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 Australian Grand Prix

AdelaideAdelaide Street Circuit
8 November 1992

And so, at last, to Adelaide, the traditional laid-back finale to the season. So often a race of “lasts”, this year would be no exception: the last races for Honda and Mansell. The last races at their current teams for Berger, Brundle and Patrese. The last for a while for Senna, perhaps. And of course many other drivers still didn’t know if they would have a seat in 1993. The weather had been a factor in the past, with torrential rain in 1989 and last year, but all looked fine as they unpacked in the pitlane and surveyed the track, parts of which (particularly down the Jack Brabham straight) had been resurfaced to improve drainage since last year.

More 1993 news – Tyrrell would be using Yamaha engines in 1993, but fans could be reassured that they would be re-badged Judds rather than the in-house efforts that had sunk Zakspeed and Brabham. Other than that, though, there was no movement on the three main stories: the contents of the second Williams seat, the contents of the McLaren engine bay and the intentions of Ayrton Senna.

mansadelThe Fondmetal team’s last chance to raise more sponsorship had passed and they were still absent as in Japan, and the remaining 26 cars took to the track to qualify. Nigel Mansell was keen to take pole position as he was currently tied for the poles-in-a-season record on 13 with Ayrton Senna. He succeeded, beating his Brazilian rival by 0.47s with Patrese and Berger lining up behind their team leaders on row two. Schumacher was fifth, Alesi a gritty sixth in his ill-handling Ferrari and de Cesaris a fine 7th in the active Tyrrell. Brundle was 8th, Comas 9th and Häkkinen 10th. Further back, Larini could only manage 19th in the overweight active Ferrari, Boutsen was a dispirited 22nd with still no 1993 drive lined up and Lammers and Katayama made up the back row.

start-1992-2.jpgNicola Larini had transmission trouble again, slipping the clutch on the parade lap and once again having to start last. After what seemed a long hold, the lights went green and away they went, Alesi dodging out wide and bumping over the kerbs and taking fifth as Berger was a little sluggish away and lost out to the Frenchman and Schumacher. As they streamed through the first corner, Grouillard hit Martini and both were out on the spot, while the luckless Johnny Herbert deranged his front wing on the damage and had to come in for a new nose, losing two laps and rejoining last.

adelaide 1During the first lap, the lead four split into two pairs, with Senna hanging on Mansell’s gearbox and Patrese defending third from a lively Schumacher. Coming off the Jack Brabham straight, Senna outbraked Mansell to take the lead, only to carry too much speed into the corner and immediately lose it again. He tried again at the last corner – clearly determined to get past the Williams before Mansell could start pulling away. Further back, Michele Alboreto spun into the wall, his suspension damaged in a first-corner fracas, and left bits of rear wing all over the track, helpfully distributed by Gugelmin clipping it with his wheel.

By lap three, Mansell and Senna were pulling away, doing a reverse-role re-enactment of their Monaco duel as they thundered through the streets with Senna trying everything to get by, while Berger got back past Schumacher and set about Patrese who was holding the pair of them off. It was turning into a cracking race already. Further back, Häkkinen adelaisi.jpgwas also charging and had caught up to de Cesaris but was wrongfooted when the Italian ran wide and spun avoiding the Tyrrell; he rejoined the track in 22nd. Lap seven saw Gugelmin end his season with a spin and crash at the end of the Brabham straight, making a fifth retirement already as Erik Comas’ Renault had given up the ghost to add to the three first-lap spinners.

On lap 18, Mansell and Senna, trading lap records already, led a three-car scrap between Patrese, Berger and Schumacher, with Brundle sixth and Alesi seventh. Mansell lapped sennaausLarini in the active Ferrari but the slight delay allowed Senna to close right up on him again and at the final corner he made his move – but struck the back of Mansell’s car, sending them both spinning into retirement. Both drivers climbed out of their cars, Mansell radiating a mix of resignation and anger as he sprinted (illegally) across the track in order to get away from the scene as quickly as possible.

So Patrese and Berger were now battling for the lead in a mirror of the Mansell/Senna battle and given the way that Berger was going at it hammer and tongs it was eminently possible it would end the same way too. It nearly did at Brewery Bend as Berger did exactly what Senna had earlier and outbraked himself into the corner, took the lead and immediately lost it again. That gave Patrese a little breathing room, while Schumacher seemed content to sit back and see if the pair would take each other out and leave him in the lead. If he were to win in such a manner, with Senna already out it would put Schumacher second in the table – a fine result in his first full season. Even if he didn’t win, his current third place was enough to see him overtake Ayrton Senna on points.

decesaus.jpgOn lap 29, Andrea de Cesaris – rumoured though not confirmed to have re-signed for Tyrrell for 1993 – pulled off with an Ilmor barbecue going on at the back, having been running very respectably in sixth place. Stefano Modena was promoted thus into sixth, the first time all season that a Jordan had been in the top six. A few laps later, Berger peeled into the pits, frustrated at his inability to get past. He rejoined third ahead of Brundle, and headed off in order to get back in touch with Patrese. Scenting an opportunity, Schumacher was going great guns and reeling in the Williams, while Berger was lapping faster than them both as he tried to catch up.

Image result for 1992 adelaide patresePatrese was held up a little getting past Häkkinen (who wasn’t easy to pass in his nippy Lotus and battling for position) and Schumacher was able to close up to just 1.2s, but on lap 43 the Benetton too was into the pits for fresh boots after he had been caught and passed by Berger on his. He returned some distance behind the Austrian with it all to do as Gerhard was getting the hammer down to catch Patrese, setting two lap records to get within five seconds of the leader – and then suddenly on lap 50, Patrese’s engine spluttered to a stop, fuel pressure gone, and out he went, and through into the lead went a grateful Berger.

But Gerhard had a problem: although he had a considerable 22-second lead over Schumacher (who was stuck behind Häkkinen again at that moment), he had been burning fuel hard earlier in the race and was now marginal to actually get to the finish. As he eased back to economise on fuel, Schumacher now began reeling him in and – with the Benetton team presumably watching Berger’s lap times and encouraging him – started to really charge, setting fastest laps on lap 61, 63, 64, 66 and 68 to close up to ausfinish.jpgwithin 10 seconds with 10 laps to go! Exciting stuff, and Berger sped up again, determined to win or retire. By the start of the last lap the gap was 5.7s but the McLaren was faltering and Schumacher was hacking lumps out of the lead, fighting right to the end and he almost did it – Berger backed right off on the line and Schumacher was just 0.7s behind at the flag. Phew!

Brundle came in a lonely third for another Benetton double-podium; the team had scored points in every race in 1992 – not since Lotus and BRM in 1963 (with just ten races) had any team been as consistent. Jean Alesi brought his sluggish Ferrari home fourth, Boutsen finished the year by scoring his first points since Australia 1990 in the Williams and in sixth place, Stefano Modena brought his Jordan home for its first and only point of the year to celebrations from Eddie Jordan and team.

So, Ayrton Senna’s moment of madness had cost him third place in the Championship, which instead went to Michael Schumacher, but Berger’s win secured McLaren second place in the Constructors’ standings. The Austrian would leave McLaren on a high, and was looking forward to “a big party” after the race. Martin Brundle’s future was less certain – he had apparently been told by Frank Williams over the phone that there was no Williams seat for him, and even after his best-ever year in F1 he did not yet know whether he would be back next year.

