Nürburgring, May 12, 1984. For the launch of its new car and to celebrate the opening of the new GP circuit, Mercedes is organizing an event race, providing twenty 190E 2.3 16-valve drivers for active and retired F1 drivers. .
There are, among others, Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Hill, Jones, Moss, Rosberg, Reutemann, de Angelis, Scheckter and Surtees.
At the last moment Fittipaldi forfeits and the Brazilian Ayrton Senna da Silva is called. He is an F1 rookie, with only four races on his resume but with two points already to his credit, who takes that race as an opportunity to prove himself and, in the rain, wins it.
John Surtees is also in that race and the young Brazilian attracts his attention. Despite the controversial farewell to the Scuderia in 1966, Surtees later returned to have excellent relations with Enzo Ferrari and Ferrari used to listen to his "scouts" (... and then do as he wishes in any case), often former drivers or people from you can trust. A few years earlier it had happened with Chris Amon, who had told him wonders of Gilles Villeneuve.
Surtees then sends a message advocating the signing of the young Senna as a driver for Maranello.
Not even a month later, the driver returns to show his skills in Monaco in an epic Grand Prix once again in the rain after which, in the course of an interview, he asks Ferrari about the young Brazilian talent.
Typical, especially in the Italian press: if a driver stands out, he automatically becomes a candidate for the Scuderia.
Among the skills of the Drake, however, there has always been the awareness of the mechanisms of information and, at the same time, that of knowing how to bend them to their own interests.
The words of his reply praise the pilot, without affecting the environment of his team and yet they send out a small "internal" signal consisting of naming the only veteran Arnoux and not the newcomer Michele Alboreto: "Senna is a promising young man, we are all I agree with this, but I have no reason to complain to Arnoux. ".
The following year, after the Brazilian GP, the first race of the 1985 championship, the Frenchman was suddenly fired from the Scuderia and without any protest from the driver, for reasons that are still not perfectly clear.
Ferrari, at that moment, cannot look for Senna, who has an ongoing contract with Lotus, and concludes with Stefan Johansson.
However, that Ferrari is at the top of the thoughts of every F1 driver is certainly not a mystery and, in April of the same year, in an interview Senna expressed himself thus towards the Scuderia: "What I can say is that the Ferrari is a myth to me and I hope to have the opportunity to personally meet the Commendatore. As a team, they work in a monstrously professional way and every time a Ferrari comes out of the pits it is always a special moment, whether it is competitive or not. of a team I would love to go to, but now I am at the beginning of my career and I find myself in an ideal situation. If one day this possibility is realized, I would be very happy. ".
In the meantime, always attentive to young talents, Ferrari starts contacts with the German Stefan Bellof, who comes from a brilliant 1984 season and with whom a pre-contract is signed, but the death of Bellof at the 1000 km of Spa-Francorchamps prevents their arrival.
The 1986 season therefore ends in a very bitter way for Ferrari, with an Alboreto who, remaining in contention for the Championship in the first part, is unable to remain in the fight in the second due to repeated problems of reliability of the turbines, on which he hangs a suspicion of sabotage by the manufacturer KKK which also supplies the Porsche whose engines push the opponent McLaren. The Alboreto / Johansson couple is confirmed for the following year.
But after a 1985 season with two wins in Portugal and Belgium and after winning the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix, Senna is clearly destined for a bright future. Thus, after the Belgian Grand Prix, championship leader Ayrton Senna receives a message sent by Maranello to visit the team headquarters and speak with Enzo Ferrari.
Senna participates in the meeting, which satisfies the desire he declared just a year earlier in the interview and which takes place, like those of many others who had been subjected to the siren song of the Scuderia, with a view to the following season. Enzo Ferrari was asked about the outcome of the match in an interview and Drake did not hesitate to give his opinion: "Senna visited us after the Belgian Grand Prix, but we were unable to reach an agreement for 1987. They are sure we can try again in the future. " and then, an enigmatic sentence: "he is a great driver, no doubt, but I'm not convinced of the person.".
