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Japan  1989 Japanese Grand Prix
Race details
Race 15 of 16 in the 1989 Formula One season
Circuit Suzuka.png
Date October 22, 1989
Official name XV Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix
Location Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan
Course Permanent racing facility
5.859 km (3.641 mi)
Distance 53 laps, 310.527 km (192.952 mi)
Weather Dry, warm, cloudy
Pole position
Driver Brazil Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda
Time 1:38.041
Fastest lap
Driver France Alain Prost[1] McLaren-Honda
Time 1:43.506 on lap 43
Podium
First Italy Alessandro Nannini Benetton-Ford
Second Italy Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault
Third Belgium Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault

The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Suzuka Circuit, Japan, on October 22, 1989. It formed the 15th and penultimate round of the 1989 Formula One World Championship. This race would become one of the most notorious in F1 history, as the culmination of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna's tumultuous two year rivalry as team mates at McLaren. The Japanese Grand Prix decided the 1989 Drivers' Championship in Prost's favour, after a collision at the final chicane between him and Senna put them both off the track. While Prost abandoned his stalled car, Senna restarted his, made a pit stop to change his front wing, and overhauled Alessandro Nannini to take victory. Following the race Senna was controversially disqualified for using the chicane's escape road to rejoin the circuit, handing the title to Prost.

Contents

Pre-race

As in 1988, the McLaren team had been dominant throughout the 1989 Formula One season. Coming into the Japanese round Alain Prost was leading the World Championship by twelve points, with a total of 72 to Ayrton Senna's 60. Senna had already clawed back six points over Prost with a dominant victory in the previous race, in Spain, where Prost had only managed fourth place. However, over the season McLaren's MP4/5 car had proven to be just as reliable and fast as its legendary MP4/4 predecessor, and Prost had only once finished out of the points. With two races to go, and only nine points available for a win, to maintain a realistic chance of taking the title Senna needed to win in Japan as well.

Qualifying

As expected, the two McLarens dominated qualifying. Even so, Senna was easily the class of the field, posting a time over a second and a half faster than team-mate Prost. The Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell filled the second row, with Berger just edging his own team-mate into fourth place by two tenths of a second. The Williams of Riccardo Patrese was half a second behind Mansell in fifth place, and joining him on row three was fellow Italian Alessandro Nannini in his Benetton. Behind Nannini positions were closely contested, with only six tenths of a second covering the next six qualifying times, including that of former World Champion Nelson Piquet's Lotus in eleventh position. Jonathan Palmer's Tyrrell took the final grid slot in twenty-sixth place, while thirteen drivers failed to qualify.

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Pre Qualifying

Pos No Driver Constructor Time
1 17 Italy Nicola Larini Osella-Ford 1:43.035
2 30 France Philippe Alliot Larrousse-Lamborghini 1:43.089
3 34 Germany Bernd Schneider Zakspeed-Yamaha 1:44.053
4 29 Italy Michele Alboreto Larrousse-Lamborghini 1:44.075
5 18 Italy Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Ford 1:44.313
6 31 Brazil Roberto Moreno Coloni-Ford 1:44.498
7 36 Sweden Stefan Johansson Onyx-Ford 1:44.582
8 35 Japan Aguri Suzuki Zakspeed-Yamaha 1:44.780
9 33 Argentina Oscar Larrauri Euro Brun-Judd 1:45.446
10 37 Finland Jyrki Järvilehto Onyx-Ford 1:45.787
11 40 Italy Gabriele Tarquini AGS-Ford 1:46.705
12 41 France Yannick Dalmas AGS-Ford 1:48.306
13 32 Italy Enrico Bertaggia Coloni-Ford No Time

