20 years ago today: Schumacher’s first podium and Mexico’s last race

1992 Mexican Grand Prix flashback

Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 1992The Mexican Grand Prix was held for the last time on this day in 1992.

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.

Qualifying

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
Williams-Renault
2. Riccardo Patrese 1’16.362
Williams-Renault
Row 2 3. Michael Schumacher 1’17.292
Benetton-Ford
4. Martin Brundle 1’18.588
Benetton-Ford
Row 3 5. Gerhard Berger 1’18.589
McLaren-Honda
6. Ayrton Senna 1’18.791
McLaren-Honda
Row 4 7. JJ Lehto 1’19.111
Dallara-Ferrari
8. Mauricio Gugelmin 1’19.355
Jordan-Yamaha
Row 5 9. Pierluigi Martini 1’19.378
Dallara-Ferrari
10. Jean Alesi 1’19.417
Ferrari
Row 6 11. Andrea de Cesaris 1’19.423
Tyrrell-Ilmor
12. Johnny Herbert 1’19.509
Lotus-Ford
Row 7 13. Bertrand Gachot 1’19.743
Venturi-Lamborghini
14. Gabriele Tarquini 1’19.769
Fondmetal-Ford
Row 8 15. Stefano Modena 1’19.957
Jordan-Yamaha
16. Olivier Grouillard 1’19.961
Tyrrell-Ilmor
Row 9 17. Christian Fittipaldi 1’20.042
Minardi-Lamborghini
18. Mika Hakkinen 1’20.145
Lotus-Ford
Row 10 19. Karl Wendlinger 1’20.200
March-Ilmor
20. Ivan Capelli 1’20.223
Ferrari
Row 11 21. Gianni Morbidelli 1’20.227
Minardi-Lamborghini
22. Thierry Boutsen 1’20.395
Ligier-Renault
Row 12 23. Andrea Chiesa 1’20.845
Fondmetal-Ford
24. Ukyo Katayama 1’20.935
Venturi-Lamborghini
Row 13 25. Michele Alboreto 1’21.064
Footwork-Mugen-Honda
26. Erik Comas 1’21.122
Ligier-Renault

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.

Race

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

Pos # Driver Car Laps Gap Difference Reason
1 5 Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault 69
2 6 Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 69 12.971 12.971
3 19 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Ford 69 21.429 8.458
4 2 Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda 69 33.347 11.918
5 4 Andrea de Cesaris Tyrrell-Ilmor 68 1 Lap
6 11 Mika Hakkinen 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
Not classified
20 Martin Brundle Benetton-Ford 47 Engine
15 Gabriele Tarquini Fondmetal-Ford 45 Clutch
14 Andrea Chiesa Fondmetal-Ford 37 Spun off
22 Pierluigi Martini Dallara-Ferrari 36 Handling
27 Jean Alesi Ferrari 31 Engine
24 Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Lamborghini 29 Spun off
32 Stefano Modena Jordan-Yamaha 17 Gearbox
3 Olivier Grouillard Tyrrell-Ilmor 12 Engine
1 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 11 Transmission
23 Christian Fittipaldi Minardi-Lamborghini 2 Spun off
33 Mauricio Gugelmin Jordan-Yamaha 0 Engine
16 Karl Wendlinger March-Ilmor 0 Collision
28 Ivan Capelli Ferrari 0 Collision

Were you at the 1992 Mexican Grand Prix? Do you remember this race? Have your say in the comments.

Image © Williams/LAT

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28 comments on 20 years ago today: Schumacher’s first podium and Mexico’s last race

  1. cmckinleyF1 (@cmckinleyf1) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:52

    Great read. Amazing looking back at the spread in qualifying when you consider the short nature of the track and how close things were last weekend in Melbourne

  2. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:57

    and a Mexican Grand Prix revival could be on the cars

    Is that a terrible pun or a typo? ;)

  3. Tango (@tango) said on 22nd March 2012, 18:06

    Gosh, what huge gaps in qualifying.

  4. panama/kowalsky said on 22nd March 2012, 19:01

    I was there that day. I had a grandstand ticket on top of the pits, and had a good view of the drivers.
    Senna was injured in a jet ski accident, and was not at his best, as you can see in the grid position. Schumacher was an unknown quantity, but you could already feel the guy was special. Giovana amati never had a chance with the brabham, even if she had any talent.
    I was hoping for rain, to see if senna could do something heroic, but it was dry, and was a total williams dominance.
    Not an very special grand prix, except fot schumis first podium.

