Features - News Feature

DECEMBER 1, 1991

Team by Team Review 1991


McLaren The team started the year with both Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger complaining that Honda's new V12 engine was not good enough. Senna promptly won the first four races of the year, but in the mid-season the team was unable to stem the tide of Williams-Renault.

A Review of 1991, Team by Team:


The team started the year with both Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger complaining that Honda's new V12 engine was not good enough. Senna promptly won the first four races of the year, but in the mid-season the team was unable to stem the tide of Williams-Renault.

Senna had to sit back and get as many points as possible, waiting for Honda to produce a much-modified V12.

It was not until Hungary that Senna won again, but even then it was clear that the McLaren was still slower than the Williams. Another victory came in Belgium, but once again this was purely because of Williams-Renault failures.

In the late summer races at Monza, Estoril and Barcelona the McLarens were closer to the pace, but it was not until Suzuka that domination was regained. Senna won the title, handing Berger the win at the final corner. Despite the doubts, McLarem had won again. But perhaps only because of the fallibility of the Williams-Renault.


The disappointment of the year. Tyrrell started 1991 with what looked like a great package: the new 020 chassis a development of the startling 019 design of 1990, powered by Honda V10 engines. Stefano Modena arrived to replace Jean Alesi and Braun arrived to sponsor the team. The one question mark was over the use of Pirelli tyres.

The package, however, never really worked and although Modena starred in Monaco and finished second in Montreal, the rest of the year was a big disappointment with numrous engine failures and problems with the interaction between chassis, engine and tyres. There were times in the mid-season when Tyrrell's performances were embarrassing.

In the mid-season technical director Harvey Postlethwaite left the team to join Sauber Mercedes and this seemed to lose the team even more direction. Modena did what he could, while Nakajima, in his last year in F1, never looked like he wanted to be racing.


Williams had the fastest car for most of the 1991 season and with Riccardo Patrese being joined by Nigel Mansell, the driver line-up was one of the most impressive in the field.

On the technical front Patrick Head was joined (from Leyton House) by renowned aerodynicist Adrian Newey, who played an important role in the design of the FW14. The team's Achilles Heel was its new electronic gearshift, which suffered a string of failures in the first half of the year.

Although Mansell and Patrese figured strongly in the early races (the Italian overshadowing the Englishman) the first win - for Patrese - did not come until Mexico. Mansell dominated in Canada but broke down on the last lap, but thereafter there was no stopping the Englishman who won in France, Britain and Germany. Beaten by Senna in Hungary and stopped with mechanical trouble in Belgium, Mansell fought back to win in Italy, and Spain while Patrese won Portugal when Mansell lost a tyre during his pit stop. Nigel's championship hopes were slim and they evaporated when he spun off in the Japanese GP.


Another difficult year for Brabham, with the team trying to rebuild after the disasters of 1989 and 1990.

There was a new driver line-up: Martin Brundle returning to be joined by Mark Blundell.

The most important part of the 1991 package was a deal with Yamaha to run the Japanese company's V12 engines. These were new and needed considerable development, but they gradually improved, by the mid-season Brabham was challenging for points. After Silverstone, however, the team slipped into pre-qualifying.

The team was relying on Pirelli tyres and this caused some difficulties but Blundell scored the team's first point in Belgium and Brundle finished fifth in Japan. By then, however, Yamaha had decided to switch to Jordan for 1992, leaving the team with an uncertain future once again.


At the start of the year the new Footwork-Porsche team (formerly Arrows) looked to be packed with potential. There was a new chassis from Alan Jenkins and new Porsche V12 engines. Michele Alboreto and Alex Caffi formed what looked like a strong driver line-up. Somehow it all went horribly wrong. In the early part of the year the team suffered from several large crashes which kept the pressure on while the Porsche engine was clearly not much good. After Mexico Caffi was hurt in a road accident and was never the same driver again, seeming to lose all his motivation after he returned, after a legal fight with the team, which had used Stefan Johansson in Alex's absence. In an attempt to avoid pre-qualifying, the team switched to Ford DFR power but it made little difference and after Silverstone the team slipped into pre-qualifying. Towards the end of the season there were one or two useful performances. The team, however, had lost interest, looking to 1992 with Mugen V10 engines.


In December last year Lotus announced a new package to take the world-famous team back to the front of F1 grids.

The problem was a lack of money and trying to make a modified year-old chassis competitive with Judd V8 engines. It was not easy, but Mika Hakkinen and Julian Bailey finished 5-6 at San Marino which guaranteed there would not be a problem in pre-qualifying. In Canada Bailey was replaced by Johnny Herbert, but the Englishman had prior commitments in Japanese F3000 and was replaced on occasion by German Michael Bartels.

Both Hakkinen and Herbert did well but getting points with the Lotus was a near-impossible task. Bartels, with no experience in F1, never maganed to qualify for a race. In the mid-summer Scalabroni left and was replaced by Leyton House's Chris Murphy. The rebuilding process has been difficult, but there are signs that Team Lotus is beginning to be turned around. A promising year, given the circumstances.


