1996 Formula 1 Rejects Grand Prix 2 Championship season
The 1996 Formula 1 Rejects Grand Prix 2 Championship season was the third season of the F1RGP2C. The season was based on the 1996 Formula One season. Daniel Moreno won the championship for Williams-Renault and Williams also won the Constructors' Championship.
In a perfect world, everyone wants entertaining, dramatic and satisfying endings. That's why endings are so difficult. Most people loved the ending to Harry Potter because it encompassed all three aspects of a good ending. Contrarily, the ending of "Lost" brought a tepid response from its fanbase. Unfortunately, the F1RGP2C is notorious for poor endings to the main drivers' championship battle. In 1994, we were robbed of a final Christopherson/Zimmer showdown by two Benetton mechanical failures. 1995 was even more dissatisfying, thanks to Pablo da Silva's insane antics during the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix. This year's championship decider was no different. Despite the inevitable massive letdown, I would say that the season was the best season of the F1RGP2C so far.
When the season started, the smart money was on Daniel Moreno to win the championship. After nearly winning last year's championship in an inferior Williams, Moreno was already a big favorite to get his championship in 1996. Even more, Williams had drafted Pippa Mann (teams prior to Williams: Simtek and DAMS) to be his teammate. Although Pippa had shown great promise for Simtek in 1994, she had taken a major step back at DAMS causing many pundits to proclaim that she was "overmatched" at Williams. To further stack things in Moreno's favor, he had been at Williams for three years and was an integral part of the development team. Everything was set up for his triumphal march into glory. Then things went awry.
In hindsight, the first six rounds of the championship turned out to be absolutely key to the overall result. Pippa Mann's opening round retirement at Australia gave Moreno a six-point advantage that he would exploit in the last rounds of the year. However, Zimmer's win prevented Moreno from extending his lead to ten points which also proved key during the last three rounds. Tom Douglas may have been unstoppable in Brazil but Argentina was definitely up for grabs. Pippa Mann's failure to win the race from pole built up Moreno a solid early lead. On the other hand. Round 4 at the Nurburgring was a harbinger of things to come. Moreno's now legendary spin on the last lap gifted Pippa Mann a win. This would prove to be the most memorable trope of the season. Moreno came back strong in San Marino, but his disastrous race in Monaco opened the worst six-race stretch of his entire career. Crucially, Pippa Mann only managed a disappointing fifth; eventually, she would her failure to capitalize on the golden opportunity that Zielenkovski had delivered.
At this point, the momentum definitively shifted on Pippa's side. Moreno threw away a win in Spain, was outright beaten at his home race in Canada and spun out at Road America. Even when reliability problems struck Pippa in France and Great Britain, Moreno was completely unable to capitalize. To make matters worse, Williams' miscues let their arch-rivals at Benetton back into the championship picture. Moreno was able to pip Pippa in Germany but another late-race spin in Hungary gave Pippa all that she needed to win the championship. By now, the media scrutiny on Moreno had reached fever pitch (sort of like Hamilton in 2008, come to think of it). But then something extraordinary happened. Such reversals of fortune are not to be taken lightly; I'm pretty sure that Moreno had some sort of divine assistance in this matter.
Coming into Belgium, it seemed that fortune had utterly deserted Daniel Moreno. The media firestorm had brewed the situation at Williams to a state of tension. Then, on Lap 3, Pippa crashed while trying an ambitious move on Andrew Spokes at Pouhon. From that point on, almost everything went wrong. Spokes won the grand prix with Moreno in second, giving the lead driver a two point lead heading into the Italian Grand Prix. At Monza, Pippa's hopes were dashed to pieces after a remarkably unfortunate series of events. The championship ended, not with an epic, wheel-to-wheel duel between the two best competitors, but with an ill-timed electrical problem for John Zimmer on the last lap of the race. Moreno swept past to take a (in)famous victory and the 1996 Drivers' Championship. Pippa Mann announced her retirement from the series on the next day.
Of course, the season was not entirely about the Moreno/Mann battle. Williams' nemesis Benetton also staged a similar rivalry between an established driver and a driver from the back of the grid who was given the chance of a lifetime. John Zimmer, the 1995 champion, performed reasonably well but he was overshadowed by the brilliance of his teammate, Andrew Spokes. Many have already forgotten that it was really a Moreno/Mann/Spokes battle at the end of the season as Spokes was still mathematically alive heading into Monza. His four victories proved to be decisive factor as Zimmer could only manage two (although he was robbed of two wins due to late-race mechanical issues). Spokes finished a clear third in the standings and John Zimmer rewarded him with number-one status for 1997.
Another major plot point of 1996 was the issue of safety. Early on in the season, James Davies was nearly killed by a flying suspension piece after a horrendous accident at the Luxembourg Grand Prix. One race later, Masta Valsattis narrowly escaped serious injury after a collision with Pippa Mann. Later on in Belgium, Robert Anderson was left in critical condition after colliding with Eadbhard O'Caiohmin's Tyrrell. The president of the F1RGP2C, Tristan Jung reacted quickly to Davies' crash by imposing stronger wheel tethers and suspension parts onto the cars. Davies' accident did leave a silver lining for McLaren as 1994 champ Jack Christopherson stepped into the car. Christopherson collected three podiums and one pole position on his comeback tour which was enough for McLaren to beat Jordan in the Constructors' Championship on tiebreaker.
