Japanese GP lap-by-lap commentary

[ This article was originally posted to rec.autos.sport.f1 by ] [ yours truly, and includes some subjective comments that are ] [ maybe not purely in the spirit of this newsgroup, but I was ] [ asked to post it here so I did :) ...

[ This article was originally posted to rec.autos.sport.f1 by ] [ yours truly, and includes some subjective comments that are ] [ maybe not purely in the spirit of this newsgroup, but I was ] [ asked to post it here so I did :) ]

F1 Japan, Suzuka 04-06.11 1994

The conditions are really quite nasty, it's raining more or less all the time, visibility is bad, they even have spotlights to light up the track. H. Noda (I think) is starting from pit lane. The race is 53 laps.

Lap --- 1 : It seems everyone makes it through the first corner ? Mansell gets a bad start and gets passed by three cars. Standings after first corner : Schu, Hill, Frentzen, Herbert, Alesi, Irvine, Mansell, Mika, Brundle, Berger, Rubens ? Lehto leaves his car somewhere on the circuit, mechanical failure is the cause. Noda is out, seems he barely got the car out of the pit lane... He may also have spun in the beginning of the 2nd lap, but I don't think so.

2 : Frentzen runs wide in the first corner, dropping to 6th place.

3 : Irvine obviously spins, dropping to 10-12th place ? At the end of the 3rd lap yellow flags are out. Herbert goes into aquaplane on the pit straight, spins off. Katayama also spins off, hitting the pit wall. Inoue almost hits Katayama's car and is also out. Pace car is out on track, Katayama is helped back into pits, limping badly.

4 : Pace car. Positions : Schu, Hill, Alesi, Mansell, Frentzen, Brundle, Hakkinen, Morbidelli, Berger, Blundell, Irvine, Rubens, Panis, Fittipaldi, Zanardi, Salo, Lagorce, Comas, ?

11: Pace car leaves at the end of lap 10. Lagorce, Martini and Alboreto have some kind of an accident, Alboreto's car is still moving but he parks it on the side of the track. All three are out. Gerhard Berger is also out, probably engine failure.

14: Schumacher's got a nearly 7 second lead, might be a conscious move from Hill, no use in running so close you can't see shit for all the spray. Morbidelli has a big accident, running straight in a curve, wheels flying all over the track. Everything in front of the cockpit is gone, but he seems unhurt. Yellow flags aplenty.

15: Brundle goes off the track in the same corner that Morbidelli did, just missing Morbidelli's car but hitting one of the guys trying to move it out of the way pretty badly. The race marshall seems to be conscious and moving, but the crash looked nasty enough. An ambulance arrives. Red flag, race is stopped. Various shots of Mika Hakkinen running to see the race director, Mansell looking like he doesn't know whether to race or not, Schumacher ready to continue, and Hill staying in his car, definitely wanting to go on with the race. After some time, a decision is made, the race will continue, but there will be a flying start from behind a pace car. This seems to be Mansell's idea :) It is obviously a violation of the rules, but nevertheless a good one. The race will pick up the standings where the 13th lap left off. Standings : Schu, Hill, Alesi, Mansell, Frentzen, Brundle, Mika, Morbidelli, Blundell, Irvine, Barrichello, Panis, Fittipaldi, Zanardi, Salo, Comas, Brabham There are a few laps behind the pace car, with Rubens, Panis and Mika Salo making pit stops before the actual race is resumed. Rubens seems to have some trouble with his car, something to do with the air intake on the right side ? Meanwhile it is announced that the wooden plank will in fact remain throughout '95, thought I heard something about 15mm, but I'm not sure.

16: The race has started again. Things are a bit confusing, as the positions on the track are not necessarily the actual standings. The time differences from the 13th lap must be included into calculations. For example, even if Hill is leading Schu by 5 s. on the track, Schu will in fact be the actual race leader, since he had a 5+ second lead by lap 13.

17: Fastest lap (16th) by Schu, 1.58.020. Barrichello in pits again, obviously in trouble.

18: Fastest lap (17th) by Schu, 1.57.285, Hill 1.57.966, Alesi 2.00.5 Schu goes into pits by the end of the lap, 8.0 seconds.

