#418 1985 European Grand Prix

2022-07-25 01:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#418 1985 European Grand Prix

On Tuesday, September 17, 1985, in the early afternoon, a hazel-colored Fiat Uno brought Andrea De Cesaris into the Ferrari stable. The Italian driver


On Tuesday, September 17, 1985, in the early afternoon, a hazel-colored Fiat Uno brought Andrea De Cesaris into the Ferrari stable. The Italian driver, without a seat after the fallout with Guy Ligier, engaged in a lengthy conversation with the team leaders, remaining in the racing department until after 5:00 p.m. What does this sudden meeting signify? According to the sports director Marco Piccinini, it was simply a long-planned courtesy visit, as De Cesaris wanted to talk to Enzo Ferrari.


"We haven't faced any particular issues. The driver informed us about the situation, and there are no significant updates".


To be honest, the situation is quite strange. A courtesy visit lasting about three hours seems a bit long, given the troubles plaguing the Maranello team these days. It could be a dual tactical move - creating a smokescreen to avoid dwelling on the current crisis and putting the current drivers in a position to rush into signing the contract for 1986. This possibility certainly does not concern Johansson, who would do anything to stay with Ferrari next season. After rumors circulated about Alboreto receiving a substantial offer from Brabham, it is not excluded that an attempt was made to give a push to the Italian driver. Assuming there is any truth to this, it seems that only the official announcement from Ferrari is missing for Michele's contract renewal. So why De Cesaris? Two hypotheses: supported by sponsors and due to his characteristics as a very fast driver, the Italian pilot might be of interest to Maranello for the Indianapolis program, as he risks not having a Formula 1 car. Another possibility is his use as a test driver at Fiorano in the final part of the season since the Englishman Dumfries is too far from the Grand Prix scene to provide concrete comparisons. 


In Maranello, there are whispers that starting from Wednesday, De Cesaris could begin his role as a development driver tasked with fine-tuning the cars, pending a possible agreement for 1986. Meanwhile, the technical equipment used by Ferrari in the Belgian Grand Prix has returned. Alboreto's car, stalled at the start, underwent engine ignition tests to identify the problem that forced the driver to change cars at the last minute, with the results that everyone knows. Surrounded by the technical staff and a large number of firemen, the car turned on the stands for several minutes, seemingly allowing the identification of the problem. On the technical side, it seems that Ferrari wants to assemble a new engine similar to those used in the early stages of the season. This is to verify the continuous problems that led to issues with twenty engines in the summer season alone. It also seems that the emul-system, a device developed with Agip technicians that allowed the mixing of water and gasoline to obtain more power to the engine with less heat inside the combustion chambers and was abandoned due to weight issues, might be reused. In the meantime, the tests of the March-Cosworth that driver Bobby Rahal began testing at Fiorano on Monday have been suspended. The aim was to gather data for a possible commitment by the Maranello team in Indianapolis next year. Due to a lack of suitable tires, these tests have been postponed to the next week.


"Enzo Ferrari received Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson in Maranello today, confirming that they will also be with Ferrari in 1986. Ferrari thanked them for their daily and intense work, assuring that the company is committed in every area to provide them with competitive cars worthy of their merits".


The ritual has been completed once again, identical over the years, almost into the centuries. A laconic statement, which (changing a few words) can serve for a reconfirmation or a dismissal, reveals the decisions of the Modena constructor for the Formula 1 World Championship of the next year. The announcement, issued on Friday, September 20, 1985, finally concludes all the speculation and rumors that had already stirred the driver market at the beginning of the season, after the departure of René Arnoux, assigning the Italian and the Swedish driver to various teams. And it also closes the discussion for the engagements of other drivers whose names had been mentioned, from Rosberg (ending up at McLaren) to Senna, who stayed at Lotus. 


