20 years since Senna took out Prost at Suzuka

1990 Japanese Grand Prix flashbackPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

One of the most notorious moments in F1 history happened 20 years ago today.

Ayrton Senna clinched the 1990 world championship in a deeply controversial Japanese Grand Prix. He rammed into rival Alain Prost at the first corner at Suzuka, taking both of them out of the race.

For the third year in a row the world championship was between two men: Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. And for the third year in a row the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka decided the outcome of their personal battle.

Senna claimed the 51st pole position of his career, a feat that was central to the weekend’s controversy:

Pole position at Suzuka had been on the right-hand side of the track – off the racing line – for each of the three previous F1 races at the track.

Senna had started there in 1988, bogged down badly, fallen to 14th, yet recovered to win the race and the drivers’ title.

He started there again in 1989 and as he struggled for grip at the start Prost charged into the lead from second place. Senna caught and tried to pass his rival at the chicane later in the race, but Prost swerved into the side of Senna’s car, taking both out, denying Senna the championship.

Before qualifying for the 1990 race had even begun, Senna lobbied track officials for pole position to be moved to the left and onto the racing line. He believed he’d got their consent – but after claiming pole position he was told he would start from the right-hand side of the track once again.

Senna saw the hand of FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre in the decision. The same person he blamed for his disqualification from the 1989 race, after he had disentangled his car from Prost’s and driven through the run-off at the chicane to re-join the track.

In the drivers’ briefing before the 1990 race the drivers were told they would not be disqualified for using the run-off at the chicane, as Senna had 12 months previously. He stormed out of the room:

1990 Japanese Grand Prix grid

Row 1 1. Ayrton Senna 1’36.996
2. Alain Prost 1’37.228
Row 2 3. Nigel Mansell 1’37.719
4. Gerhard Berger 1’38.118
Row 3 5. Thierry Boutsen 1’39.324
6. Nelson Piquet 1’40.049
Row 4 7. Riccardo Patrese 1’40.355
8. Roberto Moreno 1’40.579
Row 5 9. Aguri Suzuki 1’40.888
10. Pierluigi Martini 1’40.899
Row 6 11. Derek Warwick 1’41.024
12. Ivan Capelli 1’41.033
Leyton House-Judd
Row 7 13. Satoru Nakajima 1’41.078
14. Johnny Herbert 1’41.588
Row 8 15. Mauricio Gugelmin 1’41.698
Leyton House-Judd
16. ??ric Bernard 1’41.709
Row 9 17. Nicola Larini 1’42.339
18. Emanuele Pirro 1’42.361
Row 10 19. Gianni Morbidelli 1’42.364
20. Philippe Alliot 1’42.593
Row 11 21. Stefano Modena 1’42.617
22. David Brabham 1’43.156
Row 12 23. Alex Caffi 1’43.270
24. Michele Alboreto 1’43.304
Row 13 25. Andrea de Cesaris 1’43.601

Jean Alesi, Tyrrell-Ford, qualified seventh but withdrew from the race weekend due to injuries sustained in an accident during practice.

Did not qualify

14. Olivier Grouillard, Osella-Ford – 1’43.782
17. Gabriele Tarquini, AGS-Ford – 1’44.281
18. Yannick Dalmas, AGS-Ford – 1’44.410
31. Bertrand Gachot, Coloni-Ford – 1’45.393

Over in nine seconds

As the race started Prost instantly pulled ahead of Senna and into the lead. Senna briefly tucked in behind his rival.

Turn one came up on them quickly. Prost moved towards the middle of the track, then feinted back to the left as Senna lined himself up for a look at the inside.

Prost lifted the throttle and turned into the corner. Senna slammed into his right-rear wheel at a speed of no less than 130mph, probably much higher.

The two wrecked cars hurtled into the gravel trap where they were briefly obscured by a cloud of grit. As the dust settled two figures climbed from their cars and made their way back to the pits separately.

Senna asked: “They’re not stopping the race, are they?” and was told they weren’t. With that, he was the 1990 world champion.

A race to forget

As lap two started the other McLaren of Gerhard Berger joined Senna’s in the gravel trap at turn one. Berger, who had inherited the lead, slid sideways off the track and out of the race.

That promoted Nigel Mansell into the lead. He ran around at the head of the field unchallenged for the first half of the race, gradually leaving Nelson Piquet’s Benetton behind.

