With the newly crowned champion, Nigel Mansell, announcing his move to the IndyCar Series for 1993, questions now focussed on who would be his replacement in the Williams team. Mansell had made the decision to switch to IndyCar's following a break down in relations with the Williams management. Nonetheless, Frank Williams had insisted that Mansell was at the top of their plans for 1993, however Mansell had cut off negotiations after making the decision to sign for Paul Newman's Indy Car team. Mansell confirming at a book launch about his career that Williams commercial director, Sheridan Thynne had resigned from the team after an offer by Mansell was rejected by Frank Williams and Patrick Head.
Mansell's departure from Williams had caused outrage in his country in the United Kingdom. Provoked by an article by The Sun newspaper titled 'Save our Nige', there was outrage in Britain where Mansell fans failed to understand how a British world championship team had dropped their British world champion. Over 200 Mansell fans gathered outside the Williams base in Didcot where they stood in protest against Williams. However none of the Williams team were listening, they had gathered at Silverstone to unveil their new FW15 challenger.
Originally intended to race as the team's 1992 challenger, the team's interim chassis the FW14B proved to be so dominant, that the team decided to not release their new car and instead to continue developing it for the following season. The FW15 would not debut until 1993, and whilst Williams had not announced its new driver line-up for 1993, their test driver, Damon Hill, completed the FW15's inauguration.
The most open secret in Formula One was that Alain Prost would make his return to the grid with Williams in 1993. However Prost, who would be at Estoril as a television pundit for TF1 maintained he was still undecided about what he wanted to do. Rebuffing a claim made by Mansell that he had been signed for months.
In the second seat alongside Prost, Williams had initially wanted to re-sign Riccardo Patrese for the 1993 season. However frustratingly for Patrese, he had signed a contract for the Benetton team in Italy, having not expected to be retained by Williams before the surprise of Mansell's departure. Instead Williams were now looking to sign a British driver in their second seat, being that of either their test driver, Damon Hill, or Martin Brundle, now out of a drive after Patrese took his Benetton seat.
Also looking ahead to 1993, Peter Sauber became the second team to unveil their 1993 challenger with the team's Sauber C12. In working with a partnership with Mercedes, Sauber had become victors of the World Sportscar Championship in 1989 and 1990 and were now preparing to make their move to Formula One for 1993. The C12 would be powered by Ilmor, however the little engine manufacturer would be developed with the support of Mercedes-Benz.
Michael Schumacher had originally garnered success with the team in his sportscar days, however his four year Benetton contract kept him out of the race seat to the disappointment of Peter Sauber. Instead, the team had signed Schumacher's former sportscar teammate, Karl Wendlinger who had been having a torrid season with the underfunded March team. Wendlinger would complete his last race for March before being replaced by veteran Jan Lammers for the final two rounds. In the second seat, the team signed JJ Lehto who would defect from the Dallara team at the end of the season.
The full entry list for the 1992 Portuguese Grand Prix is outlined below:
Mansell led the timing sheets, however his best time was only 0.4 seconds faster than teammate Patrese's best. Mansell's session was brought to a premature end when he suffered what he described to be one of "the most frightening" of his career. Mansell suffered a suspension failure which pitched his car out of control and into the gravel. Describing his accident, Mansell stated "The hydraulic pump sheared and the car was jammed in sixth. There was nothing I could do.It was a very big moment, believe me." he said. Mansell is aiming for a record ninth win of the year in Sunday's race.Behind the two Williams cars were Berger, Senna, Schumacher, Herbert, Brundle and Häkkinen. Mansell was not the only one to end the session in the gravel, Schumacher's Benetton also had a spin which caused him to get stuck in the stand.
Martin Brundle was the first driver out on track, he immediately began to put in some fast laps, however his best was easily outdone by Patrese's Williams who set the intial benchmark with 1:13.932. His subsequent lap then dropped his best time down to a 1:13.672. With this lap, he had set the fastest lap of the weekend so far. The track was immediately being demonstrated to be quicker than the morning session.
Patrese's time at the top of the timing sheets lasted until Mansell decided to come out of the pits. The lead Williams driver set the new provisional pole time with a 1:13.650. His final lap was set to be even faster, however he mysteriously backed off in the final sector.
Senna had a dramatic entrance to the circuit, on his first flying lap did not last long, his rear wing destabilized and Senna lost control spinning deep into the gravel trap. As Senna limped back to the pits for repairs, Mansell further improved his best time down to a 1:13.092.
In the early stages of qualifying Mansell led Patrese, Schumacher, Berger, Herbert, Brundle, Alboreto and Häkkinen. The McLaren's had yet to set a time, Berger improved his performance to take third place. Senna had his car repaired after his earlier mechanical failure and set a safe time which landed him the fourth fastest time.