The reasons that led to the reconfirmation of Alboreto and Johansson are unknown, as are the terms of the new contract. In any case, the Italian driver has certainly earned Ferrari's trust and has shown faith in the Maranello team, given that he had tempting offers from competitive teams, considering the disappointing conclusion of the season. At the same time, Ferrari has shown appreciation for the temperament, combativeness, and commitment of the driver. A different story for Johansson, who deserved a second chance. Caught off guard (with Alboreto already in the role of leader), new to many circuits, dealing with problems especially in qualifying, and with an incredible series of mishaps, the Swede has not had the chance to be fully known except for his human qualities. For Stefan, this is an important recognition that certainly brought him a lot of happiness yesterday. The text of the statement also conveys other messages. But interpretation is always difficult. Phrases like "the company is committed in every area to provide them with competitive cars worthy of their merits" can mean anything. It seems obvious that Ferrari is committed in every area. If Ferrari's cars are not winning, it may mean that Alboreto and Johansson's merits do not go beyond placement. There is no mention of Indianapolis. But it is likely that the program, if pursued, as it seems, can be carried out only by one driver, already familiar with American CART races. Also because the calendar would not allow, for example, Alboreto to undertake the double commitment seriously. 


It remains to be seen what will happen with Andrea De Cesaris, whose potential involvement in American races is conditioned by many factors: Ferrari's intention to hire him, the Italian driver's chances of finding a Formula 1 car (which remains his primary goal), and the needs of the sponsors supporting this new challenge. Meanwhile, in the days to come, Alfa Romeo will make a decision about its sporting future: in particular, it will announce whether it intends to stay in Formula 1 or if it will be forced to abandon this costly activity in the racing field. Most likely, the communication will be made shortly after the appointment of the new CEO, expected in a very short time. The reason for this wait is simple: the company's president, Ettore Massacesi, wants to have, before announcing the choice, an exchange of views and information with the executive on whom many of the decisions made in this difficult period will weigh from 1986 onwards. It is no secret that Alfa Romeo is going through a critical financial period. And, especially based on economic data, speculations have been made. It is said that Alfa will surely have to leave Formula 1 because it can no longer bear the expense of managing a team (at a minimum to be competitive, more than ten billion a year are needed). It has been reported that the current sponsor (Benetton) has already communicated that it is no longer willing to renew the advertising contract as it is committed to reviving Toleman, the team recently purchased by the powerful Treviso group. However, the only official statement so far is from Ettore Massacesi, who, in response to a specific question, stated that Alfa Romeo would prefer to supply engines instead of racing on its own.


"But we intend to do it with an already reliable and developed engine and with a valid team. Therefore, it is possible that next year you will find us looking for an interim solution".


What do these words mean? It is evident that Massacesi understands the importance of remaining in a sector that is a natural field for a brand of sports image. But calculations must be made with a contingent situation, with political and union pressures, with the actual budget. Not to mention the negative impact that Renault's recent decision to withdraw at the end of the year could have. Therefore, various possibilities are being evaluated. At this point, it is difficult to assess what the concrete prospects are. Autodelta technicians, led by Gianni Tonti, are developing a new four-cylinder engine that on paper could be the first piece for a positive relaunch. But this engine needs a car, and no one is willing to risk too much without some guarantees. Therefore, every solution is possible. The only certain thing is that Alfa Romeo needs to change its course (engine supply with indirect team management by Euroracing) to find a different dimension, more in line with the prestige and name of the brand that, since 1979, has experienced only failures after a glorious past. So, either race on their own or find technicians who offer some guarantee to build a competitive car while waiting to sell or supply engines like BMW, Porsche, and Honda do. An investigation conducted among industry professionals has led to a result that, all in all, could have been expected. 


Everyone (or almost everyone) wants Alfa Romeo to remain in Formula 1, changing the type of management. The brand from Arese finds itself in the uncomfortable role of a precious thing coveted by many, which no one decides to take. As for the drivers, Riccardo Patrese seems to be already settled at Brabham. Eddie Cheever, if he does not find a better solution, intends to try his hand at racing in the United States. Alfa Romeo has an option on Alessandro Nannini (good in Formula 2, excellent currently with Lancia in the World Endurance Championship), the brother of singer Gianna Nannini, who still lacks the super license. In any case, if Massacesi can continue for another year, there will be two cars, so another good driver will have to be found. A return of De Cesaris is not excluded. After traveling the world with a race every fifteen days since the beginning of April, the Formula 1 World Championship may have reached the end of the road with two races to spare before the end of the season. The European Grand Prix provides Alain Prost with a real match ball. The McLaren driver can mathematically clinch the title against Michele Alboreto and Ferrari. If the Frenchman, with a 16-point advantage, finishes among the top six, ahead of the Italian, he has won the game. But it would be sufficient for the game of discards (each competitor can sum up to a maximum of eleven results: Prost has ten, Alboreto nine) to immediately come behind the Ferrari driver to no longer be reached. On Thursday, October 3, 1985, on the eve of the European Grand Prix, Alain Prost says:


"I am very calm. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, even more in the car I drive, and in the team. Five victories, a series of good placements, a season on the rise. It seems to me that the margin for a turnaround is very narrow. In any case, I will play the cards I have, and I assure you, they are excellent".


