Welcome

Hello and welcome to Turbos and Tantrums, an attempt to tell the story of modern Formula One, which for various reasons expanded on in the introduction I have declared to begin with the 1981 season – largely because you’ve got to start somewhere.

For each season, I’ll start with a review of the teams and drivers competing in the new season, and proceed through each race chronologially, making an attempt to avoid writing with hindsight or anticipating events yet to come. No “the first of many victories to come” or “this would turn out to be his last victory in F1 even though he continued driving for several years”. Just the story of the season unfolding as it did at the time.

The aim, such as it is, is to look at the narrative of the ongoing seasons. Although we may know who won the championship in a given year, it may surprise some and come as a nice reminder to others the way in which that was achieved, the characters and “sub-plots” woven through the main championship battles and so on.

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1992 Brazilian Grand Prix

220px-Circuit_Interlagos.svgAutódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos
5 April 1992

Two races so far, and two rather dull demonstration runs by the Williams team who had got their car working great straight out of the box. In Brazil, McLaren hoped to stage their big comeback and give the home fans something to cheer for. They had brought no fewer than six cars with them – three each of 1991’s MP4/6 and the new MP4/7A – alongside 45 McLaren staff, 23 Honda staff and nine tons of parts: this was serious business for the Woking team.

The Andrea Moda team was again the centre of headlines – both drivers having been outspoken in their criticism of the car and team management, Caffi and Bertaggia had been summarily sacked and replaced with Roberto Moreno and British rookie Perry McCarthy. However, in what was beginning to look like FISA persecution of the team, Perry’s issued and paid-for Superlicence was withdrawn on a technicality and only Moreno was able to run. Pre-Qualifying was back on for the first time in 1992, though in the absence of McCarthy all but one car would make it through.


Moreno 92.jpg34. Roberto Moreno br

The ever-cheerful Roberto had certainly had a roller-coaster 1991 season, having a decent if unspectacular season as Piquet’s number two at Benetton before being summarily dumped in favour of Michael Schumacher and appearing for both Jordan and Minardi before the season was out. If the Andrea Moda car has any potential, Moreno will find it.


In the circumstances, perhaps it was hardly surprising that Moreno was that one non-prequalifier, over 16 seconds adrift of Gachot’s fastest time in the Larrousse, but the car Image result for 1992 brazilian grand prix sennahad at least turned a wheel in anger. In qualifying proper, McLaren demonstrated their essential problem: the old car was too slow and the new one wasn’t working yet. As Senna and Berger swapped from old to new and back again and the mechanics worked frenziedly to fix electronic gremlins, swap out gearbox components and replace the three blown Honda V12s over Saturday’s session. Eventally, they managed third and fourth on the grid, but Senna was a full second off second-placed Patrese who was in turn just over a second off Mansell’s pole time. In the dying minutes of qualifying, Mansell – trying to play mind games with Senna by blasting past in the Williams – lost his Williams and clouted a wall, but was luckily unharmed. Schumacher qualifed fifth, Alesi sixth and Brundle seventh, with Capelli back in eleventh amid rumours (already) that he will need to buck up his ideas if he wants to see the season out with Ferrari. At the back, the two Lotus drivers could only manage 24th Image result for 1992 brazilian grand prix amati(Häkkinen) and 26th (Herbert) following their good performances so far, complaining of “no grip”, and the four non-qualifiers were Chiesa (Fondmetal), Belmondo (March) and the two Brabhams once again – with Amati looking particularly out of her depth, a full five seconds off next-slowest van de Poele and nearly 11 off Mansell’s pace.

The lights went green and once again both Williams cars got away perfectly – this time with Patrese going into the lead and Senna retaining third from a charging Schumacher. In the Sunday morning warm-up, the Williams cars had been a massive 2 seconds a lap faster than anyone else, and it looked like that was going to be the case in the race too as Image result for 1992 interlagos alesi brundlethey started cruising away from Senna in the new MP4/7A, who soon began holding up a train of cars as Schumacher, Alesi, Brundle, Martini, Wendlinger, Boutsen, Capelli and de Cesaris all queued up behind. By lap 10 the Williams twins were a whopping 22 seconds ahead of Senna; three laps later Schumacher finally lunged past and set about seeing if he could catch them. On lap 18, Senna peeled into the pits, drove straight into the garage, got out and walked of without a word. Berger was already gone, faltering with electrical problems until retiring from last place on lap 5. The new MP4/7A’s debut had been a disaster, to put it mildly.

