Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna collide while fighting for the lead of the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix

Prost’s Suzuka chicanery denies Senna the title

1989 Japanese Grand Prix flashback

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Ayrton Senna’s defence of his first championship title came to an end 25 years ago today in highly controversial circumstances.

It marked a new low in his rivalry with Alain Prost, Senna’s McLaren team mate, who provoked a collision between the pair which ensured he would win the championship.

And it began a bitter and personal feud between Senna and FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre, who Senna believed had intervened on Prost’s behalf to guarantee the title went to his fellow Frenchman.

Prost holds the advantage

The 1989 season had served as a continuation of the 1988 campaign. The McLaren-Hondas did not enjoy quite the same level of unparalleled dominance, but from an early stage in proceedings it was clear either Senna or Prost would retain the title.

Senna had arrived at McLaren the previous season and stunned Prost with his speed. He clinched the championship at Suzuka with a race to spare, passing Prost as he rallied from a poor start to take his eighth win of the season.

But while there had been flashpoints of tension between their pair in 1988 – notably in Portugal – it was nothing compared to the hostility which developed in their second season together. Matters had taken a turn for the worse at Imola, where Prost accused Senna of reneging on a pre-race pact not to overtake each other at the start.

Prost also had suspicions about the quality of equipment he was receiving, despite McLaren allocating Honda’s powerful engines to the pair at random to guard against any favouritism. Three months earlier at his home race Prost had announced he would leave McLaren, and later signed a deal to join Ferrari.

The huge gap between him and Senna in qualifying at Monza – decidedly a power circuit – suggested Prost had a point about the quality of equipment he was receiving. But as that race proved, Senna also had legitimate grounds to make the same claim.

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Monza marked the fourth occasion he had retired from the lead of the race in 1989 with a technical problem. Had he not been struck down by faults at Phoenix, Montreal, Silverstone and Monza (and on the first lap at Paul Ricard), it’s very likely Senna would have been leading the championship going into Japan, and entirely possible he would have already won it.

That was not the case, however, and with two rounds remaining Prost headed Senna by 76 points to 60. Victory in the final two races, worth nine points each, was therefore the only way Senna could win the title.

But crucially, two wins for Senna would guarantee him the title irrespective of where Prost finished. Drivers could only count their 11 best finishing results, so two wins for Senna and two second places for Prost would leave them tied on 78 points, Prost dropping fifteen to Senna’s zero (much as had happened the year before) and Senna taking the title by dint of having won more races.

There can be no doubt both drivers were aware of the implications of the complex championship arithmetic as the weekend began.

1989 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying

The Formula One grid was in much healthier shape 25 years ago. Even for this flyaway round only two in every three entries could be certain of a place on the 26-car grid. Thirteen were eliminated in qualifying and pre-qualifying.

Nigel Mansell, Ferrari, Suzuka, 1989
Mansell returned following his ban
And it wasn’t just the no-hopers who faced an early end to their weekend. Stefan Johansson, who had put his Onyx on the podium two races earlier at Estoril, was among those to fall at the first hurdle.

Former Ferrari drivers Rene Arnoux and Michele Alboreto also failed to make the cut. The latter did so despite his team mate taking eighth on the grid, a string of technical problems having delayed him during practice.

Ferrari were back to their full driving strength as Nigel Mansell returned from his one-race ban for ignoring a black flag in Portugal. He retired from that race after colliding with Senna, and at Suzuka Mansell let it be known to the press he was firmly on the side of his future Ferrari team mate Prost in the championship contest.

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Mansell took fourth on the grid alongisde team mate Gerhard Berger having been inadequately fuelled for his qualifying run. On the next row was sixth-placed Alessandro Nannini, far ahead of his Benetton team mate Emanuele Pirro, who as a McLaren test driver had covered an enormous amount of test mileage at Suzuka.

Also on the grid was Paolo Barilla, making his F1 debut for Minardi in place of the injured Pierluigi Martini. And Bernd Schneider gave the Zakspeed team a timely result by putting his Yamaha-powered car on the grid for the engine manufacturer’s home race. It was only the second time all season he’d made it beyond pre-qualifying and as in the opening round at Brazil he made it all the way onto the grid.

But for Senna and Prost the other 24 competitors would chiefly be encountered as the lapped traffic which occasionally intruded on their personal struggle for supremacy.

1989 Japanese Grand Prix grid

Row 11. Ayrton Senna 1’38.041
2. Alain Prost 1’39.771
Row 23. Gerhard Berger 1’40.187
4. Nigel Mansell 1’40.406
Row 35. Riccardo Patrese 1’40.936
6. Alessandro Nannini 1’41.103
Row 47. Thierry Boutsen 1’41.324
8. Philippe Alliot 1’41.336
Row 59. Stefano Modena 1’41.458
10. Nicola Larini 1’41.519
Row 611. Nelson Piquet 1’41.802
12. Satoru Nakajima 1’41.988
Row 713. Martin Brundle 1’42.182
14. Luis Perez-Sala 1’42.283
Row 815. Alex Caffi 1’42.488
16. Andrea de Cesaris 1’42.581
Row 917. Ivan Capelli 1’42.672
18. Jean Alesi 1’42.709
Row 1019. Paolo Barilla 1’42.780
20. Mauricio Gugelmin 1’42.880
Row 1121. Bernd Schneider 1’42.892
22. Emanuele Pirro 1’43.063
Row 1223. Olivier Grouillard 1’43.379
24. Eddie Cheever 1’43.511
Row 1325. Derek Warwick 1’43.599
26. Jonathan Palmer 1’43.757

Did not qualify

Rene Arnoux, Ligier-Ford – 1’44.030
Michele Alboreto, Lola-Lamborghini – 1’44.063
Pierre Henri Raphanel, Rial-Ford – 1’47.160
Bertrand Gachot, Rial-Ford – 1’47.295

Did not pre-qualify

Pierluigi Ghinzani, Osella-Ford – 1’44.313
Roberto Moreno, Coloni-Ford – 1’44.498
Stefan Johansson, Onyx-Ford – 1’44.582
Aguri Suzuki, Zakspeed-Yamaha – 1’44.780
Oscar Larrauri, Euro Brun-Judd – 1’45.446
JJ Lehto, Onyx-Ford – 1’45.787
Gabriele Tarquini, AGS-Ford – 1’46.705
Yannick Dalmas, AGS-Ford – 1’48.306
Enrico Bertaggia, Coloni-Ford – No time

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1989 Japanese Grand Prix

The two McLarens were separated by 1.7 seconds on the timing screen but nonetheless they shared the front row of the grid. And when it came to his race set-up, Prost had a plan. After arriving on the grid he quietly asked one of his mechanics to remove the Gurney flap from his rear wing, hoping Senna wouldn’t notice the subtle and late tweak to his set-up which would cost him rear downforce but improve his straight-line speed.

Start, Suzuka, 1989
Prost charged into the lead at the start
The location of pole position became an explosive point of dispute the following year, and the reason for it could be traced back to Senna’s experience in 1989. Starting on the right-hand side of the track, opposite the racing line, Senna struggled for traction on the dirtier side of the track while Prost shot by into the lead.

While the red and white McLarens vanished up the road as usual, Minardi began packing up their equipment at the end of the first lap. A clutch failure accounted for Barilla, and Luis Perez-Sala crashed out while trying to pass Satoru Nakajima. Schneider’s first start for seven months ended when his transmission failed on lap two.

After that there were no further retirements until the race approached its half-distance point, from when the usual mechanical niggles began to sideline some of the midfield runners. Pirro also dropped out, spinning off at Spoon while trying to lap Andrea de Cesaris.

But it was the fight at the front which commanded all the attention. Prost edged clear at first, leading by 3.8 seconds after five laps while setting a string of fastest times. Senna put an end to that from lap 15, however, and began steadily reducing his team mate’s lead.

Prost made his sole pit stop on the 21st lap. These were not the days of well-drilled two-second tyre changes – the stops took longer and the margin of error was greater, and so it proved for Senna, who lost almost two seconds when he came into the pits on lap 23.

But Senna was flying now, and set the fastest lap four times as he brought Prost into range. But now he faced the difficulty of passing his team mate, whose adjustment on the grid had given him a slight top speed advantage.

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“He had nothing to lose”

Senna had put Prost under sustained pressure from lap 40 to 42, then dropped back slightly. By lap 47 – with just six laps remaining – Senna was back within range. The pair crossed the start/finish line separated by half a second.

Senna’s straight-line speed disadvantage seemed to rule out a pass on the pit straight, where he had overtaken Prost the year before. The tight chicane at the end of the lap looked a likelier spot, and on lap 47 Senna kept his foot to the floor through the ultra-fast 130R corner which preceded it. This was surely his best chance yet to make a move.

After the race Prost gave the following explanation for what happened next, one which he has stuck to ever since. Referring to past occasions where he felt he had backed down while fighting Senna, Prost said: “Before the race here, I said that I was not going to leave the door open any longer.”