With the Williams and McLaren situations also still up in the air, there would be plenty for the pundits and punters to talk about over the off-season.



Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 108
2 Riccardo Patrese 56
3 Michael Schumacher 53
4 Ayrton Senna 50
5 Gerhard Berger 49
6 Martin Brundle 38
7 Jean Alesi 18
8 Mika Häkkinen 11
9 Andrea de Cesaris 8
10 Michele Alboreto 6
11 Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
14= Thierry Boutsen 2
17= Bertrand Gachot 1
17= Christian Fittipaldi 1
17= Stefano Modena 1
POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 168
2 McLaren-Honda 99
3 Benetton-Ford 91
4 Ferrari 21
5 Lotus-Ford 13
6 Tyrrell-Ilmor 8
7= Footwork-Mugen Honda 6
7= Ligier-Renault 6
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dallara-Ferrari 2
11= Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1
11= Minardi-Lamborghini 1
11= Jordan-Yamaha 1</td>

1992 Japanese Grand Prix

1024px-suzuka_circuit_map_1987-2002-svgSuzuka Circuit
25 October 1992

For the first time since its revival in 1987, the Japanese Grand Prix would not decide the World Drivers’ Championship, but there had still been a staggering 7 million applications for the 120,000 available tickets, such was the F1-Mania in Japan, particularly focussed on the Honda concern and their driver Ayrton Senna. This would be the Japanese concern’s last home race, and they had introduced a new evolution of the V12 engine specially.

ronpitwall.jpgThe McLaren team’s plans for 1993 were still very much in limbo, though – Ron Dennis was thought to be trying to get Renault engines in an attempt to retain Ayrton Senna, while Michael Andretti had signed up to replace Gerhard Berger. More announcements for 1993 included that Derek Warwick was to make a return to the Footwork team, for whom he had driven as Arrows from 1987 to 1989, and that to no-one’s great surprise, Jordan and Yamaha would be parting ways. Eddie’s boys would instead be using a new V10 built by engine tuning expert Brian Hart, though there was also speculation that here again Ron Dennis was sniffing around trying to buy Jordan out of the deal.

Williams garage

Still no official news on the Williams pairing, though. Prost had tested the car after Estoril and pronounced himself satisfied but the Williams team were coming under fire from the British press for their “unpatriotic” replacement of Mansell with Frenchman Prost and there were rumours that Frank Williams had given up on Senna and was trying to find a British driver – but would it be Damon Hill or still-unsigned Martin Brundle? Patrese was reported to still be in the picture too, while less solid rumours linked Häkkinen and Alesi with the seat.

There was news for 1992 as well: the Ferrari team had finally lost patience with the unfortunate Ivan Capelli and fired him two races early; he would be replaced in Japan by the team’s test driver Nicola Larini who was developing an active-suspension system for next year; and with Karl Wendlinger leaving the March team to go and begin his testing with the new Sauber team, veteran Dutchman Jan Lammers stepped into  a Formula One car for the first time in a decade – the longest gap between races in history.


lammers.jpg16. Jan Lammers nl

Lammers had bounced around the lower grid without much success during the late 1970s and early 1980s, driving for Shadow, ATS and Ensign before making his final appearance for Theodore in 1982 at the Dutch Grand Prix – the only one of his six entries for which he qualified. Since then, he has been finding more success in other series, particularly in sportscar racing with the Tom Walkinshaw setup, where he won Le Mans in 1988 (co-driving with another ex-F1 driver, Johnny Dumfries) and came second in 1990 and won the Daytona 24hr race in the same years. He had also tried his hand at other formulae including CART racing, International F3000 and most recently Japanese domestic F3000, which is how he came to be given the chance to make his F1 comeback – he knew the Suzuka track well.


larini28. Nicola Larini it

Larini had had four trying years with the Osella, Ligier and Modena-Lamborghini squads and, while few doubted that there was ability in there, it seemed at the end of 1991 that nobody was willing to take a punt on him with a race drive. However, a test contract with Ferrari is the next-best-thing to the dream for any Italian driver and Larini will have been champing at the bit watching Capelli struggle in the number 28 car this year. The pressure is off Larini for the last two races, though: his job is to test active suspension ready for 1993 rather than necessarily score points.


Manselljpngrid.jpgHonda’s new V12 didn’t help much in qualifying, especially with Saturday’s session rained off, with Mansell taking his 13th pole of the year 0.8s off Patrese in second and a full second ahead of third-placed Senna. Berger was fourth, Schumacher fifth and the Lotus twins an excellent 6th (Johnny) and 7th (Mika). Comas and Boutsen were 8th and 10th, still enjoying their upgraded Renaults, split by de Cesaris. In 11th was Nicola Larini, outqualifying the boss in his first outing for Ferrari: an unhappy Alesi was down in 15th behind an equally dispirited Brundle, laid out by food poisoning for much of the weekend, in 13th. The other new “boy”, Lammers, was 23rd, again ahead of his team-mate: Naspetti was last.

Jpnstart.jpgThey lined up on a clear, bright Sunday and at the lights, it was Mansell away quickest ahead of Patrese, the McLarens and Schumacher, while Larini stalled his Ferrari on the grid and dropped to the back. Mansell simply powered off into the lead, a huge 3s gap over Patrese at the end of the first lap, while a massive 7.5s covered the top six, who were already beginning to string out. After just two laps, Senna pulled off – his new Honda V12, which had already been having teething problems in the warmup, had given up the ghost. Boutsen’s gearbox didn’t last much longer.

bergerdrift.jpgBy now, Berger was starting to obviously hold up Schumacher who in turn had Herbert and Häkkinen right behind him, making use of a new “semi-active” suspension on their Lotus cars, but the Honda had just that bit more power in the straights and Schumacher wasn’t able to close up enough to get by. Brundle, meanwhile, was on a flyer, up past de Cesaris to 8th.

On lap 11, Berger came into the pits – making sure he signalled clearly this time, a new rule instituted after the accident in Portugal – returning to the track sixth behind Schumacher and the Loti and ahead of Brundle who had gained another place. A couple of laps later, Schumacher muffed a gearchange in the chicane, wrecked his gearbox and Hakkjap.jpgwas out, promoting the Lotus cars to 3rd and 4th – the highest the “restored” team had run so far. Mansell still led Patrese by an ever-growing margin, and behind Häkkinen were Berger and Brundle, who was up into the points and bearing down on the Austrian.

Two laps after that it was Herbert’s turn to have gearbox trouble as his bad luck struck again and he retired for the 12th time in 15 races, his engine blown as he over-revved looking for gears. At the same time, Brundle was also in: like Berger he had gambled on a two-stop strategy and returned to the track with places to make up. Mansell still led by some margin over Patrese with Häkkinen coming under pressure from Berger and Comas and de Cesaris both up into the points now. Also running well was Christian Fittipaldi, whose fittijap.jpgMinardi was benefitting from some new aerodynamics by Gustav Brunner and an updated Lamborghini.

Soon enough it was time for the mid-race pitstops and when they all shook out Mansell was still in the lead from Patrese, Berger had re-taken third from Häkkinen and Brundle was up to fourth ahead of the Comas-de Cesaris pair. Behind them, a lively battle for 8th-10th places was going on between Alesi, Fittipaldi and Modena, but the race had otherwise settled down into a rather processional affair and Berger and Brundle made their second stops without losing places, despite the Benetton team making a bit of a pudding of their stop with a sticking wheel nut.

