In the fifth installment of this series we reviewed the end of the 1981-1988 turbo-era. By 1988 only McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, Arrows, Zakspeed and Osella used a 1.5 liter turbo engine, all other teams had already switched to the 3.5 liter normally aspirated Judd or Cosworth, in preparation for the 1989 season. John Barnard had designed and started testing the little-known Ferrari 3.5 liter V-12 powered Tipo 639 test cars in 1988, in the hope that it would make its race debut in 1988, but it was not to be. The 1989 season would be haunted by gremlins with Barnard’s then-new paddle-shifter gearbox in the 639 and 640. Nigel Mansell, in his first season with the team, and Austria’s Gerhard Berger would finish well, but only when they finished.
The switch to off-the-shelf Judd or Cosworth engines lowered costs for small teams and helped to level the playing field. Twenty constructors fielding 39 cars competing for only 26 places on the grid, and so Friday morning pre-qualifying was continued. The Judd, Cosworth and new Yamaha OX88 were V8s, Ferrari would use the new, normally aspirated, Tipo 035 3.5 liter V12, backed with a unique paddle-shift gearbox, and Lamborghini had their Mario Forghieri designed LE3512 V12 (in a Lola chassis) while Honda and Renault would built V10s. McLaren would keep both Senna and Prost, Ferrari would have Mansell and Berger. In the interests of safety, the FIA mandated that the driver’s feet must be behind the front axle, which was initially resolved with smaller and more cramped cockpits, problematic for the taller drivers.
John Barnard had a clean sheet and so had built the 639 test cars s/n 105 and 106 in 1988 for test driver Roberto Moreno at Fiorano, replacing them with the 640 for the 1989 season. Because the shifter was gone, the cockpit could be both narrower and more aerodynamic, and so both the 639 and later 640 featured a long sharp nose, a narrow tub and bulging side-pods for the radiators, in what is now the ubiquitous “coke-bottle” shape. Thanks to Barnard’s focus on aerodynamics, the 640 was fast out of-the-box, giving Mansell a win in its début race in Brazil. Indeed, Mansell had stated that if “the car had even half the horsepower it sounds like it has, we’ll win every race this year”. It was not to be, Mansell would DNF at the next four races while Berger would DNF in the first ten races and there were no races in which both drivers finished! When the 640 did finish, they would be on the podium. Mansell took a 1st in Brazil, a 2nd in both France and his home race at Silverstone, a 3rd in Germany, another 1st in Hungary and another 3rd in Belgium, good enough for 4th with 38 points. Berger scored a 2nd in Italy, a 1st in Portugal and a final 2nd in Spain ending in 7th with 21 points.
Thankfully for Berger the carbon fiber 640 proved to be very strong, allowing Berger to escape from a high-speed crash into a wall in Italy with only minor burns to his hands and a couple of broken ribs. Berger’s 640, s/n 107, with full tanks, exploded in a fireball and Berger was briefly knocked unconscious, but recovered, missing only the following Monaco GP. Following Berger’s crash the FIA ruled that in 1990 all cars would have a larger cockpit and a quick-release steering wheel.
The conventional wisdom is that problems with the paddle shift gearbox were caused by an overheating alternator and a miniscule on-board battery. As Barnard revealed to Motorsport in an interview in June, 2005, page 70-71,the reality was that Ferrari had gone to a four-bearing crank in the tipo 035 V12 for less internal resistance, but, thanks to high-speed photography on the dyno, it was determined that the crankshaft would “ whip” at certain revs, causing the front pulley to shed the alternator belt. The alternator would stop and so would the gearbox electronics.
The Drivers’ Championship was decided in the penultimate race in Japan when Prost and teammate Ayrton Senna, who needed to win the race, collided in the closing laps. Prost retired. Senna got a push start and crossed the line first, only to be disqualified for not rejoining the track correctly, giving the title to Prost, his last with McLaren before joining Ferrari for 1990. Ferrari finished 3rd in the Manufacturers’ Championship behind McLaren and Williams. For those into number spotting, Ferrari built 639 s/n 105 and 106 as 1988 test cars and 640s s/n 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112 113 and 114 for the 1989 season. All survive except s/n 107, destroyed in Berger’s crash at Imola.
