#477 1989 German Grand prix

2021-10-12 00:00

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#1989, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Francesca Risi,

#477 1989 German Grand prix

All is well for Ferrari engaged Monday, July 20, 1989 in Hockenheim with the other Formula 1 teams in a series of tests ahead of the German Grand Prix


All is well for Ferrari engaged Monday, July 20, 1989 in Hockenheim with the other Formula 1 teams in a series of tests ahead of the German Grand Prix (Sunday, July 30, 1989). Nigel Mansell with race tires and full tank in the middle turns in 1'46"12", ahead of the McLaren-Honda of Senna (1'46"42) and Prost (1'46"54). Patrese (1'48"67), Brundle (1'49"16) and Larini (1'49"37) followed. The English driver also completed a qualifying tyre test. His time (1'44"67) is close to the pole position scored in 1988 by Ayrton Senna (1'44"59). Ferrari will test on the distance of the race a lighter engine, already used in the qualifying of France and Great Britain.  The following day, in the second and final day of practice in Hockenheim where next week the German Grand Prix takes place, in the morning almost all the teams present are dedicated to the development of the race set-up of the cars and to carry out tyre tests for qualifying. The best time is scored by Senna, who runs (with qualifying tires) in 1'43"66 against 1'43"72 of Prost and 1'44"14 of Ferrari Mansell. The Englishman improved significantly compared to the time on Thursday, when he had scored the time of 1'44"67. Mansell also simulates a Grand Prix by covering 49 laps.  Meanwhile, the controversy that has agitated Tyrrell in recent weeks ends, since Tuesday, July 21, 1989 is announced that the young Frenchman Jean Alesi will race with the English team next year, but gets to complete, for this season, also the Formula 3000 championship, where he currently leads the standings. So, in this 1989, in the Belgian, Portuguese and Japanese Grands Prix, which are concurrent with Formula 3000 tests, Alesi will be replaced at the wheel of Tyrrell by another driver who has not yet been chosen. 


"This time you will not see anything on television, at most some dubbing".


It’s a joke that comes out of Ferrari, in anticipation of the German Grand Prix, which kicks off Friday, July 28, 1989 with the first qualifying round. On the cars of Maranello, for the first time in the course of the season, cameras will be mounted that show live some stages of the race. Beyond the playful phrase, there is a minimum of hope, if not foundation, to make a head race, in this statement. Ferrari in fact faces the ninth round of the World Championship ready to make life hard for McLaren, natural favorite. It is not just a desire, but a conviction gained from the progress highlighted, the characteristics of the circuit, the latest tests, the small but important technical changes made in recent days. Like the slimming care of the single-seater, which however will not be able to fall further below 520 kg, due to the heavier automatic transmission of a traditional one and the twelve-cylinder engine. It is Nigel Mansell himself who underlines the happy moment, even if with a certain prudence: 


"There will be nothing to do in practice, Senna and Prost will be faster. But in the race the difference could be minimal. I hope to fight for full success. Too bad that Williams has lost ground. In two we would have better to whip the McLaren". 


The Englishman does not comment on the news arrived from London in recent days, according to which a court sentenced him to deliver his Ferrari F40 to a buyer after trying to sell it to another who offered him more. After paying the car 240.000.000 lire (a hundred less than the list price) Mansell sold it for 680.000 pounds. Then a collector offered him over lire and the pilot tried to cancel the first sale, but the judge would have sentenced him to respect the first contract. 


"I cannot speak, because the process is still ongoing". 


The extra-sporting events do not seem to worry the rider of the Isle of Man, as Gerhard Berger does not want to talk about his passage to McLaren at the end of the year. 


"I am a Ferrari driver, and I want to try to take away some more satisfaction. I do not want to go down in history as the driver who has accumulated more consecutive retirements driving Italian cars. The record of Amon and Alboreto, eight races without reaching the finish line, I have already matched it. I would hate to become the absolute record holder". 


On the Ferrari road, however, there are Prost and Senna, both well motivated not to give up. The first with high morale, waiting to win another Grand Prix. The second aimed at recovery, without complexes: 


“I know I’m always the same Senna, I don’t have psychological problems. Four consecutive withdrawals are too many and I know very well that I can no longer give points to Prost. The others don’t scare me much, even if I recognize that Ferrari is closer than we would have liked". 