The only prospect of a competition for the lead arose from the fact that Mansell would have to change tyres and Piquet, who had started on a harder compound, wouldn’t (there was no requirement to use two compounds of tyre during a race then).

But Mansell never made it out of the pits after coming in on lap 27. Once again, the Ferrari’s semi-automatic transmission let him down.

His ninth retirement from 15 starts ended Ferrari’s hopes of winning the constructors’ championship. For the third consecutive season the trophy went to McLaren.

Piquet now held an unchallenged lead. Alesi, who had been due to start behind the Benetton driver, was left to wonder what might have been.

Behind Piquet was his new team mate Roberto Moreno, who had been drafted into Benetton after Alessandro Nannini lost his arm in a helicopter accident.

Moreno had spent the year up to that point campaigning the hopeless EuroBrun, qualifying just twice in 14 attempts, and admitted it had been quite an adjustment to get used to the higher levels of downforce the B190 offered.

The Brazilian driver wept after taking the chequered flag behind his compatriot. Piquet’s victory ended his own three-year win drought and headed Benetton’s first one-two.

The early demise of the two Honda-powered cars did not end local interest in the race. Aguri Suzuki took the final podium place, the first Japanese driver ever to finish in the top three in a world championship event.

The Lola driver used his extensive local knowledge of Suzuka to qualify ninth on the grid. He picked off Derek Warwick early in the race and, running to the end without making a pit stop, inherited places from both the Williams drivers to claim third.

Satoru Nakajima made it two Japanese drivers in the points by bringing his Tyrrell home sixth.

1990 Japanese Grand Prix result

Pos Car Driver Team Laps Difference
1 20 Nelson Piquet Benetton-Ford 53
2 19 Roberto Moreno Benetton-Ford 53 7.223
3 30 Aguri Suzuki Lola-Lamborghini 53 22.469
4 6 Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 53 36.258
5 5 Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault 53 46.884
6 3 Satoru Nakajima Tyrrell-Ford 53 1’12.350
7 25 Nicola Larini Ligier-Ford 52 1 Lap
8 23 Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ford 52 1 Lap
9 10 Alex Caffi Arrows-Ford 52 1 Lap
10 26 Philippe Alliot Ligier-Ford 52 1 Lap
11 Derek Warwick Lotus-Lamborghini 38
12 Johnny Herbert Lotus-Lamborghini 31
9 Michele Alboreto Arrows-Ford 28
2 Nigel Mansell Ferrari 26
21 Emanuele Pirro Dallara-Ford 24
29 ??ric Bernard Lola-Lamborghini 24
24 Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Ford 18
16 Ivan Capelli Leyton House-Judd 16
22 Andrea de Cesaris Dallara-Ford 13
15 Mauricio Gugelmin Leyton House-Judd 5
7 David Brabham Brabham-Judd 2
28 Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda 1
27 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 0
1 Alain Prost Ferrari 0

The aftermath of the crash

What drove Senna to commit one of the most outrageous acts ever witnessed in Formula 1? His frustration with the sport’s governing body – Balestre the focus of his fury – combined with a growing sense of desperation that the championship was slipping away from him.

The Ferrari F1-90 had clearly been quicker than the McLaren MP4-5B in the previous two races.

Senna knew he had been fortunate to take points off Prost at Estoril. At Jerez Prost had out-manoeuvred Senna in the pits, driven away from him on the track, and to make matters worse a damaged radiator left Senna point-less.

Heading into the two remaining races Senna had a nine-point lead over Prost in the championship. There were nine points available for a win, then 6-4-3-2-1 for the remaining places, but drivers could only count their 11 best scores, making the situation more complicated.

It’s likely two things were weighing on Senna’s mind: if Prost won both the remaining races, there was nothing Senna could do to stop him from being champion.

But if Prost failed to finish one of the remaining races, Senna would definitely be champion.

It’s not hard to imagine how the row over the location of pole position affected Senna’s state of mind. As he walked back to the pits following the crash he told reporters that was the reason why the collision had happened:

When F1 returned to Suzuka in 1991 pole position had been moved to the left-hand side of the track. Senna won his third world championship that weekend, and in the press conference afterwards launched into a tirade against Balestre:

I said to myself, “OK, you try to work cleanly, and you get ****** by certain people. All right, if tomorrow Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner, I will go for it and he better not turn in because he’s not going to make it.” And it just happened.
Ayrton Senna

Following the Suzuka collision in 1990 a furious Balestre told the world:

It is a scandal that a world championship should be decided on such a collision and I leave everyone to be their own judge of who is to blame.
Jean-Marie Balestre

It’s true that what Senna did to Prost in 1990 only differed to what Prost did to Senna in 1989 by degrees. In principle, Prost’s actions were every bit as cynical as Senna’s.

