1988 Italian Grand Prix
|Race 12 of 16 in the 1988 Formula One season|
|Date||September 11, 1988|
|Official name||LIX Coca-Cola Gran Premio d'Italia|
|Location||Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza, Italy|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
5.80 km (3.603 mi)
|Distance||51 laps, 295.800 km (183.801 mi)|
|Weather||Sunny and hot|
|Time||1:29.070 on lap 44|
The 1988 Italian Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on September 11, 1988 at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza. It was the twelfth race of the 1988 season. It is often remembered for the 1-2 finish for the Ferrari team, and the only race of the 1988 season that McLaren-Honda failed to win.
Qualifying at Monza went as expected with the McLaren's of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost heading the field, Senna the only driver to lap the 5.80 km (3.603 mi) under 1:26. In the first Italian Grand Prix since the death of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari; his beloved scarlet cars were 3rd and 4th on the grid, Gerhard Berger in front of Michele Alboreto. Berger and Alboreto also had cause for optimism before the race as changes to the V6 turbo had seen improved fuel consumption.
The third row of the grid was a surprise, even at this power circuit. Ever since the item was made compulsory for turbo powered cars at the start of the 1987 season, the Arrows team had been experiencing problems with the FIA pop-off valve on their Megatron turbo engines, the problem being that the valve was cutting in too early and the drivers weren't able to exploit the full available power. In 1987 this meant that drivers Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever struggled to keep up with their turbocharged rivals. In 1988 it meant they were often only as fast as the leading atmos, and often they were in fact slower, even on noted power circuits such as Silverstone and Hockenheim which should have suited their turbo power. The team's engine guru Heini Mader had finally solved the pop-off valve problem (which turned out to be the pop-off valve being located too high above the engine, a problem Honda and Ferrari had long since solved), and suddenly with an extra 30-50 bhp at their disposal the Arrows were actually 5 km/h faster than the Honda-powered McLarens (but slower than the Ferraris) on Monza's long straights allowing Cheever and Warwick to line up 5th and 6th respectively, one place in front of World Champion Nelson Piquet in his Lotus. This also meant that turbos filled the first seven places on the grid. Piquet's Lotus team mate Satoru Nakajima qualified 10th, with the Lotuses split by the fastest non-turbos, the Benetton-Fords of Thierry Boutsen and Alessandro Nannini in 8th and 9th places on the grid.
The 1988 Italian Grand Prix was the last race of the turbo era in Formula One in which all cars powered by turbocharged engines that entered actully qualified for the race. Both McLarens and Lotus-Hondas, Ferraris, Arrows-Megatrons, Zakspeeds and the lone Osella all easily qualifying for the race, with the slowest of the turbos, Nicola Larini in the Osella qualifying 17th, 4.507 seconds slower than pole man Senna, despite the Osella V8 turbo (a re-badged Alfa Romeo 890T) being rated as having approximately 50 bhp (37 kW; 51 PS) more than the Honda V6.
The tifosi had been praying for a Ferrari victory at this Mecca of motor racing. However, with the McLaren dominance, hopes for a home victory seemed bleak. The season was dominated by McLaren, who had won all 11 of the season's races before the Italian Grand Prix, and would go on to win the 4 remaining races.
Nigel Mansell was still affected by chicken pox, and was still forced to sit out. Martin Brundle, his replacement in Belgium, was scheduled to race with Jaguar on the weekend and so the second Williams seat went to test driver Jean-Louis Schlesser.
Prost managed to jump Senna at the start but as he changed from 2nd to 3rd on the run to the Rettifilo his engine began to misfire and would not run properly again. This allowed Senna to power past into the lead. Berger followed Prost with Alboreto, Cheever, Boutsen, Patrese and Piquet. Prost, realising after the first lap that the misfire wasn't going away decided to turn his boost up to full and give chase to his team mate. Many people in the F1 Paddock believed that Prost, knowing he wouldn't finish, hoped to make Senna use too much fuel in his desire to keep the lead, something which could have consequences for Senna later in the race if he was forced to back off to try to finish.
Prost continued to chase Senna despite the misfire, his full boost run saw him able to stay within 5 seconds of the Brazilian, though at no stage did he truly threaten his team mate. By lap 30 he had reduced Senna's lead to only 2 seconds, but as he went by the pits at the end of lap 30 the misfire suddenly got worse and by lap 35 had been passed by Berger and Alboreto and was heading for the pits and his first mechanical retirement of the season (and the only time in 1988 that a McLaren would retire due to engine failure). While this was happening Alboreto, troubled by gear selection problems early in the race, had dropped back from Berger to allow his gearbox oil to cool hoping it would come good. It did and the Italian in the All-Italian car began to charge at the Italian Grand Prix, and was catching his team mate.