Faced with this optimism, what can Alboreto do?


"Now Prost can only lose the title if everything goes wrong for him. I can only say that until the last minute, I won't give up. We have worked a lot; we'll see if at least this time we will see positive results. But let's see how the practice sessions go, then we'll talk about the race".


Certainly, it is not in Alboreto's character to give up early. But has Ferrari put him in a position to defend himself or, better yet, to attack? No predictions can be expected from the Maranello team at the moment. No one is speaking; the atmosphere is tense. The sports director, Marco Piccinini, says to ask technical clarifications from Tomaini, but the head of the machines does not utter a word. Upon closer inspection, the Maranello single-seaters seem to have undergone significant innovations. There's a new, larger front wing to test, and perhaps some modifications have been made to the engine. Engineer Caruso, one of the designers of the engine, is also participating in the trip. The dominant theme is the possible final showdown between Prost and Alboreto. However, there are other points of interest: the return of the 39-year-old John Watson to Formula 1 in place of the still injured Niki Lauda. The Northern Irish driver, after some comparative tests, doesn't hide his doubts:


"Either I'm really rusty, or Prost is a lightning bolt. I just hope I won't be a problem for the Frenchman and for McLaren".


Another novelty is the debut of the 22-year-old Ivan Capelli with Tyrrell. A very difficult debut (the young Italian has never tested a Formula 1 car). Brands Hatch also marks the end of the Renault chapter. This is the last race for the French team, which will not participate in the next two races and will limit its role next year to being an engine supplier for other teams. For this occasion, Renault mounts a mini-camera on Patrick Tambay's car that will broadcast this crucial race live. Perhaps the close-ups from the track could show the decisive moments of this championship, in favor of either Prost or Alboreto. Meanwhile, on Friday, October 4, 1985, between the two contenders, Prost and Alboreto, there are at least six or seven drivers determined to act as referees. 


The challenge for the world title, looking at the results of the first day of practice for the European Grand Prix, risks becoming not just a head-to-head duel but a real brawl in which many competitors can play a decisive role. A game that, in any case, favors the French driver, who can be satisfied with a not-so-brilliant result from his opponent to achieve his goal. Senna, Piquet, Rosberg, and others go all out, regardless of the problems troubling Prost and Alboreto, pushing them back in the provisional starting lineup. The McLaren driver sets the fifth time, while the Ferrari driver sets the eighth time. Ayrton Senna is once again the fastest, the true star of this season in terms of performance. The young Brazilian records a time of 1'08"020, thus establishing a new circuit record. This was the only record still held by a car with an aspirated engine. Senna is perhaps favored by a clever move by the technician Ducarouge, who warms up the tires in an oven (it's really cold at Brands Hatch). Following him are Piquet, Rosberg, Surer, then Prost, and in order, the surprising Streiff, Mansell, and Alboreto, 2.857s behind the fastest. Johansson with the second Ferrari is only thirteenth, overtaken even by the Alfa Romeo of a lively Riccardo Patrese (tenth). Essentially, it can be said that Ferrari improves slightly compared to the last races and does not report significant issues. The Swedish driver breaks the clutch in the morning, while Alboreto has a turbine problem in the afternoon. Initially, there are concerns about an engine failure, but then the alarms seem unjustified since Michele qualifies with the implicated engine. The cars from Maranello seem a bit too nervous but do not make a negative impression. Of course, there are always questions that are difficult to answer: Johansson had lapped in 1'10"29 in the August free practice, but on the other hand, Prost worsens his times. Two weeks earlier, on this track, he had lapped in 1'09"39, while during the first qualifying session, he laps in 1'10"345, having difficulties with the shocks. The car bounces excessively, and the French driver changes them without improvement. To the Frenchman, not very satisfied, it's still okay:


"I just need Alboreto to stay behind me. Of course, I wouldn't want my usual bad luck to start now".