And by allowing Prost to go unpunished after taking Senna out of the 1989 title-decider, what could FISA do about Senna in 1990? According to Balestre, nothing:

Last year the race stewards disqualified Senna because he cut short a chicane. This time, they told me on the telephone, that there were no elements to allow Senna’s disqualification.
Jean-Marie Balestre

The governing body’s failure to act against a championship-deciding crash in 1989 left them powerless in 1990.

More followed in later years, courtesy of Michael Schumacher, in 1994 and (unsuccessfully) again in 1997. Since then Balestre’s successor Max Mosley has suggested the FIA would step in were it to happen again but that has not yet been put to the test.

The extreme tactics Senna was prepared to used to win the world championship – risking his own life as well as Prost’s and potentially others’ – was not lost on his arch-rival, who said:

I’m not prepared to fight against irresponsible people who are not afraid to die.
Alain Prost

The horrendous consequences which Senna’s actions could have had were demonstrated in a tragic crash two years later.

Hitoshi Ogawa and Andrew Gilbert-Scott collided at the same corner during a Japanese Formula 3000 race in 1992, at comparable speeds to Senna and Prost, perhaps a shade higher.

Ogawa was killed when his car was launched over the barrier. Gilbert-Scott, a cameraman and two photographers were also injured.

On many other days Senna’s otherworldly driving ability – not to mention his intense personal charisma – won him legions of supporters. His greatest drives have inspired a further generation of fans since his death.

But there was a dark side to his character which the events of October 21st 1990 make impossible to ignore.

His life is the subject of a new film documentary, already released in Japan, which is due to open in many other countries next year. Surely the most difficult chapter of his life to relate is the actions that made him the 1990 world champion.

Did you see this race?

Were you at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix? Did you watch it live? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

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137 comments on “20 years since Senna took out Prost at Suzuka”

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  1. I remember the 1992 Japanese F3000 crash that killed Hitoshi Ogawa but hadn’t made the connection with the Suzuka ’90 incident.

    Japanese F3000 was pretty hot stuff at the time. The Japanese had not long gone motor racing mad so there was lots of money behind it. The easy availability of paid drives meant a lot of European drivers went to Japan if they didn’t have the sponsorship to continue in Europe. It certainly gave the top Japanese drivers a good yardstick. The series was very competitive and, towards the end of its glory days, it helped push Ralf Schumacher and Pedro De La Rosa into F1.

    In 1992 F1 didn’t have control tyres as such but with a single supplier (Goodyear) development was pretty flat. By contrast, Japanese F3000 was in the midst of a tyre war which lead to huge cornering speeds (much higher than European F3000). If I remember rightly, Ross Cheever (brother of Eddie) managed a lap at Suzuka that would have put him in the top ten for the GP.

  2. Senna’s attitude is a lot like Alonso’s imo.

    1. BeyondThePale
      21st October 2010, 14:16

      And Alonso has deliberately rammed whom?

  3. Both Senna and Prost were truly amazing F1 drivers, nothing can take that away from them in my view. It’s a pity really that, instead of enjoying old races and brilliant performances from past drivers, people so often have to look for their flaws. E.g. who can deny the brilliance of Schumacher at Barcelona in 1996, or Senna at Spa in 1989 or Prost at Mexico City in 1990? I prefer to remember their great drives which I so much enjoyed watching rather than to think of which one of them did the worst thing to another driver. No one is perfect…

    As for the comments on how we think of past F1 in rose tinted spectacles because the difference in qualifying times was big or whatever… I don’t agree, I saw the old races, I have some taped and recently watched them again, and I have to say they are exciting. Anyone who doubts that, please take a look at Canada, Germany, Belgium, Japan 1989, yes the differences in qualifying times were bigger than they are now, but drivers running on a free choice of tires in different cars with different engines used to come accross eachother on track and it gave them the opportunity to fight it out.

    I think drivers fighting in a race (regardless of whether they manage to pass or not) makes racing a lot more exciting than say the whole top ten qualy in 2010 being within 1 sec of eachother…

    1. i quote myself : “All the fun of the time came from strategy, reliability issues, and just sometimes (just sometimes), gutsy drives.”

