A month has passed since the last event in Brazil. The month however has not been uneventful as the team's use the break to continue testing the cars ahead of the Spanish race in Barcelona. It has been a smooth start to the season for Nigel Mansell and Williams-Renault. Mansell who has dominated the opening rounds of the championship is confident in his team and his abilities. He jovially exclaims before the event "if Williams want me to sign for another five years, I think it is possible". Meanwhile, his teammate Riccardo Patrese has a lot more to prove, whilst finishing second three times in a row, he had largely been dominated by Mansell in the opening races of the season. Although Patrese had topped the times at major testing at Imola and Silverstone, there was evidence the team was swinging in Mansell's favour when he would be approved a new and improved Renault engine for Spain.
At the Imola test, McLaren had more time to develop their MP4/7A chassis. The car made an unscheduled early debut at Brazil to close the gap to Williams, however the new car was still riddled with teething troubles and both Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger had retired from the race. The month break had hopefully closed the gap between them and Williams but the team remained riddled with doubt. It had been the team's worst start to the season in four years, worst of all there were rumours that engine supplier Honda was planning to quit Formula One at the end of the season. Peugeot were displaying interest in moving into Formula One as an engine supplier, it was suggested that Peugeot may be planning a deal with McLaren for 1993. In support of this Ron Dennis had recently loaned out his test driver, Mark Blundell, to Peugeot for their Le Mans effort in 1993.
In Spain, Benetton would finally be debuting their 1992 car. During testing, the Benetton B192 had proved to be very quick and was expected to remain ahead of McLaren going into Spain. Both Michael Schumacher and Martin Brundle reported a vast improvement over its predecessor the B191, the duo expecting to be Williams's greatest rival in Spain.
After a dreadful past few seasons, there were rumours Ferrari were planning to exit Formula One. New Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemelo was determined to quash these rumours. His presence could be seen in the Spanish paddock, affirming the team's continued committment to Formula One in their troubled times.
Although Lotus's history had somewhat been tainted when its founder, the late Colin Chapman had recently been found guilty as a conspirator in the DeLorean scandal. The team hoped a successful new future with the newly completed Lotus 107. The aged 102 chassis had been in service for the past three seasons, yet both Mika Häkkinen and Johnny Herbert had found success for the team at the start of the season with the old car. The new features on the 102D chassis had proved hopeful that the 107 would return Lotus to regular points finishers. The team will run the 107 in practice, yet will race with the 102D for one final time in Spain.
At the tail end of the team there were problems for two teams. Brabham were experiencing serious cash flow problems and were looking unlikely to survive the season. Team principal Dennis Nursey had gone to South Africa desperately in search of a buyer or a team sponsor. It had been a dismal start to the season, only once had Eric van de Poele qualified whilst Giovanna Amati had failed to get through qualifying once this season. Luckily for Brabham, Williams had loaned out their test driver of the past two years, Damon Hill, son of the late Graham Hill, world champion in 1962 and 1968. Amati who had hoped to become the first female racer since Lella Lombardi to compete in a race was sacked due to her lack of performance. From Spain onwards, Damon Hill would be racing for the team. On the prospect of his debut, Hill reflected "The potential is definitely there in this team and I hope to capitalise on it. I'm pleased to be carrying on the family name."
Andrea Moda's turbulent start to the season continued. After a rushed debut in Brazil seeing the team predictably failing to get through pre-qualifying, Roberto Moreno finally got the chance to test the Andrea Moda S921 properly in Imola. Perry McCarthy who was drafted in as the team's second driver proved to be having a turbulent start to his Formula One career. After failing to be granted a superlicense in Brazil, McCarthy was able to successfully negotiate with the FIA for his license to be approved for Spain. However, upon getting his superlicense, Andrea Moda planned to sack McCarthy in favour of their original driver Enrico Bertaggia. However the FIA denied this request, stating that Andrea Moda had already used up its mandatory two driver changes maximum per season when it had sacked Enrico Bertaggia and Alex Caffi after the second round. A frustrated Andrea Sassetti was resigned to continue with McCarthy for the remainder of the season, McCarthy had yet to even drive the car once thus far.
