#416 1985 Italian Grand Prix

2022-07-27 01:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#416 1985 Italian Grand Prix

The tail-end of the Formula One scene is going through a bad time at the moment, first with the death of Manfred Winkelhock in Canada, then the injuri

The tail-end of the Formula One scene is going through a bad time at the moment, first with the death of Manfred Winkelhock in Canada, then the injuries to Jonathan Palmer during practice at Spa­Francorchamps and then the death of Stefan Bellof during the Spa 1.000 kms race, all these incidents being in Group C sports cars, but robbing Formula One of three of its regular runners. Ken Tyrrell withdraws his number four entry in respect for his lamented driver and Zakspeed withdraws its entry as well. The entry list for the 56th Italian Grand Prix is brought up to 26 by the entry of Alan Jones making another return to Formula One, this time with a new team financed by an American group of companies using a chassis designed and built in England and powered by a Hart 415T engine. There is a change in the normal scene in the replacement of Andrea de Cesaris in the Ligier-Renault team by Frenchman Philippe Streiff. With the end of the season in sight there is a slight feeling of end of term about the paddock as everyone gets ready for the Friday morning test-session, with nothing really new mechanically to be seen, though just as much progress going in detail terms of engine power and efficiency and chassis and suspension mods to utilise the power, while tyre development is continuous. Ferrari has resurrected the two new monocoques it built for the French GP and added suspension improvements and re-thinking in terms of radiators and inter-coolers in each side pod, while it has built a brand-new car to this revised specification for Alboreto’s use. The Tyrrell team has completed a third 014 model with Renault power for Brundle, his original 014/1 becoming the T-car. As a change from recent races there are no worries about the weather; it is warm and sunny and in typical Italian fashion it is obviously going to stay that way. Indeed, Italy hasn’t seen any rain all summer - it’s all been north of the Alps.
The first remarkable revelation is to discover that young Ayrton Senna has never ever driven round Monza in any sort of car and is going to have to learn the circuit, yet everyone assumes he will be challenging the established stars for fastest time in any practice session. Down at the bottom end of the pit lane it is good to see the chunky features of Alan Jones once more and the team personnel of the new Beatrice­sponsored car, called a Lola-Hart, for want of a better name, included many familiar faces from Formula One of a year or so ago. Everyone has all their cars out in front of the pits so that the paddock looks uncannily empty, all the workshop tents alongside the transporters being remarkably clean and tidy with only the odd engine or three tucked away in corners. It only needs the hour and a half of Friday morning to change all this, for in spite of three chicanes Monza is fast and calls for sheer engine power, and strong engines at that. The Honda engines in the Williams cars sound really hard and purposeful, while the BMW engines are making things vibrate all round them and the Renault, Ferrari and Porsche engines are making it quite obvious that the name-of-the-game at Monza is horsepower and torque, with the teams’ chassis and aerodynamic experts juggling the variables to get the highest speed possible, commensurate with down-force to get maximum cornering power. That both factions are winning is shown by Piquet and Alboreto, in Brabham-BMW and Ferrari, respectively, recording over 197 mph through the speed trap at the finishing line, while Mansell and others are already approaching the existing fastest practice lap of 1'26"584 from last year, and this is only a test-session in preparation for the afternoon qualifying for grid position. The morning session is not without its drama and when it is over Tambay’s Renault, Patrese’s Alfa Romeo and Acheson’s RAM are towed in and Streiff’s Ligier is brought in on a breakdown crane after spinning off the track.
The Renault has run out of petrol, the Alfa Romeo has suffered engine damage as has the RAM, while already in the paddock workshop tents is one of the Beatrice-Lola cars, with driveshaft trouble, while Piquet’s race Brabham has broken its BMW engine and the T-car engine is not working properly. The new Tyrrell’s Renault engine will not work at all, defying all the efforts of the Renault engine men to get it to start, and the Osella team has an engine failure. The afternoon is really hot, so there is no mad rush to set a qualifying lap time and nearly five minutes pass before Brundle sets the ball rolling with the original Tyrrell 014. In anticipation of Ferrari being to the fore a huge partisan crowd has paid to come and watch, and hopefully clap and cheer, but the Ferrari cars are not in the picture. As the aces take to the track the Ferraris are pushed further and further down the grid, and there is nothing to cheer about. For the tifosi it is a very dull afternoon. For those of us who take a broader view it is really hotting up and Piquet goes through the speed trap at 207 mph with a lap in 1'26"595. He gets this down to 1'26"527 with another 207 mph pass, on his second run and in a final effort he shatters everyone with 1'25"679, but only records 206.3 mph through the speed trap. Marc Surer in the second Brabham-BMW clocks 203.612 mph with a very respectable lap time of 1'27"799, and Gerhard Berger takes his Arrows-BMW through the trap at 203.206 mph with a lap time of 1'27"746. The visible grunt of the BMW engines from 130 mph onwards is quite spectacular and the unfortunate tail­enders like Martini with the V6 powered Minardi and Acheson with the Hart­-powered RAM cannot reach 180 mph.