      It was fun, but matter of fact stays : the cars were massively different from one to another. So as you say : it all relied on different strategies and other imponderables

    2. Racing has never been as close as it is now. The top 10 are separated by 10th’s not seconds and as poor as HRT have been they are not 7 or more laps down at the end of a race. Some cars had 200bhp more than others. I can pick out dozens of good races from 1970 onwards but also dozens more that were not worth watching.
      Senna had a history of complaining and wanting other drivers banned. The personal battle between him and Balestre over shadowed any he had with other drivers including Prost. As great as he was I doubt he would have survived with the same reputation in an era of 24 hour news, online sites and the total coverage we have now.

      1. Amen, thank you for adding in, Rampante.

        I agree, that nowadays we have so many more images, interviews and blogs digging it is really hard to be as glorious as in that time, and time will always make the best races remembered better than all those boring ones.

  4. Well, I don’t agree with most of you. I remember very well watching it (on TV) at the time and I stil don’t believe what Senna did was outrageous. I am still puzzled as to why Prost leaves such a gap for Senna to jump in. It would have been very easy for him to drive closer to the line and not give Senna any room. Of course Senna knew he couldn’t pass but he had enough room to move in and then let Prost slam the door on him. Of course Prost could have decided to let him pass but then he would have been totally off line for the next corner. Prost in someway brought it on himself. And I am no Senna fan, believe me.
    I think Prost thought the race would be red flagged and Senna disqualified. There is an interesting quote from him to that view:
    “Well, what can you say about that? After I’d retired we talked about it, and he admitted to me – as he did to the press – that he’d done it on purpose. He explained to me why he did it. He was furious with Balestre for not agreeing to change the grid, so that he could start on the left, and he told me he had decided that if I got to the first corner ahead of him, he’d push me off. What happened in Japan in ’90 is something I will never forget, because it wasn’t only Ayrton who was involved. Some of the people at McLaren, a lot of officials – and a lot of media – agreed with what he’d done, and that I couldn’t accept. Honestly I almost retired after that race. As I always said, you know, he didn’t want to beat me, metaphorically he wanted to destroy me – that was his motivation from the first day. Even in that Mercedes touring car race, back in ’84, I realised that he wasn’t interested in beating Alan Jones or Keke Rosberg or anyone else – it was me, just me, for some reason.”

  5. I agree with Tango on this, different cars and also as Tango points out less reliability, I know it is very harsh when someone loses a certain victory on the last lap, but on the other side it keeps the race exciting untill the last corner…

    Rampante, so because of Senna’s ethics, he is not a good driver anymore? I seriously doubt that… And yes as you point out, some races since the 70s were great and others not worth watching, as we have these days as well, I also believe some GPs this year were very good, but up untill 1995 around that time I felt that racing was more pure and less sterile, now everything seems like it is laser guided/laboratory/you know what I mean?

    1. He was one of the very best but like the rest had faults. Can you immagine today a driver before a race saying that if he is beaten into turn 1 he will take the other out?
      I am in total agreement about the sterility in modern F1.

      1. I’ve mentioned that before on this forum… “too sterile” but I think that we are Ferrari fans and that is like a mill stone around our necks.

        Can’t agree with what Senna did, that was just bonkers… Look at my avatar ;)

        Keith answered it nicely with the bit about the “The horrendous consequences which Senna’s actions could have had were demonstrated in a tragic crash two years later.

        Hitoshi Ogawa and Andrew Gilbert-Scott collided at the same corner during a Japanese Formula 3000 race in 1992, at comparable speeds to Senna and Prost, perhaps a shade higher.

        Ogawa was killed when his car was launched over the barrier. Gilbert-Scott, a cameraman and two photographers were also injured.”

        Remember, Senna was carrying an Austrian flag for Roland R. in his car to honor him and pay tribute to R.R.’s death. I know that he had feelings for people, but he was blind as as a bat when it came to his own ambitions.

  6. Senna put his car on the inside and let Prost decide if he wanted to crash or not. Prost turned in and they crashed out of the race.

    It’s not like Senna just slammed into the back of Prost.

    1. ????? Prost turned in because…there was a corner there! Senna cut on the kerb and went straight in the back of the Ferrari. He admitted also.

    2. It’s not like Senna just slammed into the back of Prost.

      No, it isn’t. Because he slammed into the side of Prost.