Until, that is, lap 36, when Mansell suddenly slowed from his 20-second lead, Patrese reeled him in and passed. No mystery this time: Mansell was making another attempt to help Patrese to his first win of the year. But just as in Italy, no sooner was Riccardo past than Mansell was crawling over the back of him, pushing hard and giving every larinijap.jpgappearance of being desperate to regain the lead. Was he having second thoughts? Putting on a show for the crowd? Or unable to resist demonstrating just how superior he was? Whatever the reason, it provided something to watch in a dull race. At the same time, Erik Comas dropped out of a good fifth place with engine problems – another blow for the French team’s chances of holding on to its Renault engine deal with Ron Dennis sniffing around.

Ten laps from the end, it was the turn of Mansell’s Renault to go “phut” and he toured into the pit lane with flames licking at his rear wing – he had still never finished in Japan and it looked like he never would now. An overjoyed Mika Häkkinen inherited third – only for his Ford V8 to follow suit half a lap later.

MansellhugAll of which meant that, as Patrese cruised to his long-overdue first win of the season some 13s ahead of Berger, Martin Brundle inherited a fighting third place after starting 13th and still feeling the effects of Friday’s illness. Andrea de Cesaris brought the new active-suspension Tyrrell home a commendable fourth, Alesi took fifth and Christian Fittipaldi finished sixth to score his first career point and the Minardi team’s first of a disappointing 1992. In a tantalizing 7th place was Stefano Modena, who had had a rare good race in the sluggish Jordan-Yamaha.

jpnpodium

Patrese’s win – along with DNFs for Senna and Schumacher – put Patrese back in second place in the championship and the Japanese podium was a tribute to the three “number two” drivers of the top three teams and a popular result all round.

 


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 108
2 Riccardo Patrese 56
3 Ayrton Senna 50
4 Michael Schumacher 47
5 Gerhard Berger 39
6 Martin Brundle 34
7 Jean Alesi 15
8 Mika Häkkinen 11
9 Andrea de Cesaris 8
10 Michele Alboreto 6
11 Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
16= Bertrand Gachot 1
16= Christian Fittipaldi 1
POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 168
2 McLaren-Honda 89
3 Benetton-Ford 81
4 Ferrari 18
5 Lotus-Ford 13
6 Tyrrell-Ilmor 8
7 Footwork-Mugen Honda 6
8 Ligier-Renault 4
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dallara-Ferrari 2
11= Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1
11= Minardi-Lamborghini 1

1992 Portuguese Grand Prix

Circuit_Estoril_1984-1993Autódromo do Estoril
27 September 1992

Italy had seen a flurry of announcements about 1993 – to sum up: Ferrari would have Alesi and Berger, Benetton Schumacher and Patrese and Lotus Häkkinen and Herbert. Honda were out, as was Mansell, who said later in the week he’d be moving to CART racing to join Paul Newman and Carl Haas’s team. No official announcements had been made as yet but Prost at Williams was the biggest open secret in motor racing.

Portugal was the scene of intense speculation, then, about the remaining major puzzle prst_tf1.jpgpieces: the identites of the Williams and McLaren drivers for 1993 and the contents of the McLaren engine bay. Senna was known to be lobbying hard for the Williams seat, and Prost – at Estoril driving a microphone for TF1 – was also assumed to be lobbying just as hard to keep him out. If Senna didn’t get the seat, who else? The talented Martin Brundle was drive-less at the moment. Maybe Patrese would be tempted back and bought out of his Benetton contract? Mika Häkkinen and Johnny Herbert had put pen to paper at Lotus but at the cash-strapped team that was nothing a decent wodge of cash couldn’t solve. Or promotion from within, with test driver Damon Hill having acquitted himself as well as could be expected in the dreadful Brabham-Yamaha.

There had also been two unveilings of 1993 cars: the Williams FW15 had originally been intended to compete in 1992 but with the FW14B running so well they decided to develop it for 1993 instead and it was officially launched by Damon Hill, with the race lineup not yet announced. There would also be a new team: Swiss sportscar outfit Sauber – world champions in 1989 and 1990 were moving into F1 with their C12 chassis with Ilmor power and JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger on driving duties. The team were rumoured to be a toe-in-the-water for Mercedes-Benz, and if the marque came fully into F1 at a later date, could they call on Michael Schumacher’s services?

In amongst all this, there was motor racing to be done, and the Fondmetal team weren’t going to be doing it – they had decided to miss the race to try and raise funds to compete in Japan and Australia. So there were now only 26 cars going for 26 places and everyone would qualify. Nigel Mansell had a terrifying off on Friday morning when his gearbox jammed him in sixth, but he recovered to take pole position, beating Patrese by 0.4s. It was Nigel’s 29th career pole, moving him up to third ahead of Fangio in the all-time list. Senna and Berger were on row 2, followed by the Benettons of Schumacher and Brundle. Häkkinen and Herbert lined up an excellent 7th and 9th respectively, sandwiching the equally excellent Alboreto. The Ferraris were handling dreadfully and could only manage 10th (Alesi) and 16th (Capelli), with the Italian sitting as low as 23rd for a while before a final gung-ho lap. At the back, Christian Fittipaldi would make his first start after injury from 26th and last place, but he was regaining form and was only a couple of tenths behind Katayama’s Venturi-Larrousse.

Sunday morning after the warmup, Alain Prost finally confirmed that he had signed a two-year contract with Williams (and that the identity of his team-mate would be made known at the end of the week), and then it was time to go. Or not, in the case of Michael Schumacher, who stalled his Benetton on the dummy grid and had to tag on at the back once he was underway. Also stationary was Aguri Suzuki, whose Mugen engine suffered EstGrida loss of fuel pressure and had to start from the pit lane. As the cars streamed down to the first corner, Berger got a better start than Senna, who blocked his attempts to pass but it was Mansellin the lead, with Patrese following through harried by Senna. Häkkinen got a great start with an empty space ahead of him to nick fifth place from Brundle. Herbert, on the other hand, was out – ricocheting off Alesi’s Ferrari into Alboreto’s Footwork. He toured in to see what could be done, but the suspension was broken and after another experimental lap he retired.

After three laps, Mansell led by 4.7s from Patrese; 2 laps later it was nearly 6s and by lap 10 he led by 9s, while Patrese led Senna by a further 4s. With the leading drivers so strung out, the best entertainment was watching Schumacher carve his way through the field – by this stage he was up to 13th, but being held up by a battle between de Cesaris, Gachot, Boutsen and Comas. On lap 13, Alesi was out, spinning into the gravel from 8th after struggling manfully with the ill-handling Ferrari.

On lap 18, Schumacher was in the pits for a new set of boots, a quick stop getting him back out on the track 15th but with fresh rubber and expecting the others still to stop. He Manspitswas certainly correct; of the front-runners, Senna was in on lap 20, Berger on lap 21 and Patrese on lap 23 – the Italian had a long stop, though, as his rear jack broke and he dropped to fourth. Williams had had a nightmare pitstop last year, with Mansell’s rear wheel coming off. Between this and Patrese’s problem, Mansell’s lap 29 stop was a cautious 9.45s but it hardly mattered; Mansell was way ahead and returned to the track still in the lead.

