The 1992 Belgian Grand Prix was the 12th race of the 1992 Formula One Season. Held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 30 1992, it was won by Michael Schumacher for Benetton-Ford. It was the very first of Schumacher's record 91 career wins in Formula One.
At the Hungaroring, Nigel Mansell had finally claimed his first World Drivers' Championship. However the dispute on whether he would retain his Williams drive for 1993 would continue. It was suddenly looking increasingly unlikely that Mansell would remain in Formula One to defend his crown. His unwillingness to partner Alain Prost in the team as well as he demands for a $23 million salary were looking disagreeable among the Williams management. Ayrton Senna whilst making it clear that joining Williams would be his only true chance of attaining a fourth world title in 1993, he had since stated that he "had lost interest" in joining the Williams team. His main rival, Alain Prost had beaten him in signing for Williams ahead of him and thus created a clause in his two year contract that prevented the arrival of Senna.
On behalf of Senna, Frank Williams was attempting to renegotiate the terms of Prost's contract, however Prost remained adamant that he would not partner Senna as a teammate once again. In the midst of this, Mansell had seemingly been forgotten in the negotiations with Williams. He furiously claimed before Spa "I'm last in line at Williams - the world champion is last in line. What a story". His significant financial demands and unwillingness to partner Prost in the team had meant that he was falling out of favour among the Williams camp.
One man who felt sure he had fallen out of the fight for the Williams seat in 1993 was Riccardo Patrese. After being dominated by Mansell in 1992 and had yet to take a single victory in comparison to his teammates eight victories, Patrese felt clear with both Mansell and Senna vying for the remaining seat alongside Prost he would clearly be out of line for Williams. He had simply stated "Nobody told me to stay with Williams, thus I am seeking a new team for the next season." Nonetheless, due to his knowledge of working with Williams's advanced electronic systems, top teams such as McLaren, Benetton and Ligier were all looking to sign him for 1993.
Patrese's preferred move would have been to join Ferrari, however the Maranello squadron ahead of first practice in Spa announced its 1993 line-up. Alongside their young charger, Jean Alesi, the team would see the return of Gerhard Berger in 1993. After three seasons as Senna's number two, Berger would once again be expected to lead Ferrari in their continued restructuring period. The return of John Barnard in 1993 as well as the partnership of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger would hopefully return Ferrari to winning ways. For Spa-Francorchamps, Ferrari would introduce an updated chassis titled the Ferrari F92AT. The new version incorporated a seven-speed transverse gearbox, with a modified front suspension. It also included a more rigid engine mounting system and an up-to-date version of the underwing. In essence, the car was introducing a lot of the concepts of the next year's car in a bid for a late season improvement in form in what had been a disastrous year for Maranello.
With Berger confirmed to be leaving the team and the future of Senna unconfirmed, McLaren faced the prospect of an all new line-up for the next season. The team would also lose their Honda engines, the once dominant engine manufacturer had confirmed it was pulling out of its Formula One operations at the end of the season. Ron Dennis had attempted to negotiate a deal with Peugeot as an engine supplier, however they felt they would not be ready to provide a competitive engine in Formula One as soon as 1993. It was a worrying time for McLaren, their future success was suddenly looking out of the control of Ron Dennis. However Senna's dwindling chances at Williams meant Dennis was determined to retain his lead driver in the team for the following season.
At Lotus, Johnny Herbert announced alongside manager, Peter Collins before practice that he had re-signed for Lotus for the 1993 season. His teammate, Mika Häkkinen still had no announcement on his future, however the rumour was that he was being considered as a potential replacement for Ayrton Senna if he was to leave McLaren.
At Minardi, Christian Fittipaldi returned to his seat after missing the last three races after injuring his neck during qualifying for the French Grand Prix. Emanuele Naspetti would start his debut race for the March team, he would replace Paul Belmondo who had ran out of finances to secure his drive. The team, like many of the smaller outfits were struggling for money and were looking set to be put on market by the end of the year. The team also confirmed that Jan Lammers, the Dutch veteran would return to the sport after a nine year absence for the final two races of the season. He would replace the outgoing Karl Wendlinger, the team's young star who would be joining the debuting Sauber team for 1993.
Brabham, who had fielded only a single car in Hungary were notably absent from the paddock as the team's arrived in Belgium. Brabham's financial strife was keeping them grounded at home in Britain, however Dennis Nursey assured the paddock they would be back for the Italian Grand Prix. Andrea Moda owner, Andrea Sassetti and team manager Sergio Zargo were arrested by Belgian police upon their arrival in the Belgian paddock. The Andrea Moda team owners had allegedly forged documents, placing Formula One's most troublesome team in even great controversy.