Watson's return confirms the predictions of the eve. You can't put a driver who has been inactive for two years on the track, no matter how good, and expect miracles. The Northern Irish driver sets the seventeenth time. The debutant Ivan Capelli is twenty-sixth but already demonstrates his talent in controlling the Tyrrell with two harmless spins. However, there is an accident for Teo Fabi ("I made a mistake, losing the trajectory"), ending up against the barriers: a detached wheel and the chassis of his Toleman compromised. Elio De Angelis also slides off the track in the first minutes, due to the still slippery asphalt. A heavy impact, precautionary admission to the infirmary with massages and checks, but the practice session is compromised. However, the Alfa Romeo performs well within its limits.


"I have no illusions. Prost's advantage in points and performance is insurmountable in three races".


Michele Alboreto, serene and calm, is cautious. He doesn't want to address the issue of the world title anymore, at least until Sunday evening.


"We have returned to the setup of the cars made by Johansson in August, and the results were not bad. But we are too far from the best. We have enough traction, little top speed. The fact remains that the others are faster".


Alboreto talks at length about the past, present, and future.


"At Monza, I was ashamed for the audience that deserved more. It made me want to cry. The means to climb back up are there, but I think the technical staff must be strengthened. It's not up to me to say in which area: we need to progress in the chassis, the engine, the suspensions. However, I have never thought of leaving Ferrari".


Saturday, October 5, 1985, while Formula 1 dances to a Brazilian samba with Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet, and Alain Prost defends himself and reaches out for the title, Ferrari sinks into an even deeper crisis. Talking about a challenge for the world title in the European Grand Prix, given the results of the practices, would be ridiculous. Now, victory could only escape from Prost and McLaren due to some incredible twist of fate. But perhaps not even a retirement could prevent Prost from finally achieving triumph, as it's highly unlikely that Michele Alboreto could take away precious points from him. Starting with the fifteenth time, in the eighth row, the Italian driver, also preceded by his teammate Johansson in thirteenth, shouldn't have any chances. Those who hoped for a Ferrari miracle at Brands Hatch must reconsider. The ones providing the spectacle are Senna and Piquet. The two South Americans snatch the pole position from each other. First, the Brabham driver goes below the record with a time of 1'07"482, which seemed unreachable. But Senna, relentless, takes to the track and turns twice to surpass his compatriot. He succeeds with a sensational time of 1'07"169, set at an average speed of 225.470 km/h. Lotus had surprised everyone on Friday by using heated tires in a special air oven for Senna's car. Purpose: to improve performance in cold weather. Ferrari tried the same operation but did not have the necessary equipment. A team representative went to a supermarket and bought three or four of those heaters that blow hot air, generally used to warm the bathroom when it's cold and the radiators are not yet on. An attempt between the ridiculous and the pathetic for a team with a budget of tens of millions of dollars. The result? The times obtained speak for themselves. Behind the Brazilian duo, the Williams of Mansell and Rosberg, followed by the increasingly surprising Philippe Streiff with the Ligier. The Frenchman miraculously escapes a double spin at 300 km/h. In sixth position, not very happy but calm, Alain Prost qualifies with a time of 1'09"429.


"We cannot use the qualifying tires well because we don't have enough traction. But for the race, I am confident; it's enough for me to control Alboreto, who is quite far behind and, it seems to me, in some trouble. Until I cross the finish line, however, it's better not to sing victory".


In any case, Prost has won his battle, at least on a psychological level. Alboreto is powerless, and Ferrari is not competitive.


"Oh my, what a disaster, this is a tough pill to swallow. Brands Hatch is a circuit where chassis and engine matter. We are slow in turns and acceleration. Moreover, the engine of my car has had a power drop. It's absurd to think of having a race as protagonists; at best, I can hope for points if everything goes very well. And don't think McLaren is in trouble too because it only set the sixth time. Let's say Prost is racing in relaxation: he just has to do 300 kilometers and cross the finish line. If I were in his place, I would have celebrated the world title a day in advance".


