The forgotten F1 lap that fueled Interlagos’ love

There have been a lot of famous trips at Interlagos over the years that will be talked about for generations to come. Ayrton Senna’s emotional home win is often cited, who stayed sixth at the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix, while Juan Pablo Montoya’s F1 drive came 20 years later after a powerful pass by Michael Schumacher. Felipe Massa backed his end of the bargain in the famous 2008 championship with a dominant victory, while his victorious opponent that day Lewis Hamilton became the last driver to produce the Interlagos Championship in 2021 by challenging Max Verstappen after the 10th start.

It would therefore be easy to overlook Gianni Morbidelli’s career sixth-place finish at the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix in a mediocre Alan Jenkins footing, 0.312 seconds behind Damon Hill’s Williams FW16 for six grand prix that year and just barely missing out on the title. the scientist.

The Italian describes the lap as “one of the most satisfying [giving] which I had in my life”, not least because he came on his first race after missing the 1993 Formula 1 season while racing in a Super Touring with Alfa Romeo. Unfortunately, his race only lasted five laps before the gearbox broke to deny him potential points , given that fourth-placed Jordan Rubens Barrichello started eight places behind him on the grid.

“We only did 120km or something before traveling to Sao Paulo, and I qualified sixth on the grid,” recalls Morbidelli, who identified his 2,677-mile course as his favorite in a conversation with Autosport.

“In that period don’t forget that there were two Ferraris, two Williams, two McLaren, two Benetton, two Tyrrell, they were fast. It was very difficult to get into the top 10 and I finished sixth straight away. That was the car. Amazing, best car I’ve ever driven.”

Morbidelli had a stalled career in Formula One that counted 67 major races starting between 1990 and 1997, including one for Ferrari as a replacement for Alain Prost who was turned away at the seasonal 1991 Australian Grand Prix.
He completed only three full seasons during that time, and also exited the entire 1996 season after scoring the only Formula 1 podium at the Australian Grand Prix that ended in the 1995 season, before returning for a partial campaign at Sauber in 1997.

Morbidelli (right, with Scuderia Italia teammate Andrea de Cesaris) made his F1 debut at Interlagos in 1990

Photography: Ercol Colombo

His F1 career technically began in Phoenix in 1990 when the Italian F3 champion stepped into the Scuderia Italia Dallara team to replace hepatitis-stricken Emmanuel Perot. But he did not qualify for the race because a crash on a tough street track that prevented him from setting a competitive time left him unable to respond when the rain made further improvement impossible.

So it was on the Brazilian track where Morbidelli – who spent 1990 testing Ferrari while racing for Forti in the International Formula 3000 – made his F1 racing debut before climbing full-time with Minardi for 1991. But Morbidelli says his choice was not There is all this connected to the feelings of his first start in Formula One, when he was the last secret sprinter in 14th place. He cites several high-speed tracks with ripples as the highlights, with Mugello Show, Suzuka, Portimao also among his favourites.

The 54-year-old, who is coaching today, explains: Two drivers in the Italian version of the Academy’s Mini Challenge scheme, backing Italian Carrera Cup driver Giorgio Amati.

“It was impossible to describe, an emotion and something that only drivers who drove in that period with these cars and those tyres would understand.” Gianni Morbidelli

“I got out of the car and said, ‘Wow, I really liked that.’ It was very bumpy for the period, but it was nice.

“I always like the track with ups and downs with these very fast corners where you can’t breathe, but for me the best option is Sao Paulo.”

Morbidelli liked many of the elements of the track, citing Senna S opening lap and right-up double from Turn 6 and 7 where “you feel all the gravitational force, you feel all the emotions that Formula 1 can give you”.

“It was unbelievable in corners like this, especially in that period we had soft tires for some sort of qualifying tire and you had to push a lot,” he says. “The difference between the tires we used in the race and the tires we used in qualifying was something like two seconds, a big difference, so it was also difficult to understand the car’s limits, the tire limits, your limit.

Morbidelli qualified sixth in his career at the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix in low-football Alan Jenkins.

Morbidelli qualified sixth in his career at the 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix in low-football Alan Jenkins.

Photo by: Sutton Pictures

“It was impossible to describe, an emotion and something that only drivers who drove in that period with these cars and those tyres would understand.”

Morbidelli adds that the counterclockwise track – his first time driving an F1 car on a mostly left-handed track – “was very physically challenging” when he made his Formula 1 arc.
With his head exposed and no headrest to rely on during the quick last sector of the brooms – “it’s not like they’re now protected and able to relax a bit with the head on lateral support” – he even admits he was hoping to be sidelined due to mechanical issues So, “I immediately understood that I had to work even harder.”

“I was so tired during that grand prix that I prayed my engine would fail,” he says. “I used to see the Grand Prix all the time on TV and [they would] The engine always breaks, I always have a mechanical problem – so why doesn’t this happen to me? It was so hard, when I finished it was like fighting a boxing match [Mike] Tyson. I have destroyed!

“But I was so happy. It was like touching the stars with your hand, it was an incredible experience.”

He did not score any points in five matches in Brazil, but finished eighth with Minardi in 1991 and was seventh the following year with the same team.

Morbidelli struggled physically after jumping straight out of F3 on his F1 debut at Interlagos

Morbidelli struggled physically after jumping straight out of F3 on his F1 debut at Interlagos

Photo by: Sutton Pictures

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