But Prost did leave the door open. Senna kept all four wheels on the track as he dived down the inside of his team mate. As video replays later confirmed, Prost not only turned right well before his usual racing line but with a degree of steering lock which suggested he was changing lanes on a motorway rather than swinging into a 90-degree turn.

That had an inevitable result – one which in all likelihood, particularly given the championship situation, was desired by Prost. The two McLarens interlocked wheels at one of the slowest corners on the track and skidded to a pathetic halt.

Senna had no doubt the championship situation explained Prost’s unusual approach to the corner. “What he did was unbelievable, normally,” Senna said afterwards. “But you could understand because he could only gain, he had nothing to lose. He had to make sure that I would not go through because if I had passed him, it was finished for him.”

Prost climbed from his car and began walking back to the pits. The following day McLaren’s long serving engineer Jo Ramirez asked him why he hadn’t carried on. “If the marshals had pushed both of you, maybe the authorities wouldn’t have penalised either of you,” he pointed out. “Your car was completely OK and in one piece, including the nose.”

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“It was a mighty old bang,” Prost replied. “My right wheel was on full lock to the right, and I thought the suspension was broken. I should have looked at the left wheel – that was probably on full lock to the right as well.” This isn’t corroborated by video footage of the crash.

Nonetheless Prost got out of his car, which some interpreted as being an indication that he had achieved what he intended to by stopping his team mate. While Senna implored the marshals to disentangle his car and give him a push start, Prost reassured himself that was forbidden by the rules.

But Senna, aware that a push start could legally be given to a car which was in a dangerous position, successfully lobbied the marshals to get him going again. The Honda V10 re-fired, and he returned to the circuit via the chicane’s escape road.

As Ramirez alluded to, the front wing on Senna’s MP4-5 had been dislodged in the contact. By pitting to have it replaced Senna dropped behind Nannini, who had been over a minute behind the McLarens when lap 47 began.

With just two laps to go, Senna caught and passed Nannini at the very spot where Prost had turned in on him four laps earlier. He went on to take the chequered flag first and wept for joy as he returned to the pits, believing he still had a chance to retain his title if he won the final race in Australia.

1989 Japanese Grand Prix result

Pos.#DriverTeamLapsTime / gap / reason
119Alessandro NanniniBenetton-Ford531hr 35’06.277
26Riccardo PatreseWilliams-Renault5311.904
35Thierry BoutsenWilliams-Renault5313.446
411Nelson PiquetLotus-Judd531’44.225
57Martin BrundleBrabham-Judd521 lap
69Derek WarwickArrows-Ford521 lap
715Mauricio GugelminMarch-Judd521 lap
810Eddie CheeverArrows-Ford521 lap
921Alex CaffiDallara-Ford521 lap
1022Andrea de CesarisDallara-Ford512 laps
1Ayrton SennaMcLaren-Honda53Disqualified
2Alain ProstMcLaren-Honda46Accident
8Stefano ModenaBrabham-Judd46Engine
27Nigel MansellFerrari43Engine
12Satoru NakajimaLotus-Judd41Engine
4Jean AlesiTyrrell-Ford37Gearbox
30Philippe AlliotLola-Lamborghini36Engine
28Gerhard BergerFerrari34Gearbox
20Emanuele PirroBenetton-Ford33Accident
26Oliver GrouillardLigier-Ford31Engine
16Ivan CapelliMarch-Judd27Suspension
17Nicola LariniOsella-Ford21Brakes
3Jonathan PalmerTyrrell-Ford20Fuel leak
34Bernd SchneiderZakspeed-Yamaha1Gearbox
24Luis Perez-SalaMinardi-Ford0Collision
23Paolo BarillaMinardi-Ford0Clutch

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Balestre intervenes

The podium ceremony was postponed while the stewards debated the controversial developments during the final laps of the race. Their eventual decision to penalise the winner of the race before he took to the rostrum was not unprecedented, but significantly this was the last time it ever happened.

Riccardo Patrese, Alessandro Nannini, Thierry Boutsen, Suzuka, 1989
Nannini was elevated to the top of the podium
Senna’s disqualification handed Nannini his first and only grand prix victory. “I didn’t push because I didn’t know about Senna,” said Nannini, who had been cruising around five seconds off the pace at the time of the crash. “When I knew I started to push again but he was too close to me.”

“I am not very happy for Senna but I am happy for me,” he added.

Controversially the stewards were joined by Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the Federation International du Sport Automobile (FISA – now the FIA). Balestre, whose autocratic approach and voluble temper had been the defining characteristics of his 11-year rule over the sport, surprised no one by voicing his view of the collision and laying the blame at Senna’s feet.

His personal intervention over the Suzuka affair drew criticism. Two years later, Balestre lost the presidency to Max Mosley. In a recent book on Senna, Mosley said his predecessor “didn’t understand about the separation of powers”.

“When Senna and Prost had the coming together, Balestre just fixed the whole thing [by influencing the stewards],” said Mosley. “I was outraged.”

Senna was disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix on the grounds that by cutting the chicane on lap 47 he had not completed the full race distance. McLaren immediately lodged an appeal against the result of the race, even though it was inevitably seen as them taking the side of one driver against another.

“It is our duty to try and win every race,” explained team director Creighton Brown. “Both drivers understand this, and understand why we are appealing. It is purely to do with the race result and has nothing to do with the world championship.” This was, of course, a potential victory lost at their engine supplier’s own circuit.

Senna dismissed Prost’s attempt at reconciliation immediately after the race. “The results as they stand provisionally do not reflect the truth of the race in either the sporting sense or in the sense of the regulations,” he said in a statement. “I see this result as temporary.”

“A driver who endangers the safety of others”

The facts of the matter indicated Senna had good cause to believe McLaren’s appeal could succeed. He was far from the only driver to have cut a chicane in this fashion, yet none of the others who had done so before him had been penalised. Among them were Prost himself, who had done so at Imola earlier in the season, and gone on to finish in second place.

Jean Marie Balestre (FRA) FIA and FFSA (Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile) President -, EMail: © Copyright: Photo4 / XPB Images
FISA president Balestre was furious
But when McLaren arrived at the FIA International Court of Appeal hearing, hurriedly arranged for the following Friday to ensure a verdict could be delivered well before the season finale at Adelaide, they were astonished to discover the charge sheet against Senna was no longer confined to the events of Japan.

In a mockery of due process, the court invoked a range of past grievances against Senna, then handed him a six-month suspended ban and a $100,000 fine. “The events which have occurred in the last few months during several grands prix prove that even if A. Senna is a talented driver, he is also a driver who endangers the safety of other drivers,” it noted.

Senna seethed at the injustice. Speaking ahead of the final race of the season in Australia, he said: “I never caused the accident at Suzuka. It was never my responsibility, but I was blamed for everything. I was treated like a criminal.”

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis vowed to take the matter further, even as Balestre gave dark warnings that “there will be a few heads, even prestigious ones, that will risk a fall” if they did not reconcile themselves to his view that “no force, no political or legal power in the world outside the FIA can change this decision”.

The events of Adelaide spared the sport another showdown between McLaren and the FIA. During the rain-lashed race Senna, leading comfortably, smashed into Martin Brundle’s Brabham, destroying whatever slim chance he had of winning the title.

But to some drivers, the very fact the Australian race went ahead made a mockery of the FIA’s claim to have prosecuted Senna on grounds of safety. “It was 100 times more dangerous what we did here than what he did in Japan,” said Berger, who was due to join Senna at McLaren the following year.

This was not quite the end of the affair. Senna’s subsequent claim that Balestre’s interference represented “a true manipulation of the championship” initiated another piece of grandstanding from the president. This time Senna was required to apologise before his superlicence would be granted for 1990. An 11th-hour settlement between the two saw Senna release a placatory statement and Balestre issue his licence – and rescind the six-month suspended ban.


A dangerous precedent was set at Suzuka in 1989. It did not escape the notice of the drivers of the time that the sport’s governing body would not sanction them for purposefully eliminating a rival in order to win the championship. Over an eight-year period, four championships were decided in this way.

Senna extracted a brutal and uncompromising revenge less than 12 months later. Further incensed by a row over which side of the grid his pole position should be placed, Senna seized his first opportunity to ram Prost out of the race and reclaim the title he believed had been unjustly taken from him the previous year.

Michael Schumacher evidently drew the same conclusions about the FIA’s toothlessness. During the 1994 title-decider, having damaged his car by going off the track, he swung into Damon Hill’s passing car to ensure the Williams driver did not take the title from him. The FIA, now headed by Mosley, had already penalised Schumacher and his Benetton team for a string of earlier infringements, but stayed its hand on this occasion.

Three years later things were different. Schumacher’s attempt to do the same to Jacques Villeneuve in similar circumstances at Jerez was unsuccessful. And this time the sport’s governing body stepped in to prevent drivers attempting to decide future championships in the same manner, by retrospectively disqualifying Schumacher from the standings.

