Shortly after the Canadian Grand Prix, teams had the opportunity to further develop their car with new and existing technologies, or possibly develop their finances for the 1993 season by means of a mid-season quiz set-up by the AFIA. Key developments from this were Tornado mastering their active suspension system, FJR and Willows Racing equipping all available technologies, and some teams resisting all available technologies in favour of their 1993 budget.
The second half of the season began at the French Grand Prix, which took place at a slightly revised Magny-Cours in which the needless chicane between Adelaide and Nurburgring was removed, making for a faster entry into the corner named in spirit of the original Veedol chicane from the 80s. It proved to be a good qualifying session for Germany’s Michael Schumacher, who took his 4th pole of the season with Karl Wendlinger alongside him on the front row.
At the start, Wendlinger threatened Schumacher’s lead going through the Grande Courbe, but the Pedersen driver resisted and maintained the lead… right up until the Adelaide hairpin, when attempting to overtake his countryman, Gerhard Berger braked a fraction too late and nudged Schumacher into a quarter spin. Berger took advantage of his ambition and took the lead, with Schumacher holding onto 2nd, but the German would regain the lead on lap 5. Further back, both Andrew Racing drivers got themselves into a shouting match, but both maintained 8th and 9th exiting Adelaide. This then became 6th and 7th after a stubborn dispute between Damon Hill and Ayrton Senna at the Lycee chicane ended in contact and many lost places for both.
Hill’s fightback began on lap 3 when he took advantage of his teammate tagging the back of Mika Hakkinen going into Adelaide, allowing Hill to sneak past both. His fightback was stunted however after another collision at the Lycee chicane, this time with Mauricio Gugelmin. Hill would ultimately retire late in the race with FJR’s first mechanical retirement of the season, a possible legacy of adding their own active suspension system mid-season. Earlier in the race, Gugelmin was involved in another collision as he tried to fend off Alain Prost, but the Frenchman was revelling in a car with fully developed active suspension and a new semi-automatic gearbox. On lap 8, he pressured 2nd placed Berger into a mistake at Nurburgring before taking the lead into Imola on lap 17. Although he nearly lost the lead after a small error at Estoril, the rate of which he began to pull away was noticeable at around a second a lap.
By lap 56, Prost had built up a lead of well over half a minute on Schumacher, but then he made an unexpected error at Nurburgring and had a lurid high speed spin into the tyre barrier, much to the fury of team boss Tobias. This left Schumacher to take his 4th win of the season from the two Gojira drivers of Wendlinger and Gugelmin. 4th for Johnny Herbert was a lucky result as the FJR driver suffered a brake issue which brought his pitstop well ahead of schedule, plus he inherited that position after Nigel Mansell was forced to pit on the penultimate lap. Thierry Boutsen finished 5th with Martin Brundle putting in a solid drive to take Tini Racing’s first point of their career, a much needed result after a difficult first half of the season for them.
The Belgian Grand Prix made a welcome return to the FF1M calendar having been absent since the 1988 season. That particular race was won by the Pedersen of Alessandro Nannini, and qualifying for the 1992 race was topped by the Pedersen of Schumacher. He had Prost alongside him on the front row, by far the Frenchman’s best qualifying of the season and very happy with his updated car. He was even happier with his start as a good launch allowed him to take the lead.
Hill was another driver who had a good start as he moved from 8th to 6th. Conversely, Michele Alboreto was in a spin at the Bus Stop chicane after taking too much kerb and fell to last. The Italian would then crash out at the Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex at one quarter distance. Another driver to fall foul of the daunting corner was Ukyo Katayama, who was tapped wide by Erik Comas and spun into the path of an innocent Mika Hakkinen.
Having made his way into 6th on the first lap, Hill continued his charge as he frightened Wendlinger off the road at Les Combes on lap 3 before taking 4th off of Berger on the following lap. On lap 6, he slipped down to 6th after another collision with Gugelmin and had to reset his charge by repassing Berger. As for Gugelmin, he lost 3rd to Herbert on lap 9, and then another place to Hill on the following lap. Eight laps later, Hill took his teammate for 3rd going into the Bus Stop.