The full entry list is outlined below for the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix:
At the beginning of practice, Érik Comas, who was one of the first drivers out of the pits had a huge accident at the Blanchimont bend. His Ligier speared off the circuit and slammed into the barriers, his left front wheel disconnecting from his car and rebounding back into Comas's head. The Ligier came to a rest in the middle of the circuit, Comas was immediately knocked unconscious, however his foot remained firmly pressed on the accelerator. Ayrton Senna, the first of the drivers' to come across the scene of the accident immediately noticed the over reving car and sprung from his own car, rushing to assist the inert Comas. He immediately switched off Comas's engine to prevent it from exploding and held Comas's head stable as he waited for the medical staff to arrive. Comas slowly began to regain consciousness and although he would be ruled out of any further participation in the weekend, he would survive without serious injury.
Once Comas was attended for, Senna returned to his car and drove back to the pits. At the end of the session Mansell led Patrese, Senna, Boutsen, Schumacher, Brundle, Berger, Herbert, Hakkinen and De Cesaris.
The early part of the session saw mainly only the minor runners attending the circuit. Herbert and Häkkinen topped the initial times for Lotus whilst behind them were Van de Poele, Lehto, Wendlinger, Modena, Gugelmin, Katayama, Grouillard, Fittipaldi and Moreno. Patrese in the Williams became the first of the front runners that would exit the pits. After a small mistake on his first lap at Pouhon, his second lap was significantly faster which put him comfortably fastest with a 1:54.483.
Thereafter joining the track were Mansell, Berger and Schumacher. At the beginning of Schumacher's first flying lap, he lost control of his car at the La Source hairpin and sideswiped the barriers. He would thereafter returned to the pits for repairs. Mansell's first flying lap was comfortably faster than Patrese with a 1:52.557. He would attempt a few more runs, however to little avail in improving his time and returned to the pits.
After a quick check for damage, Schumacher returned to track and set the third fastest time with Benetton teammate Brundle slotting into fourth position. Berger in the McLaren was sitting slightly behind the two Benetton cars, however Senna in the lead McLaren put in an excellent time to go second fastest, splitting the two Williams cars. Now being threatened by Senna, Mansell returned to the track and further bettered the provisional pole time down to a 1:51.826.
Further down the field, Gugelmin was forced to pull into the pits with an engine failure whilst Fittipaldi spun into the gravel at turn fourteen. Boutsen, the sole remaining Ligier after Comas's accident then put in a strong lap on his home turf to go fifth fastest. Patrese, who had dropped to third was under pressure to improve his time spun his car into the barriers at the Bus Stop Chicane upon exiting the pits for his initial flying lap. Patrese then running back to the pits for the spare car was further demoted when Schumacher moved his Benetton up to third place. Whilst Patrese appeared to be struggling, Mansell would further drop his time with a 1:50.545. Mansell now running three seconds faster than Senna's McLaren in second position.
Alesi's Ferrari managed to make an improvement from his twelfth fastest time to move into fifth place. Berger also further improved his time to move into sixth, dropping the lead Belgian of Boutsen down to seventh on the grid. Senna would attempt one final lap to beat Mansell's devastatingly fast time, however entering the final Bus Stop Chicane, Senna lost the back end and spun the car through the chicane.
Heavy rain had afflicted the circuit during Saturday morning practice. The session was known for two major accidents, exiting La Source and in the run approaching Eau Rouge, Berger lost control of his car and slammed his McLaren into the left barriers before rebounding into the opposite right wall. The incident had brought out the red flags, and although Berger's car was wrecked, he walked away unscathed. As the session resumed, the Dallara of Pierluigi Martini had an almost identical accident, however he too walked away unscathed.
Saturday Qualifying Edit
The session was affected by heavy rain, meaning that the Friday qualifying times would stand to create the grid. Mansell led the timing sheets, whilst De Cesaris impressed in the wet conditions to go second fastest. The heavy rain that was afflicting the circuit was concerning for all the drivers. Mansell noting "I have great sympathy for the drivers who had accidents especially Gerhard who was going flat out in a straight line down to Eau Rouge when he found a river going across the circuit." Senna further backed up Mansell's statement by saying "It would be crazy to race in those dangerous conditions." However one driver who was seemingly undeterred was that of the Benetton of Michael Schumacher, according to Murray Walker, he was the one driver who dared take the notorious Blanchimont bend flat-out without lifting in the wet conditions.