Would the FIA do the same to a driver who won the championship by causing a collision? Mosley claimed they would during his time as president, after the Schumacher incidents. But their resolve has not yet been put to the ultimate test.

Postscript: An echo of the past in a race of the future

Nicolas Prost invited comparisons with one of the most notorious episodes from his father’s past during the inaugural round of the FIA’s new all-electric Formula E championship earlier this year in China.

The younger Prost was on course to win the race in Beijing when he made this unsuccessful attempt to keep Nick Heidfeld from overtaking him at the final corner. The symmetry with the events of Suzuka in 1989 would have been complete had Prost been racing Senna’s nephew Bruno, who also started the race.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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105 comments on “Prost’s Suzuka chicanery denies Senna the title”

  1. Senna’s move was wildly optimistic. He was trailing Prost for 40 laps but couldn’t get past, so he tried all or nothing, and took the inside line and braked later.

    By the way, Senna needed to win the last two races, with Prost scoring no points, to be champion. If Prost had let Senna through and finished second, he would be champion anyway.

    1. By the way, Senna needed to win the last two races, with Prost scoring no points, to be champion. If Prost had let Senna through and finished second, he would be champion anyway.

      That is not correct.

      As described in the article, had Senna won both of the remaining races he would have been champion regardless of where Prost finished. It’s important to get that right because it was undoubtedly a factor in the collision. (Incidentally while writing the above I noticed the Wikipedia article on the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix got this point wrong, but that’s not exactly a surprise).

      Here’s the points situation in full. The scoring system was 9-6-4-3-2-1 with drivers only able to count their 11 best results.

      Prost already had thirteen points-scoring finishes and therefore had to drop his two worst scores. He had four wins, six seconds, one third, one fourth and one fifth for a total of 81 before deducting his fourth and fifth place finishes, leaving him on 76. Any further points scores by Prost would obviously also mean further points deductions.

      Senna only had seven points-scoring finishes and therefore any further points he scored would be added to his total without deductions. Six wins and one second place meant he had 60 points.

      Clearly, Senna could only out-score Prost by winning both of the two remaining races, putting him on 78 points.

      If Prost took the next best results available to him – two second places – he would end the season with fifteen points-scoring finishes: four wins, eight seconds, one third, one fourth and one fifth. That would give him 93 points before deducting his four worst results. These would be a fifth, a fourth, a third and one second, a total deduction of 15 points, leaving him on 78.

      Therefore if Senna won both the remaining races the best Prost could do would be to equal his points tally. And in that scenario the tie break would be who had the most wins, which would be Senna with eight wins to Prost’s four.

      Therefore the only way Senna could take the title was to win both the remaining races – but if he did so there was no way Prost could beat him.

      This is exactly why I groan when people talk about bringing back the ‘dropped scores’ points system, because it was too complicated and invariably led to misunderstandings such as yours.

      1. i never saw the point of it once teams began attending every grand prix as a matter of course. it made some (limited) sense when people chose not to enter certain events, but i can’t work out what it was doing in 1988/9.

        the current points system is at least something to be thankful for (except i think second should be about 60% of a win, but we can’t have everything)

        1. I think it was a great rule and would love it to be brought back! It would mean the driver championship would be less about who had the most reliable car and more about who had the better results! This years a great example, I think it is possible Hamilton can loose the championship having won 11 races!

          These days consistency is so highly rated, you can not afford to take the odd chance and not to finish – its better just to settle for second/third etc. Bring it back and lets see the driver, cars really pushed to the limit…..

          1. agree on that. would be nice to see that system again.

    2. The video speaks for itself as it has for years, Prost turns in wayyyy too early at the chicane. I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would conclude that was Senna’s fault, and I’m hardly a Senna fanboy.

      1. Chantaal Angier
        17th February 2017, 22:06

        The video definitely speaks for itself. For me, it is when Ayrton Senna wags his finger at Prost.

    3. Brutus – the move was the same as Villeneuve on Schumacher at Jerez in 1997, timed to perfection, like Montoya on Schumacher at Brazil in 2001. The only difference was that Schumacher turned in too late in 1997 – Brundle knew that as soon as the contact had happened. And Hunt probably knew the same. To any racing driver, it’s obvious.

  2. 25 years hey!? I thought it was yesterday and I was 13 again!

    Prost turned in and he knew what he was doing, no-one can deny that!
    Ayrton repaid the favour the next year, no denying that either and I am as pro-Senna as you get- two bad choices by two of the all time greats I’m afraid!

    The worst thing about all of this was Balestre (before and after) this guy must be the worst of all time in a position in F1 with power!!

    Loved seeing the old school racing though !! Cant wait for the next one :)

    1. Alan Donnelly is another instance of a guy with his own (or Mosley’s) agenda. Taking on the role of “supreme steward” handing out random penalties as he pleased to Hamilton in 2008.

    2. Yet only ’90 endangered the drivers and the point that most always forget, when you consider the deaths at Melbourne and Monza, the marshalls. Senna should have been banned for life after that, look at the fatal accident there 2 years later in Japanese F3000. So many say it was pay back, I agree that they differed in severity only, but it was to the point that one risked lives.

      Also the point about ’88 that everyone ignores, Prost outscored Senna, if not for the odd points system, it would not have ended when “He clinched the championship at Suzuka with a race to spare”.

      I was a Senna fanboi in my teens, but grew up and accepted him for what he was, an extremely talented but at times unacceptably reckless driver who today would be banned for some of his acts or at least crucified online. At the very least he would not be revered as he is had he not died. I still recall being at the tracks and hearing the cheers from the crowds when the track radio announcer advised of his retirement.

      1. That`s great as a senna fan that you have a well constructed comment! Well done. There’s one thing about Japan 1989 that people have not talked about, and that is the fact that senna’s ignoring of yellow flags in the previous race. Now if Mansell was banned for missing just one black flag, then why wasn`t senna?!

      2. That was the points system that was in use back then, every driver knew it, it was the same for all of them. In many ways it’s a positive as it promotes the need to win as many races as possible and with the poor reliability of the cars back then it was again very welcomed. Senna v Prost was an insane battle, but it was clear to everyone that Senna had speed over Prost in all all conditions. Prost was unbeatable when he was happy in the car, but how often do you get that in a season.

  3. Great piece Kieth, I never ever tire of reading about the Senna/Prost feud :) the events of Suzuka 1989/1990 get more incredible the more you read about them

    One thing though, last paragraph: “The symmetry with the events of Suzuka in 9189” Do let us in on your future-seeing abilities! How does Seb get on at Ferrari next year? :)

  4. petebaldwin (@)
    22nd October 2014, 13:14

    Their resolve hasn’t been put to the ultimate test in terms of removing the Championship from someone for deliberate crashing btu they certainly bottled making a decision this year when one title contender deliberately crashed into another….

    1. What, Spa again? There are still people thinking Rosberg would have deliberately taken the much larger risk of damaging his front wing because of the much smaller chance to cause a puncture?

      1. @mattds Front wing damage at Spa T7 costs 16s max, while a rear puncture costs 120s + aero damage. It was always likely to pay, that’s why Rosberg actively steered into Hamilton. And in more history repeating that followed the stewards’ equally timorous whitewashing at Monaco.

        So now we have to watch Abu Dhabi with that slight question in our minds…

        1. @lockup: what? “16s max”? You know what front wing damage will cost max? Look at Alonso, Malaysia 2013. That’s just about what it will cost max.
          On top of that, chances to cause a puncture are FAR smaller than chances to damage a front wing, so the chances of losing points compared to your rival are much bigger than actually gaining from it.

          1. @mattds it was not a frontal impact to knock the pylons off, it was a lateral impact like the one Alonso had in that same race or that Hamilton had in Germany – knock the endplate off, or at worst a cascade too. A tenth or two per lap and the team may or may not spend 10s changing it at the stop. Versus a rear puncture that at 3 miles from the pits is race over because you can’t drive slowly enough to protect the floor without going a lap down so that even an SC won’t save you. Do you really not understand this? I’m sure Rosberg did.

            Worst-case outcome was second place, and he was in second already. It was a shot to nothing. That’s why we see his steering-wheel the full 90 degrees right as Lewis’ rear wheel goes past.

            Totally deliberate, and totally whitewashed by the stewards like the historical examples, and Monaco.

          2. @lockup I’ve seen enough racing to know that even wing-to-tyre contact can cause an aerodynamical imbalance that can make you lose the wing on the next high-speed part, cause understeer and send you off, and what not. Front wing damage does not cost you “16s max”. It’s flawed thinking and it’s nonsense to try and keep that up.

            Worst case was him out of the race and Hamilton winning. Chances of that were higher as well, seeing how the chances of causing a puncture are far lower than front wing damage. On top of that a puncture can range anywhere in severity from a slow one to one that basically explodes your tyre in a matter of seconds. So you’re looking at smaller odds to damage the tyre vs your own front wing, and then you’re still looking at only a portion of that which would effectively see your opponent a minute down or more (it was 45 seconds in this case).