Barnard left the Scuderia at the end of the year to go to Benneton, replaced by Steve Nichols, who would focus on making the 641 more reliable. With no major revisions other than a longer wheelbase, the 641 was powered by the type 036 V12 engine, which was updated by the third race at San Marino to the 037 engine with 680 hp, only slightly down on the 690 bhp Honda. Unfortunately the Ferrari V12 lacked low-end torque relative to all the other engines. A variable inlet trumpet system was tested but not standardized. There were 19 teams and 35 cars at the start of 1990, nine cars from six teams would have to pre-qualify.
Mansell was joined by reigning World champion Alain Prost who worked behind the scenes to build teamwork, testing and develop the 641’s handling, aerodynamics and gearbox. Prost was 1st in the second race in Brazil and was later 1st at Mexico, France and Germany. His former team-mate Ayrton Senna had a better start to the season and led the championship, but Prost was still within striking distance after his fifth 1st in Spain. Senna ended the ‘tifosi’s’ dreams by punting Prost off the track during the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, just as he had done to Prost the year before. Senna won with 78 points, Prost with 73. Mansell suffered through six DNFs, winning only in Portugal, good only for 5th, but enough to give Ferrari 2nd in the Manufacturers’ Championship. It would be another seven years before Ferrari would again challenge for either championship. For those into number spotting, Ferrari built 641 s/n 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120 and 121 for the 1990 season. All survive except s/n 116, destroyed in testing.
Ferrari’s one-two finish at the 1990 Mexican GP, with Prost going from 13th to 1st and Mansell’s outside pass on Berger going into the ultra-fast Peraltada corner for 2nd on the next to last lap.
Mansell left the team in disgust, returning to Williams-Renault and was replaced by Jean Alesi. The ‘new’ Steve Nichols designed 642 F1 featured few improvements. Prost would have six DNFs and Alesi would have eight DNFs, winning only a handful of seconds and thirds between them. The season would be a romp for McLaren and Senna, with 96 points, Senna’s only competition being Mansell, now with the Williams Renault, who scored 72 points. Prost would be 5th with 34 points and Alesi 7th with 21 points. Ferrari would finish a distant 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship, behind McLaren and Williams. At the seventh race, the French GP. a revised 643 replaced the 642, but it was no better.
While the 643 was a total redesign and the first of Ferrari’s ‘raised nose’ design, giving better airflow underneath the car, the team’s ongoing internal turmoil couldn’t improve the performance. The V12 was upgraded six major times during 1991, with the final evolution used from Portugal to the end of the season, enough for Prost to score a 2nd in Spain and a 4th in Japan, but it was too little, too late. The drama peaked when Prost was fired before the final race in Australia, after comparing the handling of the 643 F1 to that of a truck. Prost was replaced by Italian Gianni Morbidelli. The 1991 season would be the last in which Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet competed together, the four having won 93 of the 112 Grands Prix between them and all seven Drivers’ Championships during this period. Three times Champion Nelson Piquet retired at the end of the season, Mika Hakkinen ran the full season with Lotus and one Michael Schumacher started late in the season at the eleventh race in Belgium, for Jordan. In the never ending quest to slow the cars down the front wing was narrowed from 150 cm (59 in) to 140 cm (55 in), the rear overhang was reduced from 60 cm (24 in) to 50 cm (20 in) and the FIA added more stringent testing of the survival cell, the seat belts, the fuel tanks and rollbar.
Luca di Montezemolo, the team’s highly successful manager of the 1970s, became president of Ferrari in Nov., 1991, making it his personal goal to again win the F1 Constructors’ Championship. Niki Lauda was hired as a consultant and Claudio Lombardi became team manager. An all new F92 would be built for the 92 season, but would only continue the downhill ride. Ferrari would win no races between 1991 and 1993. For those into number spotting, Ferrari built 642s s/n 122, 123, 124, 125 and 126 plus 643 s/n 127, 128, 129 and 130 in the 1991 season. All survive.
