Colle del Sestriere, late January 1986. A friendly soccer match is held between journalists and drivers, won by the latter thanks to the masterful performance of a small French guy with curly hair and a particular inclination for football. No, it's not Michel Platini, their similarity could be deceiving. It is Alain Prost, a former amateur player, a die-hard fan of Saint Etienne who scored four of his team's seven total goals in the match against journalists.
A few days later, the new world champion participates together with his colleagues also in the giant slalom, where now everyone can his part since the protagonist of the past years, Riccardo Patrese, is absent, busy in tests with the new revolutionized Brabham, according to rumors, low and ultra-flat with a seven-speed gearbox. The new Formula 1 season has actually already begun, to be precise on January 13, 1986 with tests carried out in Jacarepaguà. Alain gives his impressions in view of the start of the championship:
"I expect a decisive and ferocious attack from everyone. From Williams with Piquet, from Lotus with Senna, and then let's not forget Ferrari. Everyone gives it up for dead but I don't believe it. With the new 195 liters fuel rule, maximum consumption for a race, the games can be called into question. Even Ferrari, even if with a little delay compared to the others, will return to the top, I'm sure".
The further lowering of the fuel consumption limit wanted by Balestre to limit the power of these turbo engines constitutes not only the most important change in terms of regulation, but also the main question mark: already when in the last two years the limit was two hundred and twenty liters, there were numerous cars that failed to complete the races because they ran dry. Now, the engineers have to squeeze their brains out even more to prevent this from happening, but above all, the concern that grieves everyone is having to attend races made of pure fuel management, with drivers in the taxi driver mood, unable to attack.
Joining Prost in the pits from the first Grand Prix of the season in Rio de Janeiro is Keke Rosberg, whose choice to abandon the best performing car in last season's finale, Williams, may not be so prudent. The Finn, between a cigarette and the other, explains his intentions in view of his new experience in McLaren, without forgetting to take a dig at Senna, that impertinent Brazilian who pissed him off more than once the previous year.
"It will be an interesting championship, in which I will try to demonstrate my competitiveness. I like the challenge, winning is the only vitamin that gives me strength".
Then he adds:
"But let's not confuse the desire to win with irresponsibility. Let's take Senna, for example. He is certainly very talented, but races are not won on the first lap, at the first corner. A good driver is another thing, a combination of different talents. Maybe he will become one if he doesn't have an accident first, he takes too many risks. If there had been someone like Andrea de Cesaris in the front row sometimes, maybe he would have learned something more. We let him do it, because we have more experience. Only Mansell has given him some lessons".
Meanwhile, Ayrton vetoed Derek Warwick's arrival in Lotus, which turned to Ferrari in the role of tester, favoring instead Count Johnny Dumfries, son of the Marquis of Bute, one of Scotland's most important landowners. The choice of his new wingman, however, did not satisfy Senna, who in fact will not have a teammate to bother him, and furthermore having no experience, he will not be able to help him in an important way with the set-up and development of the car.
Interviewed, Ayrton explains the arrival of the British claiming that Lotus cannot afford the economic effort of betting on two drivers, after which he replies to Rosberg's attacks:
"I am now used to this and other accusations, and I don't worry. I go my own way, I leave the chatter to others. I have no time to waste. If the car is competitive, I am competitive too. This is perhaps why the other drivers oppose me. When one is strong, he is unpleasant. There is a game of power of people who do not look favorably on an emerging youngster, but I have not made as many mistakes as I am accused of. I made only one big mistake, due to inexperience, in Adelaide. I broke the nose and I did not notice it. It will be a tough championship. Much will depend on Brabham, a different car, in a certain sense revolutionary. If it does not have problems, the title will be a matter between Patrese and de Angelis, otherwise a fight with McLaren, Williams, Lotus and Ferrari. Williams has the best combination: a driver of Piquet's skill and experience and the single-seater that dominated last season's finale. I don't trust Ferrari too much: they say it's in crisis but is able to get back to the top".
In the new tests held in Rio de Janeiro in mid-February, the much talked about Brabham with full carbon fiber frame, designed by Gordon Murray, proves to be far behind, highlighting anomalous overheating problems, the usual fragility of components that has persisted for years, above all the gearbox, and pure speed which in any case is lacking.
Together with Ferrari, which rode in the '84 car but with some updates, it seems to be the one furthest behind, about a second and a half from Senna's Lotus.
However, Peter Warr's team also has to deal with Renault engines that break too easily. Overall, the teams that leave Brazil with a smile are McLaren and Williams, who have not encountered any inconvenience.
On the grid, for 1986, there are also some innovations, such as the team of Luciano Benetton, who overtook on Toleman, which entered the bankruptcy tunnel after Senna's farewell. Benetton has signed an agreement with BMW for the supply of turbo engines and with Pirelli for the supply of tires, and has hired the expert Teo Fabi together with the rising Gerhard Berger as drivers. For them too, the tests look promising.
There is also the retiree, or ex-retiree Alan Jones at the starting line, on the Lola Beatrice. Already in 1985 the former world champion attended three races without ever being able to finish them. The car, in addition to being unreliable, was also very slow. This year the Australian, paired with Patrick Tambay, has renewed his bet.
Saturday 8 March 1986, a couple of weeks before the World Championship begins, while the Williams team is on a test session at the Paul Ricard circuit, seeing that everything is going smoothly, Frank Williams decides to leave the circuit, and with a rented Ford Sierra he decides to head to Nice airport, to then return to England together with the team's press officer, Peter Windsor.
But about fifteen minutes after the start, arriving near the village of Meounes-les-Montrieux, due to the high speed the car driven by Frank Williams loses stability and ends up in a field, on the left side of the road, after having overturned many times.
Peter Windsor does not suffer major consequences, while instead Frank Williams is trapped in the car, as the roof collapsed leaning on the head of the team manager. Frank is conscious, and yells at Peter Windsor:
"Get me out of here, I can't move my legs".
Excerpted from Windsor, Frank Williams admits a moment later:
"I'll never drive that fast again. I'll drive a Gogomobile".
Meanwhile, some rescuers call an ambulance, while Windsor asks to be allowed to go to the circuit because Nelson Piquet has a Mercedes with a phone on board, and with this he can call Bernie Ecclestone and Sid Watkins.
However, it is a local kid who informs the Williams team of what has just happened, after arriving with his scooter at the circuit. Moments later, Frank Dernie, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet leave immediately to reach the crash site. Transported to the hospital in Toulon, the doctors diagnosed the rupture of the fourth and fifth vertebrae.
Frank Williams, after just an hour and a half is transported to Marseille, where Sid Watkins attends the operation, which lasted a few hours, and reassures Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Frank Dernie and Peter Windsor, present at the hospital.
After a few days, the doctor who operated on Frank Williams tells his wife, who has arrived in France as soon as possible, that it is better to transport him to England since he does not want to have complications; in short, he doesn't want Williams to pass away in France. Windsor is not there, so he calls Sid Watkins, who in turn invites Dr. Yates to Marseille: if Frank Williams is not urgently moved to England, he has no chance of saving himself.
Understanding the seriousness of the situation, together with Bernie Ecclestone and Sid Watkins, Peter Windsor organizes the transfer of Frank Williams to the hospital in London, in Whitechapel Road, and in fact they save his life, even if unfortunately the team manager of the homonymous team will remain paralyzed.
In his long recovery, the forty-four year old struggles with all his might. At first, the medical staff was dealing for nearly a week to prevent the lungs from filling with fluid; six weeks later, Frank is breathing autonomously.