The conditions before the start of the race were very damp and overcast. Light rain had been afflicting the circuit, however the drivers would all be starting on dry tyres albeit with slightly higher downforce levels. At the start, Berger encountered a transmission problem which left him grounded on the grid at the start of the race. Luckily all the following cars were able to avoid the stricken Berger, however the McLaren driver was immediately eliminated from the race.
In contrast to his teammate, Senna got a perfect start and led the field away ahead of the two Williams cars of Mansell and Patrese. Alesi had moved up to fourth whilst Schumacher had dropped down to fifth, moving down the Kemmel Straight, Schumacher was being challenged by the fast starting Lotus of Häkkinen, however he was able to retain the fifth place in the approach to Les Combes. However before the end of the first lap, Schumacher had repassed Alesi's Ferrari and had reclaimed fourth position. Behind the top six came Brundle, Boutsen, Capelli, Herbert, Tarquini and De Cesaris.
Aside from Berger's initial retirement, Martini's Dallara spun and stalled on the opening lap whilst Grouillard's Tyrrell spun at the exit of La Source putting his car into the barriers. The slippery conditions had claimed its first victims of the race. The marshalls struggled to remove Berger's stricken McLaren, only just managing to move his car off the racing line before the cars came around for the second lap.
At the end of the second lap, Mansell attacked Senna through Blanchimont to take the lead of the race, a corner later at the Bus Stop chicane, Patrese had also moved past Senna's McLaren. Senna was lacking the traction in comparison to the Williams, whose cars were better able to handle the wettest section of the track in the final sector of the circuit.
The track was demonstrating some very mixed condtions, parts of the track remaining dry whilst other parts being quite wet on the circuit. Whilst Mansell was leading, teammate Patrese was right on the rear of his car, as was Schumacher on the rear of Senna. Approaching the Bus Stop chicane, Brundle attacked down the inside of Häkkinen and took sixth position.
At the end of the third lap, Mansell dived into the pits for wet tyres, as did Alesi's Ferrari from fifth position. Mansell had a slow stop, which allowed Alesi to move ahead of him as the two cars exited the pits. Brundle immediately began to close on Senna and Schumacher ahead of him, however at the end of the fourth lap, like Mansell and Alesi before him, Schumacher entered the pits to put on the wet tyres. Brundle continued to attack Senna for another lap before heading to the pits for wet tyres. The same lap, Häkkinen also pits for tyres.
Alesi and Mansell had exited the pits at the back of the field, however in the increasingly wet conditions the two cars on their wet tyres had begun to quickly scythe there way through the tail enders and mid-field. When Schumacher exited the pits, he briefly held position over Mansell, but before the end of his out-lap, Mansell had moved back past.
On the fifth lap, a four car train of Alesi, Mansell, Schumacher and Brundle stormed past De Cesaris's Tyrrell at Stavelot to return to within the top ten. The following lap, Patrese and Capelli made the decision to come in for wet tyres. Patrese exited the pits ahead of Mansell, however in the run down to Eau Rouge, Mansell had ran past Patrese to take the position.
At this point, only Senna and Herbert remained on slick tyres among the leaders. The track remained dry in certain places and the rain had slightly abated and with a large lead Senna dared to stay out on the slick compound. Herbert behind him was quickly caught by the leading train of cars behind Alesi. Alesi attacked Herbert down the inside at the Bus Stop chicane, however Herbert slammed the door shut. Despite his aggressive defending, Herbert would immediately dash for the pits, leaving Senna the last leader on dry tyres.
Alesi therefore inherited second place, however as soon as Herbert entered the pits, Alesi locked up into La Source, Mansell who was following directly behind him collided with his left rear wheel. Alesi spun off at the first corner and stalled the engine. Mansell would continue undamaged, however his collision had allowed Patrese to retake second position.
Herbert and his late call to come into the pits had dropped him well out of contention, Senna now had no choice but to stay in the lead on dry tyres or risk dropping well down the field. After a lap of being stuck behind Patrese, Mansell retook second at the Bus Stop chicane and began the chase on Senna eleven seconds ahead of him. The four car train of Mansell, Patrese, Schumacher and Brundle were rapidly closing in on Senna at a rate of three seconds a lap.
