In 1991, Williams drivers, Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese were quite evenly matched. Both suffered reliability problems due to the FW14s semi automatic gearbox in the early rounds resulting in a string of DNFs. These early setbacks for the Williams pair saw Ayrton Senna take the title at a canter. Never-the-less, Mansell and Patrerse managed to clock up 7 wins between them, finishing second and third respectively in the title race.
Going into 1992, Williams, with their long held rule of letting their drivers race must have been expecting another close battle. As we all know, the reality of what happened is completely different. Mansell ran away into an unassailable lead, winning the first five round of the season. ‘Our Nige’ went on to a record breaking 9 victory’s in 16 races, tieing up the title as early as the eleventh round in Hungary. The combination of Mansell and the active ride, FW14b were quite simply unbeatable!
In comparison, Patrese’s season isn’t one for the history books, the veteran Italian even struggled to score half the points of his team mate and had Schumacher and Senna breathing down his neck for second in the championship in far inferior machinery.
In 1993, it was all change at Williams, with Mansell jetting off state-side to try his hand at Indycar, Patrese headed off to Benneton, partnering the extremely impressive, Michael Schumacher. As in ’92 Patrese failed to keep pace with his team mate and retired at the seasons end. Would his swan song season have been so disappointing if he was able to take the fight to Mansell the season before? How damaging was/is that to a driver?
Well we may get to find the answers to those questions in this coming season. Both Mark Webber and Felipe Massa were on the wrong end of right old spanking from their team mates in 2011 and both have the opportunity to take the fight back to them in equal (ish for Massa) again this term.
Webber’s performance in particular will interest me this year. Like Patrese before him, Webber proved to be a match for Vettel for parts of 2010 and like Patrese, he only managed to take one win late in the year while his team mate broke practically every record in the book.
I doubt that either Massa or Webber will be able to put up much of a fight against their dominating team mates, sitting in the garage across from them, knowing they are getting up to a second more out of the same machinery on a single lap must be nigh on impossible to get out of your head.