Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
29 May 1994
The accidents just kept on coming. Pedro Lamy had a serious crash in a private test session at Silverstone, breaking both legs and wrists, and demolishing his car. He would be replaced by returnee Alessandro Zanardi, while the Lotus team were furious at what they saw as the over-hasty new downforce-reducing regulations causing his rear-wing failure. Zanardi’s team-mate Johnny Herbert was debuting the new Lotus 109 but the team were not optimistic.
Elsewhere, Williams test driver David Coulthard stepped up to occupy the number 2 Williams, Italian Andrea Montermini took Ratzenberger’s place in the Simtek team, Eddie Irvine returned from suspension and Sauber continued with a single car for Heinz-Harald Frentzen – but announced that a delighted Andrea de Cesaris would substitute for a recovering Wendlinger from Canada. Finally, the Larrousse team were back in their yellow and green Tourtel branding after three races in the striking Kronenbourg colours.
2. David Coulthard
The young Scot was interested in motorsport from an early age, and was bought a kart for his 11th birthday by his father. He achieved instant success on the Scottish and British scenes before transitioning in 1989 to Formula Ford and was the first winner of the McLaren/Autosport “Young Driver of the Year” award. In 1991 he moved to Paul Stewart Racing in F3 and finished runner-up to Rubens Barrichello in his debut season as well as winning the prestigious Macau Grand Prix. F3000 beckoned for 1992, though his debut season was less successful – in 1993 he joined the Pacific team, taking one win on his way to third as well as the Williams testing contract with Damon Hill’s promotion. He began 1994 with the Vortex F3000 team but after just one race the call from Frank Williams came to race in Barcelona.
11. Alessandro Zanardi
Alex’s recovery from his 1993 accident was still not complete at the start of the 1994 season and he would have been frustrated to lose his Lotus seat to Pedro Lamy. Although he would not wish to recover it in this way, he will be keen to take the opportunity to get his F1 career back on track. But has he lost any pace, and will the cash-strapped Lotus team have the resources to show him at his best advantage.
32. Andrea Montermini
Montermini came relatively late to racing, only starting in Formula Alfa Boxer at the ripe old age of 23. Maybe this hurt his prospects – at any rate, despite success he found it difficult to get sponsors and scraped together deal after deal to get himself into F3000 in 1990 with Madgwick International. A few podiums but even more retirements in 1990 and 1991 followed before a first win for Il Barone Rampante at Barcelona in 1992. For 1993 he moved into CART racing for four races with Euromotorsport, taking fourth in Detroit but retiring from the rest. With the vacancy at Simtek he has managed to find some sponsorship to pay for a couple of races.
With the new lower-downforce regulations in force, drivers were complaining that the cars seemed even more skittish than before – particularly prone to the back stepping out under braking and the newly reformed GPDA flexed its muscles by demanding – and getting – some temporary tyre chicanes before high-speed corners on the Barcelona track. They looked ugly, and driver spent much of practice and qualifying sessions getting used to not hitting them, but most appreciated their necessity. Friday’s session was slower, with the drivers still getting their settings dialled in (many having boycotted Friday morning’s first session pre-chicane) for the new regulations and learning the track, so it came down to Saturday. In the morning warm-up, Montermini put a wheel on the grass on the last corner and lost it, smashing into the wall and demolishing the Simtek. As everyone looked on, horrified, the Italian was gingerly extricated from his car and airlifted to hospital. To immense relief, he had nothing worse than a broken ankle but would clearly take no further part.
To nobody’s great surprise, Michael Schumacher was on pole once again, just under 0.7s faster than Damon Hill, with Häkkinen third alongside fellow Finn Lehto in his best-ever grid slot. Barrichello put his Jordan in an excellent fifth place (highest ever for both driver and team), followed by the Ferraris of Alesi and Berger. Brundle was 8th in the second McLaren, with debutant Coulthard 9th alongside Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell. Irvine was 13th on his return in the second Jordan, Zanardi was 23rd alongside Herbert, and with Montermini’s absence and only one Sauber, both Pacifics qualified for the race – a boon for Paul Belmondo, who was nearly two seconds behind team-mate Gachot and some 8.7s off Schumacher’s pole time.
