What's in store for '94: Motor Racing

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The Independent Online
WE start with a question, the very question we addressed at the start of last year: can anyone stop Williams-Renault? It appears we must come up with the very same reply: highly unlikely.

Williams' domination tailed off somewhat in 1993, but then the constructors' championship and Alain Prost's driver title had long been assured and already the team were earnestly preparing for 1994, passive suspension and all.

As we have heard from Williams, they suspect the authorities are intent on undermining their endeavours to stay in front. The authorities, for their part, concede they desire a more open contest, though by 'fair and honest means'.

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's ringmaster, predicts that fuel stops, the necessary tactics and consequential changes will contribute to that cause, spicing the show with added drama.

And yet, when the tanks have been topped up and the dust in the pit lane has settled, we are still, inevitably, left with a vision of Williams running away with another season. Not least because this year, their No 1 driver is Ayrton Senna.,

The Brazilian has never wasted an opportunity to tell us he has endured frustration these past two seasons, toiling aginst the odds to compete with Nigel Mansell and then Prost. Now it is his turn to take the wheel of the Williams. He is off the leash.

Even with the 'inferior' McLaren- Ford, Senna won five races last season. That is a measure of his class and, undoubtedly, the professionalism of McLaren. The Senna-Williams combination frankly looks unstoppable.

McLaren are embarking upon a new partnership, with Peugeot. The French company is hugely ambitious and has been extremely successful in other spheres of motorsport. All logic suggests, however, that it will need time to achieve the level of performance and reliability required to take on and beat its Gallic rivals Renault.

What is more, McLaren no longer have Senna. Mika Hakkinen has emerged as a driver with considerable potential, but it demands rather more than potential to confront Senna convincingly.

Benetton-Ford threatened to come between McLaren and Williams last season, Michael Shumacher eventually reaping the personal reward of victory in Portugal.

Williams have a hunch their main opposition will come from Ferrari. An organisation revamped by Jean Todt (formerly of Peugeot) and a car inspired by John Barnard may at last revive The Prancing Horse.