Qualifying

Pos No Driver Constructor Q1 Q2
1 1 Brazil Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 1:39.493 1:38.041
2 2 France Alain Prost McLaren-Honda 1:40.875 1:39.771
3 28 Austria Gerhard Berger Ferrari 1:41.253 1:40.187
4 27 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Ferrari 1:40.608 1:40.406
5 6 Italy Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 1:42.397 1:40.936
6 19 Italy Alessandro Nannini Benetton-Ford 1:41.601 1:41.103
7 5 Belgium Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault 1:42.943 1:41.324
8 30 France Philippe Alliot Larrousse-Lamborghini 1:42.534 1:41.336
9 8 Italy Stefano Modena Brabham-Judd 1:42.909 1:41.458
10 17 Italy Nicola Larini Osella-Ford 1:42.483 1:41.519
11 11 Brazil Nelson Piquet Lotus-Judd 1:43.386 1:41.802
12 12 Japan Satoru Nakajima Lotus-Judd 1:43.370 1:41.988
13 7 United Kingdom Martin Brundle Brabham-Judd 1:44.236 1:42.182
14 24 Spain Luis Perez-Sala Minardi-Ford 1:43.107 1:42.283
15 21 Italy Alex Caffi Dallara-Ford 1:43.171 1:42.488
16 22 Italy Andrea de Cesaris Dallara-Ford 1:43.904 1:42.581
17 16 Italy Ivan Capelli March-Judd 1:43.851 1:42.672
18 4 France Jean Alesi Tyrrell-Ford 1:43.306 1:42.709
19 23 Italy Paolo Barilla Minardi-Ford 1:46.096 1:42.780
20 15 Brazil Maurício Gugelmin March-Judd 1:44.805 1:42.880
21 34 Germany Bernd Schneider Zakspeed-Yamaha 1:44.323 1:42.892
22 20 Italy Emanuele Pirro Benetton-Ford 1:43.217 1:43.063
23 26 France Olivier Grouillard Ligier-Ford 1:45.801 1:43.379
24 10 United States Eddie Cheever Arrows-Ford 1:44.501 1:43.511
25 9 United Kingdom Derek Warwick Arrows-Ford 1:44.288 1:43.599
26 3 United Kingdom Jonathan Palmer Tyrrell-Ford 1:43.955 1:43.757
DNQ 25 France René Arnoux Ligier-Ford 1:44.221 1:44.030
DNQ 29 Italy Michele Alboreto Larrousse-Lamborghini 1:44.063 1:44.101
DNQ 38 France Pierre-Henri Raphanel Rial-Ford 2:11.328 1:47.160
DNQ 39 Belgium Bertrand Gachot Rial-Ford 1:50.883 1:47.295

Race report

At the start Prost got away much faster than Senna, instantly wiping out the Brazilian's pole position advantage. In fact, Senna's start was so poor that Gerhard Berger managed to get alongside him from his third place on the grid. But Senna's McLaren had the inside line into the first corner, and he managed to keep the Ferrari behind him. Over the first half of the race Prost steadily built his lead up to almost six seconds, and then Senna lost an additional two seconds due to a slow pitstop. However, with a new set of tyres on the balance of power shifted, and the reigning World Champion began to reel in the Frenchman's lead.

Behind the leading pair, after his initial charge, Gerhard Berger's Ferrari gearbox failed on lap 34, and the sister Ferrari of Nigel Mansell suffered engine failure just nine laps later. With the Scuderia's cars gone, all real challenge to the McLaren charge had evaporated. The only opposition left for Senna and Prost were each other.

Senna finally caught Prost on lap 40, and for the next five laps the gap between the two remained at approximately one second as the two McLaren drivers tried to position themselves tactically. Prost had greater top speed on the straights, while Senna's high-downforce settings gave him the advantage through the corners. On lap 46 Senna used his greater cornering speed to make sure that he remained close behind Prost's car through the challenging, double-apex Spoon Corner. This put Senna's car directly in the aerodynamic tow from the leading McLaren, negating much of Prost's straight line advantage. Through the infamous 130R, ultra high-speed, left curve, Senna cut Prost's lead still further, putting his MP4/5 only one car length behind the gearbox of his rival.

The next corner at Suzuka after 130R is the chicane, the second-slowest corner on the circuit. As Prost began to brake for the corner Senna dived alongside, but Prost saw the move in his mirrors and moved his car across the track to block his path. Neither driver was willing to back down and the two collided just before the apex of the turn. With their wheels locked and their engines stalled, the two cars slid to a halt in the mouth of the partially blocked chicane escape road. As the vehicles were directly in the line of any possible out of control cars, the marshals hurried to clear them. While Prost unbuckled his belts and left his car (thinking the World Championship was over), Senna gestured to the marshals to push his down the escape road. As the McLaren was pushed forwards Senna used the forward motion to restart his engine, and after it fired he immediately accelerated down the escape road, weaving between the temporary chicane bollards arranged in the roadway.

Although his car was running, Senna's MP4/5 had suffered damage to its front wing during the collision, and while Prost slowly wandered back to the pit lane Senna had to complete almost an entire lap of the circuit before pitting for a repair. Once his nosecone had been replaced Senna continued the race. Some indication of McLaren's dominance is shown by the fact that – despite the collision, the subsequent period spent stalled, the slow in-lap, and the pit stop delay while his car was repaired – when Senna rejoined the race he was only five seconds behind the new race leader: Alessandro Nannini.

