Home Classic F1 Throwback Thursday: 1988 Italian Grand Prix
Throwback Thursday: 1988 Italian Grand Prix

Throwback Thursday: 1988 Italian Grand Prix

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1988, a season which saw the titanic juggernaut of Mclaren securing wins in the first eleven races of the season, toppling numerous records.

As Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost jousted for the championship, F1 headed to Monza where Ferrari had not won since 1979.

Enzo Ferrari had also passed away less than a month earlier, having formed the Scuderia Formula One team into becoming a successful outfit.

Ferrari still could not match Mclaren in qualifying though, as Senna grabbed his tenth pole of the season.

Williams saw a slight driver re-shuffling pre-race; Nigel Mansell being forced out with chicken pox, replaced by French debutant Jean-Louis Schlesser.

Off the start, Prost managed to jump Senna into the lead, though the Brazilian retook the position moments later into the first of the double chicane.

Despite Senna comfortably leading after his start recovery, Prost managed to reduce the deficit down to two seconds as the race progressed.

Further down the field, reigning world champion Nelson Piquet retired on lap 11 after spinning off into the gravel – the product of a reported clutch issue.

Luis Perez-Sala also spun and rejoined, though would retire a lap after Piquet with gearbox issues.

In fact, the long and fast attributes of Monza were beginning to take a severe toll on the turbo-powered cars, as only eight drivers completed the full 51 laps.

Speculation began to mount that Prost would join the list, as he began to drop off Senna’s tail, and into the clutches of Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari sitting in third position.

And sure enough, the Frenchman succumbed to Berger before limping to the pits on lap 35, the Mclaren mechanics retiring the car due to a misfiring engine.

As a precautionary measure to prevent engine failure experienced by his teammate, Senna then opted to richen his fuel mixture, requiring him to slow his pace.

This brought Berger and Michele Alboreto back into play, though it would not be necessary as Senna made an uncharacteristic mistake on lap 49.

With only two laps to go, Senna attempted to squeeze past Schlesser into the first chicane, but there proved to only be limited space and they crashed.

For the first time in the season, neither Mclaren would stand on the top step; instead leaving Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger cruising to victory.

Undeserved? Perhaps, but that is racing, and the rapturous Tifosi could not care less as they witnessed a shock Scuderia 1-2 on Italian soil.

The race will go down for Schlesser denying Mclaren a clean sheet of victories, however it should be recognised for Ferrari scoring a victory, after barely being rated an outside chance.

Both drivers used the occasion to honour the memory of Ferrari’s founder.

Michele Alboretto said, “It was a great day for Ferrari today, and I think it’s best to remember Mr Ferrari.”

Meanwhile Senna was livid about being denied the opportunity to extend his championship lead.

“[Schlesser] locked a brake and I thought he had run really wide, well off line.

“Then, as I came inside him, he came back on to a tight line and we collided.

“It was a big disappointment, but what’s done is done.”

Schlesser apologised to Senna for the incident, but the grateful Italian crowd was satisfied enough with a resounding, albeit unexpected victory.

It would be the last non-Mclaren win of the season, as both Senna and Prost spent the final races dominating their competition, with the Brazilian eventually winning his first championship.