An excessive economic demand? Too many personal requests? Knowing how the Brazilian dealt economically with Lotus, which he asked for a very high salary for a driver of his age with other benefits, perhaps Senna might have tried to play the same way.
But it was one thing to deal, with all respect, with Peter Warr and another with Enzo Ferrari, or rather with a man who had practically lived in motorsport from its beginnings and who did not accept the conditions, but established them.
He liked the pilot, therefore, not so much the person and in the following years the possibility of an arrival fades.
The Drake died on August 14, 1988 contemplating a season dominated by McLaren, with Senna fighting for the title with teammate Alain Prost and with his Ferraris relegated behind the English cars. Ferrari had not signed with Senna even for 1989 and, in reality, the Brazilian, considered the point of his career in which he was, would hardly have concluded an agreement with a team that sunk badly in 1986, competitive but still insufficiently in 1987 and never able to counteract the excessive power of McLaren in 1988.
Ayrton Senna is exactly where he wanted and the last driver chosen by Enzo Ferrari is Nigel Mansell, to team up in 1989 with Gerhard Berger, who arrived in 1987 before the failed contract with Senna. But before this and only a month after the Drake's death, in one of those curious intersections that fate sometimes gives, at the Italian GP Senna retires a few laps from the end and the race is won by Berger with Alboreto in second. place, for the only Ferrari victory of the year.
Ferrari, however, tries to challenge McLaren. The brilliant designer of the British, John Barnard, arrives to work on a new project for 1989 and at the end of 1988, in a Ferrari whose shareholding is 90% of Fiat, also comes the manager whose indisputable professional qualities have led Lancia and Fiat to an impressive amount of victories and world titles: Cesare Fiorio becomes the new sporting director of the Scuderia.
The Ferrari 640, net of its reliability problems especially in its revolutionary semi-automatic gearbox with paddle on the steering wheel, is a great step forward and the future, despite a convulsive management of power in Ferrari, at that time seems encouraging. Fiorio knows he needs an absolute first level driver: Senna or Prost, but with Senna, reigning world champion, as first on the list, even if in his dream book Fiorio would like them both.
In between are the events of the 1989 Imola GP. The start of the season sees a great balance between Senna and Prost and the rivalry between the two has its second peak after the events in Estoril the year before.
There would have been an agreement according to which the driver in the lead after the start should not have been attacked by his companion in turn 1. At the first start of the San Marino GP, Prost respects the agreement, but Berger's accident at the Tamburello requires a second start and Senna overtakes Prost alla Tosa after losing his position at the deadlift. At the end of the race the Frenchman comes second behind the Brazilian, and in the pits "the professor" is furious with his teammate, who denies the agreement, of whose existence, however, according to Prost, the managers of the sponsor Marlboro.
In this situation he tries to slip into Fiorio whose main target, as mentioned, was Senna. On the occasion of the next Grand Prix, that of Monaco, the sporting director has a meeting with the Brazilian. Nothing to do: the Brazilian has a contract with McLaren for 1990 and is also becoming the leader of what is arguably the best team on the grid at the time.
Ferrari will have to wait.
With Prost everything is easier. The Frenchman is infuriated by the situation at McLaren and Fiorio's call is like a blessing. After several contacts, on July 28, 1989, in a hotel near Hockenheim, on the weekend of the German Grand Prix, Alain Prost and Cesare Fiorio reached a definitive agreement for his arrival at Ferrari in 1990.
The official announcement is made during the 1989 Monza Grand Prix, a race won by Prost, who is celebrated on the podium as a sort of trophy snatched from his opponents: he is the first driver to sign for the Scuderia after the death of Enzo Ferrari . It is not Senna, but he is the only one in some way equal to the Brazilian.
