09.10.11 SETTEMBRE 2011
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
FINALSECTOR JOIN THE REVOLUTION EDITOR’S LETTER
Welcome to the Italian Grand Prix preview, with the season back in full swing and only 7 races to go until the end of the season. Will we have a new world champion or will Sebastian Vettel retain his title in the RB7. In this issue we will have a look at the Ferrari fans ‘The Tifosi’ and is Monza cursed. We also take a look at the last race and look forward to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Monza is known for its high speed straights and we would think that the Mercedes engined cars should be quick this weekend, can someone finally beat a Red Bull to pole. This is the final european race on the calendar with the rest being fly away races. If you have any views on the previews then email me email@example.com or drop us a tweet on twitter.com/finalsectormag we love to hear your feedback as it helps us get better. I hope you enjoy rhis preview Matt Bacon
THE EDITORIAL TEAM
THE EDITOR & DESIGNER WRITER / PROMO MATTHEW BACON
DANIEL J MORSE
SALES / WRITER
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MONZA TRACK NAME
306.720 RACE DISTANCE
ALONSO 1:21.046 80% 12% 10 0.4 5.793 340 2010 WINNER
S KERS BOOST
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SECS OVERALL BRAKING
2011 REVIEW BY DANIEL J MORSE
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After what felt like an incredibly long three week summer break for Formula One, we rejoin the teams for the remainder of the season refreshed and ready to roll! The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most respected races on the calendar. Each team and person has their own reason for enjoying this weekend in particular; it is the home of Marussia Virgin’s Jerome d’Ambrosio, and also the famous complex of Eau Rouge with its twisty uphill chicane. It really is amazing how quickly these cars can pass through this complex and as they reach the tip of the hill, which in itself is quite deceiving when watching on television, the only thing keeping the cars on track is the aerodynamic downforce they produce as there is approximately 1G of force trying to lift them up from the track! This track was also an opportunity for the teams to bring some significant updates to their cars, with Marussia Virgin Racing hoping a big upgrade package would increase their chances of beating the likes of HRT and Team Lotus. There wasn’t much chance for the teams to perform much dry testing on their upgrades, as it typically rained over the weekend. The few chances there were of sunshine resulted in the aerodynamicists and engineers racing to put the aero paint on the cars to obtain as much valuable data as possible. However, through the practice sessions it did appear that Red Bull had regained their wings and were back at the top of the leaderboards; Mark Webber topping the times for both practices 2 and 3. The Ferrari’s did look as though they were true challengers to the Red Bulls, as did McLaren – but another name that seemed to be stamping his mark was that of Bruno Senna. In a controversial driver change at Renault-Lotus, Nick Heidfeld had been replaced by Bruno Senna, who really did give Nick a run for his money finishing in 9th position after practice 3. Then again, Jaime Alguersuari did end up in third position – so take what you will from those standings! It was nonetheless apparent that Bruno Senna was looking to have a good race weekend ahead of him and a point to prove! Qualifying was quite an exciting part of the weekend (as ever!) with Q1 bringing excitement from the start. Michael Schumacher crashed out after a wheel literally fell off, sending him veering in to the crash barrier – without him having set a time. It later appeared that the wheel had been cross threaded. Schumacher was not the only surprise in Q1 – Paul di Resta’s Force India wasn’t quick enough to get him into Q2 as he was out paced by Kovalainen who was just under a second quicker that the Scotsman. Q2 brought us more surprises still! The usual suspects placed in the usual grid positions, but Lewis Hamilton was on quite a quick lap after his team mate pulled over out of the way so he could pass. As he approached the finish line, Lewis came up against a train of three other cars; one of which was Pastor Maldonado. Lewis had to somehow pass the Williams of Pastor and the only way to do that was by using a bit of force. Although the cars didn’t touch, it was obvious Pastor was unhappy with Lewis’ move. As they passed the chequered flag, turned the hairpin and pulled away, Pastor appeared to move alongside Lewis and come across the front of him – a move that Lewis immediately said over the radio “that was deliberate”. It meant Lewis needed a new front wing and some aesthetic repair of his sidepod. Both drivers were called to the Stewards where Lewis was reprimanded and Pastor given a five place grid penalty which in my opinion was a very light let-off indeed! During Q3 the track began to dry, and the times reflected the preferable conditions as they began to drop. It definitely appeared to be a case of whoever runs last will get the quickest time – and as the final few minutes approached, and the drivers took their final out lap, the times kept tumbling for those already out. It was a nobrainer for tyre choice; the softer compound being the unanimous favourite for the conditions. As the final drivers crossed the line, Vettel was in pole position with Lewis Hamilton just half a second behind. Vettel was however a whole second in front of his team-mate Webber, who was a further second ahead of 4th place Massa who out qualified Alonso back in 8th position. Alguersuari and Senna both had incredible qualifying sessions, finishing in 6th and 7th respectively – both ahead of Alonso’s Ferrari. This was lining up to bring us a great race.