The full entry list is outlined below for the 1992 Spanish Grand Prix:
Saturday was afflicted by heavy rain on the circuit, it became immediately evident that the Friday times were going to determine the grid for Sunday's race. In the morning practice session, Nigel Mansell had showed his first signs of weakness this season when he spun off and was bogged in the gravel traps ahead of the race. Joining him in the gravel traps that session was Michael Schumacher, the flying German who had proved threatening in the new Benetton flew off the circuit and damaged a front wing. He had already wrecked one of the new B192's in friday practice, his participation in the wet session was unlikely in order to preserve the new car.
Most cars were unwilling to go out on track due to the heavy rain afflicting the circuit. Eric van de Poele who was unlikely to qualify with his car being 28th on Friday was the first one out on track. A couple of laps later he was joined by Gabriele Tarquini's Fondmetal. Tarquini lasted only a couple of laps, before he spun into the barriers heading into the final corner. After minimal running in practice due to his spin, Nigel Mansell came out on track to get some wet weather practice. Gerhard Berger also ventured out onto track, he had barely done any laps during morning practice and like Mansell was getting some needed wet weather track time. Behind them a few other back runners also came onto track, Michele Alboreto, Olivier Grouillard, Andrea de Cesaris and Bertrand Gachot were all seen on track. Gachot having a spectacular spin and almost spinning into the path of Mansell. Gianni Morbidelli was another driver to spin off the circuit.
A quarter of a way through the session, Mansell pulled into the pits. Now going out on track was Ayrton Senna. Senna immediately began demonstrating his wet weather skills, despite his inferior car he closed to within two tenths of Mansell's time.
By mid-session, Mansell led Senna, Berger, Comas, Alboreto, Grouillard, Capelli, De Cesaris and Gugelmin. The rest of the field opting to remain in the pits. Berger had been one of the few drivers to consistently remain out on track throughout the session. Jean Alesi came out on track, however at turn five of his installation lap, he spun off the circuit. Alesi was luckily able to get out of the gravel, unlike he had done in his spin at the exactly same place the previous day.
45 minutes into the session, Mansell could be seen sitting in the garage back in plain clothing watching the session unfold. It was clear he did not feel the need to return to the circuit. His teammate, Patrese running one installation lap before returning to the pits. Both McLarens remaining out on track, both Senna and Berger piling in the laps in expectation of a wet race on Sunday.
Jean Alesi had been operating well in the Ferrari at Barcelona. In the morning session he was the fastest driver on circuit and then with seven minutes remaining, he took the fastest spot from Nigel Mansell. The next lap he improved his time still further, the car proving excellent in the wet. Senna also improved his time to go second, dropping Mansell down to third.
Whilst the times had no effect on the grid, the final grid being determined from Friday's times, the day provided useful in giving some teams much needed wet weather running in anticipation of a potentially wet race on Sunday. Senna notably stating that he had a chance to win if the race was wet.
The rain had continued to afflict the track over night, but by Saturday morning it had abated. The skies looked grey and the track was still wet, yet many of the cars dared venture out on slicks for the warm-up. After one lap, those on slicks returned to the pits to change for wet tyres. Nigel Mansell dared stay out on slicks for a couple of laps but returned to the pits for the wet tyres.
Mika Häkkinen in the Lotus was one of the few to start on wet tyres, he immediately set the fastest time of the session. Behind him came Morbidelli, Fittipaldi, Mansell and De Cesaris. After a few laps the order had been rearranged to Capelli leading Häkkinen, Morbidelli, Fittipaldi, Herbert, Brundle, Boutsen, Mansell, De Cesaris and Martini. Some of the leading drivers continuing to dabble on slick tyres. Schumacher who was on the front row of the grid for the first time in his career, was driving very cautiously during the warm-up session.
A number of the front runners remained on slick tyres, notably Mansell, Alesi, Schumacher and Senna. Berger on wets took the fastest time whilst Patrese moved into second behind him. The wet track and the various differences in driver set-up meant the times would not be indicative of the true pace of the drivers for the race.
