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1989 - Title for Prost or ...Balestre?
Formula One article

1989 - Title for Prost or ...Balestre?

With the rule allowing only aspirated engines this year, everybody expect a very tought fight for the championship. But once more McLaren and Honda surprised others teams with a very quick and consistent car. As F1 have so many teams, FIA decided to introduce new pre-qualifying practice. Those drivers that did not scored points in the last half of the 88's season would have to take part. Four of them would be allowed to participate at the oficial practices, where only 26 cars would be qualified to the race. But this championship will be forever marked by the decision of one person called Balestre...

1 - BRAZIL Senna once more marked the pole, with Patrese, Berger, Boutsen, Prost and Mansell following him. At the lights, Patrese and Berger jumped better then Senna and they were side-by-side at the end of the straight, Patrese, outside with Berger inside and Senna in the center. None of them lift off, as Patrese have a better trajectory, Senna squeezed Berger and they touched. Both got out of the race. Patrese led until a surprising Mansell overtook him and dominated all the race. When he made his pit he change also his steering-wheel as he was feeling something strange when he had to shift. Prost was a very accomodated 2nd, never forcing to catch Mansell. But he had to fight with brilliant Gugelmin, 3rd and Herbert, 4th. Warwick and Nannini also were in points. The bad news for brazilian crowd was that the new Lotus was not so fast as they expected, what make everyone think in a difficult season for the three time champion once more.

2 - SAN MARINO Once more Senna dominated the race. Started from pole, Senna took the front followed by Prost. But at 3th lap, Berger lost control at Tamburello at hit the barriers, with his Ferrari involved in flames. The driver was rescued unhurt, but the race was unterrupted. Another start, but this time Prost took the front, only for a moment, because at Tosa, Senna forced and retook the lead. This passing would have his consequences: both drivers have made a agreement with Ron Dennis that no passing would be done at first lap...This race also demonstated the McLarens superioriry, as in the practices they where 1,5 seconds ahead the others and in the race, both arrived 1 lap ahead third place...

3 - MONACO Senna came to Monaco thinking in last year accident. He was absolutely focused in driving with no mistake. He marked a storming pole 1'348 seconds ahead Prost...and dominated the race, winning with almost the same difference he had last year when that accident happened: 52 seconds! Prost 2nd, Modena brilliant 3rd with Brabham and a great performance of his Pirelli tyres, Caffi 4th, Alboreto 5th and Brundle 6th.

4 - MEXICO Ayrton Senna had another perfect week-end: pole and lead with no chance to his team-mate Prost. Senna made a different tyres choice, starting with hard compound, while Prost choose the soft one. The french would soon realize that his option was wrong: he followed Senna some laps, but started losing grip and had to change tyres twice. He would arrive only in 5th place! Patrese excelent second for Williams Renault, with amazing Alboreto third with...Tyrrell!!! Nannini 4th and Tarquini scoring one point for AGS.

5 - USA_PHOENIX New record of pole's for Senna: 33rd of his career! In the race, it seemed he would won again, another time he had a tyre choice different from Prost...but his engine had eletrical failures and he had to pit. When he returned to track, he would stabilish a amazing sequencial of fastests laps, but finally the engine stopped. Prost won, Patrese in second place for the second time consecutively, demonstrating that Williams and Renault were getting more and more competitive. Cheever, at home track, was 3rd, Danner 4th, Herbert 5th and Boutsen 6th.

6 - CANADA Prost marked the pole with Senna in second, followed by Patrese, Berger, Mansell and Boutsen. In a drying track, the race started with Prost leading Senna, but before the end of the second lap, Senna took the front. Althought as the rain got stronger, Patrese, who started with grooved tyres, jumped to the lead, while Senna pit to change his slicks. 36 laps ahead Senna retook the lead and he was just bringing it home, when with three laps to go, his engine broke. Boutsen was the lucky guy to earn first place, with Patrese, De Cesaris, Piquet (first time in points this season), Arnoux and Caffi scoring. Prost had suspension problems and abandoned.