At the front, the combination of Prost, Tornado, and Spa was unbeatable, but the battle for 2nd was of great interest. Hill was the first of the top three to pit and jumped Schumacher when the Pedersen made his sole stop, but the Brit made a mistake at Pouhon which dropped him to 4th behind Herbert. Having closed up to Schumacher, Herbert then dropped out of the race with a puncture. Despite older tyres, Hill managed to catch up to Schumacher and take 2nd on lap 42 going into Les Combes, but Schumacher kept the pressure on and forced Hill into an error at the Bus Stop.
This settled the battle for 2nd in favour of Schumacher, who extended his championship lead over Hill, but he was nearly 80 seconds behind the dominant Prost. Further down the field, Berger finally reached the chequered flag for the first time this season, and with it, a fine 4th place. Completing the points finishers were Mansell and Gugelmin.
Monza was next for the Italian Grand Prix, and for only the second time this season, Schumacher was off the front row. In fact, 4th was his worst qualifying for the entire season. Locking out the front row were the two Gojira AutoSport drivers, with Wendlinger taking his first career pole. Qualifying poorly were the two FJRs down in 14th and 15th, while Gabriele Tarquini took a season’s best 8th.
Monza’s first chicane had a tendency to provide carnage, but this time around, the only incident of note was Gugelmin shortcutting Rettifilo, giving Wendlinger a large lead as the field rounded Curva Grande. The second chicane was less clean as Hill got his braking point all wrong and tipped his teammate into a spin, dropping both way down the order. At Ascari, Alboreto briefly inspected the gravel trap just to make sure it was there.
On the second lap, Hill and Herbert had their second contact of the race, although just a light one after Hill couldn’t make an overtake on Andrea de Cesaris stick at Roggia. Later on in the lap, they had their third through no fault of their own. At Ascari, Jean Alesi went into the first apex far too quickly and ran across the gravel and grass. His rejoin attempt went horribly wrong as he sauntered into the path of his teammate, ending both drivers’ races on the spot. Alesi wasn’t finished yet, as he drove back onto the circuit into the path of Hill, ending his race, while Herbert couldn’t react in time to avoid piling into the back of his teammate. Although Herbert made it back to the pits, the damage proved terminal as no new left front wheel was ever fitted. An unhappy Herbert refused to leave his car for the entirety of the race.
While the two Gojira drivers continued to lead, Berger’s 3rd place was under threat on lap 4 and ended up losing two places to Schumacher and Prost on the same straight, but Prost missed his braking point at Rettifilo, ran wide, and was forced to wait until nearly the entire field went through before rejoining. On the next lap, Mansell and Hakkinen collided going into Rettifilo, while a charging Derek Warwick moved up to 5th ahead of Riccardo Patrese at the Parabolica before surviving a slap up the back on the next lap. Warwick’s teammate found de Cesaris just as difficult as both collided at Rettifilo, and Prost lost yet more ground. Further up, Wendlinger’s time in the lead lasted until lap 6 when he ran wide and spun at the second Lesmo, handing the lead to his teammate.
The race then settled down for a few laps aside from a couple of off track moments for Bertrand Gachot and a three-way collision on lap 12 at Rettifilo between Senna, Alboreto, and Stefano Modena, aiding Prost’s recovery through the field. His teammate also helped out tremendously as on lap 16, Warwick got alongside 2nd placed Schumacher going into the Parabolica and swiped into him at the braking zone, causing the German to crash out in dramatic fashion. Warwick rejoined in 5th between the two JGR Meister drivers, who were having a great race, but Katayama’s race ended a few laps later due to a blown engine.
Having made his way up to 5th at half distance, Prost was the first driver to make his only scheduled stop of the race, while Berger was one of the last around eight laps later. The gap between the two was 27 seconds before Prost pitted, it was less than second after Berger pitted. Both were running 4th and 5th, but both gained a place at the expense of Warwick converting his car into a missile as he careered off track and into the tyre barrier at the first Lesmo. Prost then quickly passed Berger for 3rd going into Ascari.