The track had continued to dry since the warm-up, yet the track remained overcast and the threat of rain still loomed. Mansell immediately took the lead at the start, teammate Patrese also got a good start to move from fourth to second. Schumacher's Benetton was not strong off the line and dropped behind Patrese and the fast starting Alesi who had come up from eighth on the grid. Brundle had moved up to fifth whilst Senna had dropped three places and was now sixth ahead of teammate Berger. Morbidelli ran off the circuit and into the gravel at the first corner. Like wise to get a poor start was Wendlinger on dry tyres who dropped down to twentieth.
Midway through the first lap, Senna retook fifth position from Brundle. After the first lap Mansell led from Patrese, Alesi, Schumacher, Senna, Brundle, Berger, Capelli, Comas, Grouillard, Tarquini and Martini. De Cesaris had engine trouble and came into the pits, after continuing for another lap he retired from the race.
The two Williams's typically led away, Mansell was dominating and whilst Patrese was pulling away from the others, he once again was not able to keep pace with Mansell. A little while back, Alesi and Schumacher were battling for third place. The McLaren's of Senna and Berger had dropped back somewhat and did not appear as quick as the Ferrari and Benetton ahead of them.
It was another poor race for Martin Brundle, the second Benetton spun the car at the exit of turn one. Brundle then beached his car on the kerb on the lead down to turn two. For the fourth race in succession, Brundle was out of the race.
Alesi was beginning to slow with Schumacher and the two McLaren's right on his tail. Going into the first corner on lap six, Schumacher attacked along the inside, Alesi squeezed him but Schumacher pulled through.
As Mansell approached the back markers, Patrese began to slowly catch the race leader. Senna soon found his way past Alesi and then Berger behind him also disposed of the Ferrari. Only a few corners later though, Alesi retook fifth from Berger.
On lap 11, Boutsen pulled out of the race to retire with engine problems. Johnny Herbert was denied another strong result for Lotus when he spun off the circuit and into retirement, one lap later. Herbert had managed to climb up to seventeenth before spinning off the circuit.
Berger and Alesi continued to battle hard, Berger on a number of occasions had tried to get past but Alesi had continued to close the door. On lap 12, Berger dived down the inside of Alesi at turn three, the two cars made contact and Alesi spun off the circuit. Alesi continued but had dropped behind teammate Capelli. Behind Alesi in seventh came Comas, Grouillard, Tarquini, Martini, Lehto, Alboreto, Gachot, Hakkinen and Gugelmin.
The conditions had began to become more difficult for the drivers. The wet tyres had begun to wear in the drying conditions, however by lap 19 the rain had began to return. Patrese had begun to close on the rear of Mansell, for the first time in the season he looked a match for his teammate. However as he attempted to lap Häkkinen, he lost the car at the exit of turn 5 and slammed into the inside wall. Patrese was out of the race, a fourth successive Williams 1-2 was denied for the team.
Following Patrese's retirement, the cars immediately began to show obvious signs of tyre wear. The cars began to more obviously began to be getting out of shape as the wet tyres began to wear to their tread. Without the pressure of Patrese, Mansell could afford to relax. He had cleared a large pack of backmarkers and began conserving his tyres, Schumacher who was considerably behind him had only just begun to lap the backmarkers.
Andrea Chiesa who was struggling at the back of the field, became another driver to end his day in the gravel trap. Two laps later, Mauricio Gugelmin in the Jordan retired from sixteenth when he got out of shape at the final corner and speared across the track and into the tyre wall. Gugelmin was lucky to miss the two McLaren's that were about to lap him.
Schumacher whilst 15 seconds adrift of Mansell had managed to shake the McLaren's that were now 20 seconds behind the Benetton. As Senna and Berger scythed through traffic, Berger was able to take Senna unawares and past him whilst amidst the midfield runners. Berger's time in third did not last long, Senna retook Berger whilst the pair was lapping Pierluigi Martini.
