13 August 1989
The Formula One circus descended on a Hungary undergoing a certain amount of political turmoil: a reform-minded Hungarian Communist party in Budapest had begun to make it easier for its citizens to travel abroad and in May had begun dismantling border fortifications with neutral Austria. East German “holidaymakers” began streaming into Hungary and across the border, returning laden with consumer goods – or more often not at all. While the world looked on, expecting the Soviet tanks to roll in as they had before, the Hungarian Grand Prix went ahead as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on. The crowds were a little thinner on the ground than previously but otherwise the talk was of engines, tyres and 1990 driver lineups.
The Hungaroring circuit itself had been modified slightly to remove the chicane at turn 3, which had been a temporary measure put in when a spring was discovered during construction. Now, with the stream dug into a culvert, the track could be straightened out a little and was some 47 metres and three corners shorter – lap times would come down from previous years. Nonetheless, it still remained tight, twisty and difficult to pass, with a curiously grip-free surface and few opportunities for the more powerful cars to shine; this was unlikely to be a McLaren benefit.
The two Onyx cars both came through Pre-Qualifying once again, and were joined in Friday afternoon’s session by Alboreto’s Larrousse and, for the first time, Ghinzani’s Osella. When the dust settled on Qualifying proper, there was a rather unusual look to the grid as many drivers and teams had struggled to get the setup just right and find a clear lap. Riccardo Patrese took his first pole since Monza 1983 with Brabham, three tenths ahead of Senna in second. Third was a stunning Alex Caffi in the Dallara, 0.6s behind Senna and 0.3s ahead of Boutsen in fourth with Prost languishing back in fifth alongside Berger. Nannini and Modena made up row 4, with Derek Warwick 9th and Pierluigi Martini in Minardi’s best-ever grid position of tenth. Nigel Mansell, meanwhile, unable to find a clear lap anywhere over the two sessions, was down in 12th alongside Alesi. The Lotus team, still looking cheerful with their new management team, qualified
17th (Piquet) and 20th (Nakajima); Cheever was 16th amid rumours that he was finding motivation hard to come by and would retire at the end of the season; the Onyxes were 21st (Gachot) and 24th (Johansson) and lining up last and dealing from a painful cracked rib was
Michele Alboreto. Missing the cut were four blue cars: two Ligiers and two Rials. with Volker Weidler (right) again bottom of the timing sheet and again penalised for a rules transgression, this time an illegal rear wing.
As in Monaco, getting to the first corner first is everything in Hungary and most observers expected Senna to make his customary rocket start and get through before romping away to another win. In the event, however, it was Patrese who got the perfect start and held off the McLaren-Honda to get round first, and held the lead, while Caffi managed to keep his third place despite the best efforts of Berger and Prost, who had both got ahead of Boutsen. Mansell also got a great start and leaped from 12th to 8th by the first corner, but all eyes were on Patrese who was immediately under huge pressure from Ayrton Senna. Patrese, however, wasn’t about to let it ruffle him and simply drove the circuit knowing there was little Senna could do about it. Behind them, Caffi was clearly struggling – the Pirelli race tyres apparently just not being as the qualifying compound. For three laps he valiantly held off Berger before the Austrian muscled past, and he stayed ahead of Prost for another four, but it was noticeable that both of them immediately were able to put their foot down and catch the leaders, so by lap 10 there was a four-car train (Patrese-Senna-Berger-Prost) at the front and a five-car train headed by Caffi and consisting of Boutsen, Nannini, Mansell and Warwick.
On lap 12, with de Cesaris (clutch, lap 1) and a devastated Martini (lap 10, wheel bearings) already out, Nannini peeled into the pits for an early stop and promoted Mansell to 7th. On lap 20, that became 6th as he elbowed his way past Boutsen, and two laps later he was past Caffi and off in pursuit of the leaders – a hefty 17 seconds away. Mansell was never a driver to give up, though, and swiftly put the hammer down to catch up. On lap 28, Prost got past Berger for third, by which time Mansell was just 9 seconds behind his team-mate and two laps later he was past as Berger pitted for new tyres. The Austrian rejoined on fresh rubber and was soon back past the Caffi train into fifth place, but all eyes were on Mansell who – hearing from the Goodyear technicians that Gerhard’s tyres would have lasted the whole race – set about Prost like a man possessed.
On lap 41 he took third in a perfectly-executed slingshot manouevre off the last corner and closed to within a second of Senna, still harrying Patrese who was still leading serenely. For 11 laps they remained close together until Patrese suddenly slowed, allowing first Senna, then Mansell through. Just like Silverstone, Patrese had a damaged radiator and had to pull off and retire, heartbroken, after his best drive in some time.
So Senna now led with Mansell tucked right under his rear wing and looking for a way past. For three laps the pair duelled with Mansell unable to quite get the same slingshot he did on Prost, who pitted for tyres and rejoined 6th. Berger inherited third, just in time to retire with a broken gearbox – again – which put Cheever third. On lap 57 the leaders happened upon Stefan Johansson, struggling with a broken gearbox of his own and trying to keep his Onyx off the racing line. Unfortunately, just at that moment he was right on it, and Senna had to dab the brakes, which was all Mansell needed – with a brilliant instinctive reaction he jinked to the right and passed both of them to take the lead. No wonder the Ferrari fans were already calling him Il Leone!
Senna tried to stick with Mansell, but the Ferrari was handling better in the corners and was able to pull away, as Senna decided to settle for second. Boutsen had got past Cheever for third, and in the final laps Prost managed to get past the Arrows too. Nigel Mansell took his second win for Ferrari after a truly epic drive from 12th on the grid on a circuit where passing was supposedly impossible. Senna took second and Boutsen third, Prost fourth, Cheever fifth with Nelson Piquet picking up the final point – the fourth points finish for Lotus in the last 5 races which was promising for the team.
It had been a cracking race, and just the fillip the sport needed after the McLaren show in Germany. Senna caught up just a little more to Prost, and Mansell was mathematically still capable of taking the title too. Cheever’s points lifted Arrows to fifth in the table, and Piquet’s point finally lifted Lotus above Dallara (!) into 7th. Next was Belgium, a completely different circuit again.
|=||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
* Top 11 finishes only are counted.