The 1992 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Adelaide on 8 November 1992. It was the sixteenth and final round of the 1992 Formula One season. The most significant moment was a collision between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell as the Brazilian attempted to overtake the Englishman, eliminating both drivers. This was intended to be Mansell's final Formula One race before moving to IndyCars, although he returned briefly in 1994 and 1995.
Martin Brundle (who spent 1993 with Ligier), race winner Gerhard Berger (who returned to Ferrari for 1993) and Riccardo Patrese (who joined Benetton for 1993) are among the many drivers for whom this was the final race with their current teams, while for Jan Lammers, Stefano Modena, Maurício Gugelmin and Olivier Grouillard it was the last race of their career. It was also rumored that it would be the last race for Ayrton Senna at McLaren, however this would ultimately prove false as the Brazilian would remain with the Woking based team for 1993.
Nicola Larini started this race from the back of the grid. Jordan scored their only point of the season with Stefano Modena, while Thierry Boutsen (who won here in 1989) scored his only 1992 season points, and indeed the last points of his career. Benetton's double podium finish ensured that they scored points in every round.
This was McLaren's final race using a Honda engine until 2015. The company ceased their full factory involvement in the sport following this race, although the Mugen arm of the company continued. They returned in 2000 as engine supplier to BAR. It was also Dallara's final appearance under their own name, although they manufactured chassis for Haas in 2016 and 2017. For March, this was their last appearance in the sport.
The full entry list for the 1992 Australian Grand Prix is outlined below:
"Just remember, the first corner is critical. Mansell and Senna will both be determined to get there first, remember too that there are at least five potential winners in this race; Mansell, Senna, Patrese, Berger and Schumacher. And who knows, with the attrition rate we are expecting, there might even be a dark horse victory." - Murray Walker
Mansell was keen to get an early advantage in what was expected to be his final race. On the formation lap, James Hunt commenting that "Mansell significantly did a practice start then". On the actual race start, Mansell immediately pulled away into the lead with Senna and Patrese slotting in behind him. Berger had made a poor start off the line and had lost positions to Schumacher and Alesi. Filing through the first corner behind them were Brundle, De Cesaris, Comas, Häkkinen and Alboreto.
The midfield had gotten all bunched up through the exit of the first corner, Herbert had lost ground at the start and had collided with the rear of Grouillard's car. Grouillard in turn was pushed into the Dallara of Martini who was tipped into a spin. Martini was immediately out of the race and was noted by Murray Walker as "furious and hopping with rage". Walker would meanwhile comment on Grouillard as having "deranged the front wing". Grouillard would attempt to return to the pits, however his wing was caught within his left front wheel and he was forced to retire. Herbert would continue, however repairs in the pits would cost him two laps to the leaders.
Meanwhile at the front of the field, both Mansell and Senna had begun to open a gap to the cars behind them. As the duo raced down the Brabham Straight, Senna pulled a lunge into the Dequetville Hairpin, however he outbraked himself and ran wide, allowing Mansell to retake the lead. James Hunt commenting "that was a real do or die effort, he is frightened Mansell is going to get away". Mansell and Senna continued to pull away to which Murray Walker would comment "You can see that Mansell and Senna in their efforts to get away from all the rest are not only succeeding but building up quite a gap".
Behind them, a stuck engine on Alboreto's Footwork had caused him to spin on the middle of the Brabham Straight, the rear of his car collided with the inside wall and he was immediately beached in the middle of the track. The following cars were lucky to avoid his stricken car, however Gugelmin's Jordan had managed to run over his detached rear wing.
Both Mansell and Senna continued to battle hard on the circuit, Murray Walker commenting "the last grand prix for both of them in their present circumstances, each regards the other as their main rival and rightly so. What a classic this is turning out to be already". Whilst Mansell and Senna began to pull away at the head of the field, Schumacher continued to apply the pressure to the lagging Williams of Patrese. After his poor start, Berger had managed to move past Alesi's Ferrari and had joined the battle for third place. Berger would not waste much time behind Schumacher, on the fourth lap in the run down the Brabham Straight, Berger moved into fourth position. "The Honda V12 very good on acceleration" would note James Hunt. After four laps, Mansell led Senna, Patrese, Berger, Schumacher, Alesi, Brundle, De Cesaris, Häkkinen, Comas, Modena and Morbidelli. Comas, however would drop out of the race at the end of the fourth lap with an engine failure.