Thursday, July 27, 1989 McLaren however suffers a small setback. The technical commissioners require all teams to mount small tanks for the recovery of engine oil avoiding spreading it on the track. Actually Honda had adopted a system to send the liquid back into circulation. The novelty could give problems. The Ferrari theme holds the paddock for other reasons too. In fact, rumors continue on the drivers market with the usual Patrese and Larini main candidates to replace Berger in 1990. On Thursday, however, there was a surge in Capelli’s stock and a return of interest in Prost. But since Ferrari leaders have spoken more than once about Italian drivers, it is difficult to think again, even if in Formula 1 everything is possible. Market rumors also give Barnard a possible pass to Benetton with the arrival of Rory Byrne to Ferrari itself. Friday 28, meanwhile, at 8:00 a.m. we start again with the infernal pre-qualifying involving seven teams and thirteen cars. For the first time, based on the scores of the first half of the World Championship, there will be both Colonists and Ags, and in the tussle will also be the full Larrousse. In his role of great haunted by misfortune madam, driving one of the French cars driven by Lamborghini engines, there will also be Michele Alboreto, who has moved away from Tyrrell. A new, very hard test for the Milanese. Mercedes? Peugeot? It seems not: mister John Barnard, orphan Ferrari, probably will go to Ford. The news broke out these days in the environment of Formula 1. The great American company (the second in the world in importance and turnover, after General Motors) would have contacted the English technician to entrust him with the design of Benetton, The team to which the industrial giant of Detroit exclusively supplies the new 12-cylinder engine. The ambitious program would have started in these days and, obviously, it can be sent in port only next year. 


Dissatisfied with the results achieved so far, the Ford men, led by the head of the racing department Mike Kranefuss, would go on the attack, offering Barnard the chance to compete in a new exciting challenge. The plan would include in part the restructuring of Benetton itself (with the approval of the owners, the queen family of textiles of Treviso) with the removal of the current sports director Peter Collins, accused of having committed, among other things, a mistake in the appointment of the pilot Johnny Herbert, not yet recovered from last year’s serious injury. But it is above all in the technical field that Benetton and Ford, under the supervision of Barnard, would like to explore new paths. The American brand, after having built the new and interesting 8-cylinder engine, would be making one of twelve cylinders, to be put on track next year. According to rumors leaked and partially confirmed by professionals in Formula 1, the entire maneuver would be already at an advanced stage and could also include, but not in the very short term, the employment of Alain Prost, linked to Barnard by a considerable estimate. However, there are some concerns that cannot be hidden. A difficult man like Barnard who asked Ferrari to set up an expensive research center in Guildford, which proved many times intractable, which had to work for almost three years before presenting a definitive version of its 640, Will it be able to meet Ford’s demands in a short time?  Another question concerns Benetton’s current technical manager, South African Rory Byrne, considered one of the best. What will Byrne do when he has a three-year contract? Cohabitation with Barnard will not be easy, he may even leave, surely there will be problems. The official announcement of the marriage Barnard-Ford-Benetton, in any case can not be given - if the story is confirmed one hundred percent - before the end of the season. 


The designer in fact has a commitment with Ferrari that will expire only with the last race, in November in Adelaide. Meanwhile the disputed John will have to think above all to prove that his creature, that is the car he designed for the Maranello team, is not a bluff but a winning weapon. To tell the truth the 640 has made some progress, but the merits go above all to the men of the Maranello team who have worked thoroughly in all sectors to increase the potential, from the engine to the weight, reduced by about 20 kilograms compared to the original project. A good opportunity for the purpose comes in the German Grand Prix, on a very fast track particularly suitable for electronic control gearboxes. McLaren still seem to be impregnable, in terms of qualifying, so Saturday the pole position should not escape Senna or Prost. But in the race Mansell and Berger could also make life difficult for the Brazilian and the French, provided that reliability does not make jokes and that the English team does not have some other secret weapon. Never poke the bear. McLaren has actually never dozed off in recent years. But the well-known proverb still fits the situation: as soon as Ferrari hinted at returning to competitiveness, the Anglo-Japanese team reacted. Other than gap almost filled. On the very fast German Motodrom, in the first day of qualifying of the German Grand Prix, Senna and Prost gave a severe lesson to Mansell and Berger, in chronometric terms. The Brazilian driver, in great vein, is better off than 1.006 seconds the French team-mate, who in turn keeps a margin of 0.714 seconds on the English Ferrari and 1.161 seconds on the Austrian, respectively in P3 and P4. But what is surprising is above all the abyss opened by Senna against the first car of Maranello: 1.720 seconds, a heavy gap if you consider that the track is very fast, even if very long. 


The merit of this feat (Senna 1'42"300, at an average of 239.191 km/h, just 0.3 seconds from the absolute record of the circuit, obtained in 1986 by Rosberg when the turbo engines of over 1200 horsepower reigned) It certainly goes to the men of the team who in a very short time have made the new transverse gearbox reliable and competitive, and to Honda that here in Hockenheim has improved its engines, modified them both in mechanics and in electronics. However Ayrton Senna also has a good part of merit in the performance, obtained with a drive to the limit, brushing the track with an exceptional skill, making the most of the great skills of the car. And to say that the Brazilian in the morning had gone off the track at a speed of about 200 km/h, performing for about 200 meters in a series of spectacular spin before going to bump with the back of the McLaren tires stacked by folding a thick guardrail. The car was not even very damaged and the driver said he only had a few headaches. The pain to the head, however, did not prevent him to detach all, even if starting twenty minutes from the end of the tests because his car was not ready. Senna is a religious boy and here in Germany he was also accompanied by his sister Viviane, older than him and an established psychologist. The girl turns around the pits with a Bible and perhaps helped the pilot to overcome the crisis of results of the moment, repeating that the Lord is right and that he is always the strongest, the best. In this almost ascetic climate, the São Paulo rider not only threw water on Ferrari’s ambitions, but also hit psychologically teammate Prost at a very delicate point of the championship, with the obvious intention of raising doubts about his recent superiority. Prost blames the blow but reacts quite well: 


"I can approach these times too, but I found a lot of traffic. In the second qualifying round I will get under". 


