- November 4 down the years
Piquet wins, Mansell fumes, Prost sulksWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
Nelson Piquet in a Benetton won the Australian Grand Prix, fighting off a determined challenge from Nigel Mansell in his last outing for Ferrari. Ayrton Senna, who had taken the world championship a fortnight earlier in highly controversial circumstances in Japan, was also in the mix until he careered off after a missing gear change. Mansell lambasted a tail-ender, Olivier Grouillard, of being a menace. "If Mansell tried my car he might get some idea of the problems I had," Grouillard countered. Alain Prost, who was the victim of Senna's reckless collision at Suzuka, cut a lone figure and was fined for flouncing out of a drivers' briefing. Piquet sprung to his defence. "He walked out because FISA has promised to take action against drivers who behave badly on the circuit. You look at what Ayrton did."
Not as famous in F1 as his brother or nephew, Jacques Villeneuve Senior was born on this day in Canada and failed to qualify in any of the three grands prix he entered. While experienced generally, he was out of his depth in an F1 car and it showed. With hindsight, the opportunities probably were down to the family name and sponsorship opportunities. But he carved out a reputation for himself in Canada where he was the three-time winner of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby as well as competitor in Formula Atlantic, CART, Can-Am, snowmobile racing and Formula One.
Brazilian CART champion Cristiano da Matta signed a two-year contract to drive for Toyota. "I have accomplished one of my goals by winning the CART drivers' championship title," he said. "Now I am ready for the next challenge." His CART success came with a Toyota engine, hence the deal. But he struggled to adapt managing a brace of sixths, and after his form fell away in 2004 he returned to the USA.
Eric Thompson, born on this day in Surbiton, emerged as a driver in the immediate post-war years primarily in endurance events, taking a class win at the 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours as well as handicap races at Goodwood. Between 1949 and 1953 he raced with success for the Aston Martin team. His only Formula One championship appearance came at the 1952 British Grand Prix when he finished a distant fifth place. He continued to race until the end of 1955, thereafter concentrating on his business as a Lloyds underwriter. In later years he became a dealer in rare motoring literature.
It was revealed the 20 top Formula One drivers pocketed $134.8 million even though four of them went unpaid, and that did not include sponsor income. According to Tom Rubython of Sports Pro magazine, Jenson Button might have been forgiven for feeling a little hard done by though. He took home $5 million, taking a pay cut to help his Brawn team make it to the grid, while his Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen made $45 million.
Murray Walker launched a stinging attack on F1's drivers, accusing them of being too boring and of not speaking their minds. "I don't think F1 lacks characters but what it does lack are individuals prepared to express themselves," he said. "Maybe they do not want to or have been told not to upset the teams' sponsors. I can understand that up to a point but it means they are all robotic and I don't think that helps the sport at all. F1 would be better if it had individuals like Nigel Mansell and Eddie Irvine."