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1993 Pre Season

2023-03-22 23:00

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#1993, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Nicola Carriero,

Ayrton Senna

Since the beginning of January, an attempt to relaunch Formula 1 has failed. And, perhaps, to entice Nigel Mansell to re-join the ranks in the future

Ayrton Senna

Since the beginning of January, an attempt to relaunch Formula 1 has failed. And, perhaps, to entice Nigel Mansell to re-join the ranks in the future and to make Ayrton Senna desist from stopping for a year or racing in the United States alongside the English World Champion. On Wednesday 13 January 1993, near London, the Formula One constructors meet. On the agenda are several proposals of technical nature and concerning sporting regulations. Declared objectives: the reduction of costs and the improvement of the spectacle to guarantee the public and television more exciting races. In fact, Formula One is paying the price for Williams' supremacy and the general drop in competitiveness and uncertainty in the World Championship. On top of that, anti-smoking legislation in Europe has arrived to cause World Championship revenues to plummet, and many sponsors have withdrawn. In France, for example, there was a long and intricate court case, which was only resolved in extremis with a compromise related to the broadcasting of the races on television: at first, the very re-transmission of the races on television seemed to be jeopardised due to the new anti-smoking regulations; renewing the television contracts however seemed difficult but not impossible. A very valid argument, because at the end of 1992 the TV audience figures in Italy showed a drop of 20.000.000 viewers. All good intentions, however, ran aground in the face of Frank Williams, who was determined to change nothing and maintain the status quo. The owner of the World Champion team does not leave a single crack in the door. And according to the Concordia pact, which will remain in force until the end of 1994 and which requires unanimity for every decision, those who were prepared to find new solutions go home defeated. 

 

Especially the small teams floundering because of the economic crisis. Reducing management costs could have at least allowed Nigel Mansell to resume contact, who left mainly because he was not paid the salary he had asked for ($15.000.000). A regulatory change aimed at rebalancing the values on the track and having more competitive cars would perhaps have convinced Ayrton Senna to stay. These are the various proposals rejected by the inflexible Williams (backed on some occasions by Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal), who did not want to lose the advantages gained through years of research and sacrifice: abolition of many electronic systems; use of the spare car limited to special requirements (destruction of the single-seater race car); reduced practice by one day with a super-qualifying to be held on Saturday afternoon, with the twelve drivers setting the best times in the morning; introduction of the Safety car, which would enter the track during the race in the event of too great an advantage for a driver to reduce the gaps. In private, Frank Williams had agreed to this in the days before, but during the meeting he changed his mind. And since in Formula One no changes can be made to the rules if there is only one member's veto, Bernie Ecclestone decides to leave during the meeting, not before issuing some threats. The first is that of resigning as constructors' chairman. And since he is not only the president but also the man who finds sponsors and television stations, his withdrawal would put the whole Circus, which is already in trouble due to a lack of great drivers and spectacle, in crisis. The second threat, which smacks more of a warning, is this:

 

"If you continue like this, Ferrari and Benetton will also leave".

 

And the confirmation comes from Ferrari itself, where there is obviously much disappointment at the failure to approve those changes that, according to the top management of the Maranello sports section, should have revitalised Formula 1. Indeed, Ferrari was counting on being able to present the renewal, which was taken for granted, as its own success:

 

"Of course, we don't really like a Formula 1 like that, which is in danger of being less interesting this year than it was in 1992. The idea of quitting is not at all peregrine, but it is not feasible right away. Firstly because we have entered the 1993 championship and we will honour this commitment. Secondly, because Ferrari hasn't won for a long time and if it withdrew it would be accused of running away from defeats. We are very interested in Formula Indianapolis (the one where Mansell and maybe Senna will race, ed), but we will see later on. For now we must try to bring Ferrari back to victory".