Right outside the points positions, Häkkinen and De Cesaris were fighting over eighth position. Häkkinen had overtaken De Cesaris, however the Tyrrell driver remained tight on the heels of the Lotus. On the fifth lap, Häkkinen ran wide at the Dequetville Hairpin, De Cesaris took the opportunity to attack, however Häkkinen closed the door too late and the two cars collided. De Cesaris continued unscathed whilst Häkkinen was tipped into a spin and dropped down the order.
The battle for the lead had slightly thawed, as was described by James Hunt "a heroic performance by Ayrton Senna over the opening laps, showing us just why he is the world's number one driver. With quite a car disadvantage he's harried and hassled Nigel Mansell. But Mansell has kept cool and using the superior performance of the Williams to open a small gap. Meanwhile they have absolutely charged away from Riccardo Patrese and the gap is now some six seconds between Senna and Patrese".
Murray Walker would comment "it looks as though the Italian has not succeeded in setting up his Williams as well as Mansell has". Schumacher had fallen back from the battle for third, however Berger continued to hound the tail of Patrese. Patrese was lucky to not be held up by Herbert's Lotus who courteously gave way to the battling duo after losing time from the first corner shunt.
Meanwhile, Gugelmin who was fighting in the midfield had lost control of his Jordan in the approach to Dequetville Hairpin. The Jordan spectacularly grinded down the outside wall before coming to a standstill in the escape road. Whilst Gugelmin was out of the race, Modena had put his Jordan into ninth position. Murray Walker commenting "there has never been a Jordan in the top ten places this year. The team have dramatically improved the performance of their car here at Adelaide, and in Stefano Modena is making the most of it".
At the head of the field, Mansell continued to control the pace of the field. On the eleventh lap he had set a new lap record with a 1:18.174, beating the previous record that he had set back in 1990. Whilst Mansell led, his teammate continued to be hounded by Berger.
Patrese had fended off an attack by Berger into the Dequetville Hairpin to which James Hunt would note "Berger always aggressive, whilst Patrese made a good move to fend there to deter Gerhard Berger. There was nothing dangerous in what he did". Murray Walker would further note "Berger's heart must have skipped a beat, I don't remember what year it was, but at that corner he was driven into by the dreaded René Arnoux and was removed from the race whilst leading it".
The following lap, Berger attacked again, however Patrese as described by Murray Walker was "wise to it". A frustrated Berger, would attempt the same move at the Dequetville Hairpin for the third lap in succession. James Hunt would comment "he's shown his hand to Riccardo Patrese and he's going to have to think of a way of selling him a dummy. Because if he keeps trying that one, their most likely result is that they are going to make contact". Patrese was lucky to dispense of the backmarker of Katayama's Larrousse before the Brabham Straight because for a fourth time in succession, Berger would make a lunge at him.
In regards to the leading battle, Mansell had continued to set new fastest laps, however Senna remained in a looming position in the background. "Senna holding on as best he can, but not threatening at the moment" noted James Hunt. However Mansell would lose time whilst lapping the backmarkers, whilst Mansell was navigating past Lammers's March, Senna took the opportunity to set a new fastest lap of the race. As commented by Murray Walker "this is Senna's opportunity. He like Mansell can see the cars ahead that the world champion is trying to lap. And Senna will try to close on Mansell in the hope of trying to exploit an opportunity".
On the eighteenth lap, Mansell lost a lot of time whilst trying to lap Larini's Ferrari, this allowed Senna to gain significantly in the final section of the track. As they approached the final Mistral Hairpin, Senna inexplicably rammed into the rear of Mansell's Williams whilst looking for an opening. The two cars flew off the circuit where both were immediately eliminated from the race.
