Formula 1 cars evolved at a great rate during the Adelaide Grand Prix era, from the rise of Honda’s turbo-charged engines in 1985 and final race of the turbos in 1988 to the normally-aspirated engines introduced in 1989 and technically-advanced cars of 1993.
Williams’ state-of-the-art FW14B, complete with semi-automatic gearbox, traction control, launch control and an active suspension which adjusted depending on the corner it was in, was the car to beat in 1992.
Nigel Mansell, who comfortably won the championship in the FW14B, lowered the qualifying lap record at the Adelaide Grand Prix to 1:13.732 in 1992, the first time the lap record had fallen into the one-minute and 13-second bracket.
The records were further broken in 1993, when Formula 1 reached its peak in terms of the use of electronic aids. The Williams FW15C built on the success of the FW14B with the switch to a fully-automatic gearbox, anti-lock braking, fly-by-wire controls, power steering, further advancements in active suspension and more. The use of active suspension and traction control had also spread throughout the rest of the grid. The result was the fastest times ever recorded at the Adelaide Grand Prix.
McLaren’s Ayrton Senna set pole position for the 1993 race with a 1:13.371, four-tenths of a second quicker than Mansell’s time from 1992 for a new qualifying lap record. To put that time in context, it was 3.896 seconds faster than the fastest lap time set by a turbo engine, Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari in 1987.
The impact of electronics was further evidenced in the race. Damon Hill in the Williams FW15C set the fastest race lap at 1:15.381, the first time the lap record had fallen into the one-minute and 15-second bracket. It was seven-tenths faster than the previous race lap record set by Michael Schumacher in 1992, five seconds faster than the turbo-charged fastest lap by Berger in 1987 and over eight seconds faster than Keke Rosberg’s fastest race lap from the first Adelaide Grand Prix in 1985.
Active suspension, anti-lock brakes, traction control and launch control were banned ahead of the 1994 season. The lap times dropped off accordingly: the pole time was almost three seconds slower and fastest race lap just shy of two seconds slower.
The 1993 Adelaide Grand Prix was the end of an era in more ways than one, from the final race between arch-rivals Senna and Prost to the final curtain call for Formula 1’s most technically-advanced cars.