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Michele Alboreto interview

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#1 Louis Mr. F1

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 15:16

Hi all
I found this piece of Alboreto interview on the net, i think some of you may enjoy reading it, this took place end of 1987.

An evening with Alboreto
October 8, 1987

Michele Alboreto had a host of 'Brambilla stories'

Michele Alboreto says Ferrari's new V12 sounds out of this world. The older mechanics - those who remember 12-cylinder racing engines from times gone by - get dewy-eyed, he says, when they hear it running on the dyno. By January it should be in a car, and testing. Michele cannot wait to sit in front of it, but doubts that he will race it next year. Even with all the regulation changes in 1988, he reckons, a turbo is still going to be the thing to have.

This week I am turning over the column to Alboreto. In Estoril I went to a Ferrari dinner, and it was my good fortune to be at his table. A more captivating evening at a Grand Prix I cannot remember: some of Michele's one-liners have the ring of Mario Andretti, and by 11 o'clock laughter was starting to make me ache. Gerhard Berger had retired some time before, but his team-mate stayed on to regale us - some of the time with 'Brambilla stories'.

The Brambilla brothers, Tino and Vittorio, citizens of Monza, were around a long time in motor racing -considerably longer, in fact, than anyone anticipated, since their track behaviour frequently suggested they may not have been a hundred percent steady in the head. Tales of their exploits are legion, and Alboreto came up with one or two I hadn't heard.

"You know the one about the F3 mechanic at Monza? No?" Michele smiled in anticipation, this clearly one of his party pieces.

"Was in the days when Tino was in F3, with a Tecno, and Vittorio was his chief mechanic. They were testing alone at Monza one day, and Vittorio hears the engine cut out, round the back of the circuit. 'I think he's run out of fuel,' he says to Pino, the young mechanic. 'Sounds like at Lesmo. Take some fuel out to him."

"So Pino sets off, reaches Lesmo, and Vittorio is right: car is parked, out of fuel, Tino standing next to it. They put the fuel in, and the engine starts. 'Get on the back, Pino,' Tino says, 'and I'll take you back to the pits...' Vittorio- "What are you - crazy?"

"So, OK, they start off. Into first... then second..."

Sadly I cannot on paper do justice to this part of Michele's story, to the engine sounds, the rising revs, the gear changes. Suffice it to say that Tino gets into fifth, and seriously so...

"So, Tino comes into the pits. 'You were right, Vittorio,' he says. 'Was out of fuel. Thank you for sending Pino out to me.'

"'No problem,' Vittorio says. 'But... where is Pino?'

"Tino hits his forehead with the heel of his hand. 'My God," he says, 'he was on the back...'

"You know what?" Alboreto smiled, "it took them an hour to find him. Was face down in the run-off area at Parabolica!"

Tino, it seems, had arrived there in fifth gear, and turned into the corner at normal racing speed, a path the hapless Pino, clinging desperately to the roll-over bar, had found himself unable to follow...

Did he survive, we asked? "Oh, yes," Michele said. "Was a bit knocked about, you know, but OK - in fact, he still works for the Brambillas!"

Not all of the evening was given over to reminiscence, though. Alboreto is that rarest of men, a straightforward racing driver. You can interview him, reach a controversial point, volunteer to switch off the tape recorder, and he'll say not to bother: "No, it's OK. No secrets..."

We got onto the subject of John Barnard and Ferrari, and this - had a tape been running - might have been one of those moments. It is, after all, no secret that some months ago Michele came close to reaching agreement with Williams for 1988.

"Well, the beginning of this season was difficult because the feeling between Barnard and me was not so good. I don't know why, but I didn't feel comfortable at that time. So I decided if I got a good opportunity somewhere else I would leave Ferrari. And this chance came from Frank. He said, 'OK, if there is a place in the team - and I think Piquet is going to leave -1 would like to have you.' I said yes, please. At the same time Mr Ferrari called me and said he wanted me to stay.

"I was in a difficult position, I had always been happy with Ferrari - except for this difficult start with John. Then Frank said, 'Listen, if you cannot wait until Nelson decides, it's better if you stay with Ferrari, because if he wants to stay, I have to keep him." Otherwise, I think, he would have lost Honda. So he couldn't guarantee me the place for next year, and said maybe '89 would be different. I said OK, this chance is gone - I stay with Ferrari. And I re-signed for one year."

Have you ever, I asked, sat down with Barnard, tried to resolve your problems? Alboreto said he had.

“At the beginning of the season I said to him, ‘Look, if you have something against me, you don't like me, you prefer to have Prost or someone else in the team, tell me, because it's not possible to work in these conditions.' He said he had no problem with me, but it's still difficult because I've had no chance to clear these things up with him. I hope it will be better in the future, because I thinks he's a very good engineer, and he can help Ferrari to be better and better."

For some time now John has been absent from the races, instead staying at GTO in Guildford, working on a new car to take the forthcoming normally-aspirated VI2. Had the atmosphere in the team been better?

