Formula One fans above a certain age might find it hard to believe that for almost 20 years now every engine in the sport has been of the same fundamental configuration: V10, V8, or turbocharged V6 as they are now.
In 1993 the motor to have was undoubtedly the Renault V10, as used to such stunning effect by Williams, and Alain Prost in particular, although there were occasions where the neatly-packaged Ford V8 in the back of Ayrton Senna’s McLaren or Michael Schumacher’s Benetton could put up a fight. One such occasion was at the South African Grand Prix, the first round of the season.
Prost claimed pole but made a mess of the start, which saw Senna take the lead from Damon Hill, although the Englishman‘s challenge lasted barely two corners before he spun his Williams in dramatic fashion right in front of Prost and Schumacher. The leading trio then proceeded to clear off up the road for 25 laps until Prost eventually found a way past Senna. Then, unfettered by the slower McLaren, Prost was free to demonstrate the Williams’ superior performance and left Senna and Schumacher to battle amongst themselves. This video shows the highlights of those 25 incredible laps.
So the final result was a bit of a stroll in the end, but this doesn’t account for the Flat-Out and Fearless action we were treated to in the first part of the race, with Senna extracting every last drop of performance from his McLaren in order to keep Prost at bay, and Schumacher performing similar feats with his Benetton to keep the pair within striking distance. Not just great motorsport; this was great sport.
It’s pretty clear that Prost held the performance advantage with his Williams, but the way the V8-powered pair kept him honest for so long was truly great entertainment. Within a few years though it wasn’t possible to design a car based on anything other than a V10 and the sporting spectacle of seeing a lesser-powered Grand Prix car dicing with the fastest out there was gone. The advent of the current turbo era has shaken things up a bit, with some V6 turbos being ‘more equal than others‘, but rarely do we see a slower car hold up a faster one for very long and certainly not in the dramatic fashion we see here.
So, with this in mind enjoy the sight of two of the finest-ever Grand Prix drivers demonstrating to another of the all-time greats that neat handling an first class driving can (albeit temporarily) make up for outright horsepower.