European Grand Prix – 1993


GP da Europa 1993/ European Grand Prix - 1993

Ayrton Senna had fond memories of the Donington Park track. That was where he had tryouts for Williams in 1983, his first experience with a Formula 1 car.

Few imagined that the track, lacking in overtaking spots, located in the small town of Castle Donington, England, would provide sports fans with an unforgettable Easter Sunday on that April 11th. Despite hosting several British F3 races, as well as other categories’, it was the first (and only) time an F1 Grand Prix was going to take place at the circuit.

Senna was coming from a special victory in Brazil, achieved two weeks before the start of the European leg of the season. Just as it had happened at Interlagos, the rain was going to be vital for the Brazilian to keep up with the powerful Williams.

On Saturday, Alain Prost and Damon Hill made it clear that it was going to be extremely hard for Senna to win under regular conditions. The Frenchman got the pole position, followed by the Britton. Rising star Michael Schumacher, who had made his category debut in 1991, headed the second row, with Ayrton in fourth.

Rain started falling on Sunday morning, accompanied by fog and mild temperatures – typical British weather.

It’s not unusual for the start and the first lap to be the highpoint of an F1 race, but what was about to happen at Donington Park went way beyond that. Prost and Hill kept their respective positions. Senna was blocked by Schumacher, and Karl Wedlinger took advantage of that, passing both of them and landing the Brazilian in fifth place. The stage was set for what would be considered a driver’s best lap in F1 history. Ayrton took a chance and following a different path on the wet track, managed to overtake Schumacher and reclaim the fourth place. He overtook Wendinger right after that, just one corner later. The Brazilian went wide, leaving his opponent unable to defend his position when braking.

Senna exited the corner on top of Hill, and this time took the inside lane. Prost seemed too far ahead for the Brazilian to fight for the lead before the first lap was over, but he went after the Frenchman and, at the circuit’s fastest corner (hairpin), he risked breaking later to surprise his rival.
Check out Senna’s own breakdown of what many experts consider the best lap in Formula One history.

“It rained a lot. I started in fourth, but the first lap was a shock for the other drivers. I was pushed to the side by Schumacher, and had two of my wheels off the track. I passed the German driver before the first corner and accelerated to catch up with Damon Hill. I passed the Englishman when he was braking. Prost was the next victim. I waited for the S double corners and because he braked earlier than normal, a space opened up for me to pass through”.

Rubens Barrichello also had an incredible start. That year’s main rookie started in 12th place and finished the first lap in fourth.

But Ayrton’s spectacle was far from over.

The following laps were marked by unstable weather. Ayrton took off with his slick tires. Prost wasn’t so lucky: as soon as he changed to dry tires, it started raining again on Donington Park.

“By the 18th lap, the track had dried and everyone stopped to change to slick tires. I decided to put it into high gear to escape Williams, but then I was between a rock and a hard place. After all, it’s risky to go fast with slick tires on a wet track. But if I slowed the pace, the tire temperature and pressure would drop and the car would lose grip”.

McLaren’s pit-stop strategy was always a step ahead of Williams’. Ayrton made four pit-stops, while Prost took to the pit lane four times, and watched helpless as even Damon Hill, his own teammate, passed him.

One of Ayrton pit-stops also went down in history. The Brazilian went straight through the pit-lane in the 57th lap, and since there was no speed-limit at the time, he ended up with the race’s fastest lap. It may sound weird, but at Donington Park the corner leading to the garages is shorter than the one leading to the main straight, and only Ayrton had figured that out. The shortcut led to a time of 1min18s029, down from 1min20s413.

“And there were problems at the pit stops. On my third, the rear right wheel locked and the pit stop seemed to last an eternity. When it came time to switch to wet tires, the radio wasn’t working, they couldn’t hear me, and I simply passed in front of the garage, without changing tires. And, to add to the suspense, I was advised that the car was presenting gas consumption problems. But because my tank had a hole in it and there wasn’t time to fix it, it was sealed; which made it impossible to refill. Since the fuel was at the minimum limit, I changed my driving style: I changed gears in lower rotations, lifting my foot off the gas before entering into corners and not braking hard. Whew! That’s how I won the race, exhausted at the end of 76 laps, one ahead of Professor Prost.”

TV Globo announcer, Galvão Bueno, tells the story behind the race’s fastest lap: “Just listen to what the genius was thinking. He told us after the race [Galvão and Reginaldo Leme]. He went through the pit lane to check if it was really faster. Then, if he had to pass Prost again in the course of the race, he was going to use that shortcut. The result: it’s the only race in motor sports history in which the best lap was through the pit lane”, said Galvão.

The victory solidified Senna’s lead in the standings. He had 26 points, against Prost’s 14, after two of the best races in his career: the 1993 Brazilian GP and the 1993 European GP.

Ayrton Senna. Donington Park, April 11, 1993.

Resumo da Corrida

  • 1 A. Prost
  • 2 D. Hill
  • 3 M. Schumacher
  • 4 Ayrton Senna
  • 5 K. Wendlinger
  • 6 M. Andretti
  • 7 J. Lehto
  • 8 G. Berger
  • 9 J. Alesi
  • 10 R. Patrese
  • 11 J. Herbert
  • 12 R. Barrichello
  • 13 A. Zanardi
  • 14 D. Warwick
  • 15 P. Alliot
  • 16 C. Fittipaldi
  • 17 E. Comas
  • 18 U. Katayama
  • 19 T. Boutsen
  • 20 F. Barbazza
  • 21 M. Blundell
  • 22 M. Brundle
  • 23 A. Suzuki
  • 24 M. Alboreto
  • 25 A. de Cesaris
Voltas 76
Tempo Chuvoso
Volta mais rápida A. Senna - 1´18´´029
Podium 1º Ayrton Senna 2º D. Hill 3º A. Prost
Carros 25
Abandonos 14