With Mansell shadowing Patrese and Schumacher a distant half-minute behind, the interest was further back as Alesi and Brundle were conducting a fine scrap over fourth and Johnny Herbert had charged from 26th on the grid into the top ten. On lap 24, Schumacher stopped for tyres, re-emerging tenth. Next wast the Alesi/Brundle battle, in and out together and down to seventh and eighth. Next was Mansell, in from second and out again in 8.5s. Emerging on fresh tyres, he began to charge as everyone waited for Patrese to make his stop. On lap 31 he came in, and this time the stop took 9.1s, putting him back on the track second behind Mansell.

Image result for 1992 interlagos alesiBrundle, meanwhile, had been trying his utmost to get past Alesi and on lap 31 he found a way past at the Senna S, only for Alesi to slam the door hard, make contact and send the Benetton out with a broken wheel and a furious driver. This promoted Ivan Capelli into fifth, fighting hard to keep it with a reinvigorated Michele Alboreto driving an excellent race in the Footwork sixth. Behind him was Herbert, having made up a stunning 19 places on his grid position, and in 8th and 9th the Ligiers of Comas and Boutsen – reputed to have fallen out in a big way with each other. Both eager to get ahead of the other, and both wanting to get ahead of Herbert and have a shot at the points, on lap 37 Boutsen lunged inside Comas at the end of the pit straight, touched and spun, collecting Herbert on the way into the gravel trap. Comas was now seventh, but it wasn’t to last: he was out five laps later with a gearbox failure. Häkkinen had also charged up to 8th by this point and was hoping that some mishap would yet strike the cars ahead of him to continue Lotus’ streak of sixth places.

On lap 54, Mansell and Patrese lapped third-placed Michael Schumacher to underline their sheer, overpowering dominance. Häkkinen’s fine drive was scuppered when he lost all his gears except third and he dropped back but valiantly kept going to finish tenth and last, four laps down.

Image result for 1992 interlagos patreseMansell and Patrese thus cruised to a third successive Williams 1-2, and with Schumacher third once more, the podium was exactly the same as in Mexico. Alesi and Capelli brought their Ferraris home fourth and fifth, an encouraging double-finish for the team but still some way off looking like a competitive car, and Michele Alboreto picked up the last point for Footwork – the team’s first point since Monaco 1990, almost two years ago, and Alboreto’s first since standing on the podium for Tyrrell in Mexico 1989.

Next up was the Spanish Grand Prix – the first of the European season and the race where many teams planned to introduce new cars. Would any of them be able to challenge Williams, and would it be too late to overturn Williams, Mansell and Patrese’s considerable leads in both championships? With nearly a month until the race in Barcelona, a lot of teams had a lot of work to do.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 30
2 Riccardo Patrese 18
3 Michael Schumacher 11
4 Gerhard Berger 5
5 Ayrton Senna 4
6 Jean Alesi 3
7= Andrea de Cesaris 2
7= Ivan Capelli 2
8= Johnny Herbert 1
8= Mika Häkkinen 1
8= Michele Alboreto 1

Constructors’ Championship

 

POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 48
2 Benetton-Ford 11
3 McLaren-Honda 9
4 Ferrari 5
5= Lotus-Ford 2
5= Tyrrell-Ilmor 2
7 Footwork-Mugen Honda 1

1992 Mexican Grand Prix

220px-Autódromo_Hermanos_Rodríguez.svgAutódromo Hermanos Rodriguez
22 March 1992

The race itself hadn’t set the world alight, but the F1 circus had enjoyed its return to South Africa – however it was less keen on its next two destinations: smoggy, overcrowded Mexico City and industrial, impoverished Sao Paulo. The Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez had been slightly amended to lower the banking on the Peraltada corner, but the planned resurfacing work to smooth out its fearsome bumps had fallen victim to restrictions on further construction work as the smog worsened.

