The 1991 Spanish Grand Prix was the fourteenth race of the 1991 Formula One Season, held at the newly completed Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona in Spain. It was the first time Catalunya had hosted the race, after Jerez was abandoned following Martin Donnelly's accident in 1990.
The race itself saw Nigel Mansell claim victory to keep his slim title hopes alive, after Ayrton Senna (Championship leader) dropped to fifth in the closing stages. Alain Prost and Riccardo Patrese completed the podium, as Williams-Renault took the lead in the Constructors Championship, beating McLaren-Honda by a single point.
Numerous stories emerged over the break between the Portuguese and Spanish Grand Prix, although the biggest involved the FIA itself. The presidential election at the governing body, FISA, saw Max Mosley oust Jean-Marie Balestre as President, after several seasons of controversy under the Frenchman. The change was significant, as Mosley had been the legal adviser to FOCA during the infamous dispute of 1982 between the two organisations.
Elsewhere, the budgets at the lower end of the field were running dry, with Coloni in particularly dire straits. Pedro Chaves left the team with his sponsorship money, declaring the car undriveable, and, with no one willing to sit in the Coloni just for pre-qualifying, the team withdrew their entry before the weekend. Team Lotus, meanwhile, saw their usual driver switch, as Formula 3000 duties called Johnny Herbert away, with Michael Bartels taking over the #12 car.
Olivier Grouillard was forced out of Fondmetal due to his poor performances, taking up the seat vacated by Gabriele Tarquini at AGS. Tarquini had seen the financial situation of the team beginning to break up the team, and opted, like Chaves, to abandon ship, joining Fondmetal. Jordan, meanwhile, dropped Roberto Moreno (who proceeded to leave the team), signing up another promising youngster to the Championship, Alex Zanardi.
The Championship battle was massively in favour of Ayrton Senna, who held a 24 point advantage with 30 left to fight for. Only one man could deny him, but Nigel Mansell was being hampered severely by misfortune and mistakes, either by himself or his team. Senna would win the title if he finished ahead of Mansell in Spain, or if he could finish second if Mansell won.
McLaren-Honda led the way in the Constructors Championship, although they were under pressure from Williams-Renault, just eleven points away. They were, mathematically, the only two who could win the title, while Ferrari were in a fight for third with Benetton, who had form behind them. Jordan were still fifth in their début season, and looked set to keep it, although Minardi were beginning a late rise through the table, now sat in seventh.
The full entry list for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix is shown below:
As with the majority of the 1991 season, the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix saw the use of pre-qualifying to satisfy the FIA's latest safety drive. The maximum limit for cars on any circuit at any time had been set at 30, meaning that 3 cars had to be removed from the weekend running. Seven drivers were therefore made to battle it out for four spots in the full qualifying session, based on their performance from the previous half season. Brabham, AGS, Fondmetal, and Footwork were the entrants who made up the session after the 1991 German Grand Prix, with Coloni withdrawn before the weekend.
Brabham were proving to be dominant in the session once again, as Martin Brundle beat team mate Mark Blundell to the fastest time of the session. Blundell was two tenths slower, but over two seconds faster than the rest of the group, as Michele Alboreto and Gabriele Tarquini also made it through. With the Coloni stuck in the garage without a driver, the three casualties were Alex Caffi, Fabrizio Barbazza and Olivier Grouillard.
Ayrton Senna struggled for pace in the first qualifying session, so had to thank Gerhard Berger for beating rival Nigel Mansell in the dying seconds. Senna was able to improve in the second session, but would remain third, sharing the second row with Riccardo Patrese in the second Williams. Michael Schumacher was able to demonstrate his talent once again, beating both Ferraris for fifth, and setting a time one second quicker than veteran team mate Nelson Piquet.
Brabham carried their impressive pace into qualifying, with Brundle and Blundell sharing the sixth row, as Gabriele Tarquini and Michele Alboreto also qualified for the race. Alex Zanardi took twentieth in his début qualifying session, team mate Andrea de Cesaris only a row ahead, as a familiar quartet left the weekend. Out went Aguri Suzuki, Michael Bartels and the two Lambo-Lamborghinis of Eric van de Poele and Nicola Larini.
