#416 1985 Italian Grand Prix

2022-07-27 01:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#416 1985 Italian Grand Prix

The withdrawal of Renault at the end of the season, officially confirmed on Tuesday, August 27, 1985, in Paris for economic reasons, adds further unce


The withdrawal of Renault at the end of the season, officially confirmed on Tuesday, August 27, 1985, in Paris for economic reasons, adds further uncertainty to the driver market, which has never been as eventful as this year. After Rosberg's move to McLaren in place of the retired Lauda and the not yet announced but practically certain move of Piquet to Williams, the availability of two drivers like Tambay and Warwick, one a candidate for Beatrice and the other for Lotus, further stirs up the market. Even though it was already practically known that they had not been retained by the French team. The most coveted seat (since Ferrari seems inclined to confirm both Alboreto and Johansson, barring last-minute surprises) is the one left vacant by Piquet at Brabham, which has sparked a real frenzy. Bernie Ecclestone, very embarrassed and surprised by the betrayal of the Brazilian ace who, after repeatedly requesting a salary increase in vain, accepted offers from Williams (around 3.000.000 dollars are mentioned), is creating a real smokescreen. What is the goal of the cunning English manager? To satisfy sponsors who want a top-notch star and spend as little as possible. Healthy competition is what is needed to achieve this goal. The current situation for Brabham seems to be as follows. Riccardo Patrese would have an option. Elio De Angelis has a good offer, Andrea De Cesaris a promise. In any case, since the team's financiers are Italian (Olivetti and Pirelli) or interested in the car market (BMW), it is certain that at least one of the two cars will go to an Italian driver, if not both. What does it depend on? Ecclestone doesn't seem to have completely given up on negotiating with Ayrton Senna (in this case, designer Gordon Murray would leave to make way for Gerard Ducarouge). If the difficult action were to succeed - Lotus will strongly oppose breaking the contract with the Brazilian - they will probably opt for Patrese. Otherwise, a decision will be made in a few days regarding the two Roman drivers, while Bernie, to avoid being left exposed, would have also summoned Warwick for an interview. The strangest case is that of De Cesaris, who should make his debut at Monza next week with Brabham, finishing the season in place of Marc Surer. But the Swiss has an ironclad contract, and his sponsor does not seem willing to step aside. 


Andrea really risks not finishing the year after the dispute with Ligier, which immediately replaced him with Philippe Streiff. In this intricate situation, the improbable but not impossible voice of Alfa Romeo's decision to return independently to Formula 1, abandoning Euroracing, which currently manages Patrese and Cheever's cars, comes into play. The Milanese company (waiting for a new CEO) has a sporting image, and it would be unthinkable to see it completely withdraw from racing. Furthermore, a new four-cylinder engine has been prepared that would perform well and could potentially be sold to other teams. Here, the name of De Cesaris, who had already been with Alfa, comes back into play. For the current sports news, on Wednesday, August 28, and Thursday, August 29, 1985, important tests are scheduled for Ferrari at Monza. Alboreto tests new suspensions and innovative aerodynamic solutions and cooling. The suspensions were created in record time thanks to a computer provided by Fiat, with which it is possible to check the work done even before sending the cars on track. At Monza, a partially redesigned Alfa Romeo, already tested in recent days at Balocco, should also be present. On Wednesday, August 28, 1985, a Daily Iveco van arrives at Monza that looks like it belongs to NASA. Inside are highly sophisticated instruments, from a very powerful computer to printers that, instant by instant, record on paper, with graphs similar to those of electrocardiograms, the behavior of the car on the track, simultaneously providing six data (or parameters) sent by telemetry (i.e., via radio) that can concern both the engine and the suspensions, including an accelerometer that measures wheel revolutions. The single-seater looked like a patient in a super-equipped clinic, electrical wires coming out from all sides, sensors, metal trusses, antennas, a kind of black box like those of jet liners. This is how Ferrari presented itself at Monza for a series of very important tests, together with Alfa Romeo, which brings a car profoundly modified for Patrese and a traditional one for Cheever. For these three cars involved in the test with very frequent stops at the pits and therefore very long stops, there are, according to official data, 18.000 people at the racetrack, but only 5.000 paying. A sign of the interest that Ferrari and Alfa Romeo always arouse, and Formula 1 in general. Polemical moments are not lacking, with shouts from the stands, of a football type, against the technicians of the Maranello team, deplorable episodes. 


Unfortunately, Ferrari is facing what Alboreto calls a setback, that is, the failure of an engine due to a faulty injector. This causes an interruption of the program for about three hours, but at the end of the day, the Italian driver in the running for the world title positively comments on the tests.


"We have opened a new door. There is something good, even if only in the direct comparison of the Grand Prix can we say whether we are two seconds slower than McLaren or maybe a little faster. However, it seems to me that I have already noticed better grip".