Pre-qualifying was cancelled again when Andrea Moda, having now paid their new team bond, arrived with two new cars, designed by Nick Wirth’s Simtek outfit – but hadn’t managed to actually finish building them in time and were unable to participate. Ayrton Image result for 1992 mexican grand prix sennaSenna had had a nasty accident in 1991 and he repeated the feat now, hitting a bump and flying off the circuit. Lifted from his car suffering from whiplash, concussion and a severely bruised leg, and having only set a time fast enough for 27th place on the provisional grid, there was a real change that the defending champion would not be taking any further part in the event.

On Saturday, a very sore Senna arrived in the McLaren garage and, in a display of supreme will, went around fast enough to put himself sixth on the grid, alongside Gerhard Berger who had also had a number of spins and excursions. It was McLaren’s worst qualifying position in five years and the first time since Mexico 1987 that neither car had started in the top four. Mansell Image result for 1992 mexican grand prix capellihad taken pole with a rather more “up for it” Patrese in second just 0.016s behind. In third and fourth were the Benettons, the team having its best qualifying performance, and Schumacher and Brundle their best individual grid placings. Behind Senna in 7th was an impressive JJ Lehto in the Dallara-Ferrari, Gugelmin an encouraging 8th in the Jordan and Martini in the second Dallara 9th. With Alesi only able to manage tenth and Capelli a disheartened 20th, the Scuderia Italia boys could be very happy at outperforming their illustrious engine supplier!

At the back, the four non-qualifiers were Aguri Suzuki (the circuit not suiting the sensitive Footwork car), Paul Belmondo and the two Brabhams – the first time in the team’s history that neither car had qualified.

Image result for 1992 mexican grand prixWith most expecting the Williams team’s active suspension to play a major part on the uneven surface, the grid lined up on Sunday afternoon and when the lights went green the race began. Mansell got a great start, but so did Patrese and the pair of them hared away toward the first corner, pursued by Senna who had got a fantastic start to leap from sixth to third. Further back, Johnny Herbert spun his Lotus and while taking avoiding action Wendlinger and Capelli collided and both were out – while Herbert kept it going and rejoined in 21st.

Image result for 1992 mexican grand prix lehtoHerbert’s team-mate Häkkinen, meanwhile was on an absolute flier of a first lap, making his way from 18th on the grid to 9th by the end of the lap – but most people were watching the action at the front. Whatever had been ailing Patrese in South Africa seemed to have been dealt with as the Italian reminded everyone there were no team orders at Williams and pushed Mansell very hard. Nonetheless, Mansell was slowly pulling out a lead and on lap 12 he was leading by around 3.5s from Patrese with Senna – again driving the wheels off his McLaren just to stay in touch – another 5s back. And then Senna was gone, pulling off the track to retire. Had the pain from his injured leg and neck got too much on the corduroy surface? No, actually, his gearbox had packed up.

Image result for 1992 mexican grand prix brundleSchumacher and Brundle thus returned to 3rd and 4th places with Berger doing his utmost to provide viewers with some entertainment by worrying at the back of Brundle while Herbert made his way up through the pack to join Häkkinen at the back of a queue led by Jean Alesi. The Frenchman suffered the indignity on lap 30 of being overtaken in a straight drag race by Andrea de Cesaris’ Tyrrell, but before the end of the next lap he was out anyway, a smoking Ferrari V12 spraying poor Häkkinen with oil in the process.

Berger lunged past Brundle going into Peraltada on lap 45, only to run wide and immediately lose fourth again, at least for three laps until Martin’s Ford engine went “phut”, and with it the last excitement to be had in what had become a fairly dull procession.

Nigel Mansell cruised to the win, nearly 13 seconds ahead of team-mate Patrese and 20 ahead of Michael Schumacher, who took his first-ever podium position. Berger was a lonely fourth, de Cesaris fifth and Häkkinen sixth – and with Herbert seventh, the Lotus team were looking positive, given the age of the car and the fact it was at least 40kg overweight.

