The 1990 United States Grand Prix was the opening motor race of the 1990 Formula One season held on March 11, 1990, in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the 32nd United States Grand Prix since the American Grand Prize was first held in 1908, and the 25th under Formula One regulations since the first United States Grand Prix was held at Sebring, Florida in 1959. It was the second to be held on the streets of Phoenix and ran over 72 laps of the 4 km-circuit.
The race was won by Brazilian Ayrton Senna, driving a McLaren MP4/5B by eight seconds over French driver Jean Alesi in his comparatively under-funded Tyrrell 018. Throughout the race, the pair enthralled fans with some fabulous and daring passing for the lead.
Departed Formula One Edit
Since Australia, the veterans of René Arnoux and Piercarlo Ghinzani announced their total retirement from motorsport after having failed to be retained by their respective teams at Ligier and Osella. Although they had been struggling among the backmarkers for a number of years, both Arnoux and Ghinzani would conclude their motor racing careers at the pinnacle of the sport.
Having missed his opportunity to compete among the top, Eddie Cheever had grown tired of competing in the midfield and hoped a move to Formula One's rival series in CART would provide him a new hope for becoming a front runner. For a number of years, Cheever had been the only American to dare compete in the sport. However a tempting offer to join Chip Ganassi's new team would see him return to the United States's favoured motor racing series for 1990.
Martin Brundle had similarly walked away from Formula One, albeit he would be doing it for the second time in his career. At the end of 1987, Brundle had sacrificed his F1 career for a leading drive in the World Sportscar Championship (WSC) with Tom Walkinshaw's Jaguar team. It had proved an excellent move as Brundle would be crowned the 1988 World Sportscar champion. He had been tempted to return to Formula One in 1989 by Brabham, however after another dismal season he turned down his option of retention for 1990 and returned to sportscars.
Aside from Brundle, the WSC would prove a popular option among the drivers' whom had lost their drive in Formula One. Jonathan Palmer and Bernd Schneider would find themselves as teammates at the Porsche team in WSC for 1990. Palmer, a renowed test driver had also salvaged his career in Formula One with a test drive at McLaren. He notably completed most of the team's testing whilst Senna was secluded in Brazil.
Enrico Bertaggia would meanwhile head to Japan where he would attempt to revitalize his career with the Footwork team in the Japanese Formula 3000. Another 1989 refuge, Christian Danner was also attempting to revitalise his career in the series with Leyton House. The premier Japanese racing series was becoming a potential feeder series for Formula One with the growing Japanese influence in the sport.
Changed Seats Edit
There had been significant change in the driver line-up since the last race of 1989. Only Williams, the newly badged Leyton House team and Onyx retained an identical driver line-up to as they had done in Australia. Lotus, Arrows, Ligier, Lola, Osella, Coloni, EuroBrun and the new team, Life would all field completely new line-ups for 1990.
Entry List Edit
The full entry list for the 1990 United States Grand Prix is outlined below:
Roberto Moreno dominated the pre-qualifying session, the EuroBrun looking well adjusted to the Phoenix Street Circuit. Moreno gave credit to the Pirelli tyres that were working excellently in the cool conditions. His teammate, Claudio Langes, was however struggling to adapt to the new Formula One conditions and failed to pre-qualify.
Gary Brabham ran the Life car for the first time, completing the car's first laps during the pre-qualifying session. He managed only four laps before pulling into the pits with a faulty ignition. This, however proved a better start than the Coloni car of Bertrand Gachot that failed even to make it out of the pits due to numerous problems on his car.
