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#502 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix

2023-01-23 15:18

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#1991, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Flavia Delfini,

#502 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix

Senna makes the difference; with the Brazilian at the wheel, Ferrari would have won in Phoenix. These are two of the statements taken and published in

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Senna makes the difference; with the Brazilian at the wheel, Ferrari would have won in Phoenix. These are two of the statements taken and published in the days following the US Grand Prix. The first, by Cesare Fiorio, came out in the confusion typical of any end of the race. The second was attributed to Steve Nichols, the American designer who worked for McLaren for years and who has been on the technical staff of the Modena team since 1989. There are some clarifications in this regard. Ferrari's sporting director, Cesare Fiorio, explains:

 

"Personally, I meant that, to evaluate Senna's performance, a comparison can be made with his team-mate Berger, who was always far behind in both practice and the race. The difference is understood in this sense".

 

As far as Nichols is concerned, the discourse is still different. If you listen to the complete recording of the interview, you discover that at no point does the technician speak of Senna being linked with Ferrari. He merely says that Ayrton is particularly adept at driving on circuits similar to that of Arizona. The above statement, therefore, is presumably the result of an incorrect interpretation (or translation from English). Having said that, people, the fans, will ask themselves whether the World Champion's success in Phoenix was really the result of a masterpiece of the driver or of McLaren's skills. The answer is simple and, as always, the truth lies in the middle: every victory comes from a combination of situations, of possibilities. Fiorio continues:

 

"It is clear that McLaren tuned the car better than we did in Phoenix. And Senna was able to take advantage of that".

 

It is then no longer a case of being surprised either by the performance of the British car or that of the driver. Since 1984 McLaren has dominated the scene, it has been able to give itself an organisation that is capable of overcoming any turnover of men. And the Brazilian is the fastest driver ever. It cannot be overlooked that Ayrton Senna - 31 years old on 21 March 1991 - has reached the peak of his performance. He has been in Formula 1 for seven years and in that time he has been able to improve his already remarkable natural skills. To the talent, courage, and determination of his youth (improved through competitive schooling first in karts, then in the English minor formulae, specialities from which he emerged with the status of phenomenon and an impressive number of victories and records) he has added maturity and experience. A total dedication to racing, an absolute meticulousness in physical and technical preparation, a sensitivity that is perhaps currently unprecedented. It is difficult to make classifications for different eras, but the boy from São Paulo puts himself at least on the level of Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Piquet and Prost, even if each of these champions had and has perhaps different characteristics. McLaren team principal Ron Dennis is used to saying:

 

"Ayrton Senna is currently the best driver in Formula 1. Otherwise we would not pay him so much. But I believe that a good driver would not win races and titles if he did not have competitive cars. Ayrton himself, with other teams, had only managed to stand out, but had not won world championships".

 

But are we looking at a racing season under the Senna-McLaren sign again? At Ferrari they are now a little more cautious. Confidence, however, is not lacking.

 

"In Brazil the story should be different. The track at Interlagos will tell the truth, we think we will be in the fight for the win".

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Even in a megalopolis (18.000.000 inhabitants ascertained), wracked by a thousand irresolvable problems, the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix still manages to create a major pole of interest. The newspapers and the seven local television stations have been bombarding the public for days with announcements, proclamations, predictions, interviews. They are all concerned, among other things, about the bad weather that has been raging for a week and that is jeopardising the smooth running of the race on Sunday. A sort of end-of-summer monsoon that has unleashed terrible hurricanes. The last one, seven hours of torrential rain, turned the roads into flooding rivers with tragic consequences: fifteen dead and about ninety missing in the State. And controversies to no end have involved the city's mayor Luiza Erundina, who has been accused of downplaying the shortcomings of São Paulo's facilities, and of saying that the current disasters will serve as a push to create the necessary structures in the future to avoid other disasters. São Paulo is also in chaos due to the strike of public transport drivers and conductors. But in the Interlagos area, the troubles of ordinary people are far away. Here one thinks almost exclusively of Ayrton Senna. Who is the absolute star, eagerly awaited after his success in Phoenix. On Wednesday, fans screamed choruses and anthems at the circuit, right in front of the Ferrari mechanics. In the meantime, he, the driver, is in Rio on Thursday, March 21, 1991 to sign a contract for the seventh time with his main personal sponsor: Banco National, which pays him $900.000 a year for the inscription on his helmet and cap. Then Senna returns home to São Paulo, where he celebrates his 31st birthday. A family reunion, intimate, at which his new girlfriend would also take part. And he didn’t even seem worried about being accused of flying his helicopter without a licence (a fine of about 10.000.000 Italian liras and the temporary seizure of the aircraft).