  5. Meander (@meander) said on 22nd March 2012, 19:05

    Familiar positions for Ferrari, when compared to this year ;) Also, the Dallara-Ferrari actually doing better could be an analogy for Toro Rosso today.

  6. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 22nd March 2012, 19:10

    Thanks for bringing back those memories, Keith. 1992 Was my first full season of Formula 1. If I remember correctly, Brundle retired as a result of one of Berger’s tear-offs getting trapped in his sidepods, overheating his engine.

    At 12 years of age, I followed the races the races pretty intensely back then (until around the time that Damon Hill faded from competitiveness), and coupled with a young memory, I remember more of those races than I do of the races in for instance the Schumacher-domination era (which is why I frequently put in embarrassing performances in F1Fanatic’s quizzes…).

    • TimG (@timg) said on 23rd March 2012, 9:12

      If I remember correctly, Brundle retired as a result of one of Berger’s tear-offs getting trapped in his sidepods, overheating his engine.

      You’re right, I remember that race too – it was part of a run of bad luck for Brundle at the start of the year, but he soon got almost on terms with Schumacher and even gave him a couple of scares later in the season.

  7. 20 years after schumacher’s first race he puts a bad car in 5th from 24th on the grid
    20 year from his first podium…

  8. infy (@infy) said on 22nd March 2012, 20:20

    Lol Brundle is so baaad XD

    • Sandhurst5 (@sandhurst5) said on 22nd March 2012, 22:56

      Haha. According to ‘Brundlefly’ himself, quote: ‘I was never a good qualifier but I always made great starts!’.

      Yeah right Brundle, you sucked and you know it and then he had the nerve to criticize Schuey’s starts in his Ferrari days but look who’s proving him wrong then and now with his record for greatest starter of 2011. He’s continued the form through to this year and hopefully this weekend too.

      • Aussie Fan said on 23rd March 2012, 2:06

        It does put some of the snippy comments from the commentary box over the last few years re: Michael Schumacher into perspective a bit more, doesn’t it….

        • TimG (@timg) said on 23rd March 2012, 9:19

          Not really. Brundle had a run of bad luck at the start of ’92 but he quickly got back on terms with Schumacher, giving him a good run for his money a few times. Not least at the San Marino GP, where Schumacher went off trying to stay with Brundle. Schumacher was clearly the quicker of the two, especially in qualifying, but by no means did Brundle disgrace himself.

          In fact, he was probably the team mate who was consistently closest to Schumacher over a season until Barrichello joined Ferrari in 2000.

          • Sandhurst5 (@sandhurst5) said on 24th March 2012, 12:25

            That’s 1 race where Brundle got the better of Schumacher in 16 races. I you have a look at the other performaces throughout the season, he hammered Brundle all year. Let’s not forget this was only in is 2nd season compared to Brundle in his (arguably) peak years.

  9. Renner (@renner) said on 22nd March 2012, 20:25

    Nigel Mansell had the same hat style as Kimi and Fernando

    • TimG (@timg) said on 23rd March 2012, 9:23

      It was the early 1990s, everyone had the same hat style – not least because in that shot Mansell is wearing one of the standard-issue Goodyear caps that the podium finishers were all required to wear.

  10. Hadzhiev (@hadzhiev) said on 22nd March 2012, 21:36

    Great Schumi! :)

  11. OOliver said on 22nd March 2012, 22:54

    20 years is a long time but still feels like yesterday.
    Williams with their active suspension and also semi automatic gearbox. Driving was almost too easy.
    As bad as Ferrari was back then, they were actually on the way up, if you just scratched the Ferrari, it would bleed cash. Berger was earning a ridiculous amount without being all that fast.

    I can’t remember if by this time Mclaren were getting the lower spec ford engines, while Benetton had the higher spec versions.

    Cars were generating sonic booms through the pit lane.
    Cars were shod with all you can eat tyres.
    Engines could make the cars do wheelies.
    And camels could actually go fast.

    That was the life.

  12. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 22nd March 2012, 23:08

    Fabulous piece Keith thanks. It was indeed great to see Schuey closer than ever to a chance at being on the podium again. I really hope he gets there on at least one occasion this season. Another win would of course be sensational. Which is kind of mad really considering he already has 91 to his name (which I personally don’t think will ever be beaten, not even by mini-Schumacher Vettel.)

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:31

    It does sound like quite a dull race at the front, no pit-stops for the Williams? Wow.

    That race would be ripped apart these days, and rightfully so.

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