1993 Hungarian Grand Prix
: 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix: It All Started with Hungary By Jeremy McMullen
In 1975, Formula One would loose one of its great ambassadors and larger-than-life characters. The name 'Hill' would be lost in Formula One; a terrible lost for the sport. However; in 1993, Formula One would witness the return of Hill to the top step of the podium. The son had joined his father as Formula One victors.
At the age of 33, Graham Hill would take his first victory in Formula One with a win at Zandvoort in 1962. Not only would this prove to be the year of his first victory but it would also be the year in which he would collect the first of his two World Championships. Already a popular figure within the paddock, Graham's popularity would only sky-rocket following the first World Championship.
When Hill earned his second World Championship, following the death of the ever-popular Jim Clark, the dubbed 'King of Monaco' was very much celebrated in and around the sport. This made his tragic death in 1975 hard to bear and only compounded the sorry feelings many fans were having after his attempt to start his own team had started out so badly.
Formula One would move on. There would be epic championship duels between Lauda and Hunt, Piquet and Reutemann and then Senna and Prost. It seemed certain the old had passed away and that all things would be new.
But there is 'nothing new under the sun' and, in 1992, there would be a new, yet very familiar name, back in the Formula One paddock. Graham Hill's son, Damon, would have a deal to test for Williams-Renault. However, the contract did leave room for Hill to take part in the championship with another team.
The Brabham name went all the way back to the days of Damon's father. However, by 1992, the team was a sad shell of its former self; barely existing, living off gasps of financial air. Still, it served as the perfect training ground for a young driver like Hill to gain experience and tenacity. He could not expect success. He could only expect failure. This had the potential of forging a will of iron, or, it could persuade him against wanting to do anything with Formula One unless he earned the right drive.
Hill would persevere. It wouldn't be easy though as he would fail to qualify in his first five races. At his home grand prix, the Brit would finally come away with a result…though not really. Then, following another failure to qualify in Germany, Hill and the Brabham team would arrive at the Hungaroring.
Over the course of Hill's career, the Hungaroring would prove to have some special connection; and it would all start in 1992. As usual, Damon would barely make it onto the grid in Hungary. Being a slower circuit, the Brabham had a chance. Hill would show strength behind the wheel and would qualify 25th, second to last.
The main draw in the race would be the nearness of Nigel Mansell to his first World Championship. His Williams test driver would be fighting with everything he had just to make it to the end of the race. Aided along by collisions and the failures of others, Hill would enjoy his best ever result in Formula One finishing the race in 11th place. Sure, he would finish more than 4 laps behind but it was still his best result in Formula One and it had come after many struggles. The will was absolutely being forged into iron.
Hill's strength of will and fortitude would garner the attention of those whom he tested for. Frank Williams considered him to be a 'tough bastard'. Patrick Head thought Hill had done everything to earn a chance at a better drive in Formula One. And, in 1993, Hill would get that chance.
Nigel Mansell would depart for Indycars in the United States. Riccardo Patrese would be released from the team and picked up by Benetton. This meant Williams had two seats available…actually just one. The number one seat within the team would be taken by then three-time World Champion Alain Prost. This meant just one seat remained within the team. Damon would get the nod.
Coming into Williams in 1993 meant Damon would have to hit the ground running. He would be joining the best team with undoubtedly the best car on the grid. Therefore, success was almost a given, as long as the driver made the most of the opportunities presented.
The start of the season would begin with Hill starting from the second row of the grid. This would be the first time in his Formula One career that he had ever started from this end of the grid. Nevertheless, Hill would get away in dramatic fashion and would be lying in 2nd place behind Senna through the first couple of corners. However, Hill would spin the car and would lose many places and would be forced to start the race from a more recognizable position at the tail-end of the field. While trying to carefully make his way back up through the field, Zanardi would get a little over-anxious and would make contact with Hill taking him out of his first race with Williams.
