Autodromo Nazionale di Monza
12 September 1993
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is always the high point of the European season – with the possible exception of Monaco – as the combination of history-steeped track, passionate fans and title battles as heated as the silly season speculation proves unbeatable. Benetton, like Williams, were due to lose Camel sponsorship in 1994 and at Monza announced their new partnership with Japan Tobacco, who would be promoting their Mild Seven brand. With Patrese on his way, that prompted speculation about the second seat: Aguri Suzuki had impressed in Spa and remained the only Japanese driver with a podium position (indeed, the only Asian). Or would he go to Lotus, who announced would be using Mugen-Honda engines next year? Meanwhile Beppe Lucchini made the widely-expected announcement that his BMS Scuderia Italia team would merge with Minardi next year, hopefully solving both teams’ intractable financial problems.
It wasn’t all news for next year though: McLaren had new aero and suspension elements and an improved Shell fuel formula; Sauber had a new version of their Ilmor-penned engine; Larrousse had agreed a deal to use Benetton’s traction control system until the end of the season and Ferrari had been testing heavily at Monza and reckoned they’d got best setup figured out. New faces, too: Thierry Boutsen had decided to announce his retirement after Spa and was replaced by Marco Apicella, while the still-unfit Zanardi was replaced in the Lotus by Pedro Lamy: both rookie drivers would be looking to impress.
11. Pedro Lamy
Jose Pedro Mourao Nunes Lamy Vicoso, to give him his full name, was born in 1972 just north of Lisbon and got into kart and motocross at an early age. At 16, he won the Portuguese Formula Ford title in his first season of car racing, and moved into GM-Lotus Euroseries for 1990 and despite a disappointing debut season was signed by the reigning champions Draco Racing for 1991. Despite heavy crashes at Spa and Imola, he took the title and went into German F3 for 1992 – again, taking the title at his first attempt after a late surge in form. For 1993 it he moved on again, to F3000 with Crypton-Reynard and came second on his debut at Donington and by the time he was called up by Lotus he was running second to Frenchman Olivier Panis in the title chase.
15. Marco Apicella
Amost a full decade older than teenager Lamy, Apicella went into Italian F3 in 1984 alongside names such as Modena, Larini and Caffi, and by 1986 was teamed with Larini at the Coloni squad, fighting for the title. He finished runner-up that year and in 1987 moved on to F3000. After a dreadful first season, he moved to the FIRST team in 1988. Three fruitless seasons followed as he promised much but never quite made it to the winner’s podium. After an equally frustrating 1991 with Paul Stewart’s team and F1 tests with Minardi and Modena, he moved to Japan for 1992 to drive with the front-running DOME team. Finally he won races, though could never muster enough consistency to challenge for the title. Still, his wealth of experience made him a good short-notice replacement for Boutsen.
Alain Prost could secure his fourth world title with a win in Monza, but with Frank Williams reminding everyone that there were no team orders, a good qualifying session was vital. True to form, he took his 12th Pole in 13 races with Hill as ever alongside. In third place – to the delirious delight of the stalwart Tifosi – was Jean Alesi after another gung-ho qualifying lap, and Senna was fourth. Schumacher was fifth, with the Benetton team having had all sorts of problems with the circuit’s bumps (Patrese was down in 10th), and a still-in-pain Berger 6th, Herbert 7th, Suzuki 8th (another excellent performance for the Footworks, with Warwick 11th) and Andretti 9th despite a lack of laps after technical problems. Of the two new boys, Apicella was a creditable 23rd (just four places and half a second behind Barrichello) while Pedro Lamy, seemingly a little overwhelmed by the occasion, was 26th and last.
JJ Lehto stalled on the dummy grid and would have to start from the pitlane, so there was a gap in 13th place – directly in front of team-mate Wendlinger – when they lined up for the start. The lights went green and Prost (for once) made a great start, getting away in the lead while chaos reigned behind him. Alesi scrambled past Hill but Senna made contact with the second Williams, bouncing up into the air and pushing him across the grass at the chicane, while he slithered wide himself. When they rejoined they were down to 9th and 10th. Behind them, a fast-starting Warwick came up too quickly and took out team-mate Suzuki – there would be some sharp words from Jackie Oliver back at the garage and in a third incident Lehto was a little over-eager in his start and took out both Jordans and himself. Five cars out at turn one as Prost led Alesi, Schumacher, Berger, Herbert and Brundle around – and Hill and Senna were both going to be charging too – great stuff.
Indeed they were: Hill got the bit between his teeth and by lap 3 was up to seventh behind Brundle with Senna in tow. Hill disposed of the Ligier and then Herbert’s Lotus in short order, then on lap 6, he was right under Berger’s rear wing approaching Parabolica. The Williams moved left, Berger moved to cover his line and Hill dived right, taking the inside line for the corner having sold Berger a brilliant dummy. Schumacher had got past Alesi while all this was going on, and the other Ferrari quickly began falling into Hill’s clutches, and the Brit got past without too much trouble on lap 10. By then, however, Senna had fallen by the wayside. Having spent a couple of frustrated laps chasing his old F3 nemesis Martin Brundle without being able to make much headway on the Renault-powered Ligier, he misjudged his braking on lap 9 and went straight into the back of him, putting both out.
All of which bothered Alain Prost not a jot: responding to his recent dip in form and attendant criticism, he put up eight fastest laps in the first ten laps and looked as if he was barely breaking a sweat in the process. With the lead Williams apparently unassailable, the drama was further down the grid. Struggling for pace, the Ferraris were having a torrid race and Berger was suffering suspension woes which put paid to his race on lap 15, but as he slowed, Johnny Herbert overtook him on the way into Parabolica, only to lose it in a big way and clout the tyre-wall at north of 150mph. His Lotus ended up looking distinctly dog-eared, but the Brit himself clambered out of his cockpit and jogged away unhurt. A few laps later, compatriot Blundell slithered wide on fresh cold tyres at the same place and knocked the left-rear wheel of his Ligier skew-whiff, gifting sixth place back to Karl Wendlinger.
Michael Schumacher’s engine let him down on lap 22, and with nearly half the field gone it started to look as if there might be an interesting result on the cards, particularly as Hill looked like he was gaining on Prost – until the second round of tyre stops, when Prost gained the advantage and was able to maintain it. The racing at the front end settled down after that as the cars had become spread out, though Michael Andretti was providing some entertainment further back in the sole remaining McLaren. The American had had his usual dreadful start, spinning off on lap 2 and having to come in to have grass removed from his side-pods. Returning to the track last, he had been slowly making his way back up the field and by lap 40 he was up to seventh, while there was an entertaining battle for 10th going on between Badoer, Fittipaldi and rookie Pedro Lamy.
Hill was now pushing again and with 13 laps to go he was 9s behind Prost and charging, putting up the fastest lap of the race on lap 45. Out went a pit-board reading “Temp-Slow” – a genuine warning to Hill of high engine temps, or a coded team order to stay behind Prost? Hill would maintain the former to the open scepticism of many, but in the final analysis it hardly mattered: just five laps from his fourth World Championship, Alain Prost’s Renault engine gave out in a plume of grey smoke, leaving a film of oil all over Damon’s visor and leaving him with just twenty miles to drive to take his third straight win. Behind him in second was Alesi, praying that Renault engine maladies were catching today which would be his only chance of a famous maiden win at the Monza circuit. The Frenchman was to be disappointed: Damon drove calmly to take the chequered flag, win the race and leave himself with a mathematical chance of winning the title with just three races to go. Alesi was nonetheless satisfied with second in Italy given Ferrari’s tribulations this year – it was only his second finish of the year, both on the podium. In third, however, was probably the happiest man on the track: Michael Andretti pipped Wendlinger to take his first-ever F1 podium and finally show some return on McLaren’s faith in him. Behind Wendlinger, who hung on to fourth, Riccardo Patrese salvaged two points for Benetton while Erik Comas took his first point of the year for Larrousse.
There was drama further back though – with the two Minardis racing to the line for seventh place, Fittipaldi came out to overtake Martini, only for his front-right wheel to clip Pierluigi’s left-rear. The number 23 car was launched nose-up into the air and – with spectators watching open-mouthed – completed a full 360-degree backflip before landing heavily back on its wheels and slithering to a halt just over the line. A fraction of a second later and he would have taken the chequered flag airborne and going backwards. As it was, the young Brazilian was understandably shaken but neither he nor, remarkably, seemed too much the worse for wear.
There was just one more European race to go, at Estoril, and a disappointed Alain Prost would be looking to finally sew up the title.