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Races to Remember - Europe 1993 // One of Ayrton Senna's most infamous drives at Donington Park

Published by Christine

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Welcome to Races to Remember, a mini series brought to you by Sidepodcast. We’re travelling back in time to look at some of the best races, those that shouldn’t be forgotten. Already, we’ve gone back as far as 1967, and been as recent as 2003, but now we’re settling on 1993.

Donington Park played host to the European Grand Prix in April 1993. It was the third race on the calendar, with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna both having won a grand prix each. Prost was ready to fight for his fourth championship, and in what was considered the best car on the grid – the Williams. Senna was in the McLaren, and the battle was on. Traction control was in full force, not yet banned, and actually was a big factor in the race that was about to unfold.

The weekend was wet, as a lot of British GPs seem to be, but qualifying had seen a brief respite in the weather. Prost qualified on pole, with Damon Hill in second, Senna and Schumacher lining up on the next row. The track was soaking on Sunday morning, although the rain had eased when the pack got going. Senna dropped back a place at the start, but whilst everyone else was treading carefully around the first few corners, he put his aggressive hat on and bolted past them. Using every corner, running two abreast where possible, and taking the inside line a few times, he made amazing progress. By the end of the first lap, he was in front, having passed Wendlinger, Hill, Schumacher and Prost to take the lead. He didn’t settle for that though, and Senna increased the gap gradually over the next few laps.

The weather conditions were constantly changing, and in the early stages of the race, the sun came out. Senna was flying up front, whilst Prost and Hill were battling for second place, until the first round of pit stops mixed things up. The front runners switched to slick tyres, and continued on their way. 20 laps in, though, as Senna was starting to confront the backmarkers, the rain returned.

Prost was one of the first to dive back into the pit lane for wet tyres, whilst Schumacher, Blundell and Senna fought their cars to remain on track. Despite the conditions, Ayrton still maintained his lead and when he finally took his pit stop to change tyres, he emerged in first. Prost was soon up in second place, but still over ten seconds behind his rival. As the rain eased and the track dried, Prost returned to the pit lane for slick tyres, and after a quick stop by the Williams team, and a slow one by McLaren, Senna found himself behind Prost. Meanwhile, Barrichello had quietly made his way into third place, at the wheel of the Jordan.

With things settling somewhat, it was about time to throw in some more rain, and once again, Prost was the first to jump into the pit lane and change tyres. The cautious actions from Prost over the course of the race were to be a key factor in the end, as Senna was more interested in pushing each set of tyres to their limit. He only changed when it was absolutely necessary, and on the 37th lap, whilst the others were hurrying to fit wets, Senna set the fastest lap of the race so far on slicks. In fact, he kept the same set long enough for the rain to disappear once more. Prost returned to the pits again, but this time it was not a smooth stop with the Williams stalling on the way out. When he rejoined the race, it wasn’t long before Senna lapped him – meaning there was only one car other than the Brazilian still left on the lead lap.

After a few more rain scares, Senna led Hill, whilst Prost slipped into third, having overtaken Barrichello. With just 10 laps to go, wet tyres were the name of the game, and Senna bolted into the pit lane. Prost pitted, which allowed Barrichello into third, and at that time, he was due to be the youngest podium finisher ever. However, his Jordan slowed and a fuel problem ended that dream. In the last few minutes of the race, Hill managed to unlap himself, but it made no dent on Senna’s lead. The Brazilian crossed the finish line in first place – 1 minute and 23 seconds ahead of the Briton. Prost was a further 35 seconds behind.

That sums up an incredibly eventful race in just a few short minutes. If you have any thoughts about this Grand Prix that you’d like to add, please visit sidepodcast.com to leave your comments. Don’t forget to join me again tomorrow for another Race to Remember.

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