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Ayrton Senna Special: Part 37 - Bad year for the sport - Suzuka (1990)

  • Published on 27 Apr 2019 19:00
  • comments 0
  • By: Fergal Walsh

After a good series of races in the middle of the season it finally came down to the last four races. With Portugal, Spain, Japan and Australia ahead, the difference between Ayrton and Prost was 16 points. Because the eleven best results would apply, Ayrton could already become champion in Portugal. From 1991 all races would count and the winner got ten points for a Grand Prix victory.

Until 1990 Formula 1 gave nine points to the winner. Ayrton had scored points in ten races at the start of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Prost had scored his points in nine races. Every result in the points meant that Ayrton would reach eleven finishes that would count. Prost, on the other hand, had the opportunity to add 18 points to his eleven best results in two Grand Prix with Portugal still ahead of him. 

Portugal (Solid second place)

The title could already be decided in Portugal. If Ayrton won he would be unable to be reached by Prost. Nevertheless, Prost didn't give in, and would start second in this race, which was eventually won by teammate Mansell. Ayrton finished second, Prost third. Mansell had passed Ayrton with 20 laps to go. The race was interrupted by an accident of Alex Caffi. "The championship was the most important thing for me. I had to ride with the championship in mind and therefore a second place is an excellent result for me. I had no problem, Nigel caught up with me when he came in the slipstream. He drove a good race and he was good at catching up with those who stayed behind", Ayrton said.

Spain (Tension returns)

With only 15,000 spectators watching, Ayrton had the ideal opportunity to secure his title in Europe. The Spanish Grand Prix was startled by the huge hit Martin Donnelly had on Friday. There was nothing left of the Lotus and Donnelly was left lying in the middle of the asphalt. Ayrton cared about the other drivers (as Allen Berg already told us during our exclusive interview) and decided to go to the scene of the disaster.

When he returned to the pits we could see that the Brazilian fought against his tears. The strange thing about the whole story is that when Ayrton saw the green flag waving, he went back onto the circuit as if nothing was wrong. With a new track record, he took the 50th pole position of his career. During the race Ayrton was in the lead, Prost followed. During the pit stop cycle, Ferrari made a faster stop than at McLaren.

Ayrton lost the lead and drove behind Prost when the duo wanted to overtake the unstoppable Nelson Piquet. Piquet shot through the gravel, put rubbish on the track and this rubbish would eventually cause Ayrton to have overheating problems. Ayrton dropped out and Prost won the race. The difference between the Brazilian and the Frenchman was nine points. Ayrton had more race victories and would be champion in case of a Prost runaway in Japan or Australia. "This is the worst scenario to fight for a championship," he said after the race. 

"I was in the pits and practice was aborted. I heard from several people that there was an accident and that it was Martin Donnelly. It was terrible. I decided to go there. I wanted to see it, I wanted to know what the situation was. Millions of things shot through my head when I realized that I wouldn't give up my passion when I saw what had happened. At that moment I had to distance myself from it and go back to my car. I had to get in the car again and do even better than before. This made it possible for me to forget everything that had happened there. I just hadn't finished quitting yet. I wanted to pursue my dream, that's my life", Ayrton explained after the accident of the Lotus driver in Jerez. 

The shame at Suzuka 

On the Wednesday before the race, Ayrton asked the organisation of the race if they could change the first and second starting places on the grid. Ayrton was of the opinion that the place where the polesitter would start should always be on the racing line. In this case, the position of the pole position was on the other (dirty) side. Ayrton's request was rejected, nevertheless, he kept fighting for his pole position. On Saturday McLaren wanted to try to get both drivers on the front row. Unfortunately for Ayrton, Ferrari had the same goal and made a qualifying setup for both drivers. Prost drove to the second time on Saturday and got the 'best' starting position. 

At the end of this procedure, there was commotion about it. It was clear that this situation had not occurred for the first time. Ayrton had already had to deal with this problem several times. Also in Germany (Hockenheim), pole position on the wrong side of the straight. Ayrton had during the season several conversations with Roland Bruynseraede indicated that this had to change. 

The tensions were high in Japan. During the briefing prior to the race, there was another controversy. Bruynserade started the briefing with the routing instructions. Again the 'missing' of the chicane was discussed. This subject attracted the attention of Nelson Piquet: 

Bruynseraede: "The race will have 53 laps. If you miss the chicane, you have to go back and follow the right line.

Nelson Piquet: "The safest thing is, if you miss a chicane, the stewards will stop you. Okay? If there's no traffic, they'll let you go. If you have to turn around and drive backwards against the traffic, it's dangerous. Because if another car comes and also misses, it will hit you".

Bruyenseraede: "Okay. Does everyone feel that way?

Drivers: "Yes!

At this point, Senna stands up and walks straight to the exit of the room.

Senna: "I can't compete with it. I can't bear it. It's a joke. After what happened last year, it's a joke, this situation. It's just a proven fact here. I didn't say anything and you see someone raising the issue and everyone agrees. And last year was really bad for me.

