Gerhard Berger, the Ferrari driver, protagonist on Sunday 23rd of April 1989 of a frightening accident at Imola during the San Marino Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, was released on Thursday 27th of April 1989 from the hospital in Innsbruck where he had been flown from Bologna. His condition looks excellent. Berger decides to move by jet to Vienna, moving later by car to Gars am Kamp, a village not far from the Austrian capital. Here he is treated at the center of physiotherapist Willy Dungl, the same expert who took care of Niki Lauda for years and who oversees the good shape of many Formula 1 drivers.
During the flight to Vienna, Berger receives the news from Maranello that the cause of the accident that occurred on Sunday at Imola will most likely never be fully ascertained. The pieces of his single-seater, which could have helped the technicians to trace the origin of the spectacular exit from the track (including a part of the front spoiler), were most likely collected as souvenirs from people present on the edge of the Imola track. The Austrian driver will go to Monte-Carlo on Sunday, May 7th 1989 to attend the Monaco Grand Prix as a spectator. In the race there will be only Nigel Mansell. It is very probable that Berger could be on track at the end of the month, in the next world appointment in Mexico. Ferrari, for now, is not looking for substitutes.
Ferrari has not yet overcome the fright of Gerhard Berger's accident (and also that of the overbearing return of McLaren, dominator at Imola), that already on the horizon there is another important appointment. Sunday 7th of May 1989, in fact, the Monaco Grand Prix, the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship, took place. A double commitment for the Maranello team, which has to find in such a short time the serenity and competitiveness of its cars lost in the San Marino Grand Prix.
The city circuit of the nearby Principality should be an inviting test for the car designed by John Bernard: the English technician continues to maintain that the electronically controlled gearbox should give good advantages on slow and winding tracks, as indeed surprisingly happened in Rio de Janeiro, on a track that is not, in itself, fast. Theory does not always perfectly match practice, i.e. reality. In any case, McLaren has made progress and will leave no stone unturned to repeat the success. Prost and Senna, declared enemies, but still teammates, have worked in England to fine tune their single-seaters, obviously preparing set-ups and aerodynamics for the next race, so particular. According to the leaked news, the two drivers declared themselves satisfied.
It's a bad sign for Ferrari, as the drivers are never happy with the cars they drive, not even when they win with a one lap gap over all their opponents. As far as the Maranello team is concerned, which is forcibly leaving Gerhard Berger at rest (he has made it known that he will most likely be present at the race, so as not to remain far from the environment, to try to forget the bad adventure right away, taking advantage among other things to collaborate on the Austrian television news), there are many uncertainties. The tests carried out at Fiorano by Nigel Mansell do not seem to have had positive results.
Moreover, Bernard and his men are busy in these days to review the calculations and to check the plans to see if there have been any mistakes, since the examinations of the car returned from Imola did not reveal what was the cause of the resounding exit from the track. This means that there must not have been much room to bring interesting news to Monte-Carlo. Even if, it must be acknowledged, there is already talk of the possible design of a special engine, more powerful and perhaps less fuel-hungry. It will be the only Nigel Mansell to defend the colors of the Prancing Horse and to act as a bulwark to the McLaren's power, in front of tens of thousands of Italian fans.
Even in Monte-Carlo, in fact, the tickets for the stands are already sold out and a real invasion of fans can be expected. The English driver has to fight against his rivals and against the psychological problems that the lack of reliability of his car cannot but have fuelled. It must be said, however, that Mansell has gone through difficult moments and has always overcome them with courage and ease. In the McLaren-Ferrari duel we must not forget that the characteristics of the city circuit could produce some third party, such as Williams, March, Benetton, Arrows and Brabham.
It is difficult that at the end one of these teams will really succeed in entering the fight for success, but we cannot exclude the possibility a priori. As well as the possibility that Ferrari will perform another one of its miracles, taking advantage of the advantage of being able to dedicate itself to just one driver. The hostilities, as usual, start one day earlier than the other races. The first qualifying day is scheduled for Thursday, May 4th 1989: since the first session of tests we will know if the Maranello team will be able to rise again from its ashes. Sure in this occasion the task is really arduous, very difficult, tied to a thread, the one of hope.
Most of the fans are already queuing up, on the roads and by the sea. There are those who spend the night by car, others more fortunate rocking on their maxi-yachts anchored outside the port, since there is no more room inside. The Monaco Grand Prix, the third round of the world championship, is also sold out, and on Thursday, May 4th 1989, with the customary day in advance, Formula 1 returns to the asphalt and steel curves of the Principality. Here the cars go slowly and the organizers are great professionals; consequently, the danger is limited. Let's hope so. The fact remains that never before has the championship aroused so much interest as this year: perhaps due to Ferrari's victory in Rio, perhaps to Berger's accident in Imola. The Austrian driver's spectacular exit from the track continues to attract interest for several reasons: first of all because of the allegations that are still being made about the causes of the crash against the wall and secondly because Ferrari wanted to get to the bottom of the matter, trying, albeit tentatively, to prevent another adventure of this kind. Scuderia Ferrari sporting director Cesare Fiorio says:
"We checked and reinforced all the areas of doubt, namely suspension attachments, wing grafts and so on, unfortunately leaving out the search for competitiveness. But this was the primary objective".
The Maranello team brings two cars to Monaco, but a third body will arrive in the days leading up to the Grand Prix. The single-seaters are adapted to the characteristics of the track and there is also an engine with some new features: in the electronics, in the exhausts and who knows, maybe even in something else.
"These gearbox couplings are still abrupt, but we hope to have found some right solutions".
Ferrari, therefore, starts again with a victory in Brazil, a crushing defeat in Imola and only one driver in the race. A demanding task for Nigel Mansell, smiling and available, but aware of the responsibility that falls to him:
"Not having Berger makes my job more difficult. Gerhard is a driver who goes fast, who puts the car to the test. Even if we don't set them up in the same way, there is always a good exchange of information".
With what spirit do you face the Monte-Carlo race, after what happened in Imola?
"Ferrari is a great team. There is no need for any solicitation. They have made all possible efforts to reassure me and I'm going to the track serene, ready to give my best".
In Imola, at the second start, however, there was the impression that you didn't force as usual.
"It's true, I admit it. I didn't feel like taking risks at that moment. Initially, I didn't want to run. Then, I went to see Berger, I realized that his trouble, whatever it was, was not due to a congenital defect in the car".
Were there other opportunities to talk to Berger?
"Yes. I gave him a call. He told me right away that he wants to race in Mexico. He's a tough guy. I also had a terrible accident two years ago in Japan but I got hurt and was stuck for months. Gerhard got off with a couple of days in the hospital. I don't think the accident will have any psychological repercussions for him. Maybe it was worse for me, for us who saw it. After all, he doesn't remember much. Anyway, he's a guy who has a lot of courage".
