FIA Formula One World Championship season
|Races by country • Races by season|
The 1989 Formula One season was the 40th season of FIA Formula One motor racing. It featured the 1989 FIA Formula One World Championship, which commenced on March 26, 1989 and ended on November 5 after sixteen races. Alain Prost won his third Drivers' World Championship, and McLaren won the Constructors' Championship.
Technical and rules changes 
- Turbocharged engines had been banned at the end of 1988, as they were felt to be making the sport dangerous and expensive.
- In response to the above, a number of new teams were expected to enter the series, and there would be 39 drivers now competing for 26 places on the starting grid. To reduce the number of cars down to 30 in order to render Qualifying itself manageable, a separate 1-hour Pre-Qualifying Session was held at Friday morning during every GP weekend. 13 cars from teams with lowest results from previous 2 half-seasons were forced to pre-qualify, and only 4 fastest cars would advance to Qualifying proper. At the halfway point of the season the group of teams required to pre-qualify during the first half would be revised, based on the results during last 2 half-seasons.
- At the start of the season, some new (Onyx) and returning (Brabham) teams had to pre-qualify, along with two Osellas and Zakspeeds and single EuroBrun. Four teams who had run single car in 1988 had to run one car in pre-qualifying at the beginning: Dallara, Coloni, Rial and AGS.
- At the halfway of the season, Alex Caffi in the 2nd Dallara, both Brabhams and Volker Weidler in the Rial (although he had never got out of pre-qualifying in the 1st half of the season and was soon replaced during the 2nd half of the Season by Pierre-Henri Raphanel) moved up, whilst Gabriele Tarquini's AGS (although he had scored a point for his team), both Larrousse Cars and Roberto Moreno's Coloni, which had only qualified three times and never finished a Grand Prix in the 1st half of 1989, were demoted.
- Another new regulation decreed by FISA was that, in the interest of safety, the driver's feet must be situated behind the front axle-line. Designers, not thinking of the driver's comfort, simply designed smaller and more cramped cockpits.The problem was first highlighted at the first round, the Brazilian Grand Prix, with focus on the Ross Brawn designed Arrows cars. Both drivers, Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever, suffered severe cramping and felt the new regulations were in fact making it more dangerous, with Cheever saying that "if (he) got sideways ... (he) simply cannot correct with the steering wheel" due to his lanky frame.
Team and driver changes 
- McLaren-Honda, who had dominated the field in 1988, winning all but one race, stuck to their successful driver lineup of Alain Prost and defending World Drivers' Champion Ayrton Senna.
- Ferrari were optimistic of being able to challenge for the title. As well as their first 12-cylinder engine since the 1980 season, Ferrari boasted one of the sleekest and most advanced designs. John Barnard's 640 was innovative, with a nose section unlike any other car. The car also featured a semi-automatic electronic gearbox, the first of its kind. Ferrari also completed the signing of British driver Nigel Mansell to partner Gerhard Berger.
- Williams replaced the departing Mansell with Belgian Thierry Boutsen alongside Riccardo Patrese. The Judd V8 from 1988 was replaced by Renault V10 units with the hope of the extra power making the team much more competitive than they were in 1988.
- Lotus kept their 1988 lineup, with triple champion Nelson Piquet alongside Satoru Nakajima but lost engine supplier Honda. The cars would use the Judd V8 engine instead.
- Benetton retained Alessandro Nannini and replaced Thierry Boutsen with British rookie Johnny Herbert who was eventually replaced by McLaren test driver Emanuele Pirro. The team continued its contract as Ford's official team but had to make do with the 1988 engine until almost halfway through the season due to the 1989 car not being ready.
- Tyrrell retained Jonathon Palmer but signed Michele Alboreto to replace Julian Bailey. After a sponsorship dispute Alboreto was replaced by both Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert.
- The famous old Brabham team had missed 1988 after a change of ownership in late 1987, and the new team, running Judd V8 engines and piloted by Stefano Modena and Martin Brundle, debuted in Brazil. For missing the 1987 season Brabham had to pre-qualify for at least the first half of the season.
- The French Larrousse team continued running Lola chassis but ditched the Ford-Cosworth DFR V8 in favor of the Mauro Forghieri designed Lamborghini V12. The team started the year with its 1988 lineup of Yannick Dalmas and Philippe Alliot. Dalmas was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in late 1988 and was eventually replaced by Éric Bernard who was replaced by Michele Alboreto.
- In the event, the only entirely new team for 1989 was Onyx Grand Prix, running Ford engines and driven by the experienced Swede Stefan Johansson and Belgian rookie Bertrand Gachot.
- Zakspeed, who had always produced their own engines in F1, were forced to change engines and gained exclusive use of the new Yamaha V8 engine.