|2||29||Éric Bernard||Lola-Lamborghini||1:32.711||+ 0.429|
|3||14||Olivier Grouillard||Osella-Ford||1:33.181||+ 0.899|
|4||30||Aguri Suzuki||Lola-Lamborghini||1:33.331||+ 1.049|
|5||17||Gabriele Tarquini||AGS-Ford||1:35.420||+ 3.138|
|6||18||Yannick Dalmas||AGS-Ford||1:35.481||+ 3.199|
|7||34||Claudio Langes||EuroBrun-Judd||1:37.399||+ 5.517|
|8||39||Gary Brabham||Life||2:07.147||+ 34.865|
|9||31||Bertrand Gachot||Coloni-Subaru||5:15.010||+ 3:42.728|
The Friday practice session saw numerous accidents as the drivers struggled to adjust to the slippery Phoenix circuit. Tyrrell were looking competitive, Jean Alesi topped the timesheets whilst Satoru Nakajima was in fifth position. The Tyrrell running the Pirelli tyres proving further after pre-qualifying that there tyre compounds were proving to be the most effective in the cool Phoenix conditions.
John Watson commenting "Tyrrell have had a complete overhaul, they have come out with a car that is much more attractive, they've got some very good people from Ferrari, they've got Pirelli tyres, they've got an associative McLaren sponsorship package and the team with Jean Alesi as a number one driver is obviously more than a force to be reckoned with. Infact we saw Ron Dennis come down to the Tyrrell team pits and was talking to Ken Tyrrell. Now normally you would be seeing, Ken Tyrrell coming up to talk to Ron Dennis but today, the other way round."
The Pirelli cars were running with a clear advantage during the qualifying session. Tyrrell, Minardi and Dallara are all in the hunt for pole position among the McLaren cars. Senna was hampered by engine troubles, whilst Berger is consistently in the mix for the pole time. Pierluigi Martini was performing magnificently for Minardi and nearly secured the provisional pole, however Berger snatched the fastest time in the final seconds of the session. Despite a rake against the barriers, De Cesaris performed well for Dallara taking third ahead of Alesi and Senna. Nelson Piquet seemed to have a return to form in his first race for Benetton and is sixth, alongside Senna on the grid.
The Ferraris were not living up to their pre-season form, hydraulic issues plagued both Prost and Mansell. Prost retained a position in the top ten by going seventh fastest, however Mansell could do no better than seventeenth. The Ferraris were also having trouble programming their semi-automatic gearbox to adjust to the circuit.
Grouillard performsed well for Osella to go eighth, whilst the two Williams cars were struggling for grip, Boutsen is ninth, whilst Patrese is twelfth. Despite the late arrival of Brabham, Stefano Modena manages to put his car into the top ten.
Morbidelli's debut was put to a stand-still when he crashed into the barriers, the team unable to repair his car meant he dropped into among the non-qualifiers. Onyx was also in the danger zone, Johansson had crashed into the wall whilst Lehto had blown an engine. The team without spare engines would be forced to sit out the remainder of the weekend.
The Ligier drivers were among the drivers who were most struggling on the circuit. Both Larini and Alliot would hit the barriers on numerous occasions. Towards the end of the session, Alliot spun near the entrance of the pit lane. Alliot had believed he could get going again, however he found the marshalls were attempting to tow his car away.
Aerodynamicist, Nick Wirth, who was contracted by Ligier ran down the pit lane to cut away the marshalls tow rope with a knife. Wirth, however was pinned to the ground by the marshalls, whom had mistaken him as a mad race fan. In the confusion, Alliot was able to get going once again, however would later be banned from the remainder of the race weekend for what was deemed outside assistance from the marshalls.
Saturday Practice Edit
Saturday Qualifying Edit
Qualifying was washed out with heavy rain, this meant the Friday qualifying standings would determine the grid for the race. Martin Donnelly was said to have put in an excellent performance in his Lotus on the heavily washed out circuit.
The cars for the new season had increased dramatically. The new cars were significantly faster than they had ever been before. In the Drivers' Briefing ahead of the race, many of the drivers expressed concern over the G-Forces experienced in the new cars. Derek Warwick noting to ESPN, "I don't know whether it is cause I am getting older or the cars are getting more difficult. But for me, the cars are getting more and more difficult." Alliot also called for increased medical facilities to which he noted "because to do one day of testing is now very difficult."
Alesi meanwhile commented "Because the suspension is very stiff, we've seen a charge in the grip which is very good." Senna also was not too worried about the increased cornering speeds to which he noted "I have quite good comfort, I don't have problems."