  7. Have anybody who completely blames Senna for the accident actually watched the footage? There is a gap and Senna can take the inside line cuss Prost is on the outside and Senna makes it up beside his rear wheel. Prost is equally much to blame for the incident. It’s a racing incident! Not “Senna runs into Prost to win the championship” I think that’s a very angled article. Prost had less to loose than Senna and obviously went for it as hard as Senna. He didn’t want to let Senna have that inside line so he closed. Why shouldn’t he? Equally, why shouldn’t Senna attack? Senna did gain more from this than Prost, as Prost gained more in the ’89 accident than Senna. This is what racing is about.

    1. There is a gap and Senna can take the inside line cuss Prost is on the outside and Senna makes it up beside his rear wheel. Prost is equally much to blame for the incident. It’s a racing incident!

      Considering how quickly they were going, how little they would have to decelerate for turn one and how tight and small the gap Senna had was, there was no realistic chance he was going to be able to overtake Prost there and then.

      Any racing driver in that situation would have ceded the corner unless his intention was to take the other driver out. I can’t see any reasonable grounds for calling this a “racing incident”.

      1. Racing incidents are also rarely pre-meditated. Senna later confirmed it had been his intention to crash into Prost (if Prost made the better start) before the race had even started…

        1. No what I think you’re reffering to is Senna saying he would go for it. Not deliberately taking Prost out not matter what.

      2. No he would’ve gotten the inside line for turn 2 and had been fighting. This is racing. I don’t think it’s right to call this totally an Senna lunatic ride! That gives the wrong impression of what happened! Sure, Senna was probably not afraid to crash but it was not like Schumacher did on Villeneuve exactly!

        Any racing driver tries to overtake and make up positions. He was coming up alongside and had a shot at it. Why not take it? Sure the blame is more on Senna than on Prost. But please don’t just say Senna crashed Prost without even blinking.

  8. A wonderful review Keith.

    I’ve been to see the Senna movie here in Tokyo and I was struck by the interview in the pitlane after the incident how Senna was struggling to find words (that would be acceptable?) to explain what happened.
    Certainly the darkest moment of Senna’s career and of F1 up until then.

    1. I’ve been to see the Senna movie here in Tokyo

      Wow! I’m incredibly jealous…

    2. I can only hope we will have it in the cinema’s here!

  9. colin grayson
    21st October 2010, 11:40

    compared to balestre , max mosley is a saint!

    senna wasn’t going to be screwed , after all prost got anyway with it !
    anybody remember when balestre stopped monaco in the rain so that prost wouldn’t get overtaken for the win ?

    frankly I expect the championship to be decided this year by a collision , and what can be done about it ? webber got away with taking out hamilton by not braking in time so how can they penalise anyone else if they do it ? hope I am wrong and webber is WDC without any controversy

    1. It was Jacky Ickx, as clerk of the course, who rightly stopped the Monaco GP in 1984. I don’t think Ickx’s decision had anything much to do with Balestre.

      In fact, because Ickx used a red flag to stop the race (implying the possibility of a restart) he was later fined by Balestre for using the wrong flag. (Although the President of the Automobile Club de Monaco took it upon himself to wave a chequered flag, meaning race over.)

  10. great article Keith

  11. Cracking article mate well done you.

    Yeah I remember this one. Even then Senna was my top driver but I didn’t cheer for him that day. I was looking forward to watching the race more than anything and after the first corner it was like “oh, that will be that then”. Prost (mostly) always was a better sportsman than Ayrton but thats not what I was looking for at the time. Senna had not only huge ability but was completely fearless. His talent was enough but couple that with a total, almost blind commitment to driving a racing car and you have something special. That incident was uncalled for, he should not have done it. Not winning that championship would not have mattered to that fifteen year old lad sat on his bed watching F1 at its best. He would still have been my hero.

  12. Yes I saw both live on TV… Prost taking out Senna, and Senna taking out Prost. I was a Prost, Ferrari fan and the DQ for Senna seemed fair enough to me. I think the Drivers Briefing video sort of says it all for me. I was a bit shocked by Senna taking out Prost. It felt about the same when Schumacher took out Hill.

    Senna going over to Williams was a bit of stake in the heart for me.(Prost left) But, I was on a pretty high note during the first bit of the 94 season as Senna had scored no points and when he went off at Tamburello, I yelled yes! It wasn’t for several laps that I began to regret that…

    The Med Car had pulled up, he was still in the Williams and not moving. Then the cover screens came up… lap after sickly lap I watched and my stomach sunk, I knew it was serious.

