The 1991 Italian Grand Prix was the twelfth round of the 1991 Formula One Championship, held at one of the homes of the Championship, Monza. The build up to the race had been one filled with controversy involving one of the sport's emerging talents, Michael Schumacher.
The race itself saw Nigel Mansell defeat pole man Ayrton Senna in a straight fight to take victory and close the title fight between the two. Alain Prost completed the podium, while the man in the centre of the legal battles, Schumacher, claimed points in only his second race, beating new team mate, and triple World Champion, Nelson Piquet in the process.
Dominating the build up to the Italian Grand Prix of 1991 was a legal battle over the most promising talent of the 1990s, Michael Schumacher. Jordan had optained the services of the young German in Belgium, after pocketing a £200,000 deal from Mercedes-Benz and left the issue at that, believing that they had a contract with him to the end of the season. Benetton, meanwhile, cancelled Roberto Moreno's contract and signed Schumacher, after his management team had spoken to representatives from Benetton. The legal furore that resulted cost money and time for both parties, and ended up with Benetton and Schumacher's reputations taking a battering. Moreno, meanwhile, took up the vacant seat at Jordan, and was fired up to try to prove his former employers wrong.
At Team Lotus, a minor change to their driver line up saw Michael Bartels return once again, as Johnny Herbert had to jet off to fulfil more of his Formula 3000 commitments in Japan. Ferrari, meanwhile, were throwing a large amount of resources to ensure that their cars were competitive at their home race, as the tifosi gathered to support their champions in Monza.
On the topic of Champions, Ayrton Senna looked well on his way to taking a third World Title, now holding a 22 point lead over Nigel Mansell, with 50 left to fight for. Riccardo Patrese, in third, was a huge outsider for the title, with only a major run of misfortune for Senna able to hand him a chance of the title. Gerhard Berger was left in fourth, attempting to held Senna as he had done last season, with Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost locked together in a battle for fifth.
The Constructors Championship was also a struggle of two titans, as Williams-Renault and McLaren-Honda went to battle once again. McLaren led the way, one point short of the 100 barrier, with Williams in second trailing by 26 points, before a considerable gap to Ferrari in third. Indeed, the Italian team were more in threat from falling behind Benetton, who looked likely to mount a late challenge for the top three. Jordan completed the top five, with lead driver Andrea de Cesaris hoping to help Moreno and his team overhaul the Benetton team above them.
The full entry list for the 1991 Italian Grand Prix is shown below:
As with the majority of the 1991 season, the 1991 Italian Grand Prix saw the use of pre-qualifying to satisfy the FIA's latest safety drive. The maximum limit for cars on any circuit at any time had been set at 30, meaning that 4 cars had to be removed from the weekend running. Eight drivers were therefore made to battle it out for four spots in the full qualifying session, based on their performance from the previous half season.
Brabham continued their domination of the session that they had been thrown into in Germany, as Mark Blundell beat Martin Brundle to top the times. Olivier Grouillard made it through for the second consecutive race, joined by Michele Alboreto. Alboreto made the cut by over one and a half seconds, as the two AGS entries joined Alex Caffi and Pedro Chaves on the sidelines.
Ayrton Senna was on pole once again, as Nigel Mansell bemoaned two troubled laps as he claimed second. The Brit had caught traffic on both of his quick laps, encountering both McLaren-Hondas and Alain Prost on the run to Ascari, meaning he lost the tenth and a half that Senna beat him by. The top four was completed by Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese (with the quartet only separated by 0.250th of a second), with the two Ferraris next up.
Michael Schumacher claimed seventh for a second race in a row, beating team mate Nelson Piquet, while Roberto Moreno claimed ninth for Jordan, hoping to beat his former employers. Out went Michael Bartels, Aguri Suzuki and Eric van de Poele, while Alboreto was the only one of the pre-qualifiers who failed to qualify.
Full Qualifying ResultsEdit
The final result for the 1991 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
|7||19||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Ford Cosworth||1:22.471||1:22.553||+1.357s|
|8||20||Nelson Piquet||Benetton-Ford Cosworth||1:23.176||1:22.726||+1.612s|
|9||32||Roberto Moreno||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:23.102||1:23.447||+1.988s|
|12||16||Ivan Capelli||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:23.674||1:24.755||+2.560s|
|14||33||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:24.060||1:23.921||+2.807s|
|18||15||Mauricio Gugelmin||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:24.391||1:25.023||+3.277s|
|24||29||Éric Bernard||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:26.325||1:25.871||+4.757s|
|26||14||Olivier Grouillard||Fondmetal-Ford Cosworth||1:26.416||1:26.805||+5.302s|
|DNQ||9||Michele Alboreto||Footwork-Ford Cosworth||1:26.563||1:27.198||+5.449s|
|DNQ||35||Eric van de Poele||Lambo-Lamborghini||1:27.110||1:27.099||+5.985s|
|DNQ||30||Aguri Suzuki||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:27.257||No Time||+6.143s|
|DNPQ||10||Alex Caffi||Footwork-Ford Cosworth||1:27.608|
|DNPQ||31||Pedro Chaves||Coloni-Ford Cosworth||No Time|
The complete starting grid for the 1991 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
|______________||Andrea de Cesaris|
A dry afternoon emerged on Sunday, with Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna set to do battle, although it must be noted that Senna had been undefeated in 1991 when he had started from pole. With McLaren-Honda and Williams-Renault seemingly on a level playing field, and well ahead of the rest, the winner was likely to come from that quartet, leaving the rest of the field to fight for the minor points.
