Luciano Benetton, looking like the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven, is not only the head of one of Italy´s most famous dynasties, but also the principal of one of the best known companies of his home country. A long time ago he had started his career as an enterpreneur by bringing the bright coloured pullovers, his sister had knit, to the customers by bike.

That had not only been the foundation stone of one of the world´s greatest leisure wear producers, but also that one of a diversified international group of high reputation being involved in so different sectors like investment business or electronics. The fashion shops all over the world, run on a franchise base and promoted by often heavily discussed advertisement campaigns with contents like aids or capital punishment, are made for a young, well-paid middle class public, who want to have fun and to enjoy life.

For this reason, it had been no wonder, that Benetton discovered Grand Prix Racing for promoting their message to their potential customers. In 1983 they entered the racing business with a title sponsorship deal for the team of old lumberjack Ken Tyrrell. The Briton had got a two car entry for rising star Michele Alboreto from Italy and Kentucky Kid Danny Sullivan from the USA, both being the most important single markets. And it only took some months to come, giving Benetton their maiden Grand Prix victory with Michele Alboreto winning the United States Grand Prix at Detroit early in 1983. But this should be the last triumph for a normally aspirated engine for many, many years. With the Tyrrell team having got no works backing for getting a turbo engine, absolutely needed at that time, Benetton decided to put their dollar millions onto their fellow countrymen of the state owned Alfa Romeo team.

In spite of star drivers Eddie Cheever (USA) and Riccardo Patrese (Italy) competing in the turbo powered Alfa Romeos in 1984 and 1985, success did not come their way. Meanwhile the team of British transportation and insurance millionaire Ted Toleman had been confronted with great difficulties, because being out of a tyre contract for the 1985 season. Benetton decided to buy the team of Spirit Hart to transfer their Pirelli contract to Toleman, where they also became the title sponsor the same year with their brand United Colors Of Benetton. The Benetton Toleman Harts were driven by the Italians Teo Fabi and Piercarlo Ghinzani with a fine pole position of Fabi at the Nuerburgring to their credit. In contrast to that,the Alfa Romeo team fell into deep crisis, and when Benetton retired as their title sponsor at the end of the season to concentrate onto the Toleman project, the Italian team disappeared from Grand Prix Racing.

For the 1986 season Benetton established theirselves as constructors in their own right. The still Rory Byrne designed chassis was combined with the very powerful BMW 4 cylinder turbo engine and Austria´s new star Gerhard Berger joined the Whitney based team partnered by Teo Tabi. Berger gave the team their first Grand Prix victory as constructors at the end of the season at Mexico City.

With being only customers at BMW, Benetton was on the search for a works backing, they found with the Ford Motor Company from the USA for the 1987 Grand Prix season. With Thierry Boutsen from Belgium and still Teo Fabi driving the Benetton Ford V6 turbos, the performance of the team looked very promising, but they suffered from a bad standard of engine reliabilty. For this reason Ford decided to go back to the normally aspirated engines, only should be allowed by the technical regulations introduced for 1989 step by step. Benetton had become the official Ford Grand Prix team with Thierry Boutsen and Alessandro Nannini, the brother of Italy´s most famous female rock star Gianna, driving.

From 1988 on, Benetton played an important role in the concert of the top teams. Nannini gave the team their second Grand Prix victory overall in the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, when 1st place man Ayrton Senna had been disqualified. The Italian, who later should have to retire from Grand Prix Racing because having sustained extreme arm injuries in a helicopter crash of the end of 1990, for that year had been partnered by threetimes world Nelson Piquet from Brazil giving Benetton 3 further victories in 1990 and 1991.

Meanwhile Benetton had adopted the system of multi-sponsoring, that once had been created by Sir Frank Williams, for their Grand Prix team making companies like Gillette (razor accessoires), Gancia (wine), Riello (burners), Frizerga (furniture) Autopolis (race track from Japan), Sanyo (consumer electronics) , Camel (cigarettes) and other enter the business as their financial base. For the 1990 season the situation changed with cigarette brand Camel from the USA becoming Benetton´s title sponsor for the next four years. Then it was replaced by another cigarette brand, Mild Seven of Japan for the rest of the team´s existance until 2001.

