceleration".

 

Many engineers clearly opposed the introduction of the step on the bottom of the cars with only two months' time, considering that it takes about six weeks to make a bodywork alone. Several designers add that by stiffening and strengthening the lower suspension triangles, there is a risk that they will end up tearing the bodies, breaking the drivers' legs. Nevertheless, things are unlikely to remain the same. Generally speaking, we can hypothesize a reduction of the aerodynamic load of the cars from 25 to 35%, with a reduction of horsepower in the most powerful engines close to 60 hp. However, Max Mosley doesn't seem willing to make concessions:

 

"It is absolutely out of the question that the decisions announced on Friday can be reviewed, and they will be applied with the deadlines set from the next Grand Prix. If the teams have problems to solve them, they have the time and the possibility to do so. For my part, I don't even intend to participate in the meetings of the technicians and the constructors. For us everything is clear".

 

On the contrary, not everything is clear and some of the measures taken objectively need clarifications; for example, when it is said that the cockpit light must be lengthened, it is fundamental to specify by how much, considering that a cut in the bodywork entails anyway a weakening of the same according to the width of the cut. Mosley acted quickly because he had to give a positive signal, but is it enough?

 

Fulvio Conti

Contact us

 

Nitidepopeia

 

​©​ 2022 Osservatore Sportivo

About us

 

Academy

 

​Network

Team

 

Cookie Policy

 

Privacy Policy

Create Website with flazio.com | Free and Easy Website Builder