Monaco GP report

Copyright (c) 1994 by Tom Haapanen and rec.autos.sport.info. Reproduction on Compuserve and other commercial online systems prohibited. MONACO, 15 May 1994 -- rec.autos.sport.info Michael Schumacher continued his drive towards the 1994 World ...

Monaco GP report

Copyright (c) 1994 by Tom Haapanen and rec.autos.sport.info. Reproduction on Compuserve and other commercial online systems prohibited.

MONACO, 15 May 1994 -- rec.autos.sport.info

Michael Schumacher continued his drive towards the 1994 World Championship at Monaco with a fourth victory in four races, a feat previously matched only by the late Ayrton Senna, and by the retired Nigel Mansell, who won the first five Grands Prix of 1992.

QUALIFYING

Despite his four wins this year, Monaco was the first race where Schumacher had started his Benetton-Ford from the pole position, that position having been occupied by Senna in each of the first three races, including the tragic San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. In memory of Senna and the young Austrian, Roland Ratzenberger, the front row of the grid was left empty, with Brazilian and Austrian flags painted on the grid to mark the two drivers. At the end of qualifying, the young German superstar had clocked his Benetton nearly a second faster than his closest challenger.

Second in qualifying was the young Finn Mika Hakkinen in McLaren-Peugeot's best qualifying performance yet. The new Peugeot engine, in only in its fourth Grand Prix, was well suited to the tight corners of Monaco, which values torque and driveability and handling over the raw high-wnd power which is so important at circuits such as Imola. Hakkinen's teammate, Briton Martin Brundle, had mechanical problems on Saturday and ended up with only 8th on the grid.

Ferrari continued its strong improvement with Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi in 4th and 6th, respectively, sandwiching the struggling Damon Hill in his no longer dominant Williams-Renault, whose relatively peaky power curve was not particularly well suited to the narrow streets of the tiny principality.

After the tragedies of San Marino, unfortunately the Monaco weekend was not incident-free, either. Austrian Karl Wendlinger crashed heavily in the first untime practise on Thursday, colliding with a barrier of water-filled barrels and suffering what seemed at the time to be just a concussion. He regained consciousness after the accident, but developed a blood clot after being transferred to the hospital and lapsed into a coma. His condition has since stabilized with reduced swelling, but he is still being kept in an articial state of coma to speed the recovery process.

RACE

In the morning qualifying, things were closer than in qualifying, with Hakkinen just 0.25s adrift of Schumacher's time, and Hill a further 0.5s back. All signs pointed to a closer race than the Benetton romps earlier this year...

Before the start, the drivers observed a brief silence in the memory of Senna and Ratzenberger, before taking their places starting with the second row.

Schumacher made a good start, with Hakkinen following him closely in second place into the first turn. The battle between the new stars was not to bem however, as Hill punted the Finn off the road at the initial Saint Devote corner, also damaging his own suspension in the process. Hakkinen was quite upset by what he felt was stupidity on the part of Hill, as he felt he had a fighting chance of beating Schumacher on the streets of Monaco. Hill, on the other hand, thought he was blameless in the incident...

With those two frontrunners out of the picture, the chase fell to Gerhard Berger's ferrari, who pulled out a lead on third-place Jean Alesi in the other Ferrari, Christian Fittipaldi's surprising Minardi and Brundle, who had made an excellent start in his McLaren. Berger was unable to keep up with Schumacher, though, with the German pulling away at nearly a second a lap in the early going.

Once he began to lap backmarkers, pulling away from Berger became more difficult, but Schumacher sliced through traffic with relative ease considering the cramped quarters on the track. Meanwhile, Brundle had managed to make his way past Fittipaldi and Alesi, and was starting to challenge Berger for second, only half a dozen seconds adrift.

As Schumacher started his 42nd lap, a massive cloud of smoke erupted ahead, produced by the exploding Yamaha engine in Mark Blundell's Tyrrell. While the German managed to avoid the stricken car, Berger, following some 30 seconds behind, was not as lucky, as he spun on the oil disgorged by the engine, allowing Brundle to make a clean pass for second place.

Subsequently the Briton pulled away from the Ferrari with surprising ease, as Berger had to slow down to make sure his ailing engine -- which had hydralic valve problems -- would last until the finish. In the end, the McLaren-Peugeot would be nearly 30 seconds ahead of Berger's Ferrari, despite its engine running at dangerously high temperatures.

Still, the Ferrari team was happy with their fourth podium finish in four races this year, plus a fifth place Jean Alesi. Alesi's chances at fighting for third place evaporated when he touched David Brabham's Simtek-Ford trying to lap him. Alesi shook his fist in vain at Brabham, but decided to play it safe and get his nosecone replaced -- avoiding a potential accident like that which killed Ratzenberger at Imola.

In the closing laps, Alesi attempted to challenge veteran Andrea de Cesaris, driving his 199th Grand Prix as a substitute for the suspended Eddie Irvine, but was unable to make progress. The Italian took full advantage of traffic, with the exception of a stubborn Olivier Beretta, to maintain the gap between himself and Alesi. He finished an out- standing race in 4th place, matching his best Jordan finish in the 1991 Canadian GP, and almost meeting the threat he uttered when signing to do the two races for Jordan this year -- of making podium at Monaco.

His teammate, Brazilian youngster Rubens Barrichello, was running well behind de Cesaris, and had to step out of his car when his engine experienced electrical problems during a pit stop. His fellow countryman, Fittipaldi, was still fighting for the podium when his gearbox gave up the ghost two thirds of the way through the race.

The sixth place, and the final point, was claimed my another veteran, Michele Alboreto, driving the promising Minardi-Ford for Scuderia Italia, far improved from last year's disastrous car.

Schumacher's Benetton-Ford teammate, Finn JJ Lehto, was suffering from pain in his neck due to his testing crash in February, and was well off Schumacher's pace all weekend. Unlike Imola, where he qualified within 0.7s of his teammate, Monaco exerted a great deal of stress on his neck, and he was happy to have finished the race. Schumacher lapped him a few laps from the end, but allowed Lehto to unlap himself at the end to give him the chance to pick up a 6th, should one of the other cars fail on the final lap.

LOOKING AHEAD

At Monaco, the chicanes at both ends of the pits were in place, and pitlane speed limits were enforced -- with Lotus' Pedro Lamy incurring a hefty fine in qualifying for exceeding the limit. The ill-conceived pit stop lottery was not used, however, and hopefully will be soon forgotten.

FIA's new emergency rules are to take effect starting in Barcelona in two weeks' time. Teams are to modify their front wings, and to reduce the rear diffusers by a still unannounced amount. Additional chassis and engine changes are needed for the Canadian GP, including the use of pump fuel.

More significantly, the teams are to conform to the 1995 rules by midseason, starting at the German Grand Prix, requiring either a new chassis or heavy modifications to the 1994-spec one. Ron Dennis say McLaren will have a car ready for Germany, but smaller teams, such as Lotus, which is just about to complete its new 1994-spec car, may face substantial technical and financial obstacles in meeting this deadline.

-- [ /tom haapanen -- tomh@metrics.com -- software metrics inc -- waterloo, ont ] [ "no nation was ever ruined by trade." -- benjamin franklin ]

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