Crown dual

1985 German Grand Prix Michele Alboreto (Ferrari 156/85)

After qualifying for the German Grand Prix, championship leader Michele Alboreto looked grimly at the timesheets. Eighth. The Ferrari 156/85 was a quick car, and had proved reliable too, so he could be fairly sure of scoring points. But Michele needed more.

Already the title promised to be a fight between himself and Alain Prost, whose McLaren TAG-Porsche had won the British GP two weeks before to put him within two points in the championship. More disquieting to Alboreto was that his French rival had lapped him; on the fastest tracks, the McLaren was a league ahead. Ferrari needed to capitalise on the slow and medium speed circuits. In qualifying here at the Neue Nurburgring,

Michele’s team-mate Stefan Johansson had put himself on the front row alongside shock pole-winner, Teo Fabi (Toleman-Hart). The second row comprised Prost and the Williams-Honda of Keke Rosberg, the Lotus-Renaults of Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis were fifth and seventh, and Nelson Piquet’s Brabham sat sixth, directly ahead of Alboreto.

Fabi appeared to chug away in third gear; in contrast, Alboreto and Senna got their starts just right. But while the black and gold Lotus went straight into the lead, the Ferrari locked up at the first corner, and Alboreto’s front wing endplate sliced into Johansson’s right rear tyre. Having committed the cardinal motorsport sin — knocking your team-mate out — Michele needed a win more than ever. But in the opening 25 laps there was little he could do about Senna or Rosberg. Indeed, he was just keeping de Angelis and Prost at bay, but he inherited second when Senna broke a cv joint

Rosberg’s brakes had taken a caning in his battle with Ayrton, and he was being hunted down by Alboreto, de Angelis and Prost. Then when de Angelis’ engine blew on lap 41, Prost was able to pressure the Ferrari directly; for Alboreto, getting past Rosberg was now a matter of increasing urgency. As Keke hurtled down to turn nine on lap 44, his weak brakes forced him to slither over the kerbing, losing crucial momentum. Alboreto spied a momentary gap, flicked right, and immediately filled it. Keke was forced to concede the corner and the lead, and as he went wide, he also let Prost past

The two championship protagonists pressed on, the Ferrari quicker on the straights, the McLaren superior under braking. It was a fascinating duel, and the pair were just a second apart as they came up to lap a backmarker. But Prost spun under braking, a rare mistake. By the time he was pointing the right way again, he was 10 seconds down. The challenge was over, and Michele Alboreto and Ferrari ran out the victors. Ironically, it signalled the end of the Italian’s championship challenge. Third in Austria, fourth in Holland (both times behind Prost) was Alboreto’s lot. Thereafter, Ferrari sacrificed reliability for pace, and their lead driver retired from the final five rounds of 1985. Indeed, the Scuderia wouldn’t score another win for over two years. And Michele himself never again took the top step of an F1 podium.

David Malsher