 

"The thing that matters to me now is to see how good my car is at a fast circuit like Interlagos. I have never won in Brazil, so hopefully this will be the right time. But I fear Ferrari and Williams a lot".

 

In fact, although it may seem absurd, for McLaren the second race seems to be a test, a kind of examination. Everyone wants to see if in hot weather the engine will hold up, if on a track where aerodynamics and chassis will play a more important role, the qualities glimpsed in Arizona will be confirmed. Alain Prost himself says:

 

"I am very curious to see what will happen. It is clear that if McLaren confirms its supremacy in Phoenix, we will have to take action. But I am calm and quite optimistic".

 

Let's not forget that the Frenchman has won here and in Rio six times, the last one last year, with Ferrari. A Ferrari that apparently does not present any great novelties, even if some changes on the cars after the debut race and the last tests have been made. There is a lot of interest, among other things, in the miniskirts that Williams has fitted to its new FW14s that were making such sparks on the streets of Phoenix. It is a sign that the British cars have rediscovered the ground effect they wanted to avoid with the regulations that impose the lateral flaps on the front wing 2.5 centimetres above the ground. With a solution that is at the limit of the regulations, but not irregular, bringing the lateral flaps behind the front wheel axle, Williams has found the way out. And soon it will be imitated. Everyone, however, is talking about Senna, about the yet-to-be-discovered McLaren, about Ferrari lurking to seize the first victory of the 1991 World Championship. And Patrese, all things considered…

 

"I'm fine with that. In Formula 1 it's always better not to say too much. Anything can happen from one race to the next".

 

The natural caution of the driver from Padova, the veteran of the motor racing circus with his 209 Grand Prix disputed (but the oldest in terms of age is Nelson Piquet, 38, against Riccardo who is 36), always comes out. But this time the Williams driver is also categorical. After spending a nice week's holiday on a Caribbean island, having meditated on what had happened in Phoenix, Patrese says something, convinced that the time is right.

 

"I analysed the data from the first race in Arizona and convinced myself that without the problems that my team-mate Mansell caused me and without the problems with the semi-automatic gearbox, we would have been the only ones able to keep up with McLaren and Senna. Personally I could also have been fighting for the win. Now the track changes and we will need to do some testing first. But I think we will be back where we belong, in the very first rows fighting with the best. Our cars are very well balanced, the Renault engine is reliable and powerful, there is only the unknown factor of the gearbox holding, but this should improve from race to race with the continuous upgrades that are being made to the system".

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A Riccardo Patrese for whom time seems to pass without a mark.

 

"Of course, I still have the same enthusiasm. And I haven't even changed as a driver as I have never been, not even in my early days, a reckless madman. I think I have always driven with a lot of determination, with courage, but also with my brain. The maturity and experience I have today are unparalleled. I believe that if there are no unpleasant surprises, this could be a very positive championship for me, one of the best, with the possibility - perhaps - of getting into the title fight if there is a certain balance at the top".

 

What does that last sentence mean?

 

"It means that if we don't come up against an unbeatable McLaren-Senna duo again, others will also have world championship chances. Ferrari especially with Prost and us at Williams, the biggest problem is the continuous evolution of the cars. Not a day passes during which the engineers do not find new solutions. This can be favourable if we all move forward more or less together, negative if someone manages to increase any advantage on their own. However, I am convinced that it will be a season full of uncertainties and even a few surprises. And put my name among those of the outsiders".

 

The game is always the same, a kind of last-minute cold shower. When you think you've given him checkmate, Ayrton Senna pulls out his secret weapon. And that is that perfect lap that freezes the opponents. This was repeated in the first qualifying round of the Brazilian Grand Prix. On a track that had been wet since the morning by the rain, after an alternation of leaders that brought first Alesi and then Mansell to the lead, the McLaren driver gives the final blow: 1'18"711 his best lap. This time, however, the situation appeared different from that which characterised the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship, at Phoenix. On the first day Alesi was the surprise and on Saturday Senna took the position away from him. Today the opposite could also happen because Alesi is convinced that he can be the fastest, after his second place on Friday.

 

"I did that time, six tenths faster than the Brazilian, using race tyres and in traffic. I stopped in the pits for a long time to change some adjustments and when I went out on track I did an out lap that was too slow. So I took the chequered flag on my face indicating the end of practice. I don't know if I will be able to take pole position, but I can assure you that there will be a good fight to start first on the grid tomorrow".

