1990 Brazilian Grand Prix

Circuit Interlagos.svg
Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos
25 March 1990

The Interlagos circuit had hosted the Brazilian Grand Prix through the 1970s but by 1980 its very bumpy surface was unsuitable for ground-effect cars and there were also concerns about safety, leading to the near-cancellation of that year’s race and the subsequent move to Jacarepagua. Now, with the Interlagos circuit (renamed in 1985 after the Brazilian driver who died in a 1977 plane crash) resurfaced and redesigned, F1 returned. Perhaps symbolically, the race thus moved from Nelson Piquet’s Rio to Ayrton Senna’s home of São Paulo.

It wasn’t a particularly popular move, though. The Autódromo Nelson Piquet may have been rather flat and featureless, but Rio at least had the consolations of fine beaches, great restaurants and a party atmosphere to distract from the favelas and pollution. São Paulo was a depressing industrial sprawl, and to cap it all the country was in the midst of a huge economic crisis. A new currency, the Cruzeiro, was introduced, banks were closed, credit cards not accepted and the people were restless. Not that it seemed to dim their enthusiasm for Formula One. Ayrton Senna had now driven six Brazilian Grands Prix – five of them in competitive cars – but had never won, so his hometown fans packed in waiting to see their hero put the record straight.

Alex Caffi was back for Arrows, but otherwise the entry list was the same as in Phoenix. Pre-qualifying saw the Larrouse pairing of Bernard and Suzuki top of the list again, joined in qualifying proper by Grouillard’s Osella and Dalmas’ AGS. Gary Brabham failed to set a time when his W12 engine threw a conrod, with the Life team increasingly looking a complete shambles.

BRA90 Senna grid.jpgAyrton Senna delighted the home fans by pulling out one of his trademark blistering qualifying laps to take pole from Berger in the dying minutes of Saturday’s session; row two saw the Williams cars of Bousen and Patrese and on row three were Mansell and Prost in the Ferraris. So far, so symmetrical. In seventh was Jean Alesi, best of the non-works teams, alongside Martini’s Minardi, with de Cesaris and Alliot making up the top ten. Both Benetton drivers were experiencing a lack of grip and could only manage 13th (Piquet) and 15th (Nannini), with the Lotus team afflicted with mechanical issues and starting 14th (Donnelly) and 24th (Warwick). All four pre-qualifiers made the grid, with the Onyx and Leyton House teams both missing the cut. Gianni Morbidelli, having missed out in Phoenix, would make his race-day debut in 16th.

Despite being back on the third row, several of the drivers including Thierry Boutsen opined that the Ferrari drivers would have an advantage in the race with their semi-automatic gearboxes enabling them to keep both hands on the wheel across the bumps and bends of the infield section. With the President of Brazil and governer of the South BRA90 Start.jpgEast region in attendance, the lights went green and the grid exploded into life. Senna got a perfect start to sweep into the lead followed by Berger and Boutsen,  while further back at turn one there was a coming-together between Alesi, Nannini and de Cesaris, which sent the Dallara off into the gravel trap and bent the Benetton’s nose.

With the fans roaring every time Senna went past in the lead, the top six remained as it was with the home-town hero beginning to pull out a lead over his team-mate. In fact, Berger seemed to be having difficulties and on lap 8, Boutsen was past into second place. He was followed on la 17 by Prost and soon Mansell was closing too. However, the Englishman’s charge began to falter and on lap 27 he came in to the pits – but instead of a tyre change, the technicians seemed to be examining his car. His steering wheel was removed and looked at, then put back on again, and off he went. Gearbox problems? No, it transpired later that he had a cracked rollbar which was affecting the car’s handling.

With Mansell dropping to 9th as a result of his stop, Patrese was up to fifth and three laps later his team-mate Boutsen came in for the first scheduled tyre stop from second, promoting Prost. Unfortunately for Thierry, his brakes were already fading and he overshot, clobbering one of the waiting tyres with his front wing and being delayed while his nose was hurriedly replaced as well as the tyres. By the time he got back out he was 11th and had already been lapped.