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As the five red lights came on, the Mercedes of Rosberg was smoking on the grid – eager to get away. And then they went out! Mark Webber went into anti-stall which severely compromised his start, whereas Massa, Rosberg and both on the front row had very good starts indeed. Into the first corner, the dreaded hairpin, there was contact between a lot of the back runners – started by Bruno Senna, forcing some wide; including that of Fernando Alonso. Into Les Combes; Rosberg had taken Vettel for the lead, and Massa had overtaken Hamilton who was now sandwiched between the two Ferraris – so all change at the front! Webber had now fallen back to 8th position. Bruno Senna then pitted on the first lap for a new nose and soft tyres after his collision at the start. This unfortunately meant Senna was at the back of the pack despite all of his hard work during qualifying. On lap 5, as the Ferraris exit turns 7/8/9 leading to Bruxells, Alonso took the inside of Massa, but where Massa didn’t really want to give the position to his team-mate, both of them ended up running wide and Lewis Hamilton was hot on their tale. Their battle for 3rd position continued and Lewis managed to secure 4th place from Massa after getting a better exit after corner 12. Early pit stops for some at the front as Alonso pitted from first place on lap 9. As he exited the pits, he did so just ahead of Mark Webber who continued to push at Alonso, performing a very risky side-by-side manoeuvre into Eau Rouge/Radillon eventually taking the position from Alonso. Absolutely incredible courage from Mark Webber to try such a move – which ultimately paid off. On lap 13 Hamilton passed Kobayashi and had his DRS open – as he was fully entitled to do – but Kobayashi had other ideas. Kobayashi continued to fight and push his car to try and regain the position against Hamilton along the Kemmel straight, and as they both arrived at turn 7, Hamilton moved across to retake the racing ling into the corner, not knowing Kobayashi was alongside him, and the resulting contact spun Lewis 90 degrees into the barrier. The impact was so great it actually separated the secondary barrier. Thankfully Lewis was uninjured but the Safety Car was called for while the remains of the McLaren was recovered. The Red Bull of Vettel took this opportunity to had a ‘free’ pit stop and change to newer soft tyres.
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A constant changing of leadership continued for the middle section of the race with Rosberg losing quite a few places and Button gaining a lot of positions. Vettel finally pits for the medium compound tyres, exiting the pits just behind Button, but not for long as he overtook Button for the lead on the Kemmel straight with Button in no real position to defend against Vettel who had much fresher tyres. Mark Webber overtook Alonso for second position and a few laps later, Button overtook Alonso for third position at the same place he had been overtaken by Vettel just a few laps before. With no further pit stops anticipated, Alonso didn’t have much option but to continue to push - he was losing out to the McLaren on pure pace and just couldn’t keep up – certainly not enough to overtake anyway. Schumacher managed to pip his team-mate Rosberg for 5th position which was well deserved for the German who started from the back of the grid. So the Red Bulls had finally regained their wings – but there are so many “what if’s” that could be asked. What if Lewis hadn’t crashed – would he have had the pace? Would the lack of safety car changed the tactics as Red Bull wouldn’t have had that ‘free’ pit stop. Who knows – all we do know is that Spa was a fantastic race for the spectators and fans around the world, and with Monza being an equally fast track – we can expect just as much excitement in the next race. The next question is when do the teams stop working on this years car to focus on 2012’s car? Is now too soon? For those toward the back it may be a wise decision, but for those at the front – I certainly wouldn’t want to call it. 07 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
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Felipe massa flat out in his Ferrari F150 Italia at the Belgium Grand Prix. © octanephotos.co.uk
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ITALIAN GP PREVIEW BY GARY MARSHALL IMAGE CREDIT - GETTY IMAGES