Michele worded his answer carefully: "It's difficult to live away from the team, first of all. And maybe he doesn't feel that this car is his car, huh? That's made things difficult.

"Yes, the atmosphere has been better recently. When Barnard first came he made two or three changes in the team which were very... hard, you know? And people in the team were very cold with him. That's not the best way to get a good atmosphere, and we cannot work very well like that.

"I think John had the wrong attitude. He's not a dictator, but some situations he tried to push too much, and that made people unhappy. It's not a matter of English or Italian or anything - I mean, Harvey Postlethwaite is English, and he works perfectly within the team. So I don't think it's a problem of nationality, but of character. Although Harvey is a little bit Modenese now..."

Alboreto is clearly one of Postlethwaite's biggest fans, and credits him with most of the quantum leap up the grid lately taken by the red cars. Except for some small chassis changes, Michele says, the F187 is the same as in Rio, where he and Berger were 4secs off the pace.

"The car was impossible to drive then, and I was very depressed. The biggest progress has been made by Harvey in the wind tunnel. He found the right set-up for the car, and now it's like a secret - and only he has the key! Now we do the set-up of the car at home, arrive at the track, and find we need to make only little changes.

"I tried Harvey's set-up for the first time at Spa - and qualified in front of Prost! I said we should keep to it, but it was a bit difficult to convince everyone in the team to do that... Harvey was sure that that set-up was the best one, and Piero Lardi Ferrari - who had followed the development of the car in the wind tunnel at home - agreed. By Hockenheim it was perfect. Now we need to win - especially for Mr Ferrari. He needs it like a blood transfusion."

There has also been huge progress with the engine, which was way too brutal earlier on. Alboreto still thinks the Honda V6 better overall, but reckons the Ferrari is now a match on top end horsepower. And he believes that the team will continue with the turbo in 1988.

"The big problem is to find the right electronic chip to have better fuel consumption, because we come down to 150 litres next year. But if we can solve it. for sure the turbo engine will be more powerful than the normally-aspirated one.

"I think we'll continue with this chassis, too. The car is good now. But we will need to do back-to-back tests with the turbo and normally aspirated cars: Mr Ferrari will study the testing results, and then decide. And the quickest one will be the car for nest year. We must use the quickest one!”

Alboreto is a friendly and courteous man, but also a forthright one. He speaks glowingly about Prost, the man he ran close for the championship for much of 1985.

"Alain is unbelievably quick, and clever. He's also very relaxed now, and because of that he's much more dangerous as a rival than before. When he was looking for the World Championship, he was very nervous – like me now. But now he's relaxed, and it's made him even quicker. He makes fewer mistakes than anyone.”

For Prost's 1988 team-mate, however, there is less enthusiasm. Michele does not care for Ayrton Senna, does not much care, either, who knows it.

"I've never had a problem with anyone else, not like with him. And it's not possible to talk with him about it. He is still the same as he was. He hasn't really matured, OK, he weaves on the straight, but sometimes I do that also – I am not completely white in that, either, OK? Everybody has some black spots, huh?

"But there is a limit. You cannot push people away on the grass because you don't want to lose a position. In Hockenheim I was furious. At one point I think he missed a gearchange, and I went to overtake him on the right – he chopped across. So I went to the left – and he did the same again. Right again – and the same thing happened We were this far apart, flat in sixth, and I could have been in the trees! This is sport, you know, not war. If you make a mistake you must expect to lose a place. I think he has to change: he is so good and so quick that he doesn't need to do things like that. He is one of the best – he can win anyway."

I asked Alboreto about the F40, Ferrari's latest 'ultimate' road car. Was it discernibly quicker than the GTO? Michele had no doubts.

"Oh. Yes! Another hundred horsepower, and race car handling. The GTO is set up for the customers, you know, with understeer, for safety. I have my own set up neutral – fantastic. But I am getting an F40, too."

And also a 412, Ferrari's relatively staid front-engined coupe. Nadia Alboreto shortly expects her first child, and the Old Man figured it was time his driver had a family car... "He makes me a very good price," Michele grinned. One of the perks of the job.

Let's finish with another Brambilla episode. "Was in the time when they both raced in Formula 3. In the straight Tino puts his front wheels between Vittorio's wheels. 'What are you – crazy?' Vittorio shouts afterwards.

"'You were trying to drive me off the road!' 'No, no, Vittorio,' Tino explains, 'I was trying to read your water temperature...'"


#2 D-Type

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 21:12

Thanks for posting that - I thoroughly enjoyed it. He clearly has a great sense of humour.

#3 David M. Kane

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Posted 17 April 2010 - 21:34

Awesome stuff...wonderful!

#4 LittleChris

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 16:29

I remember when it first appeared in Autosport and it remains probably my favourite Nigel Roebuck column. :clap:

#5 Geza Sury

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 17:05

I remember when it first appeared in Autosport and it remains probably my favourite Nigel Roebuck column. :clap:

I beleive this interview appeared originally in Autosprint, an Italian motor racing magazine, and later it was translated to several languages. I read it in Autó-Motor, a Hungarian monthly magazine.