The tight twisty nature of the Phoenix Street Circuit had put the drivers under much more strain than previous seasons, and there was concern that the drivers might black out in the race. It had now become evident that with the increased power of the car, physical fitness was becoming ever more important for a Formula One race.
Ahead of the race, the conditions are cool and overcast, a stark contrast to the race conditions at the circuit the previous year. All of the drivers choose to fit the hard compound tyres, this means the expectation is that the race will be a one stop. On the formation lap, Donnelly's Lotus fails to start his engine off the line. He then had to be wheeled back into the garage to retire, his gearbox had stuck tight.
Berger maintains his lead in the approach to the first corner, Martini immediately falls behind De Cesaris at the start, whilst Alesi and Senna attack the lead from the outside into the first corner. Alesi moved past Berger to take the lead, whilst Berger blocked Senna which allowed De Cesaris to split the McLaren cars by taking third position.
Further down the field, Nannini whom had made a strong start after a poor qualifying had made light contact with Grouillard's Osella. More seriously, Patrese had knocked the nosecone of his Williams clean off when he collided with the rear of Schneider's Arrows into 2.
After the first lap, Alesi lead Berger, De Cesaris, Senna, Martini, Piquet, Boutsen, Modena, Prost and Grouillard. After concern for a puncture, Nannini pits for new tyres whilst both Patrese and Schneider are stuck in the pits for much longer to make their repairs.
The two drivers would exit a lap down on the leaders, Alesi having extended his lead by over three seconds to Berger whom was struggling with cold tyres. The second Tyrrell of Nakajima had also made his entrance into the top ten having overtaken Grouillard's Osella.
Whilst Alesi opens up his lead, De Cesaris and Senna hold close behind Berger's McLaren. Behind them, a separate battle for fifth was developing between Martini, Piquet and Boutsen. Bob Varsha reporting on Piquet "he has been electrifying. Everybody thought Piquet was washed up, he came here, led one of the practice sessions, made a real good run for the pole, he is a rejuvenated man."
On the fourth lap, Senna finally moved past De Cesaris to take third position, further down the field, his rival, Prost, had taken eighth position from Modena.
Moreno was in a predicament, he had forgotten to turn his electric fuel pump off at the start. He had to return to the pits in order for his EuroBrun mechanics to rectify the problem. Larini had lost the use of his brakes and stopped his Ligier in an escape road. Warwick was also out of the race, his front left suspension rod had broke, forcing him to stop out on the circuit. Both the Lotus cars were already out of the race.
Patrese was fighting among the leaders, albeit a lap down. The two McLaren cars of Berger and Senna were now giving chase to Alesi in the lead, whilst further down the field, the lapped Patrese managed to unlap himself from De Cesaris. The Dallara driver was losing pace and was falling into the clutches of Piquet and Boutsen. Martini's Minardi had dropped down the field and had soon fell victim to Prost who was slowly advancing through the field despite a smoking engine.
On the ninth lap, De Cesaris violently slammed the door shut on Piquet, the Benetton driver luckily not making contact with the Dallara. Further up the field, Berger loses control in the approach to Monroe Street and slammed into the tyre barrier. Despite having a hard impact, remarkably his car would not be terminally damaged, the McLaren driver signalled for a push start from the marshalls. Berger eventually returned to the track, however he would have to pit for extensive repairs.
Alesi therefore led Senna, De Cesaris, Piquet, Boutsen, Prost, Martini, Modena, Nakajima, Bernard, Mansell, Grouillard, Suzuki and Alboreto. Alesi continued to maintain an eight second gap to Senna, the Tyrrell driver extracting the maximum from the Pirelli tyres. David Hobbs commenting "the first time a Tyrrell car turned a wheel with Pirelli tyres was here on Friday morning, which is a really outstanding thing to do in the first race. If they are going this well so soon, it certainly bodes well for the future."
