The race is to be over 51 laps so there is a lot of “topping up” of fuel tanks at the last possible minute, and added to that worry is tyre wear, many teams planning a mid-race tyre stop. Brabham hedges its bets by putting Piquet on soft tyres with a pit stop in view, and Surer on hard tyres with the prospect of running through non-stop. Similarly Prost is aiming to run non-stop and Lauda is planning a stop, as are both Williams cars. Nothing is cut and dried in these days of fierce competition between the big manufacturers supporting the specialist teams. Senna leads the field round on the parade lap and they all take up their positions on the grid. The red light comes on and as engines soar to 10.000 rpm and more, the huge concrete grandstand shakes with the reverberations of all that unleashed power. The first eight positions on the grid are enough to send shivers down the back of the most hardened spectator; Senna (Lotus), Rosberg (Williams), Mansell (Williams), Piquet (Brabham), Prost (McLaren), de Angelis (Lotus), Alboreto (Ferrari), Tambay (Renault); as good a bunch of “racers” as you could wish to see, and all of them about to unleash 800 bhp in a car about the weight of a Mini-Metro. As they scream away to the first chicane Rosberg and Senna are wheel-to-wheel, with Mansell behind them. Rosberg takes the line into the first corner and Senna has little option but to cut straight across the kerbs, for he has no intention of lifting off and giving the corner to Rosberg. However, his acrobatics mean that he loses out to the Williams boys, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Back at the start line two cars have been left behind both having stalled their engines. Acheson’s RAM-Hart is push-started by the marshals and joins in a bit late, but poor Ghinzani’s Toleman-Hart is unable to restart in spite of being pushed a long way. The Electronic Engine Management system is confused by the messages being received, and is giving all the wrong answers, so all the engine will do is to give an occasional blurp.
Out on the circuit Rosberg is hard on it and has an enormous lead at the end of the opening lap, followed by Mansell, the two Honda V6 engines sounding terrific as they blast past the pits at 185 mph. Senna is third, Prost fourth, de Angelis fifth, Alboreto sixth, Piquet seventh, Tambay eighth, Johansson ninth, and Warwick tenth. With fuel tanks filled to the brim many of the cars are hitting the slight bumps on the main straight with their under-body steel skids, sending out showers of sparks. On the second lap Senna knows that he has been right about his Renault engine being a bit flat, for Prost catches him quite easily and goes by into third place and de Angelis is closing on the Brazilian. At the back of the field Alan Jones’ Hart engine is showing signs of overheating and he calls at the Beatrice pit briefly to report the fact, but is sent on his way with fingers crossed. Acheson also calls at the pits with gear-change linkage trouble. As the two Honda powered cars complete the third lap, Mansell’s engine suddenly goes flat and makes an awful noise, but it keeps running and he staggers round the whole lap and makes his way into the pit lane. The trouble is diagnosed as a fault in the electronic boost-pressure control unit, and after this is replaced by a new one in a matter of seconds, the engine is back on full song and Mansell is back in the race as healthy as ever, albeit nearly two laps behind Rosberg. This has let Prost up into second place running smoothly and consistently and just waiting for the Finn’s engine to blow up, except that this time it doesn’t, so all the Frenchman can do is sit in second place and watch the Williams slowly but surely disappear into the distance. There is absolutely no danger from behind for though de Angelis has taken third place from Senna, he is a long way back and losing ground. Piquet and Pirelli have been having a gamble on tyres, the Brabham starting on relatively soft ones, but in the opening lap with a full tank of fuel they are begining to overheat if pressed hard.
