The 1993 is part of those seasons that are characterized more by what they have left than by the emotions actually given. The championship, in fact, after a balanced first part of the season, takes a precise direction and is won by Alain Prost and his Williams FW15C with a wide margin both in the driver and constructors’ standings, but it will be remembered above all because it is the last year of the endless rivalry between professor Prost and the magic Ayrton Senna. In fact, at the end of the season, the Frenchman will say goodbye to racing, this time definitively.
In 1992 Williams had been the best by far, leading Nigel Mansell to conquer his only Formula 1 world championship, after having only touched it for practically an entire career. But despite the more than satisfactory results, the 1992 Williams line-up is completely renewed: Alain Prost in fact already had an agreement with the English team taken during his sabbatical year (1992) to take the place of the second driver Riccardo Patrese; Alain also made sure that he would not have Senna as a box mate.
Mansell at first asks for a higher remuneration, only to find himself without the guaranteed place; not even a subsequent lowering of claims will lead Frank Williams to consider a reintegration, so Mansell is forced to leave the team to focus on American racing. Alongside Prost, test driver Damon Hill, who had already made his debut in Formula 1 aboard Brabham the previous year, is then promoted; Graham's son, abnormally replacing the reigning World Champion, takes the particular number 0 on the body.
The 1993 was a year in which the technical regulations did not undergo any particular changes, apart from a reduction in the tread pattern of the tires to reduce the cornering speed.
The sporting regulations are also substantially confirmed, but with some new features: the qualifying system changes, which from the second Grand Prix of the season will consist of a maximum of twelve laps available for each driver to set their best time; of the twenty-six participants would have qualified in twenty-five, guaranteeing at least one car for each team. The forklift would be available to the teams only for the Sunday race, while the number of sets of tires to be used over the weekend will be reduced from ten to seven.
FW15, a heavy legacy
The Williams FW14 of the previous season had been a revolutionary car, long studied, analyzed, and often also the subject of controversy by rival teams. What is beyond question is that that car was a winner: therefore, in order not to disappoint, the new FW15C could only be the same, even if the world championship is experiencing a little more uncertainty than the previous year. Like the progenitor, the FW15C is also designed by the couple Adian Newey and Patrick Head, and is very similar to the one that had dominated the previous championship.
As per regulations, both the width of the rear axle (consequently, of the side bellies) and the width of the tread of the rear tires, which now do not go beyond 325 millimeters, are reduced. The 1993 car also benefits from active suspension, one of the most ingenious and effective solutions of the FW14B, as well as the six-speed sequential semi-automatic gearbox plus reverse.
Towards the middle of the season, some electronic solutions are implemented that make it the definitive C version, and in particular the anti-skid system, an ancestor of what from 2001 onwards will be called traction control.
In its third year of pairing, this Williams is equipped with a powerful 67° Renault RS5 V10 engine, with a displacement of 3493 cc. The maximum power is around 780 horsepower, it is equipped with Goodyear tires and powered by Elf fuel.
A domain almost never in question
The 1992 championship had had very little to tell for its entire duration, regarding the world championship fight. The 1993 experienced a slight uncertainty, if you can call it that, only in the first races. The only one to question the dominance of Prost and the Anglo-French team is his long-time rival, Ayrton Senna, at the wheel of his Ford-powered McLaren MP4/8, although the Brazilian will race several Grands Prix with a contract at token.
The debut is in South Africa, on the Kyalami circuit: Prost conquers pole and, after an uncertainty at the start where he is overtaken by Senna, he regains his head, outdistancing his rivals. Senna finished second after more than a minute, while Hill is one of nineteen retirees of this Grand Prix.
In the second Grand Prix, held in Brazil, the whole front row is Williams, with Prost ahead of Hill. Senna, third, is over 1.8 seconds from pole. Prost, however, in a confused phase of the race, retires after crashing one of the backmarkers, while Senna wins in comeback taking the lead of the world championship.
On the third round we are in Donington, for the European Grand Prix. Despite the front row all Williams, it is still Ayrton Senna who triumphs: the rain wizard dominates by inflicting over a lap of advantage over Prost (third place), and more than a minute to Hill, second. The ranking now reads 26 points for the Brazilian and 14 points for the French: the twelve-point gap in the standings begins to worry the reigning champion team, despite the particular circumstances of the first races.
But on the Imola circuit, home of the San Marino Grand Prix, Williams returns to win with Prost, while Senna is the victim of a hydraulic problem. The Frenchman also triumphed in Spain, this time right in front of the Brazilian, while Hill was forced to retire again. The drivers' classification now sees Prost again leader with 34 points, against Senna's 32 points.
Among the streets of the principality of Monaco Prost could already stretch, but a jump-start by the Frenchman costs him a stop and go of ten seconds. Senna took advantage of it and went on to win for the sixth and last time in his career in Monaco, ahead of Hill's Williams. Prost, in comeback, closes fourth. The world leadership is back in the hands of Ayrton, now in front with 42 points against the Frenchman's 37 points. Williams-Renault prevails in the constructors' standings, with 55 points against McLaren-Ford's 44 points.
The uncertainty of the championship ends here, as Alain Prost's four consecutive victories follow, who dominates Canada, France, England and Germany. Ayrton Senna, after a retirement in Canada, scores points in the other three rounds, but moves away enormously (and definitively) from the head of the world championship. The ranking after ten races now sees Prost at 77 points and Senna at 50 points.
Although Alain Prost will no longer achieve victories between now and the end of the championship, Williams will not stop dominating. In fact, in the following three Grands Prix, the young (but not very young to tell the truth) Damon Hill also explodes in talent: with the English driver Williams wins in Hungary, Belgium and Italy, also earning the mathematical certainty of the constructors' championship at Spa.
In Portugal, where Michael Schumacher's first career victory arrives at the wheel of the Benetton-Ford, the mathematical conquest of the world championship also arrives for Alain Prost, who climbs on the podium together with his teammate Hill.
The last two rounds of the world championship will be the prerogative of Ayrton Senna, who wins in Suzuka (in Japan) and in Adelaide (in Australia), where, however, he will be remembered for a gesture that has gone down in history: on the podium of Adelaide, in fact, he drags with him on the top step was his long-time rival Alain Prost, who had announced his retirement from racing at the end of the season. After a life as enemies on and off the track, the two take their leave with a hug, closing the story of a rivalry that still thrills the racing world today, even that of enthusiasts who have not lived through this era.
The Williams FW15C closed the 1993 season with a staggering ten wins (seven for Prost and three for Hill), fifteen pole positions (three for Prost, two for Hill) and a double, which came in the French Grand Prix at Magny-Course. The Drivers and Constructors' World Championships are achieved with respectively three and four races ahead of the end of the season, giving the feeling that the Williams-Renault duo would still dominate for a long time.