Round 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring
SUPER NIGE FINALLY CLAIMS HIS MOMENT
1 Ayrton Senna McLaren Honda
2 Nigel Mansell Williams Renault
3 Gerhard Berger McLaren Honda
4 Mika Hakkinen Lotus Ford
5 Martin Brundle Benetton Ford
6 Ivan Capelli Ferrari
IT WAS round 11 of the 16 race world championship season and Nigel Mansell had destroyed the competition. Coming to the August sunshine in Budapest, only his team-mate Riccardo Patrese stood a mathematical chance of denying the 39-year old his ultimate ambition of claiming his maiden title. For once in qualifying, Mansell was outpaced by Patrese and had to settle for the front row and not the pole position. The closest challengers were the McLaren’s and they were still a full second adrift of the almost unbeatable Williams Renault combination.
To win the championship, Mansell had to win or finish on the podium if Patrese took the honours. Uncharisterically, he made a very slow start from the dirty side of the grid and conceded two positions to the McLaren’s of Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger. Suddenly, with the Benetton’s of Michael Schumacher and Martin Brundle in hot pursuit, Mansell was out of his comfort zone and would have to wait to wrap up the title.
Further back, the Ligier’s of Erik Comas and Thierry Boutsen ran into each other again (they did so in Brazil earlier in the season) on the exit of the first corner. Boutsen went shooting off to the right hand side of the tyres, taking Johnny Herbert’s Lotus with him and Comas took out the innocent Gabriele Tarquini on the left-hand side of the track. With the Ligier of Comas broadside across the track, F1 history was on the cards with the possible use of the pace car for the first time ever, but the marshals did an great job of clearing away the mess. It wasn’t Belgium’s best day for their drivers as fellow countryman to Boutsen; the popular Eric Van Der Poele spun his Fondmetal into the turn 1 gravel trap on his maiden outing for the team.
For a while, Mansell dropped back from the first three, then eased into the task he needed to achieve and cruised past Berger on lap eight to win back third place. It wasn’t long before he began swarming all over the back of Senna too, but as ever, the three-times world champion was proving harder to pass. By lap 13, the attrition rate was increasing with Jean Alesi retiring after damaging his Ferrari on the high kerbs. Then Stefano Modena, Karl Wendlinger and Olivier Grouillard somehow managed to get tangled up near the back of the field and all were eliminated. Yet again, a car in the form of Modena’s Jordan Yamaha was stuck plum in the middle of the road, but again, with more of a struggle, the race was uninterrupted. Despite this flock of cars ending their days early, Mansell was still getting stuck and very frustrated in traffic, particularly behind the scrapping Damon Hill and Pierluigi Martini.
With nearly 20 seconds on Senna, Patrese looked set for his first win of 1992, but lost concentration and spun into the dirt at turn two. It was a pure driving error and cost the most experienced driver in Grand Prix racing nearly a minute and the lead. He rejoined seventh and shortly afterwards, was forced out of the race by a blown engine, possibly caused by grass getting into the radiator intakes. This meant that Mansell was now in pole position to win the championship. He only needed third and was in a comfortable second.
As ever though, things were never made easy for the Brit and just like in Monaco earlier in the campaign, the Williams engineers detected a rear puncture and the runaway championship leader was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop. The delay dropped him to sixth place and with just 17 laps to go; it looked set to have left his bid to sew up the title at this event in tatters. Next up, showed the true class Mansell had in abundance which he hadn’t needed to show a great deal of in 1992. To begin with, he received a slice of good fortune, when on lap 62, Schumacher’s rear wing flew off under braking for turn 1 and headed towards Budapest International Airport. The German was pitched into the gravel in a cloud of tyre smoke, yet stepped out from his car totally unharmed. It seemed like a touch from team-mate Brundle around the back end of the circuit had caused the catastrophic failure. Within six laps, Mansell had nibbled into fourth place Mika Hakkinen’s advantage of some 20 seconds. The Lotus was no match for the Williams in braking capacity and now only Brundle stood between Mansell and the title. Just one lap later, Nigel placed his car in a position where Brundle had to let him go. Third was okay, but that wasn’t enough for Mansell and in his usual hard-charging manner, he caught and re-passed Berger, ending hopes of a first McLaren 1-2 since Japan 1991.
Out infront by some 40 seconds, Senna effortlessly drove towards only his second success of the season, but it was Mansell who made the headlines. He guided his car around the final few bends to clinch the six points for second place that made him the 1992 FIA Formula 1 World Champion. Berger was third, whilst a late excursion from Brundle cost him fourth spot to the impressive Hakkinen. Ivan Capelli dragged his Ferrari around to a rare point for sixth, although, he was a lap adrift.