 

In fact, the challenge seems interesting: behind Senna and Alesi, there are Berger with the second McLaren, then Mansell, Prost, Piquet and a miraculous Ivan Capelli (who used a little trick of the trade, lapping slowly in the last few minutes to push when the track was drier), excellent seventh and first Italian. The other Italian drivers are Pirro in P9, Modena (who went off-track) in P11, De Cesaris in P12 and Patrese only in P14, because he did not have time to adjust his Williams due to the continuous changes of the track. The unpredictable weather also got Alain Prost into trouble, who had the task of testing two Ferraris with different front suspensions. In the race car, however, the three-time World Champion had an engine problem that was not progressive in the slow corners and he found himself with an untested set-up in the second single-seater. Prost, however, is also quite confident:

 

"The values are more or less the same, but we did not express the full potential of the car. If I can work well on the last day of practice, I think the race will become interesting".

 

Fiorio emphasises how Ferrari is almost always at the top in practice, even when it rained heavily. The fact is that if you want to make a check on McLaren there are no longer any doubts: the new car, the Mp4/6 is competitive, in Arizona it didn't steal anything. In São Paulo, Berger also came close to the top and the Honda engine has already been improved and upgraded compared to the debut race a fortnight ago. Saturday's qualifying is left, in which Alesi could even snatch pole from Senna, but what counts will be the race, 71 laps of a spectacular circuit that will give the first real results of the World Championship. On Saturday, 23 March 1991, the result of the qualifying session is reversed: Ayrton Senna remains on pole position, confirming the excellent quality of the car together with his team mate, Gerhard Berger, who sets the fourth fastest time, but above all we can see how the Williams-Renaults are competitive, with Riccardo Patrese second, 0.383 seconds behind the Brazilian's pole, and with Nigel Mansell in third, a few hundredths behind. Bad the two Ferraris, with Alesi slipping to fifth, 1.2 seconds behind, and with Prost only sixth, more than 1.3 seconds behind his rival Ayrton Senna. Excellent qualifying for Nelson Piquet, seventh with Benetton, and for his compatriot Mauricio Guglielmin, eighth with Leyton House. Stefano Modena, in a Tyrrell, sets the ninth fastest time, while Pirro and Capelli slips to P12 and P15 respectively. Alex Caffi (Footwork-Porsche), Stefan Johansson (AGS), Michele Alboreto (Footwork-Porsche) and Julian Bailey (Lotus-Judd) don’t qualify.

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Sunday 24 March 1991, at the start Ayrton Senna takes the lead: Mansell, Patrese, Alesi, Berger, Piquet and Prost follow. From this moment on, the Brazilian driver's advantage over his pursuers (except Mansell) gradually increases. The first important retirement is that of Gugelmin on lap 6: the Brazilian is forced to retire due to the burns he suffered to his legs in the morning during the warm-up, caused by liquid leaking from the fire extinguisher. The pace of Senna and the two Williams is so fast that already on lap 13 the lapping starts. The Ferraris of Prost and Alesi on the other hand, despite the tyre changes, are never competitive. On lap 19 the first turning point of the race: Mansell changes tyres in 13 seconds, Senna in 9 seconds. On lap 30 the Brazilian has a 7-second lead over the Englishman. The race has no thrills until lap 45, when Nigel Mansell changes tyres again and Senna takes off: his lead over the English driver rises to 31 seconds. The shivers start in the final, from lap 60 onwards: Mansell, in the attempt to recover goes into a spin and is forced to retire. Patrese is second, ahead of Berger, Prost, Piquet and Alesi, the only ones with full laps. On lap 63, under an increasingly threatening sky, Senna begins to run slowly; it is clear that his McLaren has gearbox problems. From this moment on, Senna's gearbox gradually loses all its gears with the exception of the sixth. Ayrton, with a sore arm caused by his eagerness to change gears, or at least try to change them, manages to stay in the race even at the cost of enormous efforts, despite the fact that several times in the slow bends his McLaren almost switches off. In the meantime, Riccardo Patrese began his comeback, going from 20 seconds behind on lap 65, to 14 seconds on lap 66, then 9 seconds with four laps to go, 3 seconds on the last lap. To prevent Patrese from catching up with him, Ayrton decides to change his driving style, lapping in 1'25"0, and as the raindrops appear, soaking the circuit, the Brazilian driver - passing in front of the pits - starts pointing at the sky, hoping that the race officials might stop the race prematurely. The race direction, however, is of a different opinion, but the miracle happens. After so many unsuccessful attempts, Ayrton Senna crosses the finish line first in Brazil, also thanks to the fact that Patrese, also suffering from gearbox problems, cannot take advantage of his rival's difficulties. The central grandstand explodes at the passing of their hero, who, waving his fists vigorously at the sky, exults for the victory he has just won. At the end of the race, Brazilian journalist Galvao Bueno, in radio connection with Ayrton Senna, hears him lose control completely, with incomprehensible screams and moans alternating in a mixture of joy and pain.