Less positive, however, is the reaction of Ferrari that has wobbled a little under the lash of the opponent. Cesare Fiorio admits that:


"These are the current limits of our cars". 


And then he discovers that the type of circuit, very fast, but with three dry chicanes and a winding part, is not so suitable for Ferrari, as it requires those violent accelerations that instead seem to favor Honda engines. Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger also come out a bit 'hurt physically by the challenge. The Englishman must resort to the care of the doctor Bartoletti and the physiotherapist Tony Mathys for a blow to the back brought back by skipping a curb. A blow to the ribs near the spine. The Austrian has a bad neck and hands, in short, it is proven. In terms of starting line-up, therefore, no great news can be expected from the second day of practice. 


For Ferrari, hope is in the race on Sunday, on which the threat of rain also looms. Yet the Maranello team is the only rival capable of upsetting McLaren, as Benetton (P5 with Nannini and in progress) and Williams (P6 Patrese and P7 Boutsen) are even further away. The others are far apart. Just think that Brundle, with the Brabham, P9, first of the Pirelli wheel-drive drivers, is almost 5 seconds away, that the Minardi that had shone at Silverstone do not seem to be at ease on this track, poor Ivan Capelli struggling with a March very difficult to fine-tune did not go beyond the P20. The very lively day (in the morning there was also a tremendous bang of Raphanel in the pre-qualifications, with his Ags semi-destroyed and driver fortunately unharmed) did not end the usual market talks. Nicola Larini (eliminated not because of him with the Osella) appears a little discouraged, not so sure of being able to switch to Ferrari, nervous to have to wait for the response that Riccardo Patrese expects from Williams. His team until the end of July can hold him in suspense without telling him if he will be reconfirmed or not. The English team intends to use his option in negative or positive without anticipating decisions. Nicola Larini however has a couple of interesting offers: Ligier (Arnoux at the end of the championship should leave Formula 1 and in any case the French team will leave him free) and Tyrrell. Two good possibilities not only parking waiting to get to the Ferrari. 


"I can not always wait, without any kind of certainty, with the risk of staying with the palm of my nose". 


And the Italian driver also has his reasons. A thousandth of a second, equal to 6.85 cm, less than half a palm, makes Michele Alboreto happy. The 32-year-old driver from Milan managed to overcome the first pre-qualifying of his career, precisely with this minimum margin, eliminating Dalmas at the very last lap, when he seemed to be dead. For the young Frenchman the elimination smacks of mockery: he was denied the visa, while he started with the Ags, by a driver who drove his previous car, the Lola-Lamborghini. Says Michele Alboreto:


"I didn’t sleep because I was worried".


The Italian driver finds in the new team the engineer Forghieri who takes care of the engines and, for the first time, works with Gerard Ducarouge, one of the best known technicians of Formula 1. 


"I left a competitive car like Tyrrell without regrets, because I did not give in to compromises".


Pre-qualifying is reorganized, in the second half of the season, with several drivers and teams losing or gaining the right to advance without the need to pre-qualify. Brabham, Dallara and Rial scored enough points in the first rounds of the season to avoid Friday morning sessions completely. The Larrousse, with their Lola Lamborghini with V12 engine, have not obtained any points so far and must then pre-qualify for the Grand Prix. Philippe Alliot is now joined by Michele Alboreto, who had left Tyrrell following a sponsorship dispute, and replaces Éric Bernard. Among the novelties of pre-qualifying were also Roberto Moreno, who joined his teammate at Coloni Pierre-Henri Raphanel, and Gabriele Tarquini, who joined his teammate at AGS Yannick Dalmas in Friday morning sessions. Despite Tarquini’s sixth place at the Mexican Grand Prix, Minardi scored 3 points at Silverstone. Onyx also got only 2 points and is therefore forced to continue the pre-qualifying. Osella, EuroBrun and Zakspeed have not scored points so far and must therefore continue to do pre-qualifying. Bertrand Gachot is fastest in the pre-qualifying session for the third consecutive time, with his team-mate Onyx Stefan Johansson second. The two drivers of Larrousse-Lola are third and fourth, while Alboreto leads Dalmas in AGS by 0.001 seconds. Nicola Larini is sixth with his Osella, while his teammate Piercarlo Ghinzani is once again in difficulty in this stage, in eighth position. Moreno and Raphanel are ninth and tenth, while Gregor Foitek is eleventh with the new ER189 EuroBrun, not yet tested. 