For 1992 McLaren kept reigning World Champion Ayrton Senna, partnered with Gerhard Berger. Williams kept Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, Ferrari replaced Alain Prost, with Ivan Capelli and kept Jean Alesi, while Benetton kept Michael Schumacher, teamed with Martin Brundle. The season was dominated by Mansell in the Williams-Renault, winning the first five races of the season and becoming the first driver in F1 history to win nine races in a single season. Mansell sealed the Drivers’ Championship at the Hungarian Grand Prix in mid-August, with five races still to run; becoming the first Briton to win the championship since James Hunt in 1976. Senna won three races for McLaren-Honda but could only manage 4th in the championship. Mansell’s Williams teammate Patrese came 2nd and Michael Schumacher 3rd for Benetton-Ford, with his first win in Belgium. At season’s end Mansell was a comfortable world champion with 108 points, Patrese with 56 points, Schumacher with 53 points and Senna with 50 points. Alesi was 7th with 18 points and Capelli a distant 13th with only 3 points. Capelli was replaced by Nicola Larini after the 14th race in Portugal. Williams were the Constructors’ Champions with 164 points, McLaren in 2nd with 99 points, Benetton a close 3rd with 91 and Ferrari a distant 4th with 21 points. Capelli would later say that the F92A was the worst F1 car he raced in his career.
The Jean-Claude Migeot designed F92A raced in the first eleven races, with the updated F92AT racing in the latter stages of the season with a seven-speed transverse gearbox, a modified front and an up-dated underbody. The F92 was most noted for its “double-flat bottom” floor which made it difficult to setup and drive, scoring only two podiums and a total of 21 points. The F92AT driven in the last two races by Nicola Larini used the team’s first attempt at an active suspension, a 30 kg weight disadvantage to teammate Jean Alesi’s version. Larini finished 12th and 11th in his only drives with the team. The F92AT would be replaced by the F93A in 1993. For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F92s s/n 131, 132, 133, 134 and s/n 135 plus F92AT s/n 136, 137 and 138 in the 1992 season. S/n 135, 136, 137 and 138 were destroyed.
The well-funded top teams, such as Williams with the FW15C, had made the 1992 cars the most sophisticated F1 cars built to date. The 1992 championship-winning Williams FW15C, featured hydraulically and electronically controlled active suspension, power steering, anti-lock brakes, drive-by-wire controls, traction control, a semi-automatic gearbox that could be switched to fully automatic, highly sophisticated on-board telemetry, pneumatic engine valve springs and even a “push to pass” system that, in theory, made overtaking easier. Nearly all cars in 1993 had an active suspension system, which kept the car’s ride height consistent throughout a lap. Only the on-board telemetry and pneumatic valve springs would be allowed in 1994.
For the 1993 season the Jean-Claude Migeot designed F93A featured a red and white paint scheme rather than the normal all red, thanks to Marlboro sponsorship. The FIA also mandated that every cars’ track was reduced from 2.15 m (7.1 ft) to 2 m (6.5 ft) and the rear wheels and tires were narrowed in an effort to reduce cornering speeds and lap times. Gerhard Berger returned to partner Alesi at Ferrari, and in mid-season 1993 Jean Todt, who had led Peugeot to a win at Le Mans in 1992 and a 1-2-3 victory at Le Mans in 1993, was hired to be General Manager of the Racing Division, which had by then grown to a team of four hundred technicians! The worldwide recession of the early 1990s took its toll: the under-sponsored back marker Brabham, Andrea Moda and Fondmetal teams had dropped out in the 1992 season and March formally withdrew before the 1993 season. Only 13 teams with 26 cars would make the 1993 grid. Rear tires were reduced from 18 inches to 15 inches, overall width was reduced from 220 to 200cm and the rear wing height was reduced from 100 cms to 90 cms in the never-ending effort to slow the cars down.
Williams signed Prost after a “sabbatical” year in 1992. Team owner Frank Williams would not guarantee Mansell the number 1 driver status even though Mansell was the reigning Champion. Mansell opted to move to the IndyCar Series in the US, winning the 1993 Indy car Chamnpionship. Prost’s teammate at Williams would be Damon Hill, son of Graham Hill and Williams’s test driver in 1992. Prost would win his fourth Championship and his 50th F1 victory at the British Grand Prix, becoming the first driver to reach this milestone. Senna would finish 2nd after winning five races for McLaren-Ford while Prost’s teammate, Damon Hill, won three races to finish 3rd in the championship. The F93 was not competitive, Jean Alesi had only a single 3rd and nine DNFs to finish 6th with 16 points, while Berger finished 7th with a mere 12 points. Ferrari would finish 4th with 28 points to Williams with a staggering 168 points!