Full Qualifying Results
The final result for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
|5||19||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Ford Cosworth||1:19.733||1:20.779||+0.982s|
|8||16||Ivan Capelli||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:21.682||1:20.584||+1.833s|
|10||20||Nelson Piquet||Benetton-Ford Cosworth||1:20.853||1:20.676||+1.925s|
|13||15||Mauricio Gugelmin||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:21.319||1:20.743||+1.992s|
|17||33||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:21.865||1:22.992||+3.114s|
|20||32||Alex Zanardi||Jordan-Ford Cosworth||1:22.580||1:23.448||+3.829s|
|22||14||Gabriele Tarquini||Fondmetal-Ford Cosworth||1:22.837||1:26.214||+4.086s|
|23||29||Éric Bernard||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:22.944||1:23.883||+4.193s|
|24||9||Michele Alboreto||Footwork-Ford Cosworth||1:23.145||1:23.868||+4.394s|
|DNQ||30||Aguri Suzuki||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:24.211||1:26.346||+5.460s|
|DNQ||35||Eric van de Poele||Lambo-Lamborghini||1:27.501||1:27.556||+8.750s|
|DNPQ||10||Alex Caffi||Footwork-Ford Cosworth||1:24.056|
|DNPQ||18||Fabrizio Barbazza||AGS-Ford Cosworth||1:24.744|
|DNPQ||17||Olivier Grouillard||AGS-Ford Cosworth||1:25.305|
The grid for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix is shown below:
|Andrea de Cesaris||18|
There were no changes to the grid before the race, although there was a change in the weather. Clouds had drifted in over the morning, and proceeded to dump a load of water on the circuit just before the start to wet the circuit, meaning the field would have to start on wets. But, the circuit was drying quickly, prompting Alain Prost to request that he start on slicks, a move which Ferrari denied.
A poor start for both Williams cars cost them places, as Ayrton Senna took Nigel Mansell for second, before trying a half hearted challenge on team mate Gerhard Berger for the lead. Mansell recovered the start to hold third, but a good move by Michael Schumacher put him down to fourth, diving down the inside of the Brit into turn five. Further down, contact between Thierry Boutsen and Éric Bernard put both of them out of the race, Bernard having had his rear wing smashed in the accident.
Mansell was sliding all over the circuit in the early stages, having to survive constant attacks by Alain Prost, whom had jumped Riccardo Patrese at the start. But, the track was still drying, and Mansell was soon on the back of Schumacher, who was launching a wave of attacks at the back of Senna in the early stages. But, the rookiee was not able to withstand the Brit, who managed to force his Williams up the inside of the German into the hairpin, before holding the outside line through the final sector, Schumacher doing well to stay inside.
Prost, meanwhile, darted into the pits for slicks, with many thinking it was simply too early in the race, despite the speed that the circuit was gaining as it dried. He tumbled to nineteenth, while Mansell pulled a move on Senna down towards the first corner, the two weaving towards each other as the braking zone approached, sparks flying every which way. Mansell had the inside, and braked the later of the two, claiming the corner and second after countering Senna's response through turn two.
Berger lost time in the pits when he stopped for slicks, the team opting to remove the tape around his brake ducts, while Mansell and Senna came in together a lap later. McLaren were their usual quick and slick selves, chucking Senna out ahead of Mansell, who had a stop two seconds longer than Senna, despite stopping first. Senna claimed the lead, with delay for Mansell allowing Berger to slip into second, before being waved past by the Brazilian to take the lead.
Yet, the rain came again, and with the majority of the field on slick tyres, it seemed only a matter of time before someone spun. The man to spin, however, was Senna, whose prowess in the wet was legendary, although it had seemed to abandon him as he went through the final corner. Having lost the back end of the car, Senna swung across the track, and only a quick reaction from Schumacher prevented a nasty accident, as Senna slid onto the grass and the edge of the gravel. Senna lost time after just about avoiding getting beached, dropping to seventh.