On a glorious Sunday afternoon in Barcelona, the 26 cars lined up, buoyed by the news that Karl Wendlinger was on the mend and hoping to transfer soon to a hospital closer to home in Innsbruck. Olivier Beretta’s Ford engine gave up the ghost during the formation lap, so 25 cars took the start. Schumacher got a great start and went into the lead, with Hill fractionally slower and having to defend his second place from Häkkinen while Berger and Barrichello banged wheels, dropping the Austrian back to 12th and the Brazilian to seventh behind Alesi, Lehto and a fast-starting Coulthard.
Schumacher was already disappearing into the distance, pulling away at a second a lap from Hill and Häkkinen, with a three-way battle developing between Alesi, Lehto and Coulthard. Further back, there were more early casualties as Belmondo spun off on lap 3 and Alboreto’s engine failed on lap 5. The Hill/Häkkinen battle ended in the Briton’s favour when the McLaren came in on lap 15, the first of the stoppers on a three-stop strategy which dropped him to 12th. He was followed in on the next lap by Coulthard, who stalled his engine four times before finally getting away a lap down – inexperience? No, an electronic glitch in his clutch software – but a good debut from the Scot otherwise.
Hill came in and left the pits behind Häkkinen, but there was no trouble for Schumacher who had a lead of some 18s when he came in – but when he left, he seemed to have trouble getting up to speed, with backmarkers Herbert and Bernard swarming past. His gearbox was stuck in fifth, and he wasn’t able to accelerate very fast out of the corners. Soon, Häkkinen was past into the lead with Damon following suit on lap 24. Mika held the lead for 11 laps, before coming in for his second stop, and rejoining third behind Hill and a persistent Schumacher, still lapping within a tenth of the leader having found himself a line on the track which minimised the impact of his lack of gears.
Coulthard’s debut ended on lap 33 when he came into the garage to retire with irretrievable gearbox problems, and the race settled down for a while, with a game of pitstop chess being played. Schumacher recovered the lead when Hill made his second stop, but how would he manage to pit himself with only fifth gear to pull away in? We’d soon find out because he and Häkkinen came in together on lap 45. Schumacher seemed to have no problem pulling away but with Hill now leading, he had the McLaren now just 3.5s behind and bearing down on him. Lehto was running well in fourth, with Brundle fifth and Blundell sixth, with a frustrated Alesi back in seventh.
Suddenly on lap 49, a white plume emerged from the back of Häkkinen’s McLaren and he pulled over, promoting his countryman Lehto to third, too far back to realistically challenge for third unless something happened to Michael, now driving within himself to keep it on the road. In fact, he definitely wouldn’t, because just four laps later the other Finn was pulling in to the Benetton pit with a broken Ford. So now Brundle was third, a lonely 31s behind Schumacher and 20s ahead of Blundell – but the Spanish heat was taking its toll and just six laps later with only six to go, an impressive sheet of flame leaped out from Martin’s Peugeot at the end of the start/finish straight.
That was where they all finished: Damon Hill took his and Williams’ first win of 1994, and indeed since Monza last year, with Schumacher taking an almost miraculous second place despite driving two-thirds of the race stuck in fifth gear. Mark Blundell was the delighted beneficiary of Häkkinen, Lehto and Brundle’s heartbreaks, with his first podium place since Germany 1993 (which was also his last points finish) and Tyrrell’s first since Stefano Modena’s second place in Canada 1991.
Jean Alesi took fourth, followed by Pierluigi Martini who had driven a solid race to take two points for the merged BMS Minardi outfit, and the last point went to returnee Eddie Irvine. Speaking after the race, an emotional Damon Hill described how important the win was to the Williams team, which had had a dreadful month since Imola four weeks ago, and dedicated the win to the Brazilian fans who had continued supporting the team since the accident.
Looking forward, the next race was in Canada and would see more rules modifications with the introduction of standard “pump” fuel, increased head protection for drivers (as seen at this race on the Sauber), strengthened front wishbones and a higher weight limit, with the possible introduction of holes in the airbox to reduce the supercharging effect; the latter measure still under discussion. Further into the future, the owners of Silverstone announced they would be making some major changes to the circuit in time for the race in July.
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