Features - News Feature

DECEMBER 1, 1990

Team by Team Review of 1990


Rather than produce a definitive 1990 F1 car, the philosophy at Maranello was to constantly change and update.

A Review of 1990, Team by Team:


Rather than produce a definitive 1990 F1 car, the philosophy at Maranello was to constantly change and update.

From the start of the season the team worked to update the 641 chassis and to develop the 641/2. New versions of the cars appeared from week to week. Chassis designer Enrique Scalabroni's 641 was a development of last year's 640, so the concept design, laid down originally by John Barnard remained, although Scalabroni and Steve Nichols refined many details.

Prost won in Brazil in the 641 and the 641/2 chassis made its first appearance in the week before the San Marino GP.

There was disaster at Monaco when both Prost and Mansell retired with battery failure but the 641/2 chassis gradually emerged as the fastest car in the mid-season. In Mexico Prost started 13th on the grid but came through to win, leading Nigel Mansell home in a dramatic 1-2 finish.

The new 037 engine was used for the first time by both drivers in qualifying for the French GP, although it was still not sufficiently reliable to run in races. Mansell took pole in both France and Britain but Prost won both races to take the lead in the World Championship.

Thereafter things were more difficult as McLaren came on song, but Mansell won in Portugal and Prost in Spain.

While Alain was challenging for the championship until the end of the year, the politics at Ferrari were frantic as ever, Scalabroni being among the victims, quitting the team at mid-season.


It was a good year for Ken Tyrrell. The team was restructured completely. A last-minute switch to Pirelli tyres paid off and Jean Alesi led the American Grand Prix in the old 018 chassis. After the Brazilian GP the team revealed its radically different 019 design. This featured a raised nose section and 'anhedral' front wings. The concept was the work of aerodynamicist Jean-Claude Migeot and Technical Director Harvey Postlethwaite. It was immediately quick and with Jean Alesi producing a string of sparkling performances, the results were never far away. In Monaco Jean finished second to Ayrton Senna's McLaren. On the faster tracks however the car lacked power to keep up with the multi-cylinder engines despite the best efforts of engine-builder Brian Hart who squeezed considerable power from the Cosworth DFR engines.

On the slower tracks Alesi was always a factor, although he tended to involve himself in rather too many incidents. By now Alesi was in demand and after chaotic contractual negotiations Jean joined Ferrari for 1991. He will be replaced by Stefano Modena. The new Honda V10-powered 020 chassis should guarantee continued competitiveness next season.


It was a mixed year for Williams with a series of highs and lows. When the cars were running reliably Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese were able to show well. More often than not however there were reliability problems with the engine and gearbox which restricted good results on sveeral occasions.

The Williams-Renault FW13B proved to be a difficult car to set up with the drivers complaining of insufficient grip.

The San Marino GP was a high point with Boutsen leading before his retirement and Patrese coming through on a late-race charge to win the race.

After little in the way of points at Monaco, Canada, Mexico and France, the British GP saw Boutsen finish second.

The high point of the year was Hungary where Boutsen and Patrese qualified on the front row and Thierry won the race despite strong pressure throughout. Thereafter reliability remained a problem.

After complicated contractual negotiations the team managed to secure the services of Nigel Mansell for 1991, while Boutsen left to go to Ligier. On the technical side, the arrival of Adrian Newey is sure to strengthen the team in 1991.


It was a dreadful season for Brabham with the troubles during the winter over the ownership of the team disrupting the money supply and the development of the new BT59. The programme ran a long way behind schedule throughout the season.

The team lost Martin Brundle before the season started and Gregor Foitek joined Stefano Modena for the first two races. Modena scored two important points in Phoenix with the BT58.

David Brabham replaced Foitek at San Marino and the team ran an interim design while waiting for the new transverse gearbox. When this finally arrived it proved initially difficult.

As the season progressed the lack of money meant that testing effectively stopped and the drivers had to guess settings for the races. This was particularly hard on Brabham who had little F1 experience to call upon.

The team announced that it had reached agreement to run Yamaha V12 engines in 1991 and worked hard to find sufficient sponsorship to run the team properly. In October Brundle agreed to return for the 1991 season, while Modena left to join Tyrrell.


The Footwork Arrows team had a complete clear out of staff at the end of 1989 with drivers Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick and designer Ross Brawn all moving on. In their places came Alex Caffi, Michele Alboreto and James Robinson.

Relying on an updated version of the A11 -- the A11B -- all season the team was often strong in the races but found qualifying to be difficult. At San Marino, for example, neither car qualified after engine troubles.

