July 15, 2024


Fantasy Formula 1 Management

1991 Season Review : Part 2

The remodelled Silverstone circuit played host to the British Grand Prix, round 6 of the 1991 FF1M season. Senna picked up where he left off by taking pole position, his 15th career pole at that point. Not for the first time, it was an all Brazilian front row with Piquet 2nd. Magny-Cours winner Prost was 3rd with Lehto alongside him. Schumacher was an unusually low-key 8th, while home hero Mansell was down in 9th. As for the other Brits, Warwick was the highest up in 5th, Blundell was 16th, Herbert was 18th, and Brundle was down in 21st.

Senna kept the lead on the first lap with Piquet holding 2nd, but it was a calamity for Prost, who gently nudged the back of Piquet going into Stowe, slid wide, and spun into the gravel trap. Like the previous race, he was down to last on the first lap. Going in the opposite direction were the two Tornado drivers as Schumacher and Alboreto gained two and three places in the opening couple of laps.

Two Brits were already having a tough time in front of their home fans as Blundell and Brundle had separate off-track excursions. Berger was another driver struggling as he spun at the new Bridge corner on the second lap, and then at the reprofiled Maggots on the next lap. The gravel collected in his sidepods then led to an overheated engine on lap 9. Another driver in bother was Alesi, who was helped into the Stowe barriers by one of the Andrew Racing drivers, but managed to recover to the pits for a front wing change.

At the front, Senna had built up a 3.2 second lead over Piquet, but his time at the front didn’t last after a loose wheel forced him to retire on lap 11. Piquet then took over the lead, but it wasn’t a comfortable lead as the top six were competitive. Team Atlantic had a disastrous couple of laps with Alesi’s engine blowing up, and then Warwick’s doing something similar. The Brit had been driving superbly holding off Patrese for 2nd, so it was a tough one to take for team boss Alexei Korobov. At one third distance, Piquet led from Patrese, Mansell, and the two Tornado drivers, who swapped places after Alboreto overtook Schumacher going into Stowe.

Strategy then came into play with the top three deciding to make two stops, while the two Tornado drivers went for one-stop strategies. On new tyres, Piquet quickly overtook Schumacher for 2nd, but found Alboreto a much tougher customer. The two collided at Club and the pendulum effect put Piquet into a spin. He dropped to 4th, while Alboreto remained in the lead, but pitted shortly after. Schumacher’s pitstop then put Mansell into the lead on lap 33, but the frenzy lasted for just five laps as the recovering Piquet powered past at the exit of Luffield.

New tyres proved to be powerful as Alboreto caught and passed Mansell and then Piquet for the lead on lap 42. Piquet then immediately headed for the pits and dropped to 3rd, 27 seconds behind Alboreto, but on new tyres, he gave chase. On lap 53, he caught 2nd-placed Schumacher, and although the German put up a defence, he couldn’t hold off Piquet, who went round the outside at the exit of Club. Without his teammate as his rearguard, Alboreto was vulnerable, and Piquet’s attack came on the final lap. He had a look going into Copse, but Alboreto held on. Piquet tried again going into Stowe and was successful. He therefore took his first win of the season with Alboreto having to settle for 2nd, a result which Tornado boss Tobias described as “sour”. Meanwhile, Schumacher lost 3rd to a charging Mansell, who also used his two-stop strategy to good effect. 5th was Prost after another brilliant recovery after his first lap drama, while Herbert also put in a fantastic drive to finish 6th for Darkfire.

With Hockenheim absent from the 1991 calendar, FF1M moved straight to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, and the two leading Brazilians battled for pole position, with Senna ahead of Piquet. In an exact repeat of the previous race, row two featured Prost and Lehto. Performing particularly poorly was Mansell, who was way down in 13th.

