1989 Formula One season

F1 season
Previous = 1988
Current = 1989
Next = 1990
The 1989 Formula One season was the 40th FIA Formula One World Championship season. It commenced on March 26, 1989, and ended on November 5 after sixteen races.

eason summary

The 1989 season saw the end to the turbo engines. There were also several other new rules introduced, such as the hectic hour of pre-qualifying, to cope with the huge influx of new teams in the post-turbo era. Half way during the season, the group of teams up for pre-qualifying went under review, with the somewhat successful and reborn Brabham team getting promoted, while other teams were demoted.

Another new regulation [Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 30, paragraph 11] decreed by FISA was that, in the interest of safety, the driver's feet must be situated behind the front axle-line. Designers, not thinking of the driver's comfort, simply designed smaller and more cramped cockpits.

The problem was first highlighted at the first round, the Brazilian Grand Prix, with focus on the Ross Brawn designed Arrows cars. Both drivers, Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever, suffered severe cramping and felt the new regulations were in fact making it more dangerous, with Cheever saying that "if (he) got sideways ... (he) simply cannot correct with the steering wheel" due to his lanky frame. [Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 30, paragraph 15.]

As well as their first 12 cylinder engine since the 1980 season, Ferrari boasted one of the sleekest and highly advanced designs. John Barnard's F1 640 was innovative, with a distinct nose section unlike any other car. The car also featured a semi-automatic electronic gearbox, the first of its kind. The gears were activated sequentially simply by pulling levers on either side of the steering wheel with a button underneath to be used as the clutch to prevent the car from stalling at pit-stops or in the event of an accident.

Ferrari's final trump card was their newest recruit, Englishman Nigel Mansell. After an initial offer in F1|1986, when the feud between him and Nelson Piquet cost both the Drivers' Championship, Mansell had finally accepted to join the team, where he partnered Austrian Gerhard Berger. This made for an impressive line-up, with some saying that they could topple the all-dominating McLarens.

The climate of Formula One was one of much optimism in what many saw as a new age, with many revelling in the brutal and much more appealing sounds of the V10 and V12 engines. Thus Brazil proved to be an excitement filled race, and dramatic too. Qualifying had a few surprises too, with Riccardo Patrese scoring a front row position next to the home favorite, world champion Ayrton Senna. Williams and Renault were both surprised by the position, but both highly pleased with Thierry Boutsen qualifying fourth alongside the high powered Ferrari of Berger.

The race started with a bang, as Senna's hopes at a home grand prix victory were dashed as he squeezed Berger a little too much. Senna went on to finish two laps down whilst Berger retired on the spot.

Double world champion Alain Prost's McLaren had been having problems all weekend, and when his two stop strategy was ruined by a clutch failure, he knew he had to continue the race on one set of tires. He finished second. Nigel Mansell secured a surprising win for the Scuderia, with no problems despite ongoing gearbox faults all weekend and winter testing. The final step of the podium was taken by local Mauricio Gugelmin.

At Imola, last year's trend had returned. McLaren settled on the front row of the grid and stayed that way for the race, with Mansell's Ferrari retiring midway with the aforementioned gearbox issues. Gerhard Berger, despite showing promise by setting the fastest time in the wet Friday qualifying, suffered a brake problem and careened off the track at Tamburello at an intensely high speed. The race was stopped after just the third lap. Berger miraculously survived with but a broken rib, shoulder bone and burns to his back and hands. He gave a thumbs up and the race was restarted not too long after. Senna went on to win in 1988 fashion, with Prost second. Patrese's engine failed and Boutsen disqualified, so the third place was taken up by the Benetton Ford of Alessandro Nannini. Gabriele Tarquini was able to bring his barely-prequalified AGS in sixth for a well celebrated point.

After the Grand Prix, Prost was disgruntled and said he wished to not make a comment on the race, other than that "orders were not respected". Senna refused to comment on the matter. Before the race at Monaco, Prost said he wanted "nothing to do with (Senna)" and refused to speak with him.

With Berger out, the always short grid of Monaco was one car shorter. Senna had scored his third pole of the season, with the number 2 car of Prost again alongside. March introduced their new 1989 design. [Henry, Alan ed. (1989) "Autocourse 1989-90" p.121 Hazleton publishing ISBN 0-905138-62-7] Senna went on to win by almost a whole minute to Prost while the Brabham of Stefano Modena went on to secure a valuable third for the rekindled team while Michele Alboreto secured his first points since leaving Ferrari for Tyrrell.