            I have no doubt that he did something deliberate, and that was trying to stick it to Hamilton by staying in there when he really didn’t have the right to. But thinking that the intended outcome was front wing damage and a puncture, that’s stretching too far. The intended outcome was Hamilton backing off so Rosberg could barge his way through.

          3. @mattds take a look at the screenshot of Rosberg’s onboard here:


            It’s not possible for Hamilton to back off or for Rosberg to get through. Lewis is through already.

            And look at Rosberg’s steering. It was so momentary you couldn’t really see it in the real-time video, but there it is.

            It was absolutely vital that Pirro only looked at the incident for 10 seconds! Otherwise he’d have had to do something ;)

          4. Like you say yourself: it was so momentary you couldn’t really see it in the real-time video. This is par for the course in driving race cars: sometimes they control their car, based on what they feel, by giving a momentary flick to the steering wheel.

            Re-read that article. It speaks of how easy it is to damage a front wing, since it’s invisible at two meters away on an extremity of the car. Then the article goes on to explain how Pirelly states that the chance to create a puncture is large but only on a small part of the tyre.

            And in effect what you (and some others) are saying is that Rosberg aimed a, to him, invisible part of his car at a small part of Hamilton’s car, while cornering, with the purpose of eliminating Hamilton and calculating that he would be just fine.

            I’m just not buying that.

      2. People apparently think quite highly of Rosberg’s ability to determine ahead of time if hitting another car will cause damage more damage to it than it does to him.

        1. @mattds and @kanil I’m with you. @petebaldwin and far moreso @lockup who has continually called NR ‘a cheat’ will likely never be convinced otherwise. My goodness if NR is a cheat, what must they think of MS? I’d say NR is an angel by comparison.

          And LH has not been ‘innocent’ either, yet is somehow not ‘a cheat’. Earlier in the season when both drivers were upping the boost on their own in order to compete, LH did it again such that he even apologized to the team after the fact and after the win. He would only have apologized if he had done it after a point where they were asked not to do that and instead to go by their instructions on boost from the pits. And if in fact NR did something sneaky at Monaco, which @lockup even goes so far as to cry conspiracy and coverup on the part of the stewards, perhaps LH brought that upon himself with his apologetic win ahead of Monaco.

          Anyway I’d take NR standing his ground like we hope to see in a great rivalry, such as Senna/Prost, any day over a one-rooster team who’s subservient would not have even tried to stand his ground like NR did in Spa. Perhaps not even allowed to by contract. And NR, thankfully, never apologized for doing that…just for the unintended consequences that robbed the team of points and the fans of a race-long dual.

          1. @robbie Cmon there was nothing ‘standing his ground’ about what Rosberg did in Spa. It was weak and desperate. Even Brundle called it petulant. Got him booed, turned the media against him, and alienated his team, quite rightly.

            As for the victim-blaming, Lauda admitted it was Nico who first used boost against orders, at Bahrain.

            In any case boost is not on the same scale as Mirabeau. Which yes WAS like Rascassegate, except that it did look like a momentary decision by Schumi whereas Rosberg clearly planned his cheat from the start of Q3, when he did his riskily fast banker in order to have choice of track position – which he mysteriously used to run first…

            It’s true I could not like MS. I did like Nico, but this year has been very disillusioning. Michael IMO failed to distinguish between winning and being the best, but most of the time he was a fabulous, classy racing driver, and as far as I can think his dark moments were at least spontaneous.

          2. @lockup And of course I expected no less of a response from you and disagree. To you, Brundle calling it petulant doesn’t mean stubborn, or immature…it means deliberate and vicious. Only in your mind has he turned the media against him, like that matters even if it were true, to the point where it would affect any driver’s behavior on the track, and only in your mind has he alienated his team. Only in your mind can you erase LH doing an apology worthy act, simply because NR allegedly did it ‘first’…ie. as long as NR did it, LH is innocent when he does it. Only in your mind are MS’s multitudinal indiscretions ‘spontaneous’ yet NR is ‘a cheat’ doing premeditated and deliberate things. As I predicted, I said you would never be convinced otherwise, but that’s ok because I won’t be swayed from my stance either.

          3. @robbie aren’t we supposed to be talking about F1 rather than ‘my mind’?

            Lewis has not ‘done it’. He made the same minor transgression as Nico over using boost. That is not in the same league as either Monaco or Spa.

            I would say in this context ‘petulant’ means deliberate and childishly bad-tempered. But that’s Brundle’s interpretation of the move, when as we heard in live commentary he was terribly keen to call it merely ‘clumsy’, but honest enough to revise that somewhat, later on.

            My interpretation is unencumbered by any F1 duties, and less generous I’m afraid. I am quite sure Nico is clever enough to have done the math.

            I am open to evidence on the premeditation of Michael vs Nico’s cheats. Not that it’s a major distinction, to be honest. Just a bit stunning that MS actually looks LESS deceitful, in Monaco at least.

          4. @lockup So are you telling me Brundle has claimed the same as you, that NR literally steered into LH on purpose? Ala MS on JV? I believe that the only thing deliberate was him standing his ground and fighting with his car to do so.

            As to MS trying to get away with literally parking his car across the track, vs. Nico going right off the track without possibly knowing that would cause a yellow, I’d say MS wins the deceit game on that one. At worse NR is guilty of knowing that he had a banker lap and could take added risk on that lap. Deliberately going for it…sure. Deliberate lockup to screw up LH? Unproven. Unpenalized. MS…penalized big time. But keep grasping at straws to make NR out to be the villian. Just that you aren’t selling it well.

          5. @robbie well we’ve been round this loop before. Why are you asking me what Brundle wrote when I’ve just linked it? He said:

            ” having turned away initially, he then not only straightens the wheel but actually turns towards Hamilton. It was an instantaneous moment of anger and petulance…”

            Though I think he knew exactly what the likely outcome would be, 3 miles from the pits.

            In Monaco the track evolves with each run, so they want to go last. Why did Rosberg go first?

            That’s how Hamilton knew it was a cheat before he even got out of the car, and how we know it was premeditated, whereas Schumi just made an error on the entry to Rascasse and went for the cheat on impulse, as far as we know.

            and @mattds Brundle also says

            “contact by a front wing end fence on the relatively small curve between the tyre tread and the side wall of a rotating tyre creates a 90% chance of a puncture”


            Bear in mind that the end fence is something like a foot long, and they only have to INCLUDE the vulnerable area in the hit. Nothing pinpoint about it. And anyone who’s ever watched a race start should get that drivers know pretty exactly where their front wings are. He just needed enough force of impact to squash the sidewall bulge, which he took care to achieve as we see on Brundle’s page as I linked.

            So there’s the evidence, or some of it, that Rosberg is a cheat. You don’t have to believe it. I didn’t want to, either.

            And flashback-wise there’s the shoddy, timid stewarding that is not necessarily any improvement on 1989, 1990, 1994 or the other occasions since. As you point out it was a lot better in 2006, before a driver’s dad’s colleague was driver steward, citing his honesty as evidence of his honesty or boasting about only spending ten seconds looking at a full-speed replay.

          6. petebaldwin (@)
            24th October 2014, 10:20

            @robbie – I will never be convinced that someone who admitted to deliberate crashing isn’t a cheat. No. You are right there.

            I accept that it was just desperation and it was a snap decision. I imagine Nico is disappointed in himself and these things happen. Obviously Monaco was very dodgy too when he went down the escape road but instead of staying out of the way, reversed back onto the track…

            It’s interesting that you mention Schumacher because he did the same thing. He made a snap decision to not let a driver past him and deliberately crashed into someone. Prost/Senna was another as was Prost/Heidfeld in Formula E.

            Hamilton has also made some questionable decisions in the past and got caught out so I’m not for one second saying he is in the clear.

            My point wasn’t really complaining about Rosberg though as he made a decision to crash into Lewis and that was that. The issue was that the FIA took no action. How often does one car hit the rear of another and puncture one of their tyres and get away with no punishment?

        2. The intention is what counts here; Rosberg deliberately hit Hamilton’s car in a moment of brain fade.

      3. petebaldwin (@)
        24th October 2014, 10:23

        @mattds – I don’t think it was calculated. I think he just thought “**** that!” and steered to the right hoping for the best.

        He’d been passed by Hamilton before and was pushed off the track on the exit so he tried to be aggressive. Sadly he messed it up but somehow got completly away with it.

        Penalties are often given for “avoidable accidents.” I cannot see any way that this could be considered unavoidable.

        1. @lockup I hadn’t gone to the link because I thought it was just a screenshot…didn’t realize it was MB’s article. MB supports my point. He calls it debatable, which obviously the stewards agreed with as they did not penalize NR. MB talks of not avoiding an accident vs. a deliberate act to hit someone. Angry? Sure. Petulant? Sure. Sounds like a rivalry to me. Straightens his wheel? Sure. Turns toward Hamilton? Sure. To keep his car in control.