19: Schumacher is now in 2nd place, caught in traffic and running with a heavy fuel load. Hill has all the opportunities to make a gap between himself and Schu, clear track in front of him. Barrichello walks into the garage, the race unfortunately over for his part.

20: Mansell is trying to overtake Alesi, nice duel. The Ferrari hp will make it very hard for him though. Actually Alesi has a lead of 5.4 seconds, but Mansell won't have a chance of catching up unless he can make his way past Alesi :) Schumacher is caught behind Hakkinen, not able to pass him. Frentzen into pits.

24: Schu is still behind Mika on the track, but in 3rd place (between Alesi and Mansell) total. Hill is lapping pretty fast.

Eurosport commentators :

Kalff (?) : "...so...what do we do without a computer, John, to keep track of all this ?" Watson : "Well, just watch your screen"...

Mansell again tries to overtake Alesi, really being offensive now.

25: Hill fastest lap (24th) 1.56.597. Standings : Hill, Alesi, Schu, Mansell, Mika, Irvine, Fittipaldi, Frentzen, Blundell, Comas. Damon Hill goes into pits at the end of the lap.

26: The stop was 9.2 s., Damon reenters just behind Alesi and Mansell. Mansell goes into the pits at the end of the lap, getting himself out of Hill's way. 9.1 second stop. Mika lets Schumacher past on the pit straight.

27: Irvine (?) overtakes Hakkinen without any problems, Mika seems to go very slow. Problems ? Blundell is out of the race. Mika goes into the pits with a very slow inlap, 2.07.024.

28: Hill < 0.805 > Alesi < 5.423 > Schumacher < 24.835 > Mansell

29: Hill < 0.327 > Alesi. Alesi goes into pits, 8.1 sec.

31: Hill < 5.386 > Schu < 20.980 > Alesi

32: Hill, Schu, Alesi, Mansell, Irvine, Hakkinen, Frentzen, Comas, Fittipaldi, Panis, Salo, Zanardi, Brabham

33: Hill < 4.463 > Schu < 26.490 > Alesi < 6.995 > Mansell < 12.318 > Irvine

Kalff (?) : It's completely dry in Suzuka... Well the track isn't, but there's no rain coming out of the sky, John, heheh

Irvine into pits, 7.5 secs

34: Mansell goes a bit wide, almost slides off the track Hill < 3.444 > Schu < 29.817 > Alesi < 5.997 > Mansell

35: Hill got caught lapping Zanardi on lap 24, gap narrows to 1.390 s.

36: Hill < 0.484 > Schumacher

37: Schumacher < 1.100 > Hill, Alesi, Mansell, Irvine, Hakkinen, Frentzen, Fittipaldi, Comas, Panis, Salo, Zanardi, Brabham

38: Watson on Mika Salo : "...That's a guy I would like to see in F1" admiring the way Salo let Schumacher pass. Schu < 2.018 > Hill < 39.800 > Alesi < 5.240 > Mansell

39: Picture goes byebye... Alesi / Mansell battle continues

40: Aargh... Benetton team seems to get ready for a pitstop... Stupid, stupid strategy... Schu now 3.782 secs ahead of Hill. No way he will ever be able to win back the time he'll lose in the pits... Picture is back, and, yes, Schumacher goes into the pits.

41: Fast stop by Schu, 7.0 seconds

42: Hill < 14.599 > Schu... What can Schumacher possibly do to catch up ? If Hill doesn't make a bad mistake, it seems he will win.

43: 14.167 seconds... Meanwhile Hakkinen (6th) < 0.5 > Frentzen (7th) Mika and HH are not too close on the circuit, but timewise H-H's closing the gap pretty fast.

44: 11.989... Schu's going _fast_. 7 laps to go (including this one) Hakkinen < 0.460 > Frentzen.

45: 10.089... Hakkinen < 0.044 > Frentzen...

46: 8.352... Hill lapping Comas. If Schumacher eats 2 seconds/lap...

