On This Day in #F1: 11th March

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio

– 1990: When Alesi re-ignited the sleeping Giant

Shakespeare wrote: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York” or in 21st century vernacular “At last, our winter of troubled history has been transformed into glorious summer”

This “winter” of motor-sport history had its roots at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix when Prost purposely drove into Senna to stop him passing at the Suzuka chicane. Although Senna went on to win the race, the politics were already in motion as Balestre – aka the FISA – disqualified him for cutting the chicane. The French had secured the title.


The winter became a battle for dominance by Balestre against the Mclaren, Honda and Senna triumvirate. Dark mutterings about the manipulation of the championship in Prost’s favour surfaced from various sources – including the unlikeliest – the British ‘Autosport’ publication.

By the time Formula One reconvened in Phoenix for the first Grand Prix of 1990, the matter had been resolved; albeit unsatisfactorily. Prost feeling that Senna had been humbled offered to shake hands but Senna refused as he didn’t believe Prost was sincere.

“…other than being in the car driving, there was no motivation left for me. I had no feeling in the car, not even the pitlane. I just couldn’t understand the car or the engine, I lost all sensitivity.” Senna

Which in part explained his qualifying a lowly fifth for the race. His new team-mate Gerhard Berger had secured pole followed by a Pirelli shod Minardi and Dallara. Tyrrell had signed to a Pirelli contract merely two days before the event and lead driver Jean Alesi reveled in the nimble car securing fourth on the grid. With Saturday’s qualifying session being washed out this would prove one of the most unusual starting grids ever – including an Osella in the top ten!

_71063658_jeanaleasiusa1990On this day Berger made a good start from pole but Alesi’s start from fourth on the grid was positively electric and he squirmed by into the first corner ahead of Berger. By the end of the lap Alesi led by 2.4 seconds.

Senna got past the Dallara of De Cesaris and chased down his Austrian team-mate who eased Senna through to second by hitting a bump whilst braking and reversing into a wall on the ninth lap!

Initially Senna avoided pushing too hard but he remorselessly brought the gap down until – on lap 30 – he started looking for weaknesses in the youngster’s driving.
On lap 34 Senna committed himself to passing Alesi into the first corner who then held the outside line and was placed on the inside for the next turn. One lap later, as Senna passed him again into the first corner, he kept his car wide and blocked any attempts by the young French-Sicilian to regain the lead.

Undoubtedly one of the most memorable re-passes in history and you know from Osamu Goto’s reaction and that of Ken Tyrrell that they were all smiling at the fight.
“For me it was a dream come true to race with Ayrton. Two years ago he was my hero when I was in Formula Three, so for it was incredible to fight with him.”

21 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 11th March

  1. ” when Prost purposely drove into Senna to stop him passing at the Suzuka chicane … ”

    What a load of total and utter bullshit !

    How can you drive into someone when you’re ahead of them ?

    It was Senna who drove into Prost.

    • Hello again, thanks for the video.
      I do not speak Japanese but it’s quite obvious they are comparing Prost’s entry line on laps 46 and 47.
      With the best will in the world, lap 1 to 46 would have been consistent, lap 47 was an early turn in.
      Keke Rosberg himself said it was deliberate and you knew that because it looked so clumsy!

  2. Ha! Prost knew exactly what he was doing.

    Its so so similar to Schumacher – Villeneuve, except this time Prost got it right.

    We hear Prost was not going to be intimidated by Senna, wasnt going to open the door, etc etc but he clearly turns in on Senna, and turns in earlier than ‘normal’. If he had thought Senna had taken them both out, why instantly get out the car? Why give up so quick?

    Why did Senna then take Prost out the following year? Revenge? Or was it all really about pole position on the wrong side?.

    Im not condoning either driver, Senna could be a total badass when the mood took him, which was quite often – and incidentally regarding Prost, i don’t believe all i read, ‘Le Professor’, softly softly catchee monkey, etc etc.

    Messed up with Renault, for whatever ‘reason’ (- and ive come across quite a few!!) Saved by McLaren, but threw his toys out the pram when Honda possibly showed some favoritism to their ‘favorite son’ …

    He wrestled the Ferrari team away from Mansell, wormed his way into Williams, again benefiting from Mansell, (notice anything here?) and cantered to his 1993 World Championship in an even better car than Mansell did in 1992, although i think shown up on a few occasions by Sennas Ford powered McLaren…

    Yet what do we hear? Prost, the great calculating driver, smooth and sublime, at his brilliant best in 1993. Mansell? Had the best car by miles, anyone could have driven it to the championship…..

    Im sure theres a lot more to Prost , but as usual, he was a media favorite, so we only hear good things about him!

    Cynical? Perhaps.

    • Did Senna and Prost ever collide during 1988/89 before this race? I’m fairly certain they didn’t. They may have been at war but they never touched.