Senna drove like a man possessed and it did not take him long to catch Nannini's Benetton. He passed the Italian only two laps after having his nosecone replaced, in exactly the same place as the collision with Prost had occurred. Three laps after this Senna took the chequered flag. Nannini finished in second place, followed by the two Williams-Renaults of Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen. The only other driver on the same lap as the winner was Nelson Piquet; almost a lap down, but still far better placed than his eleventh position on the starting grid suggested was possible, mostly due to the race's high attrition rate. Only eleven of the twenty six starters were still running at the finish. Behind Piquet were two British drivers who also benefitted from the misfortune of others, and while Martin Brundle's sixth place finish was remarkable enough, Derek Warwick had come from the back row of the grid in his Arrows to take a seventh place.

Aftermath

Immediately after the race Senna was disqualified for missing the chicane following his collision with Prost. Nannini was awarded the victory and he, Patrese and Boutsen took the podium ceremony. This would prove to be Alessandro Nannini's only victory in a Formula One career that was cut short by a helicopter crash almost exactly a year later. Senna's disqualification also meant that it was mathematically impossible for him to overhaul Prost's points total, and so the 1989 Championship went to the Frenchman.

As he had gained no competitive advantage by missing the chicane, Senna and McLaren appealed the disqualification ruling. At the FIA hearing in Paris later the same week Senna's disqualification was not only upheld, but an additional US$100,000 fine and suspended six month ban were imposed on the driver. Ever since the incident, there has been much debate as to whether Prost intentionally ran into Senna, whether Senna was overambitious in his overtaking manoeuver, or whether the collision was simply a racing incident between two team-mates who were far from mates.

Classification

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 19 Italy Alessandro Nannini Benetton-Ford 53 1:35:06.277 6 9
2 6 Italy Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 53 + 11.904 5 6
3 5 Belgium Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault 53 + 13.446 7 4
4 11 Brazil Nelson Piquet Lotus-Judd 53 + 1:44.225 11 3
5 7 United Kingdom Martin Brundle Brabham-Judd 52 + 1 Lap 13 2
6 9 United Kingdom Derek Warwick Arrows-Ford 52 + 1 Lap 25 1
7 15 Brazil Maurício Gugelmin March-Judd 52 + 1 Lap 20  
8 10 United States Eddie Cheever Arrows-Ford 52 + 1 Lap 24  
9 21 Italy Alex Caffi Dallara-Ford 52 + 1 Lap 15  
10 22 Italy Andrea de Cesaris Dallara-Ford 51 + 2 Laps 16  
DSQ 1 Brazil Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 53 Disqualified 1  
Ret 2 France Alain Prost McLaren-Honda 46 Collision 2  
Ret 8 Italy Stefano Modena Brabham-Judd 46 Engine 9  
Ret 27 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Ferrari 43 Engine 4  
Ret 12 Japan Satoru Nakajima Lotus-Judd 41 Engine 12  
Ret 4 France Jean Alesi Tyrrell-Ford 37 Gearbox 18  
Ret 30 France Philippe Alliot Larrousse-Lamborghini 36 Engine 8  
Ret 28 Austria Gerhard Berger Ferrari 34 Gearbox 3  
Ret 20 Italy Emanuele Pirro Benetton-Ford 33 Collision 22  
Ret 26 France Olivier Grouillard Ligier-Ford 31 Engine 23  
Ret 16 Italy Ivan Capelli March-Judd 27 Suspension 17  
Ret 17 Italy Nicola Larini Osella-Ford 21 Brakes 10  
Ret 3 United Kingdom Jonathan Palmer Tyrrell-Ford 20 Fuel Leak 26  
Ret 34 Germany Bernd Schneider Zakspeed-Yamaha 1 Gearbox 21  
Ret 24 Spain Luis Perez-Sala Minardi-Ford 0 Collision 14  
Ret 23 Italy Paolo Barilla Minardi-Ford 0 Clutch 19  

Notes

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ayrton Senna set the fastest lap of 1:43.025 on lap 38, but this was annulled due to his disqualification.

References

  • Henry, Alan (2000). Autocourse 50 Years of World Championship Grand Prix Motor Racing. Hazleton Publishing. ISBN 978-1874557784. 
  • Rendall, Ivan (1999). The Power Game: 50 Years of Formula One. Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. ISBN 978-0297825005. 
  • Rendall, Ivan (1998). Chequered Flag: 100 Years of Motor Racing. Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. ISBN 978-0297824022. 
  • Cimarosti, Adriano (1997). The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1854105004. 
  • Henry, Alan (1994). Remembering Ayrton Senna. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297834502. 
  • Race results and timings are taken from the The Official Formula One website.

External links

Previous race:
1989 Spanish Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1989 season
Next race:
1989 Australian Grand Prix
Previous race:
1988 Japanese Grand Prix
Japanese Grand Prix Next race:
1990 Japanese Grand Prix
Awards
Preceded by
1988 British Grand Prix
Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter

1989
Succeeded by
1990 Australian Grand Prix

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