Prost’s next target was 2nd placed Brundle, but this became a battle for the lead when race leader Gugelmin was forced to make an unscheduled stop on lap 38. On the next lap, Prost saw an opportunity to take the lead going into Ascari, but Brundle’s stern defence caused contact, and the time loss put Gugelmin back into the lead. Having dropped down to 4th, an angry Prost went back on the attack and got back in front of Berger on lap 41. Two laps later, he passed Brundle for 2nd at the Parabolica.
Even on 13 lap older tyres, Prost was still quicker than Gugelmin, and on the final lap, he had caught up to the Brazilian. Despite the tyre advantage, Gugelmin had no answer as Prost took the lead going into Ascari, relief and delight for Tornado, heartache for Gugelmin and Gojira. Brundle took a brilliant 3rd and Tini Racing’s first career podium finish. Their result was sweetened by de Cesaris taking 6th from Mansell at the very last corner of the race. Sandwiching Brundle and de Cesaris were Berger and Boutsen.
There was an air of tension heading into the Portuguese Grand Prix with a wide open battle for the constructors championship. FJR held the advantage by just five points, but Pedersen and in particular Tornado had far more momentum. The drivers championship was realistically between Schumacher, Prost, and Hill, but Schumacher had the opportunity to wrap it up at Estoril. He qualified best of the three in 2nd, but taking a surprise pole was Mansell. The Andrew Racing was well suited to the circuit in qualifying trim with Patrese up in 3rd as well.
Mansell had a good start to maintain the lead going into the first corner, but the start of the race came from Alesi, who went from 10th to 4th after the first corner. The Frenchman was now driving for Tornado after a deal for Alesi and Warwick to swap teams was agreed, and it appeared to have done Alesi’s confidence a world of good as he powered past Boutsen for 3rd at the start of the second lap. As that was happening, Schumacher was making a similar move to take the lead from Mansell.
Lap 3 was a disaster for JGR Meister as under pressure from Senna, Katayama ran wide and went into a spin. He couldn’t avoid the barrier, tore his left rear wheel off, and ricocheted into the path of Tarquini. The impact removed the Italian’s front wing and destroyed Katayama’s sidepod. At the front of the field, Alesi effortlessly breezed past Mansell for 2nd while Hill made a similar move on Gugelmin for 5th. Hill’s teammate wasn’t having such a good time as he had a spin at the first corner on lap 4. Not satisfied with the lack of damaged caused, Herbert had a far more spectacular smash at the same corner four laps later. Another Brit in trouble was Mansell, who crashed out from 4th at turn 8.
As the race developed, it was clear that Schumacher didn’t have the pace as Alesi took the lead on lap 5, then Hill took 2nd on lap 8, and Prost took 3rd on lap 13. The top three was slowly starting to compress before Hill and FJR’s championship challenges took a severe knock due to engine failure on lap 22. This left Tornado unchallenged at the front with Alesi on course to take a brilliant win under the circumstances of his season, but then two different kinds of disaster struck for the team with Alesi crashing out under no pressure on lap 43, and then having taken the lead, Prost’s gearbox failed on lap 51.
Schumacher therefore took the lead of the race and if things had gone smoothly until the chequered flag, he would’ve won the drivers championship, but just two laps later, he incredibly crashed out, a possible consequence of having seen the winning post too soon. This left Boutsen in the lead and unlike the previous leaders, his car worked fine, he made no mistakes, and he went on to take his first career win. Having driven well all season, it was a deserved result. Gugelmin was once again on the podium in 2nd with Patrese taking Andrew Racing’s first podium of the season. Late charges from Brundle and de Cesaris saw them take 4th and 5th with Alboreto slipping to 6th.
With two races to go, the constructors championship was still wide open with 4th placed Gojira becoming an outside chance as they were just 17 points behind FJR, who could consider themselves very lucky to still be leading after scoring just seven points in the last four races. Gojira put themselves in a good position to do more damage as Wendlinger took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix with Mansell 2nd. As for the drivers championship contenders, Schumacher was 3rd, Hill was 8th, and Prost was down in 13th.