On May 28, 1986, twelve weeks after the car accident, Frank Williams returns home and begins rehabilitation. The team, awaiting his return, is momentarily managed by Patrick Head, Frank Dernie and Peter Windsor himself. At Jacarepaguà, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell have one more reason to win.
Even the bookmakers believe and so much in the great competitiveness shown by the British team powered by Honda engines: Prost is logically seen as the number one favorite, but Piquet, together with Senna, is considered the first rival of the Frenchman.
Rosberg and Mansell, as well as the two Ferraris, enjoy less consideration; meanwhile Piquet, the two-time champion with Brabham, after two complicated seasons battered by technical problems on the fragile car supplied by Gordon Murray, is ready to be back at the top.
In Rio de Janeiro, ahead of the first race weekend of the season, fans are in hype, the streets are lined with billboards with the faces of Piquet and Senna, and Piquet, generally less popular than Ayrton in Brazil despite his two world titles, in his hometown seems to be able to enjoy a slightly wider support.
Charged to the maximum, it is they, Nelson and Ayrton, who put on a show in both qualifying sessions: Piquet takes pole on Friday, but on Saturday Senna, with an impressive 1'25"501, trims the Williams driver seven tenths, which, however, hecould not fight back due to an accident during the second qualifying session, also remedying a blow to his right wrist.
Nigel Mansell is third but a second and two behind the Lotus Renault, behind the British there are, surprisingly, the two old men of Ligier, Renè Arnoux, back on track after being fired by Ferrari, and Jacques Laffite.
Eighty-one years in two, but still a great desire to drive fast. The two McLarens do not yet have a Porsche V6 in the qualifying version, so the second session sees Rosberg and Prost respectively in seventh and ninth position, with a gap of more than two seconds from pole.
On Friday there are small, inevitable skirmishes between FISA and FOCA. Strangely enough, it was the police who blocked the track for forty-five minutes during free practice, as a dispute arose between the organizers of the Grand Prix and the police officers on the number of passes to be granted to the latter.
The Federation was unable to discover the authors of this action, but decided to impose a fine of $ 50.000 on the organizers, threatening to cancel the Jacarepaguà circuit from the 1987 calendar. Small detail: among the organizers there is also Bernie Ecclestone, who obviously cannot appreciate the tone with which the FISA addresses him.
Leaving aside the bickering of the Ecclestone-Balestre duo, Sunday opens up to the new season. Tens of thousands of Brazilian fans flock to the racetrack to support their favorites from the front row.
Piquet's sprint is not as brilliant as that of the other Williams, who slips into second position at the first corner. Mansell lets himself be gassed perhaps excessively by the great speed of his Williams and his excellent start, and at the end of the long straight that leads to the Sul curve, he also tries to pass Senna.
One is reckless, the other is even more so; the result is that Mansell sees a gap and throws in, while Senna closes the trajectory as if the British was not present. Williams number 5 spins and goes off the wall, finishing her race after half a lap. For the second time in a row, after Adelaide last year, Mansell retires due to a contact with Ayrton. Who to blame?
Probably both of them, too aggressive when they absolutely didn't need to be. Piquet, on the third lap, performs the same maneuver on Senna but brings it to the conclusion in the correct way. The superiority of the Williams-Honda is inescapable; Ayrton cannot react.
Behind, Prost remained entangled in the middle of the group, even fourteenth after a bad shot. Alain, however, recovered quickly and after about ten laps he was already fourth in the exhaust pipes of Alboreto's Ferrari, who instead got off to a great start.
The two contenders for the 1985 title show how it is possible not to throw away races, unlike Mansell and Senna, when at the Sul curve they find themselves in the exact same situation that led to the retirement of the British driver. Alboreto closes, but not before Prost has lifted his foot after realizing that there is no possibility of overtaking.
The lap after Alain tries again and easily overtakes the Italian driver. With Senna in a serious tire crisis, Alain also takes the lead, as Piquet has already returned to the pits in the meantime. Here is a variant that could blow the cards on the table even more than the petrol factor: excessive tire wear.
Goodyear has predicted two stops for all the teams that have their compounds, and judging by the premature pit stops of Piquet and also of Senna, who returns a few laps later, perhaps waiting a bit too long, given that when he returns to the track he finds himself behind the Ligier di Arnoux, it is to be believed that this will be the case.
Anyone looking to do something different is Prost, capable of handling the tire with greater delicacy given its not very aggressive driving style. The Frenchman delays his stop to the point of being overtaken by Piquet, then he decides to stop and goes back to third, behind Senna who in turn has easily passed Arnoux.
Senna doesn't have Piquet's pace, so the only one who can worry him is Prost with his different strategy. Unfortunately, the same problem that occurred at the start of the race on Rosberg's car, a short circuit in the engine, also occurs on the car of the reigning champion driver, who consequently leaves the two Brazilians in the lead in total tranquillity. free to manage the remaining fuel and tires as they wish.
The only moments of concern in Lotus house come serving the second pit stop to Senna. A Lotus returns to the pits, not that of the Brazilian, but that of Dumfries, who has some technical problems and therefore has taken the path of the pits. The mechanics, caught off guard, lose their clarity and mount Senna's tires on the British car. Fortunately for him, Ayrton returns only two laps later, when everything goes smoothly. Nelson Piquet wins the Brazilian Grand Prix with no more worries.
The Brazilian driver celebrates his fourteenth career success, as well as the thirtieth podium. With him on the podium there is Senna, with whom he proudly waves the Brazilian flag, and Jacques Laffite.
Patriotic pride is such that the full version of the Brazilian anthem is played, and the irreverent Laffite jokingly looks several times on his wrist at a watch that is not there, as if to say: is this anthem going to end? The points are closed by the other Ligier of Arnoux, the Tyrrell of Brundle and the Benetton of the promising Berger.
The Ferraris, both retired due to reliability problems, make people speak of them only for the terrifying accident happened to Alboreto during qualifying. A flight at 240 km/h caused by a misunderstanding followed by the contact with the Tambay's Lola, with the Ferrari ending against the protective barriers.
As expected, the red team proved to be clearly behind its rivals: there is a lot of work to be done on the young F1/86. Piquet dedicates the victory to Frank Williams, nailed to the hospital bed but able to watch and celebrate the victory of his new driver.
As for the rest of the World Championship, Piquet does not consider Senna as a rival of him, judging him too reckless. Piquet also judges the McLarens still too distant both in qualifying and in the race pace. His rival for the title race is Nigel Mansell, as he currently has the best car, that same Williams. However, the Briton did not start his season in a great way, and in the post-race he attacks Senna:
"I had already passed him when he held me, touched me and threw me out. That's not how it's done, it's always the same".
Then he also adds a mea culpa:
"But I too could have waited to try to pass. I was a fool".
Senna, on the other hand, in collaboration with the Italian newspaper Autosprint, summarizes the weekend:
"The only team that came to Rio with a perfect preparation was Williams. In fact, I understand that no other team has carried out winter tests over the distance of an entire Grand Prix. All the others have carried out surveys on a limited number of laps, looking for them to imagine what would have happened in the race. However, there are many variables and those who do not test on the distance of the Grand Prix can only get an idea of real consumption. At this point one wonders why only Williams carried out these important tests. As for us at Lotus, it was prevented by the fact that the second driver was appointed too late. I already had to test the old car, then the old car with new suspension, then the new car and so on. I could not do all this and Grand Prix simulations at the same time. It was essential to be in two. In any case we have had confirmation that Williams-Honda will be the car to beat this year. It was the most competitive at the end of last year and the Honda technicians have been working on their current engine for a year and a half already. They have a driver like Piquet who is perhaps the best of the moment. I still don't have an idea of what Ferrari and Brabham will be able to do, but if I had to make a ranking of the current values in second place I would certainly put McLaren. The TAG engine does not seem up to the Honda, but their chassis is more competitive than the Williams' one".