With Nigel seemingly away and gone, the excitement was now provided by four men: Riccardo Patrese charging back to try and regain second place from Senna and Berger; Häkkinen and Brundle having a cracking scrap over fifth and of course Schumacher still carving his way through the field. By lap 40, he was seventh, while Patrese was right up with Gerhard Berger and crawling all over the back of the McLaren trying to find a way past. On lap 43, Berger exited the final turn and headed for the pitlane for a second tyre Estcrashstop – but Patrese wasn’t prepared and tried to get out of the way. His front tyre hit Berger’s rear and the Williams was launched into the air, narrowly missing the footbridge before slithering to a stop along the pitwall, scattering debris across the pit straight. A shaken Patrese climbed out and made his way to the pits, while Berger managed to continue to the pits and with nothing apparently wrong, headed on his way.

The scattered bits of Williams proceeded to cause havoc, with Martini out with a double puncture and Morbidelli out with just one, while JJ Lehto had a really lucky escape in the other Dallara, when the driveshaft of Patrese’s car was thrown up into his cockpit, through the floor and between his legs, mercifully missing JJ entirely. Schumacher’s impressive progress was also ended, coming in for a new nose and tyres. Senna came in from a lonely second for a precautionary second stop and returned to the track still second – but before long he was in again, complaining that it felt like he was driving on three wheels. The team poked all the tyres, shrugged, and sent him out again. On lap 63 he was in again with the same complaint, this time they changed his tyres anyway and he returned to the track fourth behind Brundle (whose fight with Häkkinen had been resolved by the Finn developing gearbox problems and dropping back).

Senna put on a charge to reel in Brundle and took third place back a few laps before the end. Mansell took his record ninth win of the season and broke the 100 points barrier almost unnoticed in the excitement, with Berger second and Senna third and lapped; Brundle was fourth, Häkkinen fifth and the final point went to a relieved Michele Alboreto who was getting fed up of coming seventh. In that place today was Schumacher – who’d had to stop again to get his undertray checked for damage – and he and the Benetton team dropped back to third in their respective championships. Ferrari, meanwhile, failed to trouble the scorers for the 9th time in 14 races and were in danger of losing 4th place to Lotus.

estpodium.jpg


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 108
2 Ayrton Senna 50
3 Michael Schumacher 47
4 Riccardo Patrese 44
5 Gerhard Berger 33
6 Martin Brundle 30
7 Jean Alesi 13
8 Mika Häkkinen 11
9 Michele Alboreto 6
10 Andrea de Cesaris 5
10 Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
16 Bertrand Gachot 1
POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 158
3 McLaren-Honda 83
2 Benetton-Ford 77
4 Ferrari 16
5 Lotus-Ford 13
6 Footwork-Mugen Honda 6
7 Tyrrell-Ilmor 5
7 Ligier-Renault 3
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dalara-Ferrari 2
11 Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1

1992 Italian Grand Prix

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza
13 September 1992

The Italian Grand Prix is often the scene of off-track drama, and 1992 was no exception. Ferrari often make a big announcement here on home turf, but this year they had already confirmed their 1993 driver lineup at the previous race. Rumours were strong that Williams would announce Alain Prost, but who would be his partner? Mansell? Senna? Patrese? Schumacher? Someone else? Meanwhile, Lotus announced that the impressive Häkkinen had re-signed for 1993 as Herbert had already done.

gotosenna.jpgFirst came the confirmation by Honda that they would be pulling out of F1 at the end of 1992 leaving McLaren with relatively little time to come up with a replacement. Benetton announced that their 1993 lineup would pair Schumacher with Riccardo Patrese, much to Martin Brundle’s disappointment. Then came drama further down the pitlane: the Andrea Moda team were turned away by FIA officials, who served them notice that they had been formally ejected from the meeting for “conduct prejudicial to the sport”. Andrea Sassetti (out on bail) persuaded the officials to allow the transporters in at least while an appeal went through the Italian court. The appeal failed, the cars never turned a wheel and it looked like the team was finished in F1.

Which just left 28 cars for qualifying and once again it was Mansell who was best, on this occasion with Ayrton Senna alongside. Jean Alesi lifted Tifosi hearts with a fine third spot ahead of Patrese. Berger and Schumacher were on row 3, with Ivan Capelli – here more than anywhere the subject of intense scrutiny for his perceived lacklustre performances – seventh alongside Boutsen. A disappointed Brundle and Gachot rounded out the top ten. At the back, Jordan’s underpowered Yamaha engines, despite the best efforts of John Judd’s boys, could do no better than 26th (Gugelmin) and 28th (Modena), so the talented Italian would sit out his home race along with a still not quite fit Fittipaldi.

Sunday morning saw Nigel Mansell go out and simply blow everyone away, lapping two seconds faster than second-fastest Alesi. And then, just four hours before the race, he called a press conference. Presumably we would be finding out where he would be driving in 1992. As he opened his mouth, a Williams employee rushed in and gave him a piece of paper. He read it, then began his statement.

“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have decided to retire from F1 at the end of the season. I have made this decision with some regret, but not without a great deal of thought.”

mansretire.jpgHe continued for several minutes to relay what he described as the “breakdown” of his relationship with Williams-Renault; with a deal on the table for 1993, he said, Senna’s offer to drive for free in Hungary had led Frank Williams to demand a reduction in Mansell’s asking price despite his champion status. “To say that I have been badly treated, I think is a gross understatement.”

What were we to make of that? After all, Mansell had retired in 1990, only to un-retire again when Williams came calling. Was this a bargaining tactic? He seemed to have burned rather a lot of bridges for that, at least with Williams. He’d also been seen talking to Ron Dennis at length in the paddock. However, there was no time to think about it now – there was a Grand Prix first, and one at which Mansell would be hoping to get that record-breaking 9th win to prove his point, Schumacher would be keen to maintain his momentum and Patrese and Senna were both keen to regain some of theirs.

Gerhard Berger’s bad McLaren luck continued as his car developed a fault on the grid and he would have to start in the spare car from the pitlane, with the McLaren engineers frantically changing the setup from Senna’s preferences to Berger’s, finishing with just a minute to spare. Schumacher was likewise starting in the spare, but in his case it was by choice: he tried both in the morning warmup and preferred its handling. With the harder B compound tyres and a relatively short race distance, no tyre stops were expected but it was a hot day and this could lead to tyres wearing quicker.

When the lights finally went green, Alesi got a rocket start to get ahead of Senna at the start – to the delight of the crowd, but Senna took the place back as they braked into the Rettifilio chicane; meanwhile the luckless van de Poele was left on the grid with a broken clutch. Mansell led, then Senna, Alesi, Patrese and a fast-starting Capelli was fifth. Schumacher, meanwhile, got away badly to drop to seventh behind Boutsen, whom he tapped from behind at the first chicane. Behind him it was Häkkinen, Brundle, Herbert and Comas. By the end of the first lap, Mansell and Senna were already pulling away from the rest while Schumacher had lost another place to a charging Lotus and Patrese got past Alesi as they went into Rettifilio for the second time.

Schumacher came in at the end of the lap to have his front end fixed, returning to the track 25th with a lot of work to do. Mansell continued to pull away from Senna, over two seconds by lap 3 and Patrese was chasing Senna down while Berger was making his way up from last. Häkkinen went out with a blown Ford V8 on lap 5, which helped the Austrian, who was providing some of the best entertainment during these cagey opening laps and had charged up to 11th by lap 14, followed by Schumacher getting up to 15th.

