Heading into Imola, Nigel Mansell had continued to dominate the championship. He had won four races in a row, equalling the record Ayrton Senna had set the previous year in 1991 for most consecutive wins to the start of a championship. Mansell in the dominant Williams FW14B was hoping to break his rivals record in Imola. However, it had not all been plain sailing for the Williams team heading into Imola. The teams had conducted several days testing a week prior to the San Marino event and during this testing, Riccardo Patrese in the second Williams had a massive accident. Patrese had suffered a right rear tyre failure entering the Tamburello corner and had a very heavy impact with the concrete barriers. Patrese had suffered minor neck and spine injuries which were enough to put his participation in the race into question.
The race marked a return to home territory for the Ferrari team. Although Jean Alesi scored their first podium of the season at Barcelona, their new car, the innovative Ferrari F92A designed by Harvey Postlethwaite was proving troublesome. The team was still using their 1991 engine after the 1992 engine proved ever unreliable. There were also doubts over the performance of Ivan Capelli in the second car, he had failed to perform so far in the season. Nelson Piquet, the former champion who left the sport at the end of 1991, had been rumoured to replace him. However after Piquet suffered serious leg injuries whilst practicing for the Indianapolis 500, these discussions had seemingly come to an end. Capelli's position in the team remained safe for now, however he and the rest of the team were under a lot of pressure to perform in front of their home crowd.
Benetton on the other hand were a team on the rise. The young Michael Schumacher had proven in recent races that he was capable of fighting among the best in his recent races. The new Benetton B192 seemed to be one of the few cars capable of challenging the Williams. Whilst Schumacher had been fighting for the top places, his teammate the experienced Martin Brundle had met consistent retirements throughout the season. Brundle had yet to deliver, and there were rumours circulating that Benetton may be planning to replace him as driver with their test driver, Alessandro Zanardi. Like Capelli at Ferrari, Brundle was under pressure to deliver.
The reigning champions McLaren had been having a dreadful start to the season. Their new car, the McLaren MP4/7A had yet to deliver. However the team claimed that during testing between Spain and Imola, they had begun to better understand the car. It had been one of the worst starts to Ayrton Senna's career, nonetheless he was determined to not give up on the world title that year. Senna and teammate Gerhard Berger had to earn some big points at Imola if they were to stop the Williams cars.
Further down the field, Lotus were finally ready to debut their Lotus 107 car. The team in their aged 102D chassis had been fighting for points consistently, the new car hopefully would allow Mika Häkkinen and Johnny Herbert to return the team to its successful ways.
Things were going less well for another former world champion team, Brabham. The team under the ownership of Dennis Nursey was struggling to survive. Although it had secured the services of Williams's talented test driver, Damon Hill as a driver, the team with its significant financial troubles were fighting race by race to survive. The team had secured sponsorship from Japanese company, Yamazen Engineering for the next two races. The team's short term future had been secured.
The full entry list is outlined below for the 1992 San Marino Grand Prix:
|4||14||Andrea Chisea||Fondmetal-Ford Cosworth||1:27.902||+1.615s|
|DNPQ||34||Roberto Moreno||Andrea Moda-Judd||1:28.943||+2.078s|
|DNPQ||35||Perry McCarthy||Andrea Moda-Judd||1:37.537||+10.672s|
In the morning practice sessions, Nigel Mansell had typically led the timesheets. However notably, Ayrton Senna had significantly closed the gap to the Williams cars and was only a tenth off the pace from Mansell's time.
As the session began, Jean Alesi, Ferrari's young charger began to set the first lap times in front of the Tifosi, his time setting the first benchmark of the session. Michael Schumacher came out on track next, however the Benetton looked notably unstable. Schumacher locking up on his first flying lap before spinning at the Variante Bassa. Schumacher returned to pits, yet to set a time. Capelli in the second Ferrari put his car second fastest, however he remained slower than teammate Alesi.
Soon enough, Ayrton Senna came out on track to challenge the Ferrari's. He had continued his practice form and had soon snatched the provisional pole time from Alesi. Moving into fourth position was Michele Alboreto, the Italian veteran making his mark for the resurgent Footwork Arrows team. Behind him came Brundle and his teammate Suzuki. De Cesaris, Lehto, Morbidelli and Grouillard rounded out the top ten.
Alesi was back out on track and trying to take the pole time away from Senna. Frustratingly for him, his lap time was compromised by the Brabham of Eric van de Poele at the back end of the circuit. Alesi angrily cutting in front of the Brabham, hovering in front of him at the first couple of corners of the circuit.
Schumacher was not entirely comfortable in his Benetton, after aborting his lap at the start of the session, he returned to the circuit 25 minutes into the session. He put his car into fourth but was unable to match Senna and the two Ferrari's.
After keenly watching the opposition, Nigel Mansell finally ventured out onto the track to start his first flying lap. The field curious to see if Senna's practice pace was a true reflection in qualifying. Unfortunately for McLaren, Mansell went a full second and a half faster than Senna's time to take the provisional pole time. In a better result for McLaren, Berger managed to take the provisional fourth fastest time, unseating Capelli from the position. Alesi, in the leading Ferrari continued to split the two McLaren's of Senna and Berger.