Mansell could be seen angrily gesticulating from the cockpit of his stricken car. As described by Murray Walker "Mansell is furious! Furious! With Nigel Mansell's body language saying a mixture of resignation and fury whilst Senna stalks away". Commenting on the accident, James Hunt would note "what a pity for the race to finish like that. Particularly for Nigel Mansell who one would have to say is the innocent party in that." Murray Walker would further add "Ayrton Senna would no doubt have an extremely eloquent and extremely voluble justification for what he did, but it would seem it certainly was his fault".
With both Mansell and Senna out of the race, Patrese therefore inherited the lead of the race. After his earlier relentless attack, Berger had dropped back from the rear of Patrese, allowing the Williams driver to hold a one and a half second lead over him. Behind these two were Schumacher, Brundle, Alesi, De Cesaris, Modena, Morbidelli, Boutsen, Suzuki, Fittipaldi and Lehto.
A lap after Patrese had taken the lead, Berger had closed back onto the Williams. For the fifth time he attacked into the Dequetville Hairpin, this time he took Patrese by surprise and briefly held the position before he outbraked himself into the corner, locked up his tyres and fell back into second position. Berger's move proved costly to which James Hunt commented "it is just as well he had enough of a lead over Michael Schumacher, for Schumacher not to nip back and get in front of him there. Berger's now got to regain that lost ground to Patrese, but I don't think that would be a problem for him. In the mean time Schumacher hasn't really been able to mount an attack himself, yet he is playing a waiting game. He must be encouraged by first of all seeing that Mansell and Senna managed to take eachother out and Berger and Patrese must look to him as if there is a good chance of them doing the same thing."
After an exciting open section of the race, the order had begun to stabilise to which James Hunt would frustratingly comment "I think Nigel Mansell has every right to feel robbed of a potential tenth win. However I think the biggest losers of all from that was us, the spectators, we've had little close racing to cheer about this season and they were really putting on a pretty magnificent race." However a more optimistic Murray Walker would comment 'thats the bad news, the good news is that look at this battle for first place now, still the Williams, the McLaren and the Benetton. Virtually together". Ten seconds behind Schumacher on the track was the second Benetton of Brundle. He was slowly managing to catch his younger teammate with the Ferrari of Alesi close in toe behind him.
De Cesaris was denied another opportunity for a race victory when he pulled out of the race with an engine failure. His Ilmor engine failed spectacularly, flames bursting from the rear of his Tyrrell. This meant that for the first time in the season, both Modena and his team, Jordan, were running in a points finishing position.
At the front, Berger had decided to pull into the pits for a tyre change. Despite the race expected to have no stops, Berger had worn down his tyres after his relentless pursuit on Patrese's lead. Murray Walker commenting "Berger is notoriously hard on tyres, if ever the tyre technicians are worried about anybody in a race, its Gerhard Berger". Berger returned to the track in third, splitting the two Benetton's of Schumacher and Brundle.
With Berger into the pits, Schumacher began to put in a charge and was closing in on Patrese's lead. Murray Walker noting "now Michael Schumacher has got an incredibly mature tactical head on his young 23 year old shoulders." Patrese would come under pressure as he arrived to lap the trio of Morbidelli, Suzuki and Häkkinen. James Hunt would confirm his earlier theory that Schumacher was playing "a waiting game". Berger however was immediately on the pace after his return to track, his fresh tyres had meant he was lapping significantly faster than either Patrese or Schumacher ahead of him.
Häkkinen would prove incredibly difficult to overtake, Patrese would be stuck for a nearly a full lap behind the Lotus driver. As soon as he let Patrese move past, Häkkinen blocked an attempt by Schumacher to overtake him. An angered Schumacher would shake his fist at the Lotus driver as the duo travelled down the pit-straight. Patrese was able to swiftly navigate his way past Suzuki and Morbidelli, Schumacher, however would have real trouble making his way through the traffic. The reluctance from the backmarkers to allow Schumacher past had meant Patrese had allowed both Patrese to pull away into the distance whilst also allowing Berger to close back onto the rear of Schumacher.