On lap 13, it all went wrong for Ferrari as first Jean Alesi toured off with a busted engine Image result for 1992 italian grand prixand then Ivan Capelli’s rear brakes locked up and sent him spinning into the gravel. At the end of that lap, Patrese had finally reeled in Senna and braked very late into Rettifilio to take second place. So now Brundle was up to fourth ahead of Boutsen and Herbert, while on lap 15 Berger shot in for tyres, having presumably wrecked his originals charging through the midfield, and set back about it from 12th.

Schumacher was up to 7th by now, which became sixth when Herbert’s engine also went, but attention was suddenly taken on lap 20 when Patrese suddenly appeared in the lead Image result for 1992 italian grand prix alesiahead of Mansell. Had “Red Five” had a spin? If so, the TV cameras hadn’t caught it, but his last lap had been some 20 seconds slower than Patrese’s. As commentators everywhere puzzled over the events at the front, Schumacher moved up to fifth past Boutsen. Mansell stuck with Patrese as they weaved through traffic, while Senna desperately tried to keep in touch with the Williams pair in case one or both had a problem. Mansell was right behind Patrese but the experienced Italian always seemed to just have a little extra speed. So, trouble with the new RS4, then? BBC reporter and former driver Jonathan Palmer asked the Williams pit what was going on, only to get shrugs – Mansell hadn’t radioed in.

The leaders soon came up to lap Berger still down in 11th and chasing his former team-mate Alboreto with around 20 laps to go. In fact, he was going almost as quickly as the Williams cars and led them past Alboreto and de Cesaris before taking Berger as he shaped up to pass Lehto’s Dallara. In front of Lehto was Comas running 7th and apparently no worse for wear from his Belgian crash, and while Patrese got through no problem, Mansell nearly got taken off by the Ligier at the Curva della Roggia and Senna nearly caught right up with him – no sooner had this happened than Comas spun off anyway.

senna monza.jpgThe Williams twins continued running close together as Mansell continued setting fastest laps every time he dropped back a bit from Patrese but continued being apparently unable to shape up for a move. Then, on lap 42, Mansell suddenly started dropping back, with Senna blazing past as he coasted into the pits with an electrical problem and retired. No record-breaking ninth win here, then. So it was Patrese leading Senna, Brundle and Schumacher as the Brazilian got the hammer down with just ten laps to go. Jonathan Palmer, still down in the Williams pit, spoke to Nigel, who said he had in fact not had any problems until that last lap, but rather had slowed up and moved over to allow Patrese to take the lead, then “rode shotgun” for him in order to help him win his home Grand Prix.

Even with the departure of his rear gunner, it looked like Patrese was on to win his first Grand Prix of the year and consolidate his second place in the Drivers’ Championship – until, with just five laps to go, he slowed suddenly. Senna surged past, followed by Berger unlapping himself. Martin Brundle was a long way off but so slow was Patrese now going (Katayama unlapped himself in the Larrousse with no trouble at all) that Brundle was able to reel him in and take second. Schumacher took third. Then Berger came back round and took fourth off him, Senna having slowed up to allow him to unlap himself and give him an extra lap to chase down the Williams.

Image result for 1992 italian grand prixAyrton Senna thus won his third race of a troubled 1992, with Martin Brundle taking his best-ever second place (at least officially – his previous second place for Tyrrell was disqualified in retrospect) and Schumacher third, Berger fourth, Patrese limping in fifth with what turned out to be a hydraulic problem in his active suspension and de Cesaris taking the last point for Tyrrell. Michele Alboreto scored yet another seventh place, with Martini’s Dallara the last remaining runner in eighth.

Monza podium

Senna was lucky, but Honda weren’t complaining – this was their 70th Grand Prix as an engine supplier, and with just three races left they would hope to go out on a high. It also meant that the race for second place in the title race was well and truly on: Schumacher with 47 points and Senna and Patrese on 46 each. In the constructors’ race too there was just one point in it between Benetton (74) and McLaren (73). All to play for then as the circus headed for its last stop in Europe.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 98
2 Michael Schumacher 47
3= Riccardo Patrese 44
3= Ayrton Senna 46
5= Gerhard Berger 27
5= Martin Brundle 27
7 Jean Alesi 13
8 Mika Häkkinen 9
9= Michele Alboreto 5
9= Andrea de Cesaris 5
10 Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
16 Bertrand Gachot 1
POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 148
2 Benetton-Ford 74
3 McLaren-Honda 73
4 Ferrari 16
5 Lotus-Ford 11
6= Footwork-Mugen Honda 5
6= Tyrrell-Ilmor 5
7 Ligier-Renault 3
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dalara-Ferrari 2
11 Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1

1992 Belgian Grand Prix

SpaSpa-Francorchamps
30 August 1992

British racing fans had had a lot to cheer over the last few races, with Mansell’s championship backed by some fine performances by Martin Brundle – giving Wunderkind Schumacher a real race in the Benetton – and Johnny Herbert, who announced here that he had re-signed with Lotus for 1993. Outside F1, Derek Warwick was crowned World Sportscar champion in the week leading up to the Belgian GP. However, there was some sadness too: Brabham’s financial problems had finally brought down the historic team and after 30 years in the sport they were not in Belgium. Damon Hill went back to the “day job” as Williams’ test driver.

On the subject of Williams, the continuing saga of three-into-two-won’t-go was still ongoing, with Senna now saying that if he couldn’t drive the car next year he’d take a sabbatical. Did this mean he was definitely leaving McLaren? Berger was – he announced his return to Ferrari to partner Alesi in 1993 – and there were persistent rumours that the Honda organisation, disappointed with their performance this year, were pulling out too.

Back to 1992 though and Christian Fittipaldi was back in the Minardi, while the penurious Paul Belmondo’s place at March was taken by F3000 driver Emanuele Naspetti.


Naspetti92.jpg17. Emanuele Naspetti it

Born in Ancona, young Naspetti made his karting debut at 12 and participated in over 200 races before moving into Italian Formula 3 with Forti Corse and winning the title at his first attempt in 1988 at the age of 20. The following year he moved up to F3000 with the Roni team, but struggled with them and with Eddie Jordan racing in 1990, before returning to Forti Corse in ’91 where he scored four wins on his way to third overall. He continued with the team in 1992, winning at Pau before March came calling.


Senna Comas.jpgWith the absence of Brabham, pre-qualifying was cancelled and we went straight into Friday’s qualification session, during which Erik Comas had a huge smash, causing next-on-the-scene Ayrton Senna to pull over to render assistance. In the event, Comas wasn’t injured but accepted the advice of Professor Sid Watkins to sit out the rest of the weekend just in case. When it rained on Saturday, Friday’s times were the best anyone could do and Senna had to settle for second place, a whopping 2.198s behind Mansell’s pole time. Schumacher was third at the circuit where he’d made his debut just one year previously, alongside Patrese in fourth after spinning on Friday. Alesi and 1993 Ferrari driver Berger were on row 3; behind them was Boutsen, having a good session at his home race, and Häkkinen’s Lotus. Brundle and Herbert made up an all-British row 5, with Gabriele Tarquini satisfied to qualify 11th ahead of Capelli in the Ferrari. Aside from Comas and the execrable Andrea Modas of Moreno and McCarthy (14.5 and 24.5 seconds off the pace respectively), the unlucky non-qualifier was returnee Fittipaldi. There was also some more drama in the pit lane on Saturday as Belgian police arrived to arrest Andrea Sassetti for allegedly falsifying invoices and other financial misdemeanors.

