Brazilian GP 1994
MARCH 27, 1994
Brazilian GP, 1994
There had been some major changes in the course of the winter months. World Champions Williams-Renault had acquired Rothmans backing and signed up Ayrton Senna to partner Damon Hill, Alain Prost having announced his retirement at the end of the 1993 season. McLaren had gone into a new relationship with Peugeot and Mika Hakkinen was partnered by Martin Brundle (although the car had been tested by Prost). Benetton had Mild Seven backing for Michael Schumacher and new recruit JJ Lehto but the Finn injured his neck in a pre-season testing crash and so the team's new test driver Jos Verstappen appeared in Brazil. Ferrari had the same line-up as 1993 with Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi but John Barnard's 412 T1 chassis promised to be better than the evil F93A.
Sauber had Mercedes-Benz backing for Karl Wendlinger and new recruit Heinz-Harald Frentzen while Jordan continued with Hart power, Sasol sponsorship and drivers Rubens Barrichello and the controversial Eddie Irvine. Ligier had undergone a traumatic off season with the arrest of team boss Cyril de Rouvre and was in a chaotic state as Benetton tried to buy it to get hold of the Renault engines for the 1995 season. The French sponsors insisted that the team run Eric Bernard and Olivier Panis. Tyrrell had very little money but had Yamaha V10 engines and Ukyo Katayama was joined by Mark Blundell. Footwork has withdrawn from Arrows and the team was struggling for cash. This meant a switch to Ford engines. Gianni Morbidelli and Christian Fittipaldi were taken on to drive.
Team Lotus was struggling for money but had Mugen Honda engines although the 109 chassis was late. Johnny Herbert was teamed up with Pedro Lamy. Larrousse had found backing from the Danone company (with Tourtel and Kronenberg beer colour schemes being switched from race to race) for Erik Comas and Olivier Beretta. The recession had also caused Minardi and Scuderia Italia to merge operations with Michele Alboreto and Pierluigi Martini being retained to drive an updated 1993 Minardi while there were two completely new teams in the form of Simtek, which had David Brabham alongside Roland Ratzenberger in the Ford-engined cars and Pacific Grand Prix which fielded a Reynard-designed car with old Ilmor engines for Bertrand Gachot, hoping to revive what had once been a promising F1 career, and pay-driver Paul Belmondo. Neither new team had much money.
In qualifying there was no great surprise that Ayrton Senna was on pole position but Michael Schumacher's second place was a surprise. Already there were allegations that the team had found a way around the new F1 electronic regulations which banned the most sophisticated electronics which helped the drivers. These included fully-automatic gearboxes, traction control and launch control - a system which allowed a driver to simply push the accelerator fully on when the start was given without needing to pay attention to wheel-spin or gear changes.
Jean Alesi was third fastest in his Ferrari with Damon Hill a disappointing fourth in his Williams. Heinz-Harald Frentzen impressed with fifth place for Sauber while Morbidelli was a surprising sixth ahead of Wendlinger, Hakkinen, Verstappen and Katayama.
At the start Alesi got away quickly, beating Schumacher into second place. This lasted only a lap and a half before the German moved back up to second and chased after Senna. Alesi dropped back quickly while Hill was struggling with handling problems in fourth, Wendlinger fifth and Verstappen sixth. On lap 21 Senna and Schumacher pitted together. The Benetton stop was amazingly quick and Michael emerged ahead. Schumacher then began to pull away. As this was happening there was a major accident on lap 35 as Brundle, Verstappen and Irvine, fighting for seventh place, came up to lap Eric Bernard's Ligier. Brundle had a mechanical failure and his McLaren slowed. Bernard had to lift off and Irvine jinked to the left, straight into Verstappen, who had been trying to overtake. At 200mph the Benetton went on to the grass and veered right into and over Irvine and was launched into a series of somersaults, hitting Brundle as it went. A rear wheel of the car actually hit Martin's helmet but incredibly everyone emerged unscathed although after the race Irvine was given a one-race ban and a $10,000 fine. The Jordan team appealed (the FIA later increased the ban to three races).
The order remained the same at the front after the second pit stop until lap 56 when Senna spun, pushing his car beyond the limit as he tried to catch Schumacher. This left Hill second, Alesi third, Barrichello fourth, Katayama fifth and Wendlinger sixth.