The 1990 Formula One Season was the 41st annual running of the Formula One World Championship. It began on March 11 with the 1990 United States Grand Prix and ended in Australia on November 4 after 16 races.
Regulation Changes Edit
The major regulation overhaul of 1989 to which cars were now mandatory to run 3.5L atmospheric engines had proven to be a huge success. The increased popularity of Formula One had stimulated Bernie Ecclestone to find ways to improve the television coverage of the racing action. On-board cameras had now been made mandatory on the racing cars and to compensate for this added weight, the minimum weight of the cars had been increased to 505 kilograms.
However Gerhard Berger's terrifying accident at Imola in 1989 had reminded everyone that being caught in a fireball remained a very real risk in Formula One cars. As a result, FISA had decreed that all cars would have an increased cockpit size as well as a newly designed quick release steering wheel. These were all designed so that drivers could exit the car within six seconds in case of an emergency.
However in the case where the driver is incapacited, such as was the case for Berger's fiery accident, FISA had now made it mandatory that all marshalls and medical staff were well practiced at driver extraction from their vehicle.
FISA had also taken extra precautions in accident prevention by making large mirrors mandatory on all cars. The larger mirrors would provide extra visibility for the drivers whilst on-track. There had also been improvements to the structure of the roll bar in the case of a driver rolling his car in an accident.
There had been much debate in the off-season as to whether pre-qualifying should be scrapped. The effected teams, Larrousse, Osella, AGS, Coloni, EuroBrun and Life all campaigned fiercely to have the system scrapped. However FISA had opted not to remove the pre-qualifying rule for the 1990 season. It had been deemed, not only a form of entertainment for spectators but also a hazardous risk to have the slowest teams compete in the main grand prix event.
Calendar Changes Edit
The grand prix calendar remained largely the same for 1990, albeit with a few small adjustments. The United States Grand Prix that was held at the Phoenix Street Circuit in Arizona had been criticized for being held during the middle of the state's scorching hot summer. Subsequently, the race was moved from its position in June to be held during the city's more mildly weathered spring during March. Phoenix would therefore be the first venue on the calendar for the 1990 season. The Canadian Grand Prix was now held ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix in response to the calendar change of the United States Grand Prix.
The Brazilian Grand Prix remained on the calendar, however for the first time since 1982 it would not serve as the season opening grand prix. The Jacarepaguá Circuit was removed from the calendar, instead the Brazilian Grand Prix would be hosted at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace for the first time since 1980.
The track had undergone a $15 million renovation which had saw the circuit be significantly shortened and redesigned. The rise and popularity of Ayrton Senna in his home country of Brazil had prompted a return to the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, held in Senna's home city of São Paulo.
Driver Changes Edit
Exiting Formula One from 1989Edit
- After a continuous decline in his personal performances as well as citing a lack of enjoyment from the atmospheric engines, the Formula One veteran René Arnoux had lost his seat at Ligier to which he subsequently announced his retirement from motorsport.
- Despite being offered to continue as a race driver for 1990, Martin Brundle opted to leave Brabham and Formula One to return to the World Sportscar Championship. Brundle, whom was not interested in racing in the midfield opted to return to a series where he had won the championship in 1988.
- Despite a string of midfield successes for Arrows in fighting in the midfield, Eddie Cheever, had grown tired of a lack of successful opportunities and opted to return to his homeland in the United States, hoping to find a more competitive race seat in racing for Chip Ganassi in the CART series.
- Following the dissolution of the Rial team, Christian Danner was left without a drive and thereafter moved to Japanese Formula 3000 as well as returning to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft.
- After failing to pre-qualify for all but three events in 1989, Piercarlo Ghinzani ended his long standing partnership with Osella and decided to retire from motorsport at the end of the season.
- After a very disappointing season in which he had been dominated by both Michele Alboreto and Jean Alesi, Jonathan Palmer had lost his drive at Tyrrell. However he would gain some consolation in signing as McLaren-Honda's test and reserve driver for the 1990 season.
- After being consistently dominated by teammate Pierluigi Martini, Luis Pérez-Sala had subsequently lost his drive at Minardi and was out of Formula One. He thereafter would move to the World Sportscar Championship for 1990.
- Following the dissolution of the Rial team, Pierre-Henri Raphanel was left without a drive and therefore moved into the World Sportscar Championship
- After being drafted in to complete the end of season for Coloni, Enrico Bertaggia had failed to pre-qualify for any of the rounds he had participated in and was subsequently dropped for 1990. He would thereafter move into Japanese Formula 3000.
- After making a return to EuroBrun for the end of the 1989 season, Oscar Larrauri had failed to pre-qualify for any of the round he participated in and was subsequently dropped for 1990. He would thereafter move into Japanese Formula 3000.
Debutants for 1990Edit
Moved seats for 1990Edit
- Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger, who were McLaren and Ferrari drivers respectively last year, swapped teams for the 1990 season.
- Both Lotus drivers Nelson Piquet and Satoru Nakajima left the team to join Benetton and Tyrrell respectively.
- Michele Alboreto joined the Arrows team after a disappointing season with Larrousse.
After the turbulent conclusion to the 1989 season, the off-season was dominated by the personal battle between Ayrton Senna and FISA President, Jean-Marie Balestre. A seething Senna had accused Balestre of manipulating the outcome of the world championship and that Alain Prost was nothing more than an artificial world champion.
