1989 Portuguese Grand Prix

Circuit_Estoril_1984-1993Autódromo do Estoril
24 September 1989

With the season approaching its climax, Williams finally debuted the FW13 car which had been specifically designed around the Renault V10 engine – the modified FW12C had proved to be a potent racer, and if the FW13 was any improvement at all, the team would be right back at the top. In other news, Bertrand Gachot had been summarily sacked by the Onyx team at the behest of his former benefactor Jean-Pierre van Rossem after making some less than complimentary comments about the car. In his place came highly-rated Finn JJ Lehto. Arrows announced the departure at the end of the season both of designer Ross Brawn and Eddie Cheever, with Michele Alboreto signing on for 1990 and Minardi confirmed that Pierluigi Martini would continue with them next year. Finally, Johnny Herbert was back as Alesi was off trying to secure his F3000 title.

89Lehto headshot37. JJ Lehto fi

Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto was a protégé of 1982 champion Keke Rosberg, and it was Rosberg’s idea to abbreviate his name to “JJ Lehto” to make it less of a mouthful. Lehto began in karts at the age of 8 and did well enough to graduate to Formula Ford at 15 before moving on to the British racing scene. He won the British and European F2000 titles in 1987, and followed that up with the British F3 title in 1988. For 1989 he was given an opportunity to test for Ferrari as well as moving up to F3000 with the Pacific team. Results in F3000 were harder to come by and his best was 4th place in Pau, but nonetheless he was regarded as a fine driver for the future.

Pre-qualifying saw Stefan Johansson top the timing sheets, with new team-mate Lehto unfortunate to suffer from broken suspension and fail to make the cut. Alliot was second and Alboreto fourth, with Roberto Moreno making use of the new super-sticky Pirelli qualifiers to go through in third place. Lehto was a second off Alboreto’s fourth placed time and yet was still the best of the rest – though his case was helped by the disqualifications of Larini and Dalmas for rule infringements.

Ayrton Senna added to his ever-increasing total of Pole Positions, with Gerhard Berger lining up alongside 0.6s slower. Mansell was third and Prost fourth – still muttering about team favouritism. In fifth place was an overjoyed Pierluigi Martini using those Pirelli qualifying tyres, with Patrese and Boutsen in the new Williams cars 6th and 8th, sandwiching Pirelli runner Caffi’s Dallara in 7th. Even Luis Perez-Sala, normally an indifferent qualifier had made it into the top ten in 9th, with Brundle and Modena 11th and 12th and Johansson 13th. Moreno put his Coloni 13th, while Piquet was a disappointed 20th and Nakajima 25th. Eddie Cheever was a thoroughly demoralised 26th. Failing to qualify were an unwell Herbert, Grouillard and, as usual, both Rials.

POR89 Start.jpgThe start saw Berger leap into the lead ahead of Senna, with Mansell also having a look but settling back into third place. The day was hot and getting hotter and tyres would be a major factor – was Pirelli’s race tyre as good as their qualifier? Was the better choice the semi-hard B compounds or the semi-soft Cs? Or a mix? McLaren and Ferrari both chose Cs all round. So at the end of first lap Berger had already pulled out a two-second lead over Senna, who had Mansell right on his gearbox. Prost was fourth and leading a train consisting of Martini, Patrese, Caffi, Boutsen, the Brabhams of Brundle and Modena and Sala in the other Minardi.

Mansell was clearly faster than Senna, particularly through the corners, and on lap 8 he finally got a tow down the main straight and went through into turn one. By this time Berger had pulled out a lead of over 7.5s and the local Ferrari following were delirious to see their cars beating McLaren fair and square on the track. Pierluigi Martini was holding 5th with the two Williamses breathing down his neck, and the other Pirelli cars (Caffi, the Brabhams and Sala) were also holding their own.

