Autodromo Nazionale di Monza
6 September 1987
Confirmed in Italy: in 1988, it would be Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna driving McLaren-Honda cars. Williams would lose Honda power and would instead use 3.5l atmospheric Judd V8 engines, hoping to make a virtue of necessity and make the transit away from Turbos a yea rin advance of the rest. Ligier had also made a deal for the same engine, currently powering the March chassis. Stefan Johansson was out of a seat, and Williams had one spare – but the smart money was now on Riccardo Patrese to partner Mansell.
All that was in the future though; there was news aplenty for this year as well. Williams had quietly been working on an Active Suspension system and debuted it on Nelson Piquet’s car in Italy. Mansell – who had suffered through Lotus’ early attempts to make their system work – was dubious but this was a hydraulic-based system rather than Lotus’ high-tech electronic one and should be more reliable. Two new cars on the grid too: Osella, at their home race, found sponsorship to run a second car for Swiss driver Franco Forini, while the little Coloni team made the step up from Formula 3000 preparatory to a full 1988 campaign. This meant that, for the first time in 1987, two drivers would fail to qualify.
22. Franco Forini
With motor-racing banned in his native Switzerland, Franco went to Italy to pursue a career in the sport. He won his first F3 race in 1983 at the age of 25 in a Dallara chassis and for the following two years drove for the Venturini team, developing the Dallara into a consistent race-winner. In 1985 he moved to the Forti Corse team and won the Italian F3 title ahead of Alex Caffi and Fabrizio Barbazza. A move up to F3000 for 1986 yielded poorer results, with a sixth place the highlight, but he was able to get some sponsorship to fund a second Osella car for three races.
32. Nicola Larini
From a small town in Tuscany, Larini showed an aptitude for racing at a young age and made his way up through Karting to Formula Fiat Abarth by the age of 20, then into Italian F3 where he won races immediately in 1985. In 1986, he was paired with the highly-fancied Marco Apicella at Enzo Coloni’s team with Dallara chassis, and raised several eyebrows by taking the title. Coloni dabbled in F3000 in 1987 before deciding to make the step up to F1 for 1988, and Larini would come with them for this exploratory foray.
Nigel Mansell was to regret his reluctance to have anything to do with the “Active” Williams, because after a ding-dong battle across Friday’s and Saturday’s sessions, it was the Brazilian who took the pole position by just 0.1s. Williams first and second, but to the delight of the Tifosi who packed out the circuit it was Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari in third place. Michele Alboreto had also been looking good until he clipped the barriers and ended up back in 8th place. It was Senna’s Lotus, Active Suspension performing much better here, in fourth place, followed by Prost and the Benettons of Boutsen and Fabi – with just 0.1s covering third through seventh. 9th and 10th were the Brabhams of local drivers Patrese and de Cesaris respectively. At the other end of the grid, Franco Forini qualified 26th to make his F1 debut while Nicola Larini’s Coloni and Pascal Fabre’s AGS were the unlucky non-qualifiers.
As the cars lined up after the parade lap, there was a sudden panic as smoke seemed ot be rising from the back of Patrese’s Brabham. Fire marshals leapt into action, yellow flags were waved and Roland Bruynseraede held the green light. Having established that it was
in fact just vapour from the fuel-tank breather, another parade lap was held, a lap knocked off the length of the race and away they went – successfully this time. Mansell leapt into the lead and knew that with Piquet’s active suspension he had to build a cushion. Instead, though, Piquet was past in very short order and Mansell soon dropped behind a fast-starting Boutsen and Berger to boot. Senna was also on a charge, disposing of Mansell, then moving up to 2nd on lap 23 when Boutsen and Berger stopped for tyres. A lap later it was Piquet’s turn to pit and Senna was in the lead.
It soon became clear that Senna wasn’t going to come in, but was instead running a non-stop strategy and so Piquet had to put his foot down and charge. Senna, on pit-to-car radio, was consulting his team and the Goodyear technicians and decided that although it would be a close call, the tyres could probably stand it. It had worked for him in Detroit and it was working now.
By lap 40, with just ten to go, Senna led by 4.5s and was conserving his tyres while Piquet blistered his chasing his compatriot down. But it worked, and by lap 43 the Williams was just 2.5 seconds behind. Approaching Piercarlo Ghinzani’s Ligier to lap it, Senna got onto the dirty track around Parabolica and shot off into the sand trap. He demonstrated wonderful presence of mind to keep it running, get it back on track, and dab the brakes to shoot debris out of his side-pods on the way. But he had lost the lead, and the remaining eight laps were an object lesson in driving on the ragged edge as, with dirty and worn tyres, Senna flung his Lotus around the track. To no avail; Piquet took his third win of the year and Williams’ sixth in a row.
Senna was second and Mansell third, with Berger, Boutsen and Johansson picking up the minor points. What of Prost? After a good practice, his TAG engine spent the race periodically cutting out and after several stops to fix it he trailed in 15th, four laps down. Honda power couldn’t come soon enough for the Woking team, who lost second place to Lotus. Meanwhile in the “junior” category, Streiff, Capelli and Palmer finished almost together in 12th, 13th and 14th.
Piquet extended his championship lead, with Senna and Mansell still in the hunt and Prost firmly out of contention now. With Silly Season in full swing and teams all trying to get their ducks in a row for 1988, the F1 circus made ready to move to Estoril in two weeks’ time.
|12||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
|Jim Clark Cup|
|Colin Chapman Trophy|