Generally Alex Caffi outran Michele Alboreto but Alex had a disruptive year, missing the American GP after a bicycling accident and damaging his ankle in a huge shunt which caused the Portuguese GP to be stopped. He was forced to miss the Spanish GP. Bernd Schneider stood in at both races.

Monaco proved relatively successful with Caffi surviving to finish fifth -- an important result given the team's lack of results up to that point.

While 1990 proved to be difficult, the team was looking ahead to 1991, having landed the Porsche V12 engine. Ex-Onyx technical director Alan Jenkins was hired to design the Porsche-engined A12 while James Robinson tried to develop the A11B. The car did improve during the season but it was really too old to make any impact.


It could not have been a worse year for Lotus. The Lamborghini-engined 102 was horribly unreliable and there were few results beyond a couple of minor placings. The programme was constantly behind schedule after early season oil supply problems. These were solved with major modifications but both Martin Donnelly and Derek Warwick complained that the car was very nervous in high-speed corners. The reliability did, however, improve and the pair were able to finish seventh and eighth at San Marino. On the faster tracks of Mexico, France and Britain the car was a real handful.

As the year progressed things went from bad to worse. Chief Designer Mike Coughlan left to join Benetton, Camel decided to pull out and were followed by Lamborghini. Warwick suffered a huge accident at Monza, but emerged unscathed. At Jerez a mechanical breakage saw the promising Martin Donnelly hurled from his car on impact with the barriers. He was lucky to survive. Johnny Herbert was drafted in to replace him.

At the Hungarian GP it was announced that Peter Collins and Peter Wright had joined the team to put together a new package for 1991.


Osella had a new look in 1990 with Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi largely taking over the running of the team from Enzo Osella. There was also a new driver in Olivier Grouillard.

The Antonio Tommaini-designed FA1Me suffered severe problems with the rear suspension all year, resulting in regular transmission and wheel-bearing problems. When it ran reliably it was quick enough to regularly escape from pre-qualifying. In the races, however, it was never truly reliable.

Many modifications were tried and progress was made while Rumi endeavoured to put together a more competitive package for the 1991 season, with plans for a new factory.

Without any results, however, Osella remains stuck in pre-qualifying and reliability must be found if this is to change. In late summer the team signed an option with F3000 driver Paul Belmondo to test for the team and, if the finance can be found, to drive a second car in 1991.


Of all the teams Leyton House worked harder than any to try to turn around the misfortune which has dogged the team for the last year. After disastrous showings in Phoenix and Sao Paulo, the team returned to Europe and immediately embarked on a huge testing programme.

Sadly matters were made more difficult when team manager Ian Phillips fell victim to meningitis and was out of action for many months. The team thus suffered something of a leadership vacuum.

The CG901 was aerodynamically very advanced but at the same time it is extremely sensitive to change. In Mexico both Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin failed to qualify and shortly afterwards technical director Adrian Newey and chief draftsman Tim Holloway left the team. Newey was replaced by Chris Murphy from Lola.

Before he departed Newey completed major modifications for the car and these proved extraordinarily successful at the French GP with the cars running 1-2 for a large part of the race. Capelli had to give way to Prost in the final laps. The improvement was consolidated by another good showing at the British GP where Capelli ran third before retiring with a fuel feed problem but thereafter the car continued to suffer on bumpy tracks and there were few results. Planning for the future, however, the team signed a deal to run the new Ilmor V10 engine in 1991 in a Murphy-designed chassis.


The AGS team had another confused year. Initially Hugues de Chaunac ran the team and the new JH25 chassis was rushed out to replace the difficult JH24 which managed to qualify just once in its career.

The JH25 was the work of Michel Costa and features some interesting aerodynamic refinements. It proved to be a very nervous car, particularly over bumps.

Internal politics saw de Chaunac and Claude Rouelle both leave the team after the Canadian GP, at which point the new car had to failed to pre-qualify on all occasions. At the French GP the team was joined by Swiss ex-Leyton House engineer Peter Wyss. Things began to improve with both Yannick Dalmas and Gabriele Tarquini escaping pre-qualifying. Thereafter further improvement saw Dalmas able to finish ninth in Spain.

Although there are signs of improvement the constant turnover of staff has not helped the team, which needs internal stability and more finance to facilitate further testing in order to progress.


A bitter-sweet year for Benetton. After showing moderately well in the American and Brazilian Grands Prix with the B189, the Benetton team returned to Europe to unveil its new B190 design, the work of Rory Byrne and his staff at Witney, with input from John Barnard's new Advanced Research Group at Godalming.