Three and a half seconds behind the best, another broken turbine, a compromised engine on the car that should have been used for qualifications, is Ferrari's balance on the eve of a day that could be decisive. Just a few numbers to realize the problems Ferrari will face. Rosberg is the fastest at the finish line with a top speed of 306.209 km/h. Johansson passes at 298.096 km/h, and Alboreto at 297.275 km/h. Still, the Finn is at the top at the bottom of the straight before Hawthorn Bend (314.411 km/h), with Alboreto at 301.255 km/h. It should be noted that in the last practices when they were already in crisis, the Maranello cars were always among the best in top speeds. Given the performance of the practices, the race is open to many results, as usual conditioned by the choice of tires. Senna starts with the advantage of superior speed and his determination. Piquet plays the role of a dangerous outsider with Pirelli tires, while Mansell and Rosberg could be the protagonists if the Williams cars are reliable. And beware of Prost, who can settle for a placement but won't disdain seeking a sixth seasonal victory if the opportunity arises to crown the day that will most likely see him become the first Frenchman in history to be Formula 1 World Champion.


On Sunday, October 6, 1985, before the start of the European Grand Prix, Pierluigi Martini breaks the turbo of his car during the warm-up lap, forcing him to start with the reserve vehicle. At the start, Ayrton Senna maintains the lead, while Keke Rosberg, after an initial hesitation, overtakes Nelson Piquet, securing the third position behind Nigel Mansell. The slowing down of the Finn forces Alain Prost to put two wheels on the grass, sliding to fourteenth place. Mansell unsuccessfully attempts to pass Paddock Bend. Shortly after, Rosberg attacks Mansell: after going into understeer, he puts two tires in the dust and is also passed by Piquet. During the seventh lap, Rosberg tries to pass Senna at Surtees corner, but the Brazilian closes the trajectory. Rosberg spins, preventing Piquet from avoiding contact. Piquet breaks the front wing and the left suspension, forcing him to retire. Piquet remains on the track, avoided by John Watson. Rosberg manages to continue, albeit with a flat tire. Rosberg returns to the pits and, after repairs, re-enters the track (lapped), just in front of Senna, who is meanwhile fending off Mansell's attacks. The Finn hinders Senna during lapping, forcing him to slow down and ultimately facilitating Mansell's overtaking. Meanwhile, Alain Prost rapidly climbs, moving into points position after overtaking Michele Alboreto. During the next lap, Stefan Johansson passes Marc Surer, taking fourth place and pushing him off the track. At the end of the first twelve laps, Nigel Mansell has a lead of over 4 seconds on Ayrton Senna, followed by Elio De Angelis, Stefan Johansson, Marc Surer, and Jacques Laffite, who has also overtaken Michele Alboreto. The Ferrari driver stops at the pits for a tire change, then restarts but almost immediately breaks the turbo. The car catches fire at the rear, without Alboreto noticing. At the end of the next lap, the Italian driver returns to the pits, where the mechanics extinguish the fire. With the retirement of the Ferrari driver, Alain Prost only needs to finish fifth to win the World Championship. Meanwhile, Surer passes Johansson. During the 19th lap, Prost loses a position to Laffite, dropping to seventh place. The French driver of Ligier also overtakes Johansson and De Angelis, who, in turn, had dropped to third place behind Surer. By the 30th lap, Mansell's lead over Senna is over 14 seconds. The Lotus driver is under attack from Surer and Laffite. 