Ayrton also gives you an idea of the situations in which you can find yourself in the moments when you need to save gas:
"It can happen that you have an opponent behind you that you could easily control, but the computer says no: you have to let him pass because if you continue like this you will run out of fuel. Or it can happen that you have an opponent in front who could be easily overtaken, but as soon as he pushes a little more the computer still says no. Finally it may happen that the computer indicates that with that pace you can finish the race right. In this case it is better to slow down a little more, because the accuracy of the computer measurement has a certain tolerance and continuing in this way would risk remaining on foot. Formula 1 lives only for the public, and what spectacle did we offer in Brazil by driving slowly and avoiding any comeback attempt? I'm not a technician and making regulations is not my job, but I think the only solution could come from adoption of the American system that imposes a valve that is the same for all calibrated on a sufficiently low supply pressure. The powers would still be contained and the best engine would always exist. So the drivers could really race, attacking from start to finish".
The tests at the end of March at Imola offer an opportunity for teams such as Ferrari and Brabham (de Angelis eighth and Patrese retired in Brazil confirmed the difficulties) to immediately seek solutions to take a few steps forward in view of the second Grand Prix, to be held on the new Jerez circuit.
Spain, after leaving Formula 1 through the friction between the organizers, FISA and FOCA, in 1981, is once again part of the calendar. It does not take place on the Jarama circuit, but on the newly built Jerez de la Frontera circuit, in Andalucia, the southern region of Spain. Sixteen total turns form a tortuous circuit, with a single short straight of just six hundred meters where you barely reach 265 km/h.
The doubts that grip this track are many: built in nine months, the tightness of the asphalt is to be verified, as well as its layout, not really suitable for Formula 1 cars, being too narrow and thus making overtaking in fact impossible. In addition, nearby infrastructure and hotels are either non-existent or small. In short, the drivers are not at all thrilled with the second round of the season.
Given that the circuit is new, despite the fact that computer simulations are already carried out in the factory to evaluate what the ideal set-up could be, Ayrton, as usual when he does not know a track, decides to walk the track towards sunset time on foot, in order to understand all the crucial points. The more he is criticized by his opponents, the faster Ayrton goes, and his meticulousness in trying to find that decimal less in every detail can only benefit him.
Another pole for him, which exactly as in Rio is followed in order by the two Williams of Piquet and Mansell. Senna accuses a painful discomfort in his shoulder, but in order not to miss the briefing with Ducarouge, he resists and keeps the physiotherapists waiting.
Meanwhile The Professor is ready to redeem himself from the retirement of the first race; Alain is fourth, Keke Rosberg is behind him. From the tests in San Marino, it is undoubtedly the Mp4/2C to have made the most progresses.
The race is a succession of tire and petrol management of the five protagonists just listed, there are those who do it first and those who do it later, those who do it better and those who do it worse.
At the beginning of the race Nigel Mansell lets himself be overtaken by his rivals, then, when his on-board computer signals him to be okay, he begins to push seriously and furiously comes back until he takes the lead, overtaking Senna treads thanks to the help of Tyrrell from Brundle, lapped, who disfavours Ayrton.
On the same lap Piquet abandons the race, due to an engine failure. The winner of the preceding Grand Prix is one of the many victims of broken engines, gearboxes and brakes (there are just eight drivers who reach the finish line).
Keke Rosberg is one of the leading drivers who manages the car the worst. The Finn loses contact with those ahead of him, namely Mansell, Senna and Prost, returns to the pits to change the destroyed tires, only to end up lapped.
In such a race, made up of management and tactical intelligence, Prost is certainly the favorite among the three survivors, as Mansell and Ayrton, albeit very fast, certainly did not make themselves known for their exemplary racing management.
Unfortunately for Alain, the on-board computer jams, showing him less fuel than he actually has. For this reason he almost never pushes to the maximum, and ends the race with eighteen unnecessary liters of petrol and twenty-one seconds from the winner and the runner-up.
Mansell was comfortably in the lead when he had to contend with a slow puncture in one of his rear wheels, hit by debris. Nigel's error in judgment lies in the fact that he did not return to the pits immediately, instead trying to resist the attacks of Senna and Prost, who were behind him.
Ayrton tries for the first time and for a matter of millimeters he does not ram the Williams, who cannot resist for much longer. Both Lotus and McLaren parade it, and only at this point Mansell returns to the pits to fit new tires.
Senna and Prost, on the other hand, remain on track with increasingly worn tires. Thus, Mansell, gaining three to four seconds at each lap, clears the twenty-second gap that separated him from the leading duo.
Prost can't resist, has run out of tires and is, according to his on-board computer, running out of gas. Mansell loses a couple of seconds from Senna in passing the McLaren, but once he has acquired the second position he sets out on the hunt for victory.
However, there are only three laps to go, and the Williams driver is five seconds behind. On the last lap the two are together, Mansell is a second and a half away, but he is visibly faster; in every stretch of the track he gains meters after meters.
Exiting the last corner, Mansell is attached to Senna, obviously pulling better than the Brazilian rival's Lotus and joining him, but for the surreal distance of fourteen thousandths, he has to settle for second place. It was since 1971 that two drivers had not finished a race with such a minimal gap: it was Peterson and Gethin at Monza, also just a penny apart.
It so happens that the technicians, during their reorganization of the various plants in view of the weekend, had rearranged the finish line after an oversight about twenty meters further back, since it had been drawn too far ahead of the cabin of the timing.
Twenty meters that in all probability could have given Mansell the victory. Ayrton calls his third career victory, the hardest fought of the three, and adds:
"It was not an easy race, at the beginning I had to save petrol and rubber without favoring the attack of my pursuers. When Mansell overtook me there was nothing to do, Williams was much faster, but in those moments we must not lose faith in our own possibilities, and only think about the behavior of the car, making the most of it. I dedicate this victory to myself, it was hard to get. Initially I was more afraid of Piquet. Nigel, however, is unpredictable, you never know where he wants to attack. In the end, someone thought I made a mistake on the finish straight and widened the line, but I was sure Mansell would not have overtaken me".
Gérard Ducarouge, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and exalts his pupil:
"He drove perfectly. It's hard to say who he looks like, but I'm sure he will become World Champion, and I really hope with my car".
Mansell takes it philosophically, aware that perhaps an early pit stop would have allowed him to win easily, and also justifies Senna's defensive maneuvers, since according to him whoever is in front has the right to protect his position. Finally, he jokes about the minimum gap at the checkered flag and also dedicates a thought to Frank Williams, saying:
"It was so tight that they should give us seven and a half points each! Anyway, I hope Frank enjoyed watching me on his television".
Piquet one, Senna one. Could it really be a head to head between them, just like Brazilians dream? Well, first Prost, and then Mansell, respond with a sharp no, woe betide just thinking about cutting them out for the World Championship issues. The first to react is the champion in charge.
Meanwhile, spotted at the Turin Motor Show in the company of compatriot Gerhard Berger, Niki Lauda lets himself go to some predictions about the favorite for the championship:
"It is early to talk. In any case, I always see Nelson Piquet and Williams, they are the strongest team. The Brazilian has enormous experience and is a champion, he knows how to drive well on all tracks, he has no shortcomings. The team is among the most capable, very motivated despite the misfortune that hurt his team manager. Furthermore, the presence of a guy like Mansell can also be considered stimulating for Piquet. It cannot be denied that Senna has talent and courage, and a remarkable ability to concentrate. But all of this is not enough, you need a competitive car in every circuit. Prost? For now I don't see him in contention for the World Championship. A team also needs good test drivers, as well as good drivers. I don't think there is a great understanding with Rosberg regarding the development and tuning of the car".
