Nelson Piquet, World Champion driver in 1981 and 1983, is leaving the Canon Williams Honda team at the end of this season to join Team Lotus as number one.
This quite remarkable decision was announced at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix at Budapest, after Piquet had become fed-up with what he considered to be the Williams team’s unwillingness to abide by its contract with him stipulating his number one status in the Didcot line-up.
Piquet, feeling that Williams seemed prepared to jeopardise his championship chances by failing to make Mansell play second-fiddle, decided to leave and immediately did a deal with Lotus — the Norfolk team itself uncertain of the future after receiving a letter from Ayrton Senna’s solicitors informing it that its client would not be staying on for the balance of his two-year contract until the end of 1988.
It should be pointed out that Senna was merely taking advantage of an agreed release clause in his agreement with Lotus, disappointed as he has been with the progress of the Honda-engined Lotus 99T. It is understood that Senna has provisionally agreed a contract to drive for the Honda-equipped Marlboro McLaren team in 1988 alongside World Champion Alain Prost, in a deal which will almost certainly be announced at the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 6.
This means that Stefan Johansson is to be replaced after only one season with the Woking-based team, and that the superb Porsche-built TAG V6 turbo, which has powered the World Champion driver in 1984-86, will be consigned to a museum. Motor racing fans will wait with some relish to see who comes out on top, Prost or Senna, in 1988. Retired World Champion Keke Rosberg has no doubts about that, having spent a season alongside Prost at McLaren in 1986. “Senna must be out of his mind if he thinks he can take on Prost in what amounts to Prost’s team,” said the Finn, “and, remember, I know all about that, first hand.”
Six out of six in F3000
Further proof of the intensity of competition in the International Formula 3000 Championship was provided by Roberto Moreno’s victory at Enna-Pergusa in Sicily, where he became the sixth different winner in six races.
This was the Brazilian’s first win in the formula, but he was a proven winner in both F3 and F2, and had led three of this year’s previous rounds for the works Rah-Honda tram—the only one in the series which does not use Cosworth DFV engines.
As last year, the Championship is wide open, and is sure to be fiercely contested to the final round by drivers hoping to secure Formula One contracts for 1988. Seven current F1 men graduated directly from the series.
After a round at Brands Hatch, the F3000 teams head for Birmingham for the city centre street race on August 31.
The city has officially been declared a “resort”, to enable shops to open on both days of the meeting (Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday), and the organisers will be hoping the weather is kinder than it was last year, for an event which is unique to Britain.