Further back, a battle is shaping up between another trio: De Angelis, Johansson, and Prost. Between laps 35 and 36, at Hawthorn Bend, Senna is overtaken by the two pursuing drivers. Then, during the 38th lap, Prost stops at the pits for a tire change, using a soft compound. The French driver returns to the track in eighth place. During the 42nd lap, Johansson passes De Angelis and moves up to fifth place, while during the 46th lap, Ivan Capelli goes off the track: the Tyrrell's engine catches fire, requiring intervention from the marshals. Laffite withstands the attacks of his opponents until the 51st lap when, due to the declining performance of the worn-out tires, he is passed by Senna before being forced to return to the pits. After Johansson's pit stop, Prost finds himself in fifth place, which would be enough to win the World Championship. However, the McLaren driver strengthens his position by overtaking De Angelis a few laps later. Meanwhile, Laffite's race ends definitively on lap 59 due to an engine problem. Mansell continues undisturbed in the lead, with a 16.8-second lead over Surer, 22.7 seconds over Senna, and over 50 seconds over Prost. Another turbo failure forces Surer to retire. At the same time, during the 63rd lap, Rosberg manages to pass De Angelis and move up to fourth place. Two laps later, the Finn also passes Prost, who had lost time lapping Riccardo Patrese. With his worst placement of the season, Alain Prost is finally the Formula 1 World Champion. He did it by racing in the style of his mentor, Niki Lauda, an unparalleled driver who knows how to use his head on the track. Two points were enough for Prost to beat the only rival still resisting his attacks. He took three, just to be safe, bringing his total in the general standings to 72, a result now unattainable for Alboreto and Ferrari, once again hindered by mechanical failures. Prost's is the first title won by a Frenchman in the history of Formula 1, a complete revenge that rewards a skillful, fast, determined, and now also reliable driver. Prost had a very competitive car at his disposal, the McLaren, which for the first time since 1966-1967 (Brabham's double) allowed two of its drivers to win the World Championship in consecutive seasons. It must be said that in England, Prost did not have a winning car, or at least, he never risked trying to reach the first position. 


The European Grand Prix has rewarded, after 71 races and six seasons with Lotus, the first victory for the Englishman Nigel Mansell at the wheel of an extraordinary Williams, as evidenced by Rosberg's third-place finish after a pit stop that practically cost him a lap. In second place is the rising star of Formula 1, Ayrton Senna, who now seems to have a fixed place on the podium, despite having a car, the Lotus, very fast in qualifying but less competitive in the race. As qualifying and previous races had hinted, Ferrari collected nothing, once again, from this fourteenth round of the World Championship. In fact, the two Maranello cars appeared less worse than expected, and if they hadn't lost reliability, they could have made life more difficult for Prost. This time, it was two accessories that forced Alboreto (turbo failure) and Johansson (alternator breakage) to retire. Small as a jockey, he doesn't have the classic physique du rôle of a champion. Yet, Alain Prost, 30 years old on February 24, a native of Lorette, in the Loire, near St-Etienne, has achieved what many illustrious predecessors had tried in vain. He is indeed the first French driver to win the world title. After 87 races, six seasons (three with McLaren and as many with Renault), and 21 victories, he has finally achieved his goal. He had been chasing it since 1973 when, at the age of 18, he made his debut in kart races. From success to success in the lower formulas, he entered the world of Grand Prix in 1980 and immediately showed his intentions: fifth in the overall standings in 1981, fourth the following year, second in the last two seasons, narrowly beaten first by Piquet and then by his teammate Lauda. On the podium, among the sprays of champagne, Prost's tears of joy mix with those of Nigel Mansell. However, the Frenchman doesn't go too far:


"The title has finally arrived; I knew that sooner or later, I would succeed. In the next few hours, in the next few days, maybe I will realize this success more intensely, savor it fully. But I have an incredible schedule: I won't be home before Thursday to greet my wife Annemarie and my son Nicolas, who turned four on the day I won the Zeltweg race".


When did you realize that the World Championship was really within your reach?


"At Monza, when Ferrari's crisis became evident. I was so sure of winning the title that I wouldn't have cared even if I hadn't scored the points I took in England. I could have done it very well in the next two races. When I saw that Alboreto was stopped, however, I worried about not taking risks. Now that I have lifted the burden of the World Championship, I will try to win more races, which is the best satisfaction for a driver. Now I want to aim for Jackie Stewart's record, 27 victories, to become the best of all time".


How much did the driver contribute, and how much the team to this success?


"McLaren did its part. I believe I did mine. However, I did not have any special help. And let's not forget that I was disqualified in Imola because the car weighed two kilos less than expected, and that at Zandvoort my teammate Lauda wanted to win at least one race. The team technicians were very good, especially in fixing the chassis that wasn't fantastic at the beginning of the season".


Were there any particularly difficult moments in this race?


"No. I started cautiously. I chose two B tires and two C tires and tried to use them to the maximum, to do as many laps as possible. Then I changed to softer tires and could recover without problems. I took a risk when I passed Alboreto in the early laps. I was at the limit. But I had to stay at least in front of his Ferrari".


And the future, aside from Stewart's record?


