Motor Racing: Patrese serves notice of winning intention

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The Independent Online
IF ALL goes to plan, Nigel Mansell will today become the sixth Briton to become world champion. With eight victories from 10 races to date, Mansell can be beaten to the title only by his Williams-Renault team-mate, Riccardo Patrese, but one more win will put him beyond reach.

There are six grands prix, including today's here, still to be run.

Mansell has not, however, set the pace through the qualifying days. Indeed, it is Patrese who will start from pole position this afternoon, and at this circuit it is of greater value than usual, for overtaking is nigh impossible. The Italian knows he must start well, and lead into the first corner.

Yesterday afternoon there were suggestions that Patrese might put loyalty to team ahead of personal ambition, and wave Mansell through into the lead, as he did in the French Grand Prix last month. 'No,' Patrese said firmly. 'This time I'm going for the win.'

This came as no surprise, for Mansell's world championship is all but won, whatever the result of today's race, and Patrese knows he will not be staying with Williams-Renault next year. That being the case, a win just now would be opportune, for he needs to organise a drive for 1993.

If little is likely to blight Mansell's current season, the same cannot be said of next year and beyond. It is now beyond any doubt that Alain Prost will be with him in the Williams-Renault team in 1993, and quite clearly he views the prospect with something less than enthusiasm. The two were also team-mates at Ferrari in 1990, and Prost had much the better of the results, winning five races to Mansell's one. By mid-season Mansell had announced he would be retiring at the end of the year.

By the autumn, however, he had changed his mind. It had not been a great season for Williams-Renault, and the pressure was clearly on to find a top-line driver for 1991. With Prost staying at Ferrari, and Ayrton Senna committed to McLaren, Mansell was the only star available to Frank Williams.

This was lost on neither party, and Mansell was able to secure an exceptionally favourable contract for himself. 'I asked for the impossible,' he said, 'and got it.'

This went beyond the merely financial. Mansell was also able, for example, to secure priority use of the team's spare car, where traditionally this is available to whoever needs it. Even the autocratic Senna has never made such a demand.

The alliance between Williams- Renault and Mansell has been immensely successful for both. Last year the car was highly competitive, if not the most reliable, but in 1992 its advanced technology has rendered it unapproachable. Since going back to Williams, Mansell has won 13 of 26 grands prix.

Ironically, his very success has worked against him, in some degree, for now Williams-Renault is the team for whom everyone wants to drive - including Prost, the three-time world champion, who has been on an enforced sabbatical this year. By the time of his falling-out with Ferrari, last October, it was too late for the Frenchman to find a worthwhile drive.

Prost has always made it plain, however, that he was not through with driving, that he wanted a fourth title. But only in an ultra- competitive car, he stressed, would he come back. Predictably, there has been no shortage of offers. Prost has won more grands prix than any man in history, and his abilities as a test driver are unsurpassed. McLaren, where most of his victories were scored, have spoken to him at length, and there have even been renewed talks with Ferrari.

However, as Williams-Renault reeled off the victories, and consummately so, it became clear this was Prost's first choice. That he should join the team was obviously desirable not only to Renault, but also to Williams, who he came close to joining three years ago, before opting for Ferrari.

Mansell, in the meantime, has campaigned strenuously to keep Patrese, who has proved an ideal team-mate for him in every respect, being loyal and apolitical - as well as rarely a true threat.

Frank Williams is well aware of the problems implicit in having two superstars in one team. At this level, egos are very fragile in a sport where, paradoxically, your main rival is your team-mate - for he alone has the same equipment, which allows direct comparisons to be made. 'It is all a question of management,' Williams insists.

Until recently, Senna was also in the Williams equation, for his dissatisfaction with McLaren has been evident throughout this season, and it is not thought he will stay there in 1993. There is a huge financial offer, rumoured to be around dollars 25m ( pounds 13.3m), to him from Ferrari, this weekend celebrating their 500th world championship race.

The Italian company is in the process of restructuring the race team at present, however, and could face another difficult season before the changes begin to take effect. Therefore, it is believed Senna would find Ferrari a much more attractive prospect in 1994, and the rumours grow that he may take a voluntary sabbatical next year, although those close to him find this suggestion untenable.

Of more immediate concern than driver moves this weekend has been, in effect, a change in the fuel regulations. Over time, the fuels used in Formula One have become ever more exotic, ever more distant from 'pump' petrol, and Fisa, the sport's governing body, has imposed stringent restrictions on their contents.

It was thought this might lead, temporarily, to engine unreliability, but this has not proved the case. All the leading cars have lost horsepower, however, including Williams-Renault, who are contracted to Elf. 'I'd say the loss is dramatic,' Mansell reported.

For all that, the cars remain at the head of the field. And no one expects other than a Williams-Renault to win this afternoon. For once, there is doubt as to which it will be.

HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX (Budapest) Final qualifying times: 1 R Patrese (It) Williams-Renault 1:15.476 (189.263kph, 117.602mph); 2 N Mansell (GB) Williams-Renault 1:15.643; 3 A Senna (Bra) McLaren-Honda 1:16.267; 4 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford 1:16.524; 5 G Berger (Aut) McLaren-Honda 1:17.277; 6 M Brundle (GB) Benetton-Ford 1:18.148; 7 M Alboreto (It) Footwork-Mugen Honda 1:18.604; 8 T Boutsen (Bel) Ligier-Renault 1:18.618; 9 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari 1:18.665; 10 I Capelli (It) Ferrari 1:18.765; 11 E Comas (Fr) Ligier-Renault 1:18.902; 12 G Tarquini (It) Fondmetal-Ford 1:19.123; 13 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford 1:19.143; 14 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork-Mugen Honda 1:19.200; 15 B Gachot (Bel) Venturi-Lamborghini 1:19.365; 16 M Hakkinen (Fin) Lotus-Ford 1:19.587; 17 P Belmondo (Fr) March-Ilmor 1:19.626; 18 E Van De Poele (Bel) Fondmetal- Ford 1:19.776; 19 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Ilmor 1:19.867; 20 U Katayama (Japan) Venturi-Lamborghini 1:19.990; 21 M Gugelmin (Bra) Jordan- Yamaha 1:20.023; 22 O Grouillard (Fr) Tyrrell- Ilmor 1:20.063; 23 K Wendlinger (Aut) March- Ilmor 1:20.315; 24 S Modena (It) Jordan-Yamaha 1:20.707; 25 D Hill (GB) Brabham-Judd 1:20.781; 26 P Martini (It) Dallara-Ferrari 1:22.731. Did not qualify: 27 G Morbidelli (It) Minardi-Lamborghini 1:21.246; 28 J J Lehto (Fin) Dallara-Ferrari 1:21.288; 29 A Zanardi (It) Minardi-Lamborghini 1:21.756; 30 R Moreno (Bra) Andrea Moda-Judd 1:22.286.