BRA90 Prost sparks.jpgOnce all the pitstops had shaken out, Senna led Prost by about ten seconds. Patrese was third, Berger fourth, Piquet fifth and Alesi sixth, and the race seemed to have settled in for the afternoon with the cars too spread out for much racing. Senna was carving through the backmarkers when he came upon his old Lotus team-mate Nakajima, now in the Tyrrell. Naka moved over smartly, but in doing so put two wheels on the “marbles” (crumbly bits of rubber which tend to accumulate off the racing line) and slid into Senna as he passed, deranging the McLaren’s nosecone but with no ill-effects to his own Tyrrell. Nakajima an instant villain in Brazil (which was a bit harsh given how mortified he was), but in truth Senna could have easily held back a little longer. Anyway, BRA90 Senna damage.jpgin he came for a new nose-cone and rejoined in third place behind Prost and Berger. Meanwhile, Mansell was still climbing back up through the field, broken roll-bar or no, and took 6th on lap 37, then chased down his old rival Piquet for fifth which he took two laps later. Patrese came in for tyres on lap 39 and elevated him to fourth, but on fresh rubber the Italian was soon back past and consolidated his third place.

Boutsen was likewise coming up well after his disastrous stop and was soon fifth, but with Senna in a fairly stable third place, especially once Patrese retired with a lack of oil pressure on lap 66, the crowd’s attention shifted in the final stages to a terrific chase for the final points position as Piquet, who had stopped for new Goodyears, bore down on Alesi who was husbanding his fading Pirellis on a non-stop strategy. Nelson had rejoined in 11th place on lap 49 and had sliced back up to seventh and was now catching the Tyrrell at a rate of knots – but the laps were ticking off. To the cheers of the crowd, he was up with Alesi on lap 68 and past a lap later, just three laps before the end, to take the last point and add a reputed $100,000 to his invoice for the team.

Image result for 1990 brazilian grand prix prostSo Alain Prost won comfortably in the end, with Berger second and Senna third, with Mansell, Boutsen and Piquet picking up the other points: Ferrari had had a nightmare in Phoenix and had bounced straight back. Berger, still suffering from a cockpit tub that was just too small for his lanky frame and with cramp in his braking foot as well, had done well to keep going and finish second.

This was Ferrari’s 100th Grand Prix win and Prost’s first for the team, and the indications looked good for a competitive season.

Drivers’ Championship

2Alain Prost9

Position Driver Points*
1 Ayrton Senna 13
2 Alain Prost 9
3 Jean Alesi 6
= Thierry Boutsen 6
= Gerhard Berger 6
6 Nelson Piquet 4
7 Nigel Mansell 3
8 Stefano Modena 2
9 Satoru Nakajima 1

* Top 11 finishes only are counted.

Constructors’ Championship

Position Constructor Points
1 McLaren-Honda 19
2 Ferrari 12
3 Tyrrell-Ford 7
4 Williams-Renault 6
5 Benetton-Ford 4
6 Brabham-Judd 2

1990 United States Grand Prix

1280px-Phoenix_Grand_Prix_Route_-_1989,_1990.svgPhoenix Street Circuit
11 March 1990

The Phoenix street circuit had been well received – particularly in comparison to Detroit – but the heat had been a problem in 1989 so it took a new position at the start of the season. With the season now beginning with two flyaway races, several teams decided to wait until the start of the European season to debut their new cars, but there was little familiarity about the grid in Phoenix with all the lineup changes over the off-season. There was more news in the run-up to the race, too: Ken Tyrrell had turned some heads by signing terms with Pirelli after 18 years as a Goodyear runner, and there were a couple of substitute drivers. Alex Caffi had hurt himself while cycling and his spot in the Arrows would be taken by Bernd Schneider, and Emanuele Pirro was recovering from a bout of Hepatitis, giving an F1 debut to Gianni Morbidelli.

Related image10. Bernd Schneider de

The talented Schneider had been a victim of the debacle that was Zakspeed’s 1989 season and, while he had actually made the grid on two occasions, it was hardly the best shop window for his talents and, with no German teams, engine suppliers or anything else, he had not been able to find another drive for 1990 unlike his team-mate Aguri Suzuki with his Japanese backing. Still, a substitute appearance for a rather better team might enable him to show what he could do.


Image result for gianni morbidelli 199021. Gianni Morbidelli it

Son of Giancarlo Morbidelli, maker of motorcycles for the Motorcycle Grand Prix series, Gianni decided early to go for four wheels over two and entered karting in 1980. Winning at his sixth attempt he moved up to Formula 3 and in 1989 he won both the Italian F3 title and the European F3 cup, as well as winning races in Italian touring cars. For 1990 he moved into F3000 with the Forti Corse team, and was also offered a role as a Ferrari test driver. This last proved a good recommendation to the Scuderia Italia team when a substitute for Pirro was needed.