47: Hill < 7.032 > Schumacher, Alesi < 5.864 > Mansell Hill lapping Zanardi (2nd time) who also is lapped by Comas on the pitstraight at the end of the lap. Frentzen "passes" Mika, time-wise... It'll be an interesting season next year if Frentzen goes to McLaren...

48: Hill < 5.242 > Schu... Some nice shots from Alesi's Ferrari, back camera, Mansell getting within maybe a metre of Alesi. Schu laps Zanardi.

49: 4.222... Hill makes a slight mistake when trying to overtake Christian Fittipaldi.

50: 2.457... Last lap. Schumacher lapping Comas. Schumacher has to do an enourmously fast lap to win, Hill is driving as fast as he can. With Fittipaldi between Hill and Schumacher it seems Hill will be able to keep the gap. Rear wheels slip a bit when Damon exits that last chicane, roars towards the finish line... 1.57.884... That means Schu would have to make the low 1.55's, which he... doesn't. He passes Fittipaldi, but Hill has won the race... Mansell finally passes Alesi, just before the last chicane. Alesi still keeps 3rd place, since he has a 5 second lead since the 13th lap.

Hill looks very happy indeed on the podium, kissing the trophy and bathing Nigel Mansell with Moet&Chandon (or whatever). "What a waste" says Nigel, loud enough for the microphones to pick it up. Michael Schumacher seems pretty frustrated, but gathers himself enough for a smile. Jean Alesi looks happy enough, he's had his share of bad luck this season, and a podium finish is always nice.

Some comments from the press conference (my VCR ran out of tape at this moment, so these are mainly from memory and not accurate) :

Hill : "Michael did a thrilling drive... I threw caution to the wind" <referring to last 10 laps>

Schu : <reporter mentioned something about trouble with traffic> "I can't complain about traffic... Hakkinen wasn't holding me up, I had a heavy fuel load and couldn't go as fast... He let me pass when I got up to speed... everybody were easy to pass Nevertheless 1 point in front, looking forward to Adelaide"

Alesi : "We have to work on the engine... it's so strong it's really really difficult <to control>"

Some final comments :

Hill is a good driver, winning a race under circumstances like these is very difficult, even with a good car. He has showed he can handle large amounts of pressure pretty well. He's improved his driving to a point where I'd almost be ready to accept him as a world champion.

Schumacher is still definitely the fastest driver around, and will hopefully win the championship. He has an inferior car, from which he extracts incredible performances. In my mind he is the champion of '94, with Hill a distant 2nd.

Alesi is still looking for that first win... I hope he gets it, he's worth it.

Mansell is getting better... Nice, aggressive driving. He uses a neck support (comment, Finnish tv) ? When he gets more physically fit he might improve his performance, but this was good anyway. So, has he bought Lotus, or was it really some Japanese businessman ? There have also been rumours about him going to DTM in '95. Time will tell...

Good drive from Irvine, when he sheds that carelessness he will be really good.

Frentzen has showed good speed throughout his short career in F1, I'll place him among the 10 fastest drivers. Supposedly he has driven 20000+ km:s worth of tyre tests on Suzuka, and it shows...

Hakkinen's first average finish this season... Somehow he didn't convince me in Suzuka. It seemed he had some trouble with the car, for example that really slow inlap. Nevertheless, he finished.

Brundle was excellent this weekend, shame about that crash.

What's up with Barrichello ? He hasn't done too well lately...

Nice debut from Mika Salo, sensible driving, with a little practice he might still be very good. I hope he will have a place in F1 '95.

Sadly, Johnny Herbert crashed, I was very interested in how he'd make it throughout the race.

More bad luck for Lehto, engine and gear trouble made for a very short race. I think he'd made up his mind about quitting F1 already, and then Keke "found" the Sauber drive... One last glimpse of JJ ?

Well, that's about it then... I don't think I will do this again, turned out to be more work than I thought it'd be... Will try to make some sensible comments now and then though. The race info was taken from Eurosport and Finnish MTV3. Hope I didn't make any horrible errors.

Andreas Perret (perret@cc.helsinki.fi)

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Jean Alesi , Mika Hakkinen , Gerhard Berger , Mika Salo , Christian Fittipaldi , Nigel Mansell , Damon Hill
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Benetton