So much courage that on Wednesday afternoon Berger is already in Monte-Carlo, in his home, and on Thursday he will be at the pits. To see which Ferrari and which Mansell?
"I'll try to get the car right, to do a good qualifying in the first two rows, to get some points. I have to work for the team and also for myself. We're just in the third round of the season. I have won one of them, so I think I have the right to fight for the world title. Of course, McLaren has already made a great leap forward".
In Monte-Carlo could the electronically controlled gearbox be an advantage?
"Theoretically yes, but I don't know: in Imola I had a mechanical failure and in the Fiorano tests I had an electronic problem. I will only be able to give a definitive answer on Sunday evening".
The eyes of the whole circus are obviously focused also on McLaren: we must see if in a slow circuit, the Anglo-Japanese cars will maintain the superiority shown in Imola. In addition, everyone is curious to see how the Prost-Senna quarrel will end. Ron Dennis announces for Thursday morning a clarifying press conference. Prost seems to be a little calmer, but he certainly has not forgotten the overtaking at the first corner during the last Grand Prix. They fight on and off the track, but in the end they share the spoils. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost on the McLarens also dominate the first round of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, leaving Nigel Mansell and the Ferrari in third place, relatively good, even if on a chronometric level the Englishman's result does not offer much hope for Sunday.
The surprise of the day is provided by Gabriele Tarquini, fifth behind the Williams of Boutsen. Imagine a friendly and helpful person, normal in the best sense of the word. Well, you will have the portrait of Gabriele Tarquini, the Italian driver who in the first round of tests obtains the fifth time with the car of a French team of modest dimensions, the Ags. Tarquini's story is as simple as it is extraordinary. No one would believe that you can get to Formula 1 without money but only with an enormous passion. Gabriele, born in Giulianova, Abruzzo, on March 2, 1969, is lucky: at the age of seven, his father takes over a mini go-kart track. Gabriele recounts:
"I immediately fell in love with engines and racing. There was a closet next to the workshop where maintenance was carried out. I set up a cot so I would never be far away. Five years later, forging my ID card, I ran my first race. The age limit was fourteen, and I was twelve".
And what happened?
"I immediately went strong. My brother Claudio, the oldest, wanted to be a pilot. He gave up immediately, understood that it was my turn and made me a trainer and advisor. In 1980 I was the Italian champion of the 125 category, with no money. I was called by a builder in Brescia, Calogero Vanaria, owner of Kalikar. I went there dreaming: I would get some tires, I thought, maybe he would also lend me a vehicle. Instead, he gave me a fabulous contract, and I became an official driver. All for free (even then it took £ 60.000.000 for a season) and £ 300.000 or £ 400.000 a month. In return, I helped out in the workshop, as an errand boy and warehouse worker".
"Simple: in 1983 and 1984 I conquered two national titles, the European one and a world one. In the second season, on thirty-seven contests, I won thirty-six of them. Meanwhile I was already thinking about the single-seaters. A sponsor gave me £ 10.000.000. I managed to do two races in Formula 3, as soon as I qualified. I had no hope. My luck was to enroll in the Csai federal course. I arrived first and they helped me a lot. Alberto Colombo, the instructor, called me in his Formula 3000 team in 1985. I hadn't done anything with cars, but he gave me confidence. I got good results right away, two fifth places, then a third".
"Not at all. One day Enzo Ferrari sent for me. He knew everything about me, he made me many compliments, he said that he followed me, but there was no promise. But what a disappointment: at the end of the championship I was on foot. Everyone was asking me for money, they wanted £ 500.000.000 liras. My father made enormous sacrifices and every now and then he gave me £ 2.000.000 or £ 3.000.000; he also went into debt. Finally Lamberto Leoni called me for the First Racing: he didn't give me money, but he made me run. I was the best driver with an unofficial car. In 1988 I was in Formula 1 with Coloni. Then Leoni called me again with the result that you know. I was destroyed: I had lost more than ten kilos to get into the car and the car was no longer there. I was saved by the Ags engagement. I don't make any money, but I have a few sponsors to help me: I made an investment in myself. Maybe that's why I need to go hard".
McLaren in the limelight, then, thanks to the time set by Ayrton Senna, 1'24"126, at an average of 142.415 km/h, leaving Prost 0.545 seconds behind. It is a sign that the success at Imola was a warning: the 1989 championship risks being a repeat of that of 1988. However, not everything goes right within the British team. Before the qualifying, Ron Dennis - McLaren's sporting director - calls a press conference to explain what happened in the San Marino Grand Prix: Prost, who took the lead at the second start, had accused Senna of betrayal, guilty of overtaking him at the first corner in violation of the agreement. In summary, Dennis states:
"Between the two drivers there was an agreement of which we were not aware. For safety reasons they had established that whoever would take the best start would not be attacked by his teammate. Senna admits to have made a mistake and apologizes. From now on such episodes will not happen again because we will be informed about everything. I reiterate that we never give team orders on the competitive behavior of the drivers, the only exception concerns the pit stops to change tires, in which whoever is in the lead has priority. Everything is over and we start all over again, calmly".
Apparently it should be like that but Prost has not forgiven. The two drivers do not speak to each other. The French confides that, in the direct confrontation in front of the manager, the Brazilian, after having tried to deny that there had been a pact, has then admitted the impropriety, starting to cry. In the afternoon Prost, at the radio microphones is very hard:
"Something is broken and in a definitive way, unfortunately, because Ayrton is dishonest. I have been racing in Formula 1 for many years, I have changed teams, I have changed teammates and I have always found myself well with everyone because I have always privileged human relationships that for me are fundamental, at the base of everything, work or no work. That's why everything is over between him and me, each one goes his own way. It is obvious that, being a professional, I will take into account McLaren's interests. On a personal level, however, it is as if we were in two different teams".
The week after the San Marino Grand Prix, the McLaren team tests in Pembrey, Wales, and Ron Dennis takes the opportunity to summon both his drivers to re-establish rules and order. However, Ayrton refuses to apologize and, after denying the existence of a possible agreement, declares that this included not overtaking each other under braking at the Tosa curve. Therefore, the Brazilian emphasizes that he passed his teammate by leaving the trajectory, without therefore contravening the agreements made before the start. Only the intervention of Ron Dennis pushes Ayrton to apologize to Alain and the team for what happened, but the Brazilian does not accept this imposition willingly. Ron Dennis had also asked the two drivers to stop talking about what had happened. And instead, on Friday, May 5th 1989, Alain Prost makes a statement to the French newspaper L'Equipe:
"He was the one who had proposed me that pact of non-aggression: let's try to get the opponents out of our way without making madness among us, without daring overtaking and then we play the race. I said that was fine, it seemed reasonable. And that's how I behaved at Imola, then all of a sudden I saw him slip between me and a curve and off like a hare. Of course I got angry, it was not honest on his part and for me honesty is one thing that comes before all the others. He is also a repeat offender because after breaking a pact of honor he denied for days that he had broken his word, and I felt even more sorry for that. I feel betrayed by a person I thought was a friend, loyal, honest, clean. That's why I say that from now on nothing will be the same as before. It's every man for himself, I'll be careful to stand there adjusting the car with precision only to realize that he copies everything I do".
