#380 1983 Detroit Grand Prix

2022-08-30 00:00

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#1983, Fulvio Conti, Maria Ginevra Ferretti,

#380 1983 Detroit Grand Prix

On Sunday, May 29, 1983, Sandro Pertini returned to Modena after three years. A brief stop, lasting a total of eighteen hours (starting on Saturday ev


On Sunday, May 29, 1983, Sandro Pertini returned to Modena after three years. A brief stop, lasting a total of eighteen hours (starting on Saturday evening with a dinner at the Fini restaurant, where he was presented with a petition for the desaparecidos), to attend the solemn ceremony of the Mac P 100 of the military academy cadets, the handover between the students of one course and those of the next, and to privately visit Enzo Ferrari. In Maranello, at the racing department, the Head of State arrived around 9:00 a.m. aboard a Maserati 5000 four-door.


"Dear Ferrari, I really wanted to meet you; with your cars, you bring honor to Italy".


Pertini said, greeting the Engineer who awaited him at the entrance of what he called his small artisan university. A warm handshake, followed by a visit to the establishment on Viale Ascari, with a stop on the test track and at the workshop where the technicians of Maranello were fine-tuning the 126 C3, the new Formula 1 model that would soon be available to Patrick Tambay and René Arnoux for the Grand Prix of the World Championship. Pertini and Ferrari had never met before. Enzo Ferrari recounts:


"For me, it was a great satisfaction".


What did you talk about?


"We talked about things that smell of memories, reviewing past drivers, from Bugatti to Brilli Peri to Tazio Nuvotori, up to Niki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve, whose death saddened Pertini, who admired him so much for his fighting spirit".


As a passionate sportsman, the President of the Republic showed keen interest in Ferrari's activities, of which he was an old admirer. When someone pointed out that Pertini arrived in Maranello in a Maserati, the Engineer said:


"If I'm not mistaken, Maserati is a car from Modena. And besides, we have never built four-door cars".


For his part, Sandro Pertini said:


"I watch all Formula 1 Grand Prix races".


And he asked Enzo Ferrari:


"In your opinion, who will win the World Championship this year? Will Ferrari make it?"


The Engineer took refuge in a no comment, so Pertini asked him what he thought of Tambay and Arnoux. The meeting concluded at 10:00 a.m. with an affectionate farewell. Pertini said, bidding farewell to Ferrari:


"I'll return to Rome in the early afternoon, in time to watch the National Team's match against Sweden on television".


Ferrari replied:


"At least at the beginning, I'll watch it too, then I'll decide depending on how things go. You know, feeling bad, not only with motor racing but also with football...".


A quick race along Via Giardini and the presidential convoy arrived in Piazza Grande around 11:00 a.m., packed with people, behind the magnificent Gothic Cathedral built by Willigelmo in 1100 and the Ghirlandina tower, for the ceremony of passing the baton among the cadets. A short speech by the commander of the military academy, General Re, then, in front of the lined-up platoons in front of the stage. At 2:00 p.m., Pertini, greeted by a long applause, left the academy to return to Rome by plane from Bologna. Meanwhile, the circus arrived in Detroit, the American capital of cars, for another Formula 1 city Grand Prix. The track is the same, designed around the skyscrapers of the Renaissance Center, with some small modifications: the Jefferson Street hairpin, the slowest point, has disappeared, and the chicane in front of the pits has been adjusted, now less pronounced. In short, you can go faster. Where last year you went into first gear, now you go into third, and where you used to shift into second, you now go into fourth. The manholes, bumps, rails, and patches on the asphalt are still there.


"A kangaroo circuit".


say the drivers. Nelson Piquet, after completing a lap, emphasizes:


"In some parts of the circuit, it's hair-raising. It's very dangerous. At the pit chicane, you risk hitting the guardrail head-on. Nothing has been done for safety".


Although drivers protest only verbally, Detroit is still a race where more or less all the best have a chance of success (for example, last year's victory by John Watson), and turbocharged and naturally aspirated cars will be almost equal. At least Keke Rosberg hopes so: for the World Champion, it is perhaps one of the last opportunities to score points for a first-place finish. The Ferrari team is calm. Mauro Forghieri stays in Italy to work on the new car that should debut at Silverstone (the English track should also see the debut of the McLaren-Porsche turbo for Lauda and a new Lotus-Renault developed by technician Ducarouge). The Maranello drivers are rather cautious. René Arnoux says:


"I just hope to end the dark period and finally manage to finish a race, preferably in the points zone".