Wendlinger had a good start from pole position and despite pressure from Schumacher, kept the lead during what was a chaotic first lap. The first incident saw a three-wide moment between Modena, Brundle, and Comas end in inevitable contact. All three would rejoin, although Comas was far more leisurely and lost two laps to the leaders. At the Spoon curve, Hakkinen was pressured into an off-track excursion by Tarquini. Those incidents set the tone for the nature of the race as on lap 2, a small nudge on Wendlinger going into the Casio chicane unsettled Schumacher into a mistake that dropped him way down the order. On the next lap, Hakkinen had another spin, this time at the first corner, while conversely, Hill was flying as he overtook Berger, Mansell, and Gugelmin within the space of a lap to move up to 2nd, and then took the lead on lap 4 when Wendlinger made a mistake and spun at the first corner.
The next driver to spin was Alboreto at 130R, and even race leader Hill flirted with disaster at the first corner. Mirroring Alboreto’s error on lap 5 was Prost, who had just moved into 4th place ahead of the two Willows drivers, and realistically ended his already slim championship chances. They ended for good on lap 8 when he made it as far as the barrier at the first corner. On that lap, his teammate spun from 6th place at the same corner along with Alboreto, while a wide moment from Berger at the Esses turned into an unsafe rejoin. The victim? The other Pedersen of Schumacher. Both drivers retired on the spot with dislodged wheels.
This presented Hill with a golden opportunity to close the gap on Schumacher in the drivers championship, and the dangerously treacherous Suzuka circuit continued to catch many drivers out. De Cesaris and Patrese both went off at the first corner at the exact same time on lap 9, while Gugelmin crashed out of 2nd place very heavily at the Esses and Hakkinen had yet another spin at the first corner three laps later. Even Hill wasn’t immune as he had his own spin at the exit of Dunlop, but he kept hold of the lead from Mansell having lost 13 seconds.
The torch of carnage was then passed onto Alesi as he punted Warwick into de Cesaris at Casio on lap 15 before crashing out for good at the Esses after half distance. Of more raceworthy value was Herbert overtaking Mansell for 2nd, but then he made a mistake at Spoon and had to redo his hard work, which he did at the start of lap 23. Further back, Brundle was enjoying a good recovery drive having passed Senna for 8th at the start of lap 25 before having a quick spin at the first corner and dropping behind the Brazilian. Another one having a quick spin was Alboreto at 130R once again, but more serious was Mansell losing 3rd thanks to a broken gearbox. This left Boutsen in 3rd before he suffered a catastrophic engine failure, and then Herbert lost 2nd place thanks to a puncture. This left Katayama on course to take an incredible podium finish in front of his home crowd but then heartbreakingly, his Yamaha engine failed with just five laps remaining.
Hill’s run at the front was dominant, but not without drama as his first pitstop was brought forward slightly due to an unspecified car problem, and then he had time for an off at 130R with added doughnuts, but he had just about mastered the challenge of Suzuka to win his third race of the season and keep his championship hopes alive. Joining him on the podium were the two Tini Racing drivers, who despite their incidents had kept their temperaments in tact. Completing the points scorers were Wendlinger, Hakkinen, and Alboreto, with Modena and Comas completing the remaining runners in a race of high attrition.
With just the Australian Grand Prix remaining, both championships were still open. Schumacher had a six point lead over Hill, while FJR were 13 points in front of Pedersen. Schumacher only needed a 3rd place to guarantee him the drivers championship, while the same aim would ensure the constructors championship for FJR. In qualifying, it was advantage Schumacher as he took his 6th pole position of the season with Hill down in 8th.
Schumacher had a clean start to maintain the lead by the end of the first lap while Berger moved into 2nd ahead of Mansell. Hill had a poor start and dropped to 10th. Trying to make up for lost time, he attempted an overtake on Hakkinen for 9th going into Brewery on the second lap, but got his braking completely wrong and shunted himself into the concrete wall, handing the championship very quickly to Schumacher. Hakkinen also retired from the collision, as did the luckless Katayama, who couldn’t avoid being collected by Hill.