"I knew Balestre was part of this problem, I've been screwed by the system so many times. Today will have to be my day, it will have to go my way."

The fight between Prost and Senna would eventually go 800 meters. As they entered the first corner, the two drivers came into contact with each other, and sp their race and the championship were over. When the clouds of dust had cleared, Ayrton turned out to be the world champion of 1990. It was his revenge on the system, Balestre, Prost and the loss of the title in 1989. Senna didn't find the crash so shocking: "Last year I lost the title due to a crash, this year I win it. The only difference is that it was already at the start of the race." 

"We went to the first corner and we made contact", Ayrton told John Bisignano after the crash in Suzuka. "I totally agree that pole position was on the wrong side of the track. You drive your balls off to get to pole position and they put you on the wrong side of the track", he said. "It's not a bad feeling," he said when asked what it felt like to be a champion. Ron Dennis said afterwards that Ayrton wasn't proud of the way it turned out. According to the team boss, he had a conflict in his head. 


Ayrton Senna Special: Part 1 - Ayrton and karting - The early years
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 2 - Ayrton and karting - International

Ayrton Senna Special: Part 3 - Ayrton and karting - The tough trip in Buenos Aires
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 4 - Ayrton and karting - The last race
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 5 - Ayrton in Europe - Formula Ford 1600 and the battle with Rick Morris

Ayrton Senna Special: Part 6 - Ayrton in Europe - A glorious year in Formula Ford 200
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 7 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - Senna in a class of his own
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 8 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - First signs of pressure and dirt game 
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 9 - Ayrton in British Formula 3 - Shame at Oulton Park and another title
Ayrton Senna Special Exclusive Interview: Allen Berg: Ayrton drove against the British system
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 10 - Ayrton as a test driver - The first experience in a Formula 1 car
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 11 - Ayrton as a test driver - A selection of different teams
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 12 - Ayrton at Toleman - Why the choice for Toleman was the right one
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 13 - Ayrton at Toleman - Monaco Grand Prix - Stefan was faster
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 14 - Ayrton at Toleman - Monaco Grand Prix - Post-race
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 15 - Ayrton at Toleman - Competitive in a new car with two podiums
Ayrton Senna Special: Technical Analysis 1: The Toleman TG183 (1984)
Ayrton Senna Special: Teammate 1: Johnny Cecotto
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 16 - Ayrton at Lotus - Facial Paralysis
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 17 - Ayrton at Lotus - Masterclass in Estoril
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 18 - Ayrton at Lotus - An unfortunate first half of the season
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 19 - Ayrton at Lotus - Many podiums and a victory at Spa-Francorchamps
Ayrton Senna Special: Technical Analysis 2: The Lotus 972
Ayrton Senna Special: Teammate 2: Elio 'The Gentleman'
Ayrton Senna Special: Extra 1: Veto 1

Ayrton Senna Special: Part 20 - Second year at Lotus - Titanium competition with Nigel Mansell
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 21 - Second year at Lotus- A good start and the lead in the championship after Detroit (1986)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 22 - Second year at Lotus - Decay in the second half of the season (1986)
Ayrton Senna Special: Teammates 3: John Crichton-Stuart, 7th Marquess of Bute (1986) 
Ayrton Senna Special: Extra 2 - Gérard Ducarouge - Designer of Ayrton's winning Lotus (1986)

Ayrton Senna Special: Exclusive Interview 1: Allard Kalff: 'I still honour Roland on April 30'.
Ayrton Senna Special: Exclusive Interview 2: Allard Kalff: "I only saw at Linate Airport that Ayrton had died"
Ayrton Senna Special: Exclusive Interview 3: Allard Kalff: "The accidents in 1994 were coincidence, in 1995 nothing happened"
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 23 - Last year at Lotus - Excellent season with the 1986 Honda engine (1987)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 24 - Last year at Lotus - The victories at Monaco and Detroit (1987) 
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 25 - The beginning of an era - The contract at McLaren (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Extra 2: Trashtalk (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 26 - The beginning of an era - Tears in Brazil and Monaco (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 27 - The beginning of an era - The basis for the first world title (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 28 - The beginning of an era - Absolute dominance (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Eric Comas: 'Hypocritical people knew during the race what was going on with Ayrton
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 29 - The beginning of an era - The first world title (1988)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 30 - Problems at the team - Perfect start despite a loss in Rio (1989)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 31 - Problems at the team - A dip in the championship at an early stage (1989)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 32 - Problems at the team - Back in the title fight? (1989)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 33 - Problems at the team - Bad luck and controversy put an end to the second world title (1989)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 34 - War at the team - Suzuka (1989)
Ayrton Senna Special: Extra 4: Senna and Ferrari - A deal that did not come off (1990)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 35 - Bad year for the sport - Excellent start (1990)
Ayrton Senna Special: Part 36 - Bad year for the sport - The basis for the second world title (1990)

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