Michael Schumacher

In short, total wreck. So much so that the meeting scheduled for Thursday 14 and Friday 15 January 1993, in Paris, by the Formula 1 Commission will be thwarted. Unless the FIA, led by Max Mosley (not forgetting that Bernie Ecclestone, president of the constructors, is also the FIA's vice-president, as well as the one most interested in the relaunch, since he is also a race organiser) attempts some kind of coup de grâce. At this point, however, the Federation's bargaining power is very limited and it will have to put on a good face. The important knot concerning the composition of the petrol, which had raised so many problems last year, also remains unresolved. There is however some news: Agip and Elf have reportedly reached an agreement to propose using 80 percent normal fuel, reserving 20 per cent for scientific research. All within the framework of environmentally friendly and non-harmful products. But it must be done quickly because the engine manufacturers (including Ferrari) still have no indication to work on the set-up and in two months the World Championship will begin. Speaking of Ferrari, it is not ruled out (but it is not certain either) that on Thursday the F93A, driven by Nicola Larini, will finally be back on track at Fiorano after John Barnard's treatment. The English designer is in Maranello to solve the problems of the new car.A week later, and exactly Thursday 21 January 1993, the news from the newspapers seems incredible, but it is absolutely true: Formula One World Champion Williams has been excluded from the 1993 World Championship. The English team is not on the list issued by FISA in Paris. The list includes thirteen teams, and therefore twenty-six cars. FISA specifies that other teams have expressed their intention to participate in the championship, but have not yet lodged an acceptable request. Evidently, the reference is to Williams who, as is well known, had submitted their entry one day later than the date of 21 November 1992. It is no coincidence that on the following day, Friday 22 January 1993, from Paris, FISA President Max Mosley issued a statement commenting on Williams' exclusion from the next World Championship:

 

"Everything now depends on Frank Williams, I hope that he will be able to find a solution...".

 

In practice, Frank Williams had sent the entry letter to the wrong address: instead of sending it to the FIA in Paris, he had sent it to Bernie Ecclestone. A slight bureaucratic error, but the deadline for entries is Sunday, while Williams' letter is only duly filed on the following Monday. Therefore, the bureaucratic error is there and the letter is officially late, so FISA does not admit Frank Williams' team and Alain Prost's entry in the 1993 World Championship. It was known, therefore, that there would be a problem, but it was thought that a purely bureaucratic affair would be positively resolved. Instead, at a Formula One Commission meeting held before Christmas, the situation came to a head. According to the regulations, which require unanimity of all manufacturers, the team representatives were asked to approve a waiver to accept Williams. And apparently - as a voting declaration - everyone agreed. But when it came to making intentions official, someone backed out. Frank Williams, himself, started phoning team managers to ask for a letter of approval. Documents started arriving by fax: on Wednesday evening, however, three were still missing. One was from Ferrari. Harvey Postlethwaite, team manager in Maranello, said:

 

"We had already spoken in favour. Williams phoned me because he wanted the signature of the lawyer Montezemolo, who was in Milan. The president arrived on Thursday morning and we immediately sent the letter. For us there is no obstacle to Williams' participation".

 

So who are the two teams that did not want to accept the proposal? In the environment the names of Benetton and Minardi are mentioned, but behind it all there would be Bernie Ecclestone, who evidently wants to take advantage of the opportunity to bend the will of Frank Williams. The Didcot-based manufacturer, in fact, has not accepted the recent proposals for changes to the technical and sporting regulations to reduce costs and improve the show. And now it is Ecclestone who has the upper hand. The situation is delicate. It is said in Formula 1 that the championship, after losing Nigel Mansell and with the risk of losing Ayrton Senna, cannot afford to leave out the best team and a character like Alain Prost. The regulations by the way do not provide for such cases, but in reality the constructors could meet at any time to decide otherwise. The danger is that in the event of a new vote, someone will not accept Williams. 

