italians and formula 1 - part three
the legacy is revived
by Christopher Pepe
(return to sports)
Senna vs Prost, the duel of the decade
1990 started with Prost driving for Mansell at Ferrari. But it was Senna who kicked off the
season with a stunning win. Prost and Senna exchanged victories throughout the season, and
staged an epic battle for the title -- and it was Senna who prevailed.
Driver Domination - 1992 to 1998
In an age of global communications and media saturation individual drivers have become
bigger than the sport they have grown to master. There can be few people who have not heard
of Senna, Schumacher or Mansell, regardless of their interest in motor sport. Drivers must
now devote as much time to public relations and marketing campaigns as they do to car
setups and training sessions.
Today's world champion must now be much more than just a great driver. He must be willing
to have his life, loves and exploits plastered across the world's tabloids. Like it or not,
he will receive as many inches in the gossip pages as he does in the sports section.
Formula One has always been about the drivers and never more so than today.
The People's Hero
Nigel Mansell was the first British Grand Prix driver since Stirling Moss to capture the
imagination of the British public -- a true hero of the people. Nigel was born in Upton on
Severn near Malvern in Worcestershire, on 8 August 1954. He struggled hard to make his name
in motor sport, taking the conventional route through karting and the minor formulae. His
early career was as varied as many other drivers, with setbacks aplenty. What separates him
from those drivers is Nigel made it to the top when he became Formula One World Champion
in 1992. A man the Italians have grown to call Il Leone, is still today, in Britain, the
Back in the Saddle
Despite taking a year away from driving Prost had kept in touch with the sport in his
capacity as commentator for French TV. In fact it was known early in 1992 that Williams was
keen to enlist Alain's services for 1993. As usual Frank Williams got his way and the team
started 1993 with Alain in harness and Damon Hill, recently promoted from the test team,
in the second car. The season finished in Adelaide with another win for Senna. The victory
also allowed McLaren to move ahead of Ferrari in the tally of total wins, making the Woking
operation the most successful team of all time.
When the 1994 season began the bookmakers were very quiet. Prost had retired and Senna
would drive a Williams. The title was decided before a wheel had been turned. Sadly it was
not to be, because just three races into the season the great Brazilian was dead without a
single point on the leaderboard.
Death Again and Again
At Imola came the blackest days in the history of modern motor racing. Friday practice
almost cost Barrichello his life when he crashed very heavily at the entrance to the final
chicane. The following day the young Austrian Roland Ratzenberger in only the third race of
his career struck a wall on the Villeneuve curve. He was travelling at almost 200 mph and
died instantly. The race went ahead with Senna in his customary pole. He crashed out of the
lead while negotiating the Tamburello kink and was killed when a suspension strut sheared
off and pierced his helmet. The racing world was stunned as once again the sport consumed
its favorite son.
The race was restarted and Schumacher scored a hollow victory. The circus assembled in
Monaco two weeks later and in light of the black cloud already hovering over the
proceedings the worst happened again. Karl Wendlinger crashed his Sauber during practice,
suffered head injuries and spent a month in a coma. On race day Schumacher won once more,
making it four from four. The recent spate of deaths and accident prompted the drivers to
campaign for greater safety at the up and coming circuits and in Spain several temporary
chicanes were installed. Hill won the race, while Schumacher, his car stuck in fifth gear
finished second. In Canada Michael returned to his winning ways beating Hill home by a
margin of 40 seconds. Schumacher won again in France despite the very expensive presence of
Renault v Renault
Few people expected Schumacher to win the title in 1994, but then no-one expected Senna
to die at Imola. Both things happened and the circus rolled on for another year. For 1995
both Schumacher and Hill would remain with their respective teams but this year there would
be a big difference. In 1994 Schumacher had been running a Ford powered Benetton which was
down on horsepower to the Renault engine in the back of the Williams. This year both men
would get to ride the Renault. Once and for all the argument about who was the better man
would be resolved as they fought with virtually identical equipment. With the help of
Italian engineering, Schumacher, the German, won.
Nice Guys do Win
Damon Hill had come close to taking the title in 1994 and 1995. Coming into the 1996
season Hill was confident, calm and assured of his ability. Luckily for him he was going
to spend the season in another Patrick Head & Adrian Newey masterpiece...the Williams FW18.
Many pundits claimed that this was to be Damon's year - hopefully. His main rival was off
helping Ferrari in what the Scuderia were at pains to state was another one of their many
'rebuilding' years, as a result few expected a major challenge from Schumacher. Schumacher
took the win at Monza in his Ferrari and was immediately nominated for sainthood by the
assembled tifosi, but it was Hill who would take the title.
Goldilocks & the German
In the end 1997 came down to half a turn of a steering wheel. On lap 47 of a dusty
Spanish circuit, a knight in Ferrari armour became a cheating German. In front of a TV
audience of millions Michael Schumacher deliberately tried to punt Jacques Villeneuve
into the dirt. It didn't work and Villeneuve, the grungy, unemotional one with bleached
blonde hair went back to Canada as champion of the world.
1998 was a disappointment for several teams, most notably the Williams and Benetton
boys who were both hit very hard by the withdrawal of Renault. The Mechachrome engines,
although little more than re-badged Renaults were not a patch on the previous year's units.
Williams was also to suffer from the loss of Adrian Newey to McLaren. Benetton's young guns
of Fisichella and Wurz made a valiant effort all season but their glory days are still
somewhere in the future. Villeneuve, the reigning champion, fought hard all year long but
in inferior machinery he struggled, while Frentzen failed to do enough to keep his seat for
next year. But McLaren came out victorious in the end.
Ferrari On Top
Ferrari dominates the 1990s
When we look back at the 1990s, Ferrari clearly dominated the field, but not without
overcoming significant bumps in the road.
CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP RANKINGS
YEAR RANKING MAKE POINTS EARNED
2000 1 FERRARI 170
2 MCLAREN-MERCEDES 152
3 WILLIAMS-BMW 36
1999 1 FERRARI 128
2 MCLAREN-MERCEDES 124
3 JORDAN-MUGEN HONDA 58
1998 1 MCLAREN-MERCEDES 156
2 FERRARI 133
3 WILLIAM-MECACHROME 38
1997 1 WILLIAMS-RENAULT 123
2 FERRARI 102
3 BENETTON-RENAULT 67
1996 1 WILLIAMS-RENAULT 175
2 FERRARI 70
3 BENETTON-RENAULT 68
1995 1 BENETTON-RENAULT 137
2 WILLIAMS-RENAULT 112
3 FERRARI 73
Ferrari with most wins
All told, Ferrari has won the most grand prix races dating back to 1951.
True champions throughout the years, Ferrari continues to set the pace.
End of the three parts series: italians and formula 1.