The 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 25 March 1990 at Interlagos. It was the 19th Brazilian Grand Prix and the ninth to be held at Interlagos. The São Paulo circuit had not held the Grand Prix since 1980 and the circuit was extensively renovated with the circuit itself almost halved in length.
The race was contested over 71 laps of the four kilometre circuit (as opposed to 40 for the races on the original circuit), for a race distance of 307 kilometres. The race was won for the sixth time by the reigning world champion Alain Prost driving a Ferrari 641.
The win extended Prost's record for most wins of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Prost's winning margin was 13 seconds over Austrian driver Gerhard Berger driving a McLaren MP4/5B. Berger's Brazilian team mate Ayrton Senna was third.
After nine consecutive years of racing at Jacarepaguá, the Brazilian Grand Prix had returned to Interlagos at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Jacarepaguá had been the home territory of Nelson Piquet, the three time Brazilian World Champion. However with the ascendancy of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilians had embraced Senna as their new national hero.
Jacarepaguá had ran out of money and would unable to finance future editions of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Although Brazil had entered a time of extreme financial and political instability, Ayrton Senna continued to raise the hopes of his Brazilian countrymen with his astounding racing performances. Due to national fervor surrounding Senna, Bernie Ecclestone recognised the importance of keeping Formula One in Brazil despite the economic instability.
Inflation in Brazil had raised to over 2000%, this had subsequently meant that the Brazilian President, Fernando Collor de Mello had suspended all bank accounts in the country. Formula One had arrived in the middle of this dilemma, the team's found navigating Brazil to be a logistical nightmare due to the security concerns and the financial suspension in the country.
However despite the internal problems in the country, it was a welcome return for Formula One to São Paulo. Although there was anarchy on the streets, the Brazilian people were united in their support for Ayrton Senna. Senna would return to race in his home town for the first time since he was a teenager in go-karts.
Of all the current drivers, only Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese and Stefan Johansson had attended the Interlagos circuit in its last edition of hosting the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1980. Albeit the circuit was significantly different in comparison to its more modern state.
The race organisers had invested $20 million into redesigning the circuit in order to prepare for hosting the 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix. The track had been shortened by four kilometres and had been updated to modern safety standards as well as the creation of an entirely new and modern pit-complex. The circuit was considered to be very safe, however ESPN's John Bisignano would note "there is a bit of a design fault here in Interlagos, the exit of the pit-lane is right at the exit of turn two."
The circuit was largely well received from the drivers, Philippe Alliot calling it "a circuit for men". Thierry Boutsen noted the difficulty of the circuit, stating "its a very difficult track because its got some slow corners which are followed by fast corners, and these fast corners are all very bumpy." However some of the older elements of the Formula One paddock lamented the loss of the old Interlagos. John Watson, former driver turned commentator noted "in a way I am disappointed because the Interlagos race track in my view was one of the world's all-time great race circuits."
Ayrton Senna had been closely involved in the development of his country and home town's new international circuit. Upon completion of the track, the opening corners of the track was named the S do Senna in honour of the São Paulo champion.
Despite his tremendous success, unlike his fellow Brazilian champions, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet, Senna had never won his home grand prix. This had become only more important to him upon Formula One's return to his home town of São Paulo. For Senna, anything less than victory at Interlagos would be a failure.
Nonetheless, he was not letting the pressure get to him. Senna would arrive relaxed and confident. He had spent time partying alongside new teammate and friend, Gerhard Berger along the beaches of Andra dos Reis. Whilst at the circuit, Senna secluded himself around his family. Senna needed the quiet space to centre himself amidst the overwhelming support from his legions of Brazilian fans.
Valuing the support of the Brazilian people, McLaren recognised the critical need to win in Brazil. McLaren had defeated Ferrari in the opening round of the championship, however no one could doubt the pace of the Ferrari on the quick circuits. Nonetheless, buoyed by his success in Phoenix, Ron Dennis took the opportunity to rally and present a verbal attack against Ferrari and Alain Prost.
He accused Ferrari to having poached the designer, Steve Nichols from McLaren with little more than a petty bribe. A frustrated Dennis accounted that is was the same tactics Ferrari had used to poach John Barnard from them in 1986. Furthermore he noted that Alain Prost should have taken a sabbatical rather than desert McLaren.
The full entry list for the 1990 Brazilian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice & QualifyingEdit
The McLarens were once again on perfect form during qualifying. The Ferraris were fastest down the straights, however it was the McLarens that were quickest on the bumpy corner sections of the track. Senna dominated the session with teammate Berger in a comfortable second position.
