Features - News Feature
SEPTEMBER 1, 1990
Crawling from the wreckage: Derek Warwick's demolition derby at Monza
BY JOE SAWARD
His words after his enormous accident exiting the Parabolica were chilling in their determination.
"I was following Mauricio Gugelmin and I just got too close," he said calmly. "I lost front downforce and the car started to understeer. As soon as I touched the grass, it went into the barriers."
It was a terrifying accident, not least for the Italian marshal at the scene who had to dive for his life as chunks of Lotus-Lamborghini came over the wall at him.
"I was conscious all the time," explained Derek. "As soon as the car started to slide upside-down, I began to organise mentally, because I was afraid of fire. When the car stopped I thought of getting out, but I was scared that someone might hit me as I was coming out.
"My first reaction after that was 'I'm okay' and my second was, 'spare car'."
Derek ran back to the pits to take the spare. Within a few minutes he was back on the grid -- ready to go again.
He took the start and ran 11th until he was hobbled by clutch problems. It was yet another disappointment.
"I think I'm feeling more bitter than at any time in my career," he said. "I feel I'm doing a good job but I'm very disappointed, as disappointed as I have ever been in any year. I really thought we had something. I thought Frank Dernie, Lamborghini and Lotus was the right package.
"The team has a lot of potential. We've got some good people. The race team is the best race team I have ever raced for. They have saved the day a little for us in the times when it was really difficult. A lot has been learned in the course of the year. It'll be a bit of a shame if they don't get Lambgorghini engines for next year -- because they could build a competitive package for next season.
"What is important is that I am driving well at the moment and I have done all year. I'm fit, I'm still 110% committed and I suppose I feel a little bit aggravated when I see all of F1 waiting on what Jean Alesi does and how Frank (Williams), Ken (Tyrrell) and Ferrari sort out the problem with his contract.
"Obviously no-one knows everything that has gone on, but my personal opinion is that he has been badly advised and, for someone as professional as he seems to be, he should come off the fence and make his decision. He is losing credibility hand over fist. It's a shame because potentially he is world championship stuff.
"You know, I look around and see the hype surrounding Alesi and I realise just how fickle motor racing is. Ivan Capelli -- who I rate far more than Alesi now, because Jean is not yet the complete package -- was flavour of the month 18 months ago, but up until the French GP nobody could spell his name!
"The people that matter -- team managers and team owners -- I think sometimes base their decision on guesswork.
"I spoke to a fairly important team person a couple of weeks ago. I was talking about what they were doing with drivers and whether or not I had any chance.
He said 'Well, the trouble is Derek that you're running alongside Donnelly. Nine times out of 10 you are quicker than Martin, but who is he?'
"I turned round to him and said: 'Donnelly is the guy who was quite often quicker than Alesi in F3000.' This guy sort of looked at me strangely. I really think people don't understand what is going on out there.
"I think it is going to be bad for British motor racing when Nigel Mansell retires. With Nigel will probably go a lot of media coverage and we can't really afford to lose that."
Does Derek think that he is the forgotten man?
"Well, I suppose people can say that I've had my chances with Renault. I can look back and, with my hand on my heart, say that at the time I was doing a good job and it was just unfortunate that I was at Renault in 1985 -- when it all went wrong. I do feel that I have been passed over a little bit at times, but what's the point of talking about what could have happened and what should have happened.
But what about the future?
"A lot of people are asking me if I am interested in sportscar racing next year," he explains. "I've had two very good offers which are open until the end of this month. My priority is F1 I don't want to get out of F1. I'm still good enough to be in F1. If I get the chance to drive what I consider to be a top car I'll stay here."
Derek's name has been linked to Williams. Is there any chance?
"He's got himself into a bit of knot," said Derek. "I think he was used a bit by Ayrton (Senna) to strengthen Ayrton's own case. It seems to me that someone like Williams needs a driver who can beat the table and pull them together. Potentially they have one of the strongest packages in Grand Prix racing, they just need someone with some aggression and direction."
Is that someone Derek Warwick?
"Yes, I could do a good job for Frank. I always look at Williams as the workman-like team. They are not confused by all the sponsorship and PR and glamour, they just want to do a good job. I feel that I could do a good job.
"I am aggressive, I am hungry. I think now is the time for me to move into something with the right package."