On paper, the Prost-Mansell duo is the strongest in the championship and the relations between the two are excellent at the beginning, plus the 641 seems to be a competitive car. Despite the good wishes of the start of the season, Fiorio, who at this point has considerable power within the Scuderia, continues to pursue his obsession with bringing Senna to Ferrari alongside Prost, convinced that he can manage the two. and begins to contact Senna again, always in secret.
Fiorio, to sidetrack everyone, has him contacted through the Autosprint photojournalist Angelo Orsi, Ayrton's personal friend for several years, one of the very few professionals who has formed a solid and sincere friendship with Senna. Fiorio asks Orsi to intercede for a contact. Orsi talks about it with Senna.
Everything moves quickly. In Brazil, in the days leading up to the Grand Prix that took place on 25 March 1990 and which Alain Prost won, face to face, without intermediaries or agents, in the Senna family home, Senna and Fiorio talked for a long time, from 9 am on in the morning at 7 in the afternoon, on the basic conditions of a possible contract, on the technical situation of the Scuderia, on how Fiorio intends to take the reins to lead Ferrari to a title that, just that year, would have been closer, as it never was happened in the previous eleven years. They say goodbye without any kind of agreement, but only the commitment for a new appointment.
Less than four months pass and, in the week of the French Grand Prix, the second meeting takes place in the nearby Monegasque residence of Ayrton Senna.
The recent move, in November 1989, of Steve Nichols from McLaren to Ferrari and, therefore, Senna's interest in returning to work with him is probably also helpful, but in fact much of the final contract is agreed. Senna asks for a couple of days to think about it more carefully. Meanwhile, the GP at Paul Ricard is again won by Alain Prost, who leaves France just 3 points behind Senna's first place.
It seems like a signal: every time Senna and Fiorio meet Prost wins ...
But Cesare Fiorio can't wait to have Senna in Ferrari and on Monday 9 April 1990 at 5:30 pm, he sends a fax to an apartment on the ninth floor of Palazzo Houston, at number 2 in Viale Principessa Grace, Monaco. Ayrton Senna's house. It is essentially the pre-contract with the conditions they have established and it begins like this:
following our various meetings, we hereby summarize the current state of our tractive so that you can drive exclusively for Scuderia Ferrari in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in 1991 and 1992. "
The points already fully shared, in addition to the figures for the economic part and the bonus for winning the championship, are, among other things, the free supply to Senna of an F40 in 1991 and 1992, plus another model per year. choice between 348, Mondial or Testarossa. Furthermore, at the end of the year, once it was ready, he would be made to test the car for the '91 championship, although only once a reasonable amount of time had elapsed so as not to reveal any technical elements in the development phase. The problem of his sponsorship with the Nacional bank remain on the table (Senna would like to keep it on the future suit, but the Marlboro sponsor does not like it because he would have wanted the suit entirely for himself), the role of Steve Nichols, insurance, permanence or not by Nigel Mansell and the car for the 1992 season.
Although the document concludes with the clause that its purpose is solely to clearly establish the status of the negotiations and "does not create a legal obligation", it is understood that they are at an extremely advanced stage.
And then the disaster.
On July 15 at the Silverstone GP Mansell leads the race until he begins to have gearbox problems and is overtaken by Prost, who doesn't care about team orders.
Prost, in his third consecutive victory, is leading the championship with two points ahead of Senna, but Mansell, after retiring, throws his gloves to the public and ends race announces his retirement (later retracted) from Formula 1, tired of the technical problems that never happen to his teammate.
But this is only the beginning, because there is also the cursed "politics", which in the end is only a refined way to define the quarrels and intrigues of senior business leaders.
Ferrari president Piero Fusaro, placed there by Fiat, is a character without much interest in F1 itself. Obviously he has learned of the activity of what is, in any case, a subordinate of him and that nevertheless has passed on to him in the decision to try a deal with none other than Ayrton Senna. So Fusaro thinks well to report Fiorio's plans to Prost: Senna risks becoming his teammate in 1991.