Berger, meanwhile, was attempting to flee the scene, although Mansell was able to latch onto the back of him nonetheless. An aggressive move by Mansell saw him snatch the lead through turn four, with Berger caught out and needing to take avoiding action. Schumacher was straight onto the back of Berger challenging him through turn seven on the following lap, but the German had to drift onto the wet part of the circuit. That seemed to catch the youngster out, as he failed to catch the rear end when he got on the power, spinning onto the inside of the circuit and into the gravel. Schumacher recovered to sixth, with the gravel compacted due to the water.
The next drama involved Jean Alesi, who had been having a quiet afternoon in the tail end of the points, until the stewards slapped him with a penalty. The Sicilian was awarded a ten second stop-go penalty at the mid way mark for weaving at the start, although all it did was fire Alesi up to fight back from ninth. Berger, meanwhile, limped into the pits with an engine failure, retiring for the seventh time in 1991, as Mansell continued to pull away.
The second half of the race saw the track almost completely dry, although the numerous retirements early on meant the field was spread thinly. Alesi was the only man on the move, charging past Senna through a good move through turn three, snatching fourth away from the Brazilian, who seemed content just to finish in the points. The final lap saw Pierluigi Martini suffer a suspension failure, meaning he finished the race with effectively three and a half wheels on his wagon, after débutante Alex Zanardi caused some late drama.
The rookie Italian challenged Gianni Morbidelli, Martini's Minardi team mate into turn two, with Morbidelli refusing to give an inch to his fresh faced compatriot. The two touched wheels, sending both into a spin, although Morbidelli managed to control his spin into a slide, as Zanardi slid into the barrier on the inside. Yet, as Morbidelli rejoined from the outside of the circuit, team mate Martini flashed across in front of him, removing the right rear of Martini's car. Morbidelli retired after sliding into the gravel, while Zanardi managed to recover and continue.
Mansell, meanwhile, finished the race almost unnoticed in the late race drama, closing the gap to Senna in the Championship to sixteen points after the Brazilian finished fifth. Prost, meanwhile, completed an excellent performance to take second, largely under the radar having been at the back for most of the first part of the race, while Patrese claimed third. Alesi claimed fourth ahead of Senna, while Schumacher's race ended in sixth, when he could have potentially claimed a podium in only his fourth start.
The final results for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix are shown below:
- * Morbidelli was classified as finishing the race, as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- Alex Zanardi's début race.
The title fight was still alive, although Ayrton Senna was still the favourite to win, holding a sixteen point lead over Nigel Mansell. With 20 points left to fight for, Senna could now win the Championship in Japan by finishing third, regardless of Mansell's finishing position, with Mansell needing to finish higher than Senna, and get on the podium to keep the fight alive. Further down, Patrese was now almost guarenteed third, while Berger lost out to Alain Prost, who leapt into fourth from sixth.
The Constructors' Championship, however, was not a certainty, as Williams-Renault left Spain with a one point advantage over McLaren-Honda. They would be fighting over a potential 32 points in the last two races, with Williams able to win the title in Japan with a one-two, and both McLarens retiring. Ferrari, meanwhile, looked on for an assured third place, gaining some breathing room from Benetton in fourth, while Jordan continued to hang on in fifth.
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SPANISH GP, 1991', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 1999), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr514.html, (Accessed 16/08/2015)
- '1991 Spanish Grand Prix', wikipedia.org, (WikiMedia, 13/08/2015), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1991_Spanish_Grand_Prix, (Accessed 15/08/2015)
- PhantomSMA, 'Formula 1 Grand Prix: 1991 Season Review - Part 14 - Race Fourteen: Spain', youtube.com, (YouTube, 14/04/2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rpmtycKzFI, (Accessed 16/08/2015)
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|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Pedralbes (1951, 1954), Jarama (1967-1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976-1981), Montjuïc (1969, 1971, 1973, 1975), Jerez (1986-1990), Catalunya (1991-Present)|
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