The same goal for Tambay:


"My program doesn't foresee a big result in Detroit. I've never raced on this circuit. I'd be satisfied if one of my direct rivals in the title fight, Prost and Piquet, doesn't win".


On Friday, June 3, 1983, a real downpour disrupts the first day of official practice for the Detroit Grand Prix, the seventh event of the World Championship. The cars on the city circuit of the Renaissance Center resemble speedboats, leaving long trails of liquid dust. Visibility is poor, making it dangerous to proceed. The track, risky due to jumps and rough asphalt, causes numerous incidents, fortunately without consequences for the drivers. In such a precarious situation, the turbos had to bow to the old naturally aspirated engine, more flexible and reliable in these conditions: the best time was set by the usual Keke Rosberg, skillfully driving his Williams. The Finn clocked in at 2'06"382, more than a second ahead of Jarier (Ligier) and Mansell (with the Lotus Cosworth). 


The first turbocharged car is the Alfa Romeo: De Cesaris sets the fourth time with a lap of 2'08"034. The Ferraris are struggling: Arnoux (eighth fastest) has engine problems twice and is also involved in a spin. Tambay crashes into a protection wall, breaking the front wing. Other off-track excursions involve almost all competitors, from Guerrero to Prost, Winkelhock, Mansell, Rosberg himself, Laffite, who performs a spectacular triple spin, to Patrese, Fabi, and Arnoux. In short, a day full of unexpected events and difficult for everyone. In the morning, the rain was less intense, and the best performance was achieved by De Angelis (Lotus-Renault) with a significantly lower time: 2'01"269. Then, the sky darkened even more. On the tops of the skyscrapers, there is even a kind of sleet storm, which turns into frozen rain at ground level. However, the weather forecast is optimistic enough: on Saturday, in the second day of practice, there is a chance of rain, but with a lower percentage, and sunshine is expected for the race. The practices, therefore, cannot have a significant meaning except to reaffirm Rosberg's usual commitment, very skilled in the most difficult situations, and with a car always balanced and reliable. The drivers' opinions regarding the new layout of the circuit are mixed. Cheever says he likes the track a lot, even though the new curve replacing the former hairpin in the middle of the track is quite challenging. De Angelis, on the other hand, says:


"We shouldn't race in Detroit in these conditions. Unfortunately, we are forced to, but it's not right to have races like this on a circuit that doesn't allow the slightest mistake. If any accident were to happen, the consequences could be very serious".


The turbocharged cars face the greatest difficulties. For example, the Brabham has Piquet in seventeenth place and Patrese even in twenty-sixth, the last valid for qualification. Among the news of the day, the absence of March, which is not present in Detroit, probably due to financial difficulties, and the announcement that the New York Grand Prix has been postponed in the calendar for the time being. The organizers, who have not yet prepared the track, have requested the race to take place on September 23 instead of at the beginning of the month, as originally planned. On Saturday, June 4, 1983, with a coup, surprising all opponents, Ferrari secures the first and third positions in the starting lineup of the Detroit Grand Prix. After placing René Arnoux in pole position and Patrick Tambay on the second row behind his teammate and Nelson Piquet, the Maranello team can hope for a brilliant result that allows them to stay in the upper ranks of the championship. It won't be an easy race: the Detroit track hides a thousand pitfalls for cars and drivers, and starting at the front is a considerable advantage. It was experience, combined with a bit of luck, that allowed Ferrari to achieve the third pole position after Long Beach and Imola. Following Friday's rain, the asphalt of the circuit is not yet perfectly dry, although it can be pushed to the limit. In the morning, the Maranello team spent its time in non-timed practice to fine-tune the cars, while others had already sought performance, with Piquet being the fastest ahead of Alboreto, Prost, De Angelis, and Cheever. As the green light, signaling the start of the final qualifying session, Arnoux and Tambay launch their attack. Many rivals, on the other hand, prefer to wait, believing that the track could improve with the passing minutes. Arnoux, very fast, on the third lap, after dangerously skimming a wall, stops the stopwatch at 1'44"734 (at an average speed of 134.974 km/h), a nice record on such a narrow and angular track. Behind him immediately come Piquet, Tambay, De Angelis, the surprising Surer (the first of the drivers with a naturally aspirated engine), and Alboreto. Twelve minutes after the start, the sun also appears. The heat, evidently, warms the asphalt that exudes the moisture of the past days. From this moment, the cars become undriveable, and for various drivers like Prost, Cheever, De Cesaris, there is nothing more to be done. Recovery is impossible. This also explains the poor placement of Patrese (fifteenth) and Rosberg (twelfth). Arnoux and Tambay themselves later take to the track but return shaking their heads. Patrick Tambay says:


"It was like being on sand; the cars went wherever they wanted, and there was no longer any traction or grip".


While René Arnoux explains, pleased with the qualifying result:


"Starting in pole position gives me a lot of confidence. Overtaking on this circuit is difficult with equal cars. It's the sixteenth time in my career that I start ahead of everyone. I just hope not to have any surprises".


For Tambay, the race will be challenging anyway.


"It will become important to finish. Whoever reaches the finish line will be in the points, and that's my main goal, hoping to leave Piquet behind, who will be the toughest opponent".


A significant uncertainty looms over the race. The teams have not yet announced whether they will refuel midway through the race. There is some pre-tactic, team managers are keeping an eye on each other. Leaving with a half-full tank and the possibility of changing tires after about thirty laps could be a winning move but also a losing one precisely because of the difficulties posed by lapping. Local bookmakers favor Piquet, but unexpected twists like last year with Watson are not ruled out. Much will also depend on the choice of tires, which is why, along with Ferrari, Renault and De Angelis' Lotus (which seems to have immediately benefited from the work of technician Ducarouge) will be contenders for victory. Alboreto and the usual Rosberg will be in the role of outsiders. An uncertain, spectacular, and dangerous race, with many challenging points on the track and many drivers eager to win. On Sunday, June 5, 1983, by all accounts the whole scene is very orderly and the crowd is enjoying themselves without getting unruly and a guesstimated 100.000 people are watching the overall scene from afar, outside the confines of the circuit, but they cannot see very much, apart from the gigantic Rennaissance Centre in the middle of the circuit. With the race due to start at 12:15 p.m. the half-hour warm-up is bright and early at 9.15 a.m. and it really is June, the traditional height of summer, like days gone by. Everything is running very smoothly, the only unknown quantity being whether everyone of any importance is going to go through the pit-stop routine. Gordon Murray starts the pit-stop lark last year in order to gain an advantage over his rivals, but they all catch on to it which put everyone on to the same footing. Neither Tyrrell nor McLaren subscribe to the pit-stop idea, deciding to keep plodding on regardless, but Ligier, Williams and Lotus with Cosworth power go to the half a tank of fuel routine. Now there is a change of attitude and while Ferrari and Alfa Romeo make no bones about their refuelling routine, others are a bit guarded, Williams saying they might or they might not. 


Gordon Murray is saying nothing, merely looking at enquirers through his black John Lennon-type spectacles with a non-committal look on his face. It is all good gamesmanship that fills in the time before the start. Because the circuit has been changed the race distance is reduced from 62 laps to 61 laps to avoid the chance of running over the maximum permitted two hours, and at 11:45 a.m. the pit lane is open and everyone except the unfortunate Corrado Fabi drive round for a lap and line up on the grid. Cecotto, Watson, Cheever, Prost, Sullivan, Tambay, Mansell, Jarier and de Angelis all take a second lap and Rosberg and Laffite take two extra laps. With everyone running nicely to time the 26 cars set off on their warm pu lap, led by Amouxs Ferrari. As they reappear, with the two red Ferraris one behind the other on the left of the road and the sleek blue and white Brabham of Nelson Piquet on the right, something tells you that the Brazilian is going to be leading into the first corner. As de Cesaris arrives at his grid position his Alfa Romeo engine stalls and he promptly waves his arms frantically. The quick thinking girl marshal who has just withdrawn her marker board promptly puts it out again and waves it energetically. Derek Ongaro has not put the red count-down light on at this point, so he aborts the start with the starr delayed board and everyone switches off. There is the regulation five minute delay before the restart and regulation reduction of the race distance by one lap, from 61 laps to 60 laps now. Round they go on another warm up lap and this time all is well, everyone stops in position, all the marker boards are withdrawn, the red light comes on and Elio de Angelis takes off from his position in the second row behind Piquet and is actually alongside the Brabham as the green light comes on and the field surges forward. Tambays Ferrari leaps forward a length and stopps suddenly, as the driver stalls the engine. 


