by Daniele Buzzonetti

Back at Brabham after 2 seasons, Riccardo has immediately beaten Senna’s recent and prestigious track record on the “short” Paul Ricard circuit.

Riccardo with new team-mate Elio De Angelis

LE CASTELLET – When he left Paul Ricard on Thursday afternoon, Riccardo Patrese was clearly a happy man. His innate winning temperament had finally emerged after a bitter period in which he suffered non-competitive cars. But, in order to demonstrate that his class is still there, the driver from Padua has not wasted any time: the reference point was the very recent record set by Senna, and “Rick” has beaten it a first time on Wednesday afternoon, after five o’clock, when the circuit was already dim in the evening shade. “I basically drove with my instinct, since in darkness I could not see very well the reference points in the curves”, Patrese commented the day after, when, while testing the new Pirelli quali tyres he obtained an even better time. Senna, at the end of his practice session, had clocked 58”7; with his Brabham Riccardo has reached 58”4; a record which shows his form and the level of the Pirelli tyres. We must note in fact that BMW had not supplied for the test any kind of special engine...

The Prodigal Son

In his strive to forget the recent unlucky seasons, the driver from Padua has jumped with enthusiasm into his testing duties, and the team has responded well

Brabham test - Paul Ricard

LE CASTELLET – His is in his 9th season in F1, has had beautiful days but, particularly in the past two seasons at Alfa, has gone through very bitter streaks. But, in terms of class, hunger for victory and mental strength, Riccardo Patrese is his usual self. After four days of tests at Paul Ricard Riccardo has demonstrated he is certainly amongst F1’s Top Drivers, and has silenced those who traditionally count him as too serious looking and shy. In fact, after beating Senna’s record, he was the face of happiness.

“Yes, the air is better at the top, especially after two unlucky seasons. But I want to forget those years; I am so focused on the 1986 season, that my Brabham comeback feels like the continuation of the 82-83 period, I found my old friends with which I already had a great relationship”.

Compared to then, it looks like Bernie Ecclestone has “rediscovered” you, and keeps saying around how good you are...

“Well, with Ecclestone I always had a relationship based on respect; but the team is not only Ecclestone: many other components count. In those seasons I believe that I always drove quite well, but in the end Piquet became World Champion and I obtained little. It is also true that Piquet had a peculiar relationship with the team, I won’t say I was mistreated, god forbid, but Nelson had been there for years, and had priority on everything. These things you don’t notice from outside, but they are important, the car is “made” by engineers and mechanics. I never complained of the equipment, which I believe was the same as Nelson’s, but that little extra care that Nelson’s car received counted for victory, while I rarely saw the finish line”.

Anyway your return to Brabham seems very positive …

Brabham test - Paul Ricard

“Certainly so, also because we parted as friends and there were no problems when I came back. With Elio De Angelis there should be no problems, since the Brabham team can certainly afford two number one drivers, with no need to set priorities. Also the car development will be carried out by both of us, and I would not exclude that we will test at Rio already with two cars. This is the advantage of being in a top team: drivers are required to deliver results at all costs, so they get the best possible equipment; if there is a new part they both get it, most of the times. First of all because the engineers receive double feedback, plus there are no driver complaints or frustrations. Then, in the race, we both do all we can”.

Do you feel more “charged up” now? Do you think you still have your strong attitude?

“Even with the Alfa I always did everything I could, especially towards the end, trying to conquer at least one point, which in the end we did not get. But, maybe, when the driver sees that all his efforts are vain, especially in a very difficult and litigious environment, maybe he thinks is giving it all, but in truth he doesn’t. In a top team I know I can always be at 110 per cent of my possibilities”.

Brabham test - Paul Ricard

How did you find Brabham and the BMW on the technical point of view? And the Pirelli tyres, which you have already experienced on the Arrows and on the Lancia Endurance, how are they?

“In terms of lateral grip and readiness the car is better than I remember, and I think a lot depends on the tyres. Thanks to the collaboration with Brabham and with the indications from Gordon Murray, which is exceptionally good at this, Pirelli has done some giant steps. However the cars aerodynamics have improved as well, it has more downforce. I would say that now it is not so difficult to drive; it is harder however to manage the engine power, it has enormous torque and the BMW is quite abrupt. Compared to my previous experience the power is much higher and you really feel the “kick”, you certainly do”.