      Prost was the first to collide with an opponent to win a title. Senna’s was retribution. And yet when people talk about dirty tactics, they always say they started with Senna..

      As you say, he was loved by the media, especially the British media who Senna refused to talk to.
      Prost said he wouldn’t be intimidated by Senna any longer but it’s only his word for that..

  3. and who are you, to make such a faulty, wrong and also insulting statement ?
    I highly advise and recommend you to take a look at the helicopter footage, also included in the senna movie. it easily shows that if sennas car wouldn’t have been there and prost stayed with his steering angle, he would have not only cut the curb but even the grass.

    to me this seems like the regular senna basher, so i can’t be asked to take any further comments of you serious. think first, then talk


  4. From what I see, Senna 1989 is one instance of a driver being robbed of their WDC because of politics. Are there other such controversial instances?

    Does Hamilton 2007 fit the bill? (I know that it was mostly of their own fault, poor China decisions and Brazil gremlins; but I also remember that there were clear doubts as to the operating temperatures in the cars that finished ahead of Hamilton, and that the FIA chose not to follow up and thus gifting the championship to Raikkonen.

    What about Massa 2008? From memory it was mostly Massa who was getting help from the FIA, like Hamilton’s disqualification from Spa that was deemed “harsh” by other drivers. Were there any politics involved in Hamilton gaining the title that year?

    • That’s a great point. If I remember right it was to do with fuel cooling temperature. Personally I was never comfortable with the title that year. With the punishment that Mclaren took over Spygate, it just didn’t add up that Raikkonen came from 17 points behind to win by a point. Too many coincidences and I wondered if the FIA told Ron, you will be excluded from 2008 if you take the title.

      As to Hamilton in 2008, Massa’s engine blowing in Hungary and fuel line issues in Singapore cancelled out the disqualification in Spa (I agree it was desperately unfair on Hamilton)

      All sports, including motor-racing, have been corrupt and manipulated by different agendas. Maybe we are naive to believe it’s all about the sport but I always liked Mosley’s presidency of the FIA because he wasn’t French.

      Todt seems to be quietly getting on with things but Balestre was a tyrant with questionable links to the French resistance in WW2.

      It was obvious to anybody that he would do anything to support French interests. By all means be patriotic but when you are presiding over an international organisation you have to remain impartial.

      Todt proved that when he refused Renault permission to flout the 28th Feb homologation deadline.

      • “Massa’s engine blowing in Hungary and fuel line issues in Singapore cancelled out the disqualification in Spa”

        I’ve heard this argument before, but I remain unconvinced. It’s one thing when the regulator strips you of points, and quite another when the driver makes a mistake or the gearbox fails. The engine blowing and the fuel line issues were incredibly ill-timed and unfair to Massa, but they were squarely operational errors by Ferrari (as any crash by Massa himself would be). Hamilton getting robbed of a win in Spa is quite another matter. In this sense Hamilton was inches away from being robbed of the WDC.

        From what I read, Mosley was being incredibly unfair to McLaren, conspiring with Ferrari & Todt & Schumacher to rob McLaren of any and all innovative elements they were introducing each year. As for Todt, I believe he still doesn’t quite inspire confidence (too much conflict of interest in his lifetime). I’d say he’s still on probation.

        • Interesting argument about Mosley robbing Mclaren of all innovation. What happened was the FIA looked at Mclaren’s design for 2008 and realised that certain elements had been design due to knowledge of Ferrari’s designs they had stolen the previous year.

          Braking system, fuel system and ballast used to get best out of Bridgestone. Because Mclaren had not used this tech before 2007, the FIA stipulated they couldn’t use it in 2008.

          I agree Mosley had issues with Dennis, and I think it may go back to the early 70’s when Mosley was part of March Engineering and Ron Dennis ran Rondel but it would need all the main players deceased before we get the full truth.

          • Oh, I had more in mind the 2000-2005 and adjacent years (NOT the 2008 spygate). From http://plus.autosport.com/premium/feature/5544/ :
            “In the Ferrari years that followed, McLaren was usually Maranello’s main competition but many times fell victim to technical rulings that denied it an advantage: kinetic energy recovery, fiddle brakes, beryllium, torque-sensing differentials. All these McLaren innovations and more were banned by the FIA, in the first and last cases before they had even raced.

            The Schumacher-Ferrari titles (2000-04) whirled by thanks to a mix of talent and institutionalised advantage, the nature of which concerned Ferrari’s then very close relationship with the sport’s governing body.

            It later emerged that in 1998 team boss Jean Todt had negotiated a technical-regulations rules veto for Ferrari (something that continues to this day). Any technical development that did not meet with Ferrari’s approval could in theory be refused by the FIA. It is difficult not to see some of those rulings against McLaren’s innovations in this light.”

            In this context Todt cannot even dream of being impartial wrt to McLaren or Ferrari.

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