The F93A’s were all originally active suspension cars (except for s/n 146 and 147) and were later sold to private clients with the ECU’s removed. The factory refused to supply electronic parts and so several F39As were converted by English specialists using engine and gearbox ECUs from other F1 cars. When the Clienti program came along about 2002, the few cars in private hands then went back to the factory to be sold the ECU’s (most of which were made for Ferrari by Microsoft) and associated parts that should have been supplied with the cars when they were first sold. The F93 would be replaced by the much improved 412T for 1994. For those into number spotting, Ferrari built F93s s/n 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147 and 148. All except s/n 140 survive.
1994 was both tragic and controversial with the deaths of both rookie Roland Ratzenberger and three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna at the San Marino GP. For 1994 the FIA had banned on all electronic “driver aids” such as active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control and re-introduced refueling during the race for the first time since 1983. After Senna’s fatal crash at Imola the front wing, endplates and rear diffusers were reduced in size and the airbox now had holes cut into the engine cover, reducing power. From Germany onwards a 10mm wooden plank was fitted to the underside to reduce ground effect advantages and static ride height was raised. Wear was permitted on the plank up to 1mm by the end of the race.
John Barnard had left Benetton after a dispute with team boss Flavio Briatore and was joined, at the Scuderia, by Gustav Brunner, to design the 412T (4 valves, 12 cylinders) for the 1994 season. The T, for Transverse, as the gearbox was mounted in this way, improving rear-end weight distribution. The 412 featured heavily sculptured side pods and a sleek rounded nosecone, aiding aerodynamics, and was fitted with updated side pods and wings during the seasons. The 412Ts aerodynamics evolved, with a raised nose early in the season replaced by a low-mounted nose later in the season. Now the only V12 left in F1, the Tipo 043 engine race debuted at the German GP. It was designed from scratch by Claudio Lombardi and former Honda engine designer and exhaust specialist Osamu Goto, with a wider vee-angle from 65 to 75 degrees, a shorter stroke and pneumatic valve springs that upped the revs and thus the power, as just two larger valves could be used instead of the three lighter and smaller valves needed with traditional coil valve springs, giving over 830 bhp, with a unique high-rpm shriek! Thanks to the 043 engine, Berger and Alesi qualified 1-2 at Germany and Berger won the race, Ferrari’s first win in four years. The 412T had brought Ferrari back in competition after the disaster of the 1989-1993 seasons.
Schumacher won six of the first seven races for Benneton, taking a significant lead in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship, but at the 8th race of the season, at the British GP, Schumacher was given a five-second stop-go penalty for passing Hill on the parade lap. Schumacher stayed out beyond the three laps required to comply with the penalty, and was then shown the black flag, excluding him from the race. Benetton continued to negotiate the decision with race officials. Schumacher did return to the pits on lap 26, but only for the five-second stop-go penalty. He re-joined the race in third but was disqualified for ignoring the black flag and was banned for two races. At the 11th race of the season, in Belgium, Schumacher was again disqualified after the race because the wooden stepped flat bottom board on his car had worn away more than the permitted 10%. Williams’s driver Damon Hill won the next four races to reduce Schumacher’s lead to 92 points, versus Hill with 91 by the final race in Australia. Schumacher, like Senna before him, was up to his usual tricks and punted Hill while disputing the lead, knocking both out and giving the Championship to Schumacher. Berger would finish 3rd with 41 points after seven DNFs and Alesi 5th with 24 points after six DNFs. Ferrari would finish 3rd behind Williams and Benetton. Ferrari built 412 T and 412 T1b s/n 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154 and 155. All survive.
The FIA introduced major safety changes for 1995, including more crash testing of the nose and side pods, a larger cockpit, side protection structures for the driver’s helmet, a raised ride height and smaller front and rear wings. The under-tray now had a raised section about an inch higher under the side pods. Engines were reduced from 3.5 liters to 3.0 liters to lower speeds. Monza and Imola had increased run-off areas. Both Larrousse and Lotus dropped out, leaving 13 teams with 26 cars, ending pre-qualifying. Both Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger stayed with Ferrari.
