The Sauber squad are widely held to be playing the part of John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way for Mercedes Benz. The connection is less shady and more explicit this year, with the German marque’s name on the Ilmor-built engine and a driver line-up of two of the three musketeers of the early-90s Mercedes sportscar team. The team’s debut year went well enough, with reliability the main factor behind not scoring more often. The new car, the C13, is still a little light on sponsors – financial magazine Broker are the title sponsor but they will be hoping to attract more – but it looks neat enough and if the team do as well as they should, it will help immensely in balancing the books
29. Karl Wendlinger (left)
Often described as the most talented of the Wendlinger-Schumacher-Frentzen trio, Karl hasn’t had the breaks that Michael has, but will be hoping that his Sauber team are on an upward trajectory with the help of his old Mercedes employers. Wendlinger out-scored Lehto in 1993, though he rarely blew him away – a reflection of JJ’s talent – and he seemed to improve as the season went on. He never quite managed to haul the car onto the podium as he had with the March in 1992, but his results were consistent.
30. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (right)
Mönchengladbach is known for the exploits of its football team in the 1970s and 80s but young Heinz-Harald was only interested in racing. He was clearly talented early on, winning the German Junior Kart title at 14 in 1981. With his father running the team and acting as his manager. Next was Formula Ford 2000 in 1986, followed by joining Jochen Mass’ Formula Opel Lotus team in 1988. Rookie champion, he moved straight on to F3 where the German national motorsports committee supported him and Schumacher in response to Bernie Ecclestone’s push to encourage more Germans into F1. Frentzen and Schumacher had several bad-tempered clashes on their way to joint second place to that man Wendlinger in the final standings. 1990 saw HHF joining Eddie Jordan racing in Formula 3000 and partnering Eddie Irvine. Results were poor, but he had more success in his “hobby” drive for the Mercedes sportscar team. Finally, for 1994 he will become the last of the three men to make his F1 debut.
Surely a contender for one of the most beautiful Ferrari F1 cars ever built, the 412T1 might also turn out to be one of the most important. Fans and bosses alike are surely losing patience with the team’s apparent inability to overcome its doldrums and get back to winning. The man tasked with turning it around is Jean Todt, who has now been in the job half a year and the 1994 season will be judged on how well he has succeeded. As things stand, regular visits to the podium would count as an improvement but what the fans really want is wins. Can Ferrari finally start delivering them again?
27. Jean Alesi
The last few years have not been kind to Jean, who undoubtedly has the talent to be winning races and could even have had a championship by now if he’d joined Williams back in 1991. However, if he regrets joining Ferrari, he’s never shown it either off the track or on it, where he never gives less than 100%. The Tifosi have taken their “new Villeneuve” to their collective bosom and even the most flinty-hearted neutral would like to see such a talented driver break his duck.
28. Gerhard Berger
The lanky Austrian has needed all his famous good humour to deal with the switch from the efficient, organised McLaren to the hot mess that is Ferrari’s internal politics. Fortunately for him, he knows the score and concentrates on getting his head down and enjoying the racing. By now one of the sport’s elder statesmen, he has lost none of his speed or hunger to win, and will hope to be the one to bring success back to the Scuderia after the lean years.
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.