Miraculously everyone misses the stationary Ferrari and the race is on, with Piquet into the lead as expected, followed by Arnouxs Ferrari and the Lotus-Renault of de Angelis third, but already the Stewards are sending a note to Peter Warr to tell him his driver has been penalised a minute for a really blatant piece of start-jumping. While the 25 cars cover the opening lap a breakdown truck rapidly tows Tambays Ferrari into a safe place and then Piquet leads the field through the fast chicane. By the end of the second lap he and Arnoux have pulled out a substantial lead over de Angelis, who himself is well ahead of de Cesaris who is leading, Alboreto, Warwick, Rosberg, Cheever, Boutsen, Prost and Surer. By a confused mistake on the part of the start line officials Tambays Ferrari is not push-started, as it could have been, and he is left fuming in the pit lane. As Ghinzani trickles into the pits to retire the Osella-Alfa Romeo V12 at the end of lap five, Eddie Cheever has already stopped his Renault out on the circuit with ignition failure, and just as de Angelis starts his sixth lap the Lotus transmission breaks its crownwheel and pinion, so his penalisation is nullified and that demon start has availed him nothing. By the completion of only six laps we are down to 22 cars, and Corrado Fabi must have wondered about the injustice of qualifying eliminating one car from the grid. Already a pattern has formed, with Arnoux pressuring Piquet for the lead, already a long way ahead of de Cesaris leading Alboreto and Rosberg. About the length of the pit straight behind comes Warwick, his Toleman-Hart running well and keeping ahead of a depressed Alain Prost who has broken a front nose fin, he says on Boutsens rear wheel, but marshals report he has done it on a barrier. Whatever the reason, it has upset the stability of the Renault and Prost is not a driver to press on regardless under difficulties. Boutsen is keeping up with the Renault and is ahead of Patrese, so this is enough excuse for the Italian to head for the pits for a rear set of tyres, as if they are going to make any difference to the way he is driving. The Brabham team has him out on a harder set of tyres and with some more petrol in the tank in double-quick time, but the stop has put him back to 19th place so he has no hope of getting anywhere and he gives up before half-distance complaining about brakes this time. 


Jarier is another one to blame his inability to keep up on his tyres and he stops at the Ligier pit for another set, in a vain hope that by some magic they would not only make up for the time lost, but give him increased speed. All this was before even ten laps have been run, and in eighth place is Thierry Boutsen with the Arrows and in ninth place Roberto Guerrero with the Theodore, both young drivers simply getting on with the job with what they have got. On the tenth lap Arnoux eases his way by Piquet and takes the lead, but the little Brazilian is not too worried as he knows he is going to run through non-stop and everyone knows the Ferrari is going to make a stop. Rosberg now begins to get into his stride and after passing the Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris he begins to close up on Piquet. The Ferrari pit is well awake to the situation and rather than give Arnoux his lead over Piquet, they indicate to him the gap back to Rosberg because they are not too sure that the Williams team are planning a pit-stop. Arnoux, on softer tyres and with less petrol load than Piquet, is pulling away steadily, endeavouring to build up a big enough time differential to allow for his stop, while Rosberg, in a similar state to Arnoux, is right behind the Brabham and goes by into second place on lap 20, but still Piquet is not unduly worried. A long way back and no danger to the status quo comes Alboreto in his DFY Mk.2 powered Tyrrell, staying just ahead of Warwicks Toleman-Hart. Then comes de Cesaris and Laffite, followed by Boutsen, Sullivan and Watson. The other Arrows driven by Surer have been reported to be losing fluid, thought to be oil by the course marshals. He is black-flagged into the pits but no leak can be found and he goes out again only to be reported again that fluid is still coming out of somewhere. Another stop reveals some paper caught up in one of the radiators which is causing the engine to run hot and the liquid is water from the radiator overflow. By the time all this has been sorted out the Swiss driver has lost over a lap. Lauda is another driver to feel unhappy about his position, behind the likes of Sullivan and Guerrero, and the only way to negate the embarrassment is to blame the tyres and stop for another set (as if it would make any difference to his attitude). In contrast Watson is driving his McLaren round neatly and tidily and every time anyone goes into the pits, for whatever reason, he moves up a place. Prost has stopped for a tyre change which has moved Watson up a place, then Warwick stops to investigate a misfire in his Hart engine and Watson moves up one more, and so it goes on. Warwick does one more lap and then gives up with an internal malady in his engine. 


