We've been trying to demonstrate it to you since the beginning of our Long Format: there are a thousand and one reasons to consider Ferrari as a team apart. Finally, the craziest thing is that the Scuderia is not simply based on its history, its track record, its creator or its champions. She, too, lives through a form of mysticism. On reading this fifth installment, anyone who does not believe in the supernatural will perhaps end up being convinced: the red stable is immortal.
In fact, the hardships she went through from the beginning of her existence until the beginning of the 1980s already suggested that she was served with incomparable resilience. In 1983, the San Marino Grand Prix was the first proof that the Scuderia was also accompanied by a force, powerful, but abstract. A year earlier, she had lost Gilles Villeneuve, idol of tifosi and absolute darling of Enzo Ferrari, during the tests at Zolder.
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The Canadesino died two weeks after experiencing a painful betrayal: his friend and teammate, Didier Pironi, had passed him on the last lap to win while the Scuderia had ordered his two drivers to ease off. Villeneuve had complied. Not Pironi. It was in Imola.
Patrick, win for Gilles!
Patrick Tambay had befriended Villeneuve even before they found themselves in the Formula 1 world championship. So, inevitably, when Enzo Ferrari contacted him to offer him the wheel of his missing friend, the Frenchman. felt invested with a mission. Heavy. May be too much.
This Sunday, May 1, 1983, on the Dino Ferrari circuit, Tambay is installed on the third position of the starting grid. The same where Villeneuve appeared a year earlier. His car is flanked by the number 27, which the Canadian has made legendary. The atmosphere is charged, the stands are full. Almost everywhere, around him, he sees banners: "Patrick, win for Gilles!"
Riccardo Patrese, chased by Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) during the 1983 San Marino Grand Prix – Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier
Credit: Getty Images
"I am overcome by a wave of emotion that cannot be contained and I start to cry, he will tell, 30 years later, to Classic Courses. Frankly, at that moment, I was in a psychological situation where I was like: 'It is not possible, I am so moved, touched, impressed, that I will not be able to regain my concentration, to take the start. "
He finally succeeds. And gets a first boost from fate. Nelson Piquet, just in front of him on the grid, stalls. The two Ferraris are in the lead, with Arnoux ahead of Tambay, but will not stay that way for long. Very quickly, Patrese took control.
The mystery of Tamburello
Shortly after the halfway point, a new racing event made Tambay's business: during his pitstop, the Italian missed his spot and lost a considerable amount of time. The French driver therefore recovers the lead with a good ten seconds of margin on the room, Arnoux suffering from the overheating of his tires.
But Tambay has three problems. The first is technical: each time he passes the Tamburello bend, his engine cuts out for a short time. The second is linked to the first: Patrese takes advantage of Ferrari's worries to pounce on the leader. The third is emotional. The Cannois struggles to maintain all his concentration. For now, he has only won one Grand Prix but he finds himself there, in the lead at Imola, in a position to pay the most beautiful tribute to his friend, the beloved child of the supporters.
"There's that engine shutdown, Tambay will remember. I tell myself that I will not be able to finish the race. And the moment that thought crosses my mind, I take a hit in the helmet. As if a bird or a pebble had hit me. It wakes me up and forces me to refocus. On the next turn, I look down. I do not see a bird there, nor any trace of contact. Nothing at all. But that hit woke me up when I had a negative thought. "Is it a coincidence? A coincidence? A mystical aid?
At the time, hard to believe in this last possibility. Because in the meantime, Patrese has melted his delay like snow in the sun. Five laps from the checkered flag, he overtook the Ferrari, dispelling the dream of the man on board.
The third place on the grid, the N.27, the setting of Nelson Piquet at the start, the pneumatic setbacks of Arnoux, the failed pit passage of Patrese, the jubilation of the fans … All this was therefore not used to nothing against the cold law of motorsport: in a race, the fastest wins.
Tambay does not have time to build this reasoning that a new miracle is already happening. Moments after his winning maneuver, Patrese missed the rope from Acque Minerale. Small mistake, big consequence: he pulverizes his Brabham in the wall of tires. The Frenchman rushes forward and raises his arms to the finish line.
