The 1992 German Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at the Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany on 26 July 1992. The 45-lap race was the tenth round of the 1992 Formula One season and was won by Williams driver (and polesitter) Nigel Mansell. Ayrton Senna finished the race in second place for the McLaren team whilst Michael Schumacher took the final podium spot in his Benetton.
With the achievement of his 28th victory at Silverstone, Mansell had overtaken Jackie Stewart as Britain's most successful racing driver. He was also well on track to secure the most dominant season for a single driver in the sport's history. With only seven races left to run, Mansell only needed a single victory to equal Ayrton Senna's record of eight race wins in a single season. The championship was all but his, however despite his significant advantage, Mansell remained tight-lipped about his chances for victory. He had not forgotten his near misses in 1986 and 1987. Nonetheless, after taking one of the most memorable victories in the sport's history at his home race at Silverstone, Mansell remained supremely confident. Confiding to Murray Walker, Mansell noted "The only pressure I feel is when I'm at the British Grand Prix. If you can get through the British Grand Prix weekend, with 300 000 people coming, getting pole position and winning the race, pulling it off and savouring that day like we did. Anything to follow that is easy. Of course there is pressure there, but we are comfortable with it and with the people we have got behind us and being with the great team I have, I'm happy".
However for Ayrton Senna, the reigning world champion, he had lost the chance to reclaim his championship for a fourth time in 1992. Three successive retirements in Canada, France and Great Britain had meant he had lost his final opportunity to remain in the world championship fight. Senna had left Silverstone in anger and frustration, his long standing and most successful partnership with McLaren had begun to fall apart. McLaren had only won twice in 1992, and both times, they had only done so because of Williams misfortune. Worse was to come for McLaren, their engine supplier, Honda, had made the decision to quit the sport. Honda had been the leading engine manufacturer since the mid-1980's, however the powerful new Renault RS4 that was unleashed on the Williams at Silverstone to devastating effects, had meant that McLaren had lost their last piece of superiority over the Williams. Honda, no longer at the pinnacle of motorsport, duly decided to quit (in recent years, it had been suggested that the company had began to grow disinterested in the sport). Honda wishing to take on new challenges in the motorsport world, such as taking on the Indianapolis 500 in the IndyCar Series.
Without an engine supplier for 1993, McLaren's position had suddenly looked much weaker. Their lead driver, Ayrton Senna, whilst he felt a degree of reserve in turning his back on a team that had given him so much success in the past, no longer felt McLaren would truly have the capability to take the world championship in 1993. Following his disappointment in Great Britain, Senna had threatened to retire from the sport if he could not get a competitive drive for 1993. He had his sights set on the Williams drive, however although he had entered intense negotiations with Frank Williams, it looked far likelier that his great rival, Alain Prost would be returning to the Williams team. Prost's role in the negotiations were blocking Senna's likelihood of racing in the team. Similarly, after the difficulties of 1990 at Ferrari, Mansell was hesitant to be a teammate to Prost again in 1993.
Ferrari, aside from Williams, had the most technologically advanced car. However, unlike Williams, their car was plagued by mechanical difficulties and internal team politics had been halting the progress of the team. For 1993, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemelo was determined to sign Senna for the new season. However, Senna was doubtful, Ferrari given their poor team cohesion, would be capable of running for the world title. Di Montezemelo was attempting to get the famed designer, John Barnard, to return to the team. A designer of Barnard's calibre would significantly increase the chances of Senna's willingness to join the team.
Benetton, like most team's were interested in signing Senna for the new season. However, given the new found rivalry between Senna and Benetton's rising star, Michael Schumacher, this was seemingly unlikely. Schumacher, heading into his home race had yet to complete a full Formula One season, however he had rapidly made his mark in the racing scene. He had immediately proven capable of fighting amongst the leaders, however his supreme confidence was often his downfall. The young Schumacher had often in his impetuousness had caused a number of avoidable accidents in recent races. Similarly to how Senna himself had sought to undermine Alain Prost in the position of the world's leading driver, Senna had found during 1992 that Schumacher, now the new young pretender, was attempting to unseat Senna from his reputation as the world's leading driver. Schumacher had criticised Senna's blocking tactics in Brazil and then in France, had knocked the world champion out of the race. In response, Senna publically berated the young German and in front of the world television cameras, dished out a lesson in humility to Schumacher.
Although it seemed Senna had knocked Schumacher's ever growing confidence, in Britain, Schumacher showed he had lost none of his fighting spirit, he continued to fight wheel to wheel with Senna and then proceeded to knock out the unsuspecting Stefano Modena for the second race in succession. In the prelude, to the German Grand Prix, a week of testing was conducted at the Hockenheim circuit. During this testing, there was a further incident between Senna and Schumacher. On the circuit, Schumacher had refused to give way to Senna as he approached from behind, Schumacher pleading that Senna had failed to maintain sufficient speed to overtake him. However, Senna, aggrieved at the incident, stormed into the pits and had grabbed his young rival by the jugular and accusing Schumacher of blocking him before storming back to his own garage. It is unknown what exactly happened between the two drivers, however although Schumacher later claimed that the issues between the two had been cleared, Senna meanwhile remained quiet and refused to talk about the incident.