Whilst Schumacher was struggling to lap Suzuki, Berger had managed to dive down the inside of the Benetton at the Dequetville Hairpin. Schumacher was described to have been "caught napping" by Berger. With Schumacher dropping to fourth, the second Benetton of Brundle became the second car, following Berger, to make a pit-stop for new tyres. After losing his position to Berger, Schumacher likewise had made a dive to the pits for new tyres.
Now cleared of Schumacher and the round of backmarkers, Berger began to put on a charge and was setting new lap records lap after lap. The lead to Patrese's Williams was reducing at approximately a second a lap. Schumacher was well down after his pit-stop, however he too was lapping faster of Patrese's Williams who had neglected to make a pit-stop. However Patrese's efforts would all be for naught, at the exit of Wakefield corner, his Williams ground to a halt with an engine failure. There was some amusement as the marshalls attempted to move Patrese's car. The Williams was left stricken on the racing line. The marshalls would be unable to remove the stricken Williams, providing the remaining drivers with another extra obstacle to navigate on the circuit.
Berger therefore would inherit the lead of the race, he would continue to open up a race lead, his gap to second placed Schumacher would continue to enhance as the Benetton driver once again encountered the stubborn Lotus of Häkkinen. Häkkinen remained ahead of Schumacher for another full lap until a frustrated Schumacher put a daring move on Häkkinen at the final Mistral Hairpin. Schumacher thereafter managed to began to match Berger's McLaren on the timing screens, however he remained 25 seconds adrift of the McLaren driver.
After 56 laps, Berger led Schumacher, Brundle, Alesi, Boutsen, Modena, Suzuki, Häkkinen, Morbidelli, Fittipaldi, Lehto, Larini, Lammers and Herbert. Among the other recent retirements were the March of Naspetti as well as Gachot's Larrousse. Katayama had also dropped out earlier in the race and therefore ending the Larrousse team's season early. Whilst the remaining drivers began to drive around in procession, news from the paddock that a very angered Nigel Mansell was spending time with his physiotherapist after hurting his back in his incident with Senna.
Schumacher could be seen making improvements to his navigation of traffic, managing to dispense with both Lammers and Modena in a single move at the Duquetville Hairpin. He would then go on to break the lap record several times over a number of laps, to which James Hunt would note it to be "a very spirited chase. Berger will have to respond because Schumacher is on schedule to catch him well before the end of the race" . Schumacher was providing all the excitement on track as he continued to lap consistently faster, Walker commenting "for the last seven laps, Michael Schumacher has broken the previous lap record that he himself has put up. What a find for Formula One and for Benetton".
When Schumacher had closed the gap down to thirteen seconds, Berger had begun to respond with an improved pace. Nonetheless there was worry as he began to close on a four car train of Fittipaldi, Morbidelli, Larini and Herbert. Berger quickly scythed through the traffic, James Hunt commenting "the Honda engine will be a help to him, I think he has a bit more straight line speed than Michael Schumacher had. We saw that Schumacher previously had much more difficulty getting past Häkkinen's Lotus."
Eight laps from the end Schumacher had reduced the gap to ten seconds when he encountered the backmarkers of Larini and Morbidelli. He wasted no time behind these two cars and continued to drop the gap down to eight seconds. He further cleared the car of Herbert without time lost. Berger meanwhile began to close on Suzuki's Footwork to which Murray Walker commented "can be a very difficult man to pass". After being stuck behind Suzuki for a few corners, Berger cleared the final backmarker, now having a clear run to the end of the race.
By the end of the race, Schumacher had closed the gap right down to Berger's McLaren. However it would not be enough to attempt an overtake for the lead. Nonetheless, Murray Walker would give consolation to Schumacher in stating "Nigel Mansell may be the world champion, but the man of the year in many ways has to be Michael Schumacher".
Standings after raceEdit
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