The qualifying times were rendered mostly irrelevant for the race as at the start, the two Brazilians collided going into the first chicane in an incident ruled as six of one, half a dozen of the other. Senna squeezed Piquet, who braked way too late and sent the Gojira driver into a barrel roll. A large traffic jam formed with Alboreto and Patrese facing the wrong way, but despite the omni-carnage, there was no red flag. At Roggia, both JGR Meister drivers braked too late and hopped over the gravel trap, but no major harm was done to either driver’s races. The same couldn’t have been said for Martini and Modena, who collided into Ascari, resulting in Martini briefly losing his sense of direction and driving into a barrier. At the front, Lehto had taken the lead after the Brazilian bust-up, but it would only last until the Parabolica, where a stubborn defensive move on an equally stubborn Prost led to big impacts into the tyre walls for both and the immediate race retirements.

All this left the two Team Atlantic drivers in the lead and Schumacher 3rd, but the Tornado driver wasn’t far behind and appeared to be quicker than Warwick and Alesi. The same couldn’t be said for Alboreto, who was being tormented by drivers such as Patrese and the recovering Piquet. At least he didn’t experience a terrifying high speed spin going into the first chicane, which is what happened to Gugelmin and Suzuki on lap 5. Amazingly, both drivers managed to avoid hitting the wall. The same lap saw Team Atlantic’s team boss, Alexei Korobov, have multiple kittens as both his drivers collided going into Ascari, gifting the lead to Schumacher, although they remained 2nd and 3rd.

Lap 8 saw Alesi once again hit Warwick but with more severe consequences as the Brit was forced to wait in the Roggia gravel trap for a while before rejoining in 12th. This briefly moved Hakkinen up to 3rd before his engine failed on lap 17, handing the position to Capelli. The same thing happened to Mansell eight laps later, but mysteriously, he wouldn’t be out of the race. His choice of where to pull over was the pit lane entrance, and a pitstop somehow cured the issue and he was back in the race. Having survived a collision with Berger, Capelli’s race then ended after Piquet, who had recovered to 5th, tagged the back of the Andrew Racing driver going into the Parabolica, and both retired in exactly the same place as Lehto and Prost.

This promoted Warwick back up to 3rd behind Schumacher and Alesi, although a later pitstop dropped him behind the impressive Herbert, who had mostly stayed out of trouble. The German was the first of the two to make his only stop of the race and subsequently built a useful advantage. Both drivers were struggling with backmarkers with a recovering Senna unlapping himself from Schumacher, and Alesi being forced wide by Modena at Ascari. More traffic for Schumacher caused a loss of six seconds in one lap and all of a sudden, his lead wasn’t so comfortable. Despite another scare on the penultimate lap where he had to avoid a spun Mansell, Schumacher held on to win by just four seconds. Meanwhile, Warwick’s newer tyres had helped him to close in on Herbert. On the penultimate lap, he attempted an overtake going into Ascari but ran slightly wide. On the final lap going into the Parabolica, he was successful and made it two Team Atlantic drivers on the podium.

Despite finishing down in 11th after a race full of incident, Senna had the opportunity to wrap up the championship at the Portuguese Grand Prix, providing umpteen permutations were met. He did his cause no harm by taking yet another pole position with his Brazilian nemesis alongside him. Schumacher took 3rd on the grid and was looking to continue where he left off in order to close an 11 point deficit to championship leader Senna.

The front row remained in order at the start, while Alesi got the jump on Schumacher for 3rd. The Tornado driver quickly regained the initiative at the start of the 2nd lap. Alesi then started dropping down the order with poor race pace as Gugelmin and Prost got ahead over the next few laps. Lap six saw Schumacher overtake Piquet for 2nd, while Piquet’s teammate was having a rotten race as he lost position after position, again due to poor race pace.

It was a much quieter race compared to other races, but different strategies kept the race interesting. Senna and Piquet opted for two-stop strategies, while Schumacher and Gugelmin were going for just the one. This came into effect when Senna made his 2nd stop with 16 laps to go and rejoined 18 seconds behind Schumacher, but on fresh tyres. Further down the order, Lehto’s miserable race got even worse as an ill-judged overtaking attempt by Hakkinen put both drivers into the barriers and in need of new wings.