On the 6th December 1989, Balestre and Senna have a meeting in Paris, an attempt by the FISA to make peace between the two parties. The Secretary-General of FISA, Yvon Leon would comment “The President had to deal with a man full of contempt and arrogance, who used other methods that required great patience from the President, who never lost his calm. The attempt made was to no avail.”
The next day, Senna appeared before the World Motor Sport Council to answer his accusations of manipulation in the 1989 World Championship. At the conclusion of the meeting, Balestre commented “Every fact was presented. Unquestionable evidence was presented to him that the FISA President never took any action against him. The evidence was provided and everything was recorded on tape. Mr Senna hardly spoke, nor did his lawyer and, to be truthful, it made the World Council rather irritated.”
The World Motor Sport Council ruled that Senna's comments were unjustified and was ordered to retract his statements about the President of the FISA or otherwise have his racing license suspended for six months.
Senna angrily stormed from the meeting to return home to his native Brazil. He remained unwilling to back down to the FISA and he claimed that he would never return to Europe following the outcome of the WMSC meeting. Despite the crisis, Ron Dennis was assuring the press that Senna would be on the grid for the first race in Phoenix.
Balestre, however was steadfast in stating that unless Senna would submit to FISA's demands, he would have his race license suspended for six months. With the potential loss of one of Formula One's leading drivers for either half a season or even a potential permanent loss, FOM President, Bernie Ecclestone campaigned the potential financial consequences of losing one of Formula One's leading drivers. Balestre is unmoved, citing that when Jim Clark was killed in 1968, Formula One recovered and would continue. He remained adamant that Formula One did not need Ayrton Senna in order to be a successful sport.
Senna, meanwhile had retreated to a private beach in Angra dos Reis, Brazil. During the off-season, he hid reclusively, however remained in communication with McLaren boss, Ron Dennis. Speaking at the Shell Awards at the end of 1989, Ron Dennis commented "I can assure you, he will be racing this season". Privately, he had commented to Senna, "if you are true to your values, walking away from the dark forces does not become an option."
However McLaren didn't appear totally confident that Senna would return and announced that Jonathan Palmer, the team's new test driver would race for them if Senna's issues could not be resolved. Senna slowly began to see reason, on the 2nd February 1990, Senna payed the $100 000 fine he owed FISA for his misdemeanor in Suzuka. Thereafter Senna called Balestre to make a begrudging apology. Satisfied with Senna's concessions, Balestre approves Senna's return to the grid for the 1990 season.
Aleardo Buzzi, the President of Philip Morris, however noted that "if Ayrton Senna is present in the United States, it is not simply because of passion, but also because of professional conscience. He is subject to the superior interests of his employers, McLaren, Honda and Marlboro." Senna openly admitted during the McLaren press conference that a "lack of motivation" as well as lack of testing experience were likely to hamper his performances in Phoenix. Whilst Senna was once again the centre of attention, speaking passionately on his views on Formula One. His new teammate, Gerhard Berger had mistook a sinus pill for a sleeping pill before the press conference. Senna was his usual passionate self, whilst in contrast, Berger battled to even keep awake in the conference.
The previous two seasons had seen escalated tensions within McLaren as both Senna and Prost dueled for the World Championship. However the arrival of Berger in the team had allowed tensions to ease once again. It had not taken long for Senna to assert his dominance in the team. Berger had brought his Ferrari race engineer, Giorgio Ascanelli, to the team. However it did not take long for Senna to claim Ascanelli's services for himself. Berger, however was pragmatic about his place in the team. He was not interested in fighting Senna for dominance in the team as Prost did. Berger was content in joining the leading grand prix team of the team. He had already begun to develop a strong friendship with Senna.
Whilst the McLaren team had began to find peace within itself, the tensions between Senna and Prost had clearly failed to diminish. At the meeting of the Marlboro World Championship Team in Phoenix, he openly refused a hand shake of peace with his former teammate, Alain Prost. Concerned that the tensions between Senna and Prost would jeopardize the Marlboro brand, Aleardo Buzzi demanded to both Ron Dennis and Cesare Fiorio to control the tensions between their drivers.
Alain Prost was in good spirits ahead of the start of the new season. Prost had quickly adapted to his new team at Ferrari and had found that the Italian squad had become a reckoning force in the off-season. Ferrari's new 641 chassis had dominated the pre-season testing, Prost appeared highly satisfied, however his teammate, Nigel Mansell was more cautious and alleviated concerns that the Ferrari team continued to have problems with the semi-automatic gearbox.
Mansell had arrived in the USA early to attend the Doral Open golf tournament in Miami. He was there to support his great friend, the golfer Greg Norman. Aside from his abilities in a race car, Mansell prided himself on his 1 handicap in golf. However frustratingly for Mansell, in a round of golf with his new teammate, Prost, in Arizona, it was in fact the less experienced golfer, Prost who won the day. Mansell however assured the media that his dedication to motor racing and the development of the Ferrari 641 were simply to blame for his rusty golf performance.
Although the centre of media attention ahead of the season seemed to focus on what was expected to be a two horse race between McLaren and Ferrari for the world title, Riccardo Patrese noted "Everyone is talking about McLaren and Ferrari but it is important not to discount the Williams."
Round 1: United States Grand Prix Edit
Entry List Edit
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