Guerrero is in the pits with his Theodore and Watson moves up another place, and his smooth consistent driving is paying off yet again. An effective way of getting results, but not exactly motor racing in the Villeneuve/Rosberg style. As half-distance approached there is a bustle of activity in the Ferrari and Williams pits, which are adjacent at the head of the pit lane, and signals make it clear that Arnoux and Rosberg are both coming in at the end of lap 29. Sure enough the Ferrari arrive, stopping perfectly without any fuss, and in a flash fuel is in, new wheels on and the red car is away as Rosberg heads for the pit lane in his Williams. Arnoux is back in the race without losing the lead, but the Williams stop is not so slick and Piquet, Alboreto and Laffite go by before the World Champion is back on the track. The Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris would go by as he hasnt made his pit stop at this point, so when it is all over the order is Arnoux still in the lead, Piquet second, Alboreto third, Laffite briefly in fourth place as he is due to stop, and then Rosberg. In sixth place is John Watson, ahead of Boutsen, but only because the Belgian has let the McLaren go by. In only his second Grand Prix Boutsen is still learning, and his driving position is not perfect and he is tiring physically; this causes a lapse in concentration and he gets into an enormous slide through the chicane which is only sorted out by sheer luck. As he has Sullivan and Watson close behind he eases up a bit and let them go by, whereupon Sullivans Tyrrell breaks down and Watson finds himself sixth. He isnt doing an heroic drive though the field from the back, as the media seemed to think, the front is destroying itself in front of him. On lap 32 Arnoux is reported to be slowing, then Piquet goes by and the Ferrari stops with a fault in its electronic system for the fuel-injection, so everyone moves up a place, and at the end of the lap Laffite makes his scheduled pit stop and those close behind him move up another place. The order now is Piquet, Alboreto, Rosberg, Watson, de Cesaris, Laffite, Boutsen, Prost and Cecotto, with the last named about to be lapped by the leader. Piquet has it made now, as he is running right through without a stop and there is no way Alboreto, Rosberg and Watson are going to challenge him. The race is being run at the pace provided by a trio of good Cosworth engines, Alboreto with a Mk.2 DFY, Rosberg with the Williams-Judd special DFV and Watson with a production DFY. 


