- March 16 down the years
Barrichello's unhappy anniversaryWhat happened on March 16 in Formula One history?
The first race of the season was held in Australia in front of 200,000 spectators and it marked the 250th grand prix start for Rubens Barrichello. It was not a happy day for him, however, as he was disqualified after ignoring a red light at the pit-lane exit. Lewis Hamilton qualified his McLaren Mercedes on pole position, and went on to win the race and that year's drivers' championship.
In a sign of things to come, McLaren and Ferrari team officials squared up in the pits at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The incident happened when a Ferrari technician stood in front of the adjacent McLaren-Mercedes garage looking in at the cars. A mechanic from the McLaren team then bumped into the Ferrari man, who refused to move away until he was accused of spying and finally pushed out of the garage area. McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said: 'I didn't see the incident, but I know the Ferrari guy concerned and his body language is always pretty infuriating. But it is a pit lane. He is not the traditional tyre-spotter and we all live with each other's tyre-spotters. 'He was … generally being a bit of a Nosy Parker. There is nothing in the regulations to stop that happening, but when you step back over him as, in this instance, one of our guys did, then in this heat, with a bit of jet lag, the sympathy is not there."
As predictions go, Eddie Irvine's was about as wide of the mark as you could get. After Damon Hill's win in the season opener at the Australian Grand Prix, Irvine said: ''He isn't good enough to win the World Championship. I just don't believe Damon has it inside him to become world champion. When you look at him, it's just not there, is it?. Damon was buried by Jacques in Australia. To be honest, Jacques made him look silly. Jacques looked better in every session, even though Damon has got years more Formula One experience.He drove circles round Damon." Hill went on to win the drivers' title that season.
Renault bought Benetton for US$110 million, less than three years after dropping out of the sport, with Flavio Briatore installed as the team principal. Benetton's chairman Luciano Benetton said they had been driven out by the rising costs of grand prix racing. "Competing is all about winning and if you have a budget that's less than the others, you can't expect miracles," he said.
Hans Heyer, a German driver, was born in Monchengladbach. He started in only one grand prix, and in fact did that illegally. Due to limited experience in single seaters and a bad car, in the shape of the ATS Penske PC4, he failed to qualify for the 1977 German Grand Prix. However, as he was popular with the marshals, they allowed him to start from the back of the grid, to many people's surprise. His race ended ten laps later when the gearbox failed. He was subsequently disqualified, as well as being banned from starting the following race. He never raced in Formula One again.
Gijs van Lennep, a Dutch race driver, was born. He competed in eight grand prix, with moderate levels of success, however, he is best known for driving in long-distance races. He won the 1971 Le Mans, with Helmut Marko, driving the Martini sponsored Porsche. His final race was at Le Mans in 1976 when he again won in another Porsche, with co-driver Jacky Ickx. There and then he announced his retirement from the sport.
McLaren announced Mark Blundell would drive for it while adjustments costing £500,000 were made to its car to accommodate Nigel Mansell. Mansell was livid the car had been built with a cockpit too small and in the event he did not settle and quit after two races.