Race One: Brazil 
The climate as the Formula One circus arrived at Jacarepagua was one of much optimism in what many saw as a new age, with many revelling in the brutal and much more appealing sounds of the V10 and V12 engines. Brazil proved to be an excitement filled race, and dramatic too. Qualifying had a few surprises, with Riccardo Patrese scoring a front row position next to the home favorite, world champion Ayrton Senna. Williams and Renault were both surprised by the position, but both highly pleased with Thierry Boutsen qualifying fourth alongside the high powered Ferrari of Berger.
The race started with a bang, as Senna's hopes at a home grand prix victory were dashed as he squeezed Berger a little too much. Senna went on to finish two laps down whilst Berger retired on the spot.
Double world champion Alain Prost's McLaren had been having problems all weekend, and when his two stop strategy was ruined by a clutch failure, he knew he had to continue the race on one set of tyres. He finished second. Nigel Mansell secured a surprising win for the Scuderia, with no problems despite ongoing gearbox faults all weekend and a lack of winter testing. The final step of the podium was taken by local Maurício Gugelmin. Grand Prix debutant Johnny Herbert, Derek Warwick and Alessandro Nannini scored the remaining points.
Race Two: San Marino 
At Imola, "normal service" was resumed. McLaren settled on the front row of the grid and stayed that way for the race, with Mansell's Ferrari retiring midway with gearbox issues. Gerhard Berger, despite showing promise by setting the fastest time in the wet Friday qualifying, suffered a brake problem and careered off the track at Tamburello at high speed, forcing the race to be stopped after the third lap. Berger miraculously survived with just a broken rib, shoulder bone and burns to his back and hands. He gave a thumbs up and the race was restarted not too long after. Senna went on to win with Prost second. Patrese's engine failed and Boutsen was disqualified (but he got his 4th position back in an appeal), so the third place was taken by the Benetton Ford of Alessandro Nannini.
After the Grand Prix, Prost seemed disgruntled and said he wished to not make a comment on the race, other than that "orders were not respected". Senna refused to comment on the matter. Before the race at Monaco, Prost said he wanted "nothing to do with (Senna)" and refused to speak with him.
Race Three: Monaco 
With Berger out, there were 29 cars in qualifying instead of 30, because Ferrari did not have a replacement driver. Senna had scored his third pole of the season, with the number 2 car of Prost again alongside. March introduced their new 1989 design. Senna went on to win by almost a whole minute over Prost while Stefano Modena secured a valuable third for the underfunded Brabham team on its return to Formula One after a year out. This result effectively allowed Brabham to avoid prequalifying in the second half of the season. Modena however failed to scored any points in any other Grand Prix in 1989. Michele Alboreto secured his first points since leaving Ferrari for Tyrrell.
Race Four: Mexico 
At Mexico, Gerhard Berger made a return despite continued pain in his fingers. However, transmission and gearbox problems forced the Ferraris to retire from point-scoring positions for the third race straight. While they lamented their results, McLaren and Senna took a third win on the trot by a differing choice of tyres. Prost's choice, and the wrong set of tyres being given to him at a pit stop, sent him down the order to fifth. Patrese was second for Williams, while Alboreto doubled his efforts in Monaco by scoring third. Gabriele Tarquini was able to bring his barely prequalified AGS home in sixth for a well-celebrated point.
Race Five: United States 
The United States Grand Prix had a new destination, this time in the hot desert of Phoenix, Arizona. It was a new place, but the same old dirty and dusty street circuits. Senna made the most of his skill and scored another pole, Prost again playing second fiddle by over a second.
However, Senna suffered an electrical problem when leading the race, and Prost took the victory. Williams ended up being the only team to finish with both cars as the dirty track and unforgiving concrete walls ended six races, with the heat and dust cutting out many more. One driver, Nannini, suffered from a severely sore neck after a crash in the morning warm-up and had to retire early. Mansell and Berger suffered with the Ferrari V12s cutting out from identical alternator failures and both eventually retired. Patrese's second gave him third place in the championship, while Prost took the lead. An ecstatic Cheever celebrated his and his team's first podium of the season at his own home grand prix. The Brabhams, on the other hand, continued their lacklustre return, both drivers retiring with worn-out brakes.
Race Six: Canada 
The Canadian Grand Prix was run in wet conditions and provided many retirements, but also a new winner. Senna was comfortably leading with only three laps to go when engine problems forced him to retire, handing Boutsen his first victory. Patrese came home second to make it a 1-2 finish for Williams, the first time a team other than McLaren had achieved this since Ferrari in Monza the previous year. Andrea de Cesaris picked up third for Dallara.