The car is the one with the chassis seen at Le Castellet, with two openings in the front to quickly work on the suspensions. The design of the front and rear tie rods is new, and on Thursday, a different body with new arrangements for radiators and heat exchangers will be mounted, and perhaps the engine with modified lubrication channels will be tested. In the afternoon, cut slides are noticed, the small wing placed in the lower part to improve the airflow, and other small interesting details. Alboreto, with used race tires, sets the best time, but the chrono is certainly not sought.


"We did well, the tests have yielded satisfactory results, and the car has improved significantly. However, it is not the case to hazard predictions. The important thing is to confirm these results in the official tests. Only the comparison with the other cars will give a verdict on our progress".


This is the concise comment from Michele Alboreto at the end of the test in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite the cautious optimism of the Italian driver, satisfaction for the progress made by the car is evident within the Ferrari team. Two and a half days of work allow the Maranello team technicians to test various mechanical and aerodynamic solutions. Engineer Postlethwaite comments:


"We are satisfied with both tire tests and fuel consumption. Now the suspensions work better".


The same can be said for Alfa Romeo, which, with Patrese, laps in 1'31"050 before having to stop due to the breakage of the flat bottom due to the presence of a stone. Cheever laps with the old car but has engine problems. Thursday morning it will be his turn to drive the modified single-seater (also here body, radiators, and heat exchangers: with the bottom in one piece) while Alboreto will continue with the laboratory car. Ferrari comes out well at the end of the two days of tests at Brands Hatch and Monza. In both circuits where free tests are taking place simultaneously, the cars from Maranello are the fastest overall. On the English track, Stefan Johansson laps in 1'10"29, about 0.5s below the official record held by Piquet with the Brabham in 1'10"86. The Swede precedes Rosberg's Williams (1'10"50) and Senna's Lotus (1'11"16). Only eighth is Prost with McLaren (1'11"79). Meanwhile, at Monza, Alboreto sets a promising time of 1'27"873 in the evening with old-style qualifying tires. In previous free tests, Prost had been the fastest with a time of 1'28"195. Despite reporting a problem with the gearbox, Ferrari appears in good shape and satisfies the Italian driver. Many comparative tests are still being conducted, and different solutions are being studied, such as a shorter rear slide, a lower wing, and different suspension arrangements. The Ligier with Laffite (on Friday morning, Streiff, hired in place of De Cesaris, will try) takes to the track with a good time (1'29"82), Cheever with the new Alfa Romeo (1'30'11), Minardi with Martini (1'35"98), and Rothengatter's Osella (1'34"13). Cheever goes off at Lesmo, causing the breakage of the flat bottom. Alboreto is the protagonist of a spin.


"We did well, the tests have given satisfactory results, and the car has improved significantly. However, it is not the case to hazard predictions. The important thing is to confirm these results in the official tests. Only the comparison with the other cars will give a verdict on our progress".


This is the concise comment from Michele Alboreto at the end of the test in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite the cautious optimism of the Italian driver, satisfaction for the progress made by the car is evident within the Ferrari team. Two and a half days of work allow the Maranello team technicians to test various mechanical and aerodynamic solutions. Engineer Postlethwaite comments:


"We are satisfied with both tire tests and fuel consumption. Now the suspensions work better".


After concluding the trials, everything is set for the Italian Grand Prix scheduled for Sunday, September 8, 1985. The racetrack is prepared to host at least 160.000 spectators, and while the tickets are quite expensive, the cost of the event continues to rise. For security, 3.000 personnel will be deployed, including 1.000 carabinieri and policemen. The circuit's speakers will broadcast recorded messages from Alboreto and De Angelis, urging calm and sportsmanship. It is hoped that there won't be the usual detrimental scenes towards Alain Prost. On the sports news front, the Zakspeed will not participate due to Palmer's injury. It is confirmed that Tyrrell will race with only one car and will not replace the late Bellof. As for De Cesaris, it seems the Italian driver might be sidelined, though surprises are not ruled out. Beatrice's participation is certain, despite the car having overheating issues. Regarding the new American team, there's a rumor about driver Alan Jones. It appears that the Australian, two and a half months ago, was stopped by the London police while driving his car. He allegedly tested positive for alcohol. Jones denies and protests, claiming to be teetotal. He is expected to be processed in a month, risking the suspension of his regular license, while retaining the Formula 1 super license. The memory of an Italian driver contending for the world title at the traditional Italian Grand Prix is lost in the night of time. Perhaps that's why fans have become accustomed to idolizing Ferrari, regardless of the driver. Now, for the twelfth race of the World Championship, the two storylines converge: Michele Alboreto, in the red Ferrari, is challenging the great rival Alain Prost and McLaren for the championship. On Thursday, September 5, 1985, fans gather at the entrances, around the gates. Some even recognize the most well-known mechanics of the main teams. Someone shouts from the bars, with a hoarse voice: and the race has yet to begin. The drivers pass one by one, greeting and signing autographs. Michele Alboreto doesn't show up until late afternoon. He prefers to focus, to remain as calm as possible. Prost relaxes with a round of golf. For those present at Monza, they inspect the cars. McLaren doesn't seem to have significant updates. Even Ferrari, at a superficial glance, appears similar to the previous races. However, the three cars brought to Monza have undergone radical changes. Many details, but so many, all together, that it can be asserted that it is a new car. A compilation of work done in recent times. Suspension, aerodynamics, mechanics-everything has been reviewed and modified. Part of the rear wing is gone, a biplane wing that can become a triplane if needed, radiators once again moved. More refined electronics, aiming for maximum reliability. Michele Alboreto had said:


"If I have the right car, we can try to stop Prost. Otherwise, farewell to the title fight".


Once again, in the race that presents all the usual elements and many likely protagonists, the real interest is focused on the head-to-head between the Italian and the Frenchman. Two drivers who, in normal life, respect each other (on Saturday, they will take a lap of the track together in a Lancia Autobianchi Y10 to show the public that the rivalry exists but is only sportive) and who now find themselves facing each other in a race that could be decisive. Much depends on the work done by Ferrari, on the recovery that McLaren may have made in the fast circuits. In the context of this challenge, there are a thousand other connections. Niki Lauda's role (he won at Zandvoort, but will they let him potentially win another race against his teammate?), that of various Rosberg, Senna, and Piquet always in search of a personal victory. Stefan Johansson should not be underestimated; he should support Michele Alboreto, but at the same time, think about himself and the contract for the next year. Then there's the return of Alan Jones with the new Loia-Beatrice (nice to look at, red, but how competitive is it?), the debut of Philippe Streiff with Ligier replacing the sidelined De Cesaris. In short, the Italian Grand Prix offers several points of interest. Rarely has a Grand Prix had such an interesting content, at least in anticipation. 


This feeling is confirmed on Friday, September 6, 1985, when at the last moment, just as the checkered flag is lowered marking the end of the first day of trials, Nelson Piquet beats everyone in the provisional time standings. Keke Rosberg, who had been in the lead for almost an hour, is in the car, stopped at the box, convinced that no one would surpass him. When informed that the Brazilian was faster, the Finn tries to get back on the track, but it's too late. This is the highlight of the day, suggesting a fantastic duel between Brabham and Williams on Saturday to start at the front, with little chance for others to break into the first row. Piquet sets a new circuit record (using tires twice, seasoned by Pirelli, a trick that has already succeeded before) with a time of 1'25"679 at an average speed of 243.700 km/h. The two main title rivals do not join the fray initially. Alboreto records the sixth time (1'27"552), and Prost the seventh (1'27"576), both preceded not only by Piquet and Rosberg but also by Mansell, Senna, and De Angelis. However, one should not be anchored to mere numbers. As for Ferrari, there were some issues (two broken engines, one in the morning by Alboreto, the other in the afternoon by Johansson, credited with only the fourteenth time), but overall, the trials go fairly well. Aerodynamics is particularly emphasized in the Maranello team, with various types of front and rear wings. Apparently, there is still something to be done, but Alboreto seems optimistic about the car's stability. The difficulties of the Maranello cars, in the new aerodynamic configuration and with modified suspensions, are attributed to the imperfect use of tires for some time. Alboreto and Johansson are faster with type C tires, while with the softer E compounds, they cannot complete a single lap. If Ferrari comes out of the day with a bit more hope, McLaren remains an unknown. Prost and Lauda grumble about the engines, described as somewhat tired by both drivers. Indeed, while Piquet is the fastest even in maximum speed (334.115 km/h at the finish line), Prost stops at 317.909 km/h, against Alboreto's 326.205 km/h. But the Frenchman and the Austrian also complain about the handling of their cars. Besides, there is a spectacular off-track excursion at the second Lesmo corner by the Frenchman Philippe Strelff, with damage to the suspensions and bodywork. Senna behaves cautiously; he doesn't know what the circuit is like. 