Prost was making progress up the field, he had caught the battle for third place and was now sitting on the tail of De Cesaris, Piquet and Boutsen. However there were concerns for the Ferrari driver, despite his strong pace, smoke was continually emitting from the back of his Ferrari engine. Nonetheless, he was still outperforming new teammate, Mansell, whom was fighting down in eleventh position.
With Prost closing on the leaders, Boutsen began to ramp up the pressure on Piquet. He desperately attempted to make his way past into the first corner, however Piquet held strong and did not concede the position.
Following his accident, Berger had been stuck in the pits for four laps whilst his McLaren mechanics performed repairs on his car. He was fitted with a new front and rear wing and would finally rejoin the race on the sixteenth lap, albeit he was now well and truely out of contention for the race.
He exited the pits directly ahead of the battle for third position. He allowed both De Cesaris and Piquet to move past into the first corner, however he then blocked Boutsen all the way through Madison Street. This allowed Prost the opportunity to attack and pass the Williams driver.
Whilst Berger meddled with the battle for third, his teammate, Senna, remained in second position. To the surprise of all, Senna had been unable to close the gap to Alesi in first place. The Tyrrell driver had in fact extended his lead to ten seconds over Senna's McLaren.
Piquet was growing impatient behind De Cesaris's Dallara, he had attempted to attack the Dallara around the outside of the first turn, however De Cesaris held the door shut. The following lap, Piquet tried the manoeuvere once again, however this time he managed to claim the position. De Cesaris had begun to fall back, the following lap, Prost had also made his way past the Dallara car. David Hobbs commenting "despite that smoke, Prost is cranking out some pretty good laps."
Despite the concerns for Prost's car, the Ferrari team were reporting that all was "normal" with the car to ESPN pit reporter, John Bisignano. The Ferrari car had demonstrated the same problem quite often in the previous season.
A few laps after Prost, Boutsen had also managed to displace De Cesaris's Dallara. The Williams driver however was demonstrating signs of difficulty in maintaining pace with Piquet and Prost ahead of him. The lapped McLaren of Berger had also moved past De Cesaris and was closing in on Boutsen's car.
Capelli would enter the pits to retire. Whilst his teammate Gugelmin was closing on De Cesaris, Capelli would close off what would had been a terrible weekend for him. Capelli had a sensor issue which mistakenly telling him he had no water pressure. However upon returning to the pits, the team had discovered a suspension issue and opted to retire him anyway.
At the front of the field, Senna was finally wearing down the lead of Alesi's Tyrrell. He had dropped the gap of a ten second lead down to seven seconds on the eighteenth lap. Like De Cesaris, the Pirelli shod-car was now experiencing rapid tyre degradation and he was quickly falling back into the clutches of Senna's McLaren. Ken Tyrrell admitting to John Bisignano "we expect Senna to catch and pass us in the next couple of laps. That won't bother me too much, we're in a comfortable second position."
Whilst Senna closed on the lead, it had become evident that the smoke billowing from Prost's car was proving to be terminal. Prost would then fall behind Boutsen, De Cesaris, Martini, Modena and Nakajima before pitting to retire. The Ferrari team would then admit to John Bisignano that once again the gearbox had been responsible for the failure on the Ferrari car.
De Cesaris would become the next retirement, he had steadily fallen back into the clutches of Martini and Modena before his engine would fail. Martini and Modena had suddenly began to pick up the pace and had closed on the rear of Piquet's car. The Benetton driver had elected to be the first driver of the front runners to pit for new tyres, exiting the pits in fourth, allowing Boutsen to take third position. A strange decision despite the belief of Goodyear head, Lee Gaug, stating the Goodyear's should be able to run the full distance of the race.
Modena would managed to take fifth position from Martini, whilst behind these two, Mansell was rapidly closing in on the points. Martini would head to the pits, his Pirelli tyres were now well worn. His teammate, Barilla who was much further down the field would also head to the pits. Having passed both Bernard and Nakajima on track, Mansell had now moved into the points following Martini's pit-stop.