Alain, to put it mildly, does not digest it too well and his relations with Fiorio and with Ferrari deteriorate: the results in the championship no longer come. Nigel Mansell, meanwhile, has decided to team up on his own and the contrasts with Prost reach their peak at the Portuguese Grand Prix, where Mansell shuts down Prost and lets his rival for the title, Senna, pass, although he eventually wins the GP is yours.
Mansell no longer cares about anything: he knows very well that in 1991 he will no longer race for Ferrari.
Ferrari is destroying its chances of winning the title on its own, but for Piero Fusaro he doesn't count if it serves to show who's boss at Ferrari.
But that's not enough. Fusaro absolutely forbids Fiorio from concluding the agreement with Senna. Meanwhile, rumors about Maranello's contacts with the Brazilian have grown and Fiorio is forced to suffocate them in the most logical way: arguing that having Prost and Senna in the same team is impossible. Even Philip Morris, sponsor of both teams, is not particularly happy with all these maneuvers and for Ayrton Senna the doors of Maranello are closed.
From another point of view it is also true that for the Brazilian the negotiation (even if in fact there is no reason to doubt his genuine interest) indirectly produces other effects as well. The first is to get better conditions out of McLaren. The other, no less important, is to destabilize his rival and move towards his second title.
From Silverstone to the end of the season, in fact, Prost wins only in Spain, while Senna wins three Grands Prix: Hockenheim, Spa and Monza. The only dominator in the evolution of events is the Brazilian, but the title is still decided in Japan at the last race, with one of the most reprehensible maneuvers (however you see it and in any context it is inserted) in the history of motorsport with which Senna ensures the victory of the Championship.
Ferrari loses a lot: it certainly loses a championship, but perhaps even more than one because it loses Ayrton Senna and, after all, from that moment on, it also begins to lose Alain Prost. Above all, we lose face for the way in which the Scuderia has been managed in a situation in which it was possible to win and at the same time take advantage of a unique opportunity to grow and win again… and, instead, everything is thrown away.
With the ifs and buts, however, history is never made.
In place of Senna, Ferrari takes on the talent pursued by everyone: Jean Alesi, who has signed a pre-agreement with Williams, who, in turn, hesitates with the young Frenchman to see if he can conclude with Senna, who instead remains to McLaren.
Mansell, to whom Fiorio tries to change his mind with a desperate attempt, then goes to Williams.
Neither Senna nor Alesi can know, but by not getting on the Williams-Renault train, which they leave to the English lion, they made a big mistake.
The 1991 season is expected to be another duel between McLaren and Ferrari, between Senna and Prost, but the Scuderia, which presents the new 642, seems to have lost its way.
Once the Monaco Grand Prix, the fourth race of the season, has been played, there are only two podiums: Prost's second place at the inaugural United States Grand Prix and Alesi's third place in the streets of the Principality.
Piero Fusaro takes advantage of the opportunity to get rid of Fiorio due to bad results and fires him after Monte Carlo. In theory, this is pleasing to Prost, but in reality it is not the solution.
As Senna and Mansell progressively become rivals for the title, Ferrari languishes despite the 643 being introduced by the French Grand Prix. The car designed by Steve Nichols turns out to be mediocre and Prost begins to make increasingly harsh statements. The fact that Umberto Agnelli, Gianni's brother, meanwhile, speaks publicly about his preferences for Senna, certainly doesn't help.
Ferrari is a bomb ready to be ignited and the explosion arrives at the Japanese GP, the penultimate race of the championship. Prost finished 4th at 1 'and 20 "from the winner Berger, after having commented on the race with words of circumstance during interviews with Italian journalists, speaking with the French ones, he defines Ferrari as the worst car ever driven, so much so that it seemed like a truck to him .
Claudio Lombardi, head of the Scuderia after Fiorio was slain, is instructed to fire Prost immediately and without waiting for the end of the season in Australia.
At the end of the season Piero Fusaro is also removed from the presidency and Luca di Montezemolo arrives.
