The 1990 Formula One Teams:
McLaren-Honda: The Woking-based McLaren team are preparing a new series of cars, designated MP4/6, using whatever version of the Honda V10 that the Japanese firm produce. Steve Nichol, who was “field engineer” for Ayrton Senna in 1989 has left the team and joined the Scuderia Ferrari, following in the footsteps of Alain Prost. Meanwhile Gerhard Berger has joined the driver strength in support of Ayrton Senna.
Williams-Renault: No major changes, though Renault have their second version of the V10 engine ready, designated RS2. The 1989 Renault V10 power unit proved highly satisfactory to both Renault and Williams, and the Anglo-French alliance looks all set to carry on where it left off at the end of 1989. During that season the RS1 V10 engine went through five stages of evolution, aimed at better fuel consumption, more power, and higher rpm. Most of the work concentrated on the fuel-injection nozzles, intake manifolding and combustion chamber design, as well as camshaft and connecting rod design. All the objectives were achieved with satisfaction and the engine rpm maximum was increased by 1000 during the course of the season. The new R52 engine, still of V10 layout, has been changed to gear driven camshafts and is shorter and lower than the RS1, as well as being slightly lighter. The Williams FW13 chassis will continue to be used, with continuous detail development work being done. The finalised WilliamRenault which will start the season should provide the drivers, Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen, with a satisfactory tool to do a good job. This time last year there was a lot of behind-the-scenes lobbying going on to take Michele Alboreto into the Williams team, but Patrick Head vetoed
the idea and made it abundantly clear that he was well satisfied with Riccardo Patrese. His reasoning was rational, as always where Patrick Head is concerned, and was that he and Patrese knew each other well, and worked well together. They had a new car and a new engine to start the new Formula, and there were enough problems ahead of them without introducing a new and unknown driver into their equation. His simple question to the Alboreto supporters was “Cah you guarantee that he will win races?”. Of course, they could not do that, and Patrick continued “I can’t guarantee that Patrese will win any races, but I can guarantee that I know exactly what he can do”. So Patrese stayed. That he finished the season in third place in the Drivers’ Championship, behind Prost and Senna, more than justified Patrick Head’s confidence in him and put a stop to any further discussion. Thierry Boutsen remains with the team, his overall performance in 1989 being a bit disappointing, or perhaps we expected too much from him. Ferrari: Last year the Ferrari team were the only one that proved a serious challenge to McLaren-Honda and they finished the season in a strong position on which to build for 1990. However, the situation is not quite so positive as it was. The exchange of Gerhard Berger for Alain Prost on the driver front must be a good deal, for though Berger was an enthusiastic hard-charger, and still is, we hope, he does not have the natural race-winning ability of Prost. In the Niki Lauda mould, Prost is able to salvage victory from apparent defeat and has an incredible ability to apply race-craft and track-experience to
come through from a fifth or sixth position at the start of a race, to first place when it matters; like at the finish.
Technically the Ferrari team could find themselves at a crossroads without meaning to be. When John Barnard left the team before the end of last season, he did not leave many friends behind, but he did leave a race-winning car. The engineering side, apart from the engine, has been taken over by Enrique Scalabroni, an engineer from Argentina who gained much Formula One knowledge from his time working in the Williams team. He has now been joined by the American Steve Nichol from McLaren, and together they are producing the 1990 Ferrari with a new version of the V12 engine. While the Barnard designed car had many good points, it had some problematical ones, and it will be important that the two new engineers to the Scuderia are able to dissect the good from the bad, without bias. It would be a pity to undo all the good that Barnard and Mansell created during the last season, and start all over again, for the pace of Formula One does not really allow time to start again once you have made good progress. The first two races, in the USA and Brazil, are a long way from home and cannot really be taken as “pointers”. When the Grand Prix of San Marino takes place at Imola in May, we should get a good idea of the true potential of the Ferrari team for 1990. Benetton: Ford’s involvement with the Benetton team is getting a lot deeper than it was, and they have jointly, with the Benetton firm, set up a research centre for “advanced thinking” headed by John Bar
nard. Cosworth are continuing development work on their V8 (EXP) still being supplied exclusively to the Benetton team, and last year it had forged its way into the position of “best of the rest” if you take away Honda, Renault and Ferrari. There is no reason why it should not continue in that position and the team’s driver strength has been improved (we all hope) by the addition of three times World Champion Nelson Piquet. He cannot really do any worse than he did with Frank Demie’s Lotus 101 last year, and the chances are he will do better. Certainly his team mate Alessandro Nannini will keep him on his toes, for he is consistently good, and gaining experience all the time.
March: After some financial traumas, not of their own doing, the March team under the Leyton house of Japan ownership, remain basically unchanged for 1990. Adrian Newey’s sleek and slippery car with the best V8 engines that John Judd can supply, will again be in the hands of Ivan CapeIli and Mauricio Gugelmin. These two drivers have such obvious talent and potential that it will be a crying shame if the March team have another mediocre season like 1989. In my book they are both worthy contenders for a place on the winner’s podium at any time. Lotus: There are those who think that the only way for Team Lotus is “up” and I am sure everyone hopes this is true. Not having the works backing of a big industrial giant like Honda or Renault, the Lotus team have taken a gamble in giving the Lamborghini
V12 engine a try. With a new driver line-up, of Derek Warwick and Martin Donnelly, and the new engine in a new chassis, they have much to keep them busy and any progress must be upwards.