He has never raced at Monza, and he hasn't even cycled around it. Furthermore, after the successes at the beginning of the season, the Brazilian is going through a period of discouragement. Yet, on Saturday, September 7, 1985, Ayrton Senna, with his black Lotus, secures pole position. It is the fifth time in the championship, out of twelve races. The Brazilian driver manages to unite friends and foes alike by setting a track record with a time of 1'25"084. Everyone must bow to the unleashed South American, from Keke Rosberg to Nigel Mansell, to compatriots Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, and Elio De Angelis, qualified in that order. At the end of the second timed practice session, the six say they could have done better, but in the end, Senna was the fastest. However, it is not the performance of the brilliant Lotus driver that constitutes the driving force of the Grand Prix. We are still in the duel for the World Championship between Prost and Alboreto. And it must be said immediately that the McLaren driver scores another point by outpacing the opponent in the starting grid. The Italian, despite improving his time from Friday, drops to seventh place, and the Frenchman rises to fifth. During the trials, there is an initial dominance by Piquet, later surpassed by Rosberg, who seemed unapproachable. Towards the end of the hour available, after Senna's exploit, Prost tries to set a faster time. Despite Alboreto's attempts, who returns to the track with tires full of bubbles, it doesn't seem that Ferrari is ever capable of approaching the results of the fastest. The most worrying aspect (for Ferrari and therefore for Michele) is that McLaren still appears to be the best car in race trim, with a full tank of gas. Ferrari highlights issues with grip (understeer especially for Johansson, in tenth) and tire utilization. The race could be decided precisely by the tires. It is predictable that many teams will attempt, as happened at Zandvoort, a mid-race tire change, making the choice of compounds problematic and risky, also influencing lap performance. In essence, McLaren seems to have more chances over the distance, when various Rosberg, Senna, and others will have exhausted themselves. The Finn claims that his car is winning in terms of competitiveness but admits that the major problem is reliability. For Michele Alboreto, the task is always challenging. In theory, he cannot attack as he would like; he must be on the defensive. The Italian driver remains calm, aware of his abilities but also of the fact that, in theory, Ferrari has not recovered the disadvantage highlighted against rivals, as the trials of the previous week had hoped. 


The times recorded by the modified 156/85 are slightly better than those of Tambay's Renault, but one can always count on the robustness shown so far in the race. Alboreto hoped to secure a better position, to be ahead of the adversary Prost at least at the start. Instead, he has to yield two positions, although he will be only behind by one row. For Johansson, it is not one of the worst results (tenth), but even the Swede was convinced, after the trials at Brands Hatch, of achieving something better.


"Let's see how it goes in the race because making predictions is useless. Of course, I expected something more; the car is not perfect. We obtained a slight improvement in performance on the second day of trials, but I realize that McLaren is always very strong. Fortunately, I won't be forced into a terrible chase like the one in Zandvoort".


Italian finishes his trials a little before the deadline, having used up all the available tires. He immediately changes and enters the motorhome, glued to the monitor screen displaying the times. When Prost overtakes him in the end, there's a sudden burst of energy. Alboreto immediately thinks of the rival, of the duel that will engage him at the limit of both his and the car's capabilities. Then he hopes that Senna helps him in some way, that he positions himself ahead of the Frenchman, and indeed, the Brazilian is excellent, even placing himself ahead of everyone. Technical manager Tornami explains the current situation, saying:


"Indeed, we didn't perform as well as certain results had led us to hope. We have problems, doubts about the car setups. Especially for the choice of tires, we don't know exactly what others will do. We should start with three medium tires, type B, and one harder, A, to match the circuit's characteristics. But this will be a last-minute decision, depending on the race conditions. It can't be said that our cars behaved negatively, but neither can we claim to have achieved a positive result".


For Stefan Johansson, there's only one request. The Swede hopes not to be eliminated from the race immediately, as happened in the very recent occasions.


"I hope to complete a full race. It will certainly be difficult; I've had understeer issues, but if I manage to reach the end, I'm sure I would be among the top finishers. I would also like to help Michele earn valuable points for the championship, but I don't know if I'll be able to. It is certain, however, that if there is any chance of doing so, I will be the first to consider it. It seems, though, that McLarens are always very difficult to pass".


The fans of the Maranello team gather in large numbers, beyond the gates, around the Ferrari van. They call for Alboreto for a long time, asking him to win, to try to beat Prost. But the task of the Italian driver is tough, almost impossible. Apparently calm and serene, certainly charged and determined, Alain Prost, after the trials, speaks at length. The French driver tries to hold a press conference, especially with the Italians, to explain his intentions and goals. While talking, disturbed by a French journalist, he turns and pushes him roughly.


"This could be the decisive race as I can make another leap against Michele Alboreto. The reasons I am convinced of McLaren's superiority over Ferrari are simple. Our cars have several advantages. Here's the most important: we almost always have the same top speed in practice and in the race. This means we are more competitive. And I'm also quite sure that Ferrari in the race will be much inferior to my McLaren".


Does racing at Ferrari's home, and especially on Michele Alboreto's track, have any importance?


"It's not certain that it's an advantage for Alboreto. Michele will be inclined to take risks, to try to push the limits that perhaps are beyond the reach of his car. He will have to exploit the Ferrari mechanics to the fullest, and this is certainly a danger he has not faced on other occasions".


Is there a preordained race tactic?


