Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1987: Prost takes the record
Moving forward to the 60’s, between 1962 and 1967, the average races per annum increased to 10. From 1969 to 1973 once again the number of events held increased to an average of 12 per season. From 1980 to 1987 the events increased from 14 to 16 and remained that way until 1995 when they increased to 17.
The significance of these statistics?
When Fangio retired in 1958 his total of Grand Prix wins stood at 24. This was beaten by Jim Clark in 1967 when he raised the figure to 25. By the time of Stewart’s retirement in 1973 he had amassed a total of 27 wins! It would take a further 14 years before this total was passed once again.
The 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix witnessed a recovering Ferrari racing at the front on merit. It was a race in which reigning World Champion Alain Prost would win his third race of the season, finally passing Jackie Stewart’s total of 27 wins in a career. It was also a season that saw full might of Honda powering Williams to their second constructors title, even as public animosity between Mansell and Piquet grew.
On Saturday, Gerhard Berger qualified on pole position for the first time in his career. He was followed by Mansell, Prost, Piquet and Senna.
At the start of the race, Mansell out-dragged Berger into the first corner but behind them Alboreto collided with Piquet as they fought for position into the first corner. This forced Derek Warwick into spinning his car in avoidance triggering a collision between Nakajima and Brundle in the Zakspeed.
The remainder of the field either plunged into the wreckage or took avoiding action. The end result was that Campos (Minardi), Danner (Zakspeed), Arnoux (Ligier), Alliot (Larrouse) and Cheever (Arrows) were all involved.
The race was stopped but only after the cars had driven blind into the first corner at unabated speed at the start of the second lap, just avoiding track workers and the broken cars.
Once the track was cleared everybody, with the exception of Danner, lined up for the restart. As before Mansell passed Berger off the startline, Berger forced Piquet onto the grass and the subsequent loss of momentum allowed Senna to get into third position.
Berger, once again, passed Mansell at the completion of lap 1 and withstood Mansell pressuring him until the latter’s engine began to misfire causing him to stop on lap 14. Off the track he made his feelings known about Honda not supporting him and that his car was “five miles per hour slower than the others.”
By now Piquet was running in second, having passed Senna on the 11th lap. Senna had to make a pit-stop due to electronic problems and would eventually finish 7th.
As ever in the classic Prost races, he had been invisible throughout but after the completion of mid-race tyre changes he had elevated himself into second position.
This was the status quo with him conserving the tyres and car and in the closing laps he began to circulate quicker and began putting pressure on the young Austrian.
Two laps from the end of the race Berger succumbed to the pressure and spun into the gravel at the side of the track. He did manage to recover and finish a disappointed second.
“I wasn’t altogether surprised when he spun because we were both running very hard” Prost said.
I make no secret of my dislike of Prost. I always thought him to be manipulative, political and dishonest. Qualities it seems that are shared by a current Samurai. Whatever the bias of the producers of the Senna film, there was enough in the film to support my views. This included his revision of history, regarding not going to the stewards office in Suzuka 1989, yet the film shows him walking briskly in that direction with journalist Nigel Roebuck in sycophantic support.
He would go on to accumulate 51 victories, most won through intelligence as opposed to racing. He would pace himself during a race, be it for fuel consumption or for tyre preservation. He was not the type of driver I would call a “racer”. But is this a fair comment when you look at other successful drivers?
Fangio, Clark and Stewart raced in far more dangerous eras with questionable safety in circuit design and cars, yet had huge success respectively.
By the time we had reached the late 80’s, safety was taken for granted and reliability was getting better and better. It was only after Senna’s death that F1 once again embraced advancements in circuit design and stronger chassis for protecting the drivers.
As design and manufacturing has improved, and as more countries hunger to host races, the figures of yesteryear seem paltry in comparison.
Is the current record of 91 wins from a career spanning two decades in any way comparable to twenty odd wins in a 7 year period? When the number of events per year was half of what it is now?