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Only two races in the Formula 1 calendar have been run for every year of the championship since its inception in 1950, the British Grand Prix and the 14th round of the 2011 championship, the Italian Grand Prix. Historic Monza plays host to the Italian Grand Prix for the 60th time on Sunday. Monza has hosted every Italian Grand Prix apart from the 1980 event that was ran at Imola while Monza made safety upgrades. With the adoring Tifosi making their annual pilgrimage to Ferrari’s home race, the Prancing Horse will be looking to build on their record of the most successful constructor in the race which has seen them win one third of the races there since 1950. After a frustrating race in Belgium, team principle, Sefano Domenicalli is still targeting the top step of the podium in Monza and is all too aware of the importance of finally unlocking the optimum performance from the Pirelli rubber. “We know what is our Achilles Heel and we have to continue to work on it: we have made up ground in some areas, but on this one – I refer to the ideal window of operation for the tyres – we are still lagging behind. Now we go to Monza, our home race: our objective is unchanged, which means trying to win. I am convinced we can be on the pace, while aware of the fact we are up against very strong opponents." If Ferrari are to look to their past successes in Monza, Red Bull will be doing the exact opposite. The reigning double world champions are yet to taste the champagne on the podium in Italy, suffering in particular with outright straight line speed here last year finishing a lowly 4th for Vettel and 6th for Webber. The Australian announced in Spa that he will again drive for Red Bull in 2012 after signing a one year extension for the Milton Keynes squad in what could be an all or nothing final attempt to be crowned world champion. If he is to go into next year with a chance of winning, he has to up his game starting this weekend in Italy. Vettel has enen joyed dominance over his team-mate with Webber only finishing ahead of the defending world champion on one occasion, in Germany. With Seven races to go, Monza is a key race for him to prove to himself that he can take the race to the German. If Red Bull are once again lagging behind in the speed traps, Mercedes could well be the team to benefit the most. In Spa two weeks
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ago, Nico Rosberg show the speed of the Mercedes package on the straight as he defended from Vettel and Co. on the DRS enabled Kemmel straight. Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal, is hoping for the teams good run to continue following on from Spa and is in confident mood. “Coming off the back of our best result of the season in Spa, we are looking forward to the weekend and to finishing the European season on a high. With the emphasis jointly on engine power and aerodynamic efficiency, we have the benefit of our Mercedes-Benz engine and, as always for Monza, we will run a special lowdownforce aerodynamic package to minimise drag on the long straights." McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is hoping that his DNF in Belgium will mean a strong race in Italy, reversing the results he managed in the two races last year. “Last year, I won at Spa and failed to finish at Monza. For this year, I guess I’m looking to reverse that sequence! I’ve already moved on from my non-finish in Belgium and I’m really looking forward to returning to Italy, a place where I spent a lot of time racing karts: it’s a country I really love. I think we go into the weekend feeling pretty optimistic.” While Ferrari have enjoyed huge success in their home race, the same cannot be said for the Italian drivers. Only three Italians have stood on the top step of the podium in their home race, the last of which came back in 1966 when Ludovico Scarfiotti won in his Ferrari. The chances of today’s Italian duo breaking the 45 year jinx’s seems slim with both Tonio Liuzzi and Jarnu Trulli both running at the wrong end of the grid for HRT and Team Lotus respectively. Nevertheless, Liuzzi is keen to put on a good show for his home supporters. “I am always looking forward to racing here because it's my home crowd and I want to do well and I want to pull it all together. And if it's at Monza, it's true that it will be even more satisfying. I want this Grand Prix to become a special event for my fans and I have prepared a special surprise for them.”
