It’s twenty years since Formula 1’s shortest-ever race, the 1991 Australian Grand Prix.
Held in torrential conditions on Adelaide’s daunting street circuit, the race was red-flagged after just 14 of its scheduled 81 laps due to the appalling conditions…
The big news leading into the event was the sacking of Alain Prost by Ferrari, which had grown sick of the Frenchman’s ongoing criticism of the team, and responded by terminating his agreement. In stepped Ferrari’s test driver Gianni Morbidelli, who had spent the season racing with Minardi.
Morbidelli’s seat was taken by F1 journeyman Roberto Moreno, while the injured Éric Bernard’s seat at Lola was claimed by Bertrand Gachot, fresh out of jail after his CS gas assault charges.
Qualifying saw the McLarens sweep to a front-row lockout, with Ayrton Senna securing pole ahead of team-mate Gerhard Berger. It was a Noah’s Ark formation for the next three rows on the grid, with the Williams’ of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese being followed by the Benettons of Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher, who had the Ferraris of Jean Alesi and Gianni Morbidelli right behind them.
Sunday dawned overcast, and an hour before the race the heavens opened. With the rain intensifying, the race start was delayed in the hope that the conditions would ease.
They apparently did, but not by enough that any driver following Senna could see properly. Conditions were impossible, and drivers struggled to control their wayward cars in the awful spray.
The two Benettons collided on the fifth lap which led to Schumacher spinning into retirement. He was hit by Alesi, who in turn was hit by Nicola Larini. A few laps later, Pierluigi Martini aquaplaned straight into the wall on the back straight.
The rain was just getting worse, and on the thirteenth lap, Maurício Gugelmin crashed his Leyton House in the pit lane, causing slight injuries to two marshals. Berger had an umpteenth spin, while Mansell – trying to close on Senna – crashed heavily at Turn 3.
By now, Senna had simply had enough and began frantically waving at the marshals to stop the race. Duly, the red flags were unfurled and the race’s few survivors limped back to the start/finish straight.
Despite officials’ foolish attempts to restart the race, it was eventually abandoned when the rain refused to ease, and half-points were awarded.
For the likes of Piquet and Satoru Nakajima, this was an anticlimactic way to end their Formula 1 careers, but at least they had come through the race intact.
1991 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (14 laps):
|1.||Ayrton Senna||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||14||24:34.899||1|
|2.||Nigel Mansell||Williams – Renault V10 FW14B||14||+ 1.259||3|
|3.||Gerhard Berger||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||14||+ 5.120||2|
|4.||Nelson Piquet||Benetton – Ford V8 B191||14||+ 30.103||5|
|5.||Riccardo Patrese||Williams – Renault V10 FW14B||14||+ 50.537||4|
|6.||Gianni Morbidelli||Scuderia Ferrari V12 643||14||+ 51.069||8|
|7.||Emanuele Pirro||Dallara – Judd V10 191||14||+ 52.361||13|
|8.||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan – Cosworth V8 191||14||+ 1:00.431||12|
|9.||Alessandro Zanardi||Jordan – Cosworth V8 191||14||+ 1:15.567||16|
|10.||Stefano Modena||Tyrrell – Honda V10 021||14||+ 1:20.370||9|
|11.||Johnny Herbert||Lotus – Judd V8 102B||14||+ 1:22.073||21|
|12.||JJ Lehto||Dallara – Judd V10 191||14||+ 1:38.519||11|
|13.||Michele Alboreto||Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C||14||+ 1:39.303||15|
|14.||Maurício Gugelmin||Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911||13||Accident||14|
|15.||Alex Caffi||Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C||13||1 lap behind||23|
|16.||Roberto Moreno||Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191||13||1 lap behind||18|
|17.||Mark Blundell||Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y||13||1 lap behind||17|
|18.||Érik Comas||Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B||13||1 lap behind||22|
|19.||Mika Häkkinen||Lotus – Judd V8 102B||13||1 lap behind||25|
|20.||Karl Wendlinger||Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911||13||1 lap behind||26|
|DNF.||Pierluigi Martini||Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191||8||Accident||10|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Benetton – Ford V8 B191||5||Accident||6|
|DNF.||Jean Alesi||Scuderia Ferrari V12 643||5||Accident||7|
|DNF.||Nicola Larini||Modena – Lamborghini V12 291||5||Accident||19|
|DNF.||Thierry Boutsen||Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B||5||Accident||20|
|DNF.||Satoru Nakajima||Tyrrell – Honda V10 021||4||Accident||24|
|DNQ.||Aguri Suzuki||Lola – Cosworth V8 91|
|DNQ.||Martin Brundle||Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y|
|DNQ.||Eric van de Poele||Modena – Lamborghini V12 291|
|DNQ.||Bertrand Gachot||Lola – Cosworth V8 91|
|NPQ.||Gabriele Tarquini||Fondmetal Cosworth V8 F1|
|NPQ.||Naoki Hattori||Coloni – CosworthV8 C4|
|Gerhard Berger||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||14||1:41.141|
Images via ESPN and LAT]