The Spanish Grand Prix on May 9 provided an entertaining battle between Alain Prost, a master tactician both on and off the race track, and Damon Hill, who is starting to prove himself worthy of the seat in the Williams. However, the race may have provided the initial warnings of how the season will evolve.
Firstly, it could be seen that Hill was faster than Prost in the middle of the race. Hill certainly could have done better than the half-hearted overtaking attempts which we watched. Indeed it would seem that team orders may well have been enforced once Prost was leading. When Hill had retired he said, in response to a question from Johnathan Palmer, that he “thought” he was racing, but he didn’t seem totally convinced. Will we see a season like 1978 where Peterson drove in “support” of Andretti, but demonstrated time and again that he was the faster driver?
The second warning could have been failure of the Renault engine in Hill’s car. These engines have been extremely reliable since their introduction. Mechanical failures in the Williams have usually been due to the gearbox or active suspension. However, it is commonly accepted that once Prost joined Mansell at Ferrari in 1990, amongst other things, the reliability seemed to evaporate from Mansell’s car. It would be sad if the same happened to Hill just because Renault and Prost want “The Professor” to become the undisputed World Champion, without being shown up as Andretti was by Peterson.
I do hope that these warning signs were nothing but mirages in the Spanish heat-haze.