1990 Monaco Grand Prix

Circuit_de_Monaco_1986Circuit de Monte-Carlo
27 May 1990

The most famous and glamorous race of the year is always good for springing a surprise or two, with the difficulty of passing and the unforgiving nature of the circuit. The world of F1 never stands still and despite all the new kit on display at Imola the teams were still tinkering and testing. Leyton House in particular had had an awful season so far and were frantically trying to identify the problem, while Ferrari made yet more adjustments to their engine in the search for reliability.

Image result for 1990 monaco grand prixPre-Qualifying once again saw the Larrousse duo top of the charts, with Grouillard and Moreno again joining them. Giacomelli got eight whole laps in before his Life grenaded itself again while the unfortunate Bertrand Gachot looked (and probably felt) like he was trying to navigate a barge around. The two practice sessions saw Senna take his 45th career Pole but alongside was not the other McLaren of Berger, but Prost’s Ferrari. In a cracking third place was Jean Alesi, with Imola winner Patrese alongside. Berger and Boutsen occupied row 3, a frustrated Mansell 7th, Martini 8th with Pirro and Piquet filling out the top ten. At the back, David Brabham would make his Grand Prix debut from 25th with Lehto bringing up the rear in his Onyx. Watching from the sidelines would be Alboreto, Gugelmin, Grouillard and Moreno.

Getting into the first corner first is always vital at Monaco, and as a result there is often a pileup there as everyone tries to do just that. Not this year though – somehow – as Senna led Prost and Alesi through Ste-Devote and off up the hill to Massenet. As they wound their way round the streets, Alesi dived inside Prost at the Mirabeau right-hander and was through into second. Berger tried to follow through, but he was too late: Prost turned in and collected the McLaren. Both cars ground to a halt and so did everyone behind them. Out came the red flags and a second start was needed, with Prost and Berger running back to the pits to get in the spare cars – set up for Mansell and Senna respectively, so frantic adjustments were necessary.

Image result for 1990 monaco grand prixThe second start was as clean as the first, with Senna, Prost, Alesi and Berger leading away while Mansell got a slow start and dropped behind Martini. And for thirty laps, that’s how they stayed: Senna slowly drawing away while Prost, Alesi and Berger ran tightly together, keeping the spectators entertained with a three-way battle and, while none of them was able to pass, they were all going great guns trying. Behind them, the two Williams cars were having their own private battle with Patrese fending off Boutsen. Mansell, meanwhile, had got back past Martini and was now nipping at the Belgian’s heels. So much so, in fact that on lap 21 he bent his front wing on the back of the Williams and had to pit for a new one.

Image result for 1990 monaco grand prixBy this time, there had already been a string of retirements – Mansell rejoined 15th of 16 still running – and on lap 31 Alain Prost peeled into the pits and climbed out of his car, wiping battery acid off his hands after the one powering his semi-automatic gearbox exploded. Alesi and Berger went up into second and third, but with the Austrian missing first gear there was little he could do about the Tyrrell in front of him. On lap 34, Piquet did a Mansell, clipping his front wing on the back of Boutsen’s Williams and in his case he spun to a standstill on the Loews hairpin. A push-start got him going again – but also got him black-flagged under the new rule introduced after Senna had got going again with a push-start in Suzuka.

On lap 42, Patrese retired with a distributor failure, putting Boutsen up to fourth. The Belgian was also having car trouble, with his throttle stuck down forcing him to use the brake alone to control his speed. Behind him was Derek Warwick, having a rare good race in the Lotus, and in sixth place was Alliot having an equally rare good race for Ligier. Not for long though, as Nigel Mansell was on one of his famous charges and was soon past both and up into fifth place, before chasing Boutsen down and passing the faltering Williams for fourth on lap 55.