Having retaken the lead, Schumacher was struggling on old tyres and would’ve been caught by Senna with around five laps to go. Furthermore, other drivers who had two-stopped but went a lap down created an even bigger problem for the Tornado driver. On lap 59, Berger attempted to unlap himself going into the first corner, but ended up tagging Schumacher causing the German to spin. Although he kept the lead, Senna was right on his gearbox earlier than anticipated and on lap 61, the Brazilian took the lead.

Had the order remained static until the end, Schumacher would’ve still had a chance at the championship… enter Alboreto, who attempted his own unlapping manoeuvre on his teammate on the following lap. What followed could only have been described as a catastrophe for Tornado as both drivers collided and Schumacher ended up in the wall. He remained in the gravel trap for seven laps as he tried and succeeded to persuade his team to fire Alboreto before rejoining. Senna went on to take the win, but not quite the championship as Piquet had worked his way into 2nd place after passing Gugelmin with a few laps to go. Gugelmin then lost 3rd to Blundell, who had driven magnificently for his first ever podium finish.

The circus stayed in Iberia for the Spanish Grand Prix, but at a brand new venue as Barcelona took over from Jerez. Although Senna only needed a single 5th place in the two races, changeable conditions in qualifying threw a spanner in the works, and Senna could only manage 18th. Worse than that, Piquet was up in 3rd behind the two Pedersen drivers, with Prost taking his first pole of the season.

Senna woes were amplified at the start when Piquet took the lead with Alesi following through into 2nd. Further back, Capelli had an off at the first corner thanks to Boutsen triggering a game of dominoes from behind. On the 2nd lap, Schumacher found himself in the wars once again as Warwick aggressively slammed the door on him at La Caixa, while Senna found Moreno just as unwilling as the two made contact going into the first corner. As for the other Willows driver, his spin at Würth was far more sedate.

Patrese was on the move as he set the fastest lap and closed in on Prost. Both Pedersen drivers had overtaken Alesi over the first few laps and were keeping Piquet honest, but then Patrese blotted the Danish copybook on lap five by tagging Prost going into Repsol and went for a trip in the gravel and a drop to 8th. Rain then started to fall with Alesi coming back at Prost for 2nd on the following lap, and it seemed as if the Team Atlantic driver was a strong contender for the win, but after switching to wet tyres, he ran wide at Turn 3 and threw it all away. Prost then lost 2nd place to a flying Hakkinen having been side-by-side for half of the 17th lap, and then retired six laps later with failed electronics.

More pitstops took place as track conditions worsened, and on a wetter circuit, Hakkinen was the quicker driver and on lap 35, he took the lead from Piquet and pulled away. Even after more pitstops as the track became less wet, Hakkinen maintained the lead and continued to pull away, which was an issue for Piquet as he needed to win in order to stay in the championship, but his quest became academic when he understeered off at the final corner and ripped his left front wheel off. This automatically awarded Senna the drivers championship despite a shambolic race for the Brazilian which ended with an engine failure whilst running 11th, and it left Hakkinen to take a brilliant maiden win. 2nd was Patrese, who resolutely defended his position from Schumacher in the closing stages, while Herbert took another solid 4th for Darkfire. Schumacher’s new teammate, Andrea de Cesaris, was an impressive 5th, while Lehto rounded out the points finishers.

The final race of the season was held at Adelaide for the Australian Grand Prix, and although Senna had inauspiciously won the drivers championship for the 3rd time in his career, there was still a constructors championship to be decided. The criteria was simple, Gojira needed a single point to win, while Tornado needed a 1-2 finish with Gojira not scoring anything. It was a long shot, particularly as Tornado, FJR, Pedersen, and JGR Meister were all separated by just three points. Qualifying was business as usual with Senna on pole and Piquet alongside him.