At the front, Alesi continued to maintain the lead ahead of Senna's McLaren. Alesi being described as "staying calm under extreme adversity" by David Hobbs. Bob Varsha noting that Senna was "remarkably circumspect for a man who is often regarded as the intimidator." Alesi would continually close the door on Senna in the run down to the first corner, the McLaren driver biding his time behind the Tyrrell.
On the thirty fourth lap, Senna attacked down the inside of the first corner, he briefly took the lead, before much to his surprise, Alesi snatched back the lead of the race into the second corner. Alesi's retaliation had awed the audience, Bob Varsha noting "talk about intimidating the intimidator!". However the following lap, Senna once again attacked into the first corner. The McLaren driver taking advantage of Alesi's distraction in having to lap Foitek's Brabham.
Senna took the lead through the first corner, however Alesi would not concede the position without a fight. Alesi would attempt to reclaim the position all throughout the first five corners, before he would inevitably have to concede the position. Senna would now began to disappear into the distance.
Senna was now in complete control of the race, he set a string of fastest laps, before his teammate, Berger, who was multiple laps down on the lead lap broke Senna's run with the new fastest time of a 1:31.050. Berger would soon pull out of the race with clutch troubles.
Further down the field, the backmarkers of Grouillard and Foitek collided at Washington Street. Foitek was sent flying into the barriers before the Brabham came to a standstill in the middle of the circuit. Nannini would run over the debris and puncture one of his tyres for the second time in the race. Like his first puncture, it had been caused due to trouble from Grouillard's Osella. Grouillard meanwhile would retire his car out on the circuit.
The yellow flags would slow the cars for a number of laps whilst the marshalls worked to clear Foitek's stricken car off Washington Street. As this occurred, Mansell had closed on Modena's Brabham, he would then take fifth place into the first corner on the forty fifth lap. With Modena cleared, Mansell began to close on his old rival, the Benetton of Nelson Piquet.
As Mansell began to close on Piquet, his engine was showing signs of trouble and had began to smoke. Approaching the first corner on the forty ninth lap, the Ferrari engine exploded, sending Mansell spinning in the run down to the corner. Mansell amazingly regained control of his car before hitting the barriers, however with a blown engine he was now out of the race.
Bernard has a big spin at the entrance to Washington Street, the brakes on his Lola were slowly degrading and he dropped behind teammate Suzuki and Martini's Minardi. Suzuki however would not last much longer, brake failure on his own car would force him to pull off the circuit and retire.
Gugelmin had briefly ran in the top ten early in the race, however he steadily had fallen down the field. The poor handling on his car had given him severe cramps. He had attempted to come into the pits to retire, however Leyton House team principal, Ian Phillips demanded he return to the track.
Senna, meanwhile continued to maintain his authority at the front of the field, he had extended his lead to over 20 seconds from Alesi's Tyrrell. Behind these two came Boutsen, Piquet, Modena, Nakajima, Martini, Patrese, Bernard and Alboreto.
Patrese had steadily advanced through the field, however a problem in his exhaust had meant that he was now falling back once again. Martini had overtaken him and now Bernard and Alboreto had began to close on the Williams.
It was evident that the driver's were coming under severe physical strain in the later stages of the race. Gugelmin had already attempted to retire, whilst Barilla's Minardi decided to pull into the pits and exit his car. The physical exertion had become too much.
Renault had began to show concerns that their engines were not operating well. The Williams cars of Boutsen and Patrese had both began to slow with engine troubles. The battle for third was now opened once again, Boutsen was falling back to Piquet whom was coming under severe pressure from Modena's Brabham. Modena was clearly faster than Piquet in the corners, however the power of Piquet's Ford engine would outdrag Modena's Judd engine along the straights.
Having created a huge lead, Senna began to back off the pace in the final laps. This had allowed Alesi to close the gap, however not so much that he could be seen as a threat to the McLaren driver. Senna coasted the track, the Arrows of Schneider following him around on the final laps, before Senna allowed the Arrows to unlap himself on the final lap.