Image result for 1990 monaco grand prixFerrari’s apparent curse struck again, though, with Mansell suffering the exact same exploding battery problem as Prost on lap 64. Three laps later, Warwick’s fine race came to a frustrating end as he tapped a barrier and spun to a standstill – which nearly took Senna out of the race when a marshal gave him the wrong signal and he missed the stationary Lotus by inches. There was an exchange of impolite gestures between Senna and marshal next around. All of which left Boutsen back in fourth with Caffi now fifth and a ding-dong battle for sixth between Bernard and Foitek which was resolved in the Frenchman’s favour when the pair collided six laps before the end and bent Foitek’s Brabham so he was unable to continue.

Senna took a lights-to-flag victory, his third Monaco win, by just 1.1 seconds as he husbanded a misfiring engine to the end. Jean Alesi was a cracking second in his first-ever Monaco Grand Prix while Berger took third despite his missing first gear and the discomfort of using Senna’s car. Boutsen hung on for fourth, Caffi was fifth and Bernard sixth – potentially a vital point that would rescue Larrousse from pre-qualifying after Silverstone. These six were in fact the only finishers, with Foitek classified seventh and last. It had been an entertaining race, and one that Ferrari would be keen to forget.

Image result for 1990 monaco grand prix

Drivers’ Championship

2Alain Prost9

Position Driver Points*
1 Ayrton Senna 22
2 Gerhard Berger 16
3 Jean Alesi 13
4 Alain Prost 12
5 Riccardo Patrese 9
= Thierry Boutsen 9
7 Nelson Piquet 6
8 Sandro Nannini 4
9 Nigel Mansell 3
10 Stefano Modena 2
= Alex Caffi 2
12 Satoru Nakajima 1
= Éric Bernard 1

* Top 11 finishes only are counted.

Constructors’ Championship

Position Constructor Points
1 McLaren-Honda 38
2 Williams-Renault 18
3 Ferrari 15
4 Tyrrell-Ford 14
5 Benetton-Ford 10
6 Brabham-Judd 2
= Arrows-Ford 2
8 Larrousse Lola-Lamborghini 2

1990 San Marino Grand Prix

“Imola” by Will Pittenger – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
13 May 1990

For many, the Formula One season only truly begins with its arrival in Europe – an old-fashioned notion in a global sport, but this year there was a certain amount of truth to it. With six weeks between Brazil and San Marino, many teams had taken their 1989 cars to the flyaway races and would unveil their 1990 challengers at Imola: Ferrari revised their aerodynamics, suspension and suspension and christened the result the 641/2; Benetton’ had their sleek new B190 with its revised Ford V8; Brabham had their new BT59 chassis (with new paint job reflecting their new ownership by the Japanese Middlebridge group) Image result for tyrrell 019 imolaand new Judd engine. Osella, Larrousse, AGS, Coloni and Onyx were all also running new chassis, but the one everyone was talking about was the new Tyrrell 019. Its front wing – which drew immediate comparisons to the WW2 “Stuka” dive-bomber – combined a high nose with low wings to assist airflow under the car while keeping the benefits of a low-set wing. Or at least that was the theory: how it went in practice remained to be seen.

There were driver moves too: Emanuele Pirro returned from illness and Gregor Foitek moved from Brabham to the Onyx team now part-owned by his father, displacing Stefan Image result for brabham bt59 imolaJohansson. For the likeable Swede this was the last straw and he, along with founder Mike Earle and designer Alan Jenkins left the team, threatening legal action against Peter Monteverdi. Gary Brabham had had enough of the Life team after just two races – frustrated with their utter ineptitude – and in his place came a bit of a surprise: Bruno Giacomelli, last seen in F1 driving the Toleman in 1983. However, all was not lost for the Brabham family: Sir Jack’s youngest son David had signed terms to replace Foitek at the “Family Firm”: a Brabham driving a Brabham for the first time in 20 years (pictured).

Image result for 1990 david brabham7. David Brabham au

Like older brother Gary, David didn’t immediately turn to motorsport despite his pedigree. He played football as a youngster in England, then switched to Australian Rules when they moved back to Australia. At 17, though, he discovered karting and never looked back. After two years in karts he moved in 1985 into the “Ford Laser” series, in 1986 to Formula Ford 1600 and in 1987 he was Australian F2 champion (though admittedly that year’s F2 championship was but a single race) as well as racing in New Zealand, the US and South America before a move to Europe beckoned. As British F3 champion in 1989, he was able to raise sponsorship to enter Formula One, with a possible move to his namesake team a particular draw for sponsors.