And so it was time for the musical chairs and the analysis of testing times to stop and the cars to take to the track. Pre-qualifying was still necessary but there were now just 9 (instead of 13) cars gunning for those four spots in Qualifying proper: the two-car Larrousse, EuroBrun and AGS teams and the single-car Osella, Coloni and Life teams. Top of the heap, to some surprise, was Roberto Moreno in the EuroBrun with Bernard’s Larrousse second, Grouillard’s Osella third and Suzuki’s second Larrousse taking the last spot. These four were a full two seconds faster than the AGS pair, while Gary Brabham had a black-box failure in the Life and was some 35 seconds off the pace and Gachot’s gear selector broke and he trundled round the track in over five minutes before packing up.
USA90 Boutsen rain.jpgThe eagerly-awaited first qualifying session of the year did not disappoint the neutrals – with Pirelli still the qualifying tyres to have and a sudden rainstorm on Saturday, there was a distinctly topsy-turvy look to the grid. Sure, there was a McLaren on pole, but it was Gerhard Berger, not Senna. Alongside him was the irrepressible Pierluigi Martini, continuing Minardi’s fine qualifying form from the end of 1989. Row two was occupied by the Dallara of Andrea de Cesaris and the Tyrrell of Jean Alesi. In fifth and sixth were the old Brazilian sparring partners of Senna and Piquet – the latter’s new Benetton apparently suiting him well – with Prost back in 7th. Lining up alongside Prost was another “Pirelli Surprise”, Grouillard’s Osella. Image result for 1990 phoenix grand prixBoutsen was 9th and Modena 10th in the Brabham. Of the other high-profile drivers, Patrese was 12th, Mansell 17th and Nannini 23nd. At the back were Warwick’s Lotus and Gugelmin’s Leyton House, with Capelli, both Onyxes and Morbidelli failing to qualify (the latter after demolishing his Dallara on Friday and not being able to set a time on Saturday). Gregor Foitek would, after ahis disastrous 1989 season, finally make his GP debut in 24th.

On Sunday morning it was announced that Philippe Alliot, who had qualified 20th,
would be excluded after mechanics worked on his Ligier outside of the pit area on Friday. Everybody else shuffled up a place, which meant Ivan Capelli would start after all. Martin Donnelly, meanwhile, suffered a gearbox failure and didn’t make the dummy grid. And then, finally, the 1990 season could get underway. If the watching pundits had assumed normal service would be resumed, they were mistaken – Berger got away well and stayed Image result for 1990 united states grand prixcomfortably ahead of Martini, but up from fourth swept Jean Alesi to take the lead going into turn one. Not only that, but he began to pull out a lead! Behind him, Patrese had collided with Grouillard and Nannini with Schneider, and all four had come in for repairs. By lap four, as Larini pulled off with a stuck throttle, Alesi had pulled out a lead of some four seconds over Berger, with Senna having made his way up to third followed by de Cesaris, Martini and Piquet.

On lap 9, Senna went second as Berger lost the back end under braking and slid backwards into a tyre wall. He was able to keep going, but would have to come in for a new rear wing. So now Senna was some six seconds behind the Tyrrell and not making much impression, while behind a terrific scrap for third place was going on between de Cesaris, Piquet, Boutsen and Prost (emitting a plume of blue smoke that suggested something was amiss with his oil system), with Martini suffering from grip problems and dropping back. On lap 15, Berger shot out of the pits having finally got his car repaired, and emerged right in the middle of this battle, behind Piquet but ahead of Boutsen who angrily hit the brakes, gesticulating, as Prost came powering past. Now the Belgian had not only lost the place on this tough passing circuit, but he was getting Prost’s oil on his visor. The number 1 Ferrari pulled in to retire on lap 22.

USA90 Alesi.jpgSenna, it transpired later, had been hanging back deliberately to see how Alesi’s tyres would last and by lap 30 it was clear the answer was “very well, thank you” so the Brazilian sped up and caught Alesi, triggering a fantastic scrap for the lead as he tried lapa after lap to find a way past. On lap 34, he managed it, squeezing through the inside at turn one – only for the fearless Alesi to retake the lead at the next corner. Fantastic stuff, but Senna was not to be denied. A lap later, he got ahead again at turn one and this time he made it stick. Alesi stuck with him for a few laps, then apparently decided to let him go and husband his tyres.

