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From the Motor Sport Archive
The Pride of Italy
The new breed of atmospheric Formula One cars is the noisiest for many years, yet on the opening lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix it seemed as if you could almost have heard a pin drop. The vocal, patriotic crowd had cheered local hero Ayrton Senna to the echo as he led the field on the warm-up lap, yet he was nowhere to be seen once the race reached the end of the main straight. Incredibly, he had been stymied for the second year in succession.
Riccardo Patrese thus led the first racing lap of the new formula, but if that was a surprise, it was nothing compared to the eventual outcome.
In untimed practice and qualifying Nigel Mansell's Ferrari Fl/89 had broken in three out of four sessions, its gearbox constantly bedevilled by failure of the hydraulic pump that actuates its superfast semi-automatic change mechanism. Moreover, the story of Ferrari testing throughout the winter months had been one of continual reliability shortcomings, centering on the transmission's electronics and the V12 engine.
When Mansell popped up in second place after two laps, having spoiled the symmetry of a Canon Williams-Renault 1-2 as Thierry Boutsen shadowed Patrese, the sceptics snorted and prepared to delete car No 27 from their lap charts. Six laps? Well ten maybe. But the Ferrari wouldn't last much longer.