"I can't rely on help from my teammate Lauda. Besides, it's perhaps better to do without certain aids. I've tried tires with very hard compounds and found them good. It's possible that my not-so-secret weapon is not having to stop in the pits while still being competitive. This, however, will be seen during the Grand Prix".


Can the World Championship be decided immediately?


"No. There are still four more races to go. That means 36 points available for a potential winner. Let's say that Monza will be very important, if not decisive. As for the end of the season, I'm quite worried. We need some stability in the calendar, to know where we will go racing. Instead, strange voices are heard. As for me, I want to emphasize that it won't be up to us drivers to decide whether to go racing in South Africa. This is a task for the Federation, the Constructors' Association, the politicians. We go where they send us".


Alain Prost concludes:


"It's possible that there will be some risk, but that's not important. The important thing is not to do stupid things and especially not to unsettle the fans with sudden decisions. Racing on one circuit or another is the same for me; meanwhile, my car has proven to be superior on almost all tracks. But I would like to know it from now on".


Not far away, Niki Lauda, a bit downcast, relegated to sixteenth place, says:


"I think Prost becomes the favorite for Monza and the world title. I've done my part; I had problems in the trials. But that counts for little. The McLaren matters".


Niki is not resigned but appears less cared for by the team. He will be forced into a strenuous recovery (Lauda, defined by many as the robot pilot, seems to have been betrayed once again by the onboard computer, which irregularly operated the engine). Apart from the Austrian, the sixteen competitors behind Prost should not count for the points zone. They might only play a role in overtaking, in unforeseen incidents not covered by the regulations. And it's a pity because it would be nice to see a Patrese and a Cheever fight with the Alfas, to see a Fabi and a Ghinzani with the Tolemans up to the task. Not to mention the other Italian cars, although Rothengatter and Martini, respectively with the Osella and the Minardi, were dignified, and this time they don't start last. Behind them is one of the four World Champions in the race (the others are Piquet, Lauda, and Rosberg), Alan Jones. The Australian and his car, the Lola-Beatrice, are still running in. Keke Rosberg, author of the second time in the second qualifying session, misses the pole position because of his Williams. The Finnish driver, who set a time of 1'25"230, less than 0.2s from Senna's Lotus, is involved in an episode that once again demonstrates his great skill.


"As soon as I got on the track, the clutch practically broke. But I continued anyway at the maximum. When I arrived at the Parabolica, the brakes suddenly failed. Instead of using the fourth gear, not to go off the track, probably against a guardrail, I had to engage the third, which was not planned. The maneuver certainly slowed me down. Too bad because I could have achieved a better result".


The Williams driver also says that he is sure he can win if the car does not betray him. But in the last races, his car, after being almost always in the lead at the beginning, has often given in at a distance. And it's on this that the rivals of the flying Finn also count. The Italian Grand Prix, like all the most important sporting events, also presents accidents and various incidents: injuries, thefts, brawls. On Saturday, for example, in the central infirmary of the circuit, about fifty injured and collapsed are welcomed; five people are taken to San Gerardo Hospital in Monza. The most serious is a boy who fractures both wrists while trying to jump a fence. The Financial Police stop two Germans with forged FIA passes and denounce them. It was possible to ascertain that there would be a specialized center for this type of fraud in Germany. Anti-counterfeiting checks (120 finance officers are present, 200 will be there on Sunday). The special carabinieri service continues with civilian cars and plainclothes men at key points of the track. Several tons of material are seized, and the phenomenon of unauthorized scaffolding is limited. On Sunday, September 8, 1985, at the start of the Italian Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna fails to resist Keke Rosberg's attack at the first chicane, despite trying to defend himself, even putting two wheels on the gravel at the edge of the track. Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, and two Italian drivers, Elio De Angelis and Michele Alboreto, follow. Senna's race is, at least in the first laps, disappointing: already at the Curva Grande, he is forced to give up his position to Mansell, and during the third lap, the Brazilian is also passed by Prost. In the next lap, Mansell, struggling with the engine, is overtaken by the entire group. The British driver returns to the pits to replace the electronic control unit. During the fifth lap, De Angelis also overtakes Senna, and two laps later, Alboreto, who has chosen tires that are too hard, is passed by Piquet. After ten laps, Rosberg has an 8.8s advantage over Prost, 17.6s over De Angelis, 18.8s over Senna, and 21.8s over Piquet. Behind the Brabham driver, Alboreto gives way to the advancing Niki Lauda. 