In fact Niki is right on almost everything. It is true, between Prost and Rosberg the exchange of information is zero, the exact opposite of what it was with Lauda, with whom Alain engaged long discussions. Keke, on the other hand, is much more individualistic, even if given the difficulties encountered in understanding McLaren's behavior, an exchange of ideas with Prost would certainly not hurt him. Cutting the Frenchman out of the title fight, however, would be a serious mistake for everyone.
The weekend in Imola begins with the memory of last season, when excessive fuel consumption put out many drivers, including Prost himself, who finished the race but was subsequently disqualified as the car was underweight at the controls.
The concern is great, if not greater, this year, as the fuel limit has dropped further. Over the weeks the complaints from teams and drivers were not long in coming, and Alain was the one who made himself heard the most.
Jean-Marie Balestre, one who hardly accepts criticism, triggers the controversy and threatens not to renew the super license to the drivers who will continue to criticize the work of the sports authorities:
"Even the World Champion Alain Prost will no longer have his special Formula 1 license if he keeps saying that the regulations are wrong, that we do no good. There are at least forty drivers waiting to enter this world, we don't lack of choice. Competitors are free to express their opinions, but they must not foment useless discussions. If there is something to review, we can very well do it among us".
On the other hand, however, Bernie Ecclestone admits that it is necessary to reform some areas of the regulation in a radical but above all intelligent way. Perhaps, after watching television viewing rates, probably slightly down or not high enough to satisfy him, Bernie began to worry. That Senna and Lotus have an edge in qualifying is now well established: Ayrton takes another pole, always followed by the two Williams and Prost.
For the race, the poleman knows that it will be very difficult to maintain the position, given the high consumption of fuel and brakes that this circuit causes; Lotus is, among the top teams, the car that suffers the most. Prost's mood is different, confident that he can fight the two Williams.
After the umpteenth pole, however, there are those who - like Williams engineer Enrique Scalabroni - notice the copious sparks coming out of the bottom of the Lotus, a phenomenon that could suggest an uneven inclined surface. Despite no one complaining, the Federation launches an investigation on the 98T.
The checks do not reveal any irregularities, and later it is Gérard Ducarouge himself who reveals at least in part the interesting solution of his creature: an electronically controlled hydro-pneumatic suspension system that allows the car to remain very low on the asphalt regardless of the conditions; this also explains the sparks that the Lotus creates when it touches the asphalt. This innovation, together with the power of the Renault qualifying engine, makes Senna practically unbeatable, at least in qualifying.
In fact, in the race, as expected, in the very early stages both Piquet and the two McLarens got rid of Ayrton without too many worries. Mansell, on the other hand, left the scene almost immediately due to the breakdown of the Honda engine.
The two protagonists of the heart-pounding Jerez finale are eliminated within ten laps: even Senna suddenly feels that his right rear wheel has some problems immediately after the Tamburello. The Brazilian returns to the pits, where the mechanics find the hub broken. For him the race is over.
Prost and Rosberg remain close to each other for a while, offering a spectacle to fans with a couple of overtaking and counter-overtaking, but in the long run there are still problems in the management of the car for Rosberg, who is (together with Patrese and Ghinzani) one of the drivers who runs dry before the checkered flag, precisely two laps from the end.
Piquet, after taking the lead on the first lap against Senna, went away alone, but a clutch failure caused him a noticeable loss of pace, which relegated him to second position behind Prost.
To tell the truth, in a similar way to his teammate, Alain also remains without petrol, in the very last corners of the last lap: arrived at the Rivazza, the McLaren suddenly slows down, causing shouts of joy from the stands occupied by the Italian fans, as always hostile to the French, toxic in supporting Ferrari and hoping to be able to welcome Johansson on the podium, who occupies the fourth position.
Thirty seconds start with a heart pounding for Alain and the whole McLaren garage, led by Ron Dennis whose face is petrified. Everyone is waiting for Prost to cross the finish line before the car stops.
McLaren starts to zigzag, takes advantage of the very last drops of petrol left, and accompanied by Gerhard Berger, lapped, who does not pass so as not to make another lap (the Austrian finishes third and wins the first podium in Formula 1 for him and for Benetton), crosses the finish line as a winner. The car stops about a hundred meters later; Alain gets out and rejoices making his fist towards his box, but he doesn't even have time to take off the helmet that all the journalists surround him:
"Victory aside, I am satisfied because our TAG-Porsche engine is no longer far from Honda and Renault. It had to be the race of computers and instead we were a bit betrayed by these sophisticated electronic systems that we have on board. On mine the indicator still showed three and a half liters in the tank and instead I had practically run out of fuel. Luckily I was going downhill and I shook the car to take out all the petrol that was in the pipes. It went well".
Beyond the premature retirement, Senna admits that there would have been little to do against Prost and Piquet. Lotus still has to grow in terms of race pace, even if on city circuits such as Monte Carlo and Detroit they could seriously enter the fight for victory, and maybe, why not, with a bit of consistency in the results even in the fight at the top of the drivers' championship.
For the men of Ferrari, on their home track, the first points for Johansson arrive, with him being fourth at the end of the race. The three points won by the Swede, however, are only a very small consolation. The top teams are still miles away, and Alboreto has entered an endless tunnel: eight consecutive retirements. He has not finished a race since August of the previous year. This time to deny him the checkered flag with four laps to go, while he was in front of his teammate, a turbine failure that forces him to go back to the pits.
Even in the fourth round of the World Championship on the tortuous street circuit of Montecarlo, Alboreto, despite an extraordinary qualification, all his own thing since Johansson with the same car is only fifteenth, must postpone the appointment with a result other than retirement. It is always the lack of reliability that betrays him, in Monte Carlo it is specifically the turbo.
Riding the wave of enthusiasm, Prost decides that Monaco is the track where he has to dominate. Alain starts with a peremptory pole position that finally undermines Senna. Ayrton, third behind Mansell, complains about the slow cars found in his fastest lap, and in post-qualifying he compares the Monegasque circuit to the traffic found on Copacabana's Avenida Atlantica. Alain also takes the victory the next day, the third in a row among these streets that exalt him so much. To underline the clear superiority of the MP4/2C on this circuit is the second place of the ascendant Rosberg, started from the ninth slot.
The Finnish driver thinks well to celebrate the result on the podium by mocking one of the royal guards sprinkling a little champagne on his face, knowing that the latter certainly could not move away or do something that was not standing still.
Senna concludes where he started, third; the two Williams do not make sparks in a particular way on the street circuit of Monte Carlo. Nelson Piquet suffers above all: Mansell, although one minute away from Prost, limits the damage and is fourth, the Brazilian instead struggles a lot throughout the weekend, also held back by numerous technical problems. Piquet admits, among other things, that he does not like street circuits very much, it is certain that twelfth place in qualifying and seventh in the race have a certain effect.
With a Prost like this, no one, Piquet in the first place, can afford subdued performance.
Alain in fact becomes the new leader of the standings, with twenty-two points conquered. Senna and Piquet follow him respectively with nineteen and fifteen points scored in the first four races of the World Championship.