In autumn 1991 German rising star Michael Schumacher joined the meanwhile Enstone based team showing extraordinary performances, when driving regularly into the points, before he added two further Grand Prix victories to Benetton´s credit in Belgium 1992 and Portugal 1993.

In 1994 Schumacher won the first drivers´worldchampionship for Benetton. But it was a troubled year with Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna killed at the Imola weekend and Schumacher disqualified from the British and Belgian Grand Prix because offences against the regulations and also banned from two further races. In 1995 Schumacher renewed his drivers´title a very gentle way, giving Benetton, now on Renault power, their sole constructors´ worldchampionship. Then the German left the England based Italian team after five years staying with them, to join Ferrari for a new career´s challenge.

Gerhard Berger came back to Benetton after many years at Ferrari and McLaren, joined by Jean Alesi from France. Still supplied with Renault engines, considered being the best of their epoque, only one Grand Prix victory should come Benetton´s way the next six years, after Schumacher had left them. That was in the 1997 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim meaning the last triumph in the history of Benetton Formula 1 Ltd.

At the end of 1997 Renault withdrew from Grand Prix Racing until 2001 and Benetton was confronted with the fact to buy their remaining customer Mecachrome or Supertech engines, they entered officially under the name of some of their subsidiary companies called Playlife until 2000. In spite they were not good enough for wins, their drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz were able to drive continuously into the points.

In spring 2000 the Benetton family decided to sell their team to French car company Renault. After years under the rule of David Richards and Rocco Benetton, Flavio Briatore, under whose government Benetton celebrated the great Schumacher era, was reinstated as the team principal. For the 2001 season the team was re-named Benetton Renault, still sponsored by Mild Seven. With the chassis being of lower quality and the revolutionary 110° Renault unit being both less powerful and of minor reliabilty, the Benetton team fell into a deep crisis in their last season to recover from only at the end of it. In Suzuka 2001 a great epoque in Italian motorsport ended with Jenson Button´s 7th place in the Benetton Renault B201, that once had begun in Jacarepagua 1983 with an 11th position in a Benetton sponsored Tyrrell Ford 011 driven by Danny Sullivan.

J H

 

1983 - 1985

1986 - 1990

1991 - 1993

1994 - 1997

1998 - 2001

 

Benetton Formula One 1986 - 2001
____________________________

1983: Sponsors at Tyrrell Ford

1984 - 1985: Sponsors at Alfa Romeo

1985: Sponsors at Toleman Hart

1986 - 2001: Constructors in their own rights

 

Benetton Formula 1 Ltd.

Grand Prix Starts: 260

Wins: 27

Fastest Laps: 36

Pole Positions: 15

Points: 851.5

First Grand Prix Win: Gerhard Berger/A, 1986 Mexican Grand Prix at Mexico City with Benetton BMW B186

Last Grand Prix Win: Gerhard Berger/A, 1997 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim with Benetton Renault B197

Drivers: Gerhard Berger/A, Teo Fabi/I, Thierry Boutsen/B, Alessandro Nannini/I, Johnny Herbert/GB, Emanuele Pirro/I, Roberto Moreno/BR, Nelson Piquet/BR, Michael Schumacher/D, Martin Brundle/GB, Riccardo Patrese/I, JJ Lehto/FIN, Jos Verstappen/NL, Jean Alesi/F, Alexander Wurz/A, Giancarlo Fisichella/I, Jenson Button/GB

Drivers´World Champion 1994 & 1995 (Michael Schumacher/D)

Constructors´World Champions 1995 (Benetton Renault)

 

 


© Japan Tobacco

 

 

Benetton Playlife 2000

Benetton Renault 2001

 

graphics by project * 2000

 

 

© 2001 by researchracing

 

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