Senna and Alesi could be seen on track pushing hard to surpass Mansell's time, however neither driver could better his time. Senna lost time in the final corner when he went wide whilst Alesi, once again was bauked by a slower car, this time it was Boutsen's Ligier.
Two cars could be seen breaking down on track, Johnny Herbert in the new Lotus broke down whilst Stefano Modena in the Jordan also pulled off the circuit. The Ferrari's were desperately pushing to improve their times, Alesi had a spectacular spin going into Tosa whilst Capelli nearly hit the barriers heading into the Acquire Minerale. The Ferrari's were beginning to drop in the standings, Berger first bettered their times and then Schumacher also went faster. Patrese who had done very minimal running due to his testing injury came out of the end of the session to put his Williams fifth fastest.
This meant the final order of the first qualifying session was Mansell, Senna, Berger, Schumacher, Patrese, Alesi, Capelli, Alboreto, Boutsen, Suzuki, Brundle, De Cesaris, Comas, Martini, Lehto, Gugelmin, Gachot, Morbidelli, Katayama, Modena, Grouillard, Tarquini, Wendlinger, Fittipaldi and Herbert. Those currently not qualifying included Hakkinen, Chiesa, Belmondo, Hill and Van De Poele.
The session got off to an interesting start when JJ Lehto spun his Dallara on his first flying lap. The Finn stalled his car and had to run back to the pits on foot to make it to the spare car. Schumacher was the first major runner out on track, however he was not able to improve on his Friday time on his first run. Capelli also on track was unable to improve his time either. The first car to make any notable improvement was Brundle in the second Benetton. He had a dreadful Friday, only eleventh fastest however he moved his car up to the provisional eighth fastest time.
Patrese who had done very little running on Friday came out early on Saturday and quickly moved his Williams up into second behind Mansell. Senna attempted to respond but found himself slightly slower than his best Friday time. Patrese continued to lap out on track, however struggled to match Mansell's time. Patrese having a large lock-up which blocked a lap by Suzuki's Footwork.
Mansell however was not improving on his time, his first lap see him go very wide at Tosa, running onto the grass and ruining his tyres. He came into the pits before going out for his next run. Another man struggling on circuit was Ukyo Katayama in the Venturi-Larrousse. Katayama went off at Acqua Minerale and lost his front wing whilst heading onto the grass.
Brundle had been the biggest improvement of the day, he had moved his Benetton up to sixth just behind teammate Schumacher. Schumacher notably running out of fuel after one of his flying laps. The remainder of the session saw very little improvement on the circuit. Berger notably was held up by Katayama on one of his laps, the angered Austrian, brake-testing the Larrousse car at Tamburello. Alesi who was doing a huge number of laps in front of the Tifosi was desperately trying to improve his time, his efforts were all in vain however.
Whilst it was another dominant qualifying for Williams, Mansell was wary of the threat from McLaren. He stated in the post-qualifying press conference that he felt McLaren looked far more competitive in race trim than they had done in qualifying.
Jean Alesi was the first man out on circuit in the warm-up, the young Frenchman conducting a huge amount of track time at the Imola circuit over this weekend. He would set the second fastest time, behind Berger and ahead of teammate Capelli, Fittipaldi, Morbidelli, Comas, Martini, Herbert and Grouillard. Grouillard being forced to start from the back of the grid due to a rear wing irregularity found on his car at the end of qualifying.
Wendlinger in the March had a huge spin that saw him spear off into the barriers, not a good start to his race day. Senna soon took the fastest time away from teammate Berger, before the Williams cars of Patrese and Mansell soon resumed their positions at the top of the field. Schumacher began to present a threat when he went second fastest behind Mansell's best time. Mansell soon stamped his authority by further improving his best time
Ligier were having a troublesome session, Comas stopped his car out on circuit. Mansell, Schumacher, Senna and Patrese rounded out the top four whilst Alboreto in the Footwork was looking quick in fifth ahead of Brundle, Berger, Suzuki, Alesi, Martini, Katayama, Comas, Gachot, Grouillard, De Cesaris, Morbidelli, Lehto, Capelli, Boutsen, Fittipaldi, Modena, Gugelmin, Tarquini, Herbert, Wendlinger and Belmondo.
The final surprise of the session was when Alboreto managed to move his car up into second position, the Footwork looking ever increasingly competitive. Johnny Herbert seemed to finally be coming to grips with the new Lotus 107 by putting it into tenth position as well.
As the cars made their way to the grid, Stefano Modena would start the race in his spare car. The Jordan team seemingly unable to overcome their consistent mechanical gremlins that has plagued their start to the season.
The start to the race was aborted when both Ivan Capelli and Karl Wendlinger stalled their cars at the grid. The drivers went around for a second formation lap as the start was aborted for another 5 minutes. Mansell makes a perfect getaway and soars into the lead, behind him Senna attempts to overtake Patrese into Tamburello, however Patrese holds his ground. Schumacher attempts a move on Berger, however botches his overtake allowing teammate Brundle ahead of both him and Berger. Behind them follow Alesi, Capelli, Boutsen and Alboreto.