"If the team goes to South Africa, I have to race too. Without the nightmare of the World Championship, I can try to get the 22nd victory. Next year I hope that McLaren will still be able to give me a competitive car".


And Rosberg as a teammate?


"Let me breathe. I'll think about Keke in 1986".


Perhaps Michele Alboreto already knew how it would end. There was still a glimmer of hope; the race didn't start badly. Then the collapse.


"Thirteen laps, and it's all over. The engine fails, as has happened too many times already. Congratulations to Prost. I tried to bring the car to the pits to avoid it catching fire completely. That was my only concern".


But the Ferrari had proven to be competitive enough.


"Yes. However, I had troubles right away. I touched Patrese at the start and had to stop to change a damaged rim, replacing all the tires. Then the engine betrayed me. There was an oil leak that caused the fire".


Now you have to think about the future.


"A lot of work is needed on the engine. It's powerful but no longer reliable. It's a shame to see the work of a whole season slip away like this. Two Grand Prixs remain at the end of the championship. I will try to win in both opportunities, but it will be very difficult in these conditions. Anyway, I don't regret choosing Ferrari and accepting the confirmation for next year. I want to win many races and become World Champion with this Italian team".


For Johansson, the pit stop came at the end of the race, when he could perhaps even have climbed onto the podium. However, his retirement occurred while he was in fourth place.


"In this period, we are very unlucky, too bad because the car wasn't bad".


Near Ferrari is also the CEO of Fiat Auto, Vittorio Ghidella, who says:


"In the end, the recovery compared to the 1984 season was good. Of course, we need to work a lot on this car, but I am confident because they are already working hard in Maranello. In Formula 1, there is no longer room for artisans. We must work as a team, using very high technologies".


What will happen with Forghieri?


"Forghieri has done a lot for Ferrari, but one man alone is no longer enough. Defeat must not bring us down but spur us to do better. The championship had a negative ending, but we have always been among the protagonists. This is a result to consider quite positively".


Amidst the sprays of champagne, on the podium, with a joyful Prost and a Mansell who doesn't know what to do anymore, there is also a venomous controversy. The protagonists are two of those placed at the top: Rosberg and Senna. The Finn and the Brazilian repeatedly accuse each other of unfair play. In fact, theirs was a unique brawl, not ending in a crash only by a miracle. Senna also touched Mansell at the start. But this collision had no consequences.


"I couldn't avoid it because I was sandwiched between two cars. Then, Rosberg attacked me, trying to force me off the track. I had to perform miracles to stay on the road. The Williams driver was extremely unsportsmanlike when he stopped at the pit to change tires and re-entered the track right in front of my Lotus. He held me back for a lap and a half, even though his tires were cold and he couldn't match my speed. He kept moving from side to side on the track to prevent me from passing. We even touched a couple of times. It was a real unfairness".


Senna is later called by Piquet to his motorhome, and surely the Brabham driver won't have been gentle with his young compatriot. In fact, the Brazilian had bumped into Rosberg, who had spun to overtake the Lotus driver, and lost a race that could have been won. The Finnish driver reiterates:


"Senna is one of the most dangerous drivers because when I was about to overtake him, he didn't give me space even though I had almost the entire car in front of his Lotus. It's because of him that I ended up spinning at Surtees Corner. Then don't tell me that I obstructed him later".


In the midst of the two quarreling drivers, Nigel Mansell seems to be in a world of his own. He won the first Formula 1 race after six long seasons with Lotus as a supporting player. Next year, he'll have another champion alongside him, Nelson Piquet, and life will still be difficult for him. But for now, the Englishman is content to have won a race in front of his home crowd:


"It was what I dreamed of as a child, and the dream has come true. It has repaid me for all the previous bitterness. Now I hope to have shown that I'm not just a fast driver but also a man capable of finishing races ahead of everyone".


Michele Alboreto has freed himself from a nightmare. This is the only positive result of the European Grand Prix. The challenge for the world title is over, the tension is over. At least for the moment. Ferrari still aims for victory in the Constructors' World Championship in a standings where McLaren has a 9-point lead over the Maranello team and 15 points over Lotus. In South Africa and Australia, Alboreto and Johansson will try to achieve this secondary goal, important for an automaker. The Italian driver, after the disastrous race, analyzes the situation with great calm, clarifies his ideas, talks about Ferrari, the past, the present, and the future. And he starts from the beginning:


"I never deluded myself. Even in the most favorable moments, I realized that we would have difficulties. When I finished second in the first race in Rio de Janeiro won by Prost - where I was accused of making mistakes, while I think I didn't make any mistakes in the race this year - I said that we needed to work a lot. And I kept repeating it, even after the victories in Montreal and the Nurburgring. I have a clear conscience".