In fact, to the surprise of all, Ferrari were once again not the McLaren's lead challenger, instead the closest cars to the McLaren were the Williams cars of Boutsen and Patrese. The Ferraris, like in Phoenix continued to have problems in the slow corners. Mansell and Prost could only manage fifth and sixth at the end of the first day. Similarly, the Lotus team with their powerful Lamborghini engine were among the fastest in straight line speeds, however both Warwick and Donnelly were having severe handling problems in the corners.
Senna had dominated the day, however even he was feeling the strain of the incredibly demanding Interlagos circuit. In the morning practice, at the exit of the S do Senna, he spun his car deep into the grass and bogging his car. Senna would be only one of many to fall victim to the aggressively bumpy circuit. The McLarens nearest challenger, Thierry Boutsen noted "you are in these fast corners and you have to change gear in the middle of it and hold the steering in one hand, change gear with the other hand and your shaking left and right in the car while you are doing this."
This was one issue that the Ferrari cars with their ultra-modern semi-automatic gearbox would not have to contend with. However ultimately, the two drivers were still battling pace issues despite an improvement in performance since Phoenix. For Nigel Mansell, the biggest concern was his teammate. He had ended the day faster than Prost, however he already had begun to share many of the concerns surrounding Prost to which Senna had felt in the previous year. Mansell noted "I don't think he is bad, I've still got the utmost respect for him as a driver. What I will say is perhaps some of the information doesn't come flowing out as easy as it should. He always wants to know what I am doing, but he is very reluctant to tell me what he is doing."
The top three maintained their positions at the start, Senna led Berger and Boutsen through the first corner. Behind them, Patrese had made a poor getaway and fell behind the Ferrari's of Prost and Mansell. It was a terrible start for the Dallara cars. De Cesaris was eliminated from the race at the first corner. Both, he and Alesi's Tyrrell had attempted to move past the slow starting Patrese, however De Cesaris found himself too far on the outside and was nudged into the gravel by Alesi's Tyrrell. Behind him, his debutant teammate, Morbidelli, had been rammed by Nannini's Benetton.
At the end of the first lap, Senna led Berger, Boutsen, Prost, Mansell, Patrese, Alesi, Martini, Modena and Bernard. For the second race in succession, Nannini required a new front wing after the first lap. Morbidelli's Dallara had been crippled. He limped back to the pits, however not without being lapped by the leaders whilst on his return. Morbidelli would be able to continue, however his mechanics would spend five laps making the repairs to his car.
To the delight of the Brazilian fans, Senna was leading the race. However he was notably not pulling away from his competitors. Berger and Boutsen remained hot on his heels, the Williams driver setting the initial fastest laps of the race. The Ferrari's of Prost and Mansell remained looming ever present in the background. ESPN's David Hobbs commenting "it may be that Senna is in fact holding Berger up, but Senna drives tremendously intelligent races and is no doubt setting himself a pace that he sees comfortable."
However after the initial laps, Berger began to fall off the pace of his teammate and was being ever pressured by Boutsen behind him. On the eighth lap, Boutsen attacked and overtook Berger in the approach to the S do Senna. TV Globo's Galvão Bueno explodes with joy. One of Senna's closest friends was now in second, behind the Brazilian champion.
Bob Varsha noting "people have been criticizing Thierry Boutsen for his lack of getting up with the big boys, however he just took down Gerhard Berger and that is saying something." David Hobbs further noting "that new stage three Renault engine doesn't look too shabby either because he made superb ground on Berger as they came up that long fast straight."
Further down the field, Grouillard's Osella makes an attack on Alboreto's Arrows at the same corner. An ambitious move from Grouillard failed to pay off. Alboreto refused to give way and made contact with the Osella's left rear wheel. Subsequently, Grouillard went spinning into the gravel in much the same manner as De Cesaris had done at the start of the race.
Among the leaders, Senna had began to pull away from Boutsen who was running in a comfortable second position. Berger appeared to be struggling and having been past by Boutsen was now falling into the clutches of Prost's Ferrari. Mansell, meanwhile was lagging behind the top five cars. The anti-roll bar on Mansell's car was working its way loose.
The tyres were beginning to suffer high degradation due to the twisting nature of the Interlagos circuit. Warwick's Lotus became the first car to head to the pits for new tyres on lap thirteen. The same lap saw Foitek's Brabham drop out of the race with transmission troubles. Bernard's Lola also dropped out of the back half of the top ten when he began to lose his fifth and sixth gears.