Piquet has the boost turned down to conserve fuel, and you can almost see the boost control knob registering Cosworth Power which is all he needed to stay ahead. Have it been up at Ferrari Power or Renault Power it might have been a different story. Piquet controlls the race at his ease, never letting Aboreto get too close, even when they are lapping slower cars, while Watson has a little bit of a go to challenge Rosberg, but it came to nothing. In the midst of all this Guerrero suddenly re-appears on the track, having apparently retired a long time before. He has been at the pits having the gear linkage mended and an engine mounting replaced and is now going as well as ever. As Piquet started lap 51 the Brabham gives a nasty lurch and the left rear tyre deflates with a puncture. As the stricken car limps round to the pits Alboreto and Rosberg go by and with the Brabham in the pit lane Watson also goes by, so now Cosworth-powered cars are first, second and third position. Piquet is serviced in the usual Brabham efficient manner, with new tyres and some more petrol as a precaution and is back in the race in fourth place, but with only nine laps left to run there is nothing he could do, and a certain winner has to be content with fourth place. America smiles at Michele Alboreto. The twenty-six-year-old Italian driver secures his second victory in Formula 1, following last year's success in the final race of the season in Las Vegas. It is an unexpected win, achieved through the tenacity and determination of the Italian driver, as well as the perfect balance of driving skills and the capabilities of the car. Alboreto took advantage of the failure of those ahead of him and, without making the slightest mistake, skillfully maneuvered through the challenging city circuit of Detroit, reaching the finish line with an exciting crescendo. The victory rewarded his effort, compensating for the less-than-brilliant results he had achieved since the beginning of the year, with his best placement being eighth at Paul Ricard in France. The race was quite thrilling, with Ferrari as the unfortunate protagonist. Patrick Tambay retired immediately at the start, while Arnoux, after a dazzling start that led him to lead until lap 31, was forced to retire due to electrical issues. Behind Alboreto, once again, was the skillful Rosberg, who finished about two seconds ahead of John Watson, comfortable on the same track where he had won in 1982. Rosberg and Watson engaged in one of the many duels of the race, and in the end, the Finn managed to prevail. In fourth place was Nelson Piquet, who was somewhat unlucky, hindered by excessive wear on the left rear tire when he was leading the race until lap 50 of the scheduled 60. 


He was forced to pit to replace the tire. Alboreto, shadowing him closely, seized the opportunity and went on to win in style. The race once again highlighted the superiority of naturally aspirated engines, as the turbocharged ones faced a true debacle, with only the Brabham-BMW in the top six and Prost, out of the points, finishing in eighth place. In terms of the World Championship standings, there wasn't much change. Piquet struggled to overtake Prost at the top of the championship, trailing by only one point. Meanwhile, Rosberg closed in on Tambay with 22 points against the Frenchman's 23. In the capital of world and American motorsports, the super-Cosworth engine on Alboreto's Tyrrell outperformed all the turbos. A somewhat unexpected success that fits the logic of slower circuits where turbocharged engines still face difficulties. Michele Alboreto, honestly acknowledging that if Piquet hadn't encountered problems, he wouldn't have secured his second career victory, stated after the race:


"We won thanks to the perfect choice of tires: we opted for the harder ones and hoped for trouble for others. Only when I passed under the checkered flag did I realize that the victory was mine. It wasn't a particularly difficult race. There were some difficulties in lapping slower cars, but then everything went very smoothly. Brabham did a great job making it seem like they were refueling for Piquet, which was not planned. This success gives me confidence for the future, even though I'm convinced I can't fight for the championship, and this will probably remain an isolated episode of the season. We'll see in the future if there will be a more competitive car for me".


Keke Rosberg, on the other hand, was quite disappointed with his second-place finish when he thought he had another victory within reach:


"I had major problems with the tires degrading. With Piquet out, I could have won if the tires had behaved normally".


Ferrari experienced a big disappointment. Considering the circumstances and Arnoux's performance in at least half of the race, the Maranello team could have earned valuable points for the World Championship. Instead, Tambay was stationary from the start:


"It was the biggest scare of my life; unfortunately, after twelve trouble-free races, there was a rather serious incident. I think the reason for my stop at the start was that we did two reconnaissance laps. The tires heated up too much and almost stuck to the ground. When I engaged first gear, the engine suddenly shut off, and I was left with my arm raised, huddled in the cockpit, hoping no one would hit me".


Arnoux, also disappointed, was stopped by a technical issue, and it is not yet clear why the car will be examined in the coming hours:


"For once, we had made all the right choices, the right tires, perfect refueling with very skilled mechanics. I was stopped while heading for a beautiful victory. Races are like that; you can't complain, but this year I am really targeted by bad luck. Hopefully, in the next Grand Prix, in six days, the situation will reverse, and we will reap the rewards of the work we do".


After Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina, the only Italian driver to win more than once in Formula 1 is now Michele Alboreto. However, compared to the great champions of the past, this reserved-looking Milanese may have something more: he won two races with a Tyrrell, which is not among the most competitive cars. Ascari moved from success to success (he achieved a total of 13) with a Ferrari dominating in the early 1950s, while Farina secured five victories, four with Alfa Romeo, and one with a Maranello car. In Detroit, Alboreto, as at the end of the previous season in Las Vegas, defied predictions and demonstrated, in addition to driving skill, courage, and determination, that he is a cool and determined racer, capable of not making mistakes at crucial moments. Perhaps, this is his best quality, the component that distinguishes true talents from occasional winners. In the hotel, after the race, with his inseparable companion Nadia, surrounded by the trophies earned in the Detroit Grand Prix (a flashy gold ring with a diamond, an ugly metal cup, and a flower crown containing some chrysanthemums), Alboreto talks at length about his prospects in Formula 1:


"This success, like the previous one, changes nothing for me. It's just an invitation to continue, to persevere. It's the usual talk: money also matters in our profession, but we all race with a single goal, to one day win the world title".


Alboreto doesn't say much about the race, admitting only that if Piquet's deteriorating tires hadn't betrayed him, he wouldn't have been able to catch the Brazilian:


"I hoped for a fourth-fifth place. Circumstances allowed me to take a big step forward, unexpectedly. My only merit was being able to seize the opportunity. In these cases, if you make a mistake, you can only blame yourself. When I make a mistake, I am the first to admit it to myself. It's important".


The second victory puts Alboreto back on the list of the most sought-after drivers for the next year:


"I have several contacts but nothing is decided. I could go to six or seven different teams or even stay with Tyrrell. In Hockenheim, in August, we will have a new car. On this same car, right after the last race of the year in Kyalami, we will test a turbocharged engine. Tyrrell hasn't told me which turbocharged engine it will be, but it is clear that it could only be a BMW or an Alfa Romeo. We'll see: in the contacts I've had, they asked me to let them know when I'm ready to make a decision".


And what about Enzo Ferrari's statements? The Modena constructor had said some time ago that if Alboreto had asked him for a car, he would have been ready to give it to him:


"These are subtleties. When you want to make a deal, you find the right way. I spoke with sports director Piccinini in 1982 after the Monaco race. I saw Ferrari only once in 1980 in Fiorano when I tested for Minardi. Since then, I haven't heard from him".


The Italian driver is waiting for a call. But he's not worried. Even though the idea of going to Ferrari fascinates him, mostly knowing that he would theoretically have the chance to aim for the world title, he admits:


"If I had to personally choose a turbo engine, I would take the Ferrari. It is the most powerful, reliable, and durable. But who knows if I will ever have this opportunity".


What did Michele Alboreto think when he victoriously crossed the finish line? About a future in the red of Ferrari?


"No. It was a strange thing: the image of poor Riccardo Paletti came to mind. He was a dear guy, young, full of hopes. He couldn't race on this track and died a week later in Montreal. That's Formula 1".


Certain values endure even in the ruthless circus of Grand Prix. This is a very humane way to dedicate a victory to a departed friend without proclaiming it to the world. The defeat (or rather the probable missed victory) of Ferrari in the first race of the American tour stings. It also leaves some lingering controversies. While a technical glitch (the detachment of a cheap cable inside the fuel control unit) that stopped Arnoux in the lead with a significant margin can be part of the game, Tambay's elimination at the start is more debatable. The French driver honestly admits his responsibility:


"In 62 Grand Prix races, I made a mistake at the start twice. I have the excuse that in Detroit, the procedure was repeated twice, that perhaps the clutch was overheated, that the tires, now at temperature, seemed glued to the ground, but essentially the fault is mine".


However, one wonders (and many have done so), why Ferrari had not arranged for a mechanic at the pit exit, ready to intervene to start the car with a pressure cylinder in case the engine stalled. A precaution that other teams, such as Renault, had adopted.


"In fact, when the rescue van hooked onto me to tow me to a safer area, I desperately looked around but saw no one. I even thought about engaging a gear to start the car, but I was tied to the roll bar with a cable and feared crashing into the truck".


In Detroit, engineer Mauro Forghieri, who usually coordinates Ferrari's operations, is not present. The sports director, Marco Piccinini, who left immediately after the race, makes no statements on the matter. But it seems clear that this time the very shrewd Monegasque lawyer is not living up to his reputation as a meticulous and perfectionist manager. If Tambay had been able to start, even with half a lap behind, he could have finished among the top six. Fortunately for Ferrari, Alboreto's victory and Renault's disastrous performance have limited the damage.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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