1990 United States Grand Prix
|Race 1 of 16 in the 1990 Formula One season|
|Date||March 11, 1990|
|Official name||XXVII Iceberg United States Grand Prix|
|Location||Phoenix street circuit
|Course||Temporary street course
3.800 km (2.361 mi)
|Distance||72 laps, 273.60 km (169.992 mi)|
|Time||1:31.050 on lap 34|
The 1990 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on March 11, 1990 in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the opening round of the 1990 Formula One season. It was the 32nd United States Grand Prix since the American Grand Prize was first held in 1908, and the 25th since the first United States Grand Prix was held at Riverside in 1958. It was the second to be held on the streets of Phoenix in Arizona. It was held over 72 laps of the four-kilometer circuit for a race distance of 273 kilometers.
The race was won by the 1988 Formula One world champion, Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna, driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Senna had to come from behind after the young French driver Jean Alesi almost stole the race away in what would have been a major upset win for Alesi and his comparatively under-funded Tyrrell 018. Senna took an eight-second win over Alesi, who scored his first podium finish, with Belgian driver Thierry Boutsen finishing third in his Williams FW13B.
Swiss driver Gregor Foitek made his Formula One race debut for the Brabham team. He had attempted to qualify for races during the 1989 season, failing to make the grid in eleven qualifying attempts for Euro Brun and one for Rial.
Unexpected rain on Saturday threw qualifying for a loop, so the grid was something of a lottery, composed entirely of times from Friday's session. Pirelli's soft qualifying tires caught Goodyear off guard, and the Italian manufacturer put five of its teams in the top ten positions, including Jean Alesi, who was fourth in a Tyrrell. Team manager Ken Tyrrell had surprised the paddock by signing with Pirelli two days before the race, after 18 years with Goodyear. Gerhard Berger's pole-winning McLaren was the only car in the first two rows sporting Goodyears. Pierluigi Martini put Minardi on the front row for the only time in the team's history, less than seven-hundredths off Berger's pole time. In addition, Andrea de Cesaris (Scuderia Italia), Olivier Grouillard (Osella) and Roberto Moreno (EuroBrun) all scored what proved to be their team's best grid position of the year. Philippe Alliot was excluded when a mechanic worked on the car outside of the pit area during Friday's practice.
Martin Donnelly did not take the dummy grid due to gearbox failure. (Some sources consider this a DNS.)
Race day was cool with a chance of rain (that never materialized). The start was even more important than usual, because of the haphazardness of the grid positions. Berger quickly pulled ahead of Martini and moved over in front of him, but Alesi, whose F1 career had begun in his home country of France the previous summer, made an even quicker start, passed them both and outbraked Berger into the first corner. He immediately began pulling away, and led by 2.4 seconds after one lap.
Senna got by de Cesaris for third, and closed on Berger, who was giving up a half second a lap to Alesi. The Brazilian got by his teammate when, on lap 9, Berger hit a bump under braking, backed into the tire wall and damaged his rear wing. He pitted for a new wing, and recorded the fastest lap of the race, but eventually retired with a clutch problem.
When Berger spun, Senna was 8.2 seconds behind Alesi. Not knowing whether the Tyrrell's Pirelli tires would last, Senna was reluctant to push too hard early on. The Italian rubber had proven its durability when, after 30 laps, Alesi remained in the lead.
Patiently waiting for an opportunity, Senna slipped inside Alesi on lap 34, but he was shocked when the Tyrrell held the outside line on the exit and took the inside on the next turn! At the same point, one lap later, Senna pounced again, this time making sure he had the proper line through the short straight to the next turn to hold his new position.
After several attempts to regain the lead, Alesi decided to conserve his tires, and let Senna go. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet had progressed from sixth on the grid to third by lap 17. Brake trouble caused him to flatspot his tires, however, and on lap 28 he pitted for new ones. This allowed Thierry Boutsen's Williams through, and though he battled a problem with his engine intermittently cutting out, he maintained third place to the flag. Piquet had to settle for fourth in his first drive for Benetton.
Prost had fallen back to ninth at the start when he couldn't select third gear, and, while he advanced to fourth place by lap 17, his gearbox troubles proved terminal on lap 21. In the other Ferrari, Nigel Mansell's departure on lap 49, while running fifth, was more spectacular. On the straight at 160 mph, his clutch disintegrated and pierced the oil tank. The engine seized and erupted in a huge fireball, sliding all over the track. Mansell somehow controlled the spin and was able to stop safely.
Senna built his lead over Alesi to 28.5 seconds, but backed off slightly when his engine began sounding less than healthy. Stefano Modena and Satoru Nakajima, in a Brabham and the second Tyrrell, respectively, finished the scoring in fifth and sixth places. It was the 21st win of Ayrton Senna's career and the first of six for the season. The Brazilian would go on to win his second World Championship. Alesi scored the first podium finish of his career.
The first two finishers were full of praise for one another after the race. Senna said he knew Alesi had the ingredients to be World Champion, and Alesi gushed, "He is my hero and has been for many years." Other winners in the race were Ken Tyrrell, with two cars in the points; and Pirelli, with three points finishers. About the only down note was the tiny crowd of 15,000 that witnessed such a great show.
|3||22||Andrea de Cesaris||Dallara-Ford||1:29.019||1:57.435||+0.355|
|25||15||Maurício Gugelmin||Leyton House-Judd||1:32.904||—||+4.240|
|26||16||Ivan Capelli||Leyton House-Judd||1:33.044||—||+4.380|
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- Rob Walker (June, 1990). "2nd United States Grand Prix at Phoenix: Senna's Surprise". Road & Track, 92–96.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1990 United States Grand Prix.|
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1989 United States Grand Prix
|United States Grand Prix||Next race:
1991 United States Grand Prix