Following Barnard's arrival there was a gradual change of team members in recent months as the old Benetton men were replaced by Barnard's chosen experts. He brought Giorgio Ascanelli from Ferrari, Mike Coughlan from Lotus and factory manager Peter Rheinhardt from Onyx. The changeover produced some friction within the team.

At the same time a lot of energy was expended setting up the team's new development facility. The B190 proved to be effective. At the Canadian GP the team introduced a new rear undertray which improved handling dramatically. Things were not easy, however, for although Nelson Piquet finished second in Montreal and ran strongly in Mexico the team destroyed three of the new chassis in three races which added to the strain. The new Series IV Ford V8 engine debuted at the British GP but it was Germany where the new power unit really made its mark, Sandro Nannini leading the race and ultimately finishing second. Sandro looked like winning in Hungary until taken off by Senna's McLaren.

Things continued to go well with Nannini third at Jerez and then, sadly, he was badly injured in a helicopter accident. He was replaced by Roberto Moreno.

After Jerez Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds left the team to join the planned Reynard F1 team.


The Dallara team ran its new BMS190 chassis from the start of the year and it proved, like its predecessor, to be very good on high-downforce tracks, but less easy to handle on fast circuits. The major problem proved to be a lack of engine power and reliability and with no results the team ran into the danger of falling into pre-qualifying. When Dalmas took ninth place at Jerez for AGS, Dallara dropped into the 1991 pre-qualifiers.

Andrea de Cesaris was joined by Emanuele Pirro, although the Roman missed the first two races with hepatitis, being replaced by Gianni Morbidelli. As the year progrssed Pirro proved to be slightly quicker than de Cesaris, but neother driver could finish the races.

After Monaco engineer Christian Vanderpleyn quit the team to join Subaru-Coloni, but later the team hired young British aerodynamicist Nigel Cowperthwaite. Negotiations were in hand for the team to have a supply of the Ford V8 engines for 1991 but the team was passed over and Ford decided to supply customer versions of the engine to the new Jordan Grand Prix team. Scuderia Italia thus concluded a deal to run with Judd V10s.


After the first two races Minardi introduced the new M190 and, at the same time, announced a deal to run Ferrari V12 engines in 1991.

At San Marino Martini crashed an M189 in qualifying and damaged an ankle. He was back in action at Monaco and quickly showed that he had lost none of his pace, qualifying eighth. He retired early on with engine problems. The new car was an improvement on last year's successful M189 but with Pirelli qualifying tyres being threatened by Goodyear's new rubber and the Cosworth DFR increasingly short of power against the bigger engines, Minardi struggled. Paolo Barilla was not been able to get anywhere near the pace of Martini and as the season progressed he failed to qualify more often. He was replaced by Gianni Morbidelli before the Japanese GP, the youngster also concluding a deal for 1991 and 1992 when the team will be more competitive thanks to its deal with Ferrari.


The Ligier team stuck with the JS33B for 1990, the decision being taken to wait until an engine deal was finalised before building a new car. After Brazil the team ran many miles at Imola and Paul Ricard with Philippe Alliot and Nicola Larini sharing the work. The testing was successful with the car proving much more competitive than it had been in its original form.

The heavy testing programme improved reliability, but the major problem, like many of the Cosworth DFR teams, was a lack of power and, with the top teams proving to increasingly reliable, points were very hard to find. One major weakness was the gearboxes. At the mid-season Ligier dropped into pre-qualifying but when Monteverdi folded the team escaped once more. Alliot was quick in qualifying when the car was right, but Larini proved much more reliable in the race, finishing the majority of the races. Both however were dropped at the end of the year with Thierry Boutsen and F3000 Champion Erik Comas being hired. The team lined up a Lamborghini deal for 1991 with Renault engines in 1992. Things should improve.


Although McLaren had the Honda V10 engine -- the strongest in the business -- the MP4/5B chassis was not particularly good and both Gerhard Berger and Ayrton Senna complained about being unable to find a good set-up on occasion. As Ferrari improved in the mid-season McLaren seemed to drop back a little, although development brought the car back up to speed.

Senna won in Phoenix, Monaco and Canada, early in the year and then added victories in Germany, Belgium and Italy to take a healthy lead in the championship. Prost however fought back for Ferrari.

Berger's early season was spoiled by his difficulties fitting into the cockpit. This was improved and the Austrian showed that he is a match for Senna on occasion, although he could rarely touch Senna in the races.

