Japan 1989. – Prost wins his third title after controversial clash with Senna

The fight for the drivers’ championship in 1989. culminated at Japanese GP in Suzuka in what was one of the most controversial races in Formula 1 history.

Two best driver of their generation were team mates at McLaren Honda team that dominated again in 1989. despite the ban of the turbo engines. However, the relationship of the two drivers significantly deteriorated after the second race of the championship in San Marino after which they barely communicated.

Ayrton had significantly less chance for the title ahead of the penultimate race in Japan because he had to win in both rounds of the championship. In this case, Senna would win the title thanks to a superior number of wins, although they would both had 78 points.

Senna won a dominant pole position (Prost set the car up for the race, with less downforce), but at the start Prost went into the lead. Senna was almost lost second place by Berger. Prost led almost entire race and Senna caught him only in the lap 40. Then started an epic battle in which Senna had a car that was faster in corners, but slower on the straight.

In the 47th lap  Senna and Prost were approaching the last chicane and Brazilian ambitiously went for an attack while the Frenchman was already braking to turn. Prost decided to block Senna and they famously crashed. Although Senna managed to continue, change the front wing and win the race, Prost won the title since Senna was later disqualified because he didn’t drive through the last chicane properly. On the eve of the race Prost said that in previous duels with Senna he always left the door open for his maneuvers to avoid colliding, but he won’t do it again in Suzuka.

Senna needed victory in this race (and the next one) to keep the championship alive, but as he was disqualified, the championship was settled before the last race. McLaren appealed against the decision of the judges, but appeal was rejected, Senna was fined for 100,000 USD and suspended for six months (FIA Senna called ‘dangerous driver’).

Race winner was Alessandro Nannini – it was his first and only victory in Formula One.


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