Suzuka is one of F1’s finest circuits, a far-eastern gem with stunning corners, a ferris-wheel backdrop and passionate fans aplenty. It’s hosted some great races down the years. including several title-deciders, and Badger has picked out a few to cast an eye back over.
Japan ’89 is such a large part of F1 history that we wondered whether to stomp over old ground again – but how could we not pay at least a quick visit to this one?
McLaren team-mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost had duked it out for the title the previous year with Senna coming out on top, but this one looked like Prost’s. He held a 16 point lead with just 20 left to score, and after getting the jump on Senna at the start eked out a 5 second lead.
On lap 40 Senna sniffed a chance going in to the chicane. Neither man would back down, and both slid down the escape road. Thinking Senna had taken them both out Prost climbed from his car- with only 10 to score at the season finale and Senna 16 points in arrears the title was won. Senna however convinced the marshals to get him going again- the title fight was back on.
After pitting for a new nose Senna drove a stunning succession of laps and went on to win the race- but was disqualified as soon as he stepped from the car for cutting the chicane. Having taken the chequered flag moments earlier Senna was now barred from making his way to the podium, with Benetton’s Alessandro Nannini inheriting the race win. More importantly the title was now Prost’s. Afterwards Senna was furious.
“What I have done is done and is correct. I won the race on the track. The taste of victory was taken away, I couldn’t go onto the podium and celebrate with the crowd in the grandstands, probably my biggest fan club outside Brazil, and with my mechanics. As to the incident, that was the only place where I could overtake, and somebody who should not have been there just closed the door and that was that”. Prost, meanwhile, said nothing. The decision was upheld and he was world champion. But the bad feeling between these two would last for years to come.