Thirty years ago, the world lost Enzo Ferrari. The great man passed, and everyone was in mourning. Few more so than the Scuderia racing team, Enzo’s passion, and the project that had driven him for so many decades. Less than a month after Enzo’s death was the 1988 Italian Grand Prix. The teams was shattered, but still the Tifosi dreamed. This was, however, an unusual year, where the cards fell perfectly for the McLaren Honda team. Its advantage was huge: up to Monza, it had won every single race that season.
‘Only a miracle could see Ferrari win,’ said the Italian media in the build up to race day. Drivers Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto didn’t know that one was about to be granted… The two drivers were first out on track during Friday free practice. The rest of the grid allowed them to head out alone, as a mark of respect.
They proved fast in qualifying, too, lining up third and fourth places. The Ferraris were strong. Then, race day. The McLarens sprinted into the lead, but it wasn’t the dominant performance race fans had come to expect. Alain Prost was struggling at first, while Ayrton Senna had a commanding lead. Then, oddly, this began to be narrowed by Prost, forcing Senna to respond and push harder. Suddenly, Prost’s engine failed.
Another Honda had already broken down. Senna slowed up, to try and save fuel after pushing so hard earlier, and the Ferraris devoured his advantage. The crowd was on its feet, praying, willing the red cars to do the impossible for Enzo. With just two laps left to run, and the Ferraris just seconds behind, Senna encountered a Williams backmarker.
The rookie driver locked up. Senna dived to the inside line, but the Williams driver recovered – and hit Senna in the process. His rear suspension was broken. In an instant, the Ferraris were through. The Tifosi roared. Monza came alive. The moment was electrifying. They finished barely a second apart in an incredible, emotional finale. Berger won from Alboreto, the charging Italian, who set the fastest lap of the race. It was a Ferrari clean sweep.
The Tifosi’s dream was granted, for Enzo. McLaren went on to win every other race that season. Every race but the Italian Grand Prix. Was Enzo Ferrari watching on? Did fate intervene? Who knows. But this has gone down in history as one of the most memorable, amazing moments in Formula One. That day – September 11th, 1988 – the great man’s memory was marked in the most incredible way imaginable.