SESSION TIMES Friday 9 September: Practice one - 0900-1030 Practice two - 1300-1430 Saturday 10 September: Practice three - 1000-1100 Qualifying - 1300-1400 Sunday 11 September: Race - 1300
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Tifosi, the name given to a group of supporters in Italy is most commonly used to refer to football fans. However the fanatical Scuderia Ferrari fans have also inherited the name and arrive in their masses to welcome home the boys in red every year at Monza. Known as "La Pista Magica," the magic track, it is the fastest track on the Formula One calendar and requires low downforce to help maximise speed. With the FIA appointing two DRS zones for this year’s Grand Prix we are guaranteed to see the cars at top speed. The low downforce setup will give fans the spectacle of cars sliding into corners. Test days are no exception with a sea of red filling the grandstands with plenty of face paint, flags, banners and air horns creating the famous electric atmosphere. With many drivers saying the home fans can save a number of tenths per lap, could it really be true? Ferrari’s success at the Italian Grand Prix is phenomenal. They have won nineteen times, with their most recent win coming last year courtesy of Fernando Alonso. McLaren are the second most successful team and have nine wins, showing just how dominant the men in red are on their home turf. In 1988 the Mclaren MP4/4 had dominated the start of the season, and was set to do the same at Monza. However their perfect run was cut short as the high speed straights took their toll on the Honda engine causing Alain Prost to retire on lap 35. Ayrton Senna then retired a few laps later after a collision with a backmarker. Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto were allowed to take the first two steps of the podium in front of the home fans just a couple of weeks after team founder, Enzo Ferrari had passed away. The drivers dedicated the victory to the teams founder, who went on to set up the now world famous sports car manufacturing branch of Scuderia Ferrari. 13 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
The Italian Grand Prix would be the only race of the season which a Mclaren did not win. The Tifosi grew over the ‘Schumacher’ years with Michael holding the record for most Italian Grand Prix wins, all five wins coming during his time with Ferrari. Yet their new hero is Alonso after being the enemy during Schumacher’s reign at Ferrari, has changed sides and is the clear crowd favourite for the win on Sunday which would see him equal Italian legend Alberto Ascari’s three wins at Monza. Alonso started his Formula One career at Italian team Minardi showing a deep rooted Italian connection to the tifosi’s latest adopted son. Although an Italian driver has not been on the top step of the podium since 1966 the Tifosi continue to support them, despite the chances of one this year being slim as both Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi are not in race winning cars. Even in the early years Alfa Romeo were supreme at Monza winning eight times, indicating the passion of the fans does translate into podiums. 2008 saw Sebastian Vettel win the Italian Grand Prix, despite only being 21 making him the youngest driver to ever win a Grand Prix. He took the victory for ‘Italy’s other team’ Torro Rosso, a relatively new team at the time, but one which contained Minardi DNA. It was also coincidentally co-owned by Gerhard Berger, who returned to the podium to collect the constructor’s trophy twenty years after leading a Ferrari one two at the same race. Despite the dominance of Red Bull this year the prancing horse could achieve first step on the podium once again to give Ferrari their twentieth win at Monza (On Michael Schumacher’s 20th year). Will Alonso complete back to back wins or can Massa take the chequered flag for the first time this season? One thing is certain the plethora of Tifosi will return singing the Italian national anthem eager for the legacy to continue.
CAN FERRARI MAKE IT 20 WINS AT THEIR HOME GRAND PRIX?
TEAM BY TEAM
UPDATES BY ROBYN BLAKE
FERRARI FORCE INDIA HRT F1 TEAM LOTUS RENAULT MCLAREN MERCEDES GP RED BULL SAUBER TEAM LOTUS TORO ROSSO VIRGIN RACING WILLIAMS F1 14 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
Italy is the home of Ferrari and with the grandstands filled with the ever passionate Tifosi giving the team and their drivers support in the most visual and vocal manner unseen elsewhere. The pressure is on to repeat the win Alonso earned last year, but with tyre temperature issues still hovering they'll be relying on the home crowd and engine prowess to keep them in the fight. Domenicali acknowledges that McLaren have the ability to be strong here, but it hopeful that Red Bull is 'less strong than normal'.
FORCE INDIA The team have their sights set on overhauling Sauber, and possibly chasing down the gap to Renault. Their recent form suggests that they are evenly matched with the Swiss outfit, and indications are that Force India will prove to be strong here again, with speed on their side.
HRT F1 TEAM
Both of their drivers have a Italian connection as they race around the Monza circuit, for Liuzzi it will be his fifth race at home and Ricciardo is relying on his 'Italian roots' to give him a boost past his non-finish in Spa. Kolles explained, "The cars are difficult to control," and so the driver will have to concentrate to continue their good finishing record.