Jordan had another successful year while Ferrari continued to regress. For Leonhard von Gottorp and Damon Cannon, consistency was the name of the game. While everyone else lost their heads, the Jordan drivers were generally able to stay cool, especially during the rain-affected races. Ferrari's 1996 campaign was generally disappointing. Tom Douglas started the season off well with pole positions int he first two rounds and a dominant win in Brazil. Ferrari's pace never went away but their level of execution disintegrated as the year wore on. Constant mechanical issues, strategic gaffes and poor driving prevented them from challenging Benetton and Williams. Kazuhiko Takagi acquitted himself very well; his highlight was surely his six-race points scoring streak during the middle of the season. They will be looking forward to 1997. Sauber established themselves as the "best-of-the-rest" team thanks to two stellar results from Pieter Kickert. His second place in Japan was the most surprising result of the year and he gave Sauber eight of their eleven points. Kickert was instantly rewarded after the season when Hermann Mann offered him the second Williams seat for 1997.
Ligier's season was one to forget. Douglas Mann was erratic at times but he dragged the Ligier to places that it did not deserve. Unfortunately, Mann's Mugen-Honda engine let him down at every possible moment which meant that he only picked up two points for the team despite competing on even terms with the Benettons, Jordans and Ferraris for much of the season! Mann was so disgusted that he left the sport entirely, joining his sister in enforced exile. Masta Valsattis and Reiko Megumi could hardly manage better but Valsattis did score a fourth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix… for Sauber. Tyrrell and Footwork also had forgettable years. Tyrrell managed to have a worse finishing record than the lowly Pacific team which caused seat holder and lead driver Poppy Whitechapel to leave midway through the season. Her replacement, Eadbhard O'Caiohmin could not finish a single race for the team in ten attempts. Clivio Durand drove well on occasion but the promising French rookie marred his good performances with frequent spins and collisions. He was picked up by Williams as their test driver for 1997. Footwork seemed to drone on through the season as the team switched ownership and said goodbye to Kazuyoshi Hoshino at the end of the year. Jorg Scrattenheim had some brilliant flash-in-the-pan performances, such as briefly running in fourth place at the British Grand Prix, but he failed to score a point.
At the back, Minardi and DAMS made huge strides in 1996 while Forti and Pacific went nowhere. Gio van Dycke and Miko Fakkinen were mostly superb (Fakkinen less so) throughout the season and van Dycke's timely points in Brazil gave Minardi eighth place in the Constructors' Championship! DAMS made huge gains on the reliability front as the team completed the season with the fourth best finishing record on the entire grid! Yes, the plucky DAMS team finished more races than Ferrari and McLaren! Niko Nurminen and Ben Fleet had difficultly keeping the car on the road but both drivers were able to complete races. From the other end of the spectrum came the Pacific and Forti-Corse teams. Pacific's third year in the sport went much like the second. Neither Kaliniczenko nor his various partners in crime could do anything but act as mobile chicanes during the races. Kaliniczenko was average but the Zielenkovski/Anderson/Rozvadoskij combo amounted to 2.5 Reject of the Race awards throughout the season. Zielenkovski was a buffoon at the wheel but at least he was a nice enough guy. Anderson was dead slow and arrogant to boot and his childlike rants directed towards his superiors at Ligier, his fellow drivers and his team were a complete distraction. Siergiej Rozvadoskij managed to spin five times on his debut, breaking two front wings in the process. He did manage to pass an unsuspecting Daniel Moreno during the race despite being a full five laps down on the Williams driver. The incident cost Moreno almost four seconds and earned Rozvadoskij Reject of the Race.
And lastly we come to Forti. To be frank, Forti was the most incompetent team in the entire series. The team's seatholder mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the season. Then they ran out of money and were forced to call in an extremely irate Tristan Jung to help. Martin McFry transformed into Dennis the Menace with a racecar on several occasions, blocking, spinning and unsafely reentering his way to nine penalty points. Giovanni Roda was not much better pace-wise but he was much better at getting out of the way of others though he still ended up with two penalty points. For all this, Forti earns the coveted Reject of the Year award for their complete and utter failure (although I note that they still finished above DAMS on tiebreaker in the Constructors').