Ross Brawn

The most probable thing is that the English team, in order to get back in, will have to accept a barter, i.e. submit to certain regulatory impositions such as the adoption of the Safety car, which should intervene when the advantage of those in the lead is too great. And, in fact, on Saturday, 23 January 1993, Flavio Briatore confessed and explained why, as team manager of the Benetton team, he was against Williams' readmission request:

 

"I have nothing against Frank Williams, whom I have known for many years and appreciate for all he has been able to do in Formula 1. I don't hold it against him, but I have no difficulty in admitting that I voted against his entry for the next world championship. I was not the only one, but I speak for myself and I independently decided to vote against him. The substance of the problem is more complex. For many years, and perhaps fans don't know or remember this, there has been this rule in Formula One: that to approve any change to the regulations, you need the unanimity of all the constructors. This means that all it takes is one vote against and nothing is decided. This absurd governing formula has been in place for a long time, and when I arrived I found it already in force. It is a formula derived from the famous Concord Pacts signed in Paris I think in the 1970s and then renewed. All this might have been fine back then, when Formula One was an embryo that was developing: to avoid hand-wringing it was established that to change any situation all the constructors had to agree. It is not I who is blackmailing Williams, but it is Williams who with its veto to the bitter end is blackmailing all of us in the other teams. In the sense that with its veto it prevents any change in Formula 1, which still lives on very old rules no longer suited to the times. Let me give you an example. A few years ago we wanted to ban active suspensions even before they became established, because we immediately realised that they would have entailed very high extra costs, which today are in fact bringing many teams to their knees. All it took was one vote against, and nothing came of it. Ten days ago in London, we put on the table all the proposals for changes that had been rumoured for some time. And Frank at every argument raised his hand and said no. Ten exhausting hours of useless discussion. So I said enough is enough, now I'm going to use my right of veto and hang on to every bureaucratic loophole so that I can show you what absurd results the veto to the bitter end always leads to. Williams sent the entry late? Well, regulations are regulations, you always invoke them to say no? And now I say no too. You sent the entry late, and I don't accept that you can still enter the championship".

 

It continues:

 

"It's absurd, I know that, but at least this way we get to the real bubble of Formula 1. I, or rather we because there are so many of us, are fed up with being governed by this system where it only takes one person to blackmail us all with his veto. As in modern nations, as in companies, we want to govern ourselves with the vote, not the veto. We want to govern ourselves with majorities. Of course, there were absurd proposals, such as making those in the lead slow down, but that was just one of a thousand proposals. It's perfectly fine with me if the majority rejects it, I don't care. But there were also a lot of serious things that didn't even make it into the newspapers and that weren't even talked about in ten hours. Do you know how Formula One is governed today? The constructors meet in secret meetings and approve some changes only if they all agree. Then that change is presented to the Federation, which ratifies it, because it knows that everyone is already in agreement. It is a convoluted way of governing this sport, which moves two thousand billion lire. It is an unnatural way to influence the choices of companies like our teams, which on average are worth forty or fifty billion each a year. Right now Williams is no longer a Formula One team, so it will be up to all the others to make a decision. If we all agree, the system of governance can finally be changed. We are all sorry that Williams is out of the championship and we are perfectly aware that a championship without Williams is halved, but there was no other way to bring everyone back to reason, to reshape a system that no longer works. Formula One is old, it needs to be modernised, adapted to today's times, to the economic crisis that grips us all.Look at football, which used to be a sport anchored to old and seemingly unchangeable rules: it has changed some things and the spectacle has come alive again. We must do this too, and we must above all create a more agile system of government".

Riccardo Patrese

Then, he concludes:

 

"Ridiculous proposals will never manage to coalesce majorities at the ballot box. There are two urgent needs today: to curb the spiralling increase in costs and to offer the public, the press, and television a more concentrated, more interesting show. All of you often wrote in 1992: what a boring race".