Moved to tears, he makes the supporters mad with joy, who adore him during a lap of honor that he cannot complete in its entirety. Its engine, so capricious during the race, has just broken down. A godsend for the fans. They invade the track, surround the pilot, congratulate him and kiss him to the point of suffocating him. "You avenged Gilles! You avenged him"they scream. The Scuderia loses its legends but its legend lives on. Always.
Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) at the finish line of the Grand Prix of San Marino, May 1, 1983
Credit: Getty Images
Another proof, five years later. 1988 was a particularly difficult year for Ferrari. On the track. But above all outside. FIAT, which owns 50% of the brand, puts its nose in the business of the team. "The new structure was precisely to rule out the Ferrari family, remembers Jean-Jacques His, engine manufacturer at the time. People arrived who had completely entered the field of F1. My first relations with them were not very encouraging …"
Worse, Il Commendatore, Enzo, arrives at the twilight of his existence. "The last meeting I had with him was the day I quit, His remembers. It was in July 1988, after qualifying for the British Grand Prix, if memory serves. I had resigned in the morning mainly for personal reasons, but also because I was not very satisfied with the structural changes that had been decided a few days earlier by the FIAT organization. I was summoned to Fiorano, I found the Ingegnere Ferrari that I had not seen for a few weeks because he was very ill at the time, lying down. I told him I had quit. I had a really hard time doing it. His reaction hurt me a lot, because he felt like I was betraying him, which is normal. But that wasn't it at all. He told me: 'don't let go'. I replied: 'Ingegnere, I have to go'."
Before this last meeting, the French engineer had seen Enzo Ferrari two months earlier, just after the San Marino Grand Prix in early May. "There he was still very attentive and incisive, assures the engine manufacturer. He had listened to my explanations regarding our poor performance, especially in the area that concerned me, namely the engine. He had listened with great attention. "
Indeed, in this 1988 season, the Scuderia could not compete with the McLarens and their overpowered Honda engines. Senna, Prost. Prost, Senna. In one order or the other, the two pilots monopolize the first two places, in one order or the other. This during the first eleven Grands Prix of the season.
The astonishing double abandonment
Three weeks after the disappearance of Enzo Ferrari, F1 returns to Monza, where the tifosi pay vibrant tributes to the Commendatore. But McLaren is not there to make feelings. Ron Dennis, the team boss, made a bet that his team would win all the events. The "Temple of Speed" may be one of the strongholds of the Scuderia, but above all it is an ideal playground for the brilliant MP4 / 4s.
The qualification does not say anything else. Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto, the Scuderia partner, are the best of the others but cannot do anything against the poleman, Ayrton Senna. The first took almost seven tenths in sight. The second, more than a second. And obviously, Prost is interspersed. No doubt is allowed: to salute the memory of its founder, Ferrari will, at best, only a man on the podium.
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (McLaren) compete for the lead of the 1988 Belgian Grand Prix – Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier
Credit: Getty Images
For around thirty laps, McLaren rode McLaren. At the front, Senna and Prost play cat and mouse. Behind, Berger and Alboreto are too far away to attend the game between the French champion and the Brazilian genius. But if there had been an imperceptible influence in Imola, in 1983, to carry Patrick Tambay, it may have reappeared, five years later, in Monza. Otherwise, that day, luck just did it right.
Because at the 30th passage, the Honda V6 of the "Professor" emits an unusual noise. And the gaps confirm that this is a failure: Senna increases his lead to more than twenty seconds while Berger, him, relies on his predecessor. A few laps later, Prost realizes. He gives up. Ferrari has a first blow of fate.
The second is much more surreal: two laps from the checkered flag, Senna arrives in the wake of a latecomer. This is Jean-Louis Schlesser, 40 years old and freelance for a day to replace Nigel Mansell, ill, in the Williams tub.