7 - FRENCH In the first start, Gugelmin touched wheels with Berger, causing a big accident, with his cars up-side-down some times. The brazilian was unhurt and rejoined the group for the second start with his T-car. Prost, pole again, took the lead, while Senna abandoned due to a broken diferential. Nobody could beat Prost this afternoon. Capelli, Mansell, Patrese, Alesi and Gugelmin made great races. Mansell recovered from last place to second, Patrese, 3rd, once more was in the podium. The team-mates Capelli and Gugelmin were very quick, but the italian broke his engine, while the brazilian lost time in the pit, but when returned to the track, he marked the fastest lap. Alesi's first appearence, driving in a track that he knew very well, was soberb: arrived in 4th place, with a very consistence driving. Johansson 5th and Grouillard 6th.

8 - GREAT BRITAIN Senna drove in the lead until his new transversal gearbox broke, what gave Prost advantage to win. Mansell once more made a great race in his home town, as always. Nannini would brilliant 3rd, stoling this position from Piquet only 8 laps to the final, as the brazilian didn't change tyres all race. Minardi team would be in excelent 5th and 6th, with Martini and Perez-Sala. Half of the season standings: Prost, 47 where group by Senna, 27 where group by Patrese, 21 and Mansell, 21.

9 - GERMAIN Again both McLarens and Ferraris dominated the practices, of course, with Senna on the pole. In the race, Senna had Prost very close with Mansell and Berger not so far from them. When they come to pit at lap 19, Senna's team had problems to change his left rear tyre and he felt to 2nd place. Prost led until three laps to go, when he couldn't avoid Senna's attack. Senna won, Prost 2nd, Mansell 3rd, Patrses 4th, Piquet 5th and Warwick 6th. Big accident with Berger when he had tyre problem and Gugelmin had to abandon when he was in the points, again due to gearbox failure.

10 - HUNGARY Surprinsing pole for Patrese, with Senna in second and a amazing Caffi in 3rd place. But the name of the week-end would be Nigel Mansell! Starting from 12nd place, the british made a very consistence and quick race. He jumped to 8th in first lap and started a fantastic series of overtakings until take the lead with nineteen laps to go! Patrese sustained the front for 52 laps, with Senna less than a second behind. But his engine lose power, so Senna took the front. He would lead only four laps, when Mansell took the comand. Senna 2nd, followed by Boutsen, Prost, Cheever and Piquet.

11 - BELGIUM It was, it's not necessary to tell anything more! Senna won easily, with Prost making a big effort to avoid Mansell's surpassing. Boutsen, Nannini and Warwick in the points. Good race for Gugelmin in 7th, as he finally didn't have any serious problem and could finish one race.

12 - ITALY Amazing pole for Senna, with 1'0 second ahead of Berger and 1'8 ahead of Prost...The french driver complained a lot. He couldn't believe he was so far from Senna's time...In the race Senna dominated easily once more, but the new version of Honda engine broke with 9 laps to go. So Prost could win, with Berger and Boutsen following him. The crowd became crazy, as Ferrari had announced that Prost would drive for the team in the next year...

13 - PORTUGAL Senna, Berger, Mansell and Prost were in the front rows again, But this time the Ferraris chassis seems to be better suited to the circuit then the McLarens. In the race, Berger and Mansell would lead. Berger in the beginning, followed by Senna, Mansell and Prost. But Mansell surpassed everyone and took the comand. Althought when he came to the pit, he made a stupid mistake: he overshot his position and immediately reversed the car, what is prohibid by the rules! He returned to the race in 3rd place, behind Berger and Senna, but close to the brazilian. The team Ferrari was advised by the race director that Mansell was excluded of the race. He received the black flag three laps consecutively, but didn't obeid...worst then that. He would eliminate Senna of the race, as when he tried to overtake the brazilian in the end of main straight, Senna close the door and both touched wheels and spunf off. Bad news for Senna, because Prost sustained 2nd place and the championship became more difficult. Berger won, Prost 2nd, followed by Johansson, Nannini, Martini and Palmer.

14 - SPAIN Senna back to the usual domination: pole, fastest lap and lead all time. But Prost was in 3rd place and, of course, