Skill had been killing Formula One. In the early Nineties, Frank Williams and Renault had together been producing cars that were superior to the rest. The superior drivers wanted to be in them. Williams made more money, and their cars got better. The result was increasingly predictable processions round the circuits. Nigel Mansell won the championship in a Williams-Renault in 1992, Alain Prost in 1993. The interest in the past thirty races or more had been reduced to seeing whether McLaren or Ferrari or Benetton could change their tyres more quickly, and how many of those jostling in inferior vehicles at the back hit each other, ran off or broke down. The television audiences, which had risen to extraordinary heights by the mid-Eighties, were falling. Bernie Ecclestone, vice-president of the controlling Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, was said to be determined to stem the loss of income. Last year, Max Mosley, the FIA's president, announced some changes. Williams's advantages, which only one or two other teams could afford to emulate, would go. There was to be no more electronically controlled suspension to keep the cars level over bumpy tracks, no more traction control to stop their wheels spinning at the start or in the wet, no more automatic boosts to the throttle during gear changes, no more anti-lock brakes, and no more telemetry to allow technicians to adjust running cars from the pit. The top teams were furious. The rest were delighted. Competition, it seemed, might return to the track.
LRB 9 June 1994 | PDF Download