On a damp track with everyone on slicks, Senna maintained the lead while Patrese made an excellent start to go from 5th to 2nd going into the first corner. Aside from Blundell having a half spin after contact with Warwick and briefly blocking Schumacher, the first lap was relatively clean. Lap 3 was when the real action started as Piquet overtook Patrese for 2nd before chopping in front of him in the braking zone of the Dequetteville hairpin. Alesi then nudged Patrese into Piquet at the exit which left the Brazilian down in 4th. Meanwhile, Alesi’s teammate had a lurid spin and a half at the exit of Brewery after getting onto the kerb.

Patrese started to drop back as the track began to dry out as he lost 2nd to Alesi on lap 7 and then 3rd to Piquet on the following lap. It took Prost another 10 laps to emulate the manoeuvre to move up to 4th, then it became 2nd on lap 25 when Piquet misjudged his braking into Dequetteville and shunted Alesi into retirement. He then rejoined straight into a scrap with Gugelmin for 7th, which Piquet won going into Racetrack hairpin before heading into the pits for the first of two stops. Meanwhile, the other FJR tagged Blundell into a spin at Dequetteville after being caught out by the Willows driver’s early braking.

Prost and de Cesaris also went for two stop strategies and while Prost maintained track position over the Italian, he made contact with 4th placed Mansell on lap 33 going into Racetrack and slipped behind de Cesaris. One lap later, Piquet made contact with 8th placed Schumacher going into the Senna chicane and immediately made yet another hash by complicating his rejoin. In his ensuing fightback, Piquet managed to put Martini into a spin and frighten Suzuki off the road.

At the front, Senna made what looked like his only stop of the race on lap 37, maintained the lead, and looked to be heading for an easy win… enter Brundle. Senna lapped the Shake ‘n’ Bake driver and then chopped in front of the Brit under braking for Dequetteville. It was only a light tap, but it was enough to put Senna into the barriers and back into the pits for a new front wing, dropping him to 6th. De Cesaris inherited the lead, but Prost in 2nd was the quicker driver and took the lead on lap 51.

The two Finns found themselves in the wars on a few occasions as their teams battled each other in the constructors championship. On lap 45, both drivers tried to outdo each other into Dequetteville with Lehto winning their first battle. Not content with that, Hakkinen drove into Lehto going into Racetrack, but only succeeded in spinning, while Lehto managed to keep forward momentum on the grass. 13 laps later and having caught back up, Hakkinen managed to do the job properly going into Wakefield and shunted Lehto into retirement. At somepoint between laps 58 and 69, Piquet must’ve heard what had happened to his teammate as on new tyres, he caught Hakkinen and nudged the Finn into an identical retirement in what was described one onlooker as “pure vengeance.” Piquet had time for yet another incident, this time with 4th placed Gugelmin and dropped back down to 7th.

At the front, Prost and de Cesaris’ second stops dropped them both behind Senna and Patrese, but on much fresher tyres, both two stoppers effortlessly moved back to the front, although this was partly aided by Senna retiring with a loose wheel. Prost therefore took his 2nd win of the season with de Cesaris taking his first career podium. Despite dropping more than a minute in less than 20 laps compared to his teammate, Patrese took 3rd, and with both Pedersen drivers on the podium, this ensured them 2nd in the constructors championship ahead of Tornado, with Gojira winning the constructors championship. Gugelmin survived the late incident with Piquet to finish 4th, while the FJR driver overtook Suzuki and Warwick in the final laps to finish 5th. Thanks to Schumacher having an awful race, this meant Piquet ended his final FF1M race as runner up in the drivers championship.

So, it was Senna who won his 3rd driver championship having previously won it in 1987 and 1989. There’s little doubt over his motivation for a 4th championship in 1992, but the likes of Mansell, Schumacher, and Hakkinen will be eager to stop him. Amongst the biggest question marks of 1992 include an expanded 12-race calendar, technological advancements which offer vastly improved performance at the expense of reliability, and whether Prost will even appear on the grid.