However, by ten laps Piquet has been able to speed up and has passed Alboreto and is closing on the Lotus duo, but he can read his front tyres and knows they are wearing too rapidly due to the early over-heating. At the end of lap 12 he is into the piits for a new set of tyres and rejoins in eleventh position, but now equipped to have a bit of a go. The Beatrice/Haas/Lola/Hart or whatever we are supposed to call it, expires in sight of the pits on lap 8 and Jones walks in thoughtfully. The Minardi has expired on the opening lap with turbocharger failure/engine trouble, without many people noticing and Cheever’s Alfa Romeo goes out with similar trouble. Some engine development never progresses! Warwick retires his Renault at the pits on lap 10 with the crownwheel and pinion chewed up and Berger has similar trouble in his Arrows as he speeds past the pits to start lap 14, clanking to a stop before the first chicane. Rosberg is in complete command of the race, lapping Mansell so that the second Williams is running strongly between him and Prost, and anyone who isn’t paying attention, or has been to the bar or the toilet, will think the Williams team are still first and second. There is a long gap behind Prost, but then comes Lauda in the second McLaren-Porsche, the crafty Austrian almost surreptitiously having worked his way up from his sixteenth position on the grid to third place. It only wanted Rosberg’s car to falter and we’d have another McLaren one-two, with Lauda’s steely eyes looking for another win. He has passed Johansson, Tambay, Alboreto, Senna and de Angelis and it would be interesting to know what they all really think as he goes by, for Lauda is not one to say Good-day, excuse me while I go by. On lap 26 Lauda is into the pits for a tyre change and a new nose cone, which drops him back to tenth place, and on lap 28 Rosberg is in for what must have been the quickest tyre stop ever seen, for he is out and gone before de Angelis comes into view, though naturally Prost has swept by into the lead as the Williams peels off into the pit lane.
Alboreto has stopped for tyres, losing only one place, that being to Piquet who is slowly but surely working his way back up through the mid-field runners. Tambay and Mansell both stop for tyres and in spite of being too far back to make any impression the Williams-Honda driver is still pressing on hard when a lot of drivers would have given up in disgust. His tenacious drive is rewarded with a new lap record on lap 38 in 1'28"283 (236.512 kph). While de Angelis is enjoying leading his brilliant young team-mate, his engine is using too much fuel and soon after half distance his contents gauge makes him panic and ease right off, dropping from the third place he inherited when Lauda made his pit stop, so that Senna moves up into third place behind Prost and Rosberg. Down at the back of the race the slower cars are gradually falling by the wayside, but in mid-field Marc Surer is running strongly as is Johansson, though the Ferrari is not exactly competitive compared with the leaders. Piquet has moved steadily ahead of these two and is once more closing on the Lotus pair, de Angelis being easy meat with his power turned down. Other people’s stops have promoted Johansson to fifth place, but then his own stop puts him down to eighth place, a lap behind the leader. Rosberg has been steadily closing on Prost, and on lap 40 he sails by into the lead, the mighty McLaren unable to respond, and it really looks as if the Honda engine is going to hold together this time, for it sounds very healthy, as does Mansell’s, but we spoke too soon for at the end of lap 45 it is Prost who appears in the lead and the unfortunate Rosberg is seen heading for the pits. There is far more water on the outside of the engine than inside and its race is run. Although a head-gasket is suggested as the failure, one wonders whether it is not something more subtle like the failure of a ceramic-to-alloy joint inside, as the Porsche engine used to suffer last year. Their water-leaks are often attributed to the simple head gasket.
As if in sympathy Mansell’s Honda engine expires three laps later with a suspected piston failure, but whatever it is, it is pretty serious. Between these two engine failures the quiet and glum crowd has began to leave, along with the Italian President and his entourage, for on lap 46 Alboreto has driven slowly into the pits with his Ferrari engine de-arranged internally. Even Johansson struggling along in fifth place is not enough to keep them in their seats. It is a black day for Maranello and Monday morning at the factory is something that every member of the team is dreading, for even at 87 years of age Uncle Enzo will be asking questions. While all this is happening Piquet has caught and passed Senna, so that Rosberg’s retirement promotes the Brabham to second place but too far back to worry Prost, who eases right off in the last two laps and lets Johansson go by to un-lap himself, the last car on the same lap as the McLaren. Marc Surer has driven a remarkably consistent race, running neatly and tidily on his harder Pirellis and very nearly catches Senna’s Lotus on the last lap, nonetheless finishing a praiseworthy fourth. Johansson goes by to start his last lap as Prost comes up to get the chequered flag, but on that last lap the Ferrari runs out of petrol and rolls to a stop. Though he moves down from being fifth, on the same lap as the leader, to being one lap behind, Johansson does not lose his overall position and as he rides back to the pits on the side-pod of the Lotus of de Angelis the Italian crowd gives him a great reception, for they appreciate an enthusiastic hard-tryer, even though he has never looked like winning. Up on the winner’s podium Prost takes delight in “revving-up” the crowd, for the Italian press has been making a lot of drama about the rivalry for the World Championship between the Frenchman and Alboreto. He should have been looking to his right and left for he is flanked by two Brazilian drivers, one the fastest driver of today and the other the best driver of today, all things being equal.