By the end of qualifying, Mansell led the timesheets ahead of Patrese, Berger and Senna. Mansell had described that his morning accident had been one of the most frightening of his career, going on to say "and I had to concentrate hard to get over it this afternoon" . Mansell led the day five tenths ahead of his teammate and nearly two seconds faster than the McLaren's.
Schumacher was fifth fastest ahead of Häkkinen, Alboreto, Herbert, Brundle, Alesi, Boutsen, De Cesaris, Suzuki, Comas, Grouillard, Gachot, Martini, Lehto, Gugelmin, Morbidelli, Capelli, Wendlinger, Naspetti, Modena, Fittipaldi and Katayama.
The Estoril circuit had presented very bad reliability problems throughout the Friday's running. This therefore raised future concerns over the survival rate of the cars ahead of the Sunday's race. The circuit's notorious bumps were also playing havoc to the comfort of the drivers. At the end of the day, Berger had gone to see the FIA doctor, Professor Sid Watkins concerned that he had injured his back during the course of qualifying.
After his concerns at the end of Friday, Berger was cleared to be fit to race at the end of qualifying, he therefore ran impressively in the morning session, faster than teammate Senna and gaining ground on the Williams's best times.
The first driver to make any improvement over their Friday time was Senna, who dropped his time down to a 1:14.903. A substantial improvement over the McLaren's Friday pace. Berger had lost his third position to his teammate, and in his response to Senna's time he clipped the inside kerb at Curva 1 and spun wide into the sand trap. He kept the engine going, however had blown his first lap.
Shortly after Berger's misadventure, Morbidelli lost control of his Minardi careering his car into the barriers. Morbidelli's accident had left debris stricken all over the circuit. This required the red flag whilst the marshalls cleared up the debris.
Once the accident was cleared, the cars returned to the track. However the cars were failing to make much improvement over their Friday pace. Only Senna made a substantial improvement, pushing his time down to a 1:14.258, now only a second off Mansell's pole time. The only other man to make a major improvement was Brundle who moved from sixth fastest to ninth fastest.
However the Saturday conditions saw very little improvement from the drivers, not even Mansell made any improvement. Nonetheless, all the cars were pushing to the limits to make some sort of improvement over their previous time.
The Ferrari's were really struggling, their ill handling car was a real difficulty to drive at Estoril. Capelli had dropped down to twenty third in the standings, before making an improvement to be a mere sixteenth fastest. Teammate Alesi was faring better, however he was only tenth fastest and was caught by camera's running wide into the gravel at Curva 1. Shortly after, Herbert spun his Lotus to a halt in the gravel. As Herbert exited the car, Eurosport commentator Allard Kalff expressed that Herbert was "pretty stupid". Patrese was the next driver to spin off the circuit whilst trying to improve his time.
Within the top ten, only Senna and Brundle had made improvemennts over their friday standings. Nonetheless it was Mansell on pole, ahead of Patrese, Senna, Berger, Schumacher, Brundle, Häkkinen, Alboreto, Herbert and Alesi.
Ahead of the race in Portugal, Alain Prost, attending Estoril as a TV pundit for TF1 finally confirmed alongside Williams that he would indeed be racing for the team as Nigel Mansell's replacement for 1993.
Schumacher failed to get away on the formation lap, having stalled his engine. He would therefore be forced to allow all the other cars to overtake before he would start in his new position at the back of the grid. Suzuki's Venturi also encountered problems, he would be forced to start from the pit lane.
Mansell took the lead at the start ahead of Patrese, Senna, Berger, Häkkinen, Brundle, Alboreto, Alesi, De Cesaris and Gachot. Herbert immediately dropping out of the running and returning to the pits with a suspension problem. After only three laps, Schumacher had climbed back up to fifteenth place.
After five laps, Mansell had increased his race lead to five seconds over Patrese, eight over Senna and ten over Berger. Mansell would have no problem increasing the gap, pulling away from teammate Patrese at a second a lap. At the back of the field, Herbert's suspension problem become too much and he pulled into the pits to retire.
After ten laps, Schumacher had climbed back up to thirteenth. However his progress had been halted by the Ligier of Comas who was refusing to allow the Benetton charger to take his position. Schumacher's progress is helped when Alesi loses control of his Ferrari and spins into the gravel and retirement. A lap later, Schumacher finally makes his move past Comas.
After eighteen laps, Mansell encounters the first backmarkers, as he slows to navigate the traffic, Patrese closes to within five seconds of him. Mansell is held up by the Jordan of Modena who refuses to let him through easily. However as Patrese had also encountered traffic at this point, he failed to lose time from Modena's efforts.
Schumacher who was running eleventh became the first driver to pit for tyres, his time in the pits meant that he had dropped down to fifteenth position. The following lap, third placed Senna also makes his move for the pits where upon rejoining the track he finds himself sixth. The McLaren pit crew doing an incredible job with his pit stop lasting only five seconds. Berger would also perform his pit stop with the rapid time of five and a half seconds.
