McLaren went into the race with a new oil system and transverse gearbox which was feared to be unreliable. Nevertheless, the Woking team took control of qualifying with Senna ahead of Prost. Prost announced before the race he would be leaving McLaren at the end of the season. Gugelmin's March developed a water related problem moments before the race and therefore had to start the race from the pitlane. Derek Warwick started the race with a special seat despite a karting accident which resulted in back pain. Nelson Piquet was looking good having qualified well and been 7th fastest in the warm-up. Prost managed to gain the better start at the green light but Senna was later on the brakes and re-took the lead going into Copse Corner. For the first few laps it was very close between Senna, Prost, Mansell and Berger. But then Berger pulled into the pits at the end of lap 4 with electrical problems. The Austrian rejoined the race some laps later. On lap 5 the race order was Senna, Prost, Mansell, Boutsen, Patrese and Nannini. The leading trio were breaking clear of the rest with Mansell encouraging the British crowd by making the fastest lap on lap 6, 1.6 behind the leader and on lap 7 and 10 too. Piquet and Capelli both forced their way past Martini into P7 and P8 and closed on Nannini. The Ferrari looked quicker through the fast sweeping corners of Silverstone.Ayrton Senna spun out of the lead on lap 12 going into Becketts due to gear selection problems, allowing his team-mate Alain Prost to take the lead ahead of the Ferrari of Nigel Mansell. Patrese being hounded by Nannini and Piquet out-braked Boutsen going under the bridge before Woodcote to take third position. However, on lap 19 Patrese had a huge accident at Club Corner, the Williams swapping ends and skidding over the gravel into the tyre barrier on the outside. As the leading duo began lapping the midfielders,Prost began to extend his lead, helped by the power of the Honda engine. On lap 22, the race order was Prost 2.5 seconds ahead of Mansell, Boutsen a further 32 seconds behind, half a second ahead of Piquet (Nannini had pitted for new tyres) who was 25 seconds ahead of Alliot who was 1 second of Jean Alesi in his second ever Grand Prix. Piquet having his best race of the year, then outbraked Boutsen under the bridge just as Patrese had to claim third position on lap 23. On lap 29 Prost lead Mansell by 3.2 seconds, Piquet was 42 seconds behind the leader, Nannini 62 seconds behind Prost, Gugelmin who started at the back 64 seconds behind and in 6th position was Alliot one lap down. Alesi retired having spun at the exit of Club Corner. Prost had built up a cushion of between 7–9 seconds before, on lap 42, Mansell's Ferrari developed a puncture on the front right tyre, causing the car to drag on the surface with smoke and sparks. Mansell crawled back to the pits from Hangar Straight and made a pitstop which took 11 seconds, 54 seconds behind Prost and still in second position. Prost then made what seemed a precautionary pitstop for tyres but a problem with fitting the right rear meant it was 25 seconds before he was released off the jacks. His lead over Mansell has been reduced to 12 seconds. On lap 56 Nannini passed Piquet to claim the final podium position.
Minardi needed to score at least 3 points to avoid "relegation" to the pre-qualifying sessions (or a 5th with the other car better than the best Onyx and at least 12th, without Larini in the Osella or the Larrousse Team scoring more points), and they actually achieved that with the two drivers, Pierluigi Martini and Luis Pérez-Sala finishing 5th and 6th with Larini and both Larrousses retiring, although Sala finished less than a second ahead of the Ligier of Frenchman Olivier Grouillard. Sala scored his first Formula One points. This meant that Onyx was not able to "promote" themselves out of pre-qualifying, despite scoring a 5th place with Stefan Johansson at Paul Ricard.