The weather at Spa is always unpredictable but on Sunday morning it was fine and dry and the cars lined up on the grid, only for a light drizzle to commence ten minutes before the start. Not enough to change to wet tyres,  though Williams and McLaren both tweaked their downforce upwards, and when the lights went green everyone got off the grid – except for Berger whose clutch failed. Gerhard hopped out and departed, still clutching the steering wheel, which left the track marshals in some difficulty clearing it off the line.

HakkSchuAles.jpgSenna was away fastest and got into La Source ahead of Mansell, with the rest of the field following through without incident. And then on lap two, the rain started to fall steadily and it was clear that a switch to wets would be needed; but exactly when to change for maximum advantage was the tactical game. Senna fell behind Mansell and Patrese, and the new champion along with fifth-placed Alesi were the first to stop for new tyres at the end of the third lap, by which time Martini had spun off at Eau Rouge in the nervously-handling Dallara and Grouillard had collided with Wendlinger and put himself out.

So Patrese led Senna, Schumacher, Brundle and Häkkinen on a circuit damp in some places and dry in others and on the next lap, it was Schumacher in for wets, followed a lap later by Brundle. By lap 7, all the main runners had changed, except for Senna, gambling that the drizzle would blow over and everyone else would have to pit again. Meanwhile, Mansell was sixth and charging, catching 5th placed Alesi, with Capelli second, Häkkinen third and Herbert fourth all still on dry tyres. With the latter three all going in, the Alesi-Mansell battle was promoted to a fight for third behind Patrese – until Mansell bumped into the back of a fishtailing Alesi at La Source, punting the Ferrari out.

With no apparent damage to his car, Mansell soon reeled in Patrese, and then the slick-Senna Spa.jpgshod Senna, passing him on lap 11. Senna then managed to hold on to second for a couple of laps before Patrese got past, then Schumacher, Brundle and Häkkinen all piled through too. Finally on lap 14, Senna gave up and came in, emerging 13th.

Mansell began slowly pulling away from Patrese, who was in turn being caught by Schumacher, with Brundle in close attendance – rumours were that Riccardo would be moving to Benetton next year, with some placing Schumacher in a McLaren for 1993 if Senna left. It was now about half-distance and Mansell was looking good for his record ninth win of the year some 8 seconds ahead of Patrese, whose battle with the Benettons was providing most of the interest as the field had strung out around the long, rolling circuit.

SchuSpaBy lap 30, with Capelli having gone off with a blown engine allowing Herbert up into the points, the rain had essentially stopped, and circuit expert Boutsen came in for slicks, while Mansell was lapping quickest on his wet tyres. As the Patrese/Schumacher/Brundle train was making its way through backmarkers, Senna came in for slicks, just as Boutsen slid off. Schumacher had a slight off, and Brundle was through into third – which turned out to be a game changer. Because running closely behind his team-mate, Schumacher could see that Martin’s tyres were blistering and shot in for slicks at the end of the lap.

As Herbert followed suit the next lap, Senna put up the fastest lap on his slicks, just before getting tangled with Lehto at La Source and spinning harmlessly, allowing Herbert to rejoin ahead of him. Seeing this, Mansell  elected to stay out on wets another MansellSpa.pngcouple of laps as Patrese came in for slicks, returning to the track behind a charging Schumacher. And now Mansell had a dilemma; he led the young German by 15 seconds, but it would take longer than that to pit for slicks. Did he stay out and hope it would rain again, or come in and try and re-catch Schumacher on slicks?

He went for the second option, returning to the track in second place and as Schumacher led for the first time, picking his way carefully along the dry line, he was balked by Gachot’s Larrousse, passing him at the Bus Stop (before Gachot spun at La Source). Mansell was now just 6s behind on lap 36 of 44, and setting one fastest lap after another as he chased down the German, leading in just his 18th Grand Prix. Further back, Patrese was having trouble holding back Brundle, suggesting that the Williams wasn’t hugely faster than the Benetton at the circuit, while Häkkinen ploughed a lonely furrow in fifth with Senna sixth and slowly eating up the gap.

Schumacher wasn’t in a mood to allow Mansell to catch up, and set the lap record (despite the still-damp track), only for Senna to instantly follow suit. As time ticked down, SchuoffSpa.jpgthe gap was three seconds after Schumacher lost time lapping Modena’s Jordan while Mansell got past cleanly. But then he didn’t pull away from Modena and the next time past the pits it was obvious that his engine had a misfire.

And so Michael Schumacher took a fantastic maiden win at the circuit where he made his debut just one year previously. It was the first win for a German driver since Jochen Mass in 1975 and the first full-distance win for a German since Wolfgang von Trips in 1961. Not to mention the first new F1 winner since Nannini’s 1990 win – also for Benetton.

Spapodium

Mansell held on to second place from a charging Patrese, with Brundle a superb fourth. Senna had caught up to Häkkinen and took fifth place with a gung-ho wheel-to-wheel manoeuvre on the last lap, with the Finn having to settle for a single point. Williams’ points were enough to secure the Constructors’ Championship (not that it had been particularly in doubt), while Benetton moved back ahead of McLaren into second place.

A cracking race, and a memorable win for Schumacher, now even more of a hero to his German countrymen than already – many were already talking of him as a potential future champion given the right car.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 98
2 Riccardo Patrese 44
3 Michael Schumacher 43
4 Ayrton Senna 36
5 Gerhard Berger 24
6 Martin Brundle 22
7 Jean Alesi 13
8 Mika Häkkinen 9
9 Michele Alboreto 5
10 Andrea de Cesaris 4
11 Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
16 Bertrand Gachot 1

 

POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 146
2 Benetton-Ford 64
3 McLaren-Honda 60
4 Ferrari 16
5 Lotus-Ford 11
6 Footwork-Mugen Honda 5
7 Tyrrell-Ilmor 4
8 Ligier-Renault 3
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dalara-Ferrari 2
11 Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1

1992 Hungarian Grand Prix

220px-Circuit_Hungaroring1989Hungaroring
16 August 1992

It would be the Ferrari team’s 500th Grand Prix, but few – least of all Ferrari themselves – expected fireworks, with the circuit not suiting an already underperforming car. Scuderia Italia announced that they would be ending their partnership with Dallara for 1993 and instead marrying that Ferrari engine to a Lola chassis. Interesting times ahead for them. And for Brabham, though not in a good way; the team is under severe financial pressure and when Eric van de Poele was vdp fondmetalpoached by Fondmetal to replace out-of-favour Andrea Chiesa he was not replaced, nor could the team afford to send Hill out for practice on Saturday morning. Similarly, Paul Belmondo would be driving his last race, his sponsorship having dried up. On an upward trajectory on the other hand were Ligier; with Williams having progressed to the Renault RS4 engine, Guy’s guys got their hands on their hand-me-down RS3s, which promised to help their so far mediocre performances.

senna interview hungaryWhat was certainly developing in the “silly season” was an interesting situation with Williams, with Prost, Senna and Mansell all wanting to drive. Prost’s return to F1 with Frank’s boys was being reported as a a done deal but with Mansell reportedly asking an astronomical fee for 1993 and Senna openly offering to do it for free, could the two really be team-mates again next year? The Brazilian seemed happy enough with the idea, pointing out that they’d had a great relationship in 1988; publicly Prost agreed, but behind the scenes it was reported that he was doing everything he could to block the move.