The team tried the new Honda V12 engine at Silverstone in late June and a development programme for the new engine began to bear fruit with Senna setting quick times with the engine in the autumn.

Although under pressure this year McLaren fought back and will gain from the arrival of engineers Gordon Kimball and Henri Durand in 1992.


The new Larrousse-Lola-Lamborghini 90 chassis appeared for the first time shortly before the San Marino Grand Prix and both Eric Bernard and Aguri Suzuki were able to pre-qualify without trouble. At San Marino both cars retired but at Monaco Bernard finished sixth to gain an important point to help the team escape from pre-qualifying. Canada and Mexico were fraught with problems as the two youngsters had several crashes and engine problems. At the same time the team lost Murphy, who departed to become design director at Leyton House. At the French GP Larrousse unveiled its new high-tech factory at Paul Ricard and both cars ran strongly. At the British GP things were even better with the young pair both running in the points. If Suzuki had not suffered a puncture in the closing laps he would have been third and on the podium. As it was the Japanese rising star finished sixth and Bernard took fourth. The team duly escaped from pre-qualifying.

The team remained competitive but at Monza came the news that Lamborghini would not be supplying Larrousse with engines in 1991, leaving the team without a competitive engine. It was a disaster. Bernard and Suzuki have re-signed for 1991 both having proved that they are potential stars of the future.


The Coloni team stumbled on. The attempts to pre-qualify using Carlo Chiti's Subaru flat 12 boxer engine were disastrous and the modified Coloni C3 chassis looked unwieldy and refused to handle. The team did not have sufficient finance to complete any real testing and Bertrand Gachot was unable to get anywhere near the pace. Things were not been helped by considerable confusion in the team management and ownership. Enzo Coloni disappeared from the scene at the Monaco GP and it seemed that Subaru was going to look after the project directly. At the French GP the Japanese manufacturer decided to get out of F1 with immediate effect. Enzo Coloni retook control of the team and from the German GP onwards the team used Langford & Peck-prepared Cosworth DFR engines. Things improved with Gachot managing to pre-qualify, but the car was too slow to make it into the races. A frustrating season for Gachot.


The EuroBrun team was a mess all season with the team struggling to find money to keep going from day-to-day. As a result there was no testing programme and parts supply was badly disrupted. The ER189B was designed over a year ago and, although basically a good car, it was not developed as it should have been. The team was joined by Dutch engineer Kees Van der Grint, a longtime friend of Roberto Moreno, and the pair worked well together at the races with Roberto a regular pre-qualifier in the mid-season. With Goodyear improving its qualifying tyres the job became more difficult for Pirelli runners.

Claudio Langes ran the second car at all races but without money his involvement in the north American races was purely to ensure that there were two cars present to avoid the team being fined by FISA. The team is not capable of running one car let alone two, so Claudio's efforts are being wasted.

The team closed down before the Japanese GP.


After a winter of chaos, Peter Monteverdi's takeover of Onyx looked like being a lifesaver for the team, but the Swiss businessman was forced, through lack of finance, to initiate major financial cutbacks. In doing so he lost technical director Alan Jenkins, who was followed by driver Stefan Johansson.

The ORE1-B was little more than an updated version of last year's car, with a much stiffer monocoque, but otherwise little of note.

From San Marino onwards JJ Lehto was joined by Gregor Foitek.

Monteverdi next decided he would have to relocate the racing team in Switzerland and close down the team's manufacturing base at Fontwell. The decision to relocate was met with resistance within the team and the majority of the mechanics left. They were replaced by Swiss mechanics and thereafter the team never looked like qualifying.

Foitek quit the team in Hungary and it folded shortly before the Belgian Grand Prix, the victim of too many unpaid bills.


The Life W12 has proved to be hopelessly uncompetitive. It completed only handful of laps in the entire season. There was almost no testing and at races the Life W12 engine seldom lasted more than a couple of laps. The original driver Gary Brabham left the team before San Marino and was replaced by Bruno Giacomelli but even with the technical expertise of the veteran F1 star the team did not progress. The majority shareholding of the team was sold to an Italian consortium led by Daniele Battaglio and a contract was signed with the Russian Pikowski company, but there was no sign that any money was pumped into the project.

In the mid-season the team decided to give up trying to develop the complex W12 engine and bought Judd V8s from Leyton House. The first of these was fitted for the Portuguese GP but there was no improvement. The only conclusion from all this was that the team was not capable of being in F1.