Boullier is relying on the race in Italy this weekend to show whether the improvement in Spa was car or driver switch reliant. Both drivers featured in the final qualifying session for the first time since Canada and despite the first corner collision between Senna and Alguersuari, Boullier is happy with the direction of their progress. This morning it was announced they have 4 new sponsors Gillette, OGX, Embratel and Auden Mckenzie Group.
Hamilton is looking for a reversal of fortunes to last year where he won in Spa and didn't finish at Monza, having moved past his disappointing Belgian GP he's optimistic about his chances in Italy. Echoing Hamilton's positivity McLaren have been talking up their chances with a great understanding of their tyres, and their particularly strong engine should serve them well.
Another team with a strong showing in Belgium, a meteoric rise from last position for Schumacher and a blistering start from Rosberg consolidated their lead over Renault in the constructor standings. As the team head to Italy their focus has been on developing a low aerodynamic package that gives their drivers a car which is stable under braking. Schumacher has a record 5 wins here and will of course be intending to deploy some of that experience.
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They were expected to be tamed in Belgium as the track was supposed to suit the straightline speed advantage of Ferrari and McLaren, but as they pulled out another 1-2 finish hopes have been pinned on the technical lap in Monza helping close the gap. Straightline speed and innate balance is a requirement here to ensure a successful outcome.
SAUBER Technical director Key is sceptical about the FIA's decision to announce the DRS zones merely a week before the race, explaining that their Monza upgrades were locked down in July, and the lack of time will prevent teams getting the most of the double zones. Sauber have altered the front wing to suit the low downforce requirements and a new Monza-specific rear wing.
TEAM LOTUS Belgium was a successful outing for the team, but they go to Italy with a cautious outlook as they aim to tame the kerbs. Although it's Trulli's home race, he's not approaching it any differently but he will be regaining the revised power steering setup he had in Hungary. Again reliability is of highest concern to Team Lotus, and where they admit they do not have the pace to challenge, strategy will be relied upon instead.
TORO ROSSO The second team that is heading towards their home race, and it comes as no surprise that they are intent on putting their unfortunate double DNF behind them to please their share of the Italian fans. It's hard to forget the magnificent 2008 win where with Vettel beat everyone in the wet, it is unlikely that feat will be matched. However Alguersuari is confident they will be able to bring some points back to the garage, aided by new parts to meet the specific requirements Monza demands.
The upgrades the team are bringing to Italy have been well publicised, it's a upgrade intended for Silverstone but with the reshuffling of their technical department progress was interrupted, focusing on tightening up the rear of their car. Improvements have been made to the engine cover, sidepods, exhausts and the rear floor, along with a Monza wing.
WILLIAMS Their rookie driver scored his first point in Belgium and as the team battle to claw their way up the standings they're sending a Monza-specific package to Italy. Brand new front and rear wings will be arriving to give both Williams cars the right downforce levels, and will work alongside the lowest drag aerodynamic setup and an optimised car to take on the kerbs.