Hill had not hit the ground running with Williams, and least not just yet. However, that would change at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the very next round of the World Championship. Completing the race distance nearly 17 seconds behind race-winner Aryton Senna, Hill would stand on the podium for the very first time in his Formula One career earning a 2nd place result. At the end of the race Hill would find himself 3rd in the championship and gaining momentum.
Though Damon was beginning to gain some momentum for himself earning a couple more 2nd place results, it would be his Williams teammate, Prost, that would really get on a roll. By the end of the French Grand Prix, the halfway point of the season, Prost would have five victories and a commanding lead in the championship. Hill certainly looked like the number two driver within the Williams team. But that would begin to change.
Alain Prost earned himself the nickname 'the Professor' precisely because he would do just what was needed to either win a race or a championship. He rarely took undue risks and was the consummate example of letting a race 'come to him'. By the halfway point in the season Prost was in a commanding position. He knew that he just needed to keep scoring points and a fourth championship was certainly going to be his. So it could be said that Prost relaxed a little. But it would be intriguing that while Prost seemingly relaxed, Hill started coming on strongly.
It would all start at the British Grand Prix. This would be a chance for Hill to shine in front of the home crowd. Hill wouldn't disappoint. At the first race of the season Damon was nearly two seconds slower than his teammate Prost in qualifying. By the time the season reached Silverstone, the difference would be just about one-tenth of a second and Hill would be on the front row with his Williams teammate.
Spurred on by the British crowd, Hill would take the lead from Prost and would pull away. Senna had gotten by Prost and the others but was still a couple of seconds slower per lap. As a result, Hill would disappear into the distance building up a sizable margin.
Prost would draw Hill back in but the Brit would still be in the lead of the race when a safety car was deployed out onto the circuit. When the race got going again, Hill would be in the lead when suddenly his engine blew handing the lead and the victory to Prost. Hill had been tantalizingly close to his first Formula One victory. It would have been absolute pandemonium had he achieved the feat in his home grand prix. Instead, he would have to look to the next race.
The German Grand Prix held at Hockenheim absolutely had to look like a second chance for Hill as he started 2nd on the grid with a time in qualify a little more than a tenth of a second slower than Prost. Then, at the start of the race, Hill would take the lead while Prost was down in 3rd place. Hill continued to lead the race until the penultimate lap when a rear tire deflated causing him to retire and lose what appeared to be yet another certain victory.
Hill was finally running, but it was his teammate that kept benefitting from his troubles. It was clear his time was coming. Thankfully for him, the Hungarian Grand Prix would be the next race on the calendar.
Hill had come so close to victory in the previous couple of races that he had what amounted to a bitter taste in his mouth. Had he won those two races, his position in the championship would be quite a bit different than the 3rd place he held securely coming into the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The year before the Hungarian Grand Prix had enabled Hill to earn his best-ever result in Formula One. Though an 11th place wasn't near what he longed for within the pinnacle of motorsport, it was still a solid achievement given the struggles of the Brabham team. One year later, just about everything had changed. He would begin races from the other end of the grid now and he would even get to step up on the podium more than a handful of times. However, there was one thing that was the same from 1992 to 1993. Despite being close on more than a couple of occasions, Damon was still within his first victory in Formula One. He had not joined his father as a race-winner, at least not yet.
The Hungarian Grand Prix had been an idea floated during the '80s. The desire was to have a grand prix in the USSR, but Budapest would be suggested as a sight instead. A purpose-built circuit would be built outside of the city of Mogyorod. The building of the circuit would take just a total of eight months with the circuit situated within a natural valley. While this location would provide fans unprecedented views of the circuit, the sandy soil and the infrequent use of the circuit also meant the circuit would be quite dusty and slippery.
The date of the race would also be in the middle of the summer and this usually lent itself to very hot temperatures and dry conditions. This would make the circuit all the more slippery as the rubber laid down on the circuit would become very slick. Therefore, over the course of a weekend the circuit had a tendency to get worse. The circuit required a talented driver to overcome the conditions in order to take victory.
