Motor Racing: Patrese improves his view

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The Independent Online
THE last time Riccardo Patrese had been this high his Williams- Renault was airborne and his fate was in the lap of the gods. This time, he was at the top of the podium and the view was infinitely more appealing. Patrese, outpaced by his team-mate, the world champion Nigel Mansell, all season and fortunate to escape that accident in Portugal unscathed, exorcised his frustrations by at last claiming victory here yesterday.

The 38-year-old Italian won a Japanese Grand Prix which again demonstrated the superiority of the Williams-Renault alliance. The satisfaction of a one-two success in Honda-land was denied them when Mansell's engine blew in a blaze of flames little more than eight laps from the end.

Mansell, having promised to help his partner secure second place in the championship, duly made way once the opposition had been safely dispatched. As in Italy, where he made a similar gesture, his equipment failed to stay the course. But here, Patrese went on unhindered and moved into the championship runner-up position, six points ahead of Ayrton Senna, with one race remaining.

Senna parked his McLaren- Honda with an ailing engine as early as the third lap and Michael Schumacher, the only other contender for second place, retired his Benetton-Ford with a broken gearbox. It was the McLaren of Gerhard Berger which came in second, followed by the Benetton of Martin Brundle, who left his sick bed and defied the effects of food poisoning to maintain his remarkable run of form. He has scored in 10 of the last 11 races.

Andrea de Cesaris was fourth in a Tyrrell-Ilmor, Jean Alesi fifth in a Ferrari and Christian Fittipaldi registered his first championship point with sixth place in a Minardi-Lamborghini.

Mansell, who was the first to greet Patrese afterwards, said: 'I was prepared to let Riccardo win and I'm just glad he did. I'm just sorry we didn't have a one-two, but then I've never finished here. Everything was under control and then the engine just went with no warning whatsoever.' Mansell, starting from pole position for a record-equalling 13th time this season, held the advantage into the first corner and settled into his familiar routine. He was 3.1 seconds clear of Patrese at the end of the first lap and had the race at his mercy. Patrese was equally comfortable in second place, the more so when Senna departed. Mansell helped himself to the lap record before helping Patrese.

Renault had responded to Honda's inevitable extra effort in this, their last race on home ground, and the Williams maintained its command. Even the ploy of a second pit stop could not aid the McLaren cause. Berger said: 'It was not wrong to have two pit stops. It was worth a try because we knew we didn't have a chance against the Williams.'

The Austrian was at least content he could contend with a traffic queue which gathered behind him early in the race. One by one, the following cars dropped away. After Schumacher, it was Johnny Herbert, in the Lotus-Ford, and then, just when the podium beckoned, his team-mate, Mika Hakkinen.

The Finn is one of the drivers being linked with the vacant seat at Williams, but then Brundle, who stepped into third place, may not yet be out of the reckoning. At four o'clock yesterday morning, he was not sure he would make the race. 'I decided I'd give it a go in warm-up before making up my mind about racing. It's amazing, though, what adrenalin can do for you,' he said.

There persists a feeling within the sport that Mansell, due to bid farewell to Formula One in Australia and join the Indycar series, may not be leaving Williams after all. His performance yesterday was a further reminder of what the sport's premier category would be losing. Williams deny they are actually renegotiating with him and the Fisa president, Max Mosley, denied any knowledge of a concerted move to keep him. Mosley said: 'The assumption is that he will go, although until he's gone, he's not gone, if you see what I mean.'

Mosley revealed the Formula One Commission had decided that if Mansell does indeed leave the championship, no one will carry the title-holder's No 1 next season. Instead, Williams will have No 2 and nought.

Details from Suzuka

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX: 53 laps, 310.792km, 193.117 miles: 1 R Patrese (It) Williams-Renault 1hr 33min 09.553sec (ave speed 200.168kph, 124.379mph); 2 G Berger (Aut) McLaren-Honda +13.729sec; 3 M Brundle (GB) Benetton-Ford +1min 15.503sec; 4 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Ilmor +1 lap; 5 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari +1; 6 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Minardi-Lamborghini +1; 7 S Modena (It) Jordan-Yamaha +1; 8 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork-Mugen Honda +1; 9 J J Lehto (Fin) Dallara-Ferrari +1; 10 P Martini (It) Dallara-Ferrari +1; 11 U Katayama (Japan) Venturi-Lamborghini +1; 12 N Larini (It) Ferrari +1; 13 E Naspetti (It) March-Ilmor +2; 14 G Morbidelli (It) Minardi-Lamborghini +2; 15 M Alboreto (It) Footwork-Mugen Honda +2. Did not finish (not classified): 16 N Mansell (GB) Williams-Renault 44 laps completed; 17 M Hakkinen (Fin) Lotus-Ford 44; 18 B Gachot (Bel) Venturi-Lamborghini 39; 19 E Comas (Fr) Ligier-Renault 36; 20 J Lammers (Neth) March-Ilmor 27; 21 M Gugelmin (Bra) Jordan-Yamaha 22; 22 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford 15; 23 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford 13; 24 O Grouillard (Fr) Tyrrell-Ilmor 6; 25 T Boutsen (Bel) Ligier-Renault 3; 26 A Senna (Bra) McLaren- Honda 2. Fastest lap: Mansell 1:40.646 (209.749kph, 130.332mph). World Drivers' Championship standings (after 15 rounds): 1 Mansell 108pts; 2 Patrese 56; 3 Senna 50; 4 Schumacher 47; 5 Berger 39; 6 Brundle 34; 7 Alesi 15; 8 Hakkinen 11; 9 De Cesaris 8; 10 Alboreto 6; 11 Comas 4; 12= K Wendlinger (Aut), I Capelli (It) 3; 14= Martini, Herbert 2; 16= Gachot, Fittipaldi 1. World Constructors' Championship standings: 1 Williams 164pts; 2 McLaren 89; 3 Benetton 81; 4 Ferrari 18; 5 Lotus 13; 6 Tyrrell 8; 7 Footwork 6; 8 Ligier 4; 9 March 3; 10 Dallara 2; 11= Venturi, Minardi 1.