          I reiterate MB does not say Nico deliberately took LH out. What MB describes is a tough rivalry and potential emotions that carried over from previous races. Again, a rivalry. The stewards obviously found nothing deliberate so it is debatable otherwise, as MB points out. At worse it was Senna-like in that NR tried to force LH’s hand. It may have not worked this time, and been clumsy, but to brand NR a cheat over it is unfounded, and has never been part of NR’s makeup.

          As to Monaco, you ask, why did NR go first? Surely that is not his decision, right? Drivers don’t just get to pull out of the pits whenever they want, right? If you think NR also intentionally and on his own went out first to screw up LH then you are in another world of conspiracy theorizing that is unreasonable. But then I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when here you are talking about percentages chance of puncturing a tire and therefore that being evidence that NR must be a cheat. Wow. This is one amazing driver to be that precise with his front wing. This is my issue with your stance. Such weak little points of anything you can grasp at to desperately call evidence with which to castigate NR. A person’s debatable opinion. A percentage of a tire getting punctured. Your own conjecture over what the stewards are thinking or what their motives are, like you were a fly on the wall. Come on. When it comes to presenting evidence you’d be laughed out of court.

          @petebaldwin Fair comment. You ask how often does one car hit the rear of another and get away without punishment. I would say when it is deemed a racing incident, as opposed to a deliberate act. Trying to be aggressive is far different from a deliberate act. Well…he deliberately stood his ground…deliberately was not going to back down…and that is far from deliberately hitting someone, let alone deliberately calculating what it takes to cut someone’s tire and then with surgical precision going ahead and doing that in a premeditated way, which is what it would have taken for a cheat to pull that off. No way that in a split second of anger and petulance NR was calculating 90%…front wing end plate…I’ll survive it and LH won’t…simply jink the wheel like this…and other such drivel.

          You might be right that this was avoidable, but the stewards did not deem it deliberate so they must at some point leave room for racing between two strong rivals fighting for the WDC. If it wasn’t deliberate, how much policing and influence and interjection do we want? I appreciate the stewards letting this rivalry sort itself out on the track and will trust that when there is in fact deliberate contact, that will be addressed.

          1. @robbie So you can’t explain why Rosberg chose to run first in Monaco.

            Brundle says it was done in anger. That means it wasn’t an accident.

            He steered hard right when the rear was not certainly not moving right.

            Brundle says he was told by Pirelli there’s a 90% chance of puncturing a rotating tyre if the outer ring of sidewall is engaged by a wing end fence. The tyre is only at 19 psi, so the sidewall squashes easily. The end fence is about 1 foot long, giving 2 feet of margin to line it up. We’re talking a very gifted, experienced F1 driver…

            You don’t need to take issue with my stance. You need to address the evidence, or just admit that your belief is independent of evidence.

            The stewards’ decisions are not evidence. One admitted to only spending ten seconds on it, the other blatantly prejudged it and avoided inconvenient evidence. The stewarding was a disgrace in both cases.

          2. @lockup This is where you lose me. “So you can’t explain why Rosberg chose to run first in Monaco.”

            I think I already pointed out that wouldn’t be his choice, but the team’s. If you are bound and determined that he himself gets to just pull out of the pits whenever he likes, then we needn’t go any further. No wonder this is like hitting one’s head against a brick wall.

          3. @robbie lol, so Rosberg doesn’t get to discuss it? He earns the choice with his first run and then nobody consults him about this totally mysterious decision to pick the slower option? Link please :)

            Glad you finally accept Spa, at least.

          4. @lockup Ah, so now NR is part of a discussion. Well that’s better than you making it sound like it was only his decision so that he could go out there and screw LH. And you even say he earned the choice, meaning to me this was how they do it on the team. So he made a choice which he was given and earned which you claim was the ‘slower option’ whatever that means, and are therefore questioning how the team didn’t consult him about this mysterious choice? Are you a fly on the wall? You know what went on in the discussions? You have obviously convinced yourself they said to him something like What are you crazy? And then you ask ME to link please? What does that even mean? Link to what? Wow. As I’ve said before, you have quite the imagination. As to accepting Spa, I think I have spelled out well enough what I accept of it, and it certainly is not your version of it, and I’m glad you’re glad for that, but then you like to create your own facts and evidence out of some soap-opera like story making, so you are no doubt fashioning a way to figure out how I have completely agreed with you.

          5. @robbie Why would Rosberg have run first? What would be the motive? It’s slower, because the track evolves. You claimed it was the team’s decision but you can’t substantiate or even explain that.

            Rosberg did a fast banker, which is riskier obviously, then used the choice that give him to run first. Why? It’s slower.

          6. @lockup I would suggest the track does not evolve like you claim and that it is more about getting out there when nobody will be ahead to impede. If it was suitable at Monaco for everyone to wait to the very last due to the track evolving, then there would be every car out on the track in the last few minutes and many cars getting held up and therefore not able to capitalize on a faster track. I think you are assuming that all tracks get faster and that it is always key that every car be out there at the end and obviously places like Monaco are not conducive to that…otherwise NR would have gone last given the choice.

            And I haven’t claimed anything…just refuted what you have said. You made it sound like it was strictly NR’s decision, which I refuted, then you admitted it was a team decision, which made more sense to me, and the onus is not on me to explain your whacky thinking as to why they wouldn’t talk NR out of some ‘mysterious’ decision…your wording. Your invention.

            Why would a fast banker be risky at a place like Monaco when, as the clock is running down and runs will get more limited, you have to take your opportunities while the track is clear? At Monaco I think it is far riskier to leave it and assume you will have a clear run and a negligably faster track with a few minutes to go. What good is a track that might…might be faster by a hair…when traffic is the far greater danger?

          7. @robbie, Merc sent their cars out one after the other. Either Lewis was going to be directly behind Nico, or vice-versa. It’s a street track, it evolves.

            A banker is safe. That is of the essence. It gets you the front row, so you cannot be worse than the front row. That’s why it’s called a banker. To go faster risks a mistake and being nowhere. So you need a REASON to put in a fast banker.

            A faster banker gets you the right to go second in the second run. It’s a tiny advantage, so not worth a lot of risk.

            But when you choose to run first and go off and cause a yellow flag, then it’s instant pole, obviously. So that’s worth quite a bit of risk, isn’t it?

            This is how Lewis knew while he was still in the car that it had been a cheat, when he radioed “I should have known”. Because that is the only thing that made sense of Nico choosing to run first.

            Totally premeditated. Nobody wanted to accept it, me included. The drivers did accept it pretty quickly, followed by most of the paddock. Then many doubters got off the fence when Spa happened. He got booed for a reason, and it wasn’t making an innocent error.

            Anyway I’m out now. Our many enthralled readers can make up their own minds at this point :))

          8. @lockup I agree you need a reason to put in a banker and I explained it…the concern over leaving yourself only one shot at a clean fast lap at Monaco but finding traffic instead. A banker is no guarantee of a front row…nothing is guaranteed in racing. A banker is simply a fast lap while the opportunity is there with the hopes that is good enough for a front row or pole, best case scenario, or at least as high up the grid as possible in case the last final attempt before the clock runs out is scuppered. Nothing was preventing LH or any other driver from getting pole half way through Q3. To suggest the only reason NR went first has to be because he is a cheater is ridiculous. And LH had every opportunity to do the same as NR did by putting in a better lap earlier and then, according to you, being given the choice as to what to do near the end…go out first or second. I’m taking you at your word btw about this choice that the drivers had based on their banker laps. And remind you it is a team decision, as the drivers are part if the team. If LH had a problem with NR then he had a problem with NR’s side of the garage and the principals that oversee both sides of the garage.

  5. Meh ! Ayrton, you should’ve waited for the DRS zone…

    These drivers…. they don’t learn, do they?

    1. I would have loved how Senna, Prost, Mansell and Piquet responded to a DRS rule in 1986- “Um, we have spoken about this and, um, your top 4 F1 drivers in the world are going home!!”

    2. COTD right here

  6. I’m glad you took the courage, @keithcollantine, to draw the conclusions from Prost’s onboard and claim – in the title, no less – that it was Prost’s fault and not a racing incident.

    I like Senna, but am by no means a blinded fan of him and if it’d have been the other way around, I’d acknowledge it as his fault as well (like, despite all the understandable motives behind it, I disagree with what he did next year), so I consider my opinion to be fairly objective.

    1. @attiducs-2 Personally I’m a Prost fan, but I still can’t get over the fact that anyone thinks he didn’t do it deliberately. Of course he did. Just as, like you say, Senna did the following year. Unfortunately even these all-time greats made some incredibly poor choices sometimes.

      This is what both infuriated and amused me about the whole multi-21 affair in 2013… so many people were appalled that Vettel had the audacity to overtake his teammate, but compared with some of the actions of F1’s heroes such as Prost, Senna and Schumacher, that was positively tame!