During the 11th lap, Nelson Piquet enters the pit lane for a tire change. The Brazilian driver re-enters the track in eleventh position. Between laps 15 and 17, Lauda manages to pass the two Lotuses. The Austrian driver overtakes Senna first, then De Angelis, who tries to resist the opponent's attack at the Parabolica turn but without success. The World Champion's pursuit is interrupted during the 26th lap: the front wing suddenly lowers, forcing Lauda to return to the pits for repairs and a tire change. During the next lap, Alboreto also makes a pit stop. The Italian driver returns to the track in eighth place. The change in the lead of the Grand Prix takes place during the 28th lap, with Rosberg's pit stop. The Finn, after changing tires, returns to the track in second place behind Prost. Meanwhile, De Angelis slows down due to a computer error in his car. The Italian Lotus driver, convinced that he has consumed too much fuel, allows Senna to pass, moving up to third place. Prost enjoys a margin of almost 14 seconds over Rosberg, who is, however, the fastest driver on the track, recovering almost two seconds per lap. Behind them, Senna follows, more than 45 seconds behind, ahead of De Angelis, Johansson, and Surer. During the 31st lap, the Swiss driver is overtaken by his teammate, Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian continues his comeback by passing Johansson two laps later, while Niki Lauda retires due to a problem with the Porsche engine. During the 37th lap, Johansson stops at the pit for a tire change, and in the 38th lap, Piquet also passes De Angelis, later overtaken by Surer. During the 40th lap, Rosberg overtakes Prost on the main straight, and shortly after, taking advantage of the slipstream from the Lotus, at the exit of the Parabolica, Piquet overtakes Senna and moves up to third place. Rosberg increases his lead over Prost, extending it to 7 seconds before, during the 45th lap, his engine betrays him (due to a gasket failure in the cylinder head, causing the engine coolant to leak), forcing him to return to the pits and abandon the race. Meanwhile, De Angelis gives way to Alboreto. Prost finds himself in the lead of the race, with a margin of over a minute over Piquet. Senna is third, threatened by Surer. Alboreto retires, also due to an engine failure, during the 46th lap, while on the last lap, Johansson stops due to a lack of fuel in the tank. Once again, it's Prost, still in the McLaren. 


The fifth seasonal victory for the French driver, the sixth for the English team (excluding the disqualification in Imola), an exact average of one victory every two races competed. If there were any doubts, they have been dispelled.


"My most beautiful victory. Not only because I won at Monza and beat Ferrari. What I liked is that I raced well, without troubles, that my car proved to be the best on every type of track. I didn't have the slightest problem".


The truth, however, is ugly for Ferrari. The Maranello team has taken a step back in time. It seemed like they were back in the dark periods when everything went wrong. At the same time Alain Prost and his McLaren dealt a severe blow to hopes and ambitions, Alboreto and Johansson were forced to struggle with cars that were not competitive at the highest level - like Lotus and Brabham - and unexpectedly lost (this is the least comforting fact overall, beyond the result) the reliability that had been their true weapon so far. Alboreto retired, six laps from the end, due to an engine failure, when he had laboriously climbed to fifth place, and Johansson ran out of fuel just when he had to cross the finish line again. Slow in the first part of the race (after sixteen laps, Alboreto had already accumulated a 42s delay from the leader), the Ferraris partially recovered in the final phase. But they had to push themselves to such an extent that a negative conclusion was inevitable. The two McLarens and especially the incredible Williams were absolutely out of reach for the cars from Maranello, which, however, did not resist the demands imposed by the unleashed Rosberg and Mansell. 


It was almost immediately understood how things would turn out. Prost started with harder tires (he had already said on Saturday that he would make a prudent choice) and let the others vent their aggression. Rosberg and Mansell set the pace. Only Senna, in his splendid racing madness, tried to oppose the Williams when the traffic light turned green. The Lotus driver slipped between the Finn and the Englishman as if he were alone on the track. A nasty accident was narrowly avoided. After fixing the Lotus, Rosberg attacked with more heart than conviction, while Prost, at a medium distance of about 10 seconds, was his shadow, after Mansell had been forced into a long pit stop for an electrical problem brilliantly resolved later. Behind them, the Lotuses kept pace with Senna and De Angelis exchanging positions, while Brabham and Ferrari fought among themselves. Niki Lauda, starting sixteenth, recovered noticeably until (he was already third) he mysteriously lost the front wing on the straight, and subsequently the engine began to cough, forcing the Austrian into a rather unsatisfactory retirement. A blow. That's the only way to describe the result of the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari. Probably all ambitions are finished, illusions are over. No one hides it, defeat is admitted, burning, too severe. Alboreto retired, Johansson fifth, a lap behind, stopped along the track, out of fuel. The Italian driver explains the situation quite succinctly:


"They were better than us. Already in Holland, McLaren seemed unbeatable, the same thing happened at Monza. We failed both with tires and with the chassis and the engine. When my engine died, my arms fell. I hadn't had big problems until that moment, and I was content with a possible placement. I hadn't even worried too much when I saw Prost coming up behind me".