At Mexico, Gerhard Berger made a return despite continued pain in his fingers. However, transmission and gearbox problems again forced the strong Ferraris from point scoring positions for the third race straight. While they lamented their results, McLaren and Senna took a third win on the trot by a differing choice of tires. Prost's choice sent him down the order to fifth. Alboreto doubled his efforts in Monaco by scoring a third with Patrese sneaking in a second.

The United States Grand Prix had a new destination, this time in the hot desert of Phoenix, Arizona. It was a new place, but the same old dirty and dusty street circuits. Senna made the most of his skill in the wet and scored another pole. Prost again playing second fiddle by over a second.

Prost won the race, while Senna suffered an electric problem. Williams ended up being the only team to finish with both cars as the dirty track and unforgiving concrete walls ended six races, with the heat and dust cutting out many more. One driver, Nannini, even suffered from driver fatigue and had to retire, with the Ferrari V12s cutting out from identical alternator failures. Patrese's second gave him third place in the championship, while Prost took the lead. An ecstatic Cheever celebrated he and his teams first podium of the season, at his own home grand prix.

The Canadian Grand Prix again provided many retirements, but also with a new winner. Boutsen scored a 1-2 finish for Williams, the first non-McLaren team to do so since Ferrari in Monza the year previous. Andrea de Cesaris picked up third for Dallara.

In France, Prost secured a home pole position, while fellow Frenchman and future grand prix superstar Jean Alesi made his debut for the Tyrrell team, replacing Alboreto despite his two strong results. This proved to pay off as the Frenchman secured a fourth place finish, with Nigel Mansell ending Ferrari's run of retirements with a secure second. This almost did not happen as the Brazilian Gugelmin caused a major first corner accident, flying into the air and crash landing onto Mansell's rear wing. Luckily, no one was hurt and all drivers managed to take the restart. Swede Stefan Johansson also scored the Onyx team's first points.

The British Grand Prix proved much the same - McLaren front row, Senna retiring, Prost winning, and Mansell scoring a home ground second to please the British fans, whose Mansellmania coupled with the tifosi made for hysteria. Nannini scored a third while both Minardis scored points.

At this, the half way point of the championship, Prost's lead over Senna had increased to 20 points. Despite much talk, he downplayed the thought of a third championship. "I don't want to start talking about the championship, getting into all that," he said, "but I'm much happier now, yes. Motivated again. I've had no engine problems since Mexico, which is nice, and also I'm pleased to see Ferrari getting more competitive: both Nigel and Gerhard can win races and that can only help me." [Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 92, paragraph 12]

In Germany, however, Senna's bad luck ended after scoring a treble - pole, fastest lap and the win. Alain suffered gearbox troubles, while Berger's pointless season continued with a tire puncture robbing him of a possible podium. Mansell picked up a third place and mused everyone's thoughts: "If any of the circuits in the world is ideal for McLaren-Honda, it's Hockenheim." [Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 96, grand prix summary.]

The dirty Hungaroring provided an almost gripless practice and qualifying, that eventually led to the first non-McLaren pole position of the year - Riccardo Patrese made a Senna-like performance with a 0.31 gap between himself and Senna himself. Another surprise was the equally impressive Alex Caffi, who scored third with a time less than a second slower than that of Patrese - in a car that had been notoriously midfield. The Ferraris, however, suffered badly. Mansell wasn't only just able to crack the 1:21's, while Patrese's time was an impressive 1:19.7, whilst Berger constantly complained of gear shift troubles - even asking the team to change the gearbox pre-race, which they didn't.

This eventually cost him a point scoring position, as the gearbox went on to fail. Countering this was Mansell's impressive 12-to-first race, even over taking Ayrton Senna in the area he excelled most, lapping back markers. Mansell made an impressive move on a track notorious for mediocre and unpassable races. He went on to compare the race to his win at Silverstone two years earlier and dedicated it to the late Enzo Ferrari, a year after the Old Man's death. Caffi's race was the exact counter-point of Mansell's - despite a strong start he finished a lonely seventh: no points. Senna scored a second with Prost again suffering problems and finishing fourth. Patrese retired from the lead and Boutsen finished third.

A wet Spa showcased Senna's wet weather skills at their best. 'Magic' (Senna's nickname during the wet ["F1 Saga" british television series. 1994.] ) shone that day to give him another win despite engine troubles that also befell Prost with Mansell in third saying that problems like that he could certainly use - he finished less than two seconds behind Senna.