 

In the meantime, on Thursday 21 January 1993, at Maranello, Gerhard Berger turns up with his cap askew and his usual playboy air, casting interested glances at the beautiful hostesses accompanying him. But the Austrian driver, in his first public appearance as a Ferrari driver, immediately says that he wants to take this second adventure with the Maranello team very seriously. The Austrian talks about programmes and objectives, concretely, leaving no room for dreams and easy optimism.

 

"For Ferrari it will be very tough. Just make a simple consideration: there are at least ten cars equipped with Ford engines, starting with Benetton, McLaren and Lotus. If we don't stay ahead of all these, it's pointless to think of winning a race, should the Williams have a problem one day".

 

Not even to think, therefore, of beating the World Champion team, assuming it is there, in the 1993 World Championship. How did he see Ferrari?

 

"The means are not lacking, it's a matter of knowing how to use them well with competent people. The new car is a remake of the old one, revised by Barnard's staff. I have a lot of confidence in the English designer. I believe the chassis will be good and competitive. The knot to be solved will be in the engine, which needs to be improved".

 

Relations with Alesi?

 

"I repeat: I had a very good offer from McLaren. I also chose Ferrari for a heart reason. But I also wanted to bring my experience, which is superior to Jean's, to bear. I think I can make a good contribution to the preparation of the car, thanks also to my knowledge of what McLaren and Honda have done. So I will have priority for the reserve car, which will in any case be at Alesi's disposal when he needs it. I hope to establish a very good relationship with him as I did with Senna".

 

Someone recently accused Ferrari of distorting itself by depending on what Barnard does in England.

 

"The important thing is that Ferrari gets back to winning. Nobody had anything to say if McLaren used an American gearbox and Italian brakes. You have to take the best where it is. We are also trying to create a school with young engineers working in London. From next Tuesday I will test at Estoril with the F93A and the modified engine. Then we will know where we are at the moment. We can give ourselves six months to know if we are on the right track. I am confident and ready to give 100 percent".

 

A few days later, on Monday, 25 January 1993, Alain Prost, present at the Estoril circuit in Portugal, smiles mockingly and tells the journalists around him:

 

"Guys, let's not talk about the problem between the Federation and Williams. Nor about Senna".

Karl Wendlinger

But then, seeing the disappointment of the reporters around him, Alain Prost does not hold back and opens fire.

 

"The affair of the non-registration and the fact that FISA has still not granted me the super-licence necessary to participate in the World Championship, upsets me. And not a little. It is above all a psychological problem: you don't feel calm".

 

The French driver, thanks to his long militancy in Formula 1, knows that sometimes it is necessary to dramatise. But he knows that, sooner or later, a solution to the double problem will somehow be found. It is not for nothing that Williams undauntedly continues testing at the Estoril circuit, which also hosts Ferrari, Benetton, Sauber, Lotus and Jordan the day before. Alain Prost is, after all, willing to talk. He tells his story and explains the reasons that led him to return to racing after a year's holiday.

 

"I have prepared myself physically as never before. Age is advancing and it is important to be fit, to be able to face tests and races at top form. Some people think I wanted to come back for money. Instead I did it out of passion, I want to win at least one more World Championship".

 

And what if this renewed feeling should vanish mid-season?

 

"I would stop immediately. I would go home. But I don't think something like that will happen. I will last longer".

 

The objective of winning a fourth title is facilitated by the absence of Mansell and the possible forfeit of Ayrton Senna. What does Alain Prost think of this situation? Doesn't it take interest away from Formula 1?

 

"Senna and Mansell? If they were there it was fine with me. If they don't show up, that's fine too. My job is to beat the drivers who are there. And they will be twenty-five".

 

Too easy with the World Champion car...

 

"You say that. The team is great, the car competitive. But, in Formula 1, you start from the beginning every time. The regulations have changed, cars and tyres will be different. We will probably have to make more pit stops to change tyres. There will be new strategies. And then we will have to see how the other teams will have improved. Maybe Benetton, McLaren or Ferrari will find winning solutions. In short, everything is to be verified, at the first race and not in winter testing".