Tyrrell: Not so long ago our “all British Uncle Ken” was being applauded for supporting British drivers, but it did not do him much good. The acquisition of Camel cigarette sponsorship last season also produced the Camel-sponsored driver Jean Alesi, a Frenchman of Sicilian origins. Suddenly the Tyrrell-Cosworth car began to look halfway decent. The young Alesi drove with enthusiasm and spirit, driving the car through corners on full power, rather than waiting until the car was out of the corner before applying the power. From the moment he joined the Tyrrell team we began to see the blue car from the Surrey woodyard up where it did not normally belong. In only half a season he scored championship points in three races and lifted the Tyrrell team bodily. He leads the team for 1990, Jonathan Palmer having been quietly dropped, and looking at the long-term, Tyrrell has accepted Satoru Nakajima from the Camel sponsored Lotus team, as number two driver. If Alesi continues to make progress in 1990 as he did in 1989 it is going to need something more exciting than the production Honda V10 for Ken Tyrrell to stop Alesi being wooed away to a “Top Team” when his contract runs out. Arrows: Team principals Jack Oliver and Alan Rees have sold their team to a Japanese concern, but have got themselves retained at employees! The designer of the recent Arrows cars, Ross Brawn, has left the team and set off for pastures new, as have both the regular drivers, so this season will see the Arrows team starting all over again in many directions. The driver line-up is all Italian, with Michele Alboreto and Alessandro Caffi. Alboreto is one of those nice, neat and tidy drivers who comes alive once the race has started,
but is not a natural forceful winner. Young Caffi has shown potential since the first day he got into a Formula One car, but has never really had the opportunity he deserves. In a rather sudden and unexpected move he left the Scuderia Italia, and Dallara chassis, Cosworth powered car, and joined Arrows.
Larrousse-Lola: Gerard Larrousse is another who has sold his team to Japanese finance and retained his position to run the team. He is pinning his faith on the “new” having signed up Eric Bernard, who has been featuring in Formula 3000, and Aguri Suzuki who spent a fruitless 1989 season with Zakspeed-Yamaha.
Minardi: At times last season the Minardi began to make its presence felt among the mid-field runners, but whether it was due to the driving ability of Pierluigi Martini, the suitability and progress made by Pirelli tyres, or the car, was never really clear. Whatever it was, and it was probably a combination of all three, the Minardi team began to lift itself out of the dross at the back of the grid. The only major change this year has been to drop the Spanish driver Luis Perez-Sala and replace him by Paolo BariIla. If the team can continue its progress towards the front it will be universally popular as this enthusiastic Italian group are one of the better things about the lower end of the pit-lane. Onyx: This new team that started off the 1989 season on a fairly low key began to make progress by mid-season and seemed set fair for a good future, always providing the money continued to come form the Belgian Moneytron firm who were their backers. However it all began to go wrong towards the end of the season, and finished up with Mike Earle, who ran the team, leaving fairly hurriedly. Drivers have been signed up for this season but nothing very positive has been announced as yet. The likeable Swede Stefan Johansson is team leader once again, and his team mate is the young Finnish driver J J Lehto. His real name is Jyrkki Jarvilehto, which most people cannot write correctly, let alone pronounce, and his mentor and friend Keijo (Keke) Rosberg wisely told him to change his name to something the rest of the world could cope with, and suggested “J
Lehto” and that is how he has already made his mark as a promising driver.
Ligier: The ebullient and resilient Guy Ligiuer has settled for Philippe Alliot and Nicola Larini to drive his cars this year. Little Rene Arnoux has decided the time has come to withdraw gracefully and “retire”. The French newcomer of last season, Olivier Grouillard, has been dropped and like a number of other drivers who had just got their foot in the Formula One door last year, will have difficulty finding a new seat. AGS: The team keeps working on hopefully, and like everyone else still awaits the broad-arrow 12-cylinder engine that it
has been promised. Meanwhile Gabriele Tarquini and Yannick Dalmas have been nominated as drivers and will almost certainly be seen with Cosworth V8 power.
BMS Dallari: So far the Scuderia Italia has not nominated anyone to replace the errant Alex Caffi, but Andrea de Cesaris stays as team leader.
Eurobrun: Roberto Moreno to drive whatever is produced when the season begins.
Coloni: Little or nothing is known yet. Osella: And the same applies.
Zakspeed: Yamaha intends to continue its support with their V8 engine.
Rial: We may have seen the last of this team for a while. Brabham: The great unknown. Martin Brundle and Stefano Modena are still under contract as drivers, but it is not clear who owns the team or who is going to own it, or even whether it is going to continue. Last year the Swiss owner of the team was arrested, as is becoming very popular with racing and motoring people these days, the charge involving money. Since then Brabham as a racing team has been living on a bit of a knife-edge, its destiny in other people’s hands, and some of the hands are a bit sticky! DSJ