At half distance it was Senna leading Alesi with Boutsen third, Piquet fourth after stopping for tyres in a bid to sort out his grip problems and Stefano Modena fifth. Behind him was Mansell, having made his way into the points from 17th. On lap 45, Berger’s eventful McLaren debut came to an end with a clutch problem, just as Mansell overtook Modena for fifth. It wasn’t to last though – just five laps later Ferrari’s miserable weekend was compounded as a sudden gout of flames burst from the back of Nigel’s car, pitching him into a 180mph spin which he did well to collect before coasting to a stop.

USA90 Senna Moreno.jpgBy lap 60, Senna had built a huge lead and the racing died down a little as drivers began conserving tyres and trying not to blot their copybooks in the tight circuit. There were two further retirements after Mansell: Aguri Suzuki was a promising 7th when his brake pedal didn’t respond and he shot into an escape road on lap 53, while Paolo Barilla was, it turned, out, a bit too big for his car and retired with a dead left arm on lap 55.

Ayrton Senna took what was in the end a dominant win, with Alesi a fine second and Boutsen a satisfied third in a misfiring Williams. Piquet picked up three points on his Benetton debut. Modena finished fifth after all and Satoru Nakajima made Ken Tyrrell’s smile even broader by taking the final point after starting 11th. Minardi hung on for 7th, Schneider brought his 1989-spec chassis home 12th and Roberto Moreno made it to the end – albeit 5 laps down – in the EuroBrun.

A disastrous first race for Ferrari, who had looked so good in winter testing, but a promise of some cracking racing to come.

Drivers’ Championship

Position Driver Points*
1 Ayrton Senna 9
2 Jean Alesi 6
3 Thierry Boutsen 4
4 Nelson Piquet 3
5 Stefano Modena 2
6 Satoru Nakajima 1

* Top 11 finishes only are counted.

Constructors’ Championship

Position Constructor Points
1 McLaren-Honda 9
2 Tyrrell-Ford 7
3 Williams-Renault 4
4 Benetton-Ford 3
4 Brabham-Judd 2


Image result for 1990 life racing

With the predominance in Formula 1 of V8, V10 and V12 engines, many engineers turned their thoughts toward the problems of how to extract more power without making the engine heavier or larger. Meanwhile, x-Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi came up in the mid-80s with the idea of a “W12” format, with three banks of four cylinders each. After struggling for some time to sell his idea, he caught the eye of Italian businessman Ernesto Vita, who suggested forming a Formula One team to showcase the engine.

With limited resources, the team purchased Ricardo Divila’s chassis from the abortive FIRST team – as it had never raced, it was not regarded as a “customer” chassis according to the rules and adapted it to fix some of the safety issues that had led to it failing its crash test in 1989. On driving duties was Gary Brabham, second son of the great Sir Jack.

89GBrabham.jpg39. Gary Brabham au

Being the son of a triple world champion can come with pressure both to continue the family tradition and to avoid it, and Gary initially set out to be a farmer in rural Wagga Wagga before the lure of racing became too much. By 1982 he set out for Europe and quickly showed his promise, eventually taking 2nd place in 1986 in a new team set up by his father. In 1989 he drove in the inaugural British F3000 championship and won the series, as well as testing for several Formula One teams including Leyton House and Benetton.



Related image

The Onyx team had had a real rollercoaster of a debut season, which had ended up with a respectable tenth in the table but turmoil behind the scenes as the eccentric money man Jean-Pierre van Rossem alienated drivers, management and suppliers alike, culminating in the designation of team founders Mike Earle, Jo Chamberlain and Greg Field. During 1989, van Rossem had loudly proclaimed his intention to walk away if his proposed deal for Porsche engines fell through, and when it did he was as good as his word, leaving Alan Jenkins in charge but almost no money. A Swiss buyout was put together by vintage car enthusiast Peter Monteverdi buying 50%, Karl Foitek 25% and Brune Frei the remaining 25%. With Karl Foitek having to pay for last year’s tyres before Goodyear would agree to supply the team again, Earle and Chamberlain were rehired, but Jenkins was soon fired for refusing to work with them, only for Earle and Chamberlain to walk out again on news that Monteverdi wanted to relocate the team to Switzerland, and took most of the team’s experienced staff with them…

89Johansson235. Stefan Johansson se

The Swede had had a memorable year with the Onyx team, scoring all six of their points but also failing to pre-qualify for half the races. His experience had been an asset to the fledging team and he was rewarded with a renewed contract for 1990, but all was not well at Onyx and he would hope that it didn’t affect the performance on the track too much.