    My 6 year old sun was a Senna fan, because well, I was a Prost fan.(father son rivalry) He was raised getting up at 5am Pacific time to watch the European rounds with me. He was sleeping that morning during the crash. He awoke and I told him that Senna had crashed and it didn’t look good. He somehow seemed to understand. It was a bit later in the day that Senna’s death was announced.

    What was odd was that he became a MSC fan after that… and MSC punted Hill into the wall.. go figure? I was a Hill fan.

    In retrospect… I knew how good Senna was and it was frightening, he’d do anything to win. It was the same with MSC. I think the same can be said of Prost in a different way. Keith had a stab at it, but it just doesn’t cut to the bone and marrow as with Senna and MSC.

    It’s the kind of attitude that I love and loathe at the same time. Look again at the drivers briefing… should actually be called a debriefing to be honest… Piquet a WDC says it…and it happens. It’s a bit ruthless isn’t it.

    Too be honest… I think that Vettel Hamilton, Webber and Alonso have a bit of that in them, and I like it!

  13. I remember it, but not so well as the 1989 race. I was a young Senna fan then, and his comeback after Prost collided him and he lost so much time at the pits was just epic, to the degree that it has completely wiped out the memories of his “14th to 1st” the previous year from my mind. So when Ayrton’s 1990 retaliation came, I believed it was just right, I hated so much Balestre and Prost that it felt the perfect thing to do at the moment.
    But many years after, I can say now it was plain wrong and can generally agree with what is being said in the majority of the posts here. And while my favourite drivers will ever be in the Senna style (Villeneuve, Ayrton, Hamilton), I do now really appreciate the “opposed” type of driving (Reutemann, Prost, Button), and reckon Alain Prost was one of the greatest of all time with ease.

  14. Hi , very nice article.
    I remember getting up very early that Sunday morning to watch it with my dad, and he went to go make us some coffee, I remember shouting to him that its about to start, he shouted back, he’ll be there soon, I then shouted back to him, “dont worry it’s all over, they’ve just taken each other out”, he rushed in just to see the dust settling….
    Just one of those unforgettable memories I have….

  15. You know something, I really enjoy posting and reading others posts on this site. Everyone has there own opinions but they are still fair and open minded. I’ts a pleasure to be amongst other real motorsport fans. Good on ya guys. Any other site is ****** handbags at dawn! Lol

    1. I can’t agree more Speckled Jim!

  16. Why linking Senna with unrelated accident caused by unexperienced Japanese driver in front of his home public? I fail to see other links than just the same corner, sorry.

    I believe Senna was trying to aggresively overtake Prost, but in such a way that if triggered accident – it was Prost to worry. In other words – Senna tried to overtake not to make collision, but he had nothing against collision as well.
    It’s importnant on tv replays that they were entering the corner side by side, Senna didn’t “slam” in Prost as written here.

    Prost seeing Senna on his side after what seemed won start reacted too agressively trying to prevent Senna overtaking him, and this way allowed himself to get provoked into the collision and loss of the title.

    Then Senna was just saying that this accident was fair from his point of view.
    Despite Senna’s words justifying prospect of such accident, I still think this was quite unlikely he could plan it, because simply it’s next to impossible to “plan” such accidents in F1 especially during always unpredictable starts. Senna could be well first in the first corner or far away in the back.

    Exmple of Schumacher – the routine master of dirty tricks – suggest that making such accidents looking as innocent is virtually impossible.
    I believe Senna was going his way – trying to win the race and title, not to make collision as his main plan.

    I was watching this race – it was my first season ever with F1 and I was fan of Prost. I had no idea about the context, though and now I think it was really fair for Senna that he become the champion, though I don’t like he provoked the accident while with his skills he was able to win.

    1. In other words – Senna tried to overtake not to make collision, but he had nothing against collision as well.

      He later admitted that if Prost got into that turn ahead of him, then he would crash into him.

      It’s importnant on tv replays that they were entering the corner side by side, Senna didn’t “slam” in Prost as written here.

      At the very best, Senna got wheel to sidepod with Prost, and didn’t even lift for the corner having run across a kerb. As a result, he clearly slammed into Prost.

      Prost seeing Senna on his side after what seemed won start reacted too agressively trying to prevent Senna overtaking him, and this way allowed himself to get provoked into the collision and loss of the title.