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Monza has been classed as somewhat of a jinx to the Formula One driver who wins the race, generally if they win the race, they do not go on to win the World Driver’s Championship. Whilst there is no proof to show that Monza is detrimental to a championship winner’s chances it remains to be seen that so far only Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have gone on to win the combination. In 1990 Ayrton Senna was crowned World Champion for the second time, having won the Italian grand prix. During his other two world championship seasons Senna came tenth in 1988 and second in 1991, only ever going on to win the grand prix once more in 1992 when he finished fourth in the world championship. Following on from Senna’s efforts was none other than British driver Damon Hill, who came close to winning the championships in both years he won the Italian grand prix, 1993 and 1994 with third and second, yet close was not quite good enough. In 1996 when he won a world championship Hill in fact retired from the Italian race. When Johnny Herbert won the Italian grand prix in 1995 he came the closest he would ever be to the world championship ending the season in fourth overall. It was to be one of only three wins for the Brit. Schumacher began his five times Italian grand prix sprint in 1996 with Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A. His five wins were stretched over ten years and all with the Ferrari team, hardly surprising that he is almost a God in the eyes of the Tifosi. Only in the new millennium did Schumacher win the championship having won the Italian grand prix. In many ways fuelling the rumour of the jinx significantly as Schumacher has seven world championships under his belt. For David Coulthard the winner of the 1997 Italian grand prix, a world championship wasn’t achievable for him. What is also suprising about his win with the West Mclaren Mercedes team is that Coulthard retired from the race seven times over his career in Formula One. Next is the Benson and Hedges Jordan driver of Heinz-Harald Frentzen who finished his 1999 year with the Italian grand prix win under his belt, in his highest position in the world championship standings of third. The win was to be one of only three across his career. After Schumacher’s new millennium present to himself Juan Pablo Montoya won the grand prix in 2001, his first year. Montoya did not have the best first season; in fact he retired 11 out of 17 races, what is impressive is that he won the Italian grand prix and came 2nd on 3 occasions. He may not have won a world championship but his efforts in his rookie season deserve respect alone. But like Schumacher, Montoya won the grand prix more than once, twice in fact, winning once more in 2005 the year before he left F1. Over his career so far Rubens Barichello has won 11 races, and three of these were at the Italian circuit 2002, 2004 and 2009. Two of these wins were at Scuderia Ferrari alongside Michael Schumacher, giving Ferrari a huge nine wins during Schumacher and Barichello’s terms alone. Barichello won his third with new team Brawn GP, it was to be one of the two races he would win that season, he finished third overall in the standings. Only in 2007 were the Italian fans once again greeted with a new face and name to the winners list, Fernando Alonso of Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes. Whilst it was the Tifosi’s rivals on the top step of the podium in 2007, last year Alonso gave them the win they had been waiting for since Schumacher’s reign ended, with Scuderia Ferrari. He may not match up to Schumacher in reputation but the Tifosi have adopted him as their own, which could be due to him speaking Italian, needless to say Alonso could be on for a third win this year. The last new face, until maybe this season, is 2010 world champion Sebastian Vettel who despite being in a Torro Rosso achieved almost the impossible by winning the Italian grand prix in 2008. Vettel had already proven that he was a demon in a not so capable car, let alone placing the car on pole and winning a race, one of the most sought after on the Formula One calendar. 18 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
It was to be his only win of the season but was incredibly telling of his racing talent. All in all, the Monza jinx does not seem all that credible. Schumacher and Senna were two of four championship winners, the other two were that of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Alonso who won the race twice following his championships had a volatile relationship with his team in 2007 and Vettel won his race way before he was given a car capable of such greatness. However, it is entirely possible that Vettel may win the race this weekend what with his form being the best ever with a reliable car. That of Herbert, Frentzen, Hill, Coulthard and Barichello had cars that either werenâ€™t capable of winning the championship or had teammates that ruled the roost/were unstoppable. The Monza jinx may seem like a prevalent presence but it does not seem that credible in retrospect.
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ÂŠ Getty Images
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THE PAST BY EWAN MARSHALL
