Formula One: Estoril testing

Bad week for Goodyear

During December a large number of Grand Prix teams journeyed to Estoril in Portugal, for what was scheduled to be Goodyear’s most important Formula One test session for two years. With more than 1500 tyres on hand, including many experimental covers, it was hoped that 1988 race-tyre specifications could be finalised as a result of the information obtained.

Unfortunately the weather worked against this objective, and there was only one really dry day on which decent lap times could be set.

Although the team has a brand new 65° 3.5-fitre V12-engine car nearing completion, Ferrari’s 1987-spec F187, running to the new 2.5-bar boost pressure regulations, emerged fastest of all in the hands of Japanese and Australian Grands Prix winner Gerhard Berger.

Second quickest was the prototype McLaren-Honda test car — based on a 1987 MP4/3 sans TAG V6 engine — while Thierry Boutsen’s Benetton-Ford B187 wound up third ahead of Michele Alboreto in the other F187 Ferrari.

With turbocharged engines having their performance capped by the 2.5-bar rule (as opposed to 4-bar in 1987) and their fuel allowance slashed from 195 to 150 litres, there has been a great deal of speculation as to how the naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre engined cars will fare next season.

One of the teams hoping against hope that the performance differential will be minimal is Williams, which lost its supply of Honda engines to McLaren in a political re-shuffle at the end of 1987, and will now be relying for power on 3.5-litre V8 engines produced by Rugby-based specialist John Judd. So when Riccardo Patrese turned in fifth fastest time of the week at Estoril in the FW 11C test “hack” — a chopped-about 1987 car which previously accommodated a Honda V6 turbo — there were plenty of raised eyebrows along the pit-lane.

Alessandro Nannini completed the top six, the new Benetton-Ford recruit performing smoothly and competently all week, while the newly-crowned World Champion Nelson Piquet had a troubled maiden outing in the Lotus 99T which appeared devoid of its computer controlled active suspension system. A few weeks after the test, Lotus Cars announced that it would be ending its collaboration with Team Lotus on the further development of the system for F1 purposes, so the 1988 Lotus-Hondas will compete with conventional suspension systems. AH