Senna took the victory whilst Alesi took his first podium after an amazing drive for the Tyrrell team. Boutsen rounded out the podium places whilst Piquet fended off Modena for fourth position. The second Tyrrell of Nakajima took the final points position. Nakajima exited his car in a near total deaf state, he had lost one of his ear plugs in the course of the race.
After a torrid off-season for Senna, he started the new season in the best way possible for McLaren. He is overjoyed on the podium and takes the opportunity for some small revenge, spraying champagne all over FISA President, Jean-Marie Balestre. In the press conference he expressed relief at the result to John Bisignano, stating "I am surprised to have won this race. We only tested the new car for the first time a few weeks ago and it did not go too well in our first testing. Coming into this circuit I was not expecting a car this competitive. And of course a street circuit is always a lottery."
Senna had received top competition from his teammate, Gerhard Berger over their first weekend. However Berger would leave the circuit frustrated, his mistake at Washington Street had cost him the chance of defeating Senna on his first attempt as teammates. Berger would state after the race, "I lost it, plain and simple. I was a little bit between the brake and the throttle, already braking to the limit, and I just caught the throttle. My fault."
Whilst Senna had won the race, the star of the weekend was Jean Alesi and the Tyrrell team. Ken Tyrrell's little team had enjoyed much success with Alesi scoring the first podium of his career. His duel with Senna had earned him a lot of respect from Senna whom admitted his surprise in Alesi's retaliation for the lead. Senna describing him as having a "temperament similar to Gilles Villeneuve" and the duel as being "a very exciting battle and he drove really well; very clean and precise, the sort of motor racing I like."
Commenting on his performance at Phoenix, David Tremayne would note "In 1984 he himself had made his point to Prost and Lauda at Monaco. In Phoenix it was Alesi who was making the point, and Senna who took it on board."
Alesi meanwhile was in awe of his newfound praise, describing himself as being a fan of Senna's since his Lotus days. He also expressed confidence in Senna's driving that he knew it would be clean and fair. The only detriment to his phenomenal weekend was that his team boss, Ken Tyrrell, refused to allow Alesi to keep the trophy. It was a scorn to Alesi's weekend and something he would not forget. Nonetheless, he would take the opportunity of a few days holiday in California with his young wife, Laurence before regrouping for Brazil.
It had surprised everybody that the old Tyrrell 018 had performed so well on the streets of Phoenix. However this had more to do with the superiority of the Pirelli tyres on the circuit. The 018's designer, Jean-Claude Migeot believed the Pirelli's would suffer on the faster circuits. In the cooler and slower conditions at Phoenix, the Pirelli tyres had allowed the little midfield teams to match the pace of the front running Goodyear teams. Senna would comment on the now rejuvinated tyre war "both Pirelli and Goodyear are going to fight very hard to improve their tyres and should make a good championship."
The biggest disappointment of the weekend was the dysmal performance of the Ferrari team. Although the team had proved dominant during the pre-season testing, both Prost and Mansell were both well off the pace in Phoenix. The inflexible V12 engine coupled with a poorly programmed semi-automatic gearbox had meant the team had suffered in the opening round of the championship.
Nonetheless, despite his victory, Senna remained apprehensive that McLaren were still the team to beat in 1990. He simply stated "we need to see how we are in the fast circuits". It was indeed the fast circuits that Ferrari seemed untouchable in the pre-season testing. Prost remained in good spirits, commenting "I have no concern for the future. It will soon be that the Ferrari's will be the worth of the McLaren, if not better."
Standings after raceEdit
|V T E||United States Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961–1980), Phoenix (1989–1991), Indianapolis (2000–2007), Austin (2012–present)|
|Formula One Races||1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981–1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992–1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008–2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017|
|Non-F1 races||1908 • 1909 • 1910 • 1911 • 1912 • 1913 • 1914 • 1915 • 1916 • 1917–1957 • 1958|
|See also||United States Grand Prix West • Indianapolis 500 • Detroit Grand Prix • Caesars Palace Grand Prix • Dallas Grand Prix • Questor Grand Prix|
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