      Prost won’t have been able to see someone at his sidepod. It was Prost’s corner, and he was taking it as normal.

      Exmple of Schumacher – the routine master of dirty tricks – suggest that making such accidents looking as innocent is virtually impossible.

      It is hard, and that’s why most people here could see that Senna intentionally hit Prost.

      1. quote: He later admitted that if Prost got into that turn ahead of him, then he would crash into him.

        He couldn’t control how Prost would start. Planning things this way would be very very risky plan.

        1. He couldn’t control how Prost would start. Planning things this way would be very very risky plan.

          Yes, and if Prost hadn’t got into the corner ahead of Senna, then Senna wouldn’t have tried anything. But Alain did, and as a result Aryton took that dangerous risk with his own and his fellow driver’s lives.

          1. This is a bit melodramatic, isn’t it? The very nature of the accident made it sure that they cleared the road way before anybody else could be affected by it. When it comes to Prost or Senna himself, there is mile of gravel on the outside of that curve – nobody got close to get hurt in that “accident”.

  17. Rampante, I agree with the point you make about intentionally taking out another driver not being ok, but I don’t see what that has to do with modern F1 being more sterile than F1 pre 1996, sterility and taking people out is like comparing apples with pears, I like much more the attitude of the past drivers and the more ‘normal’ feeling that people involved in F1 used to have back then, perhaps just leaving out the violent driving tactics, I don’t think dirty driving has anything to do with the sport being less sterile, look at MotoGP for example…

    Alex Bkk, you mention the Austrian flag Senna had in his cockpit the day he died, like you said he did have feelings but I disagree with you when you say he didn’t have any when it got in the way of the way he drove, I think he always cared about other people’s well-being, but I think once he was in the car he only thought about winning, I think there is a small difference there if you see what I mean, I honestly do believe that whilst he did some pretty dangerous stuff to win, I don’t think he did it out of a lack of caring about other drivers, but rather more out of a lack of self-control if you can put it that way…

    1. Yes, I see what you are saying Josef… I just see it a little bit differently ;) I could also be just a bit prejudiced and still on my high prancing horse even after all these years. Thing is whenever I’m asked about the top F1 drivers of my life time, and that covers quite a bit of F1 history… Senna’s name is always in the mix.


  18. Keith, if my memory serves me well, the pole in Suzuka had always been on the left-hand side prior to 1990 and has been on the same side after that. I also remember that in 1990 the pole place had not been put in the right-hand side prior to quali – it had been left open. After quali, and with Senna having got the pole, Balestre, for the only time in that circuit’s history, decided that the pole guy on the dirty side of the track. I can quite understand why Senna went mad with that. He would not let the Prost/Ballestre duo cheat him again.

    1. Keith, if my memory serves me well, the pole in Suzuka had always been on the left-hand side prior to 1990 and has been on the same side after that.

      In the F1 races in 1987, 1988 and 1989 pole position was on the right-hand side, as in 1990. In 1991 it was on the left.

      1. I stand corrected, Keith. But I still have a recolection that the organizers changed the side of the pole in 1989 after the quali – or do I remember it wrong too?

  19. Keith, this might be your best article ever. And it trumps even the behind-the-scenes article about the Jerez testing. And incredibly brave of you as well to not paint Senna in an innocent light, since after Senna passed away in 1994, I think all writers have been scared of doing anything apart from elevating Senna to a demi-God status.

    This article portrays the true picture of Senna IMO. He was no different than other controversial WDCs like Schumacher, Prost, Alonso or Hamilton.

    1. That’s very nice sumedh, thank you :-)

    2. I second this. I’ve gotten out of the habit of saying “Great article Keith” and it’s not because they haven’t been!

  20. Just imagine if senna was alive and in his prime he probably wouldn’t be quick enough to get in to any of the top teams. Brindle stated that schumacer was quicker than senna and just look at how poor schumacer is doing against one of the young guns

    1. You must be kidding. Senna not good enough to trounce the likes of Webber and Button (and Alonso, for that matter)? You probably have been watching F1 for a year or two now. By the way, during the time Senna and MS run together in F1, Senna won 10 races and MS only 4…. Brundle likes to be negative about Senna because Senna cleaned the floor with him. And Schumacher is doing so poorly because he 41, for crying out loud! What one calls talent (not what you learn, but the part that is brought by your genes) in racing can be simply described as fast reflexes and hand-eye cordination. Both start to go down in your late 20s – by your 40s you are hopelessly handcaped.

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