The Zakspeed drivers finish at the bottom of the time standings, with Aguri Suzuki overtaking Bernd Schneider for the second time this season. It’s the usual speech, after much talk even the German Grand Prix will take place according to the usual theme: the McLaren on the run and Ferrari laboriously forced to chase. There is no doubt after the first practice sessions of these days, because on the level of speed Senna and Prost have clearly detached Mansell and Berger. It is true that qualifying is one thing and the race another, but there are enough indications to understand right now that the Brazilian and the Frenchman will immediately attack and the two opponents will not be able to do anything but try to keep the pace at all costs hoping for some pleasant surprise. But if the championship at the brand level lives on this tenuous team rivalry, the same cannot be said for the World Drivers Championship that once again sees the direct clash between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. The Brazilian tries to demolish his teammate psychologically, inflicting heavy detachments (even more than a second), as to make him understand that his leadership in the world rankings is only random and momentary. Ayrton Senna says at the end of the first day of practice:


"My goal is to win a second helmet. And to achieve that, I can’t afford to look anyone in the face. Prost has more points than me, he placed well and won some races in which I was forced to retire. But this does not mean that I feel beaten. Indeed there are further stimuli to go even stronger".


It is precisely on this situation of forcing, however, that French relies. Alain Prost knows very well that, under pressure, Senna could also make some mistakes, be led to overdo. And a couple of mistakes would be fatal to even the fastest Ayrton Senna, already twenty points behind and no longer able to accumulate the eleven results allowed, giving Prost an advantage too big. 


"Senna is an extraordinary driver, and in some cases there is nothing to do against him, at least in terms of lap times. The important thing for me, therefore, is not to focus on qualifying but on the races, where not only can I defend myself better but I feel that I am not inferior to equal means. For some time now Honda has provided me with good engines, everything is spun and is spinning in the best way, I do not see why the music should change. Sunday, of course, Ayrton will do everything to leave me behind and win a victory, the fourth season, which would be very convenient for him there ranking. But I will be glued to him like a shadow, ready to take advantage of favorable situations". 


The eve time threat in a double sense. Meteorology is not favorable, with ample rain forecasts. But even if there is a beautiful blue sky, there will be thunder and lightning on the track. This is a race in which often the World Championship has taken a precise direction, giving valid indications for the future but also and above all the measure of the true value of the moment of cars and drivers. In this no-holds-barred game involving the beloved enemies Senna and Prost, what role will Ferrari play? It has already been said: once again the pursuer. In Rio de Janeiro there was the surprise, in the first race of the season, of Nigel Mansell’s victory. Here, the chances of catching McLaren unprepared there are minimal, indeed zero. Only a little trouble, honestly, could put Senna and Prost in trouble. Or a small advantage for the Maranello team could come from the tires that the cars in certain circumstances have worn less than those rivals. And since at least one tyre change is already planned, this could be the central node of the ninth round of the World Championship. Also because Saturday, July 29, 1989, the second qualifying round does not change much: Ayrton Senna can not improve the fantastic time of Friday. The Brazilian on the first day had even sacrificed his car to performance. It was noticed in the evening, in fact, that by brutally skipping the chicanes, the World Champion had even compromised the chassis. And from England a new chassis arrived in a hurry (actually taken from a truck that was heading to Imola for some tests scheduled next week), mounted in the night by mechanics overwhelmed by fatigue. 


To honour their work, Senna tries to improve himself, but fails. He should have risked too much (in part he did, but a too violent skid brought him back to more mild advice) to go further. That is not even necessary. Prost earns a few thousandths, while the Ferraris remain in their positions: P3 Mansell, P4 Berger, without progress. A couple of steps ahead for the Williams cars of Patrese and Boutsen that overtook Nannini’s Benetton, taking them close to the cars of Maranello. It even sees Nelson Piquet, P8, author of the most beautiful leap forward of the day, with almost two seconds on the lap. And with him in evidence that Jean Alesi who took the place of Michele Alboreto at Tyrrell. The original Sicilian Alcamo French pigeon enchants everyone. P10 and a manual ride chasing the McLaren of Senna. By contrast, Michele Alboreto, on the Lola-Lamborghini, struggling with a clutch that works badly, after passing the pre-qualifying by 0.001 seconds, got the P26 and last place, with 0.016 seconds on Luis Sala, unnecessarily pulled in the wake by teammate Martini. A nice step forward for the Milanese who this time has detached the rival of 1 meter and 19 millimeters, an abyss compared to nothing the day before. The race, unfortunately threatened by thunderstorms precisely at the start, is theoretically in favor of McLaren, as Ferrari does not seem to adapt well to the type of track. Says Gerhard Berger:


"The car is fine but we lose acceleration at the exit of the three chicanes. It lacks the power of the engine at low rpm". 


And this is also the explanation of Mansell, who also drove like an obsessed (impressive about the camera footage on board the car). And so do the technicians of the Maranello team. Ferrari could bet on tires that perhaps consumes a little less than rivals, assuming that being forced to force to keep the pace is not then found in difficulty with the tyres. The Honda men, however, through the engineer Goto, let it be known that they will not be surprised in case of rain. 


"We should not have any problems in case of wet track because after the troubles in Montreal we conducted a simulated test in extreme conditions". 


