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GP Week : Issue 201
18 GPWEEK.com // 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: You'll have noticed that in this issue we are starting to compare this F1 season with 1988. That was the year that McLaren was so dominant, that Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 of the 16 Grands Prix between them. The 16th was a bit of a bizarre event, with Alain Prost dealing with a mis-firing engine for much of the race before retiring, but not before charging along on full turbo-boost to reportedly try and con team-mate and race leader Senna into having to use too much fuel to stay ahead (and possibly running out). Indeed, Senna appeared to be easing back in the late laps, and the prowling Ferrari duo of Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto began closing in. Would it have been a close one? We'll never know for, with two laps to go, in one of F1's more ludicrous moments, Senna was collected by the Williams he was lapping – being driven by test driver debutant Jean- Louis Schlesser (Nigel Mansell had smallpox). Schlesser had overshot element one of the first chicane, letting Senna through, but then veered back on the inside, collecting the McLaren, which spun to a halt with damaged suspension. Berger and Alboreto thus completed an unlikely Ferrari 1-2, at home. The tifosi went mad, and Jean- Louis – this was his first and only F1 start – got a lot of Italian fan mail ... Otherwise, 1988 was all about McLaren-Honda – 15 wins, 10 of them 1-2s. In a season where a driver could only count his best 11 race results, Prost scored more points but had to throw away points from three second places; Ayrton had less to scrap, and won the title. And then the war began ... So it's not hard to see why the first five races of 2014 are stimulating deja-vu moments. It will be intriguing to see how 2014 pans out if Mercedes continues to dominate as it is. The younger F1 fans among our readers are probably wondering why the golden Schumacher/ Barrichello years aren't figuring in this nostalgia-fest. After all, Michael and Rubens won 15 out of 17 races in 2002, with Rubens even snagging four – although three came after Michael had sewn up the title in record time; the fourth, at the Nurburgring, when Michael spun (yes, really – respected F1 writer Joe Saward reckoned he'd lost concentration while changing the music cassette, so bored was he way out in front!). The Ferrari team, reeling from the controversy of the Austrian GP 'team orders' call, didn't do the same (the title was all-but over by now), and so Rubens won. But all that is the reason why, for me at least, the season fast being drawn comparison with as Mercedes dominates, is 1988. Senna and Prost were free to race each other (and it got heavy the following year!) as, it seems are Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. I don't know if it's the Lauda influence, but, in this modern era of sporting pragmatism and team strategists, Mercedes desrves huge kudos for letting it go – so far. Ferrari couldn't, nor could Red Bull, so good on Mercedes. I hope it lasts. Twice now, Nico Rosberg has caught Lewis Hamilton later on in races, thanks to differing tyre strategies, and twice he's played the game, not putting anyone at risk. Maybe the pair will get through the year, as Senna and Prost did in '88, without drama – but the dramatist in me can't wait for one to 'throw it down the inside' of the other when push comes to shove ... In the meantime, let's enjoy the fact that Mercedes team bosses are allowing them to race. Like grown-ups. Otherwise it would be pretty boring ... lETTING THE BOYS BE BOYS OPINION OPINION CHRIS LAMBDEN