Clip The Apex
So the second half of the F1 season will start with the epic race through the Ardennes forest that is Spa-Francorchamps. The track has more iconic corners and sections than most of the rest of the F1 tracks have put together. What would a modern F1 season be without a race here? Well I guess it would be 2003 or 2006 but lets forget those and say how F1 would not be F1 without a race here. The teams certainly enjoy it and after they've all be sunning themselves on beaches for the last month (apart from Ferrari of course who have secretly been developing parts with Haas in America....allegedly) so they will be raring to go. No one will want it to come round quicker that Mercedes who had a bit of a nightmare in Hungary. Both their drivers have a reputation of losing heart after a bad result and dropping form so they'll be hoping that things run smoothly in the first part of the weekend and they start to get back in the control position they have sat in for most of the season. With Ferrari winning the race on pure pace last time out though both the team and drivers will be forgiven for looking curiously over their shoulder. Is it possible that Ferrari could mount a second half of the season championship challenge? Vettel certainly seems to have got a sniff of it.
Away from the front pair with have a Red Bull team who will probably be depressed as hell that their form of double podium last time out will sink into nothingness as their engine power lets them down and dumps them back into the pack. Whilst they've had a lot of stick off everyone for how they keep complaining about the Renault engines after seeing how good their chassie was at a track that doesn't require as much engine grunt you start to see their point. Wherever they are in the field Danii Kvyat will hope he continues to take little chunks out of Ricciardo's points lead on him. The young Russian will be on a high after his first podium and he showed in GP3 days he's pretty good round Spa. That's not to say Ricciardo isn't on form though, he had a great race last time out, but he really needs to work on those starts. In the Red Bull B team the fight between Sainz and Verstappen will continue. Verstappen has the points upper hand after his 4th in Hungary but Sainz has usually come out on top on this one.
It is because of the legend of Ayrton Senna that winning 41 Grands Prix has become a key milestone in the career of the great Formula One drivers. On his death in 1994, Senna stood in 2nd place in the all time list, with 41 wins. This has only now been matched by 3 other drivers, with the promise of a 4th to come?
ALAIN PROST (1990 Mexican Grand Prix, Ferrari)
It was a weekend of celebration for Senna, who marked his hundredth Grand Prix start. Prost, qualified 13th. Although Senna started 3rd, he typically took the lead soon after, for a one-two that Berger failed to maintain with his underpressured tyres. Prost's low downforce set up meant he had passed the Williams into 4th behind Senna, Benetton's Piquet and team-mate Mansell by mid-race. The Ferraris got past an ailing Piquet, and Prost capitalised on backmarkers to get past Mansell. The race was decided when Senna's tyre problems were diagnosed as wear, rather than a slow puncture. Both Ferraris got past before the tyre blew.
So Prost, already the record Grand Prix winner by a margin, took victory in Mexico, his 41st and Ferrari's 99th. It would be the start of a three race run which challenged Senna for the 1990 title, and ended in Senna's most ignominious moment.
AYRTON SENNA (1993 Australian Grand Prix, McLaren)
1993 saw McLaren-Ford way down on the performance of Williams. Senna was fed up of not being in the race winning car, so had decided to depart to find one at Williams. Of course, Senna was able to take some victories that year: a wet pair at home at Interlagos and famously at Donington, his traditional victory in Monaco, and another damp victory at Suzuka. And the last race was at a street circuit...
Williams had taken every pole position of the season up to Adelaide, but suddenly street-circuit Senna was 0.4s quicker than both down under. He was 0.7s clear of his team-mate, Mika Hakkinen, whose qualifying skills would later be proved. Senna's run to victory was not straightforward - he misheard a pit call and pitted early, necessitating an unplanned second stop, which was rendered moot by the fact Williams were also on two stops. After a long middle stint, Senna beat the Williams out and beat Prost in the end by 9 seconds.
Famously, on the podium Senna dragged Prost up to the top step to start their reconciliation, and mark Le Professeur's retirement. Prost's last podium, sadly, was also Senna's.
1982 is often remembered as one of the most bizarre and tragic F1 seasons but 1994 is close on it's tail. Alain Prost won the World Drovers Championship in 1993 at the wheel of the super technical Williams FW15C. For 1994 most of the technical wizardry, such as active suspension, traction control, power steering and power brakes were outlawed. This made the '94 cars very different beasts to the cars in 1993 and much less stable than their predecessors.
Constructors Champions Williams had signed Ayrton Senna from McLaren for 1994 and this led Alain Prost to retire. As many know the relationship between the two men was less than harmonious and Alain felt he had little else to prove behind the wheel of an F1 car with four World Championships and 51 race wins. Ayrton was still very driven but reading some of the history of this season one of Senna's key drivers was the need to beat Alain and on more than one occasion he asked Prost to come back and race against him.
Williams kept Damon Hill in the No. 2 seat and Damon carried the Zero on his car, as he had in 1993 as the World Champion wasn't competing so there was no number one car. McLaren replaced Senna with Mika Hakkinen and put Martin Brundle in the second seat, now with Peugoet engines rather than the Ford motors used in 1993.
The biggest challenge to the Williams team was to come from Michael Schumacher and the Benetton Ford team. This was to be a controversial season for both the driver and the team with suggestions that Benetton were not complying with rules regarding electronic driver aids and Schumacher was excluded from two races (more of that later).
14 teams entered the 1994 season and 46 drivers competed at some point during the year. 1994 also saw the return of Mercedes to F1, their first season in the sport since 1955, as engine supplier to the Sauber team. The cars were powered by engines from 8 different manufacturers with the Renault and Ford motors being the class of the field.