What did Ferrari lack to be competitive until the end?


"The others have progressively improved. In Formula 1, you can never stand still. We sought more power in the engine, and we lost reliability. Many changes were made to the car. We covered thousands of kilometers of testing at Fiorano and other tracks. The intentions were good, but the results were negative. Lately, while others were preparing for races, we spent all our time trying to fix the problems we discovered. You don't win world titles only with reliability. You have to be competitive".


What are the possible solutions?


"Only work, with a new car. I am ready to start from scratch. I renewed my contract with Ferrari because I have confidence. The means to climb back up are there. I want to win many races and the world title, which I want to dedicate to my Italian team. For now, I only think about this".


Some say that Ferrari also lacks a good test driver...


"I don't choose technical solutions alone. It's a task that is carried out as a team with the other driver and the technicians. The work, however, is not done in the pit. It's mainly in the workshop that races are won. A car remains as it is on the track. Then you can come up with interesting solutions, but if it's good, it goes fast, otherwise, it remains a patched-up shoe. Prost is very good, a champion. But without a valid car, he wouldn't have gone far".


Is Prost really the fastest driver at the moment?


"The results prove him right. And I'm happy for him. Senna is also very strong, one of the best in terms of performance. But I wouldn't go out to dinner with him".


Alain Prost, for his part, says on Sunday night, exhausted but with a big smile on his face, before boarding the helicopter of the Saudi billionaire Mansour Ojjeh, owner of Tag, the company that funded the construction of the Porsche engine for McLaren:


"The most difficult moment begins now".


And he continues:


"Interviews, newspapers, weeklies, television, old and new friends. I won't be able to go home before Thursday to see my family".


The World Champion, however, has no difficulty in assuming the role of a star. He knows that it is another tribute to pay to fame and does not complain. Now he has achieved the goal he pursued since he was a boy when, undecided between football and motorsport, he chose the sport of motors and began his climb, from karts to the world title in twelve years of racing and victories.


"Being a driver suits me in every way. With the helmet on, I become fifteen centimeters taller and hide my crooked nose".


Now he is a millionaire and famous. Alain Prost, however, immediately rejects the parable of the satisfied champion, dear to Enzo Ferrari.


"The world title was a step, not a destination. I have many other programs to fulfill. I have already explained that the first goal is to surpass Jackie Stewart in the number of victories. I'm at twenty-one, I need seven more to surpass the Scotsman. Therefore, by seeking other first places, I will inevitably find myself fighting for the title again. It's better to take advantage of the favorable moment. Next year, I'll try to make it two in a row".


Too greedy? Too ambitious?


"No, just in love with racing. Some say that with Rosberg alongside in 1986, I'll have little space left. Certainly, he's not the easiest teammate, but he doesn't scare me. Otherwise, I would have had to retire with Lauda. It's a new stimulus, one more reason to always give my best. And then I don't intend to stay in Formula 1 all my life. There are other activities that interest me. I could go racing for some time in the United States. Indianapolis is a fascinating name".


McLaren's driver is not inexperienced; he has already planned his future. A golf course (his favorite sport now, after cars) bought near Dijon in partnership with his friend Jacques Laffite, an advertising agency in Switzerland near Les Brassus, where he lives. It's called, by chance, Pole Promotion and already works full-time. It is precisely from this initiative that Prost expects to be able to realize another dream. To finance his Formula 1 team to become a team manager.


"Formula 1 is comparable to a high mountain. The climb is long and tiring, staying at the top is difficult, the descent is rapid and brutal. You have to be prepared for everything, but I don't want to get out completely".


And before leaving, he also expresses a word of encouragement for Michele Alboreto.


"I've been in his shoes more than once. It's not easy, but sooner or later, the favorable moment comes if you can resist psychologically. I respect Michele as a driver and as an opponent, and this should please him".


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