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!
On 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.”