Circuito Permanente de Jerez
1 October 1989
Following the black-flag incident in Portugal, Nigel Mansell and Ferrari jointly had been fined $50,000 and Mansell banned from the Spanish race. The Scuderia decided again to just enter one car (much to the chagrin of test driver Roberto Moreno, one imagines) and Nigel held a press conference on Friday in the Ferrari garage. He strongly denied – as he had after the Estoril race – having seen any black flags or heard any radio messages (ironically Senna of all people had corroborated his story by saying he’d been having trouble hearing radio messages from the pits around that time too). If FISA really thought he was the kind of driver who would just ignore black flags, then perhaps he should consider retiring, he concluded. Many in the paddock felt what he’d really been punished for was colliding with Senna and “ruining” the Championship race, so there was a lot of sympathy for his position. Not – perhaps understandably – from Ron Dennis though, who held his own press conference to express his belief that Mansell did know he’d been disqualified.
Anyway, there was a Grand Prix to hold among all this. Williams were finding their new FW13 unexpectedly troublesome so Patrese was going to run the FW12C in Spain; Alesi was back as the newly crowned European F3000 champion. Gregor Foitek was also back, replacing Christian Danner at Rial in a desperate attempt to find some qualifying form.
Pre-Qualifying proved once again what a lottery the early Friday session could be: Stefan Johansson had an engine failure and couldn’t find a free lap and failed to pre-qualify. No such problem for JJ Lehto or Philippe Alliot, and the pair were joined for Qualifying by a delighted Osella pairing of Larini – top of the times – and Ghinzani. Ayrton Senna took his 40th pole position and once again it was Berger alongside, with Prost in third. Next up was Pierluigi Martini, building on Minardi’s excellent Portugal form with their best-ever qualifying position, and behind him was an equally impressive Alliot. In sixth was Patrese in the FW12C – Boutsen well adrift in 21st in the FW13. 7th was Piquet, 8th Brundle, 9th Alesi and 10th Pirro. Larini was a cracking 11th, Nannini was down in 14th, Lehto would make his race debut in 17th and the back row consisted of Ghinzani and Gugelmin. Both Rials and Arnoux failed to qualify – Rial new boy Gregor Foitek suffering a big shunt (pictured) when the rear wing fell off his car at speed.
Senna knew he had to win to keep alive any chance of the 1989 title, and he also knew how difficult passing at Jerez could be, so it was vital he get into the first corner first – which he did; Berger and Prost followed through, with Patrese beating Martini into the corner to go fourth. If spectators were expecting Senna to romp off into a big lead, they were surprised when Berger stuck with him for lap after lap as Senna carefully husbanded his tyres in the knowledge that Berger would find it all but impossible to pass. Nakajima was already out, nudged into the armco by Modena on the first lap, and the March was in at the end of the lap to have his front suspension rebuilt. Prost meanwhile was keeping in touch with Berger while fighting off Patrese behind him.
Behind the leaders, a terrific scrap was going on between Brundle, Alesi and Nannini for 8th place, until Nannini spun out on lap 14. Alesi eventually got past on lap 20 as Brundle’s Pirellis started to go off – Martini was also losing places – just as an impressive JJ Lehto toured off with a broken gearbox. Both Brundle and Martini were in for tyres shortly afterwards.
By lap 22, Senna had finally managed to start pulling away from Berger, and 4 laps later Prost was in for a quick 8 second stop, returning to the track fourth – but not for long as Patrese was in on the next lap and his stop was slow with a sticking wheel nut. The next lap it was Berger in for a greased-lightning 6.2 second stop without losing a place. Then it was Senna, back out in the lead with Berger right on his gearbox again.
Berger’s Ferrari began emitting a light plume of blue smoke, but it didn’t seem terminal, or even to slow him down at all, and on lap 35 – just under half distance – the order was Senna 5s ahead of Berger, with Prost some 15s back in third, Alesi another 12s back in fourth, with Pirro and Patrese fifth and sixth, all about 2 seconds apart. Alesi was badly delayed by a slow stop and dropped to sixth but otherwise the race settled in to be something of a procession as cars strung out, and those that were running together found it difficult to pass. There was in fact no change in the top six for the next twenty laps
Home driver Luis Perez-Sala livened things up a little by ploughing into the back of Gugelmin’s March in a botched attempt to take 8th place on lap 48; by now Berger’s engine was smoking quite liberally, but it didn’t stop him setting the fastest lap – it was just a question of whether he could keep it going. On lap 60, Pirro swapped ends while trying to lap de Cesaris and was out, moving Patrese up to fourth and Alesi to fifth, with Alliot moving up into the points. With ten laps to go, Alesi catapulted past Patrese into fifth, and the Williams peeled in for new tyres, rejoining still in 5th place.
So Senna took a fine lights-to-flag victory to keep his championship hopes alive, Berger nursed his ailing Ferrari home for second place and Prost “drove the taxi” in his words to third place. As Senna came home, a lapped Alesi was holding position behind him, unwilling to unlap himself and have to do an extra lap – except he hadn’t noticed Patrese bearing down on him! As Ken Tyrrell yelled into his ear to wake him up, the three finished almost together, Patrese just half a length behind. Alesi took a fine if lucky fourth place; his third points finish in his first six Grands Prix and Patrese was 5th in his 190th Grand Prix. Alliot picked up the last point for Larrousse with de Cesaris, Piquet, Warwick and Palmer the only other cars to finish.
Alain Prost scored 4 points, but had to discard 3 points for his fourth place in Hungary – a net gain of 1 point, but it could be a vital one. It meant that Senna had to win the last two races in Japan and Australia – if he did that, he would be champion whatever Prost did thanks to the “best 11” system.
|1||Alain Prost||76 (81)|
|=||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
* Top 11 finishes only are counted.