The Italian driver is immediately asked if the fight for the World Championship is over. On subsequent occasions, he gives different answers, a sign of a bad mood, with ups and downs. First, he says,


"The championship ends in Australia, in Adelaide, on November 3".


Then he repeats:


"Of course, it will be very difficult, tough, we don't have many chances to recover".


And finally, he admits:


"Prost has practically won, the World Championship is over".


But Alboreto is certainly not the type to give up. It will be enough to have a more competitive car, recover something, and he will surely attempt an apparently impossible comeback. But at the moment, the defeat burns, especially at Monza:


"I'm really sorry about this. For the Italian public. It was moving, a real boost for me, an exceptional show. It deserved something more. Unfortunately, neither I nor Ferrari were able to provide satisfaction. I hope to be able to do it in the next races".


Even Stefan Johansson, rewarded, all in all, with a fifth place, ends up accepting the evident superiority of McLaren:


"We had very little traction and a lot of understeer. The car was difficult to drive. Then I ran out of fuel at the end. I don't know what happened, probably something wasn't working in the fuel gauge. It's hard to understand, at this point, how we lost all competitiveness not only against McLaren but also against Williams, Lotus, and Brabham. For me, the championship is not over, that is, Michele still has some small chance, but Prost becomes an obstacle that will be difficult to overcome".


The explanation from the sports director Marco Piccinini is also bitter. Moreover, it cannot certainly be discussed differently:


"A completely negative day in every respect. We came from two critical Grand Prix, and there had been some small signs of improvement. Unfortunately, there was no confirmation for these hopes but a counter-performance. We regret that it happened in front of our home crowd, and for Michele".


Did Ferrari expect a more vulnerable McLaren?


"We certainly didn't expect a weak opponent. They are strong, and we don't need to be the ones saying it".


People gather for a long time around the Ferrari tent, hoping to get a close look at Alboreto and Johansson. Some shout, some applaud, and others whistle. In the early laps of the race, when it became clear that the Maranello cars theoretically couldn't compete with the other teams, someone in the stands shouts:


"Ferrari, stay home".


Certainly, that's not the best solution. Ferrari will continue to work, trying to bridge the performance gap with their competitors. Soon, the race resumes, and it's time for the recovery of the Belgian Grand Prix at Francorchamps. In the spring there, after just one day of testing before the race suspension due to the impassable track, Michele Alboreto secured the pole position. Meanwhile, there is great celebration in the McLaren team after the Italian Grand Prix. Another victory (the seventh of the season, not counting Prost's disqualification in Imola) effectively secures the world title, even though mathematical certainty is still pending. It also allows the English team to surpass Ferrari in the Constructors' Championship. 


Happy faces, smiles, hearty pats on the back, and some unnecessary shoving and hitting by overzealous guards. Alain Prost, not at all fatigued, once again very relaxed and calm, speaks as usual at length, providing a precise analysis of the situation and the race.


"Twelve points ahead of Michele Alboreto is a good thing. I believe this time the World Championship cannot escape me. I haven't clinched the helmet yet, but I think I'm very close to achieving that goal. Honestly, I was very calm because I knew I was more competitive than Ferrari and, therefore, my direct rival Alboreto. I had a fairly calm race".


Were you not afraid of Rosberg either?


"I knew that sooner or later Keke would have problems. And it happened precisely. But I would have settled for second place, perhaps. The important thing was to distance Alboreto. My car is fantastic on all tracks. Sometimes we had small difficulties, but we always managed to overcome every problem".


Last year, in the final stretch of the season, the points needed to beat teammate Lauda were lacking. What has changed in the 1985 version of Prost?


"A bit more experience, logical maturation, but the same determination, the same desire to win. And then I don't think I made too many mistakes, as some claim, not even in the past. Believe me, often it was the car's fault. In any case, it is clear that with each race you learn something".


Were you ever afraid of Niki Lauda when he was getting closer?


"Niki? I never thought about it. I was just careful not to make mistakes, and I think I succeeded. At the beginning, I had a small problem with the turbo pressure. That's why I let the others, Rosberg and Senna, unleash themselves, but I knew I would immediately move up to the top positions. By the fifth lap, I was already second behind Rosberg and with the belief that I would win".


Just before the start, there was an exchange of predictions between the mechanics of McLaren and those of Ferrari. From the English team, a sign was displayed that read:


"First Prost, second Lauda, third Alboreto, fourth Johansson".


The crowd erupted, and from the Maranello box, another board was displayed in response with only:


"First Alboreto, second Johansson".


The only one who never smiles, not even once, is Lauda. The Austrian could have been a great protagonist and was, up to a certain point in the race when he had to stop suddenly while already in third place, behind Rosberg and Prost. His car was seen arriving at the box suddenly with the nose crushed. There was the impression that he had hit someone, maybe in a lapping. But Niki, very angry, explains that the nose detached on its own and implies that the blame could be on the mechanics.