Image result for 1989 estoril bergerMansell didn’t seem in a mood to cut his team-mate any slack, though, and set about closing the gap to Berger, putting up a succession of fastest laps to catch his team-mate, which he did on lap 23. By this time, they were both bearing down on Warwick and Modena (who had dropped back with handling issues) to lap them. As they came round onto the home straight, Mansell dove out from behind Berger just as Warwick dove out from behind Modena, leaving Berger boxed in and allowing Mansell to take all three in a brilliant move. So it was Mansell, Berger, Senna and Prost – and then on lap 27 the tyre stops began with Prost diving in and rejoining 8th. This promoted Martini to third at the head of a four-car battle including Patrese, Boutsen and Johansson. Next in on lap 34 was Berger – a lightning stop saw him get back out in fifth with Mansell. On lap 36 it was Senna’s turn POR89 Martini leads.jpgand the McLaren boys fumbled and the stop was over 13 seconds. Then, on lap 40 Mansell peeled in to the pits himself and suddenly, gloriously, Pierluigi Martini led the race in his Minardi! Attention, however was focussed on the Ferrari which thundered into the pits – and overshot the waiting crew. He threw the car into reverse and backed up into the box, took on new tyres – needless to say it took the startled crew a bit longer than usual – and went on his way in fourth.

Martini’s moment of glory didn’t last – he was quickly overtaken by Berger and Senna, having led but a single lap, and Mansell was past shortly afterwards too – but the black flags were out with the 27 number. Mansell was to come in within one lap and report to the clerk of the court to be disqualified for reversing in the pit lane. But he didn’t. The flags went out again the next lap. Again, Mansell stayed out. A third time the POR89 Senna Mansell accident.jpgflags went out, this time with a Ferrari pit board reading MANSELL IN. Cesare Fiorio radioed Mansell to tell him to come in. But it appeared Mansell was so focussed on the battle he was now fighting with Senna that he wasn’t seeing or hearing the instructions. And then, on lap 48, he dove inside the McLaren into turn one, Senna turned in, the pair collided and were off. No confrontation trackside but Senna was furious at being taken out in a vital championship race by a driver who shouldn’t even have been on the track at the time.

POR89 Berger Win.jpgAll this left Berger some distance ahead of a second-placed Prost, with Patrese 3rd, Johansson 4th and Boutsen 5th. On lap 60, with just 12 to go, first one of the FW13s, then the other, rolled to a stop with an overheating engine caused by rubbish in the sidepod radiators. An unfortunate coincidence or a fault in the car? The Williams technicians would be all over them to find out. So as a delighted Gerhard took the chequered flag and Prost cruised home a satisfied second, it was Stefan Johansson who came in third. The veteran Swede may be no stranger to the podium himself, but it was a fantastic result for POR89 Johansson.jpgthe Onyx team, already buoyed by JJ Lehto’s good showing in pre-qualifying. Behind him came Nannini, with Martini taking two points – scant reward for a job well done, but much appreciated nonetheless – and Jonathan Palmer taking the last point for Tyrrell. In seventh was a satisfied Nakajima, having come through from 25th on the grid.

With this being his 12th scoring finish, Prost had to discard his worst – 2 points from Mexico – to bring his total to 75 and a 24-point advantage over Senna with three races to go. Ferrari moved up to second in the Constructors’ championship, meanwhile.

Drivers’ Championship

Position Driver Points*
1 Alain Prost 75 (77)
2 Ayrton Senna 51
3 Nigel Mansell 38
4 Riccardo Patrese 28
5 Thierry Boutsen 24
6 Sandro Nannini 17
7 Gerhard Berger 15
8 Nelson Piquet 9
9 Michele Alboreto 6
= Eddie Cheever 6
= Derek Warwick 6
= Stefan Johansson 6
13 Johnny Herbert 5
= Jean Alesi 5
15 Maurício Gugelmin 4
= Stefano Modena 4
= Alex Caffi 4
= Andrea de Cesaris 4
= Pierluigi Martini 4
20 Christian Danner 3
21 Martin Brundle 2
= René Arnoux 2
= Jonathan Palmer 2
23 Gabriele Tarquini 1
= Olivier Grouillard 1
= Luis Perez-Sala 1

* Top 11 finishes only are counted.

Constructors’ Championship

Position Constructor Points
1 McLaren-Honda 128
2 Ferrari 53
3 Williams-Renault 52
4 Benetton-Ford 22
5 Tyrrell-Ford 13
6 Arrows-Ford 12
7 Lotus-Judd 9
8 Dallara-Ford 8
9 Brabham-Judd 6
= Onyx-Ford 6
11 Minardi-Ford 5
12 March-Judd 4
13 Rial-Ford 3
= Ligier-Ford 3
15 AGS-Ford 1


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