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FIA Formula One World Championship season
|Races by country • Races by season|
The 1988 Formula One season was the 39th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1988 FIA Formula One World Championship which commenced on April 3, 1988 and ended on November 13 after sixteen races. Two titles were awarded: the Formula One World Championship for Drivers, won by Ayrton Senna, and the Formula One World Championship for Constructors, easily taken by McLaren-Honda.
Season summary 
The pre-season was a very contentious time, with many theories of the championship flying around. Would the Honda engines prove successful with McLaren? Would Ferrari be able to continue the trend set by the last two rounds of 1987, where Gerhard Berger took successive victories? Would Williams be able to continue their success without Honda and Nelson Piquet? Could World Champion Piquet succeed in defending his title with the Honda-powered Lotus?
The Jim Clark and Colin Chapman cups, awarded the previous year for drivers and constructors, respectively, who were using naturally aspirated engines, had been withdrawn as such engines would become mandatory from 1989 onwards, with severe restrictions on turbocharged units for this season. Of the eighteen teams on the grid, twelve - including Williams and Benetton - took the gamble of using either Judd or Cosworth V8 engines, to give themselves an extra year to get used to the new regulations. The other six - McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus, Arrows, Osella and Zakspeed - decided to build one last turbo car to make the most out of their experience using such engines, despite the aforementioned restrictions.
There were three new teams on the grid this year - BMS Scuderia Italia (using a Dallara chassis), Rial and EuroBrun - while Coloni was embarking on its first full season after entering two races towards the end of 1987. Between them, these four teams entered five cars, thus increasing the number of participants at each race to 31. It was decided that only 30 cars should be allowed to participate in the qualifying sessions, and so pre-qualifying, which had been used in several races during the late 1970s and early 1980s, was re-introduced. For 1988, this consisted of the aforementioned five cars taking part in an extra session on Friday morning before the first session of qualifying proper, with the slowest car to miss out on the rest of the weekend.
For the first race of the season in Brazil, with Ferrari being the only completely stable option, many agreed that Gerhard Berger would be in serious contention, and this was supported in his second place behind Alain Prost's McLaren as well as setting the fastest race lap for the Scuderia. Remarkable also, was Nigel Mansell's recovery from his accident in Japan to score a front row position for his non-turbo Judd-powered Williams on his first race back. Ayrton Senna suffered from a failure at the race's beginning, eventually being disqualified after switching to the spare car. At the time he had risen up to second place after starting from the pits.
At Imola however, it was plain to see what all the teams had feared. Gordon Murray's MP4/4, combined with the championship winning Honda turbo, made a mockery of the rest of the grid. In qualifying both Senna and Prost were 3 seconds faster than the Lotus-Honda of Piquet in 3rd. At the end of the race Senna and Prost had lapped the entire field, with team-mate Prost only 2.3 seconds behind Senna at the finish. Indeed both McLarens set faster race laps than anyone else had qualified. Former World Champion Keke Rosberg said in an interview at Imola, if you ignored the McLarens it was quite a competitive race between the turbo's and the 'atmos'. Considering that the Imola circuit had always been considered a power track that spelled good news for the FIA's turbo restriction rules.
Despite what many expected, the championship would hardly be considered boring with the McLaren onslaught peaking with the drivers fighting in several feuds. At Monaco, after Alain Prost set the fastest lap, Ayrton refused to accept that his team-mate could be driving faster than he was, especially after Senna out qualified Prost by over a second. Senna pushed and after scoring the fastest lap, he had a lapse in concentration and hit the wall. Berger picked up second place behind Prost.
In Mexico, it was nearly a repeat of San Marino: McLaren 1-2, with this time only one other driver on the lead lap. Gerhard Berger had picked up his third podium in four races, giving him the edge on Piquet and Alboreto for the title of "Best of the Rest" - the race for third.
Canada again proved a repeat of the McLaren onslaught, this time Boutsen's Benetton being the only other car on the lead lap, and 50 seconds behind. This was repeated in Detroit, however this time Boutsen failed to stay on the lead lap as Senna took his second victory in a row, making it six out of six for McLaren and Honda.
The following race at Paul Ricard saw another 1-2 for McLaren, this time with Prost at the helm for his home Grand Prix, followed by the Ferraris of Alboreto and Berger, with only the former on the lead lap. Piquet raced a brilliant race, despite losing second gear, to come through for a fifth place.
At the wet British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Nigel Mansell surprised all by scoring a second place for an atmos car for his first finish of the season after seven races of DNFs, a result which definitely pleased the hordes of British fans who were still gripped in Mansell-mania despite the driver's (or rather, the car's) lacklustre performance through the year. Senna won, with the podium rounded off by Nannini, proving that Silverstone was an unusually good race for the atmos cars.
Germany proved a return to the year's trend, with the long straights of Hockenheim showcasing the brute strength of the turbos, with the only atmos car on the lead lap behind both McLarens and Ferraris respectively being Capelli's March. Senna took the win to Prost, with Berger taking the bottom step of the rostrum. At the following grand prix at Hungary, Senna secured his 24th pole position, securing the third highest total after legendary champions Jim Clark and Fangio, backing his qualifying effort up with a victory, less than a second in front of team-mate Prost. This was Senna's sixth win of the season, and third on the trot, with Prost on just four wins.