 

In any case, Williams starts at an advantage, as they have already done a lot of testing.

 

"So far I have participated in seven test series, and more are planned. It's tough for me anyway, more than people think. I have been stationary for a year. I have found many technological innovations. Many people think that the biggest problem is to use the active suspension well. Instead, the difficulty lies in mastering the anti-skid system that imposes a completely different type of riding. I had to erase from my brain what I had learnt in 20 years of driving. In addition, we still have minor reliability problems. A lot to do, then, even though I openly say I want the rainbow helmet. But there are risks".

 

Will Alain Prost be sincere, or will he make the situation appear more difficult than it is? 

Mika Hakkinen

Will he be able to bring the #1 back to Williams? He drives the #2 car, he left the #0 to teammate Damon Hill:

 

"Because zero is not a number, and then it is not good for the image".

 

Almost as if to prove him right, the best time is set by Michael Schumacher, who laps in 1'14"40 with the old Benetton. Remarkable result if one considers that the track record is 1'13"041 (set by Riccardo Patrese in 1991) and that in the last tests with narrow tyres it had reached 1'13"60 with Damon Hill. Behind the German are Alain Prost (1'15"88), Damon Hill (1'15"89), Rubens Barrichello (Jordan, 1'19"35), J.J. Lehto (Sauber, 1'19"96), Johnny Herbert (Lotus, 1'19"98) and Karl Wendlinger (Sauber, 1'23"62). 

 

Ferrari practically starts on Tuesday, as Gerhard Berger makes his debut in the late afternoon, after four years' absence from Maranello, completing only two laps, interrupted by a lack of time and a problem with a cable on the active suspension electronics. While Jean Alesi leaves the pits when practice is over and comes back. Primary objective: to seek reliability. Meantime, an indiscretion arrived from Ireland: Ivan Capelli was close to sign for Jordan. The place had been offered to Thierry Boutsen, who presented himself with a good sponsor. But when the Belgian tried the cockpit he realised he didn't fit in it. And he had to give up. Things happen in Formula One. And so perhaps a window opened for the Italian driver. In the meantime, Alain Prost in addition to the entry diatribe, also had another problem to solve: a few days earlier, Max Mosley wrote a very harsh letter to Frank Williams to remind him of the fact that he had hired precisely the French driver, who in previous years had been guilty of the serious fault of having pronounced unhappy judgements on the FIA, speaking of bad organisation and zero consultation.

 

"We have to seriously ask ourselves whether the interests of Formula One and the FIA coincide with allowing such a person to participate in the championship. A person who believes he has to control everything, who talks about subjects he knows nothing about, and who talks about government organisations using offensive terms. He even accused Formula One of caring too much about money, when he himself enjoyed the highest salary, even higher than some members of the FIA, who earn nothing. I don't think you or your sponsors can control that. I am sure you have clauses in your contract that can solve certain situations, but they have had no effect. He will continue to poison the atmosphere just when we need to improve it".

 

The implicit message of Mosley's letter to Williams is that he does not want to give Alain Prost a super-licence. In the meantime, however, on Tuesday, 26 January 1993, Alain Prost with Williams flies and comes close to the Estoril circuit record. Ferrari, on the other hand, takes its first steps and struggles predictably. In fact, Harvey Postlethwaite, head of the Maranello team, admits:

 

"If I think of the times of the best, I am terrified. But right now we're not looking at the stopwatch, we're looking at reliability. When everything is working properly, we will fit the new engines with pneumatic valves, we have two versions, and we will make the first judgments".

 

Forty laps with Gerhard Berger and nineteen with Jean Alesi. The first day of public testing of the F93A is laborious. The Austrian and the Frenchman break a tie rod in the bottom of the cars and make long stops. Then brake problems follow. But above all, it is difficult to understand how the active suspension works and to fine-tune it. Says Gerhard Berger, back driving a Ferrari after four years:

 

"The positive note is that we have driven more than half a Grand Prix without any real mechanical failures. But it is clear that I cannot make any judgements or comparisons with the McLaren. It is too early. The car is not yet balanced and so you can't really push hard. However, I adapted immediately to the gearbox and the rest. The engine? I don't want to comment for now".