Nothing is left to chance. Jealous of their secrets the Japanese gave strict orders. Ron Dennis, McLaren boss, has practically hunted with his finger off the engineer Pier Guido Castelli and engineer Paolo Massai, respectively technical and engine manager of Ferrari who had dared to face the pits of the British team where lay a ten-cylinder Honda on display. But the Japanese (who at the debut of the new Ferrari at Jerez had no regard for taking hundreds of photos) have the nerve to impress on their films everything that can be interesting. On Saturday, for example, there is no time to disassemble one of the small cameras (built in England) placed on the windshield of the Ferrari, which already the wide-angle lenses are in action. As for the World Championship, Ayrton Senna must win at least a couple of races to recover in the standings and psychologically disturb Alain Prost. The Brazilian does not attend the usual post-rehearsal press conference (10.000 USD fine) citing an illness. But he is fine, maybe he already thinks about the tactics to cage Prost and repel any Ferrari attacks. In a championship that even with some acute spectacularity can not shake the weight of a monochord theme, ie the duel between Senna and Prost, It is inevitable that you end up looking for some speech escape. And this year the chatter of the pits are all poured on the market drivers and technicians. A kind of theater, sometimes even fun. On Saturday someone says that the new man for Ferrari is Stefano Modena, driver of Brabham. But the interested person says: 


"I have a contract for next year with the English team. But there are no penalties in case of breakup. And so I could leave. But I’m fine where I am. And then nobody told me about the men of Maranello". 


And in the meantime there is also talk of a possible signing of Alain Prost to Ferrari. But didn’t he already sign with Williams? Here is the opinion of the British manufacturer: 


"Prost? I would, I would. But don’t you go to Ferrari?"


Turning the question to Cesare Fiorio, head of the Maranello team, the answer, serious and also a little annoyed, is this:


"Prost? We have no contact with him whatsoever. We never spoke". 


Has anyone contacted the French sample on your behalf? 


"We don’t know". 


So what happens next? 


"We have two or three open talks. A decision will be made after the Italian Grand Prix in Monza". 


Mystery. And Larini? Someone says he was caught in the middle, in a game bigger than him. But in reality the young Tuscan meanwhile received a couple of interesting proposals (Tyrrell and Ligier). However, Nelson Piquet will agree: 


"Prost told me last night that he won’t be running next year. He wants to rest for a season. Then maybe he will. And he won’t be the only one to quit. Senna will also retire, but at the end of 1990". 


Is it true or false? Of course the Lotus Brazilian wouldn’t mind the two party poopers getting out of the way. He, Nelson, is going to race again for three years. Sunday, July 30, 1989 start the engines. The visor lowers, the roar becomes loud, the light is red. Adrenaline rushes, pulsations that rise to the maximum: in the cockpits the drivers, with their eyes on the first corner are motionless. Then all of a sudden, it’s green and it’s crazy. Twenty-six cars fired, each of which would like to pass at least the neighbor in a row, to prove he’s better. The ritual is repeated almost every two Sundays, from April to November. It is the spectacle of Formula 1, the sport of thrill, of forced speed. With the protagonists, the foot pressed on the accelerator, who risk without thinking about the danger. And people in the stands live this dramatic moment with great exaltation. The pilots are the slaves of a golden world, some just to assert their personality (like Senna, already rich in family), others declared mercenaries in search of luck, ready for anything to enter the jet-society of executive planes, helicopters, luxury yachts, beautiful women, fame. But huge industrial interests weigh on their shoulders. An all-out battle between image and research, with investments of hundreds of millions of dollars. Not always what is experienced on a single-seater racing is transferred to the cars of series, but often ahead of time, is part of an advanced experimentation. The prestige and notoriety of Ferrari collide with the thirst for success of Honda, the power of Ford must reckon with the ambitions of the little Lamborghini. 


Everything is then mixed in the explosive cocktail of the race in an exasperated competitive atmosphere, where individuality is absolute, where even the teammate is considered a rival, indeed the most dangerous opponent. And also Sunday, July 30, 1989, in the German Grand Prix the leitmotif is identical: Senna against Prost, Ferrari against McLaren and others to hope for the mistakes and misfortunes of the favorites. For Ayrton, who came to the circuit for the rest of the race weekend, in addition to the pole won, there is also a curious victory obtained on the German roads at the expense of the Italian journalist Nestore Morosini. In fact, during the morning, while the well-known Italian journalist is on the motorway from Heidelberg to Hockenheim at the wheel of a Thema with a Ferrari 8-cylinder V engine and 240 horsepower, in front of him he sees a Honda 1.6 with Ayrton Senna at the wheel. Nestore glances at Ayrton, smiles and greets him with his hand, before accelerating: it is open challenge between the two. Convinced that he could win, before the exit for Hockenheim, Morosini is in front of two overtaking trucks. The one who is overcoming has begun the maneuver, so Morosini pulls up thinking that Ayrton inside a truck can not pass. Morosini is happy and convinced of the idea of having beaten the reigning world champion, when on his right passes very fast Ayrton, who slips between the two trucks touching them and vanishes at the exit of Hockenheim. On the ten kilometers of countryside, the Italian journalist has a nice chase on curves and bends, but reach Senna is impossible. Then, arriving at the parking lot, Morosini parks his car and starts towards the paddock, before hearing behind his back a voice - halfway between Italian and Brazilian - that tells him:


"Morozini, il Campeon del mundo sono yo".