At that point Prost tries to get back to the team, but it's too late: 1992 will be the "professor's" sabbatical year.
The possibility of Senna joining Ferrari in 1992 seems, at this point, very small. Williams-Renault dominance begins and yet it is Prost who wins the race in the shadows for the English team's wheel. Mansell retires, also because he has no intention of sharing the garage with Prost and there is no room for Senna, because the Frenchman has the condition in which he does not accept the Brazilian as a teammate. Frank Williams tries, but what perhaps could have happened to Ferrari in 1991 will not happen to Williams in 1993.
In that situation, the one returning to Ferrari is Gerhard Berger, also because Honda is leaving Formula 1.
In an interview in November 1992, Ayrton Senna replies to those who ask him how many possibilities there are for his arrival in Ferrari: "In reality there is nothing definite. The only certain thing is that Ferrari with John Barnard has a good program for the future, which will lead it, in the medium term, to be competitive and successful again. Of course I am very interested in Ferrari for the future, but at the moment I don't want to talk about 1993, 1994 or 1995. The denied rumors in these days are nothing more than the fruit of the passion that exists around Ferrari, and it has always been so in the past. What happens after all, however small, can never be said openly. Until then it is only a matter of unnecessary disturbances and also harmful to the harmony of the team ".
Doors closed or half open, negotiations in progress or fictitious ... in 1993, after all, Senna has no intention of driving for Ferrari, but the rumors were born from the real meeting that took place a few days before the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix between he and Niki Lauda, recently appointed as director by Luca di Montezemolo, in which he had talked about the possibility of his arrival, but basically proposals that Senna had rejected because he could not immediately be guaranteed a winning car.
1993 is a good year for Prost, Williams and its active suspension, while the Ford-powered McLaren must thank Senna for five wins with a vehicle clearly lower than that of his opponent.
Senna, throughout the year, looks for a way out, but with Prost in Williams until 1994, Ferrari is the only option. When Jean Todt arrives at the helm of the Scuderia in the middle of the year, the two meet at Villa d'Este, on Lake Como. Senna shows interest in him, but the negotiations stall (to believe Todt's story years later) because Ferrari still has Alesi and Berger under contract for the following year.
In fact, Senna also begins to deal with Williams and the only impediment to his arrival in the team he has been dominating for two seasons is Prost. But with his fourth title in his pocket after the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Frenchman says enough is enough and announces his retirement, despite the fact that he still has another year on his contract, giving the green light to Senna. However, in November 1993, the Brazilian continues to keep Ferrari in his thoughts and in his words: "I would like to go to Ferrari one day, but only in the right way. It is necessary to keep dreaming".
In 1994 the electronics were banned and the FW16 is not at all like the car that preceded it. The goal dreamed and achieved by the Brazilian turns into an extremely complicated start to the year with two retirements in two races, but before reaching the San Marino Grand Prix, Senna has an important meeting.
It is Wednesday 27 April 1994, in Bologna, in the home of Luca di Montezemolo and Ayrton Senna, according to the then president of Ferrari, it is very clear: he wants to finish his career at Ferrari. "My house was about 30 or 40 minutes from Imola, we met at 7pm and then we went to the circuit. I told him: 'I want to find a way to have you at the end of the season' and he replied: ' I signed with Williams, but if I had the chance, I would have preferred Ferrari. ”He told me he would consider, if there were any legal options, to join us after 1995.". Thus they reach an agreement to continue talks for an unlikely 1995 and a possible 1996.
Four days after his meeting with Luca di Montezemolo, who reopens the negotiations for a future in red, Ayrton Senna meets his destiny at the Tamburello curve, on that same circuit where in the spring of three years earlier, while exiting the pits, from the The grandstand opposite - packed - starts a roar of applause. He waves his hand to reciprocate and whispers to Angelo Orsi who is at his side: «Do you see those stands there? When I race for Ferrari they will be down with enthusiasm! "
When, not if ... then time suddenly stops and dreams become impossible.