At Rivazza, Berger moves back ahead of Brundle, the two Williams cars have already distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. Herbert returns to the pits, the new Lotus still experiencing teething problems. He would return to track, but a gearbox problem continues to persist him. Senna and Berger began to pull away whilst the two Benetton's of Brundle and Schumacher are battling furiously.
Mansell leads Patrese by three seconds, Senna in third is a further eight seconds behind after three laps. The Williams cars continue to demonstrate their dominance. Whilst chasing Brundle on the fifth lap, Schumacher runs wide at Tosa and loses a lot of time to his teammate, this has allowed Alesi in the Ferrari to close. He returns to the rear of his teammate however Brundle continues to hold position.
After eight laps, Herbert and Fittipaldi both abandon the race with gearbox problems. The battle between the McLaren's and Benetton's begin to close together, Alesi in the Ferrari is hanging onto the rear of this battle. Capelli in the second Ferrari is in eighth and some distance behind Alesi, once again Ferrari's second driver is underperforming. On the eleventh lap, Capelli overdoes it and spins off into retirement at the Acque Minerale.
After several laps of challenging the rear of Brundle, Schumacher outdoes himself for a second time. This time he spins into the barriers at Rivazza, he rejoins the track with a badly damaged rear end. He takes to the pits for repairs, the same lap Patrese pits from second for new tyres. He exits the pits still ahead of Senna's McLaren.
Schumacher has a damaged suspension, however the mechanics send him back out onto the circuit. After only one lap, the damage appears to be terminal and he pulls into the garage for good. The race marked his first retirement of the season. The same lap, Suzuki spins his Footwork at the final corner. He continues on his way with no damage.
Three laps after Patrese, Mansell comes in for new tyres on lap 23. He retains his lead upon exiting the pits. Two laps after Mansell, Brundle enters the pits. He exits losing only a single place to the Ferrari of Alesi. Alesi also moves past Senna, who comes in for his own stop a lap later. The McLaren driver exits in between Alesi and Brundle. Morbidelli retires from the race, his engine exploding, his car leaving thick smoke across the circuit. Tarquini has also retired his Fondmetal with engine troubles.
Berger pits one lap after Senna, he exits the pits right behind his teammate. Alesi is now the only frontrunner who has not come into the pits. Boutsen who was running in seventh position begins to drop down the field, on lap 30 he retires with fuel pump issues.
33 laps into the race and Alesi still has not pitted, the McLaren's of Senna and Berger have closed upon his rear. Brundle is holding station in sixth place, only a little bit behind the McLaren's. Behind him come Alboreto, Martini, Lehto and Gugelmin.
On lap 34 a part of the suspension piece of Bertrand Gachot's Larrousse comes off at Tamburello corner. The piece lies stranded on the middle of the circuit, Gachot crashes into the barriers a few corners later whilst a brave marshall runs onto the circuit to retrieve the piece. Senna has a close call, only just missing the marshall whilst he is on the circuit.
Alesi continues to defend third position, the McLaren's are yet to make their way past the Frenchman. Further down the field, the two Dallara's of Martini and Lehto are engaging in a fierce battle for eighth position.
On lap 40, Senna attacks Alesi into Tosa and overtakes, Berger tries to follow Senna through except Alesi closes the door. The two drivers collide, Alesi spins and hits the rear of Berger for a second time. Both cars are crippled and have to retire from the race.
Berger's car is left abandoned in the middle of the circuit, the marshalls are left evacuating his McLaren whilst the rest of the field have to carefully tread through the Tosa corner. Alboreto and Martini have benefitted from the crash, they both find themselves in the points. Erik Comas who is a long way down the field is struggling and has a spin. He continues on with no damage done.
Shortly after Berger and Alesi's cars have been cleared, Katayama has a big spin at Tosa and has to retire from the race. As this drama unfolds, Mansell is dominating, the predicted McLaren threat has not occurred. Senna is frustratingly 50 seconds adrift of the leader. Nonetheless, Senna is not giving up and despite his inferior car continues to push on hard, even if he is starting to suffer from heat exhaustion.
Shortly after passing Gugelmin for eight, De Cesaris retires his Tyrrell with fuel pressure failure. Ahead of him, Lehto who was still pressuring his teammate for the final points place retires when his car begins to overheat.
Although there was a late race push by Patrese which saw him reduce the gap to Mansell to 9 seconds and set the fastest lap on the final lap of the race, Mansell takes another dominant win. He becomes the first driver in history to win the first five races in a world championship. Senna who previously held the record finished a dejected third, the Brazilian had suffered from muscle spasms in the race and had to be assisted from his car at the end of the race as well as missing the podium ceremony.
Brundle gets his first finish and first points of the season by finishing fourth position whilst the stellar season of Alboreto and Footwork continues with their third successive points finish with another fifth place. Martini rounds off with his second points finish of the season.
Standings after race
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