Before the San Marino Grand Prix, everyone enthusiastically welcomed the all-Brazilian fight between Piquet and Senna, mistakenly excluding McLaren and its reigning World Champion. But Alain responded in a big way, with two consecutive wins.
However, there is another driver temporarily excluded from the world championship speeches, Nigel Mansell, ready to remind everyone that he too is one of the eligible winners.
In Monte Carlo de Angelis retired, but his Brabham was starting to show signs of recovery:
"Without the various failures, I could have been second on the grid. Too bad, we'll try again at Spa".
He said at the end of the Monegasque qualifying. Unfortunately, there will be no Spa for him. McLaren, Ferrari, Ligier, Lola, Tyrrell and Brabham attended the tests at Paul Ricard in mid-May. Elio is driving the BT55, the car full of innovations that for now has not given the desired results.
Around 11:15 am, at the chicane de la Verriere, turn 1, the rear wing comes off the Roman driver's Brabham: de Angelis totally loses control of the car at about 270 km/h, and starts a series of carom going beyond the safety barriers. A copious fire begins to rage; Prost, Laffite, Jones and Rosberg are the first to try to rescue Elio, but they are unable in any way to extract him from the burning car. Canadian journalist Christian Tortora, the only witness present, will recall the incident as follows:
"Suddenly I saw the car take off and after a flight of about two hundred meters it hurt the guardrail, bounced back in the air to end up overturned about fifty meters away. The first to stop immediately were Prost, Laffite, Jones and Rosberg who got out of their cars with fire extinguishers in hand and dumped them on Elio's car on fire. De Angelis was trapped under the carcass. Prost did not hesitate to dive between the flames to try to get Elio out, but there was nothing to be done. While the pilots went in search of other fire extinguishers to put out the fire, the fuel tank of the Brabham exploded, setting fire even to a pine that borders the circuit at that point. When help arrived and the fire was finally put out, everyone tried to get the driver out after straightening the car but it took a long time. The doctor immediately felt Elio's pulse and said it was over, but then added that he'll try everything. For a quarter of an hour he was given a heart massage and artificial respiration until the heart started beating again. Then the helicopter arrived and they took it to Marseille. When we straightened it, the roll bar no longer existed".
The first diagnosis of the on-call doctor on the circuit speaks of severe head damage and spinal detachment, but not of burns or fractures; however, the amount of carbon monoxide breathed by Elio in those minutes of waiting is such that the conditions are very serious.
The doctors of the La Timone hospital in Marseille immediately define the driver's conditions as worrying, specifying however that no surgery is planned, given that the conditions make it necessary to keep him in the emergency resuscitation ward directed by Professor François.
Elio falls into a deep coma, is rushed to the reanimation room, but hour after hour the hopes of survival are getting weaker. Doctors try everything from artificial respiration to electro-stimulators, but there's nothing they can do.
After harrowing hours of waiting, at 5:20 pm on May 15, 1986, father Giulio, mother Pina and brothers Roberto, Andrea and Fabiana are informed that Elio did not make it, the doctors turned off the machines that kept him artificially in life, the cause of death is asphyxiation.
Elio de Angelis passes away at the age of twenty-eight, with eight seasons in Formula 1, one hundred and nine Grand Prix races, two victories, ten podiums and three pole positions. The controversy broke out, one above all: with a regular security service, Elio's life would not have come to a tragic end.
During the tests, in fact, the number of marshals around the track is drastically reduced compared to normal race weekends and the safety measures are halved and totally insufficient. Furthermore the commissioners who helped Elio arrived on foot from the pits, and without the appropriate equipment. The safety theme is recurring.
The drivers, orphaned by a true leader like Niki Lauda after his retirement, return to raise their voices, demanding the same safety measures as the races also during the tests, with ambulance, helicopter and firefighters, and this time headed by Prost and Piquet, they also ask for a reduction in the horsepower of the turbo engines to 600, threatening, otherwise, to desert the Belgian Grand Prix on May 25, 1986:
"Today's Formula 1 has reached its limit: 350 km/h on the straight can also be there, this is not the most dangerous thing. But reaching 300 km/h after a few hundred meters, with 1200 horsepower engines, it's absolutely ridiculous. We need to take a step back as soon as possible".
Says Alain, while Michele Alboreto can't hold back the tears:
"It is like losing a brother, I still cannot realize that such a misfortune has happened. I will try to be very close to the family, and now we will leave no stone unturned to increase the safety of motor racing. Risk is our job, but much can still be done to reduce it".
Senna also talks about the tragedy of Elio, his former teammate with whom he did not have a great relationship, firmly underlining the poor safety measures present on the circuit during that test session:
"With Elio I had a professional relationship that was not the best, but I don't even want to talk about it; there was a big rivalry between the two of us. From the human side, however, I have always respected Elio: he was a very intelligent and kind man, one who raced for the pure pleasure of racing. The day before Elio's accident I made a mistake. I had problems with my car and before returning to the pits I drove a lap very slowly, looking around: along the track the security services were practically non-existent. I saw a man with a fire extinguisher, only one, but I didn't worry too much. I thought that the Paul Ricard circuit was a long circuit, with large spaces, and perhaps the emergency service was there, even if from the cockpit it was difficult to see how it was dislocated. Once that lap of the track was over, I should have better informed myself of the situation, asked where the fire-fighting men were and made the other drivers aware of the problem. But I did not, as I didn't in the past. I feel a part of responsibility for what happened".
"An adequate firefighting service would have been enough and Elio would still be with us. The problem of fire is increasingly topical since Formula 1 cars adopt turbo engines that reach very high temperatures. We had the hints of what happened at Paul Ricard last year during testing at the Nurburgring. Surer stopped along the track and the car caught fire. There was still no one there and Marc, got out of the car, looked around until he spotted a service van parked in the distance. Surer ran over there, got behind the wheel of that vehicle while the attendant was blissfully sleeping a little further on, reached his Brabham and He turned it off by himself. That day almost everyone laughed bitterly thinking that it was not right to have so many marshals along the track during the Grand Prix and none or almost none during private practice. We did nothing and everything remained as before".
"It is during the tests that we take the greatest risks, when we try new solutions that have never been tried before. The cars are getting faster every day; the circuits remain the same and many have not been adequate for a few years; FOCA only thinks about the interests of the teams, FISA leaves it to FOCA and we drivers don't give a damn. This is the stark picture of the situation. But it is a situation that cannot last a day longer. It had been a long time since there was a fatal accident in Formula 1 and we were all relaxed. Unfortunately, the irreparable thing had to happen to realize that the danger exists and that the time has come for everyone to do an examination of conscience of what happened to Elio: we are all responsible".
On Friday May 23th, while the Belgian Grand Prix is already underway, it is Balestre's turn, determined to revolutionize the regulations. After several meetings with Bernie Ecclestone's FOCA and Ferrari sporting director Marco Piccinini (in practice, the trio that decides where, when and why of Formula 1), they came to the conclusion to reduce power as soon as possible: six hundred horsepower engines. The methodology through which this modification will take place is not specified, but it seems that it may be a boost reduction valve, which would lead to half the power.
The layout of Paul Ricard is also subject to change: the corner where poor Elio lost his life is eliminated, and the long straight where 340 km/h was reached is halved. And this promises to be just the first of a series of changes to various circuits no longer compliant with current Formula 1.
In the following weeks there are other innovations that the Balestre-Ecclestone-Piccinini triumvirate wants to bring to Formula 1. First of all, three possible options are communicated to reduce the great power of the engines in view of 1987:
Reduction of the base power to 1000 horsepower (the current is 1500 horsepower);
Introduction of a valve that is the same for all that controls supercharging;
Limitation of the air flow for the motor supply.