 

"I don't believe it, I don't believe it. Fuck. I won".

 

The Brazilian driver gave everything to keep the lead in the race, and his fight against his own car was so hard that it caused him cramps and fever. Stopping after the esse of the main straight to collect the usual Brazilian flag, Ayrton is seized by fatigue and a momentary paralysis. Ayrton Senna finishes the race exhausted, in the middle of the track, his car stuck in the rain, unable to go one more metre, his face in pain. The orderlies and doctors, directed by South Watkins, have to arrive to remove his helmet and gloves, before extracting him from the cockpit, picking him up and taking him to the pits in a service car. Meanwhile, the grandstand is singing:

 

"Senna olè".

 

And as he turns off his car, Alain Prost is targeted with insults from the Brazilian fans. Arriving in the pits, Ron Dennis asks what the problem is. Ayrton Senna replies, getting out of the car:

 

"The shoulders, just the shoulders".

 

Sia Watkins also heartens Dennis, explaining the reasons for the rescue of the Brazilian driver. The moment is dramatic and jubilant at the same time. Ayrton Senna asks not to be touched by anyone, and repeats this request insistently, but wants his father, Milton Da Silva, to be able to embrace him.

 

"Come here daddy, come here, touch me softly, touch me softly".

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Shortly afterwards, climbing the stairs to the podium, Ron Dennis asks if he can help; Ayrton responds by asking to be allowed to carry the Brazilian flag. With difficulty, after unrolling the Brazilian flag on the podium and indulging in a liberating cry, Senna manages to raise the cup with the help of his right arm, after having tried with both arms, before showering himself with champagne, this time with both arms. He, Ayrton Senna, rejoins the press room for the usual interviews.

 

"A very difficult race, to be remembered together with my first victory in Portugal in 1985 and my first World Championship. I had gearbox problems from the middle of the race and was only in sixth gear at the end. I had to slow down from 300km/h to 70km/h in the hairpin bends without any engine braking. I had to push harder than expected because Mansell was constantly attacking me. I had never suffered like that: I found a strength within me that certainly came from God. I screamed and asked him for a victory that I deserved. I dedicate this success to him. After crossing the finish line, I was exhausted, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Because of the tremendous physical effort, I had muscle spasms in my shoulders and neck. The pain was so huge. The physical and mental stress of this weekend was unheard of. But there could only be one outcome, I finished the race with no energy left".

 

Is the championship easier now?

 

"I never had such a lead after two races. But the world championship is very long. You will see that there will be many race winners. Williams is competitive and Ferrari will come too. We have to work to stay in the lead".

 

The whole Brazil cheers Senna:

 

"I thank all of Brazil, I thank all the fans. I felt so much human warmth around me that...we had to win, it couldn't be otherwise. And we did it".

 

He even ended up in hospital after the race. Thus doctors, nurses and emergency room patients were able to admire up close the new idol, Ayrton Senna, the man who has taken the place of so many footballers - from Pelé to Zico - in the hearts of Brazilian fans, who have now abandoned the stadiums, disappointed with their teams, to flock to the racetracks. In fact, although there is no plausible reason, this country, poor and baffled, is the leader of the richest sport, thanks to three champions who have already brought seven world titles, more than any other nation, including England, Italy, France and Germany, which were the cradles of motorsports. Back to Senna, he is forced to a check-up for a muscle contracture that plagued him during and after the Grand Prix he won with a run in the lead from start to finish. However, it was an incredible success, in which several factors had an influence: certainly the skill and will of the champion from São Paolo, who drove with a broken gearbox from lap 28, and in the last seven laps with only the sixth gear at his disposal; Mansell's abandonment in the Williams, blocked by the gearbox breakage (and he was the only one who could have threatened him the first place) and the final rain, which prevented Riccardo Patrese from carrying out an improbable pursuit. One wonders, however, whether Ayrton Senna is really an extraordinary man and driver or whether he is also a great actor. He certainly had some problems with the gearbox, otherwise nobody would have approached him again. But is it possible that he drove a car with a 700-plus horsepower engine with only sixth gear and in the rain at the end? Nelson Piquet, for example, is convinced that it is impossible - contrary to what the winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix declared - to drive around the Interlagos circuit using only sixth gear, with the times Senna set in the final stages of the race. 