Morosini turns and sees Ayrton astride on a fence, who had waited for him in the parking lot with a mocking smile printed on his face. The German Grand Prix starts with Ayrton Senna on pole position and Alain Prost at his side. At the start, Gerhard Berger with his semi-automatic Ferrari started strong from the fourth position, passing both Senna and Prost and his team-mate Mansell to take the lead in the first corner, with Senna, Prost and Mansell following in succession. At the start Philippe Alliot leaves the track after being touched from behind by Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi, and loses control of his Lola, ending up spinning in the grass. The Italian driver managed to get back in but his race lasted only 20 laps before his Lamborghini developed an oil leak. His new team-mate Michele Alboreto was forced to leave his first race with Larrousse just after Turn 1, on lap 2, due to a breakdown in the electrical system of his car. Alboreto qualified in P26, with a lead of just 0.016 seconds over Luis Pérez-Sala’s Minardi. Berger’s lead lasts about a quarter of a lap, as Ayrton Senna’s more powerful Honda V10 engines overtake Gerhard Berger before the first chicane, and Alain Prost overtakes the Austrian driver at Ostkurve. At the start of the second lap, Senna is leading ahead of Prost, Berger, Mansell, Thierry Boutsen (Williams-Renault), Alessandro Nannini (Benetton-Ford), Emanuele Pirro (Benetton-Ford), Riccardo Patrese (Williams-Renault) and Nelson Piquet (Lotus-Judd). McLaren’s Senna and Prost, and Ferrari’s Mansell and Berger begin to break away, while Benetton’s Pirro and Nannini and Williams’s Patrese barely resist (Boutsen retires on lap 5, after being punched by Pirro at Bremsschikane 2). On lap 14, after Nigel Mansell chased Gerhard Berger closely for two laps, a tire from the Austrian driver suffers a puncture just near the first chicane, and the single-seater gets on the cut line, throwing the Ferrari mid-air, landing on a patch of grass and crossing the track, avoiding for a few centimeters the car of Nigel Mansell and arriving to settle on the grass at the edge of the track. 


Alain Prost pressed Ayrton Senna for 16 laps, until he entered the pits to make the pit stop and replace the tires; but the stop is slow and lasts 18 seconds. This episode favors Nigel Mansell, who rises to second place and gives Ayrton Senna a huge advantage. The next lap, Mansell entered the pits to change tires: the Ferrari pit stop is faster than that made by McLaren with Alain Prost (11 seconds), but still not enough to keep the second place. Back on track, the Englishman drops to fourth place behind Senna, Pirro and Prost. Senna decides to take advantage of his advantage and goes back to the pits to change tires; however, his stop is even worse than that of Prost, with a duration of 23 seconds. This brings him down to second place behind Prost and Pirro, who entered the pits for tyre changes, will drop to fourth place. During lap 26 Emanuele Pirro crashes into the polystyrene barriers at the entrance of the stadium and must be taken to the hospital after one of the barriers hits his helmet. With Mansell having trouble with his Ferrari, Senna and Prost are fighting all the way through the race alone, as both drivers are driving to the limit. The two began to score record laps and Prost held his own against Senna for most of the race. Until, at lap 43, Prost’s gearbox failed: the French driver lost the sixth gear (the upper) and Senna passed him to turn 11. Prost continued slowly for the next two laps, while Ayrton Senna regularly covered the kilometres that separated him from his fourth win of the season, followed by Prost, Mansell, Patrese, Piquet and Derek Warwick (Arrows-Ford). A small cog decided the German Grand Prix and gave Ayrton Senna the fourth win of the season, the number 18 of his career, allowing the Brazilian to shorten the distance in the standings from team-mate Alain Prost, second. Ferrari, as usual, was the first of the other teams, with Nigel Mansell in third place. The decisive episode took place in lap 43 of the 45 laps of the race: Prost was in the lead with a second ahead of Senna. A fierce struggle, already a glowing finale was expected. But suddenly, the Frenchman’s McLaren slowed down, giving the Brazilian a free pass. Says Alain Prost at the end of the race:


"I missed the sixth gear, I could not risk in straight line and I no longer had the necessary maximum speed". 


In a few seconds the reigning World Champion took the lead by knocking off Prost. The second place this time is not acceptable. The Frenchman had fought with great determination, showing himself even in very tight overtakings. Just the overtaking too fearful in recent times had caused him criticism. But the ninth round of the World Championship, if he scored valuable points to the advantage of Ayrton Senna, he also said that McLaren is unbeatable if everything runs smoothly. Indeed, it highlighted an impressive reaction capacity on the part of the British team. Those who thought or hoped for psycho-technical failure, were wrong. Once again there were two separate races. 