Later in the race Berger and Alboreto began closing on Senna rapidly, though it was assumed that Senna was merely pacing himself to the finish, and Senna himself later said that he had things well in hand. With two laps remaining in the race, Senna attempted to lap the Williams of Schlesser at the Rettifilo Chicane. Senna headed to the left to pass the Frenchman on the inside of the first chicane, however Schlesser locked his brakes and the Williams slid forward towards the gravel trap. Somehow Schlesser managed to collect the car and turned left to avoid going off. Senna, who had taken his normal line and hadn't counted on Schlesser regaining control was t-boned in the right rear by Schlesser's Williams causing broken rear suspension for the McLaren. Senna spun onto the exit kerb of the first part of the chicane and with the car stuck on the kerb he was forced to retire from the race. BBC commentator James Hunt placed the blame on squarely on F1 rookie Schlesser, although many felt that Senna had not given any allowance for Schlesser to come back on the track. Mauricio Gugelmin, whose March 881 had also been about to lap Schlesser and thus saw the collision in its entirety. "I think he'd felt that Schlesser would go straight off, and in that situation you have to keep going. It's a difficult situation, but I don't think Ayrton took a risk."
It was generally thought that Senna had used too much fuel in the first half of the race in his bid to keep in front of Prost and that was why the Ferraris were rapidly catching him towards the end of the race, with Berger reducing what was a 26 second gap when Prost retired, to be only 5 seconds behind when Senna and Schlesser collided 14 laps later. Senna's former Lotus team boss Peter Warr commented after the race that he felt Prost, knowing he wouldn't finish the race, had suckered his team mate into using too much fuel in the hope that it would keep his championship hopes alive. Prost's tactics may have contributed to McLaren missing out on a perfect season, but they had the desired effect as Senna scored no points and he was still in with a good chance of winning his third World Championship.
The Tifosi were beyond overjoyed as Berger inherited the win, with Alboreto taking second place only half a second behind in the first Italian Grand Prix since the death of the great Enzo Ferrari. American Eddie Cheever (who actually grew up in Rome) finished in 3rd place for Arrows, 35 seconds behind the Ferraris and only half a second in front of his team mate Derek Warwick in a great race for the Arrows team. The remaining points went to Italian Ivan Capelli, a considerable achievement by the atmo March on a circuit which requires powerful engines but showed just how aerodynamic the Adrian Newey designed 881 was. Sixth place went to the Benetton-Ford of Thierry Boutsen.
Motor racing journalist Nigel Roebuck later reported that after the race an overjoyed member of the Tifosi had approached Schlesser, shook his hand and said "Thank you, from Italy".
Another hard luck story was Alessandro Nannini who was forced to start his home Grand Prix from the pits due to a failed throttle on the warm up lap. By the time the Benetton team fixed the problem, Senna was coming through the Parabolica on his first lap meaning the Italian, who was to start 9th, was last and almost a lap down within the first lap of the race. For the rest of the afternoon Nannini charged, setting the fastest lap of the race for atmospheric cars and finishing in 9th place.
In the scrutineering bay, Berger's Ferrari's fuel capacity was checked four times. The first time, FISA officials were able to refill the tank with 151.5 litres of fuel, while the limit is 150 litres. A second refill and then a third were undertaken, and still the Ferrari took too much. Eventually they succeeded in adding just 149.500 liters at the fourth time of asking. Eddie Cheever's Arrows had the same problem as Berger's Ferrari when his fuel tank was at first found to be 151 litres, but more checking found it to be under the limit at 149.5 litres.
|18||22||Andrea de Cesaris||Rial-Ford||1:31.263||1:30.560||+4.586|
- Until the 2014 season, when turbocharged engines were re-introduced, this was the last Formula One race in which all turbo-powered cars that were entered actually qualified for the race.
Standings after the race
- Bold Text indicates World Champions.
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Points accurate at final declaration of results. The Benettons were subsequently disqualified from the Belgian Grand Prix and their points reallocated.
- Unless otherwise indicated, all race results are taken from "The Official Formula 1 website". Archived from the original on 29 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-12.
1988 Belgian Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1988 Portuguese Grand Prix
1987 Italian Grand Prix
|Italian Grand Prix||Next race:
1989 Italian Grand Prix