Whilst most of the drivers were beginning to encounter troubles with their tyres, Prost had began to pick up speed. On lap seventeen, Prost dived down the inside of Berger at the S do Senna and claimed third position. Prost continued his momentum and soon closed on Boutsen's Williams who had also began to encounter tyre troubles.
Behind them, Modena and Piquet continued their battle after their dice in Phoenix. Piquet made his overtake on Modena into the S do Senna on the eighteenth lap, whilst only a short distance behind them, Alliot would spin into the gravel dropping down to twentieth having been pressured by Nakajima and Donnelly from behind.
At the front, Prost now in third had began to make ground on second placed Boutsen. The Williams driver had dropped five seconds behind Senna and like Berger, had began to suffer from tyre degradation. Prost, however was hampered by traffic and struggled to lap Caffi's Arrows. This had allowed Berger to gain ground on the Ferrari, however once cleared of Caffi, Prost would set the fastest lap of the race.
Morbidelli, meanwhile was struggling at the back of the field, having a big spin at the S do Senna. Piquet, having passed Modena had began an attack on Martini's Minardi. Mansell who was struggling in fifth position became the first driver to pit in for new tyres. However his stop was a disaster, he was unable to select first gear at the conclusion of the stop. Mansell was stuck in the pits for twenty five seconds whilst the mechanics swapped his steering wheel to rectify the problem.
Following Mansell's problems, Piquet was able to make further progress up the field. The Benetton driver had overtaken Martini and had passed Mansell following his disastrous stop. The drivers had now began to change tyres, Larini had followed Mansell into the pits whilst two laps later, Boutsen would also pit from second position. Boutsen, however missed his braking point and collided with his mechanics. John Bisignano describing the incident and noting "one of the mechanics bleeding very badly from the knee." The incident would require a change of nosecone for Boutsen and would mean he lost a minute in the pits where he would rejoin the race in eleventh.
This had allowed Prost to inherit a comfortable second position, however he remained nine seconds off Senna's lead. Prost would enter the pits on lap thirty one, his stop went relatively untroubled, however he was released from the pits right into the path of Donnelly's Lotus. Donnelly, however was able to avoid an incident, however he would then go on to stall his car while in the pit-lane.
Senna responded to Prost, coming into the pits a lap after his rival. This had therefore put Berger into the lead of the race. Patrese, who was running in fourth position had a big spin at the Subida do Lago before he headed for the pits. Behind them, Piquet continued to make ground and had passed Alesi's Tyrrell for fifth position. Further behind, Mansell was leading a charge, overtaking Martini for seventh position.
Berger entered the pits on lap 35. With Berger, into the pits, Senna retook the lead of the race. The McLaren driver led with a nine second lead over Prost's Ferrari. Behind them, the late comers into the pits were on Piquet on lap 36, Patrese on lap 37 and Alesi on lap 39. Piquet, however had a slow stop and rejoined the race behind Alesi, Mansell, Martini and Modena. Alesi however was gaining ground and had exited the pits directly behind Patrese's Williams.
Lap 40 saw Barilla retire from thirteenth with a broken engine whilst Modena would spin and stall his Brabham. At the front, Senna whom appeared totally unchallenged at the lead of the race would make contact with his former teammate, Nakajima, on lap 42.
Senna had attempted to lap the Tyrrell driver at turn 8, however Nakajima refused to give way and Senna hit the rear of the Japanese driver's car. With his front wing lost, Senna to the distraught of the Brazilian fans was forced to pit for a new nosecone.
After a twenty six second stop, an enraged Senna exits the pits in third, well behind Prost and teammate Berger. The new race leader, Prost, held a 4 second advantage to Berger whilst Senna was a further 31 seconds adrift. David Hobbs commenting "I can tell you now, Ayrton Senna is not going to win the Brazilian Grand Prix if Prost doesn't have trouble. That incident really tipifies Ayrton Senna's one real area of weakness. When it comes to lapping people, he just has this arrogant feeling that they should just absolutely get off the track to let him through. All he had to was just wait one more corner, but he just won't do it." Prost meanwhile took a decisive move on Caffi's Arrows causing Bob Varsha to shriek in amazement.
Behind this battle, Patrese had managed to take fourth position from Mansell's Ferrari. His Williams teammate, Boutsen, was also making advances through the field after his earlier mistake. Boutsen had overtaken Piquet's Benetton for eighth position whilst three laps later, he had moved past Martini for seventh. Seven laps later, Boutsen had made his way past Alesi as well. Further down the field, Donnelly spun his Lotus and stalled his engine.