89Lehto headshot36. JJ Lehto fi

The young Finn had turned heads in his four races at the end of the season despite only qualifying twice – his undoubted pace had shone through the limitations of the car, and many thought he would be a star of the future. For now, though, he will be looking forward to commencing his first full season with the team that gave him his break.


Image result for 1990 eurobrun

Many were surprised to see EuroBrun return to Formula One in 1990, given that neither Gregor Foitek nor Oscar Larrauri managed to make it through pre-qualifying – and certainly few predicted the team would expand to two cars once again. The EuroRacing concern had cut ties over the winter, leaving Walter Brun in sole charge. With an updated version of 1989’s car and the same engine as before, the team would have an uphill struggle in 1990, but with the talented Roberto Moreno at the wheel there was always a chance.

90Moreno.jpg33. Roberto Moreno 

The affable Brazilian clearly has loads of talent – winning the 1988 International F3000 title in an unsponsored car was no mean feat – but just can’t seem to parlay it into a decent drive. Scoring AGS’ first point in 1987 didn’t lead to anything and in 1989 he struggled manfully with the Coloni-Ford, managing to qualify rather more often than either of his team-mates. A move to Minardi fell through, so here he is at the struggling EuroBrun outfit…


Image result for 1990 claudio langes34. Claudio Langes 

Born in Brescia, Langes started karting early and showed promise, winning the 125cc Italian title at 18 and moving into European Formula 3 where he spent several fruitless seasons with the Trivellato and Anson teams before signing for Eddie Jordan Racing and then Barron Racing and having much better results. Moving into F3000 for 1986 he struggled once more with stints for the ill-fated FIRST team but in 1988 he moved to Forti Corse and found much better results. Although he only recorded meagre results, at least some of this was down to accidents. Nonetheless, his move into F1 with EuroBrun seems to have rather more to do with the sponsorship he had amassed than any huge amount of natural talent.


Image result for 1990 coloni subaru

The little Coloni team have struggled to make an impact ever since entering Formula One back in 1987, and will be hoping that their new partnership with Japanese engineering giant Subaru will bear fruit. The engine has been designed in conjunction with Carlo Chiti’s Motori Moderni outfit which used to supply Minardi and indeed the engine was tested in their chassis before Subaru switched to Coloni. Chiti’s design is a “boxer-12” design with cylinders mounted horizontally in opposition rather than in a V configuration, and it is hoped to take advantage of its lower centre of gravity with a similar power output to the Ford DFR.  Driving the single car is Bertrand Gachot.

90gachot.jpg31. Bertrand Gachot be

After a difficult start with an Onyx team also feeling their way in F1, Gachot quickly showed that he was a decent driver and gave the more experienced Stefan Johansson a run for his money. He was unfortunate to be the scapecoat for Jean-Pierre van Rossem’s eccentricities and somehow it seems unlikely that Scuderia Coloni will provide an ideal shop window for his talents.

Larrousse Lola-Lamborghini

Image result for 1990 larrousse

The Larrousse team had had a trying 1989, with their Lamborghini engine suffering all manner of teething troubles. A shame as the LC89 chassis was a good one and the engine had a lot of power (a reported 600bhp), but Alliot’s sixth place in Spain was the only point scored all season, and the team dropped into pre-qualifying for the latter half of the season. Even the talented and experienced Michele Alboreto couldn’t do much with the car, though he may also have been suffering from a lack of motivation given his career’s apparent implosion during 1989. New drivers – both of whom have had a race or two for the team and done well – follow new Japanese money into the team and the Lamborghini engine seemed to be coming good later in the year, so could 1990 be a good one?

Bernard229. Éric Bernard fr

Bernard had just had two races for Larrousse in 1989 before being displaced in favour of Alboreto. However, in his first race in France he qualified 15th – ahead of the vaunted Jean Alesi – and ran as high as fifth before his engine gave out from seventh place. He improved further in Britain, qualifying 13th but again suffering a blown Lamborghini. He returned to F3000 to finish 3rd in the standings to fellow countrymen Jean Alesi and Érik Comas before being recalled for the 1990 season.

Image result for 1990 aguri suzuki30. Aguri Suzuki jp

Suzuki had also made his debut with Larrousse, in his case towards the end of 1988, when he impressed at his home race but in 1989 a full season with Zakspeed courtesy of his Yamaha connections turned into a nightmare, and he failed to pre-qualify at every single race. He will be hoping to improve on this record in 1990, with Larrousse one of six teams in the early sessions in 1990.