moreno hungary.jpgAnyway, there was motor racing to be done. With only one Brabham running, there was one less pre-qualifying slot, with Gachot automatically promoted (he still held the fastest lap here in last year’s Jordan), which meant that at least one of the Andrea Modas would make it through to qualifying proper. The team let Roberto Moreno use both cars in his attempts to do so, while poor McCarthy never got to set a lap; he was not impressed. Neither were FISA, who after the race would censure the team for, essentially, not trying hard enough, and warned them to get their act together or face suspension.

nigel_mansell__hungary_1992__by_f1_history-d62zdxo.jpgAll of which was very much of secondary importance to the question on everyone’s lips: could Nigel Mansell seal his first World Championship here and in doing so set yet another record? No driver had yet been crowned with five races still to run. It didn’t all start well for him though – after a litany of technical problems and an off on Saturday he was second behind Patrese, with Senna and Schumacher behind on row 2 followed again by their respective number twos, Berger and Brundle. In an excellent seventh place was Alboreto’s Footwork with Boutsen eighth and then way back on row 5 the Ferraris of Alesi and Capelli. Damon Hill qualified 25th for his second GP start with Martini’s Dallara behind him; both Minardis and JJ Lehto would join Roberto Moreno in sitting out the race.

It had been hot all weekend, and race day was slightly cooler but still hot as the McLarens – using active suspension for the first time along with some aerodynamic tweaks – went fastest in warm-up. Again, tyre choice would be vital and Senna had taken a gamble on the softest D compound tyres, gaining grip at the expense of durability, whereas the Williams boys were on Cs and Berger split the difference, fitting Cs to the harder-working left side and Ds on the right. One other factor might prove decisive: the circuit had recently been resurfaced, and the kerbs lowered for use in MotoGP racing, and drivers were reporting the surface to be a little slippery in places thanks to the dust raised by the construction.

hungary startWhen the lights went green, both Williamses got a great start, with Patrese surging into the lead while Mansell moved right to position himself on the inside for Turn 1. However, the track is dusty there and he lost a little traction, allowing both McLarens to pile past, dropping Mansell to fourth with Schumacher and Brundle right behind him. Further back, Comas had a spin and removed himself and Johnny Herbert from the race. Mansell began dropping back rapidly from Berger, with Schumacher pressing, while Patrese was pulling out a big lead – 3.5 seconds by lap 3.  Van de Poele’s Fondmetal debut only lasted that long, as he slid off, while Senna seemed to have accepted he couldn’t stay with Patrese and backed off to conserve his tyres.

Mansell soon caught up to the McLarens and on lap 8 he passed Berger into turn 1 and the Austrian began to fall into the clutches of Schumacher and Brundle (who seemed determined to get past his team leader). So now Senna led a four-car train of Mansell, Berger and the Benettons while Patrese continued to pull out an impressive lead – by now up to about 12 seconds. The reigning champion was in tyre conservation mode, but mika hungary.jpgnow had Mansell pushing him. Behind this group, Häkkinen was already up to 8th from 16th on the grid, having put up the fastest lap in the process, and was already past Capelli and attacking Alesi. His job was made easier when the Frenchman spun in front of him and beached the Ferrari in the sand trap.

On lap 14, Olivier Grouillard took himself, Wendlinger’s March and Modena’s Jordan out with a dreadful attempt at an overtake and the Jordan was left stranded right in the middle of the road minus a wheel. Out came the yellow flags, and a board reading SC – for the first time in F1 history, a Safety Car would be deployed. However, nobody seemed to ease off at all and Mansell continued attacking Senna – then the yellow flags disappeared and the Safety Car never appeared on the track, so everyone was left scratching their heads. It turned out that the marshals had got the Jordan off the track quicker than expected and the Safety Car had not been deployed – the SC board was premature.

Hill hungary.jpgBy this time, as Mansell was balked by Pierluigi Martini, Häkkinen had caught the Senna Snake and got past Brundle to go sixth. Mansell eventually disposed of Martini and, with Damon Hill fairly leaping out of his way in the Brabham, set off again after Senna via the lap record, breaking Gachot’s 1991 time. Soon he was back up with the McLaren and once again tried at turn 1 and once again Senna closed the door. Berger and Schumacher had caught up too, and as Mansell made an error and ran wide, the Austrian was through into third place, with Schumacher nearly following through. Brundle had got back ahead of Häkkinen into sixth again, and the Briton and the Finn were having a cracking battle. A lap later, Mansell was back ahead of Berger, getting a tow down the main straight and going inside at turn 1, but the McLaren driver harried him throughout the lap, while in turn Schumacher and Brundle were right on his tail. It was cracking stuff, and soon Brundle was past Schumacher and into fifth to boot.

Senna hungary.jpgWhile all this was going on, Senna had built up a lead of some 5.5s and Mansell had it all to do again, while Patrese was now some 28s up the road ahead of Senna. And then, on lap 38, the unfortunate Riccardo slid on a dusty part of the circuit, swapped ends and ended up stationary with his rear wheels on the dirt as Senna and Mansell came flying past. Patrese got moving again but now down to seventh.

As Riccardo tried – now on dusty tyres – to make his way back up into the points in an attempt to get back into the fourth place he’d need to stop Mansell winning the title if he remained second, Nigel was trying to put things beyond doubt by taking the lead off Senna. The Brazilian’s lead was about six seconds over Mansell, who was in turn around 7 ahead of Berger, who had Schumacher and Brundle right on his gearbox. On lap 56, Patrese was up with Häkkinen in search of a point, but instead found himself touring into the pitlane with a smoking engine – the first Renault failure in two years, and if Mansell could finish where he was he would be World Champion. But of course, it all looked sewn up for him in 1986 too until his tyre blew, so he wouldn’t be taking anything for granted. At least now all he had to do was finish; there was no pressure to take the lead.

But then, the Mansell curse seemed to have struck again for on lap 62, he was coming into the pits – a tyre change and he was back out with new D-compound boots on, but down to sixth. Needing those four points for the title, he had now to get past Häkkinen, hun schumi spin.jpgBrundle and Schumacher in the next fifteen laps. An impossible task? Not necessarily, for Mansell never knew when he was beaten. He was helped by the Benetton team; Brundle had tapped the back of Schumacher’s car and on the main straight, the German’s rear wing simply flew off the car, pitching him into a violent spin and into the sand trap, dizzy but unhurt.

Berger had been slowing with worn tyres, and had already collected Brundle and Häkkinen behind him. Mansell caught them on lap 67, passing first Mika then Martin on successive laps. On lap 68, Senna was in for tyres but rejoined in the lead, and Mansell was attacking Berger for second place. He’d already passed him twice before and on fhungary brundle.jpgresher rubber he was through on lap 69, with a fighting Brundle trying to take advantage too, but soon finding himself instead defending fourth place from a charging Lotus driven by Häkkinen. The Finn went past around the outside on turn 1, and, with visions of his first podium finish before his eyes, started attacking Berger but the extra Honda grunt told down the main straight and Mika had to settle for fourth, battling all the way to the flag with Brundle.

