All change at Ferrari; a mid-season “palace coup” had continued in the off-season and when the dust settled there was a new boss: hard-headed former Lancia principal Cesare Fiorio. Out was the demotivated Alboreto, in came hard-charging Nigel Mansell to partner Gerhard Berger – three times a winner in trying circumstances over 1987-88. The new car, the Ferrari 640, would be John Barnard’s first fully new design for team. It featured a chisel nose, wide, flowing sidepods and a low airbox with intakes either side of the driver’s head. In the back was another new development; the Scuderia one of just two engine manufacturers to go with a V12 layout over the V10s and V8s elsewhere on the grid. In fact, the FIA had been reluctant to allow V12s, and Ferrari went as far as constructing the Tipo 637 IndyCar-spec chassis before the governing body got the message and caved.
The new engine developed the same horsepower as its turbo-V6 predecessor but with none of the fuel-consumption issues that had so bedevilled the team. Lastly, but certainly not least, an innovative semi-automatic gearbox, with almost instantaneous shifts up and down controlled by paddles mounted behind the steering wheel rather than a conventional gearstick. If it works, it could be a major advantage. If not … well, we all remember Williams’ “reactive” suspension last year.
27. Nigel Mansell
Nigel Mansell has had some really rotten luck the last few seasons. Missing out on both 1986 and 1987 titles with a dominant Williams-Honda car despite winning more races than the champion both times, the team then struggled through 1988 with engine overheating, suspension problems and more. It didn’t take much for a thoroughly disgruntled Nigel to end his four-year stint at Williams and move to Italy and as it turned out he became the last driver personally selected by Enzo Ferrari before his death. Nigel would look to recapture his winning ways and justify the Commendatore’s faith in him.
28. Gerhard Berger
Having won three times in two seasons in what is best described as “dodgy machinery”, Berger comprehensively demolished Michele Alboreto in the process. Not only did he win three times to Alboreto’s none, but he consistently out-qualified, out-drove and out-scored his team-mate. Whether Berger has the quality to go all the way to the world title remains to be seen but if the new car goes well he certainly has the potential to be a real challenger. He retains his previous race number of 28, but may well see himself as team leader now, especially given Mansell’s indifferent 1988 season.