After the race weekend, Alain Prost will regret his decision to use the press as a means of revenge, and will seek a rapprochement with Ayrton Senna. But the Brazilian will seriously decide to continue on his way, without forgiving his French colleague. In addition, Alain, because of this action, loses his ascendancy towards the McLaren team, which for years he had modeled around himself.
A good problem to solve, for sure. The two have been battling on the track where up to now Senna's extraordinary driving sensibility has prevailed. Prost, however, will attack him tomorrow, also because he had a problem with the gearbox and went straight to St. Devote flattening the tires, so he could not defend himself until the end. Senna and Prost can afford this head to head duel, also because the Honda engine (here the Japanese have a special version, three kilos lighter and made to measure for this race) shows a frightening power. Even taking into account that the speed performance also depends on the aerodynamic solutions, just to give an example, Senna reaches a speed of 271 km/h after the tunnel and Prost 249 km/h on the finish line under acceleration. On the same cells, in its fastest passage, Mansell's Ferrari passes at 254 km/h and 237 km/h respectively. An abyss, in fact.
Mansell is detached from the Brazilian by 1.2 seconds, which means that the car is good as a seal, but lacks power, since, as maximum performance always in speed, is exceeded by many other competitors. Among these, also Gabriele Tarquini with the small Ags. The pilot from Abruzzo is in seventh heaven: fifth in Monte-Carlo, after having had to skip the first race in Brazil because his team, the First, had given forfeit. So, quite unexpectedly, he found a steering wheel, just at Ags, because the unlucky Streiff left a vacancy. Also Andrea De Cesaris - as well as Modena and Caffi - was always very fast, and set the seventh time with his Dallara. Nannini (seventeenth) was in trouble with a Benetton that was perhaps already thinking about the new car, and Capelli, who was in danger of not qualifying because of the new March (car mounted on Thursday at 8:00 a.m.). Friday rest, Saturday everything is repeated. Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger arrives at the pits on Thursday morning, a quarter of an hour before the end of free practice. He walks down, along the circuit, from his home, through the tunnel.
"How nostalgic. How I would have loved to be in the mix. I'm sure I would have done something good. Of course, seen from the outside, they go like crazy...".
He does not lose his good mood the Ferrari driver, on his way out of the re-education center where he is trying to recover his form after the Imola accident, and indeed he explains, showing his hands covered by thin gloves:
"The burns don't make me suffer too much. It's the shoulder and rib injuries that are very painful, so much so that it's difficult for me to rest. But I am more and more convinced that I will be able to return to the track in Mexico City".
A prediction for Sunday?
"Ferrari is the only one close to McLaren. I hope Mansell wins, in fact I will be rooting for him. What happened makes me realize how beloved this team is. I would have never thought to receive so many wishes, telegrams and visits. Going back to the race, it is clear that Senna and Prost again have cars that are difficult to beat".
Gerhard, afterwards, jokes: he is photographed with his hands leaning on the nose of the car. He does not want to go back to the causes of the accident, claiming that he has no new elements to understand anything more. Episode archived. Ferrari, meanwhile, is looking for competitiveness. The problem, at the moment, is finding power for the engine. Rumor has it that Maranello is implementing a colossal relaunch plan in this sector. There is talk of a wide range of engines that would be produced in the expected modified version: to choose the best ones, to prepare several of them with targeted mappings for each type of circuit. Then, to partially recover the sums spent, they would be sold as collectors' items. Beyond these futuristic indiscretions, the problem exists. Mansell himself specifies it:
"I'm a little disappointed because I tried my hardest and I think I drove well but the power against the McLarens is low. You can see it by eye. The disadvantage is still significant. The tests did not go as I would have liked, even if at least there were no reliability problems".
An admission also from Cesare Fiorio:
"Every team tries to improve. We have made progress, but we are behind our main rivals, the McLarens. Mansell tested the engine with the modified exhausts to have a better progression, but the differences are minimal. We still have a small margin, but it's minimal. Maybe we can get close to the Frenchman's time, but Senna's seems to be out of our reach at the moment".
Also visiting Ferrari today is Marco Piccinini, the former sporting director who has not been on the track since last year.
"Here in Monte-Carlo I can't miss, at least the tests. I see the Ferrari well, it only has some problems with the set-up. On Monday I will be in Maranello for the board of directors meeting".
Michele Alboreto. After skipping the first practice session, he will take to the track on Saturday, May 6th 1989. The Italian driver wants to drive the old Tyrrell, a not very competitive car in which he cannot even enter. The English team favors Palmer after the 2 points of Imola, giving him the only new single-seater. The pre-qualifications arouse polemics. Fisa accepts Osella's appeal asking to replace Berger's car. The Volpiano team asks that at least Ghinzani, who is the fifth in the pre-qualifications, is allowed to enter, also because in Rio, in a similar situation, there were five single-seaters admitted. Fisa response:
"In Brazil we had made a mistake, now we won't repeat it".
During the pre-qualifying session held on Thursday morning, Brabham is once again leading the classification with Stefano Modena, who sets the best time of the small group of participants in the session. But Alex Caffi's Dallara is only 0.141 seconds behind. Pierre-Henri Raphanel scores the third best time, author of an excellent performance with his Coloni, qualifying for the first time in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Fourth qualified the other Brabham driven by Martin Brundle, who overtakes by only 0.2 seconds the Osella of Piercarlo Ghinzani, who is excluded from the qualifying. Together with the Italian driver, are also excluded the Swedish driver Stefan Johansson, who runs on board of the Onyx, then Nicola Larini on the other Osella, followed by Bernd Schneider on the Zakspeed. Ninth the other Onyx driver, Bertrand Gachot, who precedes the only EuroBrun of Gregor Foitek. Eleventh the Rial of Volker Weidler, followed by Aguri Suzuki on board the other Zakspeed. The slowest on this occasion is Joachim Winkelhock, with the Ags. On Friday, Caroline of Monaco and her husband Stephen only managed to enter the paddock after struggling with the entry controls, as they did not have a card. The inspector didn't want to intercede with the two aristocrats until an Automobil Club employee came along and pulled the inspector away by the arm, saying:
"But you're crazy, it's the princess herself".
