1989-90 Off-Season

The political wrangling that had ended the otherwise excellent 1989 season rumbled on throughout the off-season, right up to a couple of weeks before the opening race. Eventually, McLaren paid Senna’s hefty $100,000 fine and when the Brazilian publicly retracted his comments about the FIA “fixing” the championship, his 6-month ban was rescinded. A truce rather than a peace treaty but hopefully a line could be drawn.

In the wider world, too, there had been an autumn and winter full of politics. When the F1 circus visited Hungary in August, East Germans were travelling there en masse to take advantage of the easy crossing into Austria. Things had snowballed with astonishing rapidity with Communist governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia fell from power, and the East German government opened the borders with West Germany and began to demolish the hated Berlin Wall.

It was all change in the world of F1 too; just two constructors maintained their 1989 driver lineup, and one of those had changed its name; Williams retained Boutsen and Patrese, while Capelli and Gugelmin now drove for the Leyton House team – the Japanese real estate firm had increased its backing of the March team in exchange for naming rights.

Most of the major moves were already known about by the end of 1989: Prost from McLaren to Ferrari, Berger going the other way; Piquet from Lotus to Benetton; Warwick from Arrows to Lotus. Eddie Cheever had decided to join Arnoux and Ghinzani in stepping back from Formula One and had instead entered IndyCar racing. Martin Brundle, despite having re-signed for Brabham early in 1989, had changed his mind and returned to Tom Walkinshaw’s sportscar team. The Rial and Zakspeed teams would not be racing in 1990 with the former folding and the latter returning to its sports car roots. For the first time in some years there would be no German representation in Formula One – no teams, no engines and no drivers. There was one newcomer – Ernesto Vita’s Life team which would run a single car powered by a revolutionary new W12 engine.

If it was all change on the team and driver front, there was continuity elsewhere; no major changes in the rules or technical regulations and the calendar saw only a couple of minor amendments: the US Grand Prix moved to the start of the season to alleviate the Arizona heat and Canada and Mexico swapped places. The Brazilian Grand Prix, meanwhile, returned to a much-improved Interlagos circuit for the first time since 1980.




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