ANOTHER Formula One season closes, the time for Camel Benetton- Ford to reflect on achievements and disappointments, satisfactions and frustrations. The team embarked upon a new technological course, and were ultimtely rewarded with victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix and finished third in the constructors' championship.
Michael Schumacher, driver: 'For me the highlights of the year have to be that win in Estoril and the weekend of my home race, in Germany. Practice in Portugal had been terrible and yet when it came to the race I found myself in first position, beating both the Camel-backed Williams-Renault cars. That was a fantastic feeling.
'But then Germany was perhaps even more special. The crowd and the atmosphere through qualifying was really something, and again in the race, where I was second. It was a feeling I wish you could all have.'
Flavio Briatore, managing direcor: 'My biggest memory is of the way luck can change so quickly in Formula One. After Portugal we went to Japan and it was a disaster for us, both cars going out. Everything went wrong. But this is what excites people about Formula One. It is unpredictable and when you are knocked down you have to pick yourself up again. The team is getting stronger and stronger. We are protagonists and that is good.'
Martin Pople, truck driver and fuel man: 'My main satisfaction is the way we have made the active suspension system work. It has meant more work for the guys, through winter testing and through the season. But all the work, money and development paid off. We got there, we got a win.'
Riccardo Patrese, driver: 'The only thing I can say is that it has been a difficult season for me. It has not been an easy one for many reasons. The best moments were on the podium at Silverstone and Hungary, and coming fifth in the drivers' championship, after Michael, is something. But when you have more difficult moments than happy moments, these have to be on your mind at the end.'
Andrew Alsworth, parts man: 'Brazil, race day, is something I shall never forget. It was really wet, Michael came into the pits, we got the car on the jacks and it just slid backwards on to the ground. Then it was mayhem. A wheel nut wouldn't come off, we lost a lot of time and that was it, race gone. We could have won, instead we were third.'
Gordon Message, team manager: 'It was very satisfying to see Riccardo on the podium for the first time with us at Silverstone. He deserved more than he got this year. Initially he lost confidence and had to build that up. It was hard for him, coming from a championship-winning car to ours, which was in the early stages of active and transmission development. It took him time to come to terms with that and with the fact that Michael was so quick.
'The other nice image of the season is the way Michael celebrates on the podium. It's a boost to everybody in the team. Some of the other drivers just acknowledge the fact that they are there but Michael lets off steam, he enjoys it. Even in the car, when he crosses the line, he's straight on the radio thanking everybody and cheering. That's a real pick-up for everyone.'
Dave Hughes, truck driver and tyre man: 'Nothing beats that lovely feeling of winning and Portugal was my first feel of it for three years because I'd left the team for a couple of years. That's what you try for all the time and when it comes, it's magic.'
Ross Brawn, technical director: 'That win at Estoril was quite emotional because we'd struggled all weekend and got the car sorted by the race itself. Michael drove a fantastic race and then, having planned to make two tyre stops, we realised the only way we could win was to stay out on the second set and it worked perfectly. The fact that we haven't been terribly on top of it has cost us some good results but we wouldn't have been in a position to go for those results if we hadn't undertaken the programme we did.
'On top of all that we have a happy bunch here and just about everyone is staying on for next season. It all augurs well for the future.'
Designs on Victory, the inside story of Camel Benetton-Ford, by Derick Allsop, is published by Stanley Paul.
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