Image result for 1990 bruno giacomelli39. Bruno Giacomelli it

Giacomelli’s last season in Formula One in 1983 had seen him comprehensively outperformed by Derek Warwick at a Toleman team that had just started becoming a force and would hire Ayrton Senna for the forthcoming season. Giacomelli moved over to IndyCar racing, initially with Teddy Yip’s Theodore outfit (another casualty of the 1983 F1 season) and later with Patrick Racing, but a fifth place at Meadowlands in 1985 was the high point of his CART career and he moved on to sportscars, entering individual Enduro Racing events and most recently entering most of the 1989 season for Mussato Action Cars. He was approached over the winter by the March team to test the new Leyton House car, and thus reappeared on the F1 radar at 38, just when Life were looking for an experienced development driver.

With so many new cars on track, even the Pre-Qualifying sessions were of intense interest. There were no real surprises in the early session though – the Larrousse Lolas were quickest again, with Grouillard and Moreno also making it through – AGS withdrew Yannick Dalmas with a hand injury and Tarquini failed to set a time, while Giacomelli’s return to F1 wasn’t a success, posting a best time nearly six minutes off Bernard’s.

Image result for 1990 san marino grand prixQualifying saw almost all of the top half of the grid sorted into teams: McLaren 1st (Senna) and 2nd (Berger), Williams 3rd (Patrese) and 4th (Boutsen), Ferrari 5th (Mansell) and 6th (Prost) – almost identical to Brazil’s grid in fact. Behind the top six was Alesi in the new Tyrrell – just him, with Nakajima back in 19th – then it was back to the pairs: Piquet and Nannini 8th and 9th for Benetton, then the Lotuses a very encouraging 10th and 11th (Warwick and Donnelly), with Gugelmin a very encouraging 12th behind them. Pierluigi Martini had actually set a time good enough for 10th, but had to pull out after having a big crash at Acqua Minerale on Saturday and being hospitalised with a cracked ankle. His misfortune was his team-mate’s gain, as the grid shuffled up and allowed Paolo Barilla to start in 26th. Still, Minardi were buoyed by the news that they would in 1991 become the first team to run customer Ferrari engines. Non-qualifyers were, shockingly, both Arrows cars (“not fast enough”) and less shockingly, David Brabham, still getting the feel of the car.

The grid formed up after the formation lap less Emanuele Pirro who had stalled and would start from the back instead of his 21st grid position, and off they went. Senna got Image result for 1990 imola startaway cleanly, pursued by Berger and the Williams twins, with Boutsen getting ahead of Patrese. Behind them, as the field streamed around Tamburello, Mansell put a wheel on the dirt and kicked up a great cloud of dust. Unsighted, Ivan Capelli and Satoru Nakajima collided and collected the hapless Moreno on their way off the circuit – all three were out on the spot. Martin Donnelly nearly joined them with a 360 degree spin at Tosa, but somehow nobody hit the revolving Lotus and he rejoined, albeit some way back.

The first-lap drama wasn’t over yet though as Alesi managed to elbow his way past both Ferraris (not a popular move in front of the Tifosi) while Thierry Boutsen did something that it had been looking increasingly like a physical imposibility: he overtook a McLaren. On the track, fair and square, with no technical faults. 1990 really was turning out to be an interesting season!

The order then settled down a little with Senna leading Boutsen, Berger, Patrese and Alesi, who lost his place to Mansell on lap 3. On the following lap, leader Senna suddenly Image result for 1990 san marino grand prixwobbled, and swerved into the kitty litter at Rivazza – a broken wheel: a rare technical defect on the well-prepared McLaren. So Boutsen led Berger, and with the new evolution Renault V10 engine on song and driving his usual smooth race, he was able to stay well ahead. But unfortunately, his Williams had a small problem – a sticking gear lever. On lap 18, this caused him to select 1st instead of 3rd and his engine objected in the most spectacular fashion.