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Ayrton, having learned of his compatriot's doubts, took the telemetry printout at the end of the race, so that he could show it to his doubting compatriot. It is therefore a legendary success, like that of Nuvolari who did a lap of the Valentino circuit at the end of the 1940s holding the broken steering wheel column in his hands. In any case, luck also accompanied him, as well as skills. And then his religious faith, as he once again repeated that he had turned to God in the most difficult moments of the race so that he would not take away his well-deserved victory. The fact remains that after two rounds of the Formula One world championship Senna leads the standings with full points, at 20, with an eleven-point lead over Prost. A gap that is already huge, if you consider that this year the winner of each race gets 10 points and all results can be added up. For Ferrari it is already time to chase and the road appears uphill. Prost's fourth place and Alesi's sixth, in fact, cannot be considered positive, as the cars from Maranello have never fought at the top and above all have suffered the supremacy not only of McLaren, but also of Williams and have struggled even to contain Nelson Piquet's Benetton. Over two thousand postcards of insults and declarations of love have arrived in Ayrton Senna's letterbox in the last fortnight from Italy. The initiative of the magazine Autosprint to publish the addresses of Formula 1 drivers had an immediate effect. The Brazilian press published some of the texts, amazed at the passion of the Italian fans that exceeded all limits. Cartoons, drawings or a simple sentence: one day I will beat you, signed Davide, fill every space around the stamp and the address. Crazy, insufferable, fanatical and robber, is the prologue of an anonymous Francesca who succumbs, however, in the finale to the McLaren driver's charm:

 

"But you are always number one. Without you, formula one is not a show".

 

Between the pros and cons are poems like the one by Elisabetta Raso, who in three serial postcards writes things like you are mysterious, cheerful and inaccessible like the music of Joao Gilberto, Toquinho and like Brazil. Ferrari in crisis, Ferrari under attack, critics to Ferrari. This is nothing new. The team from Maranello is used to living in the storm, with the ups and downs that have always characterised its legendary history. And, on this occasion too, it must undergo the ritual that follows defeats, just as it is glorified after victories. But it is not the case to set up special courts. Instead, one must analyse the reasons that led to a start to the season that fell short of expectations. Even in terms of figures the deficit is evident: last year after two races the Italian team had 12 points and one victory (Prost in Brazil, precisely). Now the points are 10 and the best finish is the second place of the French driver himself in Phoenix. It is not so much the results that are worrying, but the performance of the cars. In the United States the 642 had never been in the race for the win, but at Interlagos, also because of the double pit stop, Prost finished fourth and Alesi sixth, and both risked of being lapped by McLaren, if the winner had not had the gearbox problems. Now the question arises: how is all this possible, after the enormous amount of work carried out by Ferrari in the winter, after the optimistic forecasts on the eve of the race, after the main adversaries (McLaren and Williams) showed up at the first race with single-seaters that had only covered a few kilometres of testing? Evidently there were errors of judgement involving everyone in the team and also the drivers. Because Prost and Alesi criticised the behaviour of the chassis after the race, but previously they had always said it was very good. Even on Sunday morning, after the warm-up, everyone was at least apparently very confident. Something must have happened here that nobody was able to explain: how is it possible that a car that was judged to be excellent, a few hours later becomes a rudderless boat? Hadn't it been found that the tyres were deteriorating unevenly, given that two pit stops were needed to change them?