So Carolina enters and makes her pastoral tour of the various stables, but in many of them she is forced to turn away, since the revived Berger is visiting, whom everyone is anxious to greet by giving him big pats on the back, since no one can shake his burnt hands. The roulette wheel turns, but the numbers that come out on the Formula 1 carpet are always the same. They are those of McLaren and Ferrari, engaged for some time now in a head to head duel, where the English team almost always ends up prevailing. Since October 18, 1987, when Nigel Mansell won in Mexico with the turbocharged Williams, no other team has been able to get to the top: twenty consecutive races, in which the Prost-Senna duo has won sixteen times, with four interruptions, three by Berger and one again by Mansell, this year in Rio, but in one of the Maranello cars. Even in the Principality history repeats itself.
First, however, on Friday, May 5th 1989, we rest. It is thought, however, that on Saturday, in the second qualifying round, things will hardly change. It is very unlikely that the Frenchman will be able to overtake his Brazilian teammate (even if the little Prost, by now full of hatred, would be willing to do anything to succeed in a disrespect to the haughty Ayrton), as well as it is difficult that Mansell can be undermined by those who follow him, or have the opportunity to get in between the two great opponents. The Italians have to be content with small exploits such as the one that brings to the fore Gabriele Tarquini, the 27 year old driver from Abruzzo who with the Ags, a car built with few means and a lot of passion in Monte-Carlo, scored an excellent time in the first practice session.
"It's like being in paradise. And it would already be a big miracle to maintain the position on the grid of the race on Sunday. I have no illusions, but I'll do everything I can to be in the top ten, which would already be a great result. The race? Don't ask me for a prediction. I did very well in Imola, the disqualifications of Caffi and Boutsen helped me a little. Here I could take other satisfactions, but only in the top positions, because I don't see how you could beat, except for technical problems, those missiles that are McLaren and Ferrari".
On Friday morning, the lawyer Agnelli arrived in Monte-Carlo to visit (and bring courage to) the men of the Scuderia Ferrari. Gianni Agnelli lands with his helicopter directly in the port. And after a couple of hours of waiting, while everyone is ready to catch the first suspicious movement, when tiredness begins to make itself felt and the sentries become devolved, a stretcher arrives and moves nimbly among the yachts. It approaches the dock: at the helm is the president of Fiat, wearing a green jacket and a pair of jeans, accompanied by Jas Gawronskl and two sailors. Mansell and Barnard jump on the boat, followed by Cesare Florio. The English pilot turns smiling and greets the crowd with his hand. From the shore, in the meantime, some appeals of the journalists present start:
"Lawyer, Lawyer, tell us something".
While from the Ferrari pit, a voice exclaims:
"He's got you all fooled".
In the meantime, the stretcher flees fast, exits the harbor, and becomes almost a distant dot, while a Ferrari fan jokes, saying:
"Maybe he'll take them to the high seas and drown them all".
In reality, Agnelli heads back to his boat, anchored outside, followed by the motorboat of a trade magazine, which, however, is less fast and loses track. Agnelli and his guests board the deck and the boat makes its way to Beaulieu. The guests return to Monaco after an hour or so: the Lawyer wanted to meet Mansell and talk about the team. This is the amusing little theater of the day off from the Grand Prix, spent between the waiting and the work on the cars in the paddock, between the public relations of the sponsors and the rapid escapes of the drivers, almost all of them heading to the nearby golf courses. On Saturday, April 6th 1989, preparations for Sunday's race began again, amidst poisons, hopes and ambitions. The fight between Senna and Prost is getting more and more intense. Ron Dennis, McLaren manager, after trying to dissuade the journalists by declaring that there were no problems within the team, is not very tender towards the Brazilian:
"From now on I will keep an eye on him when he talks. Of course, he's a very different guy when he's driving and when he's in plain clothes: as to say, I prefer the driver to the man".
The McLaren team, in any case, should only have this problem of internal rivalry. No one should be able to take away from Senna and Prost a place in the first row, even if Mansell should have thought about it, at least to try to undermine the French driver. In the official statements, however, the Englishman was very buttoned down, basically repeating the speeches he had made the day before:
"We're still behind in terms of power, and I don't think the electronic gearbox is that much of an advantage on this track. The gears have to be used continuously and very quickly. That's why you can risk not understanding if you're in third or fourth gear and you can't look at the dashboard display where the indications are because, in case of inattention, the guardrails are too close. That's as far as qualifying is concerned, when you have to do a lap on the limit. But there is an advantage: you always have both hands on the wheel, and after half the race - if you are still in contention - you are less tired than the others".
The English driver is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. The only thing that is certain is that he will not back down, that he will put all the effort he can into his aggressive driving style. For those who don't believe that, you can go to the Tobacconist's Corner and see. Provided that he is willing to go home with his hair straight for fear. For the rest, business as usual. As anticipated, Saturday on track there are also Michele Alboreto - that finally receives his new Tyrrell - and Piercarlo Ghinzani with the Osella. The Formula 1 commission, under pressure from the Italian teams, accepted the request of the Volpiano team to let the car of the driver from Bergamo participate in the tests, replacing the absent Ferrari of Berger.
In the afternoon program there is also the Monaco Formula 3 Grand Prix, the race of the champions. At the start twenty-six cars with seven Italians. Tamburini in pole position with the Reynard Alfa Romeo, next to him Morbidelli with the Dallara Alfa. All eyes are also on the young Montermini (fourth time), Brabham, Stewart and Muller, sons of driving aces who are, however, too young and inexperienced to enjoy the favors of the predictions and also because they are far away in the line-up. The start is at 6:00 p.m. The rest of the program is the same as always, for Formula 1: 10:00-11:30 a.m. free practice; 1:00-2:00 p.m. time trials.
Stop the McLarens: this is the imperative that circulates in Formula 1 on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix, the third round of the world championship. On Sunday there will be a race of an absolutely incredible charm, with the circuit of the Principality invaded by fans and with televisions around the globe connected live. But more than the English team, which dominated last season and returned to victory at Imola after Ferrari's initial success, it would be necessary to stop Senna and Prost, who have won five times consecutively on this city track in the last five years. Four the affirmations of the Frenchman, one that of the Brazilian. Senna makes no mystery, he wants to shorten the distances and snatch from his teammate the leadership of the world ranking that sees Prost in the lead with 12 points, against 9 of his rival. About this subject, Ayrton Senna affirms:
"The controversy of these days does not affect me. I continue on my way, which is to regain the world title".