The French, somewhat surprised by the arrival of the Brazilian in the chicane, tries to maneuver. But contact is inevitable. The McLaren was hit by the Williams and thrown onto a curb from which it could not extricate itself. In the stands, it is the clamor. Berger and Alboreto head for an unimaginable double before the race
Monza is boiling, the tifosi are transcended. Farewell to the Commendatore could not be more beautiful. "I dedicate this victory to Enzo Ferrari … and to myself", rejoices Berger. Senna, him, justifies this defeat as he can:"Someone up there didn't want me to win todayThat season, McLaren had won all the races leading up to the Italian Grand Prix. And will win each time in the following ones.
Contrary to what these first two examples may suggest, Ferrari didn't always need divine strength, a helping hand from fate, or a combination of circumstances – call it what you want – to be reborn. .
21 years of famine
When the Commendatore disappeared in 1988, the Scuderia hadn't brought one of its pilots to the top of the world for nine years, along with Jody Scheckter. After that, she had to wait twelve more seasons. On the scale of the Scuderia, it had been an eternity that had made her doubt herself. And the events of the end of the millennium had not helped.
"In 1997, we lost the drivers' world championship in the last race with the famous and unfortunate collision between Villeneuve and Schumacher., rewinds Jean Todt during an exclusive interview that he gave us and that you will be able to discover this Sunday. In 1998, Michael battled Häkkinen for the title until the last race. In 1999, he had an accident following a mechanical failure in the warm-up lap at Silverstone and lost all chances of being able to fight for the world championship.. "
Once blessed by the gods, did the Scuderia end up becoming cursed? The idea caught on until the end of the 2000 season, even though the team had won the "Constructor" crown the year before.
At Suzuka, the scene of the penultimate round of the championship, Schumacher must score two more points than Häkkinen to put Ferrari back at the top of the hierarchy. This time, no mystical presence. Whoever is not yet the "Red Baron" wins, on a regular basis, with a fine rain as the only external intervention.
The German was overwhelmed at the start but his talent, that of the Rossa strategists and its mechanics, tipped the scales in the right direction. A pilot dressed in red is at the top again. Finally. This time, the rebirth could not be more Cartesian. Paradoxically, it is also entering the most prosperous period of its history – which you can (re) discover this Saturday, on our site.
Leclerc, last witness
But this hegemony, unique in the history of Ferrari and apart from that of Formula 1, has only temporarily dispelled the nature of the Scuderia. The one she bounced back, always, after hollow cycles, drawing her strength from significant events.
Charles Leclerc has become a new link in this endless chain. We became certain of this just a year ago, after a revealing week. A few days before the Italian Grand Prix, on Wednesday September 4, 2019 to be precise, the Monegasque had received a special welcome from a red tide of more than 10,000 people gathered in Piazza Duomo in Milan to celebrate the 90 years of the Scuderia.
"It was amazing, had he confided to our colleagues TF1. I expected to see a lot of people since we were in Italy, but at this point … I couldn't imagine it. It was just crazy. It almost looks like a religion when you see how passionate they are. "Despite years of frustration, marked by the outrageous domination of Mercedes, it was easy to find, among this crowd, supporters convinced that the Monegasque would win a few days later at Monza. That was the meaning of the. history.
Because Leclerc is not just a talented young driver that many compared, when he arrived, to a certain Gilles Villeneuve. He is also the godson of Jules Bianchi, who died following a tragic accident in Suzuka when he was predestined to inherit a Ferrari seat. Fate, we come back to it. That day, nothing hindered the victory of the last darling of the team at the Prancing Horse.
Mercedes was however the strongest: on three occasions, Lewis Hamilton found himself in a position to scribble the scenario imagined by the tifosi. Twice, Leclerc put up resistance to the limit of reasonableness. And at the last attempt, the Briton got lost alone in the first chicane. Like Valtteri Bottas when he started hunting for the Monegasque driver at the end of the race. Long before that, Leclerc himself had to cut the bend, on lap 36. But it had cost him nothing. The success was on the side of Ferrari. Again.
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