25 years ago today, a rivalry became legendary - 1989 Japanese GP

Today marks the 25 years since one of the most intense F1 rivalries ever reached an unbelievable climax.

25 years ago today, a rivalry became legendary - 1989 Japanese GP
Podium: race winner Alain Prost with Ayrton Senna and Michele Alboreto
The infamous crash of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost on lap 46
Podium: race winner Ayrton Senna with Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell
The infamous crash of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost on lap 46
The infamous crash of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost on lap 46
Alain Prost
Pace lap: Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost
Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna
Alain Prost (FRA), Canal+ TV 21
Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna
Alain Prost
Ayrton Senna
Alain Prost
Ayrton Senna
The infamous crash of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost on lap 46
Ayrton Senna

October 22nd. That date is very significant in the F1 community and even more so now. On this day, 25 years ago, the greatest F1 rivalry that ever was escalated to a spectacular climax. 

Senna vs. Prost - 1989 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka

Going into the penultimate round of the 1989 FIA Formula One World Championship, Alain Prost held a 21 point advantage over McLaren teammate Ayrton Senna. Senna started the race from pole position, but that edge quickly vanished when the lights went green. Prost launched off the grid as Senna stumbled away, falling behind.

He was now the hunter, knowing it was imperative that he cut into his teammate's points lead if he wanted any chance at the title in the finale. With just a handful of laps to go, the notoriously precise Brazilian-born racer made his move.

The collision

Was the opening there? Yes. Did it stay that way? No. Prost turned in but Senna was already alongside and the two collided. Fans, teams, and media alike looked on disbelief. Prost wasn't too concerned though. In fact, he may have been mildly relieved by the outcome. He jumped from the stricken car almost immediately as Senna shoke a fist at him.

It's all over ... Or was it?

With both drivers out of the race, he was assured the championship was his. There was just one problem. Senna wasn't done. Refusing to throw in the towel and concede defeat, he motioned to the marshals that he was attempting to rejoin the race. As Prost looked on from the sidelines, Senna rocketed through the chicane as fast as one possibly could.

He limped back around the track with a broken nosecone, pitting to replace it. Then, Senna put his head down and drove like a man possessed. He made the pass for the win in, ironically, the same corner he and Prost came together. Alessandro Nannini couldn't put up much of a fight.

A remarkable comeback shattered 

He won the race, threw himself back into the title fight ... Or so he thought. While he was driving the race of his life, Prost had gone to speak with the powers that be.

This ugly thing called politics came into play. Senna was disqualified by the stewards for cutting the chicane, despite the obvious fact that he gained no competitive advantage. In fact, attempting to rejoin the circuit without cutting the chicane could have been a potentially hazardous situation considering where his car came to rest following the crash.

Adding insult to injury

McLaren and Senna appealed the penalty, but their efforts did more harm than good. He was slapped with a six figure fine, labeled a 'dangerous driver' by the FIA, and suspended for six months. Senna and many of his supporters were quick to point out the friendly relationship between FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre and fellow Frenchmen Alain Prost, but the FIA dismissed the claims that favoritism played a role in the decision. Senna almost left the sport as a result, "I am a professional but I'm also a human being," he said.

Vengeance

The following year, Senna would have his vengeance. He and Prost were once again locked in an intense fight for the championship. Although he was the pole-sitter, Prost was going to be given what most of the field considered the preferred line for the start. Senna was done with the games. He had enough and was recorded saying, "I was (expletive) by the system many times. Today, it had to be my way."

And so he called his shot, much like Babe Ruth, but in a far less glorious manner. If he didn't get the preferred line, neither he or Prost would exit the first corner, and Senna would therefore be crowned champion ... The same way Prost had earned the title one year prior. Well,Senna didn't get the preferred line and neither made it out of that corner.

These two make the Hamilton/Rosberg rivalry look like child's play.

That was Senna

That was Ayrton Senna. Many have a distaste for his ruthless style and his checkereds or wreckers mentality. Personally, I love it and crave for my racers like that. Did Prost intentionally turn into Senna or was he simply trying to enter the corner? That debate rages on so feel free to add your opinion to that discussion with the below poll. And remember...

"If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver."

shares
comments
Weber doubts Vettel can handle Ferrari 'pressure'

Previous article

Weber doubts Vettel can handle Ferrari 'pressure'

Next article

McLaren reshuffle begins: Sam Michael to leave F1 at end of 2014

McLaren reshuffle begins: Sam Michael to leave F1 at end of 2014
Load comments
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021
Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems Prime

Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening day of action for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, on the Istanbul circuit’s much improved track surface. But the Black Arrows squad’s position isn’t quite what it seems. Here’s why...

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021
The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower Prime

The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower

On 8 October 1961, Innes Ireland claimed victory at the United States Grand Prix to herald the true arrival of a new Formula 1 giant. While Team Lotus endured plenty of highs and lows until the team folded over three decades later, Colin Chapman's squad made F1 history and helped shape the championship.

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021