The Ferrari F1/86 was designed by Harvey Postlethwaite as a followup to the 1985 car, which had been fast but unreliable, a fact that had cost Michele Alboreto what would have been a fairytale World Championship for an Italian driver with the Scuderia. The new car featured lower aerodynamics thanks to the new fuel regulations and the Tipo 32 turbocharged engine which was among the most powerful out there, so the team were confident that if they could overcome their reliability problems they would be challenging for the title once again in 1986. Alboreto and Johansson stayed on to provide continuity of drivers.
The Italian had undergone a deeply frustrating 1985, with great results early in the year giving way to retirement after retirement on technical grounds. However, he and the team kept faith with each other and he would be hoping that the new car would be more reliable and allow him to go one better. Nonetheless, he had done enough to hold off Senna and the resurgent Williams team to come second in the championship, which itself is no mean feat, and when the car worked his combination of speed and precision was difficult to match.
Johansson was something of a surprise call-up to the Ferrari squad in the wake of Arnoux’s sudden departure, and many thought he was just a stop-gap driver until someone more experienced came along – but his performance at Imola, where he could have won his first race for the team but for some bad luck, earned him the fans’ respect and he continued to do a good job for the team and evidently impressed sufficiently to be retained for 1986. He will need to prove himself in his first top drive, and will have a tough yardstick to measure himself against in the shape of Michele Alboreto.