The top four held station off the line, as Senna hooked up a great start to take a comfortable lead, ahead of Jean Alesi, who beat team mate Alain Prost off the grid. Michael Schumacher was challenging the two Ferraris from seventh, making it further round the opening lap than he had in Belgium, with Nelson Piquet and Pierluigi Martini battling away, Roberto Moreno having slipped down. The field made it through the first lap without incident, although that record was not to last.
Jean Alesi managed to get up the inside of Riccardo Patrese down into the Rettifilo at the start of the second lap, braking a fraction later than the Italian. Unfortunately for the Sicilian, he locked his brakes on the dust, and slid into the gravel on the outside of the chicane, bouncing back onto the circuit and dragging all manner of debris with him. Patrese and Prost went past, with Alesi recovering fast enough to fend off Schumacher, although Alesi was in the pits for a damage examination at the end of the lap.
The next incident saw Martin Brundle bouncing across the gravel, before Roberto Moreno lost the back of his new Jordan into Ascari, ending his awful week in a gravel pit. Back at the front, Gerhard Berger made a mistake exiting the Rettifilo, allowing Patrese to dart around him to take third, leaving Berger to fend off Prost for the rest of the lap. Schumacher was staying with the leaders, challenging Prost into the Lesmo bends and allowing Berger to gain a small advantage, as Mansell began to close onto the back of Senna.
Patrese began to fight Mansell for second on lap seven, as Mansell gave himself some breathing room to cool his engine. That prompted the Brit to attack again, and as they made their way through the Parabolica at the end of the lap, he was right on Senna's tail. The Brazilian used the slipstream of a back marker, Mauricio Gugelmin, to his advantage down the straight, which gave him just enough speed to fend off the Williams and get him alongside Gugelmin into the first corner. Gugelmin then dived into the gravel, seemingly scared off by the charging trio, just about managing to keep his car moving in order to escape.
Mansell and Patrese switched places a lap later, which would allow the Italian to challenge Senna, and then him to get past if he could do so. Patrese was straight onto the back of Senna, challenging at every opportunity, climbing over curbs to try to get past, even using the smoke produced by Éric Bernard's engine failure to disguise a move into Rettifilo. The Italian then managed to set up Senna through the Lesmo corners, and using the tow and a good exit, pulled alongside the Brazilian as they approached Ascari. Confidently, Patrese dived on the brakes a fraction after Senna, and grabbed the lead of the Italian Grand Prix on lap 26.
Yet, a lap later, and Patrese through it away, running wide on the exit of Ascari and throwing his car into a spin, and allowing Senna and Mansell back through. Berger and Prost were now on his tail, with the trio in tight battle down to the Parabolica, although Patrese remained ahead. A gearbox failure then ended Patrese's day, promoting Berger and Prost, while also opening a significant gap to Senna and Mansell, with the Brit throwing all the tricks in the book (and the book) at the McLaren to try to force his way past.
Lap 34 saw Mansell pull an identical move to Patrese on Senna, having run nose to tail with the Brazilian since the Italian had retired. Senna opted to dart into the pits at the end of the lap, with a staggeringly quick stop by McLaren putting him back on the road just 16 second behind Mansell, although he would have to fight his way back through. The first man in his sights was Schumacher, who was now in a lonely fourth place, with Senna bearing down on him, until Olivier Grouillard pulled in front of the Brazilian into the Parabolica. Senna waved furiously at the Frenchman down the main straight in protest at the move, before returning to the job in hand, taking the Benetton a lap later.
Piquet was another man to stop, before using his fresh tyres to attack Ivan Capelli for seventh, completing the move into the Rettifilo. His next move saw him attack Andrea de Cesaris a lap later, with the Brazilian pulling an identical manoeuvre to get sixth. Senna's fightback, meanwhile, was being hampered by Prost, who defended second resolutely from the McLaren, allowing Mansell to pull a huge gap. Prost eventually fell with five laps to go, with Senna now having to cover a 20 second gap to the front.
In the end, Mansell was able to cruise to his fourth victory of 1991, as Senna closed the gap to 16 seconds and took the fastest lap in the dying embers of the race. Prost managed to keep with Senna after the Brazilian gave up hopes of winning, with Berger taking fourth, while Schumacher completed a wonderful debut for Benetton in fifth, although he may have finished higher in the Jordan he had just vacated. Piquet completed the point scorers, as de Cesaris pushed him all the way to the flag, despite using heavily worn tyres, to Piquet's fresh set.
The final results for the 1991 Italian Grand Prix are shown below:
- 200th entry for Nelson Piquet.
- First points for Michael Schumacher.
- Twentieth win for Nigel Mansell.
Nigel Mansell managed to reduce the Championship lead, but with Ayrton Senna finishing second, the gap only closed to 18 points, with 40 left to fight for. They were now the only two capable of taking the title, mathematically as well as on ability, as Riccardo Patrese sat 44 points behind in third. He was left to try to fend off Gerhard Berger for the position, as Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet traded places once again.
McLaren-Honda smashed through the 100 point barrier although their lead over Williams-Renault was down to fifteen points. Similar to the Drivers' title, the Constructors' Championship was now a battle of two, as Ferrari had fallen 69 point behind, with only 64 available for each team. They were now fighting Benetton for their third place, as the British privateer carried renwed form with youngster Schumacher and veteran Piquet.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ITALIAN GP, 1991', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 1999), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr512.html, (Accessed 14/08/2015)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 'Classic F1 - Italian Grand Prix 1991 extended highlights', bbc.co.uk, (British Broadcasting Company, 08/09/2010), http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8979380.stm, (Accessed 14/08/2015)
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 '1991 Italian Grand Prix', wikipedia.org, (WikiMedia, 13/08/2015), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Italian_Grand_Prix, (Accessed 13/08/2015)
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