And what about Ferrari? Will it only act as a back-up? Before the start of the last test session the ambitions are not lacking, but it should happen again a surprise hit like the one in Rio de Janeiro, to see a Maranello car on the highest step of the podium. Mansell knows that the McLarens are faster, that the odds are stacked against them, against the white cars powered by the powerful Honda engine.
"If I can keep the third place in the starting grid, who knows, maybe I can overtake Alain and Ayrton at the start. Afterwards it would be very difficult for the two of them to overtake me. I hope that the electronically controlled gearbox will allow me to get off to a flying start. On this track it's always a serious problem to overtake a car ahead of you, even if it's a bit slower. My stated goal, however, is to go at least to the points, just enough to stay in the race for the world championship. Waiting for Ferrari to catch up with McLaren".
A dream or a concrete prospect for the driver coming from the Isle of Man, who will have to defend alone, in the forced absence of Berger (who continues to swear that he will return to Mexico), the prestige of the Maranello factory? We must not forget that there are also others in the race: the Williams-Renault of Boutsen and Patrese, who aspire to victory playing, in a certain sense, at home; the increasingly incredible Arrows, not very strong but lurking. Then the various outsiders, represented by Benetton, Brabham and Tarquini's Ags, without the favors of the forecast.
In qualifying the formidable Brazilian stuns his teammate with a record time of 1'22"308, at an average speed of 145.561 km/h. To the Frenchman goes the second position, but with an abysmal gap in this short circuit: 1.148 seconds. The accused of the day, however, is not Prost, even if the Frenchman, with the same car, suffers another setback (Senna's 32nd pole position, the third consecutive since the beginning of the season), but rather the Ferrari. The Maranello team took a step backwards with Nigel Mansell, relegated from third to fifth place, also surpassed by Boutsen with Williams and by Brundle's Brabham.
In addition, worrying shadows have emerged and an uncomfortable situation has been created in the Maranello team. Above all after what happened at Imola with Berger and the mystery of the Austrian's exit from the track is still unsolved. The alarming fact happened in the morning, when Mansell's car returned to the box with the front right wing of the nose cracked transversely. It is thought to be a blow, but in reality what is normally known as the moustache was almost broken because the small lateral bulkhead that serves to create an aerodynamic effect touches the asphalt. The aileron was reinforced on the inside after Imola, but obviously - assuming the problem is the same - it wasn't enough. Cesare Florio admits:
"We intervened quickly, reducing the height of the side straps so that they no longer touch the ground and using a softer material. The modification has the desired effect in terms of safety. However, the new configuration does not give the necessary aerodynamic results because the car is difficult to drive".
In short, you try to fix one problem, but another one arises. In fact, and Florio admits it, Ferrari is still in the chasing phase. It tries to recover and finds valid remedies, but in the meantime the others go ahead, while for the Modenese team the time available to improve the performance of the car becomes less and less. Because first there are the reliability problems, then once these are solved, others pop up, the ones that occur when you force the pace. Time, however, is short, just think that from Imola to today there have been four days to work full time. Miracles can be worked on the track, as in Brazil, not in the workshop. A little bit of the electronically controlled gearbox, an avant-garde system that requires difficult fine-tuning, a little bit of the search for horsepower for the engine, some not-so-precise evaluation of the aerodynamics, and here we have a complex situation.
Hence the tense environment at Ferrari, the bad moods and concerns of the driver. It is clear that everything possible is being done to find remedies, even if it will not be easy because in the meantime the others are moving forward, when by others we mean McLaren. How far Senna and Prost's cars have gone ahead is shown by the gaps in qualifying: 0.9 seconds in Rio, 1.6 seconds in Imola, 2.4 seconds in Monte-Carlo. The question is about the advantage that the McLarens will be able to accumulate in Monte-Carlo and then play the victory in full, without problems.
Behind obviously there will be a tussle; the characteristics of the track (last year nine cars at the finish line, but there were turbos) guarantee spectacle and surprises. To be followed also the tough Boutsen with the Williams, the new Brundle with the Brabham and Warwick. Behind them the Italian pack, in order: Patrese, Modena, Caffi, De Cesaris, Martini, Alboreto and Tarquini. They were all good in different situations, some of them overcoming many troubles. A special mention goes to Michele Alboreto who did not even try on Thursday and who drives a completely new car. A small redemption for the Milanese driver, who finished well ahead of his teammate Palmer with the same Tyrrell. Ayrton Senna scores the best time and as a result, in Monte-Carlo, journalists, beautiful women looking for photographs, gendarmes and mechanics surround him, at a certain point it seems that everyone is there except Prost. Telepathically, even Ferrari congratulates him, after the rehearsal time: the two boxes are close. Prost is always missing. A French journalist tracks him down, the driver is in the darkness of the pit. Alain speaks, the journalist reports:
"Senna is not an extraterrestrial. His time is within my reach. He has an advantage over me at the first corner, so he's the favorite. If he makes the slightest mistake, I'll overtake him. Then, I swear, I won't let him pass anymore".
After that, the Brazilian connects to these sentences, surrounded by anyone in Monte-Carlo except Prost, and replies to the Frenchman from a distance.
"We have two formidable cars, taken care of in the same way, with the same engines, the same chassis. If I'm going faster than Prost, and I'm going faster, this means that in life I can do something better than him".
Then Senna also dismisses the Ferrari danger:
"The automatic transmission was supposed to give it some advantage here in Monte-Carlo but it's 2.5 seconds behind my McLaren. No, I really don't think Mansell can enter the race for the first places".
Senna is luciferous in his surgical politeness. He speaks in Italian, French, English and Spanish, he even remembers Portuguese for the journalists in his Brazil. They tell him that on his fastest lap he did something wrong at Casino corner, and the Brazilian replies:
"True, I went up too much on the curb. It was a pity: it was the second lap launched, there was no traffic, I could still improve. Nobody is perfect".
As if to say: no one is perfect at the moment, but I am a candidate for perfection; and may Prost thank that mistake of mine, otherwise he would be even smaller than he already is, despite the great McLaren. The hatred of the two is authentic. But it is a combustible hatred, it serves to make the two cars go faster than they would normally go.
"I tried two different setups, on the two cars, with full tanks and empty tanks. Everything always went well, there is even difficulty in choosing. The brakes were also adjusted wonderfully".
We'll have a waiting contest say others. Wait for what? For McLaren to give everyone a turn, to share out the remaining places, starting with the third? This is the main theme of the Monaco Grand Prix, edition number forty-seven, held on Sunday, May 7, 1989. Yes, because it does not seem that anyone can bother the McLaren-Honda. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost would have to break their cars or clash with each other to leave the way clear for their rivals. An unlikely hypothesis. The truth is that McLaren dominates far and wide in the tests; that Ferrari seems to have lost the role of the only possible antagonist of the English team; that the race will almost certainly be a show of Senna and Prost, engaged in a fratricidal fight.