1982 proved to be one of most heart breaking years of all Ferrari’s glorious history. Despite eventually securing the Constructors’ Championship, the Prancing Horse had to contend with a bitter bust up between its drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at Imola before the French-Canadian was tragically killed during qualifying in Zolder. Pironi had given the team a flicker of hope with a string of brave performances moving him into a commanding lead in the Drivers’ standings, mid-way through the season. However the Frenchman would also to succumb to harm, when he was catapulted from his car after colliding with compatriot Prost during a torrential Hockenheim qualifying – severely injuring his legs. Although Patrick Tambay would emotionally triumph that weekend, now named as Villeneuve’s replacement, he also suffered a scare when a severely pinched nerve gave him serious back and neck pain and forced him to sit out the Swiss Grand Prix. The penultimate round of the season would be held in Ferrari’s spiritual homeland, with Monza set to stage the race on September 12. But while Tambay would be fit enough to return to the cockpit, the Scuderia was without a driver for their second car, a must on home soil and with the Constructors’ title inches away. With limited options Enzo Ferrari picked up the phone and called one man: 1978 World Champion Mario AnAn dretti. The Italian-American was of course no stranger for the team having raced for them on various occasions during 1971 and 1972. However this would be different; Andretti was no longer the fresh faced promise but rather the established and respected winner – the perfect man to step in at the team’s hour of need. News of Andretti’s arrival resulted in a surge of interest from the Tifosi and it is little surprise that ticket sales went through the roof after he touched down the weekend before and sported a Ferrari cap as he stepped off the jet. While he would have dinner with the Commendatore, the American immediately got down to business, testing the 126C2 at Fiorano where he edged closer and closer to Pironi’s record. By Friday it was time to get serious and with Tambay back and a brand new lighter V6 Turbo the weekend looked promising. Andretti himself initially struggled to get back into the routine of setting a fast time in and around other cars – something which he had probably lost having spent most of his time qualifying on his own in IndyCars. However the American was still able to set a competitive time, despite this being nowhere near his team-mate or reigning champion Nelson Piquet who had become locked in a fierce battle for supremacy – with the former finally edging out the latter with a lap time of 1:29.275, even though he was forced to stop out on circuit with a broken tractor pull. Saturday and as a whopping 70,000 packed out the circuit all eyes were on Alfa Romeo with the debut of its new 182T. Initial testing had looked promising for the outfit, but it was soon brought back down to earth with a thud as Andrea de Cesaris hit a kerb on his first run and was forced to limp to the pits with part of the side pod scraping along the ground. There was also trouble at Renault with Rene Arnoux colliding with Elio de Angelis’s Lotus in practice, before blowing his turbo during qualifying. 21 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
Once again it was Tambay and Piquet who looked like duking it out for the front spot, with the Brabham driver finally beating the Frenchman’s effort with a lap of 1:28.508. However, having saved his second set of tyres and turned up the boost, Andretti startled everyone when he rocketed through in the closing minutes to set a time of 1:28.472 – sending the venue into raptures. Unnoticed, Riccardo Patrese moved the second Brabham up to fourth ahead of the Renault duo, with Rosberg the lead normally-aspirated runner in seventh. Race day and the atmosphere was electric, with some loyal fans having painted slogans across the circuit including “Mario and Patrick – Win for Gilles.” The loyal Tifosi were fully expectant of its scarlet cars to emerge triumphant and things appeared to be moving in their favour when Nelson Piquet was forced to switch to the spare car after encountering issues during morning warm-up. However all hopes of Andretti winning would be dashed at the start when he was beat off the line by Piquet, Tambay and Arnoux, with Prost out-braking himself while also looking for a way past and being forced onto the grass. Nevertheless Piquet’s lead proved very brief indeed when his clutch began to slip as he exited the first chicane – dropping him down the order. This allowed Tambay to lead at the end of lap one, however this was brief as well with Arnoux’s Renault ducking out of the slipstream to nose his way past into the Rettifilo. Patrese now found himself in third, followed by Andretti and Piquet – who was losing bags of time due to his clutch. Further behind and there was also a fascinating battling developing between de Cesaris and Giacomelli in the Alphas; Rosberg, Watson (McLaren), Prost, Alboreto (Tyrrell) and Lauda in the sister McLaren. With Piquet out of contention the onus was now on Patrese to snatch the lead and pull away from Arnoux. Both Brabham cars had arrived on the grid in sprint mode it was crucial that the Italian built a lead to allow him to make sure he could pit half way through the race for new tyres and fuel yet remain in the lead. However this was easier said than done before the battle at the front could get interesting by lap six Patrese’s race was over when his clutch failed. This left Arnoux with a comfortable gap over Tambay, who in turn held a strong advantage over the recovering Prost, who had passed Andretti – suffering with a sticky throttle. Further back and Watson had finally came out on top of the battle, as de Cesaris was forced to park his Alfa with engine woes and Rosberg had lost his front aerofoil before being forced to tour to the pits with a punctured rear tyre following a tussle with Giacomelli. Ultimately the race would not be a classic but Arnoux fully deserved his victory, finishing some fourteen seconds ahead of Tambay with Andretti an emotional third after Prost had succumb to fuel injection issues on lap 28. Behind and Watson had resurrected his title ambitions, scoring for the first time since Canada, with Michele Alboreto and Eddie Cheever’s Ligier rounding out the points finishers. While a sticking throttle and a conservative tyre choice put paid to any hope of an Andretti victory, it was still a triumphant return for ‘The Prodigal Son’ and a performance which lifted the spirits of the Prancing Horse after a difficult year.
22 / FINALSECTORMAG.COM
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