In the midfield, typically leading the way was Erik Comas in the Ligier. Comas however had run out of grip on his tyres and was forced to pit for new tyres. Inheriting seventh was Tarquini, doing a very good job for Fondmetal, behind him came Martini, Alboreto, Lehto, Gachot, Hakkinen, Comas and Suzuki. Further retirements saw Morbidelli pull into the pits to retire with handling issues. Grouillard had also spun off the circuit to retire his car.
The next driver to come into the pits for new tyres was Jean Alesi. Alesi who pitted from sixth, maintained his position being some distance ahead of Tarquini behind him. Gachot pulled off the circuit with engine problems to retire his car in this time.
Schumacher began to put in some blistering times, he had brought the gap down between him and Mansell to 15 seconds after lapping 1.2 seconds faster than the Williams. However Mansell soon began to respond and once again began to pull away from the Benetton. Schumacher pushing hard, Senna behind him was also beginning to catch him and had reduced the gap to 8 seconds.
Alesi following his tyre change was frustratingly not lapping significantly faster than the other drivers on his new tyres. Häkkinen proved troublesome to lap once again, Alesi had closed on the rear of the Lotus, however the Finn was not cooperative. Alesi nearly lost control of his Ferrari on the exit of turn three when attempting to lap Häkkinen. After being stuck behind Häkkinen for a lap, Alesi attacked at turn five and collided with Häkkinen, punting the Lotus driver off the circuit. The two drivers entered the gravel, but both were able to continue.
However after several laps, Alesi had found his speed and began to lap 2 seconds faster than teammate Capelli. He had soon disposed of Capelli and had taken fifth position. Ahead of him Senna had reduced the gap to Schumacher down to 4 seconds, however Schumacher soon responded and began to pull away from the Brazilian once again. Schumacher had soon reduced the gap to Mansell down to seven seconds.
The rain had began to fall again, the situation playing into the hands of Alesi on the newer tyres. Mansell for the first time in 1992 appeared to have a serious threat for the lead. Schumacher had closed to within four seconds, whilst behind him Senna was now only 5 seconds adrift. However soon Mansell began to pull away in response to the threat. Schumacher behind him continued to push whilst Senna slowly began to fade from the challenge.
Berger was a long way adrift in fourth, whilst Alesi gave chase to the second McLaren. Capelli continued to hold sixth whilst behind him came Alboreto, Tarquini, Lehto, Martini, Suzuki, Häkkinen, Comas, Wendlinger and Belmondo.
Senna lost his pursuit on Schumacher when he spun his car going into turn 10. Senna was able to continue but had lost his progress on the Benetton ahead of him. Mansell meanwhile had increased the gap to thirteen seconds from Schumacher behind him.
Alesi once again experienced problems with Häkkinen when attempting to lap him for the second time. Häkkinen cutting Alesi off going into turn 12, whilst Häkkinen let Alesi through a few corners later, Alesi angrily gesticulated to the Finn. Alesi had began a furious charge on Berger, the Ferrari being much better than the McLaren on the new tyres.
In this time, Comas spun off the circuit, he then ended a poor day for the Ligier team. The mischievious Häkkinen retired soon after when he spun off the circuit on his 56th lap. Alesi soon disposed of Berger and then began a charge to catch Senna.
Senna pushing hard to escape Alesi, had overdriven the car in the final stages and had aquaplaned into the barriers, heading into turn 11. Capelli who had just been lapped by Senna before his off went off a lap later. Like Senna, he too was out. The second Ferrari driver missing out once again on some desperately needed points in the season.
Mansell however was untroubled as he took his fourth win in a row, 23 seconds ahead of Schumacher. Alesi had staged a good comeback drive and was only 3 seconds off Schumacher at the end of the race. Almost a minute behind came Berger in fourth. A lap behind, Alboreto scored another points finish for Footwork whilst Martini got his first points for Dallara in sixth.
Standings after raceEdit
- ↑ "1992 Spanish Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20141103143624/http://www.formula1.com/results/season/1992/185/. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
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