Especially prompted by Ecclestone then, it is proposed to eliminate the qualifying engines by upsetting the entire format. Bernie fired one of his first ambiguous and sophisticated ideas, suggesting only free practice on Friday, a short warm-up on Saturday morning, and a short eighty kilometer race in the afternoon, with a line-up based on the results of the previous race. The order of arrival of this short heat would define the starting grid of the next day's race.
A proposal that, however, does not solve the safety problems, much less the question of the power of the engines. Eliminated from qualifying, there is no doubt that the eager engineers would create an engine capable of running just those eighty kilometers, only to be shelved. The idea is not enthusiastically welcomed by anyone, and in fact it will never be put into practice.
The world of Formula 1, as has already happened in the past after similar tragedies, must go on, so Brabham finds in Derek Warwick the driver who will join Riccardo Patrese from the Canadian Grand Prix to replace Elio, while Williams and Lotus go to Belgium, on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, to hunt down Prost. In qualifying, total balance reigns, with an exceptional loose cannon: Benetton.
Gerhard Berger takes second place behind poleman Nelson Piquet, evidently more at ease than in Monte Carlo; Teo Fabi is sixth, but only four tenths behind the Brazilian. The team based in Witney, in the United Kingdom, continues to make progress: on Friday and for the first fifty minutes of the session on Saturday, Berger was on provisional pole, before Piquet arrived to deny him the joy.
Deprived momentarily of the famous suspensions that help him fly in qualifying, this time Senna has to settle for fourth place on the grid, behind Prost and ahead of Mansell. Nigel has to make a move, or he risks missing the train that takes him straight to fight for the title. He needs an important performance like that of Jerez, where he lost the race by fourteen thousandths, perhaps with a bit of luck to help him.
In fact, speaking of luck, first Prost and then Piquet are quickly ousted from the fight for the victory, so that only Senna is contending for the first place in the race to Mansell, however his Lotus does not have the possibility to counter the speed of the Williams on the race pace.
The start proves to be almost fatal for Alain, who finds himself close to the Source by Berger, who in turn is closed to the outside by Senna. Three of them do not fit in the first corner, Berger crosses slightly and squeezes Prost towards the guard rail. The McLaren hits the right rear suspension of the Benetton, after which both cars turn around, occupying a large part of the roadway, and triggering a carom in which Brundle, Arnoux and the French Lola driver Patrick Tambay are involved, the only one who must withdraw.
The two crashed off again with the damaged cars, and must forcibly return to the pits to change the front wing in the case of Prost, and have the damaged suspension in the case of Berger fixed whenever possible. Light years away from the top positions, Alain partially manages to limit the damage thanks to a comeback that certifies him in sixth position at the end of the race. There is no shortage of regrets for him, having been able to see for the whole weekend that he had an excellent race pace. Only when the car has returned to the pits, the mechanics can see what a miracle Alain performed while staying on the track: the contact at the first corner had not only damaged the wing and the front suspension, but also caused the anomalous folding of a motor mounting plate.
"In that condition it becomes difficult even to keep the car on the straight".
John Barnard states.
"Not only that, Alain also resisted the temptation to increase the turbo boost. Someone talks about luck, but this is not the case. Alain was intelligent. They call him the Professor and in this race he made it clear why he got this nickname".
After the race Prost accuses Berger of having tightened him, the Austrian in turn takes it out on Senna. While he was easily leading with a ten-second gap on the Lotus instead, Nelson Piquet suffers a loss of power and for the second time this season after Jerez has to abandon the race due to problems with the Honda engine. Senna finds himself leading the race, also thanks to the mistake that previously saw Mansell as protagonist, who, having risen to second position behind his teammate, spun and lost two positions.
But Nigel is much faster, and at the time of Senna's pit stops, he is attached to the exhaust pipes. The overtaking takes place immediately, but Senna does not give up, he tries to stay in contact with Williams until the on-board computer tells him that he must necessarily calm down so as not to run out of petrol.
Mansell wins his third race in his career, and thanks to the vicissitudes encountered by the two favorites on the eve, Prost and Piquet, he relaunches himself in the World Championship. During the interviews there is also a dedication to Elio de Angelis, his former teammate at the time of Lotus, and Frank Williams:
"I dedicate this victory to Elio and his family. He was a great friend, he helped me a lot at the beginning of my career. And I would also like to remember Frank Williams, immobilized in a hospital bed, it's thanks to him that I arrived at this point. They are in a wonderful team".
A glimmer of hope can also be seen in Maranello: Johansson's podium and Alboreto's fourth place finally breaking his curse give a little joy to the men in red, who are beginning to see the fruits of hard work. The celebrations for the podium make the Swede's order of team not respected, which has gone to attack and overtake Alboreto, even though he was told to slow down from the pits, to the background. Small deja-vu of the Villeneuve-Pironi times, only there the order of arrival of a first and a second place in Imola was decided.
Pending the American tour in mid-June, Formula 1 is shaken by another tragic event. During a German rally valid for the European championship, Arrows driver Marc Surer is seriously injured after his car, a Ford Rs 200, crashed into a tree and caught fire. The Swiss is rescued, but his co-driver, Michael Wyder, dies being stuck in the burning car. Surer is admitted to Schotten hospital in serious condition. He will be able to recover physically after two weeks of intensive care, but the brutal experience and the loss of his co-driver keep him away from the racing world forever.
In view of the Canadian Grand Prix, a lot of chatter rages in the newspapers and inside the paddock, from the non-decisions of FISA and FOCA on how to implement the reductions in engine displacement, to the rumors of the market.
Senna is approached with insistence to Ferrari, which would have offered the Brazilian a staggering salary of around six million dollars. Obviously, the lack of competitiveness of the Italian cars appears as a major obstacle to the success of the agreement.
Even the man of the moment, Nigel Mansell has to look around, as the contract renewal option with Williams expires in days, and the British team according to some rumors would have advised him to look for some free seats. The difficult relations with Nelson Piquet, who demands privileged treatment, as well as his meager salary ($ 500.000 per season) when compared to that of the other top drivers, Piquet included, are the points of disagreement with the team. Nigel was the second of de Angelis in Lotus, it was Keke Rosberg's when he joined Williams, but he has no intention of submitting even now that he is starting to win races.
Rosberg himself does not enjoy much consideration at McLaren after a dull start to the season that saw him perpetually behind Prost. Apparently Ron Dennis has already contacted Stefan Johansson, while the Finn is considering retirement. As if that were not enough, the US tax burden also breaks out in view of the Detroit Grand Prix, scheduled for the week following that of Canada.
The American taxman has in fact declared that it intends to levy taxes on the prizes that will be given to the drivers for the results obtained in the race. This is the sum of money that FOCA, which before anyone else receives from the organizers of the Grand Prix, pays to the teams based on the results obtained during the race weekends. The money that the pilots will also benefit from at the end of the year.
The taxman intends to withhold sixteen percent of these sums with a tax starting from 1982, the year in which the first Grand Prix was held on the roads of the Detroit circuit. In the US, tax evasion is taken very seriously and there is talk of criminal consequences, so many drivers threaten to boycott the event, also because the circuit is not so popular for its characteristics, especially for its asphalt. questionable and lack of security.
As always, good old Bernie takes care of the matter. Ecclestone negotiates with the American taxman, to whom he informs that he has no intention of cancelling the Grand Prix, so he arrives at the resolutive solution that provides for an immediate payment of $ 600.000. Before going to the US, however, in Canada there is a spectacular race that gives Mansell the joy of a second consecutive success.