Senna's gamble did not pay off, on lap eleven he was passed by Mansell's Williams at the Bus Stop chicane. Senna was able to keep Patrese behind for a bit longer, on the following lap he had blocked moves down the Kemmel Straight, Rivage and turn nine, before finally conceding the position at Fagnes. After two laps of holding off Schumacher, Senna conceded position at Rivage, in letting Schumacher through, Brundle as well as Häkkinen's Lotus who had recaught the leaders all managed to move past Senna.
Thereafter Senna began to drop back significantly, at the end of lap fourteen as he was being approached by Capelli's Ferrari, Senna finally entered the pits for wet tyres. He exited the pits in thirteenth place. In overtaking the feisty De Cesaris for twelfth, the two drivers banged wheels into La Source, the Tyrrell driver refusing to give way. Shortly after, Naspetti in the March had a big spin at La Source, however he was able to continue on without issue.
At the front, Mansell held a solid seven second lead, however Patrese behind him who temporarily was catching Mansell was suddenly caught by the two Benetton cars of Schumacher and Brundle. Häkkinen had dropped back from this battle, however still had a huge lead over Capelli in sixth position. Capelli meanwhile was staging off a challenge from Boutsen and Alboreto behind him. Alboreto, however would have his first retirement of the season, pulling off the circuit with gearbox problems on lap 20.
Herbert's late decision to come in for wet tyres had dropped him well down the field. However he was staging a strong comeback, having disposed of Lehto and Boutsen, he had returned to the rear of Capelli's Ferrari and was challenging for sixth position. Capelli was standing his ground against Herbert's charge, however an engine blow-up on lap 25 ended his race.
Like Herbert, Senna was moving back through the field, he moved past Tarquini who retired with engine failure and then proceeded to pass Lehto. With the track rapidly drying, Boutsen became the first driver to pit for dry tyres, allowing Senna to move into seventh position. Boutsen however proved the track was still treacherous, exiting Stavelot, he slammed into the barriers and retired from the race.
Nonetheless, the lead cars were all making the decision to come in for dry tyres. A lap after Boutsen, Senna had come into the pits for dry tyres. Schumacher slid off the track at Malmedy and was lucky to avoid the barriers, subsequently he was passed by Brundle who had just set the fastest lap of the race. After losing third place, Schumacher decided to come into the pits for slick tyres.
Senna's charge was temporarily halted, a failed overtake on Lehto's Dallara at La Source had caused him to spin and he subsequently dropped behind Herbert's Lotus who was exiting the pits for dry tyres. A lap after Schumacher, Brundle came into the pits for dry tyres, however the undercut by Schumacher had allowed the German to retake third from his teammate.
Williams had left the decision to come into the pits very late, in fact the pace of Schumacher, the leading car on dry tyres was such that he would catch and overtake Mansell for the lead if he came into the pits. Patrese had pit first and had dropped to third, a lap after his teammate, Mansell pitted and dropped to second.
A good strategy and the early call for dry tyres had put Schumacher into the lead of the race. Mansell had exited the pits, six seconds behind Schumacher and immediately began pressing hard, setting the fastest lap of the race. Schumacher was briefly held up by Gachot's Venturi, upon lapping the Belgian, Gachot spun his car at La Source.
Senna was well out of contention, however he had moved back into a points position when he overtook Herbert's Lotus. However Senna remained a further seventeen seconds down on Häkkinen's fifth position. Nonetheless Senna continued to push and had broke the lap record. On the penultimate lap, Senna had moved past Häkkinen down the Kemmel Straight, allowing him to take fifth position. Whilst Häkkinen would go on to finish sixth, the second Lotus of Herbert would retire from seventh on the final lap, his car pulling off with engine failure down the Kemmel Straight.
Mansell continued to close in on Schumacher, the Benetton driver having been held up a long time by Modena's Jordan. However Schumacher was given some respite, as Mansell began to close on him, the Williams-Renault suddenly developed a misfire which saw him begin to lose power. Schumacher then began to cruise around in the lead of the race, Mansell had quickly fallen out of the running for the race win. However his huge lead over Patrese who was still being hounded by Brundle's Benetton had left Mansell still with a chance of retaining second position.
Schumacher continued to lap very quickly, setting a new lap record on lap 39. His first race win would see him finish first, 36 seconds ahead of Mansell's Williams. Mansell despite his engine problem still held a seven second lead over his teammate upon crossing the line at the finish.
Standings after raceEdit
|Belgian Grand Prix|
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