Sunday 7 May 1989 the first start is interrupted when Patrese stops his Williams. At the second start, for which Patrese is relegated to the bottom of the grid, Senna maintains the lead ahead of his teammate Prost. The McLarens pull away almost immediately from the group of rival competitors, while behind them the Williams runs into all sorts of trouble, as both Boutsen and Patrese are forced to stop to mount new rear wings. Nigel Mansell is forced to retire during the twentieth lap due to some gearbox problems. During the thirty-third lap, de Cesaris tries to overtake Nelson Piquet at the Loews Hairpin, but the two collide and the Brazilian is forced to retire. An exchange of words ensues between the two drivers (still in their respective cars) and a huge traffic jam is created. Also Brundle is author of an excellent race, until he is forced to stop to mount a new battery, slipping to the seventh place.
In the meantime, Senna continues to dominate the race while Prost, slowed by the accident of Piquet and de Cesaris (the Brazilian loses more than 20 seconds in a single lap, as he was forced to wait for the road to be cleared to get moving again), is unable to recover and ends his race in second place, behind his teammate. The Frenchman is also delayed as for many laps he will try to lap the Ligier of his former Renault teammate René Arnoux, who will voluntarily ignore both his mirrors and the blue flags, prompting BBC commentator James Hunt to describe the situation as a Bullshit, on live television. This is Senna's second victory in Monaco. A victory certainly not achieved with ease, as his McLaren lost first and second gear during the race but he was clever in not pointing out the mechanical problem, preventing Prost from reacting and increasing the race pace to take the lead and the victory. Modena benefits from Brundle's stop and arrives at the finish line in third place, gaining his first points in Formula 1 and an important podium for Brabham. Alex Caffi, Michele Alboreto and Brundle, promoted to sixth place on the last lap following Ivan Capelli's retirement, complete the ranking of points positions. Caffi, in particular, gets the first points both for himself and for Dallara.
On the day of Senna and McLaren, the announced winners of the Monaco Grand Prix, we find, without even looking too hard, valid and useful reasons even for the 100.000 Italians who cross the border, challenging the most evil gendarmes in the world and the most terrible prices in Europe; useful, let's say, in order not to seem, to others and to themselves, pure fools. Seeing that they arrive waving Ferrari flags and they restart waving the same flags; and the Ferrari, which is only Mansell's, closes in the middle of the race. There is an Italian on the podium, Modena, and also an Italian fourth, Caffi, and an Italian fifth, Alboreto: all of them from the Po Valley, symbols, if you like, of an already wealthy and daring Italy. But above all there is an Englishman, Mansell, beaten but not beaten down, on the contrary re-emerging. The Ferrari defeated in Monte-Carlo explains the past to itself. Admits Cesare Fiorio, Ferrari's sporting director:
"We understood Berger's accident, the elastic side straps, allowed since the day before yesterday, are for the future with the guarantee that such a thing will not happen to us again, due to the rigid straps and their leverage effect. And we had, until the gearbox failed, a competitive Mansell, who in the race, as already in the morning warm-up, was almost at the speed of Senna and Prost. The gearbox failed in the electronic part, while at Imola it failed in the mechanical part. These are two different problems that do not add up. We insist on the electronic gearbox for at least two reasons: the first is that this is the way forward, it will take 10.000/15.000 kilometers of testing, but we will get to perfection, after having anticipated certain problems; the second is that going back to the traditional gearbox would involve a series of new solutions for the car, in short, six months of work, and in six months we will perfect the electronic gearbox".
In short, in the bad, it doesn't get any better than this. Mansell states:
"I have won one out of three tests so far. There are eleven good tests on sixteen of the World Championship; I can discard five of them, I can even still dream to become champion. However, to be now at the top of the World Championship standings, with a little bit of luck, not bad luck at all, would not be so crazy".
On Thursday, May 11th and Friday, May 12th 1989 at Imola, Ferrari will run a series of tests, to which Fiorio attaches great importance. Among other things, the breathing of the engine will be better taken care of, with some new openings.
"The car has found the set-up, this is important. We worked all night, the new strips arrived at 8:00 a.m. by helicopter from Maranello, and Marchetti and his men made them: it was a feat".
The sense of a very strong and tight commitment: it seems that Barnard himself arrived in Maranello during the night. More commitment than after Rio: when the victory seemed a nice gift, while today the defeat seemed an experience, something more than a lesson. Mansell, slightly more chatty than usual, confirms Fiorio's industrial optimism:
"I could have finished third, but I didn't for reasons that can be overcome in the future. The unhappy dubbing is part of the history of this Grand Prix, you can understand it while you are suffering. I am also for the new gearbox".
On the lapping, Fiorio jokingly admits:
"When one sees the McLarens in the mirror, one becomes softer".
The Monaco Grand Prix turned into a rather boring event, without an overtaking between the firsts, on the contrary, decided at least partially by the lapping. The facts are that Ayrton Senna humiliates his opponents and wins his sixteenth Grand Prix in Monaco. He wins, running away in great style and exorcising the memories of 1988, when he was in the lead without any hiccups and then went against the barrier at Portier following a momentary lapse in concentration. As usual, however, the highlights only tell part of the story. On the opening lap, Senna laps two seconds faster than Prost but by the fourth lap the two McLaren drivers are close. Prost pushes on and gets closer hoping to upset the Brazilian driver. The rest looks silly until you realize that Senna dictates the pace and that Thierry Boutsen, Nigel Mansell and Martin Brundle are getting closer. When the top five are grouped together on a track as unpredictable as Monaco, anything can happen.
The result, however, remains a foregone conclusion: one-two for McLaren, success for Senna over Prost. The shivers, if anything, come after the race, when (as had already happened at Imola for the Brazilian's car) at the technical checks the stewards linger for a long time on the rear wing of the two English single-seaters. A measurement to see if the heights are regular, a second and finally a third. Someone, in the meantime, sends for Ron Dennis, the team manager, who is questioned by the Fisa men. Long speeches and consequent discontent of Dennis who waits outside the door. An alarming communiqué: the classification must be considered provisional. The commissioners meet in a small room and then go out and say:
"All good, all regular".
