Nigel Mansell’s announcement prior to the British Grand Prix that he has signed a Ferrari contract for 1989 is the culmination of a considerable reshuffle within the team.
Early in June, the Commendatore’s son Piero Lardi-Ferrari left his post as racing team manager to take up a new position on the road-car side of the company’s activities, following a vehement internal debate as to whether to persevere with the existing Formula One turbo project until the end of the season or to cut losses by concentrating instead on the normally-aspirated car being designed by John Barnard in Guildford.
At the end of the month, Dr Harvey Postlethwaite, the former Hesketh, Wolf and Fittipaldi designer who has been working on Ferrari’s turbocharged Gran Prix cars in Italy and at the trackside for six years but was about to be moved onto the F40 road car development programme, announced he was leaving Maranello to become Engineering Director at Tyrrell from August 1.
As a consequence of this restructure, Barnard returned to the pit-lane for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. He has already made it clear to senior Fiat management that he believes the group’s resources should be ploughed into the new 3½-litre V12 powerplant if Honda is to be knocked off its perch next year, and can be expected to wield all the more power within the team when Mansell and Gerhard Berger start to race it. The unit has already been bench-tested, and Roberto Moreno has been hired to conduct the early track-work once it has been installed in a chassis.
Mansell, who came close to joining Ferrari in 1986 before deciding to remain with Williams, will be replaced by Thierry Boutsen in the Renault V10-powered Williams.