Note from the Ed: This is a sample of the Author’s circuit profile guide, the most complete available on the net
1993 Brazillian Grand Prix – Senna surprise win as Prost slips up
At the end of 1992 Honda withdrew from F1, leaving McLaren without a works engine deal. Rather than walking away from the sport McLaren made do with a customer version of the Ford V8, Benetton having the rights to the latest specification of the Ford engine.
Ayrton Senna wasn’t committing to the cause, and initially appeared on a race by race basis only. At the opening round of the season in South Africa, Senna had put in a spirited display, scampering away from the grid to take the lead and defending fiercely throughout the race against first Prost and then the factory Ford powered Benetton of Michael Schumacher.
Despite Senna’s best efforts he could only come home a distant second to the much faster Williams-Renault of arch-rival Alain Prost, Schumacher getting a lesson in muscular defensive driving from Senna as the Benetton spun into retirement whilst trying to pass Senna for second place.
Arriving for his home race in Brazil, there could not have been much hope for victory for Senna. McLaren were pushing to try to get engine parity with Benetton, but Benetton were having nothing of it yet– Flavio Briatore surely knowing the value of a contract!
Williams locked out the front row in qualifying, Prost easily ahead of his inexperienced team mate Damon Hill, with Senna managing to edge out Schumacher to take third, but a whopping 1.8 seconds slower than Prost in the dominant Renault powered Williams.
As the race began Prost got away cleanly, while Senna snatched second place from Hill with an aggressive dive down the inside of Turn 1. Michael Schumacher dropped back into Turn 1, losing out to the Ferrari of Jean Alesi and the Sauber of JJ Lehto, although Schumacher would quickly get by Lehto and start harassing Alesi.
Behind, the second McLaren of Michael Andretti got tangled up with the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger as they accelerated off the grid, with both cars smashing off into the barriers on the outside of Turn 1, with Andretti’s McLaren spinning through the air as it bounced off the wall. Prost eased off into the distance, the McLaren not able to keep pace, and Senna soon started to come under pressure from Damon Hill in the second Williams, the McLaren surely easy prey for the mighty Williams-Renault, the battle closely followed by Schumacher, who had dispatched Alesi on the second lap to join the hunt in fourth place.
Just as in South Africa Senna did all he could to resist the faster cars, but with Prost escaping into the distance it seemed like a lost cause, and inevitably Hill passed Senna, diving down the inside into Turn 1 on lap 11.
By now Prost had already a dominant 9 second advantage over Hill, and Schumacher’s Benetton was now tucked up behind Senna to keep the pressure on the McLaren star, with a large gap back to Alesi, who was having a battle with the two Saubers of Lehto and Karl Wendlinger.
The race up front seemed a foregone conclusion, the Williams in a class of their own, and Schumacher looking sure to pass Senna. Lehto and Wendlinger provided interest by managing to get by Alesi’s Ferrari. Senna’s day seemed to be going from bad to worse as he was handed a stop and go penalty for overtaking the lapped Larousse of Erik Comas under yellow flags. Senna served his penalty on lap 25, and rejoined in fourth behind Schumacher. But the race was now turned on its head as it started raining on the track.
With the rain starting to get heavier Senna was the first of the front runners to duck into the pits for wets, coming in on lap 27. Prost stayed out but Hill was in on lap 28. With conditions worsening the safety car was deployed after Aguri Suzuki (Footwork) and Ukyo Katayama (Tyrrell) came to grief on the main straight on lap 28, both clouting into the wall in separate incidents.
With the safety car coming out it seemed logical to expect race leader Alain Prost to pit for wets, but he continued on past the pits after a mixup with the Williams pit crew – a mistake that would cost him the race.
Shortly after crossing the line, well before the safety car could pick him up, Prost was sliding off the track at turn 1, bumping into the stationary Minardi of Christian Fittipaldi which had spun in front of him, and coming to a slow halt into the gravel. Prost was out!
As the safety car picked up the field, it was Hill leading from Senna, then Schumacher (who had pitted last of the leaders and lost further time with a poor stop), Alesi, Johnny Herbert in the first Lotus, JJ Lehto and Alessandro Zanardi in the second Lotus.
The race restarted on lap 37, with the track still wet but with dry sections around the circuit. Hill eased away as Senna dived past the lapped Derick Warwick’s Footwork to latch immediately onto Hill’s gearbox into the first corner. But Hill didn’t succumb to the pressure, and managed to open a gap to the McLaren. The track was drying out by the lap however, and Senna came in for slicks at the end of lap 40, already 3 seconds down on Hill, with Schumacher in the pits for slicks immediately behind Senna. Hill pitted the next lap, and rejoined ahead of Senna. Senna was pushing hard and managed to brush past Hill before Hill got his slicks up to speed, the McLaren darting past in determined fashion on the wet side of the track. Alesi and Schumacher were both hit with stop and go penalties, and when the order had shaken out it was Senna leading from Hill, with Johnny Herbert (who had stopped for slicks as soon as the safety car pulled off) up to a fine third from Phillipe Alliot in the Larousse and JJ Lehto in the Sauber.
Senna eased clear of Hill, who seemed to have settled for second place, and there was no more challenge at the front as Senna would go on to record a famous home victory. Behind him Alliot dropped back and the Saubers both dropped out, a disappointing end for the Swiss team who were competing in F1 for the first year in 1993.
Mark Blundell in the Ligier was coming on strong, up to fourth behind Herbert, but Michael Schumacher was coming on stronger, with Schumacher hunting down Blundell and passing him into Turn 1 on lap 65.
On lap 69 Schumacher pulled out of Herberts slipstream to pass him into Turn 4, only for Herbert to cut back inside him as the Benetton ran wide, Herbert regaining the place on the run down into Turn 5. Schumacher wasn’t to be denied, and took the position for good on the penultimate lap into Turn 1, the two having gone wheel to wheel down the straight, but Schumacher prevailed, locking up his Benetton as he braked late into the corner to pass keep ahead of the Lotus and secure the final podium position.
For Herbert fourth equalled his previous best result (obtained on his debut, the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio), while Mark Blundell came fifth, with Alessandro Zanardi taking what would be his only Formula One championship point in sixth place. But the day belonged to Senna, who had taking a shock win, and in so doing put his under-powered McLaren into a surprise lead of the drivers championship.