McLaren, meanwhile, were left contemplating the need to get the MP4/7 ready as soon as humanly possible, while Ferrari were in deep trouble.

Image result for 1992 mexican grand prix mansell


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 20
2 Riccardo Patrese 12
3 Michael Schumacher 7
4 Gerhard Berger 5
5 Ayrton Senna 4
6 Andrea de Cesaris 2
7= Johnny Herbert 1
7= Mika Häkkinen 1

Constructors’ Championship

POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 32
2 McLaren-Honda 9
3 Benetton-Ford 7
4= Lotus-Ford 2
4= Tyrrell-Ilmor 2

1992 South African Grand Prix

Circuit Kyalami in South AfricaKyalami
1 March 1992

The 1992 season began amid the usual frenzy of speculation as every scrap of pre-season testing data was analysed and rumours swirled around whether Prost would drive for Ligier. In the end, he didn’t: Erik Comas arrived with the team having hardly sat in the car all winter. The Andrea Moda team arrived too – only to get turned away by the FISA officials for not having paid their new team registration fee. Team owner Andrea Sassetti insisted that he didn’t need to pay the fee as it wasn’t a new team, just a renaming of the Coloni team and that Footwork, Leyton House and Fondmetal to name but three hadn’t had to pay the fee. The officials were unmoved though, and the transporters were packed up again after only having done a few Thursday reconnaisance laps while the arguments went on.

For everyone else, there was a new track to learn: the new Kyalami circuit was shorter than the original and much, much tighter – even harder to pass on than Monaco was the general opinion, though the journalists, fans and teams alike all appreciated the state-of-the-art facilities. With no Andrea Moda team, pre-qualifying was cancelled and the teams were thankful for some extra time to get familiar with the new circuit or fettle the car. The Williams cars had looked good in pre-season and Nigel Mansell, fresh and looking confident, took a dominant pole position, 0.7s ahead of second-placed Senna. Berger was Image result for 1992 South African Grand Prixthird and then a curiously out-of-sorts looking Patrese was fourth, a full 1.5s behind Mansell. Fifth and sixth were Alesi and Schumacher and an astonishing seventh in the underfunded March was Karl Wendlinger. Brundle and Capelli started their new “big team” careers from 8th and 9th respectively with Andrea de Cesaris 10th in the Tyrrell. Only two of the five debutants made the race, though, with Ukyo Katayama 18th and Christian Fittipaldi 20th: Belmondo, Chiesa and Amati would sit out the race, as would Stefano Modena whose Jordan blew several engines in the heat. So did Gugelmin’s – he only managed 23rd.

Image result for 1992 South African Grand PrixSunday was cooler and when the lights went green Mansell leaped away into the lead but it was Patrese who got the best start, passing both McLarens to take second, while Berger also dropped back behind Alesi and Schumacher. Many assumed that the Mansell and Patrese had been using the new launch control system but in fact it hadn’t been installed yet: Patrese’s start was all his own doing.

Wendlinger’s great grid position was wasted when halfway round lap 1 he collided with Brundle, putting the Benetton out immediately and damaging the March’s radiators sufficiently to put it out some laps later with overheating. Meanwhile, the Williams pairing were rapidly pulling out a lead – and Mansell in particular was disappearing away from Patrese at quite a rate. Such a rate, in fact that some began to speculate that there was something wrong with the number 6 Williams and James Hunt on the BBC – never Patrese’s biggest fan – to suggest that the Italian was lacking in motivation, having arrived for the weigh-in much heavier than Mansell.

Image result for 1992 South African Grand PrixWhatever the reason, Mansell was disappearing off into the distance while Patrese did just enough to keep ahead of Senna who was driving the spoilers off his 1991 McLaren just to keep pace at all and was being chased by an Alesi-Schumacher-Berger-Capelli train, all seeking a way past each other, but in vain on this tight, twisting circuit. It was entertaining to watch but nothing changed until lap 29 when Ivan Capelli’s Ferrari engine expired in a cloud of smoke. Eleven laps later Alesi’s followed suit in exactly the same fashion. More work to do at Maranello. So Schumacher was up to fourth and Berger fifth, with Herbert moving up into the points in the elderly Lotus.

