1992 Mexican Grand Prix flashback
The race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was dominated by Nigel Mansell.
But it also saw a fine drive – and a first podium finish – for a young Michael Schumacher.
Williams had dominated the first race of the season in South Africa and qualifying for the Mexican round promised more of the same from the FW14Bs.
Mansell was quickest on Friday during the timed session which counted towards the grid. An engine problem meant he couldn’t improve his time on Saturday.
Even so, he managed to take pole position, albeit by the slender margin of 0.016s over his team mate.
This was some relief for Riccardo Patrese who’d been harshly criticised by some – not least world champion and BBC commentator James Hunt – for his performance in the first race of the season.
Williams’ active suspension was the key to their dominant 1992 championship campaign. Four years earlier they had raced an early version of the technology at the same venue, but the extremely bumpy track proved too much for it.
Having mastered the technology the opposition were left gasping. Schumacher lined up third on the grid in the 1991-spec Benetton but was almost a full second slower than Mansell.
Team mate Martin Brundle shared the second row with him but was over 1.2 seconds slower than his young team mate.
The third row was occupied by the McLarens. For the second year in the row at the track Ayrton Senna suffered a crash during practice.
He was fortunate to escape injury and was able to race. But he was critical of the safety standards at the track.
“I have nothing against Mexico,” he said afterwards, “but I really don’t think we should be coming here until the track is resurfaced and the run-off areas improved. We go to street circuits with a better surface than we have here.”
Before the race weekend the organisers had re-profiled and resurfaced the daunting 180-degree Peraltada corner, where Senna had crashed the year before, in an effort to improve safety. But the changes seemed to make the corner even more slippery and dangerous.
1992 Mexican Grand Prix grid
|Row 1||1. Nigel Mansell 1’16.346
|2. Riccardo Patrese 1’16.362
|Row 2||3. Michael Schumacher 1’17.292
|4. Martin Brundle 1’18.588
|Row 3||5. Gerhard Berger 1’18.589
|6. Ayrton Senna 1’18.791
|Row 4||7. JJ Lehto 1’19.111
|8. M.Gugelmin 1’19.355
|Row 5||9. Pierluigi Martini 1’19.378
|10. Jean Alesi 1’19.417
|Row 6||11. Andrea de Cesaris 1’19.423
|12. Johnny Herbert 1’19.509
|Row 7||13. Bertrand Gachot 1’19.743
|14. Gabriele Tarquini 1’19.769
|Row 8||15. Stefano Modena 1’19.957
|16. Olivier Grouillard 1’19.961
|Row 9||17. Christian Fittipaldi 1’20.042
|18. Mika Häkkinen 1’20.145
|Row 10||19. Karl Wendlinger 1’20.200
|20. Ivan Capelli 1’20.223
|Row 11||21. Gianni Morbidelli 1’20.227
|22. Thierry Boutsen 1’20.395
|Row 12||23. Andrea Chiesa 1’20.845
|24. Ukyo Katayama 1’20.935
|Row 13||25. Michele Alboreto 1’21.064
|26. Erik Comas 1’21.122
Among the four non-qualifiers was F1′s last female driver, Giovanna Amati. She failed to set a time in the first qualifying session after over-revving her engine. Her team mate Eric van de Poele failed to qualify by a full second, and she was a further 2.9s off.
Aguri Suzuki (Footwork) and Paul Belmondo (March) also failed to make the cut. The quartet were at least spared having to pre-qualify as the two cars entered by Andrea Moda failed to arrive at the track in time.
The race was not a classic: Williams started one-two, ran in that order for all of the 69 laps, and finished that way.
The question of tyre strategy was non-existent. Pirelli had pulled out of F1 the year before, leaving Goodyear as the sole tyre supplier.
Goodyear therefore supplied a conservative compound that was easily durable enough to last the whole race. As in South Africa, none of the points-scorers needed to make a pit stop.
Despite his scare in practice – in which he’d initially feared he’d broken his legs – Senna bounced back at the start. A rapid getaway propelled him past the Benettons into third place. But he completed just a dozen laps before a transmission fault on his MP4-6B ended his race.
If McLaren’s start to the season was disappointing, Ferrari’s was an unmitigated disaster. Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli were in all kinds of trouble with the F92A.
Alesi managed to get his car into the lower reaches of the points before being demoted by the Tyrrell of Andrea de Cesaris. But his Ferrari was losing oil, and on lap 32 his V12 succumbed to the inevitable. Capelli was long gone, having tangled with Karl Wendlinger on the first lap.
Senna’s demise promoted Schumacher to third. The first significant battle for position was the contest between Brundle and Gerhard Berger for fourth place.
Brundle resisted the McLaren driver’s attacks for several laps before Berger finally got through at the end of the long main straight. On lap 48, Brundle became the 13th and last retirement of the race when his Ford-Cosworth HB engine seized.
The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez had seen many great races in its history. Twelve months earlier the Williams team mates had scrapped furiously for the lead, Patrese coming out on top.
But this time there was no contest. De Cesaris and Mika Hakkinen filled the remaining points places, the latter struggling with oil on his visor following his pursuit of Alesi.
Behind the dominant Williams duo, Schumacher crossed the line to take his first of 154 podium finishes to date. Twenty years on, he is now looking for his first post-comeback rostrum finish.
And Mexico could soon make a comeback of its own. The arrival of Sergio Perez last year has boosted the popularity of F1 in the country, and a Mexican Grand Prix revival could be on the cards.
1992 Mexican Grand Prix result
|5||4||Andrea de Cesaris||Tyrrell-Ilmor||68||1 Lap|
|6||11||Mika Häkkinen||Lotus-Ford||68||1 Lap|
|7||12||Johnny Herbert||Lotus-Ford||68||1 Lap|
|8||21||JJ Lehto||Dallara-Ferrari||68||1 Lap|
|9||26||Erik Comas||Ligier-Renault||67||2 Laps|
|10||25||Thierry Boutsen||Ligier-Renault||67||2 Laps|
|11||29||Bertrand Gachot||Venturi-Lamborghini||66||3 Laps|
|12||30||Ukyo Katayama||Venturi-Lamborghini||66||3 Laps|
|13||9||Michele Alboreto||Footwork-Mugen-Honda||65||4 Laps|
|14||Andrea Chiesa||Fondmetal-Ford||37||Spun off|
|24||Gianni Morbidelli||Minardi-Lamborghini||29||Spun off|
|23||Christian Fittipaldi||Minardi-Lamborghini||2||Spun off|
Were you at the 1992 Mexican Grand Prix? Do you remember this race? Have your say in the comments.
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Image © Williams/LAT