- Winner of the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix, Nelson Piquet’s last career win
- Raced by two multiple World Champions: Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher
- Recently restored with historic racing use in mind
- Amongst the last manual-transmission equipped Formula 1 cars
Coming off the back of a third place finishing the the Constructors’ Championship in the 1990 Formula 1 World Championship, Benetton had its sights yet again set on an ever-elusive Driver’s or Constructor’s World Championship, and the team was hoping that their new B191 would be the car to take them there.
This new car was constructed around a complex new carbon fibre monocoque chassis boasting a 3.5-litre Ford HB V-8 engine at its heart, producing 730 bhp at 13,800 rpm. Even though the car was designed with an active suspension and a semi-automatic gearbox, it competed throughout the 1991 season with a six-speed manual gearbox and conventional suspension, and it would be amongst the last Formula 1 cars to use this setup.
With completion of the B191 having fallen behind schedule, the model itself didn’t compete until the third race in the 1991 Formula 1 World Championship, the San Marino Grand Prix. Offered here is chassis number B-191-02, the second chassis constructed for the season, which was assigned to Nelson Piquet at San Marino. Piquet qualified fourteenth but as the forecast for dry weather quickly turned wet while the cars lined up on the grid. The race would be short for both him and B-191-02 as a slide off the track during the second lap resulted in a DNF.
The next race on the calendar was the Monaco Grand Prix. Piquet would be assigned B-191-02 again for the weekend. Starting from a promising fourth on the grid, when the lights went out Piquet received a shove from immediatly behind by Gerhard Berger’s McLaren. It was clear to the Brazilian that the car was not as it should be and he brought it to a stop on an escape road roughly thirty seconds into the race. Further investigations found that the impact broke a rear suspension link.
Luck would be on Piquet’s side for the next round of the World Championship at the Canadian Grand Prix. While Piquet started from eight on the grid, Nigel Mansell got away to a blinding start from second and quickly established a firm lead not far off his Williams’ teammate, Riccardo Patrese. As the race went on, Piquet closed the gap while Patrese encountered gearbox problems, dropping him down to third with Piquet in second place on the last lap. By this point, Mansell had thought victory was his for the taking with a lead of 47 seconds on Piquet. His celebrations started on the last lap, waving to the crowds around the circuit. What happened next is not entirely certain, but while waving to the crowd, Mansell’s revs dropped dramatically and the engine cut out. What once seemed as certain victory resulted in a classified sixth place finish, resulting in Piquet crossing the line first! A shocking result for both Piquet and Benetton considering Mansell’s lead, yet a celebrated victory nonetheless. This would be Piquet’s 23rd and final win in Formula 1.
Following the win in Canada, B-191-02 would be campaigned for the next four grands prix in Mexico, France, the U.K. and Germany respectively, resulting in a pair of DNFs in the Mexican and German grands prix, with Piquet finishing eighth and fifth at the French and British grands prix.
Brought out of service for two months while slightly newer B191 chassis’ were used, B-191-02 would return to the track in September at the Spanish Grand Prix with a new driver behind the wheel: Michael Schumacher. Nineteen ninety-one was Schumacher’s first year of competing in Formula 1 and the young German debuted at the Belgian Grand Prix with Jordan. However, by the next race, Schumacher had signed a deal with Benetton (to the great displeasure of Jordan).
Qualifying fifth in Spain, Schumacher had passed Mansell within the first lap and was closing on Senna by lap two only for Mansell to pass him back. Despite a spin while trying to pass Gerhard Berger, Schumacher managed an impressive race considering his inexperience in Formula 1 and finished sixth. The cars two final races at the Japanese and Australian Grand Prix, both with Schumacher, resulted in DNFs.
In 1991, Benetton would finish fourth in the Constructor’s Championship, with Nelson Piquet’s win in Canada as the team’s only victory of the season. Even with only a handful of races under his belt, it was clear that the young rookie Michael Schumacher had a very promising career ahead of him. Within this season, B-191-02 is a fascinating overlap between these two drivers, seeing Piquet’s last win in Formula 1, and some of Michael Schumacher’s first races, both multiple Formula 1 World Champions and icons of the sport.
Following the conclusion of its Formula 1 career, B-191-02 was put on display as a museum exhibit. In 2016, the Formula 1 specialists at LRS Formula overhauled the engine and gearbox, and the car has been driven just one hour since. A minor mechanical refreshing would be advised before the car is used on the track. It is presented in its original specification, with the exception of updated safety features to confirm with current FIA historic racing guidelines.
Restored with future historic racing use in mind, The B191 is a popular model as it is not as mechanically complex as some of its rivals in-period, and therefore can be enjoyed and maintained with limited ease. Boasting race entries with two legendary drivers and one win to its name, this would be an excellent acquisition for someone with a keen eye for history and driving enjoyment.