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SUZUKACIRCUIT MOTORSPORTS LIBRARY

1989The “Senna vs Prost confrontation” played out with many intense battles before the season climaxed in the chicane at Suzuka!

Senna, looking nervous before the race in which his first title is to be decided

Senna on the track

The Formula One Championship title contest between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, teammates on the McLaren Honda team continued throughout the 1989 season. The contention extended beyond the racetrack and resulted in a tense atmosphere in which the two drivers were not speaking to each other.

Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna

Alain Prost

Alain Prost

Splendid ceremony before the start of the race

Splendid ceremony before the start of the race

Ayrton Senna came to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 15 of the series, in a situation where he had to win this race in order to keep his chance of winning the Championship title alive. He dominated the qualifying sessions to get the pole position by a large margin of 1.7 seconds ahead of Alain Prost. However, Prost kept his cool. He was confident he could win the race even starting from second position on the grid.

As if to confirm his confidence, Prost got past Senna at the start and maintained a fast sprint through the early part of the race to increase his margin of lead to four seconds over Senna. But, Senna fought a hard fight to close the gap on the race leader. Prost, then increased his pace again when he noticed the threat. The two driver’s ultimate war of nerves continued until the last part of the race.

Prost leading into the first turn

Prost leading into the first turn

Prost on the track

Prost on the track

Senna chases Prost (in front)

Senna chases Prost (in front)

Senna made a last-ditch effort to draw closer to the race leader, Prost. With 10 laps to go, Senna tucked in behind Prost. The Brazilian driver closed the gap on Prost in the curves, but the Frenchman who set up his McLaren focusing on speed on the straights, widen the gap again on each straight. Senna was struggling for a chance to pass Prost. With six laps to go, Senna tried to make a decisive move. He delayed braking as long as possible for the chicane and was about to come alongside Prost.

As if he ignoring Senna’s unsuccessful attempt to pull alongside him, Prost continued to turn into the chicane and two cars collided and their wheels locked. Prost left his car but Senna did not give up the race there. He gestured for the marshals to push the machine in order to restart his engine.

The scene of two McLarens stopped appeared on the Circuit Vision screen

The scene of two McLarens stopped appeared on the Circuit Vision screen

Senna was able to restart the engine in his McLaren thanks to the marshals and rejoined the race by short-cutting the chicane in second place. There were only few laps to go. Senna chased the race leader desperately and pulled alongside the leader in the braking going into the chicane in a similar way as he had with Prost. ‘He’ll cause another collision!’ shouted all around the circuit. But this time, Senna made a perfect overtake maneuver, using all of his driving skill to get past the leader before the chicane and take the checkered flag for the win.

Senna, however, would not mount the podium. He was disqualified by the stewards for short-cutting the chicane. Consequently, Alain Prost won his second World Championship title. Fans still talked about Senna’s driving which was only aiming at the win. There was the collision at the chicane. The fateful drama called the “Senna vs Prost confrontation” heated up from this point.

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