On the one hand McLaren-Honda, on the other the rest of Formula 1. Mansell’s Ferrari ended with 1'23"254 behind (although the British driver to keep the position from mid-race did not pull anymore). It’s all said and done. And of the twelve cars classified, nine were dubbed, even several times. It’s useless at this point to have illusions, especially in Ferrari. In an attempt to keep the McLaren pace, some drivers forced and there were also two spectacular accidents, fortunately without serious damage. Gerhard Berger flew into the air with his Ferrari on lap 14, as he faced the first chicane. The left rear tyre of the car burst. The Austrian failed to maintain control of the car launched at full speed, Ferrari jumped the curbs, soared, lost the front wing and finally stuck in the sand. There is a suspicion, if not certainty, that the tyre exploded as a result of the blows received by jumping on the kerbs of the chicanes. A maneuver made in continuation from Berger in order to file the trajectories, and therefore the times. A doubt also concerns another, more dramatic incident that occurred to Emanuele Pirro with Benetton. In fourth position behind Mansell, the Roman driver, while trying to recover on the Ferrari, finished straight at the entrance of the Motodrom. The car skidded on the left, climbed on the curb and then knocked down a series of polystyrene blocks placed to protect. Light blocks, but that hit at 200 km/h are still resistant. The car jumped and Pirro got a bump on his foot, some bruising on his tibia and a small cut. Nothing serious, but the Roman already at first glance fainted from shock. The scene was dramatic, because they feared much more serious injuries. Some people suspected that he had given up a suspension (like Nannini in France) but the driver later said that the car had been breaking down in braking for some time. On lap 5, Pirro crashed into Boutsen’s Williams, which spun and was forced to retire. For the rest the race has recorded the beautiful fight between Prost and Senna, tangled by disastrous tyre changes for McLaren (Prost slowed down by a clutch problem, Senna by a wheel nut that had jammed). 


The Frenchman had entered the pits first to replace the tires when he was second behind his teammate for less than 1 second. He did it with a 28-second disadvantage. Senna did the delicate operation shortly after and Alain finished in the lead for 3.2 seconds. From that moment the two engaged a head-to-head duel that inflamed the race. It was at this point that the Frenchman held out and made brave voice-overs, trying to keep the foe in pursuit at a distance. Prost even increased his margin (up to 4 seconds), but then inexorably Senna carried in his wake. When everyone gasped for the final attack and the leader’s reaction, the twist of the broken march. Behind, Mansell began to slow down from mid-race, now convinced that he could not grab McLaren and at the distance the remaining points were won by Patrese with a Williams unwavering, the increasingly lively Piquet and the tough Warwick. Of note the good performance of the young Alesi, tenth despite a wretched spin that made him lose a lap, and the sacrifice races of Martini (P9 with the bottom of the car detached) and De Cesaris (P7), the only driver at the finish without changing tires (at least the Pirelli are resistant). There was a painful side for Ayrton Senna, on the day when the Brazilian interrupted the negative series of retirements (four consecutive) winning a painful and lucky victory. On Saturday evening, his dear friend, agent and prosecutor Armando Botelho, who had long been sick with cancer, died in São Paulo, Brazil. A man to whom the pilot had been attached since childhood. The tragic news was kept hidden from Senna. Ayrton, after learning about her, even knowing that her friend’s condition was desperate, breaks down in tears. He’ll probably give up rehearsals at Imola to attend the funeral. Previously, tired, struck by Prost’s strenuous resistance, the Brazilian had said: 


"I wasn’t sure I could do it. I had recovered a few seconds fighting hard. So I won with a little luck. Fate paid off my injuries for the last month. For the championship I am still uphill even if my position is now much better, despite the gap of 17 points. I think the next race in Hungary will be decisive". 


At the end of the race, Ayrton Senna blamed the mechanic for replacing the rear tyre, indicating that the latter had previously worked on Prost’s car, so he demanded that Ron Dennis no longer work for his car. This is because the long stop took place after that of Alain Prost, also very long. Alain Prost is very upset and tense, although for other reasons, he says at the end of the race:


"Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. When I realized that I no longer had the sixth gear, I was surprised: two laps from the end is a bad blow. I couldn’t do anything, just finish second at least. This race, we’ll see later, will be very important in the fight for the title. The points that Senna took are worth double, indeed triple: he won his fourth victory against my four, he took precious points from me. In short, a good luck". 


Great disappointment also for Nannini, almost immediately betrayed by the electronics of his Benetton. 


"I could take the Ferraris and I had to look at the others from the pits". 


Even worse for Pyrrhus. The Roman, after fear of the accident and fainting, will be forced to spend the next nine days, waiting for the Hungarian Grand Prix, in the clinic of physiotherapist Mathis in Austria to recover. Two words by Riccardo Patrese: 


"My Williams was unwavering. With the second set of tyres I had such strong vibrations that I couldn’t even see the track. The gearbox was like a boulder, hard to maneuver. A fourth place really suffered".


