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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 people's champion.

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 Nigel Mansell

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.

Finnish First

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.

2000 	1 	FERRARI			170 
   	3 	WILLIAMS-BMW	 	 36 
1999	1 	FERRARI 		128 
1998	1 	MCLAREN-MERCEDES 	156 
	2 	FERRARI 		133 
1997	1 	WILLIAMS-RENAULT 	123 
	2 	FERRARI 		102 
1996	1 	WILLIAMS-RENAULT 	175 
	2 	FERRARI 		 70 
1995	1 	BENETTON-RENAULT 	137 
	3 	FERRARI 		 73

Ferrari with most wins

All told, Ferrari has won the most grand prix races dating back to 1951.

		Ferrari		 	135 
		McLaren		 	130
		Williams	 	103
True champions throughout the years, Ferrari continues to set the pace.

Three Part Series
1 - 2 - 3

Parts of the preceding article have been reproduced from the following web sites: The Story of the Grand Prix, and Grand Prix History.

End of the three parts series: italians and formula 1.


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