Drivers and teams
|Team||Constructor||Chassis||Engine||Seat holder||#||Race Drivers||Rounds|
|Mild Seven Benetton Renault||Benetton||B196||Renault RS8 3.0 V10||John Zimmer||1||John Zimmer||All|
|Rothmans Williams Renault||Williams||FW18||Renault RS8 3.0 V10||Prince Walik||3||Daniel Moreno||All|
|Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||F310||Ferrari 046 3.0 V10||Andreas Stefano||5||Tom Douglas||All|
|Marlboro McLaren Mercedes||McLaren|| MP4/11
|Mercedes FO 110/3 3.0 V10||Don Rennis||7||James Davies||1-4|
|Benson & Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot||Jordan||196||Peugeot A12 EV5 3.0 V10||Leonhard von Gottorp||9||Leonhard von Gottorp||All|
|Ligier Gauloises Blondes||Ligier||JS43||Mugen-Honda MF-301 HA 3.0 V10||Dennis Mignolet||11||Douglas Mann||1-10, 12-16|
|12||Reiko Megumi||1-2, 8-9, 16|
|Masta Valsattis||4-7, 10-15|
|Red Bull Sauber Ford||Sauber||C15||Ford JD Zetec-R 3.0 V10||Chris Forbes||14||Pieter Kickert||All|
|Pablo da Silva||3-16|
|Footwork Hart||Footwork||FA17||Hart 830 3.0 V8||Max von Hegel||16||Kazuyoshi Hoshino||All|
|Tyrrell Yamaha||Tyrrell||024||Yamaha OX11A 3.0 V10|| Poppy Whitechapel
|Minardi Team||Minardi|| M195B
| Ford EDM2 3.0 V8
Ford EDM3 3.0 V8
|Masta Valsattis||20||Miko Fäkkinen||All|
|21||Gio van Dycke||All|
|Albertini Forti Grand Prix||Forti|| FG01B
|Ford EDM2 3.0 V8|| Francois Albertini
Luca de Montmelo
|Junior DAMS||DAMS|| DA-01B
| Ford EDM2 3.0 V8
Ford EDM3 3.0 V8
|Thomas Kretzhaagel||24||Niko Nurminen||All|
|Volga Pacific Grand Prix||Pacific||CHAD-02||Volga VG1 3.0 V8||Petr Chaddeev||26||Anton Kaliniczenko||All|
Simtek, unable to cope with rising costs, pulled out of the sport at the end of 1995. No team filled the void which meant that all 26 cars would start on the grid for 1996.
- Kazuhiko Takagi's Benetton contract was not renewed by seat holder John Zimmer and replaced by Andrew Spokes.
- Andreas Stefano, formerly an employee at AGS F1 team, filled the vacant Ferrari seatholder after Luca di Montmelo left. He signed Takagi to Ferrari alongside Tom Douglas after Padraig O'Connell retired at the end of 1995.
- Pippa Mann occupied the vacant seat at Williams.
- Reiko Megumi, Masta Valsattis and Douglas Mann were all signed by Ligier. Driving duties were divided between the three; Mann would compete in all 16 races, Valsattis would compete in 10 and Megumi would fill out the rest.
- Gio van Dycke left Tyrrell for Minardi, his third team in three seasons, leaving the Tyrrell seat for French rookie Clivio Durand.
- Following Niko Nurminen's impressive performance at the 1995 Duel in the Desert, DAMS seat holder Thomas Kretzhaagel signed Nurminen to a seat at DAMS.
- Pablo da Silva received a three-race ban after the 1995 F1RGP2C Pacific Grand Prix. He was replaced for the first two rounds of the season by Masta Valsattis.
- Ligier ran a three-driver rotation program throughout the season which rotated Douglas Mann, Masta Valsattis and Reiko Megumi between the available seats at Ligier.
- To further complicate things at Ligier, Reiko Megumi was banned for one race after her actions at the 1996 F1RGP2C Brazilian Grand Prix. She was replaced by British pay-driver Robert Anderson.
- James Davies sustained a serious neck injury after the 1996 F1RGP2C Luxembourg Grand Prix. The injury left him unavailable for the remainder of the season. McLaren seat holder Don Rennis replaced Davies with former champion Jack Christopherson.
- Poppy Whitechapel left Tyrrell after poor results and also forfeited the seat-holder position. Éadbhard Ó'Caoimhín took both positions. Stephano Baroncelli filled in for one race while the situation was unresolved.
- Artiom Zielenkovski was fired from Pacific by Petr Chaddeev after the Spanish round. He was replaced by Robert Anderson.
- Dennis Mignolet made Ligier's situation more complicated as he replaced Douglas Mann in the British GP after Mann's endless complaints about reliability of the Mugen-Honda engine. However, Douglas Mann was allowed to retain the seat after Mignolet's engine also expired, proving that the engine failures were not Mann's fault.
- Robert Anderson was seriously injured during the 1996 F1RGP2C Belgian Grand Prix. He would not return for the remainder of the season. He was replaced by Siergiej Rozvadoskij.
|6||Leonhard von Gottorp||4||5||Ret||Ret||6||11||5||7||6||6||Ret||7||Ret||4||3||5||19|
|15||Gio van Dycke||7||6||Ret||Ret||13||Ret||10||Ret||8||Ret||Ret||16||10||8||8||7||1|
|17||Pablo da Silva||Ret||Ret||Ret||Ret||7||9||Ret||Ret||8||Ret||Ret||Ret||Ret||Ret||0|
|Formula One Rejects Grand Prix 2 Championship Seasons|