On the 14th of August 1988, Scuderia Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari passed away in Maranello at the age of 90. His death was not made public for two days as requested by Ferrari, but when it was announced it was met with grief and consolations across the motorsport community.
The 1988 Season
The 1988 Formula 1 season could be considered a rather positive season for Ferrari, however it was one where only 1 victory and 1 pole position would be taken by the team. In the final year of the 1.5-L V6 turbocharged engines, it was the combination of McLaren and Honda that dominated the field, taking the top spot in 15 of the 16 races that year.
The 1988 car, the F1/87/88C was basically an update to the previous year’s chassis, with minor changes made in order to comply with some new regulations in 1988. Such a change was the reduction in fuel limits for that year, being pushed down from 195 litres to 150 litres. Honda had built a completely new V6 engine in order to comply with the regulations, whereas Ferrari just modified its then-current engine, reducing the fuel flow limit to 150 litres as well as the new turbo limit to 2.2 bar.
The car was quick, but was unfortunately no match for the white-and-red McLaren cars of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger clocked one of the fastest top speeds that year in the F1/87/88C, reaching a speed of 314 kph during practice for the German Grand Prix, but as shown when both cars ran out of fuel at the British Grand Prix, the chassis suffered from poor fuel consumption thanks to the new fuel limit regulation.
The situation was made better by suggestions from the team’s Technical Director John Barnard, who recommended the team reduce the current Tipo 033A’s engine by 1,000 RPM and re-map the engine to compensate for the loss of power, a suggestion that did help to some degree prior to Ferrari’s home race at Monza.
Despite the possibly sombre atmosphere within the team as it faced its first Italian Grand Prix without founder Enzo, Scuderia Ferrari got its weekend off to a good start. Drivers Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto qualified in 3rd and 4th position, right behind the two dominating McLaren-Honda's of Senna and Prost.
Both at the track and across Italy, the Tifosi hoped and dreamt of a home victory for their cherished team as a means of dedication to Enzo. In his later years, Enzo barely left the confines of the Ferrari compound or the wider Maranello town. The only Grand Prix he attended in-person alongside his team was that of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
As a mark of respect for the Ferrari founder, the two scarlet cars of Berger and Alboreto were the first two cars allowed onto the circuit for the first practice session on Friday morning.
As the race got underway on Sunday, 11th September, Prost initially jumped Senna at the start, but a misfire from his Honda engine allowed the Brazilian to take back the lead and pull away. Berger, the lead Ferrari behind in 3rd was able to stay within a few seconds of Prost, despite the Frenchman having his boost turned up in order to chase down Senna.
Berger looked to drop back from Prost by lap 10 in order to save fuel, while Prost closed in on his teammate. However, on lap 30, Prost’s engine misfire was starting to worsen and by lap 35, he was forced into retirement in the pit lane, marking the only time in 1988 McLaren would suffer an engine failure.
The retirement moved Berger and Alboreto up into 2nd and 3rd, with the pair closing down on consistent Senna ahead. With only two laps remaining, Senna went to lap the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser, who was replacing a sick Nigel Mansell, when the pair collided, taking Senna and the only McLaren out of the lead and out of the race.
A Perfect Tribute
This incident moved the Ferrari duo into 1st and 2nd, which, to the emotional joy of the team and the Tifosi, would last to the chequered flag. Berger took the only non-McLaren win of 1988, while Alboreto behind backed up a dream finish for the Italian team on home soil.
Motorsport journalist Nigel Roebuck often recounts stories of the race and what it meant to the Tifosi, with him remembering a particular memory of a Tifosi member approaching Schlesser after the race to shake his hand and say; ‘Thank you, from Italy!’ such was the joy of a home victory.
Regardless of how that day will be remembered, it will stand F1 history as a Ferrari victory on Italian tarmac, and no better victory to remember a man with the calibre and passion of Enzo Ferrari himself.
Written by Cóilín Higgins. Join our email list if you’re interested in receiving the latest on our online magazine and store.