They come to this decision at 7:20 p.m., when more than an hour has passed since the end of the race, after the dial used for the measurements has not passed over the car several times because the higher aileron prevents it from being sent forward. Apart from this, there is not even the excitement of a reversal of predictions between the two teammates. Who, after an initial duel, race each on their own, at a distance. Ferrari is missing (even if the notes are not all negative) and Williams is the author of a beautiful chase in the back. The only joy comes from the Italian drivers, young and old, with the splendid third place of Modena, the fourth of Alex Caffi and the fifth of the expert Michele Alboreto. Now the world ranking has already a precise shape: Senna with his second Monegasque triumph (he already won in the Principality with Lotus, two years ago) reaches his teammate at the top of the ranking, with 18 points. In reality, the Brazilian has an advantage because he has two victories against three second places. The others are all chasing: let's not even talk about the team ranking, where McLaren is already light years away.
Speaking of the rest of the pack, competing with confidence on a circuit he loves, Derek Warwick had set himself apart by achieving an excellent sixth place during qualifying. However, a clutch problem caused a stall just as the red light came on for the first scheduled start, and the delay forced the race director to impose a five-minute break. On the new opening lap, Derek, seemingly untroubled in sixth position despite the threat of Andrea de Cesaris, regularly took the start of the race. His race, however, lasts only one more lap. Going down to Mirabeau, the car began to emit a more than obvious smoke, due to an electrical short circuit behind the dashboard. And so, the English driver was forced to park his single-seater.
Pierluigi Martini, Italian driver of Minardi in continuous improvement, qualified eleventh, just as it happened in Imola. And just like in Imola he is the victim of an early retirement due to a transmission problem. The breakage of the clutch caused him to drop back from eighth place starting from the fourth lap. Grouillard, for the third time this season, well before his teammate Rene Arnoux, is tenth on the first day of qualifying, and eventually slips to sixteenth place at the end of the second qualifying session. He is fourteenth when the transmission begins to lock up, and like Warwick and Martini would have been a candidate for points had he continued the race.
Unfortunately, the repetition of the procedure also costs dearly to Riccardo Patrese, who is stopped at the moment of the second lap and has to line up at the bottom of the grid, in last position. In any case, the Williams race would have been entirely dedicated to the pursuit of the opponents, because both the driver from Padova and his teammate Boutsen are forced to stop at the pits to change the rear wings that are loose. Senna and Prost, one behind the other, thus begin their modest show. The race starts to lose interest when Senna overtakes Mauricio Gugelmin, who exits the chicane. The March driver qualified well for his chances, as he had struggled to set up the new CG891 on his race debut, but when the gearbox gives trouble on the warm-up lap, he is forced to get into the old 881, which has just been set up on the streets of the Monaco circuit.
But the great protagonist of the 47th Monaco Grand Prix is actually René Arnoux. In recent years, the French driver has certainly not focused on racing, preferring the good life; in the race, the Ligier driver makes a series of improprieties that the stewards penalize with a simple written warning. In substance Arnoux conditions the race when, at the twenty-first lap, he lets Ayrton Senna pass, blocking instead Alain Prost, who remains behind his compatriot for a long time, losing seven seconds, while the reigning World Champion increases the pace. Subsequently, Senna increases the gap with his teammate, creating a margin of 52 seconds and taking his revenge, following the controversy raised in recent days about the events in Imola.
Prost, on the other hand, on the thirty-fifth lap, gets stuck between four cars and loses another twenty-one seconds. The same Ferrari of Mansell, that tries not to lose ground in comparison with the two McLarens, hits at the beginning of the race the March of Capelli, that because of this incident is subsequently forced to the withdrawal (completed by the breakup of the engine) when he is about to obtain an excellent sixth place. Ferrari has even the suspicion that Mansell's continuous changes behind the Ligier have caused the failure, moreover electronic, to the gearbox, which forces the Englishman to retire sadly during the thirty-first lap. Once the possible protagonists had left the scene (behind the McLaren), the Italian drivers rightly came to the fore, including Modena, Caffi and Alboreto. The first two at the wheel of the daring Brabham and Dallara of the Scuderia Italia, the third with the new Tyrrell designed by Harwey Postlethwaite. Three Italians in a row, after the two McLaren drivers. At the end of the race, the young Stefano Modena declares:
"I ask for a night to chew, swallow, metabolize, digest this fabulous third place. Brabham has been stationary for a year, the problem of pre-qualification could already be enough to fill a season. Instead this car brought me on the podium. For the whole race I tried to drive in serenity, without thinking about the huge thing that was happening to me. I can say that only at two laps to the end I understood that yes, I could be the third man to flank Senna and Prost in that ceremony that for me, until that moment, was a kind of TV soap opera with actors far from my world".
The driver from Modena thanks the Pirelli tires, which allowed him to set up a safe driving style, both in practice and during the race. When Gabriele Tarquini's engine stops working due to an electrical problem, and the great race of the Italian driver of the Ags ends sadly during the forty-sixth lap, Alex Caffi goes from fifth to fourth place, getting his first points for himself and for the Dallara. At the end of the race, Alex Caffi, visibly happy, states:
"I needed a point to escape the nightmare of pre-qualification; I got three. Now I know what happiness is. I started badly, the wheels skidded and two opponents overtook me. At a certain point I saw myself, as in a film, at the end of a long cordon made up of cars faster than mine. So I decided to run a tactical, intelligent race, waiting for the crisis of the other competitors ahead of me. It was impossible for there not to be a selection, it was up to me to avoid it. It went well, in the sense that I went well, me as well as my Dallara".
Michele Alboreto completes the Italian party by getting a fifth place that no one expected, when it was learned that he was still in Milan during Thursday's qualifying session. He had refused to drive the Tyrrell 017B that day, since he had been so uncomfortable in Brazil, but when his new 018 arrived just in time for Saturday's qualifying session, he celebrated by placing it twelfth on the grid. His car behaved quite well during the race, despite a noticeable understeer conditions the Milanese driver's driving. The experienced Italian driver, aboard his Tyrrell, felt little threat from Alessandro Nannini, as his compatriot's Benetton presented a problem with the brakes.
"Miracles don't exist, but you find the way to explain the thing that happened to me. On Thursday I didn't even get into the car for the tests, I couldn't get into the old Tuyrrell, or rather I could, but I was paralyzed, tortured by its sadistic measures. In the evening the new car arrived, Friday was a full day of work, Saturday I made the time and now I am fifth. I had two fears: the gearbox and the brakes, which tended to overheat. All went well, despite the very few miles that she and I, the car, put in together. You can tell I believed in Tyrrell, otherwise I wouldn't have signed the contract. But now I'm going forward in my hopes, in my predictions. I say that the points zone is within our reach, and that we will always run to do well as in Monaco, better than in Monaco".
When asked for his opinion on Ferrari's performance, Michele Alboreto underlines:
"I don't race against Ferrari, I don't accept that my fifth place serves to those who want to mount a non-existent enmity".