Jean Alesi

Isn't it a risk to start with the difficult solution of intelligent suspension?

 

"Ferrari last year was too far behind Williams to go for a conventional car in 1993. It is a forced choice to try to catch up".

 

The response of the chronometers, even though we are just at the beginning, is merciless: Prost, lapping in 1'13"49, very close to the track's official record (1'13"001), and a new absolute limit on narrow tyres, beats Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi by more than 6 seconds. The Frenchman is also the protagonist of a spectacular spin to avoid Johnny Herbert's Lotus, which is proceeding slowly. It is clear that the Williams starts from a clearly superior car. The professor, however, is undermined by Michael Schumacher, who sets an excellent time of 1'13"93 in the Benetton. Slower are the Sauber (Wendlinger, 1'17"06), the Jordan (Barrichello, 1'17"44) and the Lotus (Herbert, 1'17"72), but all ahead of the two Ferraris, which do not go beyond 1'19"64. Wednesday will continue and it will go on until Saturday, maybe Sunday. Meanwhile, there are two pieces of news to shake up the environment. One is important and concerns Ayrton Senna, since Penske announces that it has engaged the emerging Canadian Paul Tracy alongside Emerson Fittipaldi. So, door closed in Indy for the Brazilian, who was perhaps aiming at that team, the best one, to move. Also because the Penske team manager says they will not run three cars as some had predicted. Senna, therefore, can only stop for a year or run with McLaren in 1993. Unless Tracy agrees at some point to vacate the seat. The other fresh news concerns the Williams case. It has been announced that the Formula One Commission will meet on Friday 12 February. On the agenda: 1994 sporting regulations; 1995 technical regulations; granting of super-licences; Concord Pact. The exclusion of Williams and the driving licence that Alain Prost has not yet received will be discussed. It is not excluded that in exchange for some concessions FOCA will ask to blow up the Pact of Concord, which requires unanimity of all manufacturers to make any decision. Thus new regulations to improve the show could also be passed. Those that Frank Williams had refused to sign up to. Wednesday 27 January 1993 the picture changes, but not for Ferrari. Michael Schumacher and the Benetton take the baton from Williams, setting the best time of the day in 1'I3'71. However, it is not only the chronometric results that count these days. Everyone is also looking for the tuning of the cars. Riccardo Patrese, for example, is struggling with the Benetton's new automatic gearbox and laps much slower than any other driver. The Maranello team, on the other hand, is busy solving problems with the use of active suspension. Gerhard Berger, author of 19 laps, explains:

 

"Every hour we learn something, but the path will be long and full of problems. At the moment the car is not balanced and I don't even dare to think what condition we will be in at the first race".

 

Jean Alesi completes only a few laps, first due to a break in the gearbox hydraulic circuit, then a leak in the suspension circuit. The Frenchman is a temperamental guy. But precisely because of that he goes from one excess to another. He is either soft or hard. Lately, the French driver has been controlling himself, but his talk is sincere.

 

"It would be nice to sit in a new car and immediately set a record. Unfortunately that is not the case, you have to work hard to achieve results. The two years at Ferrari have been difficult for me, full of sacrifice and stingy with satisfaction. And, I'm not afraid to confess it, at one point I thought about leaving and accepting one of the offers made to me".

 

The French-Italian driver is not naming names, but it is known in the environment that he is still being courted by Williams and that Peugeot has his name in the notebook should he attempt, as it seems, the Formula 1 adventure.

 

"I wanted to stay, also because I had a contract for two seasons, when I was presented with the technical programme with the arrival of Barnard. I was nervous, restless, insecure. The Ferrari plans calmed me down".

Benetton Formula

So, at least one more year with Ferrari. But what are Alesi's objectives?