      1. Vettel’s move in Turkey wasn’t any less worse than what Senna and Prost did. Seeing how utterly useless that move was, I’d say it’s an even worse case of malignant wrongdoing on track.

        1. @patrickl

          Vettel’s move in Turkey wasn’t any less worse than what Senna and Prost did. Seeing how utterly useless that move was, I’d say it’s an even worse case of malignant wrongdoing on track.

          Vettel was careless (I assume you mean in 2010), the other two were cynical and probably premeditated (almost certainly so in Senna’s case). What Vettel did was nothing like as bad as either and certainly not “malignant”.

          I find this a bizarre comparison as Vettel would have had nothing to gain from instigating a collision with Webber.

          1. Just like Maldonado had nothing to gain from ramming Hamilton in Spa during practice?

            Vettel was annoyed with Webber and suddenly swerves across track with a car less than a meter to his side. That’s not careless, that’s an impetuous move with clear malignant intent to “prove a point”.

            There was no way that that move could have ever ended well.

          2. @patrickl I think the Maldonado-Hamilton incident you’re referring to was during qualifying (although strictly speaking that is also practice), and again I don’t agree with the comparison. That wasn’t to achieve some end in the championship, it was Maldonado acting on a rash impulse.

            Nor do I agree Vettel had the same motivation, that was just carelessness. He mistakenly thought he was sufficiently far ahead of Webber to claim the line.

          3. Maldonado’s and Vettel were both acting on rash impulse.

            “Claiming the line” would have been slowly moving to the right. Instead he suddenly veered off to the right with a car sitting in close proximity.

            The speed of the move makes it impetuous and it shows the malignant intent. There was no reason to move so aggressively other than “proving a point”. Similar to how (China 2010) he pushed Hamilton off the fastlane almost into the pit crews/equipment.

            The red mist and apparent disregard for his opponents prevented him from realizing that his actions would cause a collision.

            Carelesness is be how he rammed Button in Spa. He tried an overtake just as Button moved, messed it all up and crashed. That’s an accident and indeed a bit of careless driving.

            In the Webber and Hamilton cases he did it on purpose because he was annoyed with the situation. That’s the distinction.

      2. With regard to multi-21 I think most journalists and a large percentage of fans were becoming tired of Vettel’s dominance and wanted to create a great stir out of it. At the time I remember thinking that it was a low, selfish and not in any way noble or sporting or the way a great champion should act. But when he came out a week later and said,”I was racing, I as faster, I passed him, I won” I thought this guy is at least sticking up for himself and Webber could have fought him harder/hit him instead of sulking to the press. I gained more respect for Vettel after the incident ironically but still long to see how he reacts in a slower car over the championship. What he wins for Ferrari will define him.

        1. @rbalonso that’s exactly what happened during the multi-21 affair. Dislike towards Vettel.

          If Webber was in Vettel’s position, EVERYONE would’ve praised Webber’s actions. But no, they ranted on how Vettel’s mischievous manners ruined a race which was Webber’s.

          The precedent didn’t serve Seb well either, but that time, at Malaysia, he showed how good a racing driver he can be.

        2. My issue with Vettel during that race was not the multi 21 episode but the dismissive “get him out of the way” comment earlier in the race. That was more telling than his will to win.

        3. @rbalonso – That is utterly false. The reaction to “multi 21” was in no way to do with a media tired of Vettel because simply he hadn’t dominated in 2012 and in had lost the first race of 2013 to Raikkonen. The key objection was that he subject to was putting himself in front of the team, an effect accentuated by the fact that in the same race Rosberg showed himself capable of following team orders and at Spa in 2012 Vettel had called for “mulit-map 1-2” to protect himself against Mark: who was promptly put on a two stop strategy. As with Spa, as with the “get him out of the way” remark, he appeared happy to benefit from team orders but not to obey them.

          Personally, the aftermath was the worse part of the affair for me. He simply decided to lie, look into a camera and lie with a ridiculous facade of confusion. A week later, presumably after being advised by his press officers how best to frame the incident, he arrived at Shanghai with the line that he should have should have a week earlier, because he was racing, he was faster and he should have won, because team orders at the second round, no matter what the tyre scenario is ridiculous. I personally would have found him a much more genuine character if there was not such stark inconsistency to his reaction.

          @fer-no65 – Yes, you are right about Webber being praised for ignoring team orders, but only because there would not have been such inconsistency in his reaction. Webber would have stood on the podium, looked Brundle in the eye and said “I ignored team orders because I was faster today” and that would have been well received by the media, as Vettel’s Shanghai press conference was. Yes that is speculation, but after so many years I think we can all map these very individualistic personalities quite accurately.

          1. @william-brierty Webber always had the upper hand in terms of managing the media… Seb had difficulties to respond, we had all seen Mark’s reaction already while they were at that room before the podium, so yeah, Seb managed it badly, but he did the correct thing. And Webber was just wrong, totally wrong. He wanted fair racing and he got what he wanted and lost again.

          2. @william-brierty Indeed, Vettel’s big slip up was in not realising that the radio messages were starting to be played out to the world more and more, exposing his position. For a master player of the media, it was a faux-pas that revealed the real Vettel, someone much more calculating that previously thought.

            It puts everything else into a whole new context, such as the finger and establishing that winning habit, much in the same way Schumacher had his victory jump, and Lewis used the media early on to establish himself.

            But the honest question would be – who doesn’t manipulate the media? At the top level, it’s part of the armoury you can’t do without – it worked for Rosberg earlier this year, until it eventually backfired in his face.

          3. @fer-no65 @fastiesty – I find your theories with regards to drivers use of the media very interesting, especially since they clash so heavily with regards to Vettel. The way Alonso can divulge things so implicitly, or hurl an insult so elegantly whilst always remaining, on the surface, the consummate professional and team player is truly beautiful and that is not only the work of F1’s media master, but likely that of one the most cerebral drivers ever to drive in F1. But how does Vettel compare, or more relevantly, how does Vettel compare to Webber?

            In many ways they are similar, in that they are invariably relaxed, open and humorous, but it is not normality that is interesting but crisis. Vettel generally gives the best interviews of a weekend, but in crisis Vettel has a long history of skittishness, Spa 2010 would be another example, but in Malaysia the situation was so bad when he left the track that he had to be handed a new demeanor to walk through the gates at Shanghai with. He is not Hamilton-esque when he’s done something wrong on track, i.e. moody, he looks too close to tears to be moody, nor is he implicit like Alonso, he almost appears upset. But it is a natural reaction that the fans and media greet most warmly, which is why blame has seldom been pinned on either Button or Webber through their careers.

            The essence of it is, in Malaysia Vettel’s natural post-race instincts were poor, not something you could ever accuse Button, Alonso or Webber of, casting a number of arguably valid connotations on him; namely as a cheat, liar and self-centric ambitionist. However all of the above could be translated into determination, ruthlessness and the will to compete and win, the traits of a champion sportsman: so you can see why the debate is so polar.

      3. “IF” Prost turned in deliberately, it is excusable, as Senna was not in the position to overtake at that turn, I sincerely believe Prost turned in to take the turn, and maybe to “cut” at Senna for the lame pass attempt, but I don’t think there was as much vile from Prost as some make out. If think Senna was considered the “hero” driver, while Prost just the technician who got the job done, so more people liked Senna – for this reason I think the analysis over the years has been pro Senna and less for Prost. I stand by prost in this incident, i can not see how he drove towards Senna to make damage to Senna’s car like some people believe. it was relatively slow at that point, and the damage to either car was unpredictable.

        1. Regardless of fault in the crash, though, Senna went on to win the race despite the handicap of the delay and broken wing, Prost went off to try to influence the stewards, to have him disqualified, in order to secure the world title and was helped by a biased Balestre.

          You have stated that crashing into your rival to win the title is excusable, is this also ok?

          What is your view on the Schumacher crashes in 1996 and 1997 – were they also acceptable?

    2. @atticus-2 I know this story through videos, articles like this one and books. I didn’t watch it live, nor I followed Senna and Prost closely enough.

      But I struggle to see how this is anything but Prost fault. The onboard shot is clear. He turned the wheel far too early, he was aiming for the grass… he left the door totally open and once he tried to close it, Senna was right alongside him. It’s clear cut, it isn’t like Senna just had his nose inside, he had the full car, it was his corner, on merit.

      1. he wasn’t alongside him enough for that angle of apex turn, he came in too late.

    3. @ladym @fer-no65 I don’t know, it might have been just me, but initially – i. e. many years ago – I came across books, articles, etc. which suggested to me that it was a racing incident and it took me some time, actually until I first saw the above onboard video a couple of years ago, that I realized it was Prost’s fault. Initially, this idea seemed to go some way against the popular view, so that’s why I commended Keith for his “independent” view.

      With regards to the multi 21 story, while I don’t really like drivers not following team orders (in my view, it’s like not listening to your boss in the office), I did like as well that Vettel stood up for himself. Not initially, but at least later.