The former Lotus driver takes pole, and is only for a short phase of the race overtaken by Keke Rosberg, who, as already demonstrated in the past, to stay with the leaders must completely give up fuel management, not surprisingly then he disappears and finishes fourth and almost doubled. On the podium with Mansell Prost and Piquet climb, while for Senna, who arrived in Canada as the leader of the World Championship, the limits of Lotus come out.
Ayrton tries to resist Prost's attacks with tenacity in the first part of the race, also creating a row of cars attacked behind him. But then Alain becomes the protagonist of a courageous overtaking at the first corner to take your breath away for a few moments, as well as at the limits of regularity, so Senna has to lift his foot to avoid a collision with the Frenchman.
Almost demoralized by having given up his position, in a few laps Ayrton was also passed by Rosberg, Piquet and Arnoux. The Brazilian driver finished the race fifth and lapped after an overtaking at the last minute on the Ligier of the transalpine. At the press conference, Alain was asked about the overtaking made on an aggressive and difficult driver like Senna. And he replies with a bold chuckle under his mustache:
"It wasn't difficult, perhaps a little dangerous maneuver, but that's all, we didn't touch. I passed it on the inside and then I found myself in front of the outside in the next corner".
Alain smiles, then swings carefree with his chair, perhaps a little too much, as he loses his balance and falls to the ground. Ayrton, on the other hand, takes it out on the fuel consumption, insists that McLaren and Williams are still too fast for him, even if for the moment he is second in the ranking, tied with Mansell and two points behind Prost.
Furthermore, the Detroit circuit, where it runs seven days later, adapts much more to the characteristics of the 98T and, displacing everyone, of the Ligier. Senna returns to pole on the US street circuit, trailing Nigel Mansell by half a second.
However, Ayrton is so busy working with his team - or so it seems - that he skips the usual post-qualifying press conference scheduled for the top three finishers, but in order not to leave the reporters dry-mouthed, he sends a taped tape where in practice he interviews himself, asking himself questions and answering. Is it just for the briefing with the team that Senna misses the press conference? Obviously not.
In reality, it turns out that Ayrton hastily returned to the hotel to watch the quarter-finals of the World Cup between France and Brazil on television, also seen with great interest by the French Prost, Laffite and Arnoux, ready to support Michel Platini's gang. Ayrton also bet a thousand dollars with Ducarouge on the victory of his national team, which unfortunately for him is defeated.
Some improvement also in the relationship with his colleagues can be seen from the fact that Ayrton goes to apologize to Riccardo Patrese after slowing him down during qualifying.
The Ayrton of the times of the minor categories, or perhaps even that of the previous year, probably would have done otherwise. But the Brazilian continues his constant growth path both on and off the track.
We previously mentioned Ligier, who can celebrate Renè Arnoux fourth and the forty-two year old Jacques Laffite sixth in front of an awkward Prost. The signs of the French team are so positive that they cannot even be excluded from the fight for the podium.
Prost, on the other hand, starts the weekend badly, losing control of the car at the last chicane before the finish line and crashing into the barriers, all during free practice. The next morning, the Frenchman finds a note stuck on the steering wheel, which reads:
"Differential, brakes, right wishbone, left wishbone, suspension, gearbox, engine, underbody, wings - all new. Three hours of sleep".
Just to remind him to pay off the hard work of the mechanics after one of his rare mistakes. Before the race there was a small problem in the warm-up for Stefan Johansson, who having forgotten his gloves and helmet in the motorhome, after waiting a few minutes asked Mansell to lend him his. In perfect timing with all the market rumors surrounding the British and his possible arrival in Ferrari, the fans admire the F1/86 driven by a driver with his likeness for a moment in disbelief, before discovering what lies beneath it ambiguity.
A few hours later, initially the victory of the race seems to have to be a head to head between Senna and Mansell, who offer a nice back and forth to the sound of overtaking after which Ayrton maintains the leadership.
But invigorated by the breath of fresh air in the high ranking, Arnoux enters the fight and overtakes Mansell, just like Laffite a few laps later. Senna launches into a probable lonely escape, but a slow puncture to a rear tire ruins every floor: the early pit stop relegates him to eighth place.
Surprisingly, therefore, there are the two Ligier drivers to battle for the first provisional position, which for the first time in three years is occupied by Arnoux. The former Ferrari driver, however, suffers with his tires, and on lap 18 Laffite also feels the thrill of driving the race.
The overtaking is seasoned with a gesture of disapproval by Laffite addressed to Arnoux, guilty of having left him little space leading him to touch the barriers. Arnoux loses pace, is joined by the magnificent four who play the World Championship: in order Mansell, Prost, Piquet and Senna, who regained ground with fast laps and along the way easily got rid of the Ferraris of Alboreto and Johansson.
The brawl begins: Prost is passed first by Piquet and then by Senna; Ayrton redeems himself after just a week from the slap suffered in Montreal. Arnoux returns to the pits to change his destroyed tires, and Mansell is overtaken by the two Brazilians in the limelight. For the British, much of the race is affected by excessive overheating on the brakes, which causes an inconsistent race pace, sometimes fast, but then again too slow when the temperatures rise again.
Piquet and Senna have no problems, and in a short time they recover and Laffite too. At the pit stop carousel, thanks to a quick tire change, Senna once again takes the lead ahead of Piquet. The carioca forces his hand to reduce the gap from the Lotus, but makes a mistake and goes to the wall. The bad moment of the two-time world champion continues, in crisis of results following the victory at the opening of the championship.
His car also creates dangerous situations on the track; the commissioners in fact merely waved the yellow flags for a few laps that signal the danger of the Williams remaining on the track, rather than moving it to a safer place. At a certain point there are no longer even the flags, and poor Arnoux, who hits the crashed Williams and carambulates on the other side, also hits the dubbed Thierry Boutsen who was behind him.
After the race, Senna is among those who complain of poor organization. With Piquet's retirement, Ayrton can easily manage the Lotus to the checkered flag. His car was in no way inferior to McLaren and Williams; here in Detroit there was no concern about fuel consumption to limit its performance.
Ayrton crosses the finish line, and shortly after takes a Brazilian flag from the hands of a commissioner, and waves it during the return lap to honor his country, Brazil, and if we want also to avenge him from the defeat that France inflicted on him in the World Cup of football. The gesture exalts the small colony of Brazilian fans who came to support him, who also enthusiastically praise the maker of the car, Gérard Ducarouge.
In second place is the heroic Jacques Laffite, able to overtake a Prost in difficulty with his McLaren in the final. Mansell, on the other hand, finishes fifth, with a lot of spin in an attempt to resist Alboreto during the fight for fourth place.
Ayrton's masterful performance puts him right back at the top of the standings with thirtysix points, but the Brazilian remains with the realists, he knows that from Paul Ricard Lotus will come back to trudge behind McLaren and Williams:
"After the start I realized that the rear left was losing pressure, perhaps due to a small hole. The fact is that the car did not even go straight on the straight. So I had to stop for an unexpected, and in any case anticipated, tire change. However, I had doubts: they were fine with the tires chosen at the start, the hard Goodyear type B. I had a little trick to inform the team about my wishes in terms of tires to replace: if I passed in front of the pits touching my helmet with my hand, it meant that I wanted to hold type C tires; if instead I raised my hand it was the B. It was a little secret to help my race and on the other hand I had also taken other precautions: in fact, I knew that with the brakes it would be very hard and for this reason, towards the middle of the race, I preferred not to take risks with Piquet and wait for a few laps. My other little precaution: the protection of the hands. Here in Detroit with sweat the skin 'breaks' immediately and driving becomes a torment: for this reason I adopted half gloves for cyclists under the normal racing ones. They were very useful. not resolved, the feet: with so many changes and braking, after a while they became terribly stiff. And to say that the concentration could never be diminished even for a moment: in Detroit the walls are waiting for you at every corner".
