We probably all have decades we remember well for one reason or another, be it for music, television shows, films or motorsport. And there is no doubt that Formula 1 has changed dramatically over the decades and today, many will say that it has lost the raw excitement of man and machine pitted against each other with wheel to wheel overtaking on the track of yesteryear, what with all the technology and safety features we see on today’s racing cars. Some even argue that the Formula 1 cars of today are more like a computer game with the driver input being minimal.
The 1990s was a decade that started the shift to the Formula 1 we know today, with more emphasis placed on safety following the tragic deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger and when an effort was made to slow these ever faster cars down a little.
This decade-by-decade series by Evro publishing, takes a look at all the Formula 1 cars and teams that raced between 1990 and 1999. It was a decade where a degree of normality returned to racing with the ground-effect and turbo excesses of the 1980s having dissipated but also where new safety measures were introduced to improve the cars’ structural strength as well as the layout of race circuits around the world, so that they were less dangerous to race on with new safety measures adopted.
The dominant teams in the 1990s were Williams and McLaren with Ayrton Senna winning the drivers’ championship in 1990 and 1991 in his McLaren Honda. Nigel Mansell won the championship in 1992 in his Williams Renault, with teammate Alain Prost winning it a year later. Michael Schumacher won his first driver’s championship in 1994 in a Ford powered Benetton and went on to win a second time a year later in a Renault powered Benetton. In 1996 Damon Hill won the championship in a Williams Renault, with teammate Jacques Villeneuve winning it a year later. In 1998 and 1999 Mika Häkkinen won the championship in his McLaren Mercedes before Michael Schumacher dominated the championship with five successive wins for Ferrari.
The 1990s was for me personally, probably the best decade for watching Formula 1, with many memorable races which included that iconic image (pictured above) of Nigel Mansell giving Ayton Senna a lift when his car conked out at the end of the 1991 British Grand Prix, not to mention the nail biting closing laps of the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix, when a leading Mansell pulled into the pits with a suspected puncture only to see his rival Senna take the lead. Mansell then drove his heart out to try to pass Senna’s McLaren on the tight and windy principality circuit, even managing to draw alongside the McLaren at times, but was simply unable to get past. Then there was that memorable moment at the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix where Mansell and Senna went wheel to wheel, sparks flying at 185 mph and a daring and brave overtaking manoeuvre from Mansell. Those were great races with wheel to wheel action that we sadly seldom see today.
Author, Peter Higham is today a freelance writer and project manager based in Middlesex, having previously worked at Haymarket Consumer Media for almost 30 years. Half of his career with Haymarket was spent as director of LAT Photographic, which is now Motorsport Images, the world’s largest motor racing photographic archive. Higham has been a motor racing enthusiast since watching his first race back in 1973. He has written seven books prior to this one, which include the acclaimed International Motor Racing Guide and World Encyclopaedia of Racing Drivers. He spent time as a columnist for Autosport and Motor Sport and was instrumental in running the prestigious Autosport Awards for over 25 years.
The 300 or so pages of the book explore each season in great depth, going into the details of every team and their cars and how successfully they performed in the races and over the season.
One of the most successful teams of the 1990s was McLaren, which won the championship at the start and end of the decade, giving Ayrton Senna back-to-back drivers’ titles in 1990 and 1991 with a Honda powered car and then to Mika Häkkinen in 1998 and 1999 with a Mercedes powered car.
The 1990s was also a successful decade for the Renault-powered Williams, bringing them four World Championship driver titles for Nigel Mansell in 1992, Alain Prost a year later in 1993, Damon Hill in 1996 and Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
British-based Benetton won two titles for the then new and talented Michael Schumacher, powered by Ford in 1994 and then Renault in 1995.
Having been a participant in the Formula 1 World Championship ever since its inception back in 1950, Ferrari, who are the championship’s longest-established marque, concluded a lean decade on a more positive note by becoming the 1999 Constructors’ Champions, achieving six race wins that year.
Race wins from other teams were few and far between, with Ligier getting a win in 1996 at Monaco, Jordan in 1998 and 1999 and Stewart Grand Prix at the rain soaked 1999 European Grand Prix at the new Nürburgring.
This wonderful book has over 550 colour photographs from the incredible archives of Motorsport Images, showing every type of car that raced or attempted to qualify for a race in the 1990s. So if you love motor racing and are a Formula 1 fan of what was a most memorable decade, then may I suggest you visit the Evro Publishing website and purchase your very own copy of the book so you can relive all those magical moments.
Publication date: March 2021
UK price: £50.00
Format: 280 x 235mm, portrait, hardback
Illustrations: over 550 colour photos
Formula 1 Car By Car 1990–99
By Peter Higham
Published by Evro Publishing
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Evro Publishing and Autosport International