      1. By the way, I just realised I was a less than 1-year-old baby at the time of Suzuka 1989. My dad is and was a huge F1 fan, so I might have still watched it, lol.

  7. I have a great passion for the history of F1 and growing up I absolutely worshipped everything Senna. 1989 was his unluckiest season and he could have been a lot closer to the championship lead than he was. Prost deliberately turned in on Senna but it would be hypocrisy to suggest Senna wouldn’t have done the same in my opinion. I thought the events of Suzuka 1990 were just in that the pole position had been moved for reasons of blatant bias. That though doesn’t excuse Senna’s actions which I believe he truly regretted. I think, under 2014 F1 rules, that would be an acceptable 12 pointer and he would have been banned for the next race. However, that wouldn’t give Prost the opportunity to his Suzuka points back.

    Whilst Senna’s was unquestionably pre-meditated, Schumacher’s career-defining incidents seem to reflect poor split-second decision making. I think he realised when he retired that his reputation as the greatest was tarnished by the cold image portrayed of him infused with these incidents. I don’t blame him for Adelaide but I felt he had the speed in Jerez to win without the contact. 3 of the 4 crashes the aggressor became champion so nothing was done, and in the other Schumacher was disqualified from the whole championship for less than Suzuka 1990. As Kieth points out, would the FIA have the bottle to change the outcome of the entire championship? This season, if Rosberg gets his skates on, we could find out.

    1. @rbalonso I’m with you somewhat but I do blame MS for Adelaide and except for ‘Schumacher was disqualified from the whole championship for less than Suzuka 1990.’ I don’t see how Jerez was ‘less than’ anything, and his dsq from the championship was meaningless as he was not going to win the WDC anyway after beaching himself, and he still got to keep his wins and poles, which I’ll never understand given his erasure from the Championship. And this after Max had threatened that any driver interfering with the JV/MS rivalry would get a 3-race ban at the start of the ’98 season. What bigger interference has there ever been with incidence such as MS’s action at Jerez ’97?

      Just as Belestre favoured Prost, Mosely favoured Schumacher. I doubt Todt is motivated either way toward either Mercedes driver and hopefully both drivers know by now this is no way to win. That said…the heat of the moment can produce incredible actions, as has been proven frequently.

  8. “The symmetry with the events of Suzuka in 9189” I believe it should be 1989, Keith.

  9. Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in the history of F1. Another wonderful read, great stuff Keith.

  10. It would have been very interesting to see what the FIA would have done if Villeneuve hadn’t have been able to continue in 97, because if I remember rightly Schumacher was ahead in the championship going into the last race. The punishment the FIA gave Schumacher was essentially nothing but a token gesture, why would he care about disqualification from 2nd place in the championship?

    1. I don’t think the incidents are comparable. prost turned in to take a turn because senna wasn’t enough inside of him. Schumacher turned into a competitors car to damage it.

      1. Your description of Schumacher-Villeneuve is identical to Senna-Prost though.

    2. @debaser91 I’ve often wondered that myself. Such was MM’s leaning toward MS that I think he would have had a hard struggle with that. JV, once MS took himself out, had to finish 6th or better, and did have to nurse the car home, which is why he chose not to try to go for the win which would have meant battles to defend against both Mac drivers. Instead he let them both go and still took the podium and champagne for third and the WDC.

      As brazen as MM was as head of FIA, if JV had to retire and lose the WDC on points I’d like to think MM would have done the right thing, but I’m far from confident of it. I’d like to think MM would have actually had MS’s wins and poles from 97 erased along with him being erased from the Championship. If JV had had to retire, the season would have ended with MS having more points than JV, so something would have had to be done about that. But I wouldn’t have put it past MM to allow MS the WDC because his action was ‘instinctual’ but then in order to cover himself from massive backlash ban MS for the first 3 races of ’98 as he promised any driver that interfered at Jerez ’97.

  11. James Hunt must’ve been psychic. You’ll know what I mean if you watched the first video.

    1. Haha I was also thinking how funny his comments were in hindsight ;)

  12. I still think to this day the same as the first day I saw he incident, Senna was being cheeky and came in too late with a half hearted move, and I feel Prost had no alternative then to turn it – from Prosts view I think he would have thought that senna had no chance to come thought here, he is not far enough inside of me to make the move work, he will pull back at the last moment in braking, he will not scare me into a mistake. For the move to clean, Senna should have poked his nose in much further to be more alongside prost, even if that meant locking the brakes and missing the apex. to this day I think Senna got it wrong, and the outcome was harsh for him, but so be it. his retribution later at suzuka when he took out Prost on purpose to win the title at turn 1 was one of the most disgusting and dangerous incidents the sport of f1 has ever seen – how often has that happened, taking out a rival at such a fast turn?? I am surprised more people don’t dismiss Senna’s character because of that. maybe people forgot in his death. Senna was a fast driver, but his win at all cost mentality tarnished his image – he was dirty when he did not need to be.

  13. If anyone wants to watch the entire race from the 2 McLaren’s OnBoard cameras, I uploaded it here a few years back:

    1. @stefmeister It’s really noticeable after a season of having ‘less’ engine sound, how rich and loud this Honda’s sound was, even if FOM is still gradually improving the pick-up of the modern era turbos in 2014. Not to mention comparing Prost’s style to Senna’s! I can really see why JB idolises Prost’s style now, technically it is very efficient.

  14. The outcome of both events from the driver’s championship point of view in Suzuka ’89 and ’90 had nothing to do with Senna and Prost hating each other. I believe Prost kept on his racing line when he hit Senna; he would never have made the chicane had he moved out of the way. That was just a racing incident. Balestre manipulated the outcome by influencing the stewards to disqualify Senna- and what was Balestre’s motiviation? This is something most people who follow F1 don’t seem to understand- it was because Prost was French.

    Balestre was highly nationalistic and would do seize any opportunity he had to help any French driver or team whenever he could. He did this multiple times- at South Africa in 1979, he stopped the race while it was raining because Jody Scheckter in the Ferrari had passed Frenchman Jean Pierre Jabouille in the French Renault and left him behind- and in those days, when a race was stopped, the race started in the order where everyone was and the result was determined on each individual driver’s race times combined from the original and restarted races. So of course, this meant that the drivers would have to do another standing start- which removed Jabouille’s disadvantage of having to drive the Renault in the wet- and the Renault RS01, even in its thoroughly developed form, was a very difficult car to drive in the wet.

    And Balestre pulled more out of his bag of tricks in Suzuka 1990, when Senna requested to move pole position from the right side (which was considered the “dirty” side, because that had the “marbles” on it, which is bits of rubber thrown from the cars while they are on track) to the left side, which was clean, had no marbles and it was also where the racing line was. The cleaner side was the preferred side to be on to make a good start. Senna’s request was approved by the stewards. But guess what- with a Frenchman in contention to win the championship against a not-Frenchman- Balestre made sure that Prost had an advantage to win, and rejected Senna’s request. So Senna, being as extreme as he was, decided to do what he did purely based on his frustration with Balestre’s repeated interference. It’s easy to understand why any lazy, simple-minded person would think that Senna wanted revenge for what Prost did to him last year- and that is totally, totally wrong.

    Was there any other motivation for Balestre to do what he did, other than his nationalistic pride? Well, yes. Balestre was a shrewd businessman who knew or cared very little about motor racing. All these actions where for his own political gain in France. That’s all Suzuka ’89 and ’90 were- just politics- cruel politics.

    1. Also, it wouldn’t have mattered who Senna’s victim had been- Prost, Mansell, Berger, Jean Alesi, or anyone else- Senna would have rammed anyone off the track if a similar scenario had existed at Suzuka ’90.

    2. i think Keith is incorrect of his assessment of this incident – which is a shame, he is usually on the ball. he seems like one of the most fairest journalists in the f1 world, but his view on this incident seems like he has made his mind up that prost hit senna on purpose, which is incorrect, – even the steering angle comment, from the onboard it looks like the steering angle matches the angle needed to connect the turn. watching it over and over and over from Prosts camera it seems absolutely ludicrous to suggest he “hit” Senna, and in a purposeful way. but people will see what they want to see…

      1. If you watch the overhead angle its pretty clear that Prost turned into the corner way earlier & turned far harder than he needed to to make the corner.

        There was also the press conference I think at Adelaide where a journalist pointed that out to Prost & Prost said ‘Maybe I turned in a bit earlier than normal’, That’s on the Senna movie if anyone wants to hear it btw.

        1. I think Prost knew at that moment that there was going to be a collision- Senna was already in an awkward position, and maybe he moved the car slightly over to the right to attempt to get Senna to back down, but the Brazilian of course didn’t; and Prost, being a man of his word, turned in. I think it was a racing incident, a disagreement of space between the two and a desperate move on Senna’s part. There were 2, maybe 3 other places you could pass at Suzuka at that time- the pit straight, the long curve that goes into Spoon, and (maybe, if a driver was brave enough) the straight after Spoon and 130R.