Ferrari’s bad days continue. Nigel Mansell’s third place is not comforting. Cesare Fiorio, as always, in his right role as defender of the team, emphasizes the positive aspects of the result, but it is clear that within himself the commander of Maranello can not be satisfied. The rehearsals of the previous week and the new-found reliability had fueled some hope. Instead the race has shown crudely how Prost and Senna are still impregnable. Other than the dreamy overtaking. Says Cesare Fiorio: 


"At the beginning we kept the pace, even though we knew we couldn’t win. And it had to be said that it wasn’t the fastest car to chase the McLaren. Then, after about twenty laps, when Prost and Senna started their great challenge, since we could not reach them now, we thought to keep the placement, looking for points and results". 


Fiorio did not openly accuse Berger of having somewhat slowed Mansell down. But beware: in stating that it was not the fastest car to look for the coupling, he implicitly pointed out that the Austrian has, in his opinion, prevented the Englishman from racing more. The two pilots on this duel give conflicting versions. 


"Berger was faster in the straights and I couldn’t get past him. I’m still happy. I’m going home now because I want to spend some time with my kids. I didn’t understand much about Berger’s accident: I only saw the smoke from the tyres because he was braking too late. As for the race it is clear that we are not competitive with McLaren. They beat us in speed and especially in acceleration". 


Gerhard Berger, who also took a good fear, has thus beaten all the records of consecutive retirements of a Ferrari driver. He was tied with Alboreto and Amon at eight, in Hockenheim he became the absolute record holder with nine abandonments, one behind the other, not counting the forfeit of Monte-Carlo after the dramatic exit at Imola. The Austrian says: 


"It’s a really bad year. I struggled to resist Mansell’s attacks because his car had more engine. As for my flight, I could not do anything: when the rear tire suddenly collapsed, I lost control of the car. Too bad, because it could have been a good race. Obviously McLaren were on another planet". 


Finally, the technical manager, Castelli, says: 


"That was what we expected after all. Berger pulled and his car took a beating. That might explain the gum bursting. It is however understandable because it wants to get some good results and prove its validity intact. We just have to work". 


John Barnard only arrived on Sunday morning and seemed more interested in some details of the cars than the set. It is confirmed an interest of Ford for his collaboration in the event of building a gearbox with electronic control. On Tuesday, July 1, 1989, Ferrari, McLaren and other teams will take part in a series of tests at Imola that will end at the end of the week. And so, a long column of brightly colored trucks heads south traveling at the maximum speed allowed. It is the majority of Formula 1 teams that move to forced stages at Imola. There is not even a stop between one Grand Prix and another. On the Romagna track will prepare the next appointment in Hungary, but also and above all the cars will be sharpened for the season finale. The success of Ayrton Senna on Prost and yet another victory, indeed triumph, of McLaren have brought things back on track. The rebellion of the French driver in the title fight was at the time touched and all attempts to thwart the cars of the English team punished. It must be said that the staff of Ron Dennis and the men of Honda have returned the white-red cars in a position of absolute tranquility, given the overwhelming superiority shown in the German Grand Prix: 1.7 seconds to Ferrari in qualifying, 1'23"0 to Mansell in the race and all other detached at least one lap. Yet McLaren is not resting on its laurels. Ayrton Senna left for Brazil, grief-stricken by the death of his friend and prosecutor Armando Botelho, and Alain Prost had to endure four or five days of testing in Imola. So the Frenchman will have the opportunity, in some way, to find valid solutions to solve the problems at the gearbox that made him lose the race. Or anyway to stop the pursuit of the unleashed teammate who passed him two laps from the end due to the failure of the sixth gear. Ferrari will also be present on the Romagna circuit. The program (with Berger as test driver) involves the study of the car’s structure and a series of checks on small innovations to be tested. Says the engineer Castelli:


"We still have several things to develop, both in terms of engine aerodynamics and mechanics". 


The Maranello team, however, seems to be crushed between present and future. You can not abandon the development of the current car, but at the same time it is already almost late to think about what will have to compete in the next championship. It is a nagging problem that Cesare Fiorio must face, as there are still some joints in the mosaic of the organization chart to complete the picture. Above all it is necessary to find a person who has experience and ability to coagulate the various technical sectors, that is, a substitute for Barnard. This is not easy because the market offers nothing interesting. Another question concerns Gerhard Berger. After signing the Austrian champion for McLaren, whose value nobody denies, it became difficult to manage. In short, Berger acts as an independent, speaks freewheel and is no longer an element of the complex, but a free driver in all respects. The start, for another beautiful, in Hockenheim, in which he squeezed a little' team mate Mansell, the race until the accident of lap 13 (by the way, it was ascertained that the tire collapsed because the rim had hit earlier) that slowed down the Austrian causing him to lose more quickly than would inevitably happen, the contact with McLaren are small episodes that confirm a situation certainly not ideal. These are the mined terrain on which Ferrari must move. You can not disappoint the fans, you have to try to get at least another victory before the end of the season, but you need to think about the future by setting a program that allows that recovery to date not yet achieved. 


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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