The political skirmishes behind Benetton’s F1 turning point
The Benetton B190 was a pivotal point in the team’s journey from the Formula 1 midfield to title-winning greatness, as STUART CODLING explains
McLaren’s almost absolute dominance of the 1988 Formula 1 season had many consequences, some almost unseen. In Italy it fertilised seeds of doubt over Ferrari’s decision to poach John Barnard from McLaren and indulge his requirements of setting up a design facility near Godalming so he could drive home for lunch. After all, il Mago (‘the magician’) had yet to deliver a win for Maranello, besides the inherited one at Monza, while McLaren seemed to be getting along perfectly well without him.
Elsewhere in that country the wealthy Benetton dynasty were also musing over the wisdom of their Formula 1 investments. The family-owned knitwear company had entered F1 as a sponsor before acquiring the struggling Toleman team at the end of 1985. Progress seemed rapid at first – from the low bar of having to acquire the assets of the defunct Spirit team just to put tyres on the cars at the beginning of that season. Toleman had high-calibre engineers, including Rory Byrne and Pat Symonds, and wanted only for resource; the ’85 car was its first carbon monocoque to be built in-house.