Down in the pits, Nigel’s wife Rosanne was congratulated by team manager Peter Windsor and the Williams team were euphoric at their fourth driver’s title, their first since one of Mansell’s bitter rivals from previous years, Nelson Piquet denied him in 1987. There was a clear sense of relief though also on Mansell’s face on the podium too. He had been the nearly man on so many occasions, now it was his turn to be in the limelight. The years of McLaren domination were well and truly over and it was now time for the supremacy of the Williams age in Grand Prix racing.
Round 16, Australian Grand Prix, Adelaide
BRILLIANT BERGER SIGNS OFF WITH LUCKY WIN
1 Gerhard Berger McLaren Honda
2 Michael Schumacher Benetton Ford
3 Martin Brundle Benetton Ford
4 Jean Alesi Ferrari
5 Thierry Boutsen Ligier Renault
6 Stefano Modena Jordan Yamaha
WITH both world championships having been decided a long time ago, there was a distinctly relaxed and colourful atmosphere for the 1992 season finale in Australia. This race looked set to be decided between the two men who both looked set to be heading for F1’s departure lounge at the end of the race distance Down Under. World champion Nigel Mansell was moving Stateside for a career in IndyCars and his Williams Renault was once again fastest in qualifying. It was Mansell’s 13th pole position of the season, but he claimed it by just 0.5 secs from the McLaren Honda of the man he succeeded as champion, Ayrton Senna. Senna was assessing his options and at this stage, did not have a contract with McLaren for 1993. Many observers thought Ayrton was going to take a year out of Grand Prix racing to recharge his batteries before returning to battle for 1994. Completing the top six in qualifying were Riccardo Patrese, Michael Schumacher, Gerhard Berger & the Ferrari of Jean Alesi.
For the final time in 1992, the cars roared off the startline and Mansell made a clean start to hold his advantage infront of Senna, Patrese, Schumacher and Berger. Further back there was trouble, as the unpopular Olivier Grouillard spun his Tyrrell Ilmor and collected the luckless Pierluigi Martini. Both were eliminated on the spot and Michele Alboreto also retired on the first lap, crashing his Footwork. During the first lap, Senna outbraked Mansell on the Brabham Straight, but unfortunately, he outbraked himself and lost the brief initiative he had gained. The good thing for the fans was that the McLaren chassis looked to have the equal measure of the almost unbeatable Williams Renault-Mansell combination.
Down in the pack, Mauricio Gugelmin’s Formula One career ended abruptly by brake failure in the Jordan Yamaha. To Eddie Jordan’s relief, his team-mate, Stefano Modena was making a better fist of things and was in contention for points. For 18 laps, it was nose-to-tail stuff at the front with Senna gaining time whilst lapping Nicola Larini’s Ferrari. Into the final bend, the Brazilian lost control of his McLaren, broke too late and rammed into Mansell. Both retired on the spot and it was such a pity for a tense, tight scrap to end like this. Mansell and Williams were furious with Senna, expressing their thoughts about Senna’s driving in the media afterwards.
So, it was left for Patrese and Berger to dice it out for the lead, with the Austrian trying a similar move on Patrese like his team-mate did to Mansell on the first lap. Ultimately, it brought a similar outcome as Berger locked up, shot past and lost his brief advantage to the Italian. Patrese look confident in his driving again, following his long overdue success in Japan a fortnight earlier and built up a healthy lead. Disappointingly, it was all for nought on lap 50 when a fuel pressure failure robbed the Williams driver of victory in his swansong after five years of outstanding loyalty.
Now, it was Berger who took his turn at the head of the field, infront of the Benetton Ford’s of Schumacher and Martin Brundle. It had been a solid season for Italian nearly man Andrea De Cesaris, and he looked on course for a second successive fourth position until his engine expired. Berger was cruising to the finish, but Schumacher drastically closed the gap and was not prepared to allow the Austrian a moment of breathing space. However, there was a reason with Berger’s deterioration in pace. This was due to fuel consumption issues. Consequently, the gap got underneath a second, but Schumacher ran out of time and Berger bid farewell to McLaren after three seasons in fine style. It was also the perfect way to end Honda’s association with McLaren and Formula One, as they pulling out due to financial constraints back home in Japan. Brundle wound up third, infront of Alesi, the Ligier of Thierry Boutsen and Modena, who at the final attempt, picked up Jordan’s first point of a desperate and fruitless season.
It was a lucky win for Berger, but well deserved for his loyalty towards McLaren and Senna. As the 1992 campaign concluded, many were looking forward to the 1993 season, which for many pundits, promised much of the same. Utter domination from Williams Renault then!