Race Seven: France 
In his home race, Prost took pole and won convincingly, while fellow Frenchman Jean Alesi made his debut for the Tyrrell team, replacing Alboreto due to the team now having Camel sponsorship which conflicted with his personal Marlboro sponsorship. This proved to pay off as Alesi secured a fourth place finish (having run second at one stage). Nigel Mansell ended Ferrari's run of retirements with a secure second while Patrese was third. Swede Stefan Johansson finished 5th, scoring the Onyx team's first points, and Olivier Grouillard took the final points paying position. Senna, meanwhile, was forced to retire straight after the restart with a differential problem.
The race had to be restarted when, on the first lap, Gugelmin caused a major first corner accident when he lost control of his March, flew into the air and landed on Mansell's rear wing. Luckily, no one was hurt and all drivers managed to take the restart.
Race Eight: Great Britain 
The British Grand Prix proved much the same - McLaren front row, Senna retiring, and Prost winning. Mansell finished second in his home race to please the British fans, whose Mansellmania coupled with the tifosi made for hysteria. Nannini finished third, Piquet 4th, while both Minardis, Martini followed by Pérez-Sala, took the final 2 points positions.
At this, the halfway point of the championship, Prost's lead over Senna had increased to 20 points. Despite much talk, he downplayed the thought of a third championship. "I don't want to start talking about the championship, getting into all that," he said, "but I'm much happier now, yes. Motivated again. I've had no engine problems since Mexico, which is nice, and also I'm pleased to see Ferrari getting more competitive: both Nigel and Gerhard can win races and that can only help me."
Race Nine: Germany 
In Germany, however, Senna's bad luck ended after scoring a treble - pole, fastest lap and the win, but he had to fight almost all the way with Prost to do so. After both McLarens suffered bad mid-race stops for tyres, Prost emerged in the lead and looked to have the race in his grasp but lost top gear with less than two laps to go. Berger's pointless season continued with a tire puncture causing a spectacular accident and robbing him of a possible podium. Mansell picked up a third place and mused everyone's thoughts: "If any of the circuits in the world is ideal for McLaren-Honda, it's Hockenheim." Patrese, Piquet and Warwick took the remaining three points-paying positions, respectively.
Race Ten: Hungary 
The dirty Hungaroring provided an almost gripless practice and qualifying, that eventually led to the first non-McLaren pole position of the year - Riccardo Patrese made a Senna-like performance with a 0.31 gap between him and Senna. Another surprise was the equally impressive Alex Caffi, who scored third with a time less than a second slower than that of Patrese - in a car that had been notoriously midfield. The Ferraris, however, suffered badly. Mansell was over two seconds off Patrese's time of an impressive 1:19.7, whilst Berger constantly complained of gear shift troubles - even asking the team to change the gearbox pre-race, which they didn't.
This eventually cost him a point scoring position, as the gearbox went on to fail. Countering this was Mansell's impressive 12th-to-first race, even overtaking Senna in the area he excelled most, lapping back markers - an impressive move on a track notorious for mediocre and unpassable races. He went on to compare the race to his win at Silverstone two years earlier and dedicated it to the late Enzo Ferrari, a year after the Old Man's death. Caffi's race was the exact counterpoint of Mansell's - despite a strong start he finished a lonely seventh, earning no points. Senna finished nearly half a minute behind Mansell in second, while Prost again suffered problems and finished fourth. Patrese retired from the lead and Boutsen finished third. The final two points positions were taken by American Eddie Cheever in the Arrows, finishing 5th, followed by Piquet in 6th.
Race Eleven: Belgium 
A wet Spa showcased Senna's wet weather skills at their best. 'Magic' (Senna's nickname during the wet) shone that day to give him another win despite engine troubles that also befell Prost with Mansell in third saying that problems like that he could certainly use - he finished less than two seconds behind Senna. Boutsen, Nannini and Warwick, in that order, took the final three points-paying positions.
Race Twelve: Italy 
The Italian Grand Prix sealed the end of two things: Gerhard Berger's terrible season (he scored a second place on both the grid and in the race) and Prost's relationship with McLaren. Having become progressively distanced from the team due to his conflict with Senna, he announced his switch to Ferrari for 1990, and after inheriting the race win when Senna retired from the lead late on, he proceeded to give the trophy he had won to the tifosi. McLaren boss Ron Dennis' usual composure was shattered and he hurled his trophy at his driver's feet, storming off. Prost later said it was an unsatisfactory win. Boutsen inherited third for Williams. The final points went to Patrese, who finished fourth, followed by Brit Martin Brundle for Brabham and Jean Alesi in the Tyrrell.
Race Thirteen: Portugal 
The World Championship was virtually decided in the thirteenth round at Estoril, as Prost finished second to Berger and Senna retired in controversial circumstances when he collided with Mansell, who had illegally reversed in the pit-lane and ignored the resultant black disqualification flags. Mansell was subsequently banned from the next race.
