1989 Japanese Grand Prix
|Race 15 of 16 in the 1989 Formula One season|
|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|
|Time||1:43.506 on lap 43|
The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Suzuka Circuit, Japan, on October 22, 1989. It was 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.
As in 1988, the McLaren team had been dominant throughout 1989. Going into this race, Prost had a 16-point lead in the Drivers' Championship over Senna, 76 to 60. The Brazilian had won six races to the Frenchman's four, including the previous race in Spain, but had only finished in the points on one other occasion, while Prost had only finished out of the points once all season. Therefore, Senna had to win both this race and the final race in Australia to have any chance of beating Prost to the Championship.
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.
The race 
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 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 (who had eased his pace, forcing Senna to use up his tyres) 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 his rival.
The next corner 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 his race, and the World Championship, was over), Senna gestured to the marshals to push his down the escape road. As the McLaren was pushed forward, 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 later 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 the eleventh position he started in, 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 benefited 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.
Immediately after the race Senna was disqualified for missing the chicane following his collision with Prost. This was very controversial decision made by FIA president Frenchmen Jean-Marie Balestre. 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 manoeuvre, or whether the collision was simply a racing incident between two embittered team-mates.
Pre Qualifying 
|13||32||Enrico Bertaggia||Coloni-Ford||No Time||—|
|16||22||Andrea de Cesaris||Dallara-Ford||1:43.904||1:42.581||+4.540|
- Lap leaders: Alain Prost 43 (1-20, 24-46), Ayrton Senna 8 (21-23, 47-48, 51-53), Alessandro Nannini 2 (49-50)
Standings after the race 
- Bold Text indicates World Champions.
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- Ayrton Senna set the fastest lap of 1:43.025 on lap 38, but this was annulled due to his disqualification.
- Henry, Alan (2000). Autocourse 50 Years of World Championship Grand Prix Motor Racing. Hazleton Publishing. ISBN 978-1-874557-78-4.
- Rendall, Ivan (1999). The Power Game: 50 Years of Formula One. Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. ISBN 978-0-297-82500-5.
- Rendall, Ivan (1998). Chequered Flag: 100 Years of Motor Racing. Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. ISBN 978-0-297-82402-2.
- Cimarosti, Adriano (1997). The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85410-500-4.
- Henry, Alan (1994). Remembering Ayrton Senna. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-83450-2.
- Race results and timings are taken from the The Official Formula One website.
- Autosport/Atlas F1 "trial" of the collision case evidence.
- Race summary at GrandPrix.com
- Comments on 1989 Japanese GP
1989 Spanish Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1989 Australian Grand Prix
1988 Japanese Grand Prix
|Japanese Grand Prix||Next race:
1990 Japanese Grand Prix
1988 British Grand Prix
|Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter
1990 Australian Grand Prix