Considering Hill's inexperience within the Williams team it seemed as though the Hungaroring would be the last place in which he would earn his first victory. But, he would have one of the best cars on the grid to help his cause. He just needed to overcome his teammate and the late problems in order to earn that first victory.
In spite of his performance over the previous couple of races nothing can take away from Prost and he would come into the race the obvious favorite. The betting odds for Hill would only increase following practice and qualifying when Prost would take the pole. He would lap the 2.46 mile circuit in 1:14.631. Hill would again start the race from 2nd having posted a lap time two-tenths slower.
Once again, everything looked the same from the previous couple of races. So while there was hope that Damon could earn his first victory, there were more than a few doubts. There was just something that seemed to suggest something would happen to rob him yet again. However, during the parade lap, Hill's chances would increase dramatically when Prost stalled on the grid and would be forced to start the race from the tail-end of the field. Suddenly, though he hadn't earned the pole, Damon was, in essence, starting from the ultimate spot on the grid.
In the heat and challenging conditions, Hill would overcome the frustrations of the past and would make an incredible jump off the line to lead the way once again. Through the first couple of turns, Hill would slow just a bit. This would allow Senna, who had made a terrible start, to drive right up behind the tail of the Williams. Though Hill led, it seemed the Brazilian would capture the lead by the end of the first lap. There would be a couple of advantages in Hill's corner. One of them would be the performance of the Williams. Though the McLaren had improved it still wasn't as good as the FW17C. The other advantage would be the circuit itself. Though slow and twisty, the Hungaroring also offered very few opportunities to pass. Hill would use this to his advantage to lead the first lap of the race while Prost was forced to fight his way from the tail-end of the field.
By the end of the 2nd lap of the race, Hill's advantage in the Williams would increase to around 3 seconds and would only increase from then on. All of the fighting would be going on behind the Brit throughout the first few laps of the race as Hill enjoyed a comfortable lead and pace at the front of the field. It would be a long, hot day. He would need to take care to ensure that he and the car would make it the entire 77 lap race distance.
The advantage continued to grow for Hill while many of his competitors began to run into trouble dropping them from the fight. Rubens Barrichello would have his race come to an end on the very first lap when he tore the right front tire from the car. Michael Andretti would last just about 15 laps before a throttle issue dropped him from the race. Aryton Senna would follow suit two days later, also with a throttle problem. This meant Hill's greatest challenge would come from Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. Already a good deal back from the Williams, Patrese and Berger would pose little threat to the Williams.
Schumacher was pressing Patrese and Berger terribly throughout the first third of the race. The German had already spun his Benetton once when he managed to get ahead of Berger in the Ferrari. After falling behind as a result of the spin, Schumacher would be pressing the issue again when he would spin, right out of the race. Suddenly, all of Hill's main competitors had retired from the race. His advantage over Patrese and Berger was such that he could look after the car and pray it could make it all the way to the end.
Hill continued in the lead and would only add to his margin over the remaining third of the race. But although the victory was coming closer and closer, it was still out of reach until the checkered flag was seen. This had been proven by the two previous races.
But this was the Hungarian Grand Prix. That special connection to Hill would come through. Heading around on his final lap, there was nothing that was going to keep Hill going from 11th place the year before to 1st the following year. By the time Patrese and Berger took off on their final lap of the race, Hill was rounding the final turn. With an arm raised and cruising toward the line, Damon would overcome all of the frustration and would earn his first Formula One victory. In dominant fashion, Damon would join his father becoming the first father/son combination to ever win a Formula One race.
The season had finally come good. After two races in which the victory had been in his hands, Damon put together the best performance of his career to overcome the slippery and hot conditions to take a commanding win. However, it wouldn't be a lone token win for Hill. The Hungarian Grand Prix would begin a streak for Hill that would see him claim two more victories, all in a row. Suddenly, Hill would go from a solid second driver to a World Champion in the making, just like his father. The victory in Hungary would ensure that Damon joined his father as a Formula One victor. It would also set the stage for him to join his father as the only father/son combination to ever become World Champion. And it would all begin with the Hungarian Grand Prix.