The year is 1988, Enzo Ferrari has recently passed away and the Tifosi look to the Prancing Horse’s Formula 1 team to pay tribute and on this day 35 years ago the Scuderia did just that by securing a famous 1-2 at Monza, putting an end to the dominant McLaren MP4-4’s winning streak.
The MP4-4 is still considered to be one of the greatest F1 cars of all time and prior to the 1988 Italian Grand Prix had won every single race of the year thanks to the supreme driver pairing of the enigmatic Ayrton Senna and ‘The Professor,’ Alain Prost.
The McLaren drivers had also been running rampant in qualifying that year, having secured all but one pole position prior to the Italian event. Unsurprisingly, Senna (1st) and Prost (2nd) lined up on the front row at Monza.
But Ferrari was the closest challenger to McLaren that day and had been for much of the ’88 season, albeit consistently a wide distance behind the Woking-based outfit, who led Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship in the run-up to the event by a colossal 103 points.
Gerhard Berger lined up third on the grid in Italy and his teammate Michele Alboreto lined up fourth in his F1-87/88C.
Senna and Prost led from the start in front of the two Ferraris and if you’d been watching the rest of the ’88 season you’d not be forgiven for thinking that would be how it would end.
As the race wore on Senna stretched his advantage over Prost and Prost was comfortably in front of the rest of the pack, but that would all change.
On Lap 31, Prost’s McLaren started to slow as a result of a loss of power and both Ferraris started to close in, passing the Frenchman on Lap 35. Prost retired to the pits for good soon after and one McLaren domino had fallen.
However, Senna remained in the race and was still clear out in front; the combination of the Brazillian and the MP4-4 was one that could only be overcome via extraordinary circumstances.
Enter, the extraordinary circumstances!
Starting the 50th and penultimate lap, Senna attempted to lap Williams’ Jean Louis Schlesser (who was standing in for Nigel Mansell, whilst the Brit suffered from chicken pox), but clipped the rear wheel of the Williams-Judd and wound up beached on the kerbs with a broken suspension.
Senna was out of the race.
Cue mass hysteria in Monza as Berger and Alboreto capitalised on McLaren’s misfortune to take one of the most popular 1-2 finishes in Italian Grand Prix history, less than a month after the passing of Ferrari founder Enzo.
The Italian crowd swarmed to the circuit to celebrate their Ferrari heroes on the podium for what would be the Italian marque’s only win of the year.
Ferrari’s triumph in Italy meant that McLaren fell one race short of completing a clean sweep in 1988. Fast-forward 35 years and Red Bull is on for a clean sweep of its own with the all-conquering RB19 creation.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have won all 14 of this year’s races so far, with Verstappen winning a record 10 straight.
Can the Milton-Keynes squad do what McLaren couldn’t and win every round in a single season, or will another team step up and spoil the party, just as Ferrari did in Monza, 35 years ago?