Williams remembers Riccardo's 1992 Japanese GP win
We look back at Riccardo Patrese's victory for the team at the 1992 race with John Russell, Riccardo's engineer who still works for the team today...
"I joined Williams in 1989 and became a race engineer in 1991, so I was still a relative rookie during the ’92 season. By comparison, Riccardo was a veteran. It was his fifth year at Williams and he was a superb driver to work with. Just a lovely fellow.
The 1992 season was an absolutely dominant year for Williams. We’d designed a superb car, which was an enhancement of the 1991 platform, and aerodynamically it was superior to anything else in the field. It also ran on a rather ingenious active ride system, which was based on some rather basic principles, but it was controlled by an excellent piece of software and a hydraulic control system. You could control the car’s ride-height at any given speed and it compensated for the tyre squash due to the aerodynamic load and the roll of the car. So we would set the car to a ride height map every 50kph and the software would do the rest.
Due to this active ride system, the car was extremely soft and Nigel [Mansell] got his head around this pretty early. He learnt that if you kept your foot in, the grip was always there. Riccardo struggled more with this concept, which meant that Nigel was usually dominant through fast corners.
Suzuka is a very technical circuit; it has a series of fast S curves around the back of the pits, which are the key to the lap. They form what is essentially a staircase and if you get the first step wrong, you trip over yourself all the way up and you can lose seconds of lap time. Riccardo struggled a bit during practice, but we sat down on Saturday night and went through the ride-height map and realised how we could make the car work to Riccardo’s advantage.
We put that ride-height map into the car for race morning warm-up and we were absolutely dominant. Nigel was flummoxed! I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the bit of paper with this information on it was literally ripped off my clipboard towards the end of the session so that Nigel’s car could have it for the race.
At the start, Nigel pulled out 3.5s over Riccardo on the first lap, which was psychologically crushing for Riccardo. The race then ran its course and Nigel had a rare Renault engine failure, which meant he retired and Riccardo inherited the lead and won. It was a very special moment, although Nigel ruined it a bit by pointing out that Riccardo had only won because he’d had a technical problem. It wasn’t a magnanimous gesture, but that’s motor racing and it doesn’t detract from the fact that this race is a great memory for me."