The Italian Grand Prix sealed the end of two things: Gerhard Berger's terrible season (he scored a second place on both the grid and race) and Prost's love affair with McLaren. Having been on the wane for some time, he sealed its end after announcing his switch to Ferrari for the next year, and giving the trophy he had won to the tifosi. Ron Dennis' usual composure was shattered and he hurled his trophy at the driver's feet, storming off. Prost said it was an unsatisfactory win and Boutsen made do with a gifted podium after Senna's late race retirement.

The thirteenth round at Estoril turned many frowns and furrowed brows upside down, while it kept the McLaren men's exactly where they were. Berger won whilst Mansell took out the world champion in a controversial black flag situation. Prost scored another podium, with his twelfth point finish, it meant he started to lose points as only his best eleven finishes counted.

Martini's Minardi scored a fifth place grid and finish while the struggling Onyx in the hands of Johansson finshed third. He marveled at the car's performance on a low-grip track and spoke of optimism for Spain. The new Williams, however, suffered near-simultaneous and identical motor blow-outs. Up until then they looked promising.

In Spain, Senna, now in a position where he must win all three remaining races, took a thirty second victory over Berger with another thirty to Prost. Alesi scored another strong fourth place for the Tyrrell team.

Then the Formula One circus arrived at Suzuka, Japan for the now infamous penultimate round for the championship. Prost, after saying he would not leave the door open for his teammate, who he felt had made far too many risky moves on him. [http://www.prostfan.com/senna2.htm - Prost on Senna.]

Senna took pole, but Prost beat him away from the grid and lead by 1.4 seconds by the end of the first lap. By lap 15, however, Senna was all over the back of Prost's McLaren after moving through both Williams and Benettons. He whittled down Prost's 5 second lead to just under a second by lap 30, but the latter pulled a few seconds ahead by the 35th lap. By the end of lap 46, with 7 to go, the gap was just over a second. Senna, further back then he had been earlier in the race, made a move on Prost in the chicane before the start-finish straight. True to his word, Prost closed the gap and the two skidded into the escape road and both engines stalled.Fact|date=November 2007 Prost had won the championship and jumped from his car. Senna, however, got a push from the marshals and returned to the track.

He worked his way past both Williams and the Benettons again, to take a three second victory. However, his altercation with Prost seven laps earlier meant he had missed the chicane, and not completed the lap. He was disqualified and Nannini reveled in his first grand prix victory. The new Williams FW13s finished second and third, putting them five points ahead of the Ferrari team in the race for second.

McLaren went to appeal the decision. With the matter hanging in the air, Senna went on record saying it was a plot and conspiracy against him by FIA and FISA president Jean Marie Balestre who he said favored Alain Prost. Eventually, after sealing the 1991 championship, he went on to make a searing attack at the two, feeling he had still been robbed.Fact|date=November 2007

The final round at Adelaide saw the race run under heavy rain. Prost elected to withdraw at the end of the first lap in such torrentially wet conditions and would score no points. Senna, who still had a slim chance of winning the championship, pending the appeal, saw no choice but to race. By lap ten, he had over 30 seconds to the Williams pair and counting. Instead of relaxing, he continued to push in poor visibility. On lap 13, he ran into the rear of Brundle's Brabham and sealed the championship for Prost. The Williams scored a double podium finish with Boutsen winning, despite being a strong proponent of not starting in such conditions.

Nearly 20 years on, this championship is still a hotly contested debate as to whether Senna would have won if not for the Suzuka incident, as well as that itself being a hotly contested debate. Many Senna fans join his beliefs and accuse Prost of cheating, while others firmly believe it was Senna's own intimidating driving style that ended his hopes. Others blame Balestre for disqualifying him for missing the chicane, with drivers agreeing a year later that driving backwards just to make the chicane against on-coming cars is suicidal.Fact|date=November 2007 Some pro-Prost people point to Senna's crash at Adelaide saying he had lost the championship there, while others say he wouldn't have been as aggressive had he won at Japan fairly. However, his failure at Adelaide is often forgotten in the argument over the Suzuka chicane.

Regardless of the debates, Prost secured his third championship while Senna had to wait another year to score his second. Williams and Renault had begun their partnership that would eventually lead to four drivers championships and five constructors championships. [Wiki article about Renault's time as a Grand Prix engine supplier.]

Drivers and Constructors

The following teams and drivers competed in the 1989 FIA Formula One World Championship.

1989 Drivers Championship final standings


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