“For really there is nothing like wings for getting you into trouble. But, on the other hand, if you are in trouble, there is nothing like wings for getting you out of it.”
~Edith Nesbit – Five Children and It~
Round three of the 1990 season would take place at the San Marino circuit in Italy, where, to quote Murray Walker, “Motor racing is a religion, their god is Ferrari, the only colour that matters is scarlet and the magic symbol is the prancing horse.” It was here that Tyrrell first appeared sporting their state-of-the-art anhedral front wing which resulted in the first high nose on a Formula One Car.
Gerhard Berger grabbed the advantage off the lights and outstripped the pack into Tamburello. Nevertheless, by the time the cars were going through Villeneuve Chicane, Ayrton Senna had gained the ascendance and left the ensemble of cars battling for position behind him.
On lap three Senna’s right rear tyre deflated resulting in his now recalcitrant car skating into the sand trap and becoming beached, and Thierry Boutsen proceeded to inherit he lead. It was on lap four that small puffs of smoke were first seen emanating from the rear of Mansell’s car, with coinciding concerns that his engine would be able to last race distance.
After Boutsen was forced to retire on Lap 17 due to an engine failure, Berger was handed the lead with just under six seconds covering the top four cars. Mansell continued to close the gap to Berger, passing Riccardo Patrese for second on Lap 22 while coming through the Tamburello corner, much to the delight of the Tifosi who were starting to taste the possibility of a Ferrari victory.
By lap 35 he was right on Berger’s rear wheel, and as they came around the fast Tamburello corner he moved to the left to pass. It appeared that Berger was not expecting the move as he also moved his car to the left and Mansell was forced to take evasive action by migrating onto the grass. He did a complete 360-degree spin, and despite going 190 miles per hour, controlled his car so expertly that it finished up in the middle of the track, facing in the correct direction. He lost only two seconds despite his spectacular off-track excursion and after taking a lap to check his tyres hadn’t been flat-spotted by his spin, he recommenced pursuing Berger’s car.
Mansell’s supreme form continued and he was rapidly catching Berger when on lap 38 his repeatedly smoking engine suddenly expired in a huge billow of smoke. His brilliant chase for the win had been bought to a premature close.
While Mansell had been closing in on Berger, Patrese had also been catching up in his Williams and on lap 51 passed Berger for first place and eventually the win. It had been over seven years since the 36-year-old driver’s last victory and even though it wasn’t the hoped-for Ferrari victory for the Tifosi, it was still an Italian winning at home. Jean Alesi, in his new Tyrrell, finished in the points with sixth place.
Tyrrell designer Harvey Postlethwaite explained that “If you thought of a Formula One car going through the tunnel at Monte Carlo, if it were possible, it could actually go through on the roof because there is so much downforce pushing it down that that equivalent force upwards would actually make it stick to the roof.”