1988 Belgian Grand Prix
|Race 11 of 16 in the 1988 Formula One season|
|Date||28 August 1988|
|Official name||XLVI Champion Belgian Grand Prix|
|Location||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||6.940 km (4.312 mi)|
|Distance||43 laps, 298.420 km (185.429 mi)|
|Weather||Warm, dry and overcast|
|Time||2:00.772 on lap 10|
The 1988 Belgian Grand Prix (formally the XLVI Champion Belgian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 28 August 1988 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The race, contested over 43 laps, was the eleventh round of the 1988 Formula One season and was won by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda.
This was the first race after the death of Enzo Ferrari. Nigel Mansell was forced to miss the race due to chicken pox and was replaced at Williams by Martin Brundle who actually managed to be fastest in the second, wet qualifying session. The McLaren-Hondas had dominated the first qualifying session and occupied the whole front row for the 7th time in 11 races, though neither Ayrton Senna nor Alain Prost could match Michele Alboreto on the uphill Kemmel Straight as he pushed his Ferrari to 312 km/h (194 mph). This was the first race in 1988 where neither of the new EuroBrun cars made the field.
Riccardo Patrese did a fine job to be 5th on the grid in his naturally aspirated Williams-Judd, but his time of 1:57.138 was still 3.420 seconds slower than pole man Senna. Local driver Thierry Boutsen gave the Belgian crowd something to cheer when he put his Benetton-Ford in 6th place on the grid.
The grid was set by Friday's qualifying session as Saturday's qualifying was held in wet conditions. Martin Brundle surprised by being fastest in the Williams, but even more of a surprise was Satoru Nakajima who was second fastest in his Lotus-Honda. Alain Prost, never a fan of driving in the wet and knowing his second place on the grid was safe, did not drive in the second session.
The Minardis of Luis Pérez-Sala and Pierluigi Martini, Stefano Modena in the EuroBrun and Julian Bailey in the Tyrrell all failed to qualify while Modena's team mate Oscar Larrauri failed to pre-qualify.
Throughout 1988, Senna had copied Prost's car settings feeling that the Frenchman had a better handle on setting up the McLaren (after driving Prost's spare car in Brazil he found that his team mates settings actually suited his own driving style, plus they were easier on the car). At Spa Prost decided at the last minute to alter the settings on his car by taking off some wing for more straight line speed in a bid to gain an advantage. Unfortunately for the Frenchman this had a detrimental result and he was unhappy with the balance and handling of his car in the race, compared to Senna with Prost's original settings who reported no such problems. At the start, pole sitter Senna had too much wheelspin and Prost was able to take the lead. However, the first time through Eau Rouge Senna, with better downforce and grip, was clearly quicker and easily retook the lead after he slipstreamed Prost on the Kemmel Straight and out braked him at Les Combes. Senna simply powered off into the distance while Prost, struggling with a car that was no longer handling to his liking, dropped back for a safe second place.
Gerhard Berger managed to get his Ferrari up to 3rd, challenging Prost briefly before pitting on lap 3 with electrical problems. He managed to rejoin and set the fastest lap before retiring on lap 12. Due to Berger's retirement, Boutsen climbed to 4th behind Alboreto and ahead of a thrilling battle between Alessandro Nannini (Benetton), Nakajima, Nelson Piquet (Lotus), and the two Arrows-Megatrons of Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever. Piquet passed Nakajima on lap 17 and the Japanese pitted with an acute misfire from a jammed plug, which caused him to retire. In the meantime, the March-Judd of Ivan Capelli climbed from 9th to 6th.
On lap 36 Alboreto's engine blew up at Les Combes, sending him out of the race from 3rd (it was the second Belgian GP in succession that Alboreto had suffered an engine failure at Les Combes, the furthest point on the circuit from the pits). Just 2 laps later Nannini capped his progresses by passing Piquet with a move at the La Source hairpin. The Brazilian was suffering from brake bias problems and while attempting to keep the correct balance of the brakes, he wore his tyres, which ultimately caused him to run wide off the track. In the process, grass gathered in the sidepods and caused the engine to overheat. On lap 42, Capelli passed Piquet to seize 5th place.
McLaren's 1-2 sealed the Constructors' Championship for the British team, with Benetton coming home third and fourth. Capelli and Piquet rounded out the points. McLaren-Honda won the Constructor's Championship earlier than anyone else had, with five races left. In a post-race interview, Prost virtually conceded the championship to Senna who had won his fourth race in succession and had taken the championship lead for the first time, though those who knew Prost who had said similar things after Nigel Mansell had won the 1986 Portuguese Grand Prix which seemingly put that years championship out of reach, didn't believe he would give up so easily.
Both Benettons were later disqualified for using irregular fuel, so the third podium spot went to Ivan Capelli. It was his first podium finish in Formula One and Marchs first podium finish since Ronnie Peterson had won the 1976 Italian Grand Prix. The post race disqualification of the Benettons also meant that the two Arrows of Warwick and Cheever went into the points.
The disqualification of the Benettons was not made official until long after the season had finished, so many published records list them as having finished third and fourth. The three points Arrows gained from the disqualification brought the team to fifth in the Constructors' Championship.
|2||11||Alain Prost||McLaren-Honda||1:54.128||no time||+0.410|
|13||15||Maurício Gugelmin||March-Judd||1:58.361||no time||+4.643|
|19||22||Andrea de Cesaris||Rial-Ford||2:00.521||2:17.028||+6.803|
|20||26||Stefan Johansson||Ligier-Judd||2:00.857||no time||+7.139|
|DNQ||24||Luis Pérez-Sala||Minardi-Ford||2:02.129||no time||+8.411|
|DNQ||23||Pierluigi Martini||Minardi-Ford||2:02.314||no time||+8.596|
|DNQ||4||Julian Bailey||Tyrrell-Ford||2:02.519||no time||+8.801|
Championship standings after the race
- Bold Text indicates World Champions.
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Points accurate at final declaration of results. The Benettons were disqualified from this race, and their points reallocated, after the end of the season.
1988 Hungarian Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1988 Italian Grand Prix
1987 Belgian Grand Prix
|Belgian Grand Prix||Next race:
1989 Belgian Grand Prix