The championship attention then shifted to the constructors battle between FJR and Pedersen. Herbert had made a good start from 12th on the grid to run 6th before finding himself in a four-car battle for 3rd going into the Dequetteville hairpin, which ended badly for Prost and Wendlinger as both collided, lost their front wings against the unforgiving concrete wall, and had to make unscheduled stops. In the melee, de Cesaris went in too quickly and tore his front wheel off while at Mistral, Tarquini misjudged the approach and had a spin.
After the unscheduled stop for his new front wing, Prost went on the offensive in a bid to try and avoid ending his season on a low. He frightened his former teammate Warwick into a spin at Brewery on lap 4 before cleanly overtaking Wendlinger on the next lap, but just a few corners after overtaking the Austrian, he mirrored Tarquini’s mistake at Mistral. This tone remained for Tornado’s race as Alesi was shunted into retirement by Gachot at Dequetteville on lap 13, while Prost’s further incidents consisted of scaring Comas, Modena, and Patrese (twice) into spins at Brewery (Comas made it as far as the wall), a kerb clattering moment at the Senna chicane on lap 34 whilst battling with Warwick for 13th, a synchronised spin with Warwick at Brewery on lap 48, and a number of laps where he didn’t know whether to be behind or in front of Wendlinger. In the spirit of Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit, it was just one of those days for Prost.
Having benefitted from the four-car battle, Herbert closed in on 2nd placed Berger. Both jumped the Senna chicane on lap 15 before Herbert powered past on the lap 16. Berger’s race lasted just another six laps as a suspension failure put him into the wall on the start-finish straight. Herbert then caught up to Schumacher and took the lead on lap 26, but the German headed straight for the pits and his new tyres helped him regain the lead once Herbert pitted on the following lap. The two resumed their battle, which nearly ended in calamity after they made contact going into the Senna chicane on lap 34, prompting wild spins for both. Schumacher kept the lead while Herbert briefly dropped down to 4th behind the one stopping Gugelmin and Mansell.
Once back up to 2nd, Herbert resumed his pursuit of the race lead, which was handed to him on lap 49 after Schumacher ran onto the kerb on the approach to Mistral and spun round. Schumacher then encountered further trouble in the form of a recovering Boutsen at the Senna chicane on lap 65 and lost half his front wing. The dislodged wheel from Boutsen’s car was collected by Mansell, and he also needed a new front wing. The incident put Gugelmin and Brundle into the podium places. Even on new tyres, Schumacher struggled to overtake the Tini driver, so he resorted to force, nudging Brundle into the wall on lap 70. With five laps to go, he managed a much cleaner overtake on Gugelmin for 2nd.
Although Herbert had a comfortable lead, Pedersen were running 2nd and 5th and a sudden retirement for the FJR driver would’ve handed the constructors championship to the Danish team on countback, but Herbert took the situation in his stride and went on to take the first chronological win of his FF1M career. Curiously, the championship was decided as he started the final lap as he was a lap ahead of Alboreto and was guaranteed a minimum of 3rd. Schumacher capped off his championship winning season with 2nd, while Gugelmin ended his FF1M career on a high with a podium, securing 3rd in the constructors championship for Gojira. Rounding out the points finishers were Mansell, Alboreto, and the unfortunate Brundle.
So, 1992 saw Schumacher win his first drivers championship, the first of three so far as he had won the 1996 and 1998 championships with AquinoPlus and Dodgem, and there were still three more classic seasons to run from 1993 to 1995. He could easily challenge for the 1993 championship depending on which team he chooses to race for, but the likes of Prost, Hill, and in particular Senna would be keen to dispute that. As for the teams, FJR had won their 4th constructors championship and their first in the classic format thanks to a strong first half of the season and quite a bit of favourable fortune when they needed it. Could they repeat this success for 1993 or will Pedersen, Gojira, or Tornado exact revenge on the Yorkshire team? Stay tuned…