End of an F1 era – the last Senna/Prost race

1993-aus-gp-startThe Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide marked not only the end of the 1993 season, but also the end of the F1 career of Alain Prost, who had wrapped up his fourth driver’s title two races earlier in Portugal. Prost had announced his retirement from the sport, eased out of Williams despite winning the title due to the team’s decision to sign arch-rival Ayrton Senna for 1994, in the same manner as Prost’s signing at Williams for 1993 had squeezed out the 1992 champion Nigel Mansell. They say you’re only as good as your last race, but at Williams, who had the dominant car of the time, even winning the championship didn’t seem enough.

Still, while there may be no room for sentiment in the decision making in F1, there was certainly plenty of interest in this race, even with the championship being decided. As well as Prost’s final F1 race, the race would also mark the end of Ayrton Senna’s successful association with McLaren, which had yielded 3 drivers titles for the Brazilian over 6 years.

Senna had scared Prost early in the 1993 season, picking up wet weather victories in Brazil and the European Grand Prix in Donington, and gaining victory in Monaco after Prost picked up a penalty and then stalled in the pits, but any dream of a championship challenge for Senna faded during the summer as Williams restored order and Prost built a commanding lead to secure the title.

The Williams FW15C had taken all 15 pole positions to date that season (13 for Prost), but hopes for one final Senna/Prost battle were raised when Senna put the McLaren on pole. This was the last race before the banning of active suspension, and the McLaren in the hands of Senna looked the class of the field over the bumps of the street circuit, with the Williams of Prost and Hill qualifying in second and third, with the Benetton of Michael Schumacher in fourth ahead of the second McLaren of Mika Hakkinen.

The race start was aborted twice due to cars stalling, but when the race finally got underway Senna got away well enough to hold the inside line into the first corner, followed by the Williams duo of Prost and Hill, with Schumacher in fourth, while Hakkinen lost out to the Ferrari’s of Berger and Alesi and the Ligier of Martin Brundle. Hopes of a Senna/Prost showdown evaporated as Senna pulled off a lightning opening lap to lead by over a second from Prost at the end of the lap, and he gradually extended that lead over the coming laps, with Prost slowly opening a gap from Hill who in turn was having to defend from Schumacher, who looked faster but unable to live with the Williams on the straight. The early action was provided by the recovering Hakkinen, who worked his way past first Alesi and Brundle, before getting past Berger for fifth by lap 13. The pressure was taken off Hill as Schumacher dived into the pits on lap 15, and any threat from behind the Williams disappeared when Schumacher retired on lap 20 with engine trouble. A disappointed end to the season for the young German who represented the future of the sport, but his time would come. Up front, the two drivers who had dominated the sport for the previous decade continued to lead, with Prost briefly gaining the lead during the first round of pitstops, but coming out behind Senna after he made his own stop. Senna began to push harder and harder, and Prost couldn’t live with the pace of the McLaren and Senna disappeared up the road, heading to a farewell victory for McLaren, in what would turn out to sadly be his last victory in F1.

 

Hakkinen briefly got his nose ahead of Hill during the pit-stops, but he was forced to retire shortly after his own stop, and the focus on the race suddenly shifted to the battle between the two Williams team-mates. Hill, who was finishing the season strongly having taken 3 victories of his own after a shaky start to the season, was looking to spoil his famous team-mates retirement party. Hill set about closing the gap to Prost, and after the Williams had both made a second pit stop Hill clawed close enough to challenge. With 9 laps to go Hill was right on Prost’s tail, but he got it all wrong as he tried to pull a move on Prost at the hairpin, coming late down the inside and spinning his Williams around on the exit as he tried to avoid clattering into his team mate. The Williams spun to a slow stop, but Hill was able to recover and get going again, but the race was now over. Senna , who had led by over half a minute at one point, eased home from Prost by 9 seconds, with Hill able to hold onto third from the lapped Ferrari’s of Alesi and Berger, with Marin Brundle rounding out the point scoring positions in sixth for Ligier.

On the podium, the two giants of F1 Senna and Prost occupied first and second places for one final time. It was sadly the end of a great era in F1.

1993-aus-gp-podium

2 responses to “End of an F1 era – the last Senna/Prost race

    • thanks Bruznic, I loved the MP4/8, in all its hedgehog squashing glory. A joy to remember this one.

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