1989 would see the beginning of a new era of F1; gone were the powerful but expensive and thirsty turbocharged engines and everyone would now be using normally-aspirated 3.5l engines. The potential reduction in costs had already seen increased interest from small “privateer” teams with the likes of Rial. EuroBrun and Scuderia Italia joining the series in 1988. They would be joined in 1989 by another new entrant, the Onyx team based in West Sussex, and by the welcome return of the Brabham team after its enforced sabbatical year.
There were also some new and returning players in the engine market; Ford had rolled out the DFR engine that had been exclusive to Benetton in 1988 to all its customers for ’89, while Judd continued with the CV unit. Renault returned to power Williams who had had a torrid season with the Judd motor, while Zakspeed were powered by the Yamaha OX88. The Larrousse team, meanwhile, had scored what could be a potential coup with a deal for exclusive use of ex-Ferrari man Mauro Forghieri’s new Lamborghini 3512. While the Ford, Judd and Yamaha engines were all V8s, Honda and Renault had produced V10s for McLaren and Williams respectively, while the Ferrari and Lamborghini units were V12: heavier but potentially more powerful.
Technical and Rules changes
Aside from the turbo ban, the main technical change was the safety requirement that all cars must have the driver’s feet behind the front axle – a potential problem for fitting taller drivers such as Gerhard Berger and Eddie Cheever, as most designers had simply moved the pedals back to comply.
With another four cars being added to the grid, there were now a whopping 39 cars chasing 26 places and pre-qualifying was expanded. A Friday morning session would see 13 of the lowest-scoring cars from the previous two half-seasons compete for just four places in qualifying proper. Onyx and Brabham went straight into PQ, along with the Osella and Zakspeed teams and a single EuroBrun. Finally, four teams which had run one car in 1988 and since expanded would have to pre-qualify the “extra” car: these were Dallara, Coloni, Rial and AGS.
The only change to the calendar for 1989 was that the unpopular Detroit street circuit had been replaced with another street course, this time in Phoenix, Arizona. This was instead of the planned move to a new circuit in Belle Isle Park, which would have kept racing in the Motor City, but hadn’t materialised. Some were concerned about the heat in the Mojave desert in June but at least the circuit looked wider and less bumpy.