Then, on the situation that arose with Piquet's car remained on the trajectory, he says:
"Piquet's car parked was a danger for us who were on the track, and in fact two cars were involved in an accident. Nothing serious happened but I believe that in the future the race should be stopped in case of a similar situation".
The happiness of the patron Guy Ligier for the second place of his Laffite driver is dampened the next day: reading the French newspaper L'équipe, an advertising article by Renault celebrates the victory of Senna and the Renault that powers the Lotus, without mentioning the great result of his team, also a Renault customer for the supply of engines. Guy Ligier tears up the annoyed newspaper and makes a decision: next year he will change engines.
What is certain, in addition to the abandonment of the Renault engines, is that the owner of the French team will certainly not be able to deal with BMW, as the Germans announce their retirement from Formula 1, leaving Benetton and Brabham without an engine for 1987, also now. looking for other suppliers. Benetton tries to get in touch with Honda for a double blow: the supply of Japanese engines and the hiring of Nigel Mansell.
Renault, on the other hand, having reached Paul Ricard for the eighth round of the championship, tries to give an important boost that can help Senna fight for the title without having to jump through hoops at every race, bringing a new version of their V6 Turbo, always powerful but consuming less fuel than the previous one.
To test the new V6 properly, however, Ayrton has to wait for the next race, since on the modified and shortened circuit of Le Castellet following the tragedy of de Angelis (from 5.8 km to 3.8 km), he slips on an oil stain left by Andrea de Cesaris' Minardi at the fast bend in Beausset. The high speed of travel leaves him no way out, and on the third lap Senna crashes into the wall of tires, not reporting any physical consequences. The victory is once again celebrated by Nigel Mansell, simply unstoppable for his rivals.
Prost, who moved with his wife Marie-Anne to the quiet French town of Bandol away from any pressure to better prepare for the tough fight against these super-Williams, is doing everything possible to get on the top step of the podium in his Grand Prix home. He tries a one stop strategy, when Mansell chooses instead to do two as well as Piquet, but there is nothing to do. The two pit stops were a choice of Patrick Head, confident that even in this way his cars would have the better, and would be safe from any excessive wear of the tires.
Alain manages to get behind at least Nelson Piquet, who with only twenty three points in the standings against the thirty-nine of the Frenchman of McLaren, the thirty eight of Mansell and the thirtysix of Senna, begins to understand that perhaps his status as first driver is not at all obvious, and on the contrary, with this bad habit he risks finding himself acting as a squire.
Before flying to his home country for the Brands Hatch Grand Prix on July 13, 1986, Williams decided to reward Mansell's excellent performance with the renewal of the contract, with a two-year duration and an increase in salary. Nothing better to make him go even stronger, were it not that Mansell refuses the offer. He wants more money than the English team offers, at least as much as Piquet gets, who earns more than three million a season.
The 1986 is the last edition of the British Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch; Ecclestone has in fact signed a five-year contract with Silverstone. Rumors say that President FOCA made this choice out of spiteful spite, having failed to purchase the track located in West Kingsdown.
However, it is the first Grand Prix that sees Sir return to the paddock aboard a wheelchair. Frank Williams after his long rehabilitation period, accompanied by Patrick Head, Ecclestone himself and his wife Ginny. Welcomed by a large banner that reads Welcome Back Frank - from Brands Hatch, the forward-looking owner must already try to figure out how to deal with the thorny situation with Honda, which is negotiating with Lotus and McLaren for the supply of engines. In fact, Soichiro Honda did not hide from Ron Dennis his desire to have Prost as his driver (same thing goes for Senna), and at the same time, to fuel the rumors there is the permanence in the Porsche circus far from certain. Meanwhile Williams shows up on both Fridays and Saturdays for a few hours, but on Sunday he decides to watch the race from home, in front of the television. In the midst of all these rumors and the flattery of the Japanese, Alain thinks about the race, and after a dull sixth place in qualifying two seconds from poleman Piquet declares:
"They don't give me the soul if I don't start from the front row, by now I'm used to it. I know I can recover, have a competitive car, and that's enough for me. I have confidence in my means and I'll try to get the best. it is hard, indeed, very hard".
Brands Hatch is also hosting the last Formula 1 Grand Prix in which Jacques Laffite participates, who just in France had equaled Graham Hill's record for Grand Prix, 176.
On the eve of the race weekend, the over forty-year-old declared that he did not have the slightest intention of retiring, and indeed, that he was impatient to try the new Ligier powered by Alfa Romeo after the dissolution of the agreement with Renault for the next one.
That car, Jacques Laffite will never try it. Among the many drivers involved in the crash at the start triggered by a contact between Jonathan Palmer and Thierry Boutsen there is also him, who ends up violently against the guard-rail. The Frenchman moves his head, he is conscious, but he can't get out of the car: he got stuck in his car crumpled up in the barriers, and his legs hurt him a lot.
Finally extracted from the rubble of the Ligier, Laffite is transported to the Queen Mary Hospital, where doctors diagnose the fracture of two bones of the right leg, a double fracture of the tibia of the left leg, five fractures of the pelvis and a fracture of a heel.
Surgery and lots of physiotherapy follow in the following months.
Laffite even thinks of his return to Formula 1, but Brands Hatch remains his last Grand Prix in Formula 1, which according to statistics he does not take part, having been a restart after the accident. The French driver therefore remains paired in the standings with Graham Hill, stopping at 176 Grands Prix.
With three wins in four races, 120.000 spectators come to the circuit to support him and with Frank Williams back in the paddock, Nigel Mansell cannot fail to win his home Grand Prix.
The mustache born in the tiny county of just 3.000 inhabitants of Upton-upon-Severn, first attacks Piquet by overtaking him, and then is able to effectively defend himself from the Carioca's counterattack, helped on a specific occasion by the Druids by the presence of a voice acting.
Even a little luck, the one which, as mentioned, he needed in conjunction with his crystalline talent to be part of the small circle of those who play for the title, helps him.
In fact, at the first start, Mansell did not travel even twenty meters after the axle shaft broke. But the race is logically interrupted after the crowded first corner that costs Laffite's career, and Mansell can take part in the restart with the forklift, which however has been prepared according to Piquet's instructions, a factor that makes his career even greater. enterprise.
During the race, taking advantage of a mistake by Piquet who fails to engage a gear, Nigel takes the lead. At this point, however, Nelson decides to anticipate the pit stop, hoping to overtake Nigel having the tires already up to temperature, but an unfavourable dubbing slows him down, and the home idol wins even if dehydrated, given that the Williams of escort did not have water on board.
On the podium, to collect the trophy for the winning constructor is Ginny Williams; Piquet is second, but pissed off with his team who, according to him, favored Mansell overtaking him, telling him to lower the turbo pressure just before his teammate's attack took place.
As for Alain and Ayrton, however, the situation does not bode well at all:
the transalpine finishes third but dubbed, in spite of his intentions of victory in the post-qualifying interviews, in addition he has lost the championship lead in favor of this unstoppable Mansell; Senna, who had to race with the older version of the engine having encountered problems on the new one, retires while he was third due to a gearbox failure.
Now the ranking reads: Mansell first with forty seven points, second Prost with fortythree, third Senna with fortythree, and fourth Piquet with twentynine points.