"Once again, I was delayed by a malfunction. I wonder why these things never happen to Prost".


A controversy erupts after the race among the drivers involved in the battles at the front of the Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna is especially under fire, indicated by Williams colleagues and Nelson Piquet as the protagonist of two dangerous incidents. Rosberg and Mansell say:


"At the start, Lotus #12 made a very dangerous move, squeezing in between us at the chicane. A disaster could have happened. That's not how you drive, taking such risks on the first lap".


Nelson Piquet then adds fuel to the fire, a compatriot of Senna, for another incident:


"When I overtook him, he closed the trajectory incredibly. He risked throwing me out and wasting a good result that I was about to achieve. I then returned the favor by blocking him on another occasion. In the end, though, we talked and apologized to each other. However, this is not how you race. You need to use your brain more".


Nelson Piquet is particularly satisfied with his second position. He had to change tires earlier than planned because the state of the track didn't allow his car, particularly light on aerodynamics, to grip well. Later, when the car became lighter, Piquet could attack with tires that worked wonderfully. Elio De Angelis is particularly nervous, accusing Lotus once again of treating him like a second-rate driver.


"I had a terrible engine, no power. Certainly different from my teammate Senna's, who attacked and passed me as he pleased. In the end, I consumed 26 liters more than Ayrton's Lotus".


Alfa Romeo has no intention of withdrawing from racing, as some rumors suggested in recent days. The Milanese company is evaluating the situation and will try to remain in Formula 1 in the best possible way, hoping to achieve some positive results. The president of the Automotive Industry, Ettore Massacesi, explains the future plans.


"It's not true that we are withdrawing; we would prefer to be just engine suppliers. But it's difficult to entrust a completely new engine to another team. I do not exclude, therefore, that there will be an interim year".


The translation of these words means that Alfa Romeo will likely continue to compete on its own or with the Euroracing team in 1986. Sponsors will be sought to make the Formula 1 team less of a burden on the company's financial statements. If the new four-cylinder engine, which should be ready in the coming days, works well, it will be sold to other teams, and long-term plans will be made. Returning to talk about Ferrari, on Tuesday, September 10, and Wednesday, September 11, 1985, Stefan Johansson will be busy testing at Monza behind closed doors, while Michele Alboreto will test the cars that will be sent to Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, September 15, 1985. Enzo Ferrari remains silent, as is customary after significant defeats and small victories. Still, it is conceivable that on Monday in the office of the Modenese constructor, there was a stormy atmosphere. Asking for someone's head now or changes in direction would be pointless. The only solution is to try to remedy, if possible, the shortcomings highlighted in the bitter Italian Grand Prix won by Prost. For now, no measures are taken, although sensational surprises at various levels are not excluded in the not-too-distant future. However, let's focus on the present. The Monza tests were not planned. They were decided immediately after the race, and this was evident when, contrary to usual practice, the Ferrari vehicles had not left the track late at night. And, unlike usual, the public or journalists will not be able to directly witness the tests at the pit. Secrecy can be determined even by the need to work calmly. 


But it's not difficult to imagine that some novelty will be experimented on the field, i.e., on a real race track (the private one in Fiorano may not be enough to simulate certain conditions found in a race). There is talk of aerodynamics, chassis, engine (double-stage turbines, a different car? All hypotheses are simultaneously plausible and imaginative). The only certain thing is that Ferrari has not surrendered to McLaren's superiority. While the drop in competitiveness of Alboreto and Johansson's cars, despite the care they received, remains inexplicable, it is increasingly evident that the English team with a German engine is moving like a tank. Helped a bit by luck and a lot by its current technical resources, McLaren has brilliantly overcome the most difficult moments. Changing tire suppliers (from Michelin to Goodyear) forced designer Patrick Head to review the suspensions and other details of his cars. He did it step by step, with a certain prudence. The current McLaren is not the fastest car in Formula 1, it doesn't have the best grip, it doesn't have the most aggressive drivers, but it surely has the best compromise between all these qualities and requirements. Above all, it has two driving champions who, besides being skilled and competent, are also excellent testers. They can give engineers the indications to correct the flaws of the cars. To reverse this situation in a few days, a manifest inferiority materialized in the Italian Grand Prix with a time difference in the first part of the race (before tire change and with a full tank of fuel) oscillating around 2 seconds per lap, is quite problematic. It is now clear that, to try to keep up with rivals, Ferrari had to force its parameters. More powerful engines, higher consumption, greater risks of breakdowns. Balance: Alboreto retired six laps from the end with the engine failure, Johansson stopped six kilometers before the finish line without fuel. The only hope to cling to for continuing the fight in Francorchamps can be fueled only by a victory. Otherwise, one will have to think about the next year. As has been done since 1979.


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