And that was how it finished; Senna took a fine win, but all eyes were on Nigel Mansell, who finished second to claim the World Championship – whatever anyone said about the increasingly computerised and automated cars, few could begrudge him the title after mans-will-hung-1992.jpghis near misses in 1986, 1987 and 1991 nor deny his record for most GPs won by a British driver and third-most won overall. Britain rejoiced for it had its first champion since James Hunt in 1976 to go with the country’s unexpectedly good performance in the recent Barcelona Olympics. Almost ignored in the celebrations, Berger was third, Häkkinen an excellent fourth, Brundle fifth and Capelli trailed in sixth some way behind. For the fifth time this year, Alboreto finished a frustrating 7th.

hun podium.jpgMoreover, while Mansell’s dedicated fans (and the man himself) might have wished for another dominant lights-to-flag win to seal the championship, it had been a much more interesting and entertaining race instead.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 92
2 Riccardo Patrese 40
3 Ayrton Senna 34
3 Michael Schumacher 33
5 Gerhard Berger 24
6 Martin Brundle 19
7 Jean Alesi 13
8 Mika Häkkinen 8
9 Michele Alboreto 5
10= Andrea de Cesaris 4
10= Erik Comas 3
12= Karl Wendlinger 3
12= Ivan Capelli 3
14= Pierluigi Martini 2
14= Johnny Herbert 2
16 Bertrand Gachot 1

 

POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 136
2 McLaren-Honda 58
3 Benetton-Ford 51
4 Ferrari 16
5 Lotus-Ford 10
6 Footwork-Mugen Honda 5
7= Tyrrell-Ilmor 4
7= Ligier-Renault 3
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dalara-Ferrari 2
11 Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1

1992 German Grand Prix

Circuit Hockenheimring-1992.svgHockenheimring
26 July 1992

With the 1992 championship seemingly as good as over already, thoughts turned to the future and renewed rumours that Alain Prost would be returning to race in 1993 with Williams. What did that mean for Mansell? And indeed for Senna, whose contract with McLaren was up at the end of 1992 and who was known to be keen to drive one of Frank’s cars next year as well. Particularly if the other Related imagebig rumour was true: that Honda would be withdrawing from the sport as an engine supplier at the end of the year. All would no doubt become clear over the coming months but while Mansell and Williams seemed to have the title sewn up there was plenty of competition further down to decide.

 

Image result for 1992 hockenheim schumacherThere was a real sense of excitement about Hockenheim this year, too, as the German fans felt they had a real chance of seeing a German win a Grand Prix for the first time since Jochen Mass in 1975. However, the nature of the circuit meant that the smart money was on the Renault-powered Williams cars, and qualifying just underlined this fact. With the Andrea Modas disposed of in pre-qualifying as usual (the hapless McCarthy was disqualified for missing a weight check, but it hardly mattered), Mansell and Patrese took the front row by over a second from Senna and Berger. Alesi was 5th, and local hero Schumacher sixth – a distant 3.172s off pole. On row 4, the unusual sight of the two Ligiers of Comas and Boutsen, followed by Brundle a disappointed 9th and Wendlinger Image result for 1992 hockenheiman encouraged 10th. Herbert and Häkkinen were 11th and 13th respectively in their Loti, sandwiching Ivan Capelli. At the back, Hill and van de Poele both failed to qualify the ailing Brabham (the Englishman had a big off in the attempt), and would be joined on the pitwall by Andrea Chiesa – rumoured to be on his last legs at Fondmetal – and an unhappy Modena, which meant that Zanardi would start his first 1992 race in the Minardi.

Image result for 1992 hockenheimWhen the lights went green on Sunday afternoon, Mansell got away slowly – his semi-automatic gearbox selecting third instead of second – and Patrese again surged into the lead, but Mansell was quickly past before the first chicane. Senna and Berger had a similar experience; the Austrian getting away better only to lose the place to his team-leader shortly afterwards. Behind them came Schumacher, and in sixth; Brundle, who had got a flyer, overtaking both Ligiers and Alesi to tuck in behind his team-mate. Another good starter was Capelli, who got past Herbert and Boutsen. So on lap one it was Williams, Williams, McLaren, McLaren, Benetton, Benetton, Ferrari, Ligier, Ferrari, Ligier.

That was still the order fourteen laps later when Mansell – by now five seconds ahead of Patrese and nearly 20 ahead of Senna, having already broken the lap record – came in for an early pit-stop, believing he had sustained a puncture. Rejoining fourth, he set about regaining the lead. Berger made things easy, coming in himself and then coming in again Image result for 1992 german grand prixthe following lap to retire with a misfiring Honda. Schumacher, with his little V8 Ford proved no problem but Senna is always difficult to pass. The Brazilian, running non-stop, made his McLaren as wide as possible and a battle reminiscent of Monaco developed, with Mansell unable to get enough momentum to pass even on the long straights. At the remodelled Ostkurve chicane, he missed the turn entirely and took a shortcut across the apex but still without getting past. Perhaps if he had, he would have been sanctioned in some way but as it was the stewards made no murmur and the pair raced on. After a couple of laps, Senna waved Mansell through, apparently unwilling to risk being hit by an impatient Nigel.

On lap 20 Mansell retook the lead as Patrese stopped for tyres, and rejoined behind Senna and Schumacher – another non-stopper – who was actually gaining on the Brazilian despite his relative lack of grunt. Patrese may have increasingly been seen in 1992 as a subservient sidekick to Mansell, but he’s still a racer at heart and set about Schumacher with gusto. For ten laps, the local boy in just his 16th race held back the veteran of 234, until he slid a little on his own leaking radiator fluid and Patrese was through at the chicane.

Image result for 1992 german grand prixPatrese, lest we forget, was still in the title hunt himself and now really had the bit between his teeth as, with just ten laps to go, he reeled in Senna, breaking the lap record twice until he was right on the McLaren’s tail. As Mansell before him had found, getting past Senna is another matter entirely and the two took up the duel. No waving past this time: Senna wanted those six points and a chance at a win if Mansell should falter. The closing laps saw a ding-dong battle until, on the very last lap, Patrese made a last, desperate lunge into the stadium section and spun off, stalling his engine in the process. Mansell took the win with Senna second and Schumacher delightedly Image result for 1992 german grand prix comasinherting third place, followed by Brundle, Alesi and Comas with Boutsen seventh: the Ligiers had done well for a change at this circuit which was all about their Renault power.

Mansell’s win was his eighth of the season, equalling Senna’s 1988 record and meant that his great rival could no longer win the title: the Brazilian was 62 points behind with six races to go. Moreover, if Mansell scored four more points that Patrese at the next race in Hungary – for example, if he won in a Williams 1-2 – then he would be crowned champion.


Drivers’ Championship

POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Nigel Mansell 86
2 Riccardo Patrese 40
3 Michael Schumacher 33
4 Ayrton Senna 24
5 Gerhard Berger 20
6 Martin Brundle 16
7 Jean Alesi 13
8= Michele Alboreto 5
8= Mika Häkkinen 5
10= Andrea de Cesaris 4
10= Erik Comas 3
12 Karl Wendlinger 3
13= Ivan Capelli 2
13= Pierluigi Martini 2
13= Johnny Herbert 1
16 Bertrand Gachot 1
POSITION CONSTRUCTOR POINTS
1 Williams-Renault 126
2 Benetton-Ford 49
3 McLaren-Honda 44
4 Ferrari 15
5 Lotus-Ford 7
6 Footwork-Mugen Honda 5
7= Tyrrell-Ilmor 4
7= Ligier-Renault 3
9 March-Ilmor 3
10 Scuderia Italia Dalara-Ferrari 2
11 Venturi Larrousse-Lamborghini 1