Motor Sports

When Senna met Prost at Suzuka Circuit in 1989

Click the image to watch the collision between them.

The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One race held at Suzuka Circuit, Japan, on 22nd October 1989. Alessandro Nannini was the eventual race winner, having started from 6th position, with Riccardo Patrese (2nd) and Thierry Boutsen (3rd) taking the remaining podium positions. But the race is best known for how it decided the Drivers’ Championship between McLaren’s Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

After both colliding on lap 47 at the final chicane, both Prost and Senna’s cars stalled. Prost abandoned his car, but Senna restarted his, made a pit stop, and overtook Nannini to cross the line in 1st. After the race, it was discovered that the marshals gave Senna a push start to rejoin the race and he was disqualified. That decision gave Prost the title.

McLaren appealed, arguing that Senna hadn’t gained a competitive advantage by missing the chicane via the push start, but things went from bad to worse for the driver and the team. FISA not only upheld Senna’s DQ, but they added a $100,000 fine and a suspended six-month ban, calling him a “dangerous driver” (I mean, I think all the drivers are living dangerously by driving at up to 200mph for 70 laps but I digress).

Naturally, conspiracy theories spread like wildfire with suggestions that Prost collided with Senna on purpose or if Senna really was driving dangerously and suffered the consequences. For me, the added fine and suspended ban was harsh for 1989 but c’est la vie.

(spoiler alert: Senna won the 1990 Drivers’ Championship by 7 points. Prost finished 2nd)

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