The Williams FW14B, ever dominant was expected to take the victory, Nigel Mansell having predictably dominated the testing at the circuit. However, Hockenheim was the home territory of Michael Schumacher. He had yet to race at his home circuit in Formula One, and whilst he had yet to take his first victory, Germany had finally found a driver that looked capable of taking a future world title. Schumacher's Benetton-Ford was nowhere near the fastest, however its performance capability was drawing level with that of the McLaren-Honda being driven by his main rival, Ayrton Senna. As was commented by Schumcher's teammate, Martin Brundle; "We have got a lot of power, don't underestimate the power we have got with the Ford V8. Packaging isn't all about sheer grunt, its also about how it goes down on the road and how much fuel you have to carry. How big your radiators need to be to cope with it. So don't write us off at a power circuit, ironically I think its at the very mickey mouse circuits where we don't get the power down very well where we hurt. So we'll be there somewhere. We'll be in with a shout."
The full entry list for the 1992 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice and QualifyingEdit
Throughout Friday and Saturday, Mansell predictably was the fastest driver throughout both the timed and untimed sessions. It was unsurprising then, that he went on to take yet another pole position of the season. However, the weekend was not going entirely smoothly for the Williams drivers. Both Mansell and Patrese had reported handling issues. However, this did not prevent the duo from performing Williams's seventh front row lock-out of the season. Patrese was only three tenths behind Mansell, he had not had such a narrow margin to his teammate in qualifying all season. The McLaren's of Senna and Berger were third and fourth, whilst the fighting Alesi did well to put his Ferrari fifth on the grid.
The Benetton's appeared to be struggling, Schumacher at his home track, appeared to be over-driving the car. In every single one of the friday and saturday sessions, Schumacher had a spin or hit the barriers. Even the more experienced and somewhat calmer, Martin Brundle had an off at the notorious Ostkurve. Over the weekend, the Ostkurve had caused many people to spin, Alessandro Zanardi notably having the most spins of anybody. Aside from Schumacher, Johnny Herbert was another notorious spinner over the weekend. However, his accidents could be attributed to a number of mechanical failures on his Lotus 107.
Schumacher ultimately qualified in sixth position, whilst Brundle was a disappointing ninth on the grid. The Ligier's were performing well, both Comas and Boutsen sat seventh and eighth on the grid. Completing the top ten was Karl Wendlinger. Whilst not a German, both he and Gerhard Berger from the neighbouring Austria would receive a lot of support as the Germanic neighbours. Wendlinger, whilst struggling in the lowly March team was Schumacher's lead rival in sportscars and was touted for success like Schumacher.
Schumacher completed his record of having an off-track incident in every session at Hockenheim. However, unlike his previous accidents, a mechanical failure caused by the fuel flap to be stuck open, pitched him into the barriers at the Ostkurve. However he was not the only lead driver to encounter trouble, his new lead rival, Ayrton Senna also suffered a major accident. At the final, Südkurve, Senna bounced over the kerbs and lost control of his McLaren, he was pitched into the barriers in dramatic fashion. His chassis was destroyed, all four wheels being knocked off his McLaren.
As this drama occured, the Williams team continued to dominate the session. However, whilst from the outside, they continued to appear untroubled, the car was not as comfortable for Mansell and Patrese to drive as it had been in recent races.
The newly established gravel traps at the Clark and Ostkurve were expected to cause havoc in the race. During the practice sessions, drivers that had gone off on these corners, upon re-entry had spilled the gravel all over the track at the corner exit. The loss of grip at these corners had meant that entry into Clark and the Ostkurve would be predictable of potentially more accidents at these corners.
For the third race in a row, Patrese had gotten the best start of the two Williams cars. Patrese led the race through the first corner, Mansell snapping at his heels. Berger had also beaten his teammate off the line, in the approach to Clark, Senna was probing all over the rear of Berger's car. The Benetton's had both got good starts, Schumacher had moved up a position, whilst Brundle had climbed from ninth to sixth. Behind came Alesi, Comas, Capelli, Boutsen, Wendlinger, Herbert, Häkkinen, Grouillard and Tarquini.
Before the end of the first lap, Capelli had made his way past Comas for eighth position. Going through the chicane, Mansell reclaimed the lead from Patrese whilst Senna forced his way past teammate Berger to reclaim third position. After a single lap, Zanardi had pulled his Minardi into the pits to retire, whilst Suzuki had spun his Footwork into the gravel trap to retire at turn eleven.
The two Williams cars typically began to streak away, whilst the McLaren's and Benetton's began to fight among themselves. Wendlinger ruined a good qualifying, when on the fourth lap, he had ran wide at the chicane, bouncing over the gravel and taking off his front wing. By the time he had made it to the pits and made his repairs, he was well down in last position.