Gugelmin then suffers an electrical failure on his Jordan, ending his day in the running. Meanwhile Mansell still leads with a ten second advantage of Patrese. Patrese makes the decision to pit for tyres, however unlike the McLaren mechanics, Williams suffers a calamitous stop as they struggle to fit the right rear wheel. After twenty seconds, Patrese is sent on his way and is now in fourth position.
Patrese had lost position to Senna and Berger and had exited the pits directly ahead of Häkkinen and Brundle who were battling for fifth position. He would thereafter put in some blistering lap times that meant he was the fastest driver on the track.
Alboreto who was running seventh in the Footwork was one of the later drivers to pit for tyres. He exited the pits behind De Cesaris and Schumacher, who was slowly making progress up the field. The Larrousse team encouters trouble, Gachot retires will oil pressure problems whilst Katayama spins his car into the gravel trap. He is able to leave and rejoin the race, however only due to the assistance of the marshalls.
On lap 29, Mansell becomes one of the last drivers to make a pit stop, he sets an average 9.4 second stop before rejoining the track in the lead of the race. The same lap, De Cesaris also makes his pit stop, dropping to ninth behind Alboreto and Schumacher. Further down the field, Grouillard retires with gearbox trouble on his Tyrrell.
Mansell exited the pit stop phase remaining as the leader, however Senna was running extremely well and had closed to within two seconds of the Williams leader. In third place, the second McLaren of Berger holds off the recovering Patrese.
After being stuck behind Häkkinen for a number of laps, Brundle finally passes the Lotus driver on lap 38. Meanwhile at the front, Patrese continues to apply the pressure to Berger for third position. He attacks into Curva 1, however Berger continues to hold strong against the Williams. Exiting the Parabolica, Patrese gains the momentum on Berger heading down the main straight, Berger however suddenly dives for the pits, cutting across Patrese's path. The two cars collide and Patrese is launched flying into the air. Luckily however, Patrese crashes back to the ground without being catapulted into the pits or his competitors.
After his terrifying accident, Patrese limps away from his wrecked Williams, however he suffered no significant injury from the crash. Berger remarkably suffered no damage in the incident and pitted for fresh tyres and with Patrese's retirement rejoins the race without losing a place.
The marshalls worked quickly to remove Patrese's shattered car, however it was immediately evident that the debris stricken down the main straight would play havoc for the drivers. After running over a piece of debris, Martini's Dallara suffers a puncture which forces him to stop in the grass. His Dallara teammate, Lehto, meanwhile had a piece of Patrese's car pierce the front of his car and collide with is leg. Most significantly, seventh placed Schumacher is forced to pit when pieces of debris were clogging his radiators. He therefore returns to track in ninth place.
On lap 48, Senna who had been pressing hard against Mansell also came in for a second change of tyre. His tyres had been unable to maintain the chase for Mansell's lead. After his own pit stop, Schumacher is attacking back through the field, he overtakes De Cesaris and Boutsen to reclaim seventh position. However he has now dropped too far behind Alboreto's Footwork to challenge for sixth.
In the mid field, Katayama suffers yet another spin, however this time he fails to be able to get away. Comas also falls victim of a blown engine. Lehto, his leg previously injured by the stray piece of debris from Patrese's car heads into the pits and retirement. His leg pain had become too much to handle.
Tyre troubles had afflicted McLaren throughout the race. Senna making the decision to come in for a third pit stop, he had destroyed another set of tyres in his desperate attempt to catch Mansell. Unlike his previous stops, his third stop was a disaster, the team struggling to attach the left rear wheel. The calamity had dropped him behind teammate Berger, however worse still, Senna noticed the left rear wheel had failed to be properly attached. He limped back to the pits for a fourth stop which dropped him behind Brundle's Benetton.
Mansell meanwhile looked set to take a comfortable ninth race win of the season, 37 seconds ahead of Berger. In the closing laps, Senna began to put in some frantic lap times, his 1:16.272 on lap 66 was the fastest of the afternoon. On lap 69, Senna salvaged third place, overtaking Brundle whilst the Benetton driver was stuck in traffic. The final points positions would go to Häkkinen and Alboreto who finished ahead of Schumacher, Boutsen, De Cesaris, Suzuki, Naspetti, Fittipaldi, Modena and Morbidelli.
- Nigel Mansell's 29th pole position meant he took third position from Juan Manuel Fangio in the most pole positions in history.
- Nigel Mansell took his ninth world championship victory of the season at Estoril. This beat the record set by Ayrton Senna in 1988 when he took eight victories on the way to his first world championship.
Standings after race
|V T E||Portuguese Grand Prix|
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