This was Prost's twelfth points finish of the season, which meant that he now had to drop points as only the eleven best points finishes counted, but he still led by 24 points with three races left.
Johansson finished a fine third for the struggling Onyx team (a result that meant they did not have to go through pre-qualifying in the first half of 1990), marveling at the car's performance on a low-grip track and speaking of optimism for Spain. Nannini finished in fourth, while Pierluigi Martini qualified fifth and finished in that position, also leading for one lap; the only time in the Minardi team's 21-year history that it led a Grand Prix. Tyrrell racing finished in sixth for the 2nd consecutive race, although it was Jonathan Palmer that earned the point for them in Portugal. The new Williamses, however, suffered near-simultaneous and identical motor blow-outs. Up until then they looked promising.
Race Fourteen: Spain 
Senna kept the Championship alive in Spain by taking pole position and leading throughout, beating Berger by almost half a minute. Prost drove a cautious race and finished third, dropping more points, but it meant that Senna had to win both remaining races to have any chance of beating the Frenchman to the title. Meanwhile, Alesi scored another strong fourth place for the Tyrrell team.
Race Fifteen: Japan 
Then the Formula One circus arrived at Suzuka, Japan for the now infamous penultimate round for the championship. Prost said he would not leave the door open for his teammate, who he felt had made far too many risky moves on him.
Senna took pole, but Prost beat him away from the grid and led by 1.4 seconds by the end of the first lap. By lap 15, however, Senna was all over the back of Prost's McLaren after moving through both Williams and Benettons. He whittled down Prost's 5 second lead to just under a second by lap 30, but the latter pulled a few seconds ahead by the 35th lap. By the end of lap 46, with 7 to go, the gap was just over a second. Senna, further back than he had been earlier in the race, made a move on Prost in the chicane before the start-finish straight. True to his word, Prost closed the gap and the two skidded into the escape road and both engines stalled. Prost jumped from his car. Senna, however, got a push from the marshals and returned to the track.
After pitting for repairs, Senna worked his way past both Williams and the Benettons to take a three second victory. However, his altercation with Prost seven laps earlier meant he had missed the chicane and, according to FIA and FISA president Jean Marie Balestre, had not completed the lap. It is worth noting that many drivers in previous races had used the escape roads near chicanes after on-track incidents, as is customary, without receiving penalties. He was disqualified and Nannini revelled in his first grand prix victory. The new Williams FW13s finished second and third, putting them five points ahead of the Ferrari team in the race for second.
McLaren went to appeal the decision. With the matter hanging in the air, Senna went on record saying it was a plot and conspiracy against him by FIA and FISA president Jean Marie Balestre who he said favored Alain Prost. Senna would comment again on the matter after sealing his 1991 championship, reiterating his belief that he had been unfairly treated.
Race Sixteen: Australia 
The final round at Adelaide saw the race run under heavy rain. Prost elected to withdraw at the end of the first lap in such torrentially wet conditions and would score no points. Senna, who considered quitting in protest of his disqualification in the previous race, was convinced to race by friends and team members. Starting from pole, by lap ten he had over 30 seconds to the Williams pair and counting. Instead of relaxing, he continued to push in poor visibility. On lap 13, he ran into the rear of Brundle's Brabham and was out of the race. The Williamses scored a double podium finish with Boutsen winning, despite being a strong proponent of not starting in such conditions.
The Australian Grand Prix was overshadowed by the ongoing controversy surrounding the Japanese race, but once the appeals had been considered, Prost was crowned the champion for the third time.
Drivers and constructors 
Season review 
1989 Drivers Championship final standings 
† Drivers did not finish the Grand Prix, but were classified as they completed over 90% of the race distance.
Championship points were awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis for the first six places in each race. Only the best eleven results for each driver were retained.
1989 Constructors Championship final standings 
Championship points were awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis for the first six places in each race.
- Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 30, paragraph 11
- Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 30, paragraph 15.
- Henry, Alan ed. (1989) Autocourse 1989-90 p.121 Hazleton publishing ISBN 0-905138-62-7
- Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 92, paragraph 12
- Grand Prix 1989. Nigel Roebuck and John Townsend. ISBN 0-908081-99-5. Page 96, grand prix summary.
- F1 Saga british television series. 1994.
- http://www.prostfan.com/senna2.htm - Prost on Senna.
- 1989 Formula One World Championship points tables, 1990 FIA Yearbook, white section, page 60
- Only the best 11 results counted towards the Drivers' Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- Constructors Championship results published in the 1990 FIA Yearbook recognise only the chassis constructor, ie McLaren, Williams, Ferrari etc
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