Formerly known as Osella, this little Italian team was was taken over last year by Gabriele Rumi of Fondmetal, the wheel company which had previously sponsored Osella. Enzo Osella and Antonio Tommaini both left and the team was relocated in new workshops. A separate design department -- Fomet 1 -- was established at Bicester, headed by ex-March men Tino Belli and Tim Holloway. The team retained Frenchman Olivier Grouillard who had to pre-qualify, using use Cosworth DFR V8 engines. With no time to build a new car the Fomet 1 engineers modified the moulds of the old Osella. The arrival of Brazilian engineer Richard Divila helped matters and in Mexico Grouillard pre-qualified successfully and took 10th on the grid. It was the high-point of the year. After Hungary Divila was fired and after Portugal Grouillard replaced by Gabriele Tarquini.

Leyton House

What began as a promising year turned gradually to disaster. In recent years the change in personnel at Leyton House has been extraordinary and due, largely, to a lack of central direction and in-fighting within the management structure, there has been little success. The initial package looked good with a Chris Murphy-designed CG911 chassis and the new Ilmor V10 engine, which proved to be initially unreliable. Asit improved, the team once again fell into in-fighting: Joint managing-directr Simon Keeble was fired and Murphy demoted.

On the driving front, however, there was stability, with Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin staying on for another year. It took until Hungary before Capelli scored the team's first point, but a few weeks later team owner Akira Akagi was arrested. At the end of the year the team was forced by financial problems to replace Capelli with Karl Wendlinger.


The little AGS team folded before the Japanese GP after a season of turmoil. Over the winter team owner Cyril de Rouvre decided not to inject any finance into the team. This was disastrous as the team had to use updated JH25 models with Cosworth DFR engines. A new JH26, designed by Michel Costa, was underway but without finance could not be built. Initially the team ran Gabriele Tarquini and Stefan Johansson, but the Swede failed to qualify for the first two races. After Brazil de Rouvre sold the majority shareholding of the team to Italians Gabriele Rafanelli and Patrizio Cantu. Costa was fired and replaced by Christian Vanderpleyn and Mario Tollentino and a new JH27 was planned. Johansson was replaced by Fabrizio Barbazza. After Silverstone the team slipped into pre-qualifying. When Tarquini left to join Fondmetal for the Spanish GP, AGS hired Olivier Grouillard for one event, then closed down.


Benetton has more changes of management in a year than Madonna does in one of her concerts, but it still remains F1's wannabe top team. Having won the final two races of 1990, it seemed that the team was well-placed for 1991 with John Barnard -- the most innovative and successful designer in F1 -- designing the B191 and choosing Pirelli tyres. For the first two races the team had to rely on the 1990 car and when the B191 appeared it was not immediately quick. Dissent began against Barnard and after the Canadian GP he left the team. Ironically, Montreal was won by Nelson Piquet - but it was a fluke result. The team hired Gordon Kimball to replace Barnard. At Silverstone Tom Walkinshaw bought into the team and began restructuring the technical side once again, bringing in Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne. Just before the Italian GP Roberto Moreno was fired amid much controversy and replaced by Michael Schumacher. The German easily outpaced Piquet. If Benetton put as much energy into racing as it does into politics it might be successful. But it doesn't.

Scuderia Italia

After a year of poor reliability in 1990, Scuderia Italia did a lot better in 1991. John Judd's new GV V10 engine was powerful and the BMS191 chassis, designed at Dallara with notable input from English aerodynamicist Nigel Cowperthwaite, was quick and easy to drive. Starting the year in pre-qualifying, the team was quick to show the potential of the new package. In Phoenix Emanuele Pirro and JJ Lehto were ninth and tenth on the grid and in San Marino JJ finished a remarkable third, while Pirro picked up sixth in Monaco. Things were not helped by the uncompetitiveness of Pirelli tyres in the mid-season, but the team escaped pre-qualifying after Silverstone and often looked like points-scorers. As the season progressed, however, Scuderia Italia seemed to stand still while others improved.


Minardi did not have a very successful in 1991 despite having Ferrari V12 engines and Goodyear rubber.

Aldo Costa and his design staff produced the neat M191, but this needed a fair bit of sorting before it began to perform and the Ferrari engines were not on a par with the factory V12s. The major problem, however, was that Ferrari snatched away Pioneer sponsorship at the last moment, leaving Giancarlo Minardi to fight with one arm behind his back. The team struggled for money all year, and was unable to fund a full testing programme.

Pierluigi Martini and Gianni Morbidelli are both quick and did their best, Martini picking up points here and there. By the end of the year the team scared the Ferrari team a couple of times with its pace, but by then Ferrari ha decided to sell its engines to Scuderia Italia in 1992, leaving Minardi to fall back on Lamborghini power for 1992. Minardi and his crew deserved better treatment.