At the front, the opening laps had seen Mansell pushing hard, before he had began to ease up with a five second gap to Patrese behind him. Patrese meanwhile had established a comfortable eight second lead to Senna in third position. Schumacher, the local hero, was applying the pressure to Berger's McLaren, however this was the only major battle out on the circuit. Further down the field, Katayama in the Venturi-Larrousse performed a failed overtake on Martini's Dallara at Clark chicane and found himself in the gravel trap. The same lap, Grouillard had also pulled his Tyrrell into the pits to retire.
Tyre degradation was a concern for the team's, those drivers starting on the softer compound were likely to enter the pits early in the race for a tyre change. After ten laps, both the Williams and McLaren mechanics appeared to be preparing for a pit-stop. Herbert's Lotus becoming the first of the drivers to come in for new tyres on lap 13. Despite concerns for the life of his tyres, Mansell continued to press on and had broke the lap record after twelve laps. After fourteen laps, Mansell made the decision to come into the pits for tyres. After a 8.1 second pit-stop, Mansell returned to the track behind Patrese and Senna. The same lap, Berger had come into the pits, however after trouble in fitting his left rear tyre, Berger had a particularly slow 14.6 second stop. He returned to the track in twelfth place, but immediately was proving to be very slow. Berger returned to the pits the following lap, an electrical problem had caused him to retire from the race. The McLaren mechanics desperately tried to repair the car, however it was to no avail.
Now free of the slower running Berger, Schumacher began to put in some competitive lap times and slowly began to catch Senna in second place. Also behind Senna, now on fresher tyres, Mansell began to rapidly close in on his McLaren rival. On the nineteenth lap, Mansell attempted to overtake Senna around the outside of the Clark chicane, however Senna firmly kept the door shut. Then approaching the Ostkurve, Mansell attempted to another maneuver, however ran wide and bounced over the gravel at the chicane. Despite a risky maneuver, Mansell did not lose much time and going down the long straight in the approach to the second chicane, Mansell swiftly moved past Senna whilst the Brazilian was lapping De Cesaris.
With Mansell reclaiming second place, Patrese then relinquished the lead when he came into the pits for a tyre change. After a 7.2 second pit-stop, Patrese exited the pits in fourth place behind Schumacher's Benetton. Further down the field, Wendlinger had a second pit-stop, this time the mechanics spent a long time on his car in giving maintenance. Berger had briefly also returned to track, albeit multiple laps down. However after only one lap, Berger returned to the pits to retire once again.
It was clear as usual that Hockenheim was playing havoc on the engines of the cars. Capelli retired his Ferrari with engine failure on lap twenty one, whilst on the same lap Häkkinen followed him out of the race with the same problem. Herbert in the second Lotus also suffered an engine failure, a lap after his teammate had pulled out. Further engine failures would cause the retirements of both De Cesaris and Tarquini.
At the front, Patrese had quickly gained upon the rear of Schumacher's Benetton. However, effective defensive driving from Schumacher had allowed the Benetton to maintain his position. Schumacher was proving desperate to maintain his third position. He had put a risky maneuver on the backmarker of Gachot, locking up as he moved past the Venturi-Larrousse at the Ostkurve. Schumacher put in some excellent strategic driving to position his car effectively down the straights to prevent Patrese to move past. After previously been criticised for his failure to effectively negotiate traffic, Schumacher notably would effectively negotiate the traffic to put distance between himself and Patrese. In passing the two Dallara cars of Martini and Lehto, Schumacher was able to temporarily force Patrese to drop back.
However on the 33rd lap, Schumacher locked up entering the Ostkurve, which finally allowed Patrese to attack through the outside and take third place. After freeing himself from Schumacher, Patrese began to put in some blistering laps. Whilst Mansell calmly maintained the lead, fifteen seconds ahead of Senna, Patrese began to push furiously to catch Senna. Despite his old tyres, Senna continued to push hard and set his own personal best lap time. Patrese, attacking hard had subsequently achieved a new fastest lap and in doing so further broke the lap record of the circuit.
On the 39th lap, Patrese made his first attack on Senna at the second chicane, however Senna held the line and ensured the Williams remained behind. Like Schumacher before him, Patrese was struggling to make it past Senna. Senna would determinedly brake late into all the corners, forcing Patrese to brake later and later in order for him to make an overtake maneuver. At the Ostkurve, Patrese nearly lost control as he locked up heavily in an attempt to match Senna's late braking. With three laps to go, entering the Nordkurve, Patrese once again ran wide, running aggressively over the kerbs and nearly losing control of his car. On the penultimate lap, Patrese once again attacked into the second chicane, however Senna sliced across his line to prevent him taking the position. Patrese continued to tail Senna on the final lap, however Senna continued to shut the door. Entering the stadium complex at turn eleven, Patrese attempted a last ditch maneuver to take second place. However he found himself on the dirty inside line, outbraked himself and spun off the circuit. He subsequently stalled the engine and retired on the final lap of the race.
Standings after raceEdit
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