 

Let's see what could be the reasons for this bad start. Ferrari probably sinned in prudence, acting conservatively. You have to go back to the second half of last season: at that time Maranello had by all accounts the best chassis. When it became known that the technical regulations would change in 1991 (fuel tank behind the cockpit, smaller wings closer to the body, front skirts 2.5 cm above the ground), two decisions could be taken: make a completely new car or adapt the previous model. McLaren (also because it had to fit the new Honda) was forced to choose the first solution, Williams with a new designer at its disposal (Adrian Newey) and the intention to use a semi-automatic gearbox, did the same. At Ferrari instead it was decided to continue with the chassis originally designed by John Barnard. Why? Was it a choice or a necessity? Let's not forget that in the summer two technicians had left Maranello: Enrique Scalabroni (who later moved to Lotus) and French aerodynamicist Henri Durand, the man who designed the bodywork for the McLaren MP4/6. The other transalpine Jean Claude Migeot, the inventor of the seagull's-wing car, was due to make come back from Tyrrell. It may be thought that it was considered appropriate to proceed step by step: a modified car for the winter work and the first two races, evolution planned for Imola (28 April 1991) and again, probably, a completely new model at mid-championship. Another generation. The result was that Ferrari found itself fighting with one old car against two of a new generation. So far, Ferrari has not lived up to everyone's expectations (including the Japanese Honda): Ferrari's engine is always at the top, at least in terms of power, and certain top speeds confirm this. While the current chassis, with its aerodynamic configuration, no longer meets the demands of the moment. Let's not forget that Senna smashed the circuit record on Saturday, confirming the progress McLaren has made, despite the strained regulations and reduced performance. How to make amends? Fortunately, a Formula One car is not a production car that has to last. Single-seaters can live and die in the space of a day, they are constantly being revised and rebuilt. There is a month before the San Marino Grand Prix to recover. After keeping all the journalists waiting for 45 minutes, locked in a small room, the men from Maranello come out one by one. First Alesi:

 

"The car was not bad at the start. As the tank emptied, it became undrivable. The chassis wasn't right, the steering wheel became very hard. So the tyres wore unevenly and the road holding became precarious".

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Then Prost, who adds:

 

"For me, not only the chassis was wrong, but also the engine. On a few occasions it was leaking and the top speed was limited, so much so that I couldn't pass Piquet. Of course, I am a bit disappointed, but not beaten. We have to roll up our sleeves, we have a month, not everything is compromised".

 

Last is Cesare Fiorio:

 

"We can't understand. Friday we were not bad. On Saturday Prost could have done a time very close to that of the Williams. Free practice in the morning had gone very well, we were confident. In the race everything changed. Tomorrow we will sit around a table and look for explanations. Then there will be two test sessions at Imola during which we will introduce new things in all areas, engine, chassis, aerodynamics".

 

Holding high the Italian colours was Patrese, second, despite many problems with set-up and gearbox, and a small satisfaction also for Morbidelli, eighth with the Minardi, powered by Ferrari. Ayrton Senna, by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, erased the word impossible from the motorsport vocabulary. A success his, the second of the season, which takes him to the top of the championship standings with full points, achieved with the class, determination, and extraordinary sensitivity that only a champion like him can display at this time. The triumph of the South American star and McLaren is contrasted by a heavy disappointment on the part of Ferrari. We are waiting for the Interlagos circuit to find out the truth - said the men from Maranello after Phoenix and Prost's second place - there the true value of our cars will be seen. Well, Ferrari is not competitive. The placings, again of Prost (fourth) and Alesi (sixth) behind even the usual gladiator Patrese and Berger, with the inclusion of Piquet in fifth, do not hide a reality that is much less beautiful than expected at the start of the season. The two French drivers were never in a position to fight at the top, they even suffered to achieve a result that only rewarded a minimum of reliability. The real adversary of McLaren and Senna was, as in Arizona in the early laps, the renewed Williams-Renault. And the spectacle was given above all by Mansell, who was almost glued to the Brazilian, until, once again, with 11 laps to go, he stumbled into a shuddering spin due to the failure of the semi-automatic gearbox. If the Englishman had not been forced to retire, Senna would probably not have won, as the São Paolo champion drove from lap 28 without fourth gear, then with 7 laps to go was left with only sixth gear. Almost a miracle of skill, if you consider that in that situation he rejected a possible attack by Patrese who was gaining considerable ground. But the Paduan also had gearbox and set-up problems, and could only see the tail of the McLaren crossing the finish line from close range. The results of the double overseas trip therefore close with a positive result for Senna (whom someone now calls unlimited) and a serious warning for Ferrari. The title of winter champion is worth nothing. For the Maranello team, 33 days are left until the San Marino Grand Prix (Imola April 28, 1991) to attempt a recovery. But it will not be easy: the rivals are also improving. Now for Ferrari the challenge is to forget Barnard completely and start again. The World Championship is still long, but an ace of Senna's calibre cannot be given too much space. Without forgetting that there is also Williams, with Patrese and Mansell who could become protagonists or referees in the fight for the world title.


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