Rory's Rambling

Atlas F1

Rory's Rambling

An Occasional Column from the Antipodesby Rory Gordon, Australia


One of the great things about writing a column like the Rambles is that I am allowed to write about nearly any topic that I like. Which then makes life a little awkward when you're asked to write about a specific topic.

In a way, I went into "denial" mode and tried to forget about the whole thing. Unfortunately there are things known as deadlines, and they do approach, and I was duly reminded.

Normally I don't have any great trouble pounding out a Ramble on the keyboard. Since, as I said, I can write about what I like, I do tend to write about what I like ... if you can see what I mean. Sometimes I do get a dose of the infamous "writer's block", but that usually means that it's time for a break and for some brain relaxation and refreshment.

So, this column is a little different in that it is fairly specific - well, sort of.

It was suggested that I do a column on what I thought was the greatest, most memorable World Championship in Formula One. I suppose that was where the block came in. You see, I don't think that any particular year was really any better than any other year.

That's one of the things I love about F1 - there's always something going on, even if it's not always on the track. When it comes down to it, the society pages of a newspaper have nothing in them compared to all the juicy tidbits that come out of, and around, F1.

What with drivers whining about the under- and over-steer of their car, or about the traffic, or about the bumps, or about the engine, or about the team. And the teams whining about their engines, or their drivers, or the stewards, or the other teams.

And then there's the off-track rumour, gossip, slander and innuendo.

Who needs newspaper society pages?! There's always something going on in F1 ... even when there isn't.

But I must admit to one long moment of pure adrenaline, emotion, amazement and sheer, unadulterated awe.

Think back to 1993. It was Ayrton Senna's last year with McLaren. But even before the season started, there was doubt about whether or not he'd sign, or even turn up for the races.

The McLaren that year was, to say the least, pretty average. You might remember that Honda had left at the end of the previous season, and so McLaren found themselves bolting the Ford Cosworth onto the back of their MP4/8 chassis for Senna, Michael Andretti and Mika Hakkinen.

Williams, with a Renault engine, Alain Prost and Damon Hill, took out both titles, getting almost as many points in the Constructors' Championship as all the other teams put together. And Prost won the Drivers' Championship in his last year as a driver in F1, and he did it fairly easily, not even needing to take part in the last three races of the season.

Hill might possibly have come second, but he was pipped at the post by Senna. Before the penultimate race at Japan, Hill led Senna by two points. Somehow, Senna won that race and Hill came second, which meant that Senna jumped into second place, by 8 points over Hill.

Then came Adelaide, the Australian GP, the last race of the season and, we all knew by then, Senna's last race with McLaren for the foreseeable future.

Look it up in a decent record book, and it says that Senna won the race by nearly 10 seconds from Prost with Hill third. And it was a cracker of a race, too! But that wasn't THE moment in F1 for me.

While he had won a couple of races during the season, Senna had barely graced the front row of the grid, let alone got any pole positions.

For some reason, I was sitting in a stand at Foster's Corner during qualifying at that GP - that was the corner that led onto the start/finish straight, where Senna and Nigel Mansell had their infamous "coming together".

Anyway, with only a few minutes to go, Senna came down the short straight behind the pits, went around the corner, and drove off down the straight.

I held my breath.

Those words fail to do justice. It was one of those times when you just had to be there.

It wouldn't have mattered who you were ... you could see that one of two things were going to happen: either there'd be a major crash; or, it was going to be a wring-the-guts-out-of-the-car, take-it-to-the-limit, do-or-die lap.

He must have been half-way around the circuit before I started breathing again. That didn't last long. As the seconds ticked by, and I sensed that he was due to come past, I was again holding my breath.

And it was well worth it.

He came flying down the short straight, somehow blasted around the corner (seemingly without slowing down), and shot off - almost literally - down the straight. His only pole of the season.

Senna's win was highly emotional all round. I think there would have been a few people, if any, who felt disappointed that the partnership of Senna and McLaren came to an end with a win. But that wasn't the moment I'll remember. Nor will I remember that final corner on the qualifying lap. It was the final corner on the lap before the qualifying lap that will live for me as my most memorable moment in F1.

But that's just me.


Rory Gordon 1998 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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