The Hondas are just on the 200 mph mark and Rosberg and Mansell are second and third, but not in the same bracket as Piquet. Ferrari are not in the BMW class on speed and are even worse on handling so neither Alboreto nor Johansson can give their fans anything to cheer about, added to which Johansson’s engine blows up and he has to wait untii Alboreto has finished, to have a go in the T-car, in case the team leader needs it. The Lotus-Renaults are not as fast as the Ferraris on the straight but both de Angelis and Senna are faster on lap times, the Brazilian being fourth fastest overall on his first attempt on the Monza track. A natural fast driver? Tambay has an exciting moment when he has to take to the grass verge at the Lesmo corners in order to miss Laffite’s Ligier which moves the wrong way when being overtaken. At 150 mph the Renault skates along on the grass and then comes back on the track, but a hidden kerbstone gouges the monocoque’s underside so the car is u/s for the rest of the meeting. Tambay takes over the T-car and next day the Renault mechanics build up a new T-car round a spare monocoque. It has been a pretty impressive high speed session, with Piguet averaging 151.428 mph (243.700 kph) on his fastest lap and Rosberg being second at 150.581 mph, both of them faster than last year’s pole-position figure. The only consolation that the Italian papers can give the fans is to tell them that Alboreto is faster than Prost, much play being made of their personal battle to score points for the World Champion title. They almost forget to mention that they are only sixth and seventh in the preliminary grid line-up, while poor Johansson is down in a miserable 14th position. Piquet’s fast time has not been without trouble, for his gearbox goes wrong during his second run and after having it put right his third and final run is on part-worn tyres.
Saturday is another warm and sunny day and even while testing there are troubles, Alan Jones blowing up his Hart engines in both his cars and Mansell having a very hairy moment at high speed when a rear tyre deflates, but he somehow keeps it on the road and away from the unforgiving guard rails. While the Williams team gives it a thorough inspection Mansell used the T-car for the afternoon qualifying. The Beatrice team finds engine changing a longer job than anticipated so that Jonesey-boy only manages to get out in the dying minutes of the qualifying hour. After the deception of Friday qualifying a much smaller crowd attends on Saturday and their deception is even worse for Prost is actually faster than Alboreto. The scene at the front changes dramatically. Piguet knocks a fraction off his previous best time, but then the big KKK turbocharger fails and the mechanics have a busy time changing it, everything being very hot. Rosberg and Mansell both beat Piquet’s new time and it looks like being a Williams­-Honda front row until near the end of the hour when Senna goes out and does an inspired lap in 1'25"084, which includes putting two wheels on the grass out of the first Lesmo corner, which takes the edge off his speed through the second Lesmo corner. His excursion off the road isn’t intentional, he is simply going too fast! The remarkable thing is his speed trap time at the finish was only 197 mph, against Piquet’s speed of 206.9 mph on his quick lap. Surer is still nearly as fast, with 205.7 mph and Johansson and Rosberg clock over 200 mph, the Ferrari’s poor handling being emphasised by the Swede’s lap time only giving him tenth position on the grid. Prost moves up to fifth position, even though he can only manage 194 mph through the trap and Alboreto is seventh, so once again the crowd sits quietly and rather bored.
In the last minutes of qualifying Piquet goes out with a new turbocharger fitted to his BMW engine, but all hopes of regaining pole position are lost when he finds the track slick with oil from the BMW engine in Boutsen’s Arrows, which has blown up. Sunday would have been a real scorcher except that the sky is overcast with a heavy haze, but it is quite stable and means that the day is comfortably warm and free from glare, which is ideal for racing. In spite of the black days of practice an enormous crowd flocks into the Autodromo di Monza, ever hopeful that Alboreto will win by some miracle, or at the least that the dreaded Prost will blow up his Porsche engine. One paper gives the crowd as 120.000, another gives it as 150.000 and one even quoted 180.000, but certainly the place is packed solid so it must be 100.000, and they are all in place quite early, in spite of the race not being due to start until 3:00 p.m.. The morning warm-up sees the McLarens of Prost and Lauda recording the fastest lap times in race conditions, which always depresses everyone else, especially after qualifying sessions in which they did not figure strongly. The Beatrice team is still in trouble with its Hart engines blowing up, the new one in 002 failing, so that 001 has to be prepared for the race. The RAM team is also getting short on Hart engines, while the Toleman team is having no real trouble at all with its engines, which suggests installation problems on cooling and oil circulation in the RAM and Lola. The Arrows team has another BMW engine failure and Boutsen’s car is in many pieces during the lunch hour; Lauda’s McLaren is having a new clutch fitted and Mansell’s Williams has the gearbox off having a small oil leak cured. All is ready by 2:30 p.m. when the 26 cars set off from the pits to line up on the gnd. In the morning warm-up session Senna’s Renault race engine seemed a bit flat relative to his qualifying engine but the Renault engine men check all the electronic read-outs and pronounce it fit, so the idea of changing it is dropped, but Senna isn’t convinced about it.

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.



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