It was all-change at Ligier over the winter. After two very poor years, team owner Guy Ligier has had a major clean-out replacing both 1990 drivers, grabbing Lamborghini engines from Larrousse and hiring Frank Dernie as technical director. Once again there was substantial backing from the French government and after two uninspiring races in Phoenix and Brazil, there was a sweep out of the old technical staff and yet more restructuring. The problem was that the JS35B was not a quick car and consequently Thierry Boutsen and Erik Comas struggled. Dernie produced a b-version of the car for Silverstone which was a little better and then went off to design the 1992 car, Ligier hiring Gerard Ducarouge to deal with day-to-day engineering. In recent years Ligier has changed every element of the team except the management. It has been no more successful. Perhaps it is time to accept that there is only one thing left to change...


Considering the budgets, the technologiy available and the facilities Ferrari has few excuses for a shockingly poor season in 1991. Ferrari won the 'winter world championship' in testing and worked itself into a frenzy of expectation which were shattered in Phoenix. The complacency left the team off the pace. The 642 chassis was junked and a new 643 rushed out but Alain Prost and Jean Alesi were constantly frustrated. Cesare Fiorio's curious style of frenzied management was a little too volatile and he was sent packing to be replaced by the quiet Claudio Lombardi. For a while things went better but towards the end of the year things began to deteriorate once more as Prost tried to drag the team up to a level he had known at McLaren, but he was fighting a losing battle with what has become a losing team. Major reconstruction is needed.


The Larrousse team did a spectacularly successful job in 1991, given the circumstances in which the team found itself at the start of the year. Gerard Larrousse's team had lost its supply of Lamborghini V12 engines, its sponsorship from the Espo Corporation and its World Championship points from 1990 thanks to a lunatic FISA decision. Things looked desperate, but Larrousse fought back. Aguri Suzuki gave the team the best possible boost when he finished sixth in the first race in Phoenix. It would be the highpoint of the year. Eric Bernard and Suzuki gave it everything they could but without testing between races there was little hope of progress. In the mid-season technical director Gerard Ducarouge was tempted away to Ligier but Larrousse scratched on and in Japan announced a deal to get Lamborghini engines back in 1992. At the same race Bernard crashed in practice and broke his leg.


Enzo Coloni's team survived another F1 season. Over the winter he succeeded in attracting Portuguese driver Pedro Chaves, despite the team's startling lack of success and finance. Relying on old Cosworth DFR V8 engines and a chassis which didn't seem very much different from 1990, Coloni never once looked like getting out of pre-qualifying. Chaves tried hard but either he went off because of his inexperience and lack of testing or his car broke down. No progress worthy of mention was made and after the Portuguese GP Chaves quit, leaving Coloni to fail to find a driver for the Spanish GP. He ended the year with Japanese optimist Naoki Hattori. Incredibly, Coloni also managed to sell the team to Italian shoemaker Andrea Sassetti, who shows no signs of making any improvements. One wonders why they all bother. There must be easier ways of getting F1 paddock passes.


Team 7Up Jordan arrived in F1 with a pedigree established in the junior formulae. Eddie Jordan landed a substantial sponsorship deal with the Pespi-Cola offshoot 7Up and convinced Ford to supply him with a customer version of the HB V8 engine.

The Jordan 191 chassis was designed by Gary Anderson and attracted much favourable comment when it first appeared. It did not disappoint. Starting in the year in pre-qualifying, the team gradually became a force to be reckoned with, scoring its first points in Canada, where Andrea de Cesrais and Bertrand Gachot finished fifth and sixth. Thereafter Jordan was often close to scoring. The team escaped pre-qualifying after Silverstone and became a regular point-scorer. Gachot was jailed after the Hungarian GP and was replaced by Michael Schumacher at Spa. When the German joined Benetton, Jordan had to rely on Roberto Moreno and then Alessandro Zanardi. The team proved to be the revelation of the 1991 season.

Modena Team

New to Formula 1 at the start of the season, Modena Team was originally conceived by Mexican businessmen as the GLAS F1 team. When this collapsed it was taken over by Italian financier Carlo Patrucco. The team was a customer of Lamborghini Engineering which built both the engines and cars. The chassis, designed by ex-Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri was completed in the summer of 1990 but showed little pace in pre-season testing and was never near the pace, despite the Lamborghini V12 power. Nicola Larini and Eric Van de Poele struggled throughout the year. In the first half of the season the pair only escaped pre-qualifying on a couple of times, Larini finishing seventh in Phoenix and Van de Poele being classified ninth in Imola, having run in fifth place until his engine stopped with just a couple of laps to go at Imola. These results were sufficient to get the team out of pre-qualifying after Silverstone, but thereafter the cars never near the pace. The team is unlikely to survive the winter despite the ever-optimistic Patrucco.