The John Barnard and Gustav Brunner designed 412 T2, with the T for Transverse, was an improvement over the 412 T1, but not enough to bring Ferrari back into the fight. Alesi won in Canada, his only victory in F1 and both he and Berger finished on the podium in several other races, scoring 73 points in total. Schumacher won nine races in the championship, equaling Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record while continuing his rivalry with Williams-Renault driver Damon Hill, with collisions at the British and Italian Grands Prix. These races were won by Schumacher’s Benetton teammate Johnny Herbert, taking his first two F1 victories. Schumacher won the Championship with 192 points, Hill was second with 69 point, Alesi finished 5th with 42 points and Berger 6th with 31 points. Benneton won the constructor’s Championship with 137 points, Williams 2nd with 112 points and Ferrari a distant was 3rd with 73 points.
The 412T2 was the last Ferrari V12 F1 car to win a World Championship race with a V12 engine, the last F1 car to be powered by a V12 engine and the last Ferrari F1 car to use Agip fuel. At the end of the 1995 season, Jean Todt asked double world champion Michael Schumacher to join Ferrari. Schumacher agreed to put his skills to Todt’s mission at Ferrari, where the two established a friendship. Both Alesi and Berger moved to Benetton for the 1996 season. Once hired, Schumacher tested with the 412 T2 and declared the car to be “good enough to win a world championship”. Ferrari built 412 T2 s/n 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163 and 164. All survive.
The 639, 640, 641, 642, 643, F92, F93 and 412 T and 412 T have always been undervalued as they were rarely in the Championship hunt and are too new for the European or US Masters series, but are eligible to run up the hill at Goodwood and in Ferrari’s F1 Clienti program, being fast enough to keep out of the way of the new cars. Any of the surviving V12s series will sell in the low seven-figures and the few race winning cars, fifty percent more, if and when they come to market.
These are the last of the 3-pedal Ferrari F1 cars, and as the engines evolved they were increasingly built to such close tolerance that the engines were difficult to turn by hand when cold. Engine life improves substantially if they are pre-heated for an hour or more before starting, as they operate in a 40-degree window of water temp, from a start-up minimum of 90 degrees Celsius to 130 degrees max. They are the first of the laptop cars, using now obsolete 1990s laptops, and complicated enough that they need a small horde of ex-Ferrari F1 Client mechanics to operate. They have an excellent engine life if preheated and the rev limit is kept down.
This author argues that with 54 cars surviving they are the last of the Ferrari V12 F1 cars, user-friendly, relatively easy to operate (for an F1 car) and an absolute bargain as awesome interactive art in a world where a piece of colored canvas, such as Zeng Fanzhi’s “The Last Supper” sold for a stupendous $23.3m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale on 05 Oct., 2013. For those who don’t follow Zeng Fanzhi, rather than show Jesus and the Apostles in historical garb, Zeng substitutes cartoon masked Young Pioneers figures, a Chinese Communist youth group. For those looking for deep hidden meanings, The “Judas” figure sports a gold tie, supposedly a metaphor that Zeng uses to represent Western capitalism. Whatever! Drop us an e-mail if you have a Ferrari F1 car, or any F1 car, on your mind.
Starting in 1996 Ferraris would have Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine at the wheel in the all-new 3.0 liter F310, thanks to designer Ross Brawn and technical director Rory Byre, both from the Championship winning Benneton team. The F310 would be the first Ferrari to carry the new informational steering wheel with all the driver’s information in the center; the first of the two-pedal cars and the only car in the series to run a low nose, although a more aerodynamic higher nose was used from the 8th race, in Canada, onward. Schumacher had promised that “in 1996 we will win three GPs, then in 1997 we will challenge for the championship”. The 1995 Indy car champion and Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve would spoil his plans. The new F310 would indeed win three races in 1996, but that story will be part of the next column. Stand by for the 1996 to 2000 Schumacher-era.
Thanks to the following, in alphabetical order: John Amette, (Ferrari Newport Beach Classiche); Arnaud Blanfuney; Ross Bowdler; Andy Dayes; Trevor Griffiths; Alastair Henderson; Mike Matune; Paul Osborn (Cars International); Nigel Petas; Thor Thorson (Vintage Racing Motors) and Matthias Urban (f-register.com).