Senna and Mansell: For the last time

November 1992, Adelaide Australia.

It had been Nigel Mansell's year. Having come close in 1991, the technical triumph that was the legendary FW14B was unstoppable in Mansell's hands. If you're new to watching Formula 1 and lament the Mercedes dominance, understand that nothing lasts forever. McLaren were champtions in 1991, 1990, 1989, and 1988. They started 1991 with four straight wins, and following a mid-season slump where Williams found form, McLaren surged back to take the title.

The Adrian Newey-penned (I think he might go places..) FW14 was an excellent chassis. It was arguably superior to the McLaren MP4/6, but had terrible reliability at the beginning of '91 with persistent transmission failures. The same chassis design was good enough to compete in 1992, but with the addition of active ride (or platform control) which was decisive in optimising the cars aerodynamics. Mansell had a particular feel for it (unlike his teammate Patrese whom never got along with it [Motorsport]) and was extraordinarily quick every Grand Prix weekend. He would take an amazing 9 wins in 1992, and seal the driver's championship in Hungary.

Honda were McLaren's engine supplier throughout their championship winning years, and in '91 they decided to switch to a V12, which was against the trend they themselves had embraced previously. Senna had concerns about the V12. [Primotipo]

Honda V12

The RA122E. License:

A V12 is longer, heavier, thirstier, and requires more cooling. The tradeoff is greater power. Senna did lots of work on the driveability of the Honda and ultimately used it to great effect, so one can't say Honda were wrong to go in this direction. However Renault had done a better job, and were getting similar performance out of a lighter package.

By the Australian GP at Adelaide, the championship was long decided. Mansell would not even be in F1 the following year as Alain Prost had outmaneuvered him into the Williams seat for 1993. He would be denied a record breaking 10th win at the GP after a rather silly collision with Senna.

Senna would stay with McLaren for 1993. They would lose their Honda deal and would be running the Cosworth V8 for what would turn out to be one of Senna's most memorable years. 18 months later, he'd be lost to us.

Enjoy this slice from the apogee of F1's 'gizmo' era, courtesy of Formula 1's official YT channel.

Reference:

Motorsport

Head, P., 2021. Mansell's perfect ride - Motor Sport Magazine. [online] Motor Sport Magazine. Available at: https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-2012/66/mansells-perfect-ride [Accessed 15 February 2021].

Primotipo

primotipo... 2021. McLaren MP4/6 Honda V12 1991…. [online] Available at: https://primotipo.com/2018/10/16/mclaren-mp4-6-honda-v12-1991/ [Accessed 15 February 2021].

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