 

'Two are my goals, which are identified with desires. The first is to become competitive again, with a valid car. Let's not talk about victories: too easy to say and complicated to do. Let's think about fighting near the top and making progress. The second concerns my future and therefore Ferrari. Berger has a two-year deal. I know very well that Maranello is courting Senna, who is the best. If the Brazilian comes to Maranello, there will be no more room for me. So my only chance to stay, provided the situation becomes interesting, is to make Senna forget. That is, I will have to be good enough to force the Ferrari managers to confirm me. An almost impossible task, but I will try".

 

So much trust, that of Jean Alesi, that it can be mistaken for love. Let us not forget, by the way, that the driver lost out on a few million dollars to arrive at Maranello when he was already tied to Tyrrell and Williams. Jean Alesi, therefore, is willing to walk on his pride, to file down the edges of his impulsive character.

 

"With Berger I want to establish a fair and friendly relationship. We have made a good start these days, and he has also shown himself to be open and helpful. Of course the team must do everything to put us on an equal footing, there mustn't be an A and a B rider. It will be an advantage for everyone, especially in this difficult moment in which we are trying to catch up. If then Ferrari returns to the top, everyone will be able to play their cards on the track, as always".

 

In the meantime, there is an air of coup d'état by the drivers against the Federation. In Portugal the drivers are meeting in a restaurant, led by Alain Prost, to discuss the problem of the super-licences allocated to some, and so far denied to others. A joint action to force FISA to take a clearer attitude is not ruled out. Thursday 28 January 1993 Williams continues to grind out kilometres. Alain Prost simulates a Grand Prix, completing 81 laps, the best in 1'13"60. More problems, however, for Ferrari. Jean Alesi (1'18"93 and 7 laps) and Gerhard Berger (1'19"03 and 17 laps) are blocked by the breakage of the actuators, the aluminium cylinders that replace the shock absorbers and are the most delicate part of the active suspension mechanics. The Austrian also tested one of the two engines with pneumatic valves, but was unable to push hard. The drivers led by Alain Prost, meanwhile, are also in turmoil because Bernie Ecclestone has sold their image to a Japanese video game company, without asking the drivers' permission in advance. Friday, 29 January 1993, Alain Prost is the victim of a terrible accident, but he gets off without injury, apart from a severe pain in his neck. In the course of the afternoon, at 3:45 p.m., while the Frenchman is busy completing a series of tests with his Williams, he loses control of the car, which is semi-crashed at the Do Tanque corner, while travelling in fourth gear at around 230-240 km/h and crashes with the rear of the car against the guardrails. Immediately rescued, Alain Prost is taken to the infirmary where he remains in a state of shock for half an hour. 

 

Then, followed by a physiotherapist, the French driver left the circuit driving the car himself. The Williams co-driver made no statement. A spokesman for the team, however, rules out driver error and admits that perhaps this was due to a fault. Apart from this incident, Williams comes out of the Estoril tests with very positive notes about its competitiveness. Good signs also for Benetton, Sauber, Jordan and Lotus. Still in difficulty on the other hand is Ferrari, who set slow times with the F93A equipped with an engine with pneumatic valves: 1'19"25 with Berger and 1'19"97 with Alesi (against 1'13"40 set on Wednesday by Alain Prost). The Maranello team has not yet managed to fix the active suspension and the car is not balanced, so that all other tests are practically useless. Therefore, tests were scheduled at Fiorano and Imola before further tests at Estoril. The first round ends with nothing. In the sense that the week of testing at the difficult Portuguese circuit shows that Williams is still the team to beat. Even though the cars have been modified for the new technical regulations (for this new season, the main changes in the regulations concern the tyres, as the maximum width of the full wheel goes from 18 to 15 inches, a reduction of 7.6 centimetres, while the width of the car goes from 2.150 millimetres to 2.000 millimetres, and the height is reduced by 50 millimetres.


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