Image result for 1992 South African Grand PrixAnd that’s where they finished, some thirty laps later, with no-one able to pass, and no-one able to get even a little bit close to the Williams duo. Fifteen fastest laps were set during the race: fourteen by Mansell and one by Patrese. Senna was a distant third and even then the McLaren was flattered by his driving. Berger was a much more ordinary looking fifth behind Schumacher, with Herbert bringing home a welcome point for Lotus. Comas came in seventh, with the Ligiers looking much livelier than last year with Eric van de Poele last of the classified finishers, 13th and four laps down but still running in the Brabham.

Image result for 1992 South African Grand Prix

Not a classic race, and it was clear that the other teams had a lot of catching up to do. McLaren in particular would need to decide whether to bring in that new car earlier, or stick to the original plan and wait until it was ready.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 10
2 Riccardo Patrese 6
3 Ayrton Senna 4
4 Michael Schumacher 3
5 Gerhard Berger 2
6 Johnny Herbert 1

Constructors’ Championship

 

POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 16
2 McLaren-Honda 6
3 Benetton-Ford 3
4 Lotus-Ford 1

Andrea Moda-Judd

Image result for 1992 andrea moda caffi

Like his namesake Enzo Osella, Enzo Coloni had finally given up the unequal struggle to remain in Formula One after just fourteen starts in 82 attempts over four years (and hadn’t managed a single race appearance since 1989 and never made it out of Pre-Qualifying in 1991). In stepped Andrea Sassetti, a shoe designer with a considerable fortune (that no-one was quite sure of the origins of), who bought the team lock, stock and barrel, renaming it Andrea Moda but retaining cars, staff and the team’s HQ at  Passignano sul Trasimeno. With a supply of Judd engines and two Italian drivers in Alex Caffi and former Coloni man Enrico Bertaggia, the package was complete.


Caffi34. Alex Caffi it

Since making his F1 debut in 1986, Alex Caffi has gained a reputation as a promising talent who has never had the right equipment to make the most of it. Furthermore, the last couple of years have been plagued by injuries sustained both on and off track and when he returned to Footwork after his car accident in 1991, he never seemed the same driver and failed to qualify the car again. Released by Footwork in favour of Aguri Suzuki, he has found a berth at Andrea Moda but time will tell if that is an improvement or not.


bertaggia35. Enrico Bertaggia it

Bertaggia was last seen in Formula One in 1989, when he bought into the Coloni team towards the end of the year at the expense of Pierre-Henri Raphanel. He entered six races and was the slowest entrant for all of them. Since then he’s returned to Formula 3 and despite winning the 1989 Macau Grand Prix he has otherwise been unsuccessful. He has nonetheless raised the wherewithal to have another punt at F1 and will be hoping to make a better fist of it this time.

Jordan-Yamaha

Image result for 1992 jordan yamaha

It’s all change for Jordan after an impressive debut season. Success came at a price and with the team racking up debts, Eddie Jordan was forced to give up the customer Ford engines in favour of the less impressive – but free – Yamaha OX99. Out went 7UP sponsorship and green livery and in came the blue of South African oil giants Sasol and the cream of Barclay cigarettes – whose sponsorship meant out went Marlboro-backed Andrea de Cesaris. So two new drivers were also needed; Stefano Modena leaves Tyrrell after a frustrating year and Mauricio Gugelmin is forced out of March by financial concerns.


modena.jpg32. Stefano Modena it

1991 was a deeply disappointing year for Stefano, who seems to have been knocking on the door of success for some years now without ever really finding it. He is highly rated by former champion and BBC commentator James Hunt, but never seems to have had the machinery to show what he can do. There’s a sense that 1992 with Jordan might be his last chance to impress.


gugelmin.jpg33. Maurício Gugelmin br

Like Stefano Modena, there’s an air about Gugelmin of a driver who’s never really fulfilled his promise and is running out of time to do so.

Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini

Image result for 1992 venturi larrousse

After using Lola chassis since entering Formula 1 in 1987, the Larrousse team’s financial difficulties finally ended the arrangement due to unpaid bills, and the same went for Brian Hart’s organisation which had been tuning their Ford engines. Instead, with investment from the Venturi sports car firm, the team were able to hire members of the Fomet think-tank and their designs for what would have been Fondmetal’s 1992 chassis. Now the LC92, it would mount the same Lamborghini 3512 engine that the team had used in 1989-90 before losing to Ligier. Bertrand Gachot, who substituted at the end of last season following Bernard’s injury, is retained alongside Japanese rookie Ukyo Katayama.


gachot29. Bertrand Gachot fr

Gachot – now holding a French superlicence rather than a Belgian one, reflecting his passport – had had a decent season in 1991, albeit usually outperformed by de Cesaris, and scored three times before his indiscretion in London cost him his seat for the remainder of the season. Winding up at Larrousse to replace Eric Bernard in Australia, he failed to qualify but evidently did enough to persuade the team to retain him into 1992, especially as he has long experience in back-of-the-grid teams.


Image result for 1992 ukyo katayama30. Ukyo Katayama jp

Tokyo native Katayama’s journey to Formula 1 is quite a tale. He started out as a mechanic before driving in domestic junior formulae, finishing sixth in Japanese F3 in 1985 before heading for Paris – which he believed to be in England, the home of motorsport. Somehow, despite speaking only a little English and no French, he made his way into the Winfield racing school at Paul Ricard. While at the school, he drove in Formula Renault, where his career came to an abrupt end as he broke his neck and both legs in a horrific crash. Hobbling out of the hospital, he decided to go back into racing. Finding a drive at the tiny Duquesne team for the remainder of the year, his best result was 9th at Pau and in 1987 he headed back to Japan. Here he spent four years in Japanese F3000 with a number of teams, slowly recovering from his injuries as well as racing for the Courage team at Le Mans in 1988 (when he had another massive crash) and in 1989 he drove in Japanes and European F3000 for the Footwork team before being picked up by tobacco brand Cabin, who ran their own team. In 1991, injuries now fully healed, he won the Japanese F3000 series at a canter and was sponsored into F1 by Cabin.

Ferrari

Image result for 1992 ferrari f92a twin floor

A pretty dismal 1991 saw Ferrari fail to win a race for the first time since 1986 and they seldom looked competitive, even with the talents of Prost and Alesi at the wheel. There has been another internal reorganisation at Maranello and a new chassis by Jean-Claude Image result for 1992 capelliMigeot. The F92A (a new numbering system – a statement of intent to break with 1991) featured a revolutionary “double-bottom” (left) with the bodywork raised above the floor to give a mini wind-tunnel effect and give extra downforce. Jean Alesi takes over as team leader from Alain Prost and in the number 28 seat comes Ivan Capelli, out of a job at Leyton House/March on financial grounds but having proved his talent many times.


Related image27. Jean Alesi

Even the talents of Alesi couldn’t make the Ferrari 642 and 643 look good, but three third-places and several other minor points finishes saw him to seventh in the table at the end of the year. He has probably regretted not signing that Williams contract but on the other hand, what driver – especially one with Italian blood – could resist the idea of being lead driver at Ferrari in his third full season racing? He just has to hope that the new car fulfils its promise and gets the Scuderia back on track.


Capelli_ACI.jpg28. Ivan Capelli it

For five seasons, Capelli has been driving for the March/Leyton House team and was loved by the team as much as he loved them. He took them to two podiums in 1988 but team and driver kept faith with each other as the team slumped in form and he only managed nine finishes between 1989 and 91 (even if one of them was that fine second place which might have even been a win in France 1990). So dedicated to his team was he that he voluntarily stepped down to allow the better-funded Wendlinger to come on board and hung around to coach the Austrian. It seems fitting that such dedication should be rewarded by a high-profile drive with Ferrari.