Berger now inherited the lead with Patrese some distance behind and Mansell going great guns in third. The Briton was the fastest man on the circuit but his Ferrari was emitting that bluish smoke that had presaged Prost’s problems in Phoenix. Nonetheless he caught up to Patrese and then really gave the Tifosi something to cheer with a banzai overtaking manoeuvre on lap 22 at Tosa before setting off in pursuit of Berger. By lap 25, Image result for 1990 imola startthe gap was 3.1 seconds but Mansell was seriously delayed by Andrea de Cesaris, apparently not looking in his mirrors, who cut him up badly and made contact – fortunately for Mansell, no damage other than the time delay was incurred and he went on his way, with all the work to catch Berger to do again, and Patrese back on his gearbox again. So, being Nigel Mansell, he got on with it and charged again, reeling Berger in until at the start of lap 36 he was right behind his former team-mate. As they shot into the fast Tamburello curve, Mansell came out to pass up the inside, but the fans’ cheers turned to dismay as Berger moved over, forcing Mansell to take to the grass in a huge, balletic 360-degree spin. In a wonder of car control, he kept the engine running and didn’t even lose second place but his radiators were full of dirt, his engine overheated after three laps and he limped into the pits to retire, furious at Berger for the manoeuvre.

Image result for 1990 imola patreseSo Berger still led with Patrese second once again. Nannini had driven a great race and was third, duelling with Prost after the Ferrari had stopped for new softer tyres, while Piquet and Alesi were both driving relatively isolated races in 5th and 6th. Riccardo Patrese had been leading the race in 1983 in the Brabham when with just five laps to go he had made an unforced error and chucked it in the gravel at Acqua Minarale. Now he seemed to be intent on redeeming himself in the eyes of his countrymen and was on a charge of his own. On lap 40 he was 5.5s behind. On lap 50, he was right on the McLaren’s tail and the next lap he was past- to the rousing cheers of the fans. By this time, Berger was experiencing power loss, and had additionally ended up making a bad call on tyres, so wasn’t able to stay with Patrese and was in fact being caught by the Nannini-Prost battle for third which was now taking most of the fans’ attention.

The new B190 was flying and Prost, though tucked right under its rear wing, just couldn’t find enough momentum for a way past, however he tried. On the penultimate lap, Nannini set the fastest lap of the race while Prost clocked the second-fastest, just 8 thousandths slower. No last minute overtaking today though, and no silly mistakes. Riccardo Patrese – driving with tears in his eyes on the last lap, he said later – came in to record his third career win, a record 98 races after his second, in his record 195th Grand Prix. Berger held on to second, Nannini to third and Prost finished a reasonably satisfied third. Nelson Piquet steered his Benetton home to fifth – the only driver to have scored in every race so far – and Alesi picked up the final point, followed home by Warwick and Donnelly in formation, both Loti finishing for the first time in 1990.

Image result for 1990 imola start

So, three races and three winners from three different teams. Success for the new Benetton and Tyrrell cars, the jury still out on Ferrari, and next up – Monaco.

Drivers’ Championship

2Alain Prost9

Position Driver Points*
1 Ayrton Senna 13
2 Alain Prost 12
= Gerhard Berger 12
4 Riccardo Patrese 9
5 Jean Alesi 7
6 Thierry Boutsen 6
= Nelson Piquet 6
8 Sandro Nannini 4
9 Nigel Mansell 3
10 Stefano Modena 2
11 Satoru Nakajima 1

* Top 11 finishes only are counted.

Constructors’ Championship

Position Constructor Points
1 McLaren-Honda 25
2 Ferrari 15
= Williams-Renault 15
4 Benetton-Ford 10
5 Tyrrell-Ford 8
6 Brabham-Judd 2

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


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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.



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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.


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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.