Ligier in 1993 had one of their best seasons in a long while, but over the winter everything seemed to fall apart – new owner Cyril de Rouvre was imprisoned on fraud charges, and Tom Walkinshaw was actively trying to buy the team out in order to transfer their Renault engine contract to his Benetton team. With both drivers getting out of dodge, the team were left to pick up the pieces as best they could. The good news was that they retained their engines and will field a revised version of the successful JS39 chassis. The team have also reverted to their usual Francophone driver policy, with Eric Bernard making a popular return after two years off, joined by F3000 champion Olivier Panis
25. Eric Bernard
It’s been a long road back to F1 for Eric Bernard after breaking his leg badly in 1991. 1992 saw him slowly regaining fitness and returning to racing, and his backing from Elf petrol helped him get the Ligier testing job in 1993. With thousands of miles of development on the JS39 car, the team’s straitened circumstances meant he was an ideal contender for the race seat when it became available.
26. Olivier Panis
Born in the outskirts of Lyon, young Olivier took the tried and tested route for young French drivers coming in to F1; through karts and French Formula 3 to International Formula 3000. In his first season in 1992, his Apomatox car was unreliable and he only finished twice, but in 1993 a move to the successful DAMS team saw a cracking battle with Pedro Lamy for the title, with Panis coming out on top by just one point.
And so begins a new chapter in the little Italian team’s history – becoming a slightly bigger Italian team by merging with the Scuderia Italia squad. Great care seems to have been taken to present the team as an equal partnership, from the new name (though the Constructor is officially Minardi, which will undoubtedly be what everyone calls them) to the new livery, studiously avoiding the black/yellow/white of Minardi and the red/white of Scuderia Italia. One driver from each component team was selected – in both cases the older, more experienced of the two, with Luca Badoer taking over testing duties.
The team begin the season with the M193B, revised for the new technical regulations, with Minardi’s Aldo Costa and Scuderia Italia’s Gustav Brunner co-operating on a new car for later in the season. The optics look good, but how well with the teams meld, and will the partnership bear fruit?
23. Pierluigi Martini
Pint-sized Pierluigi started 1993 without a drive, but was able to benefit from Fabrizio Barbazza’s financial woes to return to his old team for a third stint. Over the years he has become known as “Mr Minardi” and he never seems to be fazed by the team’s permanent penury and lack of form – while always the best bet to take advantage of any upturn in the team’s fortunes. There can be few more appropriate drivers to lead the team into their new situation.
24. Michele Alboreto
His Ferrari days seem a long time ago now, and the unfortunate Michele seems to have had nothing but bad luck ever since, between losing his Tyrrell drive over sponsorship and going from the frying-pan of Footwork into the fire of Lola BMS. At 38, he must be looking at wrapping up his career soon, but will be hoping that the new Minardi outfit gives him the opportunity to do so on a high note.
New colours for Larrousse, and for a change not tobacco-based; the Belgian Alken-Maes brewery had come in with a major sponsorship deal featuring their low-alcohol brand Tourtel and its green and yellow colours. These were applied to the new LH94 chassis, based around last year’s monocoque but with a small Ford HB V8 in the back in place of the powerful but unreliable Chrysler-funded Lamborghini V12 which the parent company has decided to nix. Érik Comas is retained on driving duties and is joined by Monaco native Olivier Beretta.
With an increased budget and the new engine, the team are hoping for better things in 1994.
19. Olivier Beretta
The native son of Monaco was brought up watching Prost, Senna and Piquet race around the streets of his home town as he drove karts before moving into French F3 racing in 1989 and 1990, coming third overall in the latter. In 1991 he split his time between British and French F1 series but overstretched himself and broke his wrist into the bargain. That might have been it, but in 1992 he was identified by Nelson Piquet for his putative F3000 project. This turned out to be a dead end, but he moved to the Forti Corse team and turned heads by winning the opening round at Donington. He had also done some testing for Lotus, shaking down the new 107 chassis during 1992, and also tested for Larrousse in 1993, so with Phillippe Alliot moving on, his sponsors were able to arrange the seat in F1.
20. Érik Comas
The Frenchman had a solid if unspectacular first season with Larrousse. He only troubled the scorers once – sixth in Portugal – but when his engine wasn’t going up in smoke he usually finished in or around the top ten. Like so many other young drivers, he has found it difficult at the Ligier and Larrousse teams to display his talent, and will be hoping to have a good race in public and impress one of the big players.
Eddie Jordan will be happy just to keep his number of drivers in single figures this season, and have a bit of stability. Improved performance would be a plus too, of course, and he has managed to retain the talented Rubens Barrichello as well as Eddie Irvine, who turned heads with his two-race stint in Japan and Australia. The two Eddies are birds of a feather – irreverent, fun loving and born racers – and give the team a youthful, carefree vibe. In fact, all concerned are extremely focussed and driven, and they will not want a third season of underachievement after their splendid 1991 debut.