      2. Wow, what video have you been watching? Keith’s assesment and pretty much everyone, except a few people like yourself have got it spot on. Your kidding yourself if you think Prost didn’t turn in early, knowing full well there would be contact. What did he have to loose? Maybe keep watching the footage and it may sink in…eventually

    3. If, as you claim, Balestre was so avidly nationalistic, why then did Balestre intervene to actively assist Brabham in 1983, a British team with a German engine, Italian sponsors and a Brazilian leading driver, over Prost, a French driver driving for the Renault F1 team and sponsored by the business elite of France, by ruling against his own stewards when Brabham were caught breaking fuel regulations in 1983? Indeed, at the time many accused Balestre of being biased against Prost by intervening on the behalf of a team that was actively cheating…

      Over the years, he also ignored complaints from other French drivers like Pironi, Tambay or Arnoux about rivals cheating and rival teams abusing the regulations, and all three of those drivers were at times actively competing for the WDC in the 1980’s. Why should he suddenly have had an outburst of nationalistic pride in 1989 when he had shown no such inclinations long before that?

      1. All political reasons very few, if anyone, actually knows about. First of all- a French driver was in contention to win the championship- the Formula One World Championship. If Prost won it (which he of course did in ’89, but not ’90) there would be huge political rewards for Balestre. As for him helping Brabham thing, well… either Bernie Ecclestone or some sponsor was giving Balestre money, or maybe he had a stereotypically French enigmatic temprament, to go along with his in-your-face, aggressive demeanor.

        1. *knows about in detail

  15. Shocking to be reminded this was 25 years ago. Many things I don’t recall about high shool but this I recall like yesterday.

    Regaring the coment about how “healthy” the grid was, OK, but I would question whether today’s fans woud agree, if, as then, the 10th car on the grid was 3.5s off the pace. The real question was why teams even tuned up back then when they had little hope of even making it into qualifying. I’m guessng the answer, as usual, is money. There was a strong upside to financial risk of fielding a team. Today, even a team 2s off the pace is in grave danger from creditors.

    1. The teams that were miles off the pace back then didn’t do it for the money, They turned up out of sheer love & passion for the sport & Many of them ended up losing money by not qualifying & they struggled to find sponsors as a result, Yet they kept turning up out of sheer passion tom try & compete.

      It also wasn’t always a clear cut thing as to who would & would not qualify, A team that didn’t qualify one race could be fairly competitive the next. As is pointed out in this article both Onyx-Fords failed to qualify for this race despite having scored a podium with Stefan Johansson 2 races earlier. Another example is Leyton House from 1990, They failed to qualify at Mexico yet came within a few laps of a 1-2 finish at Paul Ricard. And in there 1st year the Jordan team didn’t get both cars into every race in 1991.

      The cars were far more sensitive to circuit types back then & one team could be competitive 1 weekend & totally uncompetitive the next based on circuit characteristics & track conditions. Going back to my Leyton House example from 1990, The car didn’t suit the very bumpy Mexico circuit (Hence the DNQ) yet was working great on the very smooth Paul Ricard.

  16. Journalism fail “Prost hits Senna to win 1989 title”, Correction PRost and Senna collided. Also I don’t understand why give the spotlight to events of the far past. We as people grow up and overcome this living on the past thing, we mature to understand the notion of time and abandon the illusion that childhood was the time of our lives.

    1. It’s called history. It’s given ‘spotlight’ so we can learn from it. The fact that it happened 25 years ago does not make it any less interesting.

      And yes, Prost did hit Senna to win the 1989 title.

      1. @trublu So you say Prost hit Senna, the only fact is that they collided regardless of opinions of which I cannot have one because there’s only a fact both cars collided and the same happened the year after, both cars collided. When I said anything about reminiscing is to those who were alive and for that matter journalistic rigour is paramount and that as I’ve demonstrated isn’t being respected here.

        1. You haven’t proven any lack of journalistic rigor.

          Do you also believe that Senna and Prost only ‘collided’ the following year also?

    2. @peartree

      We as people grow up and overcome this living on the past thing

      So why on earth are you not only reading this post but also commenting on it – did Keith force you to?

      I think it’s pretty much accepted that Prost hit Senna in 1989, Senna drove Prost off the road in 1990. Why not report the facts?

      1. @jerseyf1 I’m commentating because I saw the headline on the main page and I saw a mistake that not only infuriates me as it is a sign of weak journalism but more importantly because it is misleading. Anyone is entitled to an opinion but this is not an opinion article. Regardless of preferable views the only fact is that both drivers collided in both 89 and 90 in Suzuka.

    3. @peartree The article makes the case for why I titled it as I did.

      I don’t understand why give the spotlight to events of the far past.

      There are many reasons why I write Grand Prix Flashbacks, which is one of the longest-running series on F1 Fanatic. Chiefly because I enjoy finding out as much as I can about a race and assembling the story. This being the internet, those who are interested find their way here, those who aren’t don’t.

      It may not interest you, but it clearly interests others. But then if you’ve just read a 3,000-word article on a subject I doubt you’re really as uninterested as you profess to be.

      1. @keithcollantine I explained why I decided to post a comment and that reason is because the headline is misleading. Concerning my view on refreshing the past, I have an opinion, to me there’s no tinted visors I don’t know how that is for other people, but I’m surely not going to restrict the personal freedom of any human with my own opinion.
        I’m fully aware that historical pieces are part of the website, currently there’s a note on the daily round-up and a full follow-up of the 1994 season 20 years back, and there were other in the past including several versions of suzuka 1989.

  17. This even would never have happened if hey had double oints at the end of the year.
    If only they had thought of it sooner ;)

    ..and look Riccairdo can still wn the championship. how exciing!!!

  18. First time seeing the video of Nico Prost and Heidfeld. What an amazingly idiotic thing to do. Heidfeld could easily have been killed. If things like this keep happening, sooner or later someone will face criminal charges for their on track stupidity.

  19. lol how was that all Prost, how far did Senna come from seriously watch again.

    1. 100% to that. Yes Prost did turn in earlier than usual, even as a Prost fan I’ll concede that. However, Senna not only came from impossibly far back but the fact is he was never going to make the turn at the speed he was going and at the angle he would have had to turn.

  20. In my mind Senna will always have 4 WDCs and Prost 3.
    I thought that Max Mosley will give the WDC back to Senna when he took over.
    The fact that they’ve crashed does not even matter for me. The worst thing is that Senna has actually won the race and yet Balestre took it from him to give his pupil the trophy.

  21. Very complete article but very biased at the same time.

    Senna wanted to attempt a clumsy and desperate overtake on Alain Prost, who clearly had the edge that sunday. Senna could get away with the same move when applied to Nannini, but it’s not the same to attempt a move against Alain, a driver of stronger temper and higher caliber.

    At the same time i can agree that Balestre’s intervention was clumsy as well and questionable. But later penalties to Ayrton Senna were not baseless. Since his pre-F1 days, where he almost decapitates Martin Brundle by making another clumsy overtake attempt, to squeezing Prost against the wall at Portugal… And then there’s Suzuka 1990 where, had this happened in 2014, he would have been banned for life from F1.

    Way too much glorification of Senna is bad for the sport. Before 1989 Prost had competed and won against Villeneuve, Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, and other greats, in totally fair fashion, and had been in very good, friendly terms with them. That is F1 greatness, that’s being a sporting racer. Senna intruded into this fair game with his mentality.

    As for the Nicolas Prost incident, this article presents an unfair view. Heidfeld and N. Prost have been friends for a long time; it was a silly mistake by Nico, not an intentional move, and Heidfeld has agreed to this openly on the press.

  22. Great write-up, as ever. I’ve never read that story about the Gurney flap before, you can even see it in the first video if you know where to look for.

  23. 4 wheels on track????… really…. even tough he was way beyond the yellow dotted pit lane entrance line….
    Fanboys can’t write . This site lost all credibility to me.

  24. “Prost also had suspicions about the quality of equipment he was receiving, despite McLaren allocating Honda’s powerful engines to the pair at random to guard against any favouritism.”

    But as both Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell, who had extensive experience with Honda and how they worked in F1, pointed out… only took a matter of seconds for one of their technicians to replace a chip in the engine management system that completely changed how the engine would perform. And back then the Honda people were the only ones who touched the engines, the McLaren mechanics only dealt with the cars themselves. The engines physically were one thing and probably all as same as could be, but the computer controlled engine management system was another matter.

    At Mexico, Prost was on softer tyres at the start of the race and despite him being visibly quicker out of the Peraltada coming onto the 1.2 KM long straight, and running less wing than Senna, even with Prost in the slipstream Senna was seen to actually pull away down the straight (this was the first time Prost publicly complained about the difference in their engine power). Then later at Monza, despite again running less wing than Senna’s car Prost was 2 seconds slower than his team mate and his car was almost 10 km/h slower through the speed trap, an incredible gap considering that Prost was running less wing and the engines were supposedly the same.

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