The 1988 Belgian Grand Prix showed Prost one thing: to not change his set-up at the last minute. All through the year, Prost's better feel at setting up a car was not only noticed by his team-mate, but mimicked. Senna had used Prost's set-ups for every race thus far, and the race at Spa was no different. This annoyed Prost, and he changed his aero-settings at the last minute, hoping to give himself an edge over the pole-sitting Senna. At the start, Prost took the lead after Senna suffered wheel spin but was caught and passed half way around the track.
Senna went on to secure the victory to Prost, a distant second. Third and fourth was filled by the two Benettons, however they were both disqualified from the results long after the race had ended, for using illegal fuel, giving Capelli his first podium of the year. The 1-2 for McLaren signified the end of any statistical hope of Ferrari catching them in constructors championship, securing McLaren one of the earliest recorded constructors victories.
Before the Italian Grand Prix, Prost was quoted as saying that, as it was very possible that McLaren would take out a perfect sixteen out of sixteen victories, the winner would be determined between which McLaren driver would take the most wins, and on the chance they both took eight, it would be determined on their second places, which at the time Prost had more of despite having fewer wins. This meant Prost could only let Senna win one more time.
Monza, being another high speed circuit, would prove to be another McLaren dominated race, with both sitting on the front row, again with both Ferraris behind. The race fell into regular routine as Senna lead from the start and Prost close behind. However, on lap 35 of 51, Prost's championship hopes seemed to evaporate in a cloud of smoke, leaking from his engine. The tifosi cheered as their drivers were shifted to second and third, and Honda were left embarrassed with their engine expiring on a track that was being dominated by the turbo cars.
Senna looked set to secure another victory, and albeit seal his championship hopes, when lapping Schlesser, filling in for the still ill Mansell, decided it was wise to do so on one of the track's corners, instead of waiting for the long straight that would follow. Senna accidentally hit Schlesser and was livid, whilst the tifosi erupted; Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto sat first and second, where they remained at the finish. The victory was made poignant by the fact that it was the first race since Enzo Ferrari's death. Both drivers and team dedicated the victory to him. This race would prove to be the only chink in McLaren's perfect year and their only double retirement.
The following grand prix at Portugal proved to be an exciting affair, for all but Ayrton Senna who suffered race long with handling troubles. He ended sixth while Prost kept his championship hopes alive to secure his fifth race of the year. Then at Spain, he secured his sixth, again in an attempt to delay an almost inevitable eighth race for Senna - a race that would secure his first of three championships. Senna suffered from fuel gauge and was lucky to secure fourth whilst Mansell doubled his British Grand Prix efforts and scored another six points.
The penultimate round in Japan was, once again, where the title was decided. This time it was the end of the weekend, and not the beginning. Prost made a superb start to the lead, whilst Senna stalled, lucky in the fact that Suzuka had a sloping grid, helping to start his car. Senna knew he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this race, and knew he could seal the championship here. By the end of the lap he had already made up six positions, and by the fourth lap he was sitting in fourth position. The top six cars were all sitting very close and when the rain started to fall, so did Prost. Capelli took this chance to become the first naturally aspirated car to lead a Grand Prix in over 4 years, thrilling the March team. Unfortunately, this was not to last as his electronics would eventually fail. By then, Senna was hot on the tail of Prost. Prost hated the wet, and his failing gearbox only added to the Brazilian's chances. When the pair came round to lap some back-markers, as Prost was caught up with de Cesaris, Ayrton went past to take the lead, and set three consecutive fastest laps and setting a new lap record. As he was now out on a wet track with dry tires, as many other drivers were, he signaled to stop the race. However, the race ran its full distance and Honda were reveling in their 1-2 finish, whilst Prost was bitter. He would go on to win in Adelaide, and score eleven more points in total than Senna, but only the eleven highest scores counted, with Senna's eight wins and three seconds giving him a total of 90 points to Prost's 87. Prost went on to be a proponent of the 90's scoring system - all results counting to the final results with the winner scoring 10, not 9, points.
Drivers and constructors 
The following drivers and constructors competed in the 1988 season.
Season review 
1988 Drivers Championship final standings 
† Drivers did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.
* Drivers Championship points were awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis to the first six finishers in each race. Only best 11 results counted toward the championship. Prost scored 105 points during the year, but only 87 points were counted toward the championship. Senna scored 94 points, with 90 points counted toward the championship by virtue of winning more races. Thus, Senna became the World Champion, although he did not score most points over the course of the year.
1988 Constructors Championship final standings 
Points towards the 1988 FIA Formula One World Championship for Constructors were awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis for the first six places at each round.
Notes and references 
- Grand Prix Results: Belgian GP, 1988 Retrieved from www.grandprix.com on 2 December 2009
- Only the best 11 results counted towards the Drivers' Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- Peter Higham, The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing, 1995, page 6
- Peter Higham, The Guinness Guide to International Motor Racing, 1995, page 126
- 1988 Formula One results and images Retrieved from www.f1-facts.com on 23 November 2008
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