Prost appeared to be in total control of the race, he was extending his lead over both Berger and Senna. Senna was desperately pushing to keep the pace, Berger, in the middle of these two in second was losing ground to both Prost and Senna. A frustrated Senna however was not managing to put in the times to catch Prost.
Piquet had steadily fallen back and quickly worn down his tyres. He entered the pits for his second stop which dropped him down to eleventh position. Martini in seventh was among the drivers to have lasted the longest on his original set of tyres, however on lap 53 he finally entered the pits. Only Nannini now continued on his original set of tyres.
As the race entered its closing stages, Caffi elected to retire from second last, his injured shoulder was afflicting him too much. Senna was slowly gaining on Berger, however his McLaren teammate had begun to put in some competitive lap times and maintained the pace. Berger putting in the fastest lap of the race on lap 55 with a 1:19.899. However this record was further lowered by Prost with a 1:20.010 only a lap later.
Berger, still too tall for the cockpit of his car had dropped his pace due to leg pain. Berger would then encounter clutch troubles and stomach cramps to further him. Senna had meanwhile increased the pace and was the fastest of the top three.
Further down the field, Patrese and Mansell continued to fight over fourth position. Piquet had moved back into the top ten, passing his teammate, Nannini who had now began to really struggle on his original set of tyres. Piquet had began to find his pace once again, he would overtake Nakajima and close on the rear of Alesi.
In the final stages, the Williams cars had began to encounter trouble. Patrese had lost fourth position to Mansell and would shortly thereafter retire with a failing engine. Boutsen meanwhile was also losing pace due to a failing engine. However his fifth place position was secure as Alesi behind him was far too occupied with degrading tyres and a charging Piquet to mount an attack.
Senna who was still desperately chasing after Prost and Berger, would in fact encounter significant trouble in attempting to lap the pair of Alesi and Piquet. After his earlier calamity with Nakajima, Senna appeared much more cautious in his attack.
On the penultimate lap, Nannini whom had attempted to run the whole race on a single set of tyres had a tyre blowout. Whilst he headed for the pits, Piquet dived down the inside of Alesi to take sixth at the S do Senna. Although his Pirelli tyres were now seriously worn, Alesi refused to give up and on the start of the final lap he retook sixth position. However he could not keep the position, through the Arquibancadas, Piquet took the sixth place just before the chequered flag.
On a day where a Senna victory was both expected and seemingly assured, it was Alain Prost who won the Brazilian Grand Prix with over 13 seconds to Berger in second position. A distraught Senna could only manage third position. His miscalculation in lapping Nakajima had costed Senna his first home victory. The Brazilian crowd being described as in a "deafening silence" by Bob Varsha at the end of the race.
Prost was presented the winner's trophy by Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello. The Brazilian crowd were left in muted silence, their hero, Ayrton Senna had failed to take victory as had been seemingly assured. For Prost, this was inconsequential. After the race, he was left nearly in tears as he embraced Ferrari boss, Cesare Fiorio. For Prost, the lead-up to the grand prix had been particularly difficult. The personal criticisms from Ron Dennis and the pressure for Ferrari to deliver after their disaster in Phoenix had affected the Frenchman quite badly.
For Senna, there were also tears but of a different nature. On the podium, his head was bowed in shame for throwing away the victory. His fateful move on Satoru Nakajima had cost him the race win. He was consoled by President de Mello on the podium to no avail. Senna immediately left the circuit with very few words to be said.
It had been a difficult race for McLaren. Gerhard Berger was unable to mount an attack on Prost throughout the race. He exited his car battered and bruised, the tall Austrian driver was still having trouble fitting inside his car comfortably. Ron Dennis rallied his team after the race, assuring everyone that McLaren remained the fastest team on the grid.
Jean-Marie Balestre had declined to attend the podium ceremony. The FISA President stating "I did not want to give them a pretext to whistle and insult me." As the President was leaving Brazil, the plane that both he and FOM President, Bernie Ecclestone were due to catch in returning to Europe was investigated due to a false alert to a bomb threat. A fanatic Senna fan had been causing trouble at the airport. The influence and power of Senna in Brazil was so much so that Ecclestone turned to Balestre and said "the man is dangerous."
Standings after raceEdit
- ↑ "1990 Brazilian Grand Prix". formula1.com. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/1990/races/65/brazil.html. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
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