My personal reminisces of bygone seasons has reached 1993 starting at the European Grand Prix at Donington Park in April. Having just returned from a winter with the Red Cross in Bosnia I had some catching up to do in respect of the latest Formula 1 news including who had won the opening two Grands Prix in South Africa and Brazil.
Alain Prost had returned after his one-year sabbatical to take the seat that every driver coveted at Williams. This caused World Champion Nigel Mansell, to not only leave the team but also walk away from Formula One to race in Indycars and as Riccardo Patrese had also left Williams to partner Michael Schumacher at Benetton, test driver Damon Hill had been promoted to Prost’s team mate. A rather underwhelming choice I thought, but what did I know? Ayrton Senna remained at McLaren to be joined by Michael Andretti, a choice that did turn out to be underwhelming as he was sacked before season’s end to be replaced by Mikka Hakkinen. With no reigning World Champion on the grid, Damon Hill raced with car number zero and Prost with number 2.
And as far as the opening two races, Prost and Senna had won one apiece.
I had photographed for Donington circuit at the first two Formula 2 races back in the late 1970s and had got to know circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft quite well. I had no time to make contact prior to the Grand Prix but he must have been chuffed to bits and very proud.
As I drove up the M1 for Friday practice it started to rain and that was the way it stayed all day – very wet, Donington is a good cicuit to photograph from general admission albeit exposed to the elements and a couple more good vantage points had been added on the new loop behind the pits built to lengthen the circuit.
I did not go to the circuit on Saturday but stayed in London to dry out and see one of Brian Clough’s last games in charge of Nottingham Forest who lost 4-3 at QPR,
Race day was wet/dry/damp in varying degrees which helped to produce one of, if not the best ever, victory drive by Senna. The conditions proved what everyone already knew – Senna was superb in the wet and Prost not so. Senna won from fourth on the grid whilst Prost went backwards from pole to finish third. It was touch and go whether I would actually see the end of the race as I was off on a skiing holiday immediately afterwards, but it all worked out – just.
Senna left Donington with a 12 point lead in the Championship so perhaps Prost in the Williams ‘Supercar’ was not going to get it all his own way.
For the British Grand Prix at Silverstone I stuck to my usual routine of basing myself in London and travelled up daily starting on the Thursday when I had access to the pits and paddock so could have a good look at the season’s contenders. As with Donington it rained heavily for Friday practice which curtailed the track activities somewhat but at least a Friday general admission ticket allowed access to covered stands.
Prost had won four of the five races since Donington and Senna just the one. Qualifying and race day were dry and Prost took pole, his eighth in nine races, Damon Hill taking the other. Damon Hill, proving to be not such an underwhelming choice, lead from the start until his engine blew on lap 41 of 59 thus robbing Silverstone’s new hero of his maiden win in front of his home crowd. Meanwhile, Michael Andretti, whose season was just getting worse and worse spun off at Copse, the first corner just a few metres after the start. Senna also retired so Alain Prost’s win meant he left Silverstone with 67 points to Ayrton Senna’s 47, with 10 points awarded for a victory.
My final Grand Prix of the season was a quick overnight race-day visit to Spa on a bright sunny late August day. Since Silverstone, Prost had won in Germany and Damon Hill had won his first Grand Prix at Hungary. Prost and Hill qualified on the front row in that order and that’s the way it was in the race until Prost was delayed during his second pit stop leaving the way for Damon Hill to win again with Schumacher second and Prost third.
The result clinched the Constructor’s title for Williams and left Prost almost unassailable in the Driver’s Championship with 81 points to Senna’s 54. Little did I know but Senna’s run to fourth place at Spa would be the last time I would see him.
Thereafter, Damon Hill completed his hattrick of wins at the following race at Monza and Prost’s second place behind Michael Schumacher at the next race at Estoril saw him, as expected, crowned World Champion for the 4th time. Ayrton Senna who had driven superbly all season in an inferior car, was Championship runner up. Williams had taken every pole position with the exception of the final race at Australia which went to Senna and of the four different winners that year, I saw three of them in the three races I attended.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.