Unaware of the possible disqualification, later averted, at the end of the race Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost celebrate at length their respective victories and second place. The Brazilian driver, forgetting all protocols, on the podium washes down with champagne the entire royal family, Prince Ranieri, his daughter Carolina with her husband Stefano Casiraghi and their son. He spares no one, such is his irrepressible joy, not even President Balestre, who at the end of the revelry disdainfully cleans his blue jacket. The festivities continue in the evening in the palace on the Monte-Carlo rock, where the traditional Grand Gala is celebrated. First, however, Senna and Prost submit to the ritual questions, smiling and even seemingly reconciled, so much so that they even shake hands.
"It was a beautiful and painful victory, because I had quite a few problems. In the first laps my car seemed not to be well balanced. I was struggling to keep Prost under control. Then there were the overtakes that allowed me to gain a good lead, but there were other troubles. First the first gear broke and I was forced to take the three tight corners in second gear. Then the second gear also failed. I had to grit my teeth, adapt to a terrible driving style, to not make Alain understand that I was in trouble. In short, it was hard until the end, so much so that I had terrible pains and cramps in one leg. Winning in Monte-Carlo is always a great achievement, a dream. But above all I am comforted by the fact that the McLaren went well and strong even on a slow circuit. This is the demonstration that the race in Rio de Janeiro, where Ferrari had won, gave a result that did not correspond to reality".
Beaten once again (Senna in this weekend collected his thirty-second pole position and sixteenth victory), Alain Prost does not look for excuses, and indeed admits:
"My teammate has always been more aggressive than me in overtaking. I think that made the difference. Of course my friend Arnoux gave me a big one. Maybe I could have kept in touch with Senna. But after a few laps I took twenty seconds at the Portier curve in a pile-up of cars, where the gearbox went into neutral. It was not meant to be this time that I could give some more trouble to Ayrton".
Senna also reveals that at the start he had many doubts. Among other things, he had asked the technicians to change the rear springs, because he was not convinced that he had the right set-up (or was it a pretextual move to surprise his rival-teammate?) But then he added:
"At one point we could have lapped four seconds a lap faster, but we preferred not to take risks".
If this is true, the McLarens (that already in Imola had lapped all the other competing cars, and that here were repeated without problems), are again unbeatable. The danger of witnessing another championship dominated by the two McLaren drivers is high. Especially since the honorable engineer Osamu Goto, technical manager of the Honda engines, kindly states:
"It was a perfect race, even though Senna and Prost lapped faster than expected. Despite this, they did not consume all the gasoline we had calculated to use".
Ron Dennis, meanwhile, continues in his attempt to move on from the diatribe between his two drivers, telling the press:
"We live like a marriage here, it works out well when a wife and husband have a common interest to pursue. This concept applies to everyone here, you can also quarrel and it doesn't matter if the common interest remains. Understand? One for all and all for one. Whoever doesn't like it can leave".
And on Prost's probable farewell, a possibility that now seems to be taking on serious importance, Dennis replies:
"In Brazil I told him I wanted an answer very soon, he hasn't given me one yet and I'm contacting all the top drivers who will be available on the market. If Prost goes, we'll get someone of his calibre, it's not in our philosophy to have a good driver and a half driver".
During the course of the evening, Ferrari also took part in the Gala offered by Prince Ranieri in honor of Senna and Prost. During the evening, many compliments and wishes for a speedy recovery were offered to Gerhard Berger. But the balance sheet of the Maranello team closes negatively at the end of the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship, even if the men of the team, the technicians and the driver, that is Mansell, interpret the defeat in the best way, as a first sign of a possible revival. On a concrete level, however, there is a sense of fear towards McLaren, which in this first part of the season is marching in exactly the opposite direction to Ferrari. After having, in a certain sense, made a mistake in the opening race in Brazil, the British team was the protagonist of an overwhelming crescendo of competitiveness, obtaining two consecutive en-pleins in the Grand Prix of San Marino and Monaco, races in which it not only conquered first and second place, but also doubled all the competitors participating in the race.
The extraordinary bravura of the Brazilian driver (by now it is realized that his great enemies, Piquet and Prost, do not have other ways to try to weaken his brilliant vein, if not the strategy of the war of the polemics) must not however make to pass unnoticed the technical superiority of the mean, of a package car-engine that allows him to do what he wants. Now, after three races, an alarming fact emerges: Senna wins in a big way on a fast track (Imola) and dominates on the slower one (Monte-Carlo), which means that McLaren, even if it has not yet put in race its car in its definitive version, with the transversal gearbox, seems to be on its way to repeat the dominion witnessed last year, when the British team obtained fifteen victories on sixteen races. The question on everyone's mind is this: will Ferrari be able to contain this threat? Taking into account that Williams-Renault, Benetton-Ford and March-Judd will probably grow in the course of the season, it seems that the team from Maranello is once again destined to propose itself as the number one adversary. In this regard, Cesare Fiorio, Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director, admits:
"Granted that in this sport it is always difficult to make predictions, I believe I cannot hide the fact that 1989 will still be an uphill year for Ferrari. Neither the desire to be at the top nor the means to try are lacking. It's time that is a tyrant: McLaren is ahead in testing, and closing the gap will be a problem. We will do our best to reach our goal".
Can Fiorio reveal the plans and strategies of the team he directs?
"There are no secrets in this sense. We have plans, we will carry them out. One is to run two teams working in parallel. One for the present, the other for the future. Unfortunately, at the moment we are busy mainly in the immediate future with so many problems to solve. We said that the Monte-Carlo race also had positive aspects. Precisely because it helped us to discover and solve one of the problems that caused us the most torment. I'm referring to the failure of the front wing that, at this point, we believe caused Berger's accident in Imola. On Thursday and Friday we will test a new aerodynamic solution with Mansell at Imola. We discovered that the engine as it is set up does not perform at its maximum. The available power is lower than what we can see on the bench".
Cesare Fiorio does not go further in the speech, for obvious reasons. But someone from inside the Maranello team says that should be modified some attacks and above all should be inaugurated an air intake of considerable size placed in the area of the roll-bar to allow the 12 cylinders to breathe more. A solution that should decrease temperatures and guarantee 20-30 more horsepower. The Ferrari's sport director would also like a greater use of the drivers in the tests (at least three days a week, when possible), and for this purpose the Mugello track would be used as soon as possible, to have more probative data. From Maranello, therefore, they are always on the warpath but, as Fiorio says, the road is uphill. As for the possibility of Berger running in Mexico, a decision will be made during the following week at the Monaco Grand Prix. Now that the animosity between Senna and Prost is firmly in the open, their battle takes an added edge. There have been diplomatic incidents in the past, but now it is clear that neither will let their adversary have even the slightest advantage.