14. Rubens Barrichello
The young Brazilian made a good impression in his first season, and it was only a combination of bad luck and mechanical unreliability that saw him only come away with a single point. He blew the socks off every one of his team-mates with the possible exception of the effervescent Irvine, and there will be many people watching his progress in the year to come.
15. Eddie Irvine
Eddie Jordan has a habit of falling on his feet with drivers, and Irvine certainly made an impact in his first race (before Ayrton Senna made an impact on him). It’s still a bit early to judge based on two races, but if he’s as quick over a whole season with new tracks as he was on his familiar ground in Japan, he’ll be another find for the team.
1993 had been a disappointment for the revived Lotus team after the heroics of 1992, and many well-wishers will be hoping for better things this year. The Mugen Honda engines have looked good in the Footwork cars over the last couple of seasons and if married to a good chassis could be the tonic the team needs. The forced abandonment of the Active Suspension programme could be a blessing in disguise too, with the levelling of the playing-field and less reliance on huge spending also positives of the new regulations for Lotus.
11. Pedro Lamy (left)
The young Portuguese driver didn’t have a lot of time to show his stuff in 1993 but found it hard going – although classified twice in his four races, that was only because he retired close enough to the end on those occasions. His first task, then, will be to actually see the chequered flag. Nobody expects him to seriously challenge Herbert for number one status, but as a talented youngster with all of Portugal behind him, he’s an investment for the future.
12. Johnny Herbert (right)
Herbert seems to have found his home at Lotus as he enters his fourth season with the team – though there are rumours that he spent much of the winter trying to extricate himself from his contract in order to drive for McLaren. He has had so much bad luck in the past that most neutrals are willing him on to do better, but at the same time there is starting to be a feeling that his time has gone – he’s no longer the young charger but is now being challenged by other youngsters like Lamy.
At the end of a disappointing 1993 season, Footwork logistics boss Wataru Ohashi withdrew his sponsorship from the team he had been bankrolling since 1989. Although the team retained the Footwork Racing name, an entirely new livery was launched at Silverstone and new sponsors urgently sought. Alan Jenkins’ new FA15 chassis looked good and the reliable if not particularly fast Ford HB Evo 7 engine was in the back. The team reunited the 1992 Minardi pairing of Christian Fittipaldi and Gianni Morbidelli.
9. Christian Fittipaldi
The young Brazilian had a difficult debut year in 1992 but the increased competitiveness of the 1993 Minardi saw him score twice and finish the season with five points. A modest haul, to be sure, but not bad in the circumstances and it felt very unjust when he was elbowed out of his seat by the better-funded Jean-Marc Gounon. He was also very reliable, only failing to finish four times, and Footwork will be looking to benefit from that.
10. Gianni Morbidelli
Two seasons with Minardi and a single race for Ferrari had seen Morbidelli establish himself as a decent driver, but a lack of sponsorship saw him out of a seat for 1993, while his Ferrari test-driving job had been taken by Nicola Larini. Instead, he went into Italian touring car racing and, along with F1 alumni Gabriele Tarquini, Giorgio Francia and Alessandro Nannini, drove for the Alfa Romeo team. Confirmed as a Footwork driver relatively late on, he will hope to revive his career.
The classic red & white Marlboro branding gives an air of familiarity to a time of transition at McLaren. For the first time since 1981’s pairing of John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris, neither car is occupied by a World Drivers’ Champion, and it is the first time in the team’s history that neither driver has even won a race before. Also untried is the Peugeot A4 engine in the back; a V10 developing some 700hp – worryingly down on the Renault’s reported 830+. Life after Senna and Prost may prove to be a troubling time for McLaren, but at least they have a pair of great drivers. Mika Häkkinen proved in his three races at the end of 1993 that he is one to watch for the future, while Martin Brundle has lost none of his hunger to succeed.
7. Mika Häkkinen
It must have been hugely frustrating for Mika to watch Michael Andretti failing to get to grips with Formula One while he flogged round and round the testing circuit out of the public eye, but it did mean that once he got his chance, he seized it with both hands. Very quick in qualifying and always giving 100% in the race, he is one to watch for the future, but like Jean Alesi at Ferrari, many worry he may have joined the team just as they start to decline.
8. Martin Brundle
The hugely experienced Brundle has been beavering away thanklessly for over a decade now to relatively little reward. After propping up the grid with the likes of Tyrrell, Zakspeed and Brabham, he finally got what looked like his big break with Benetton and could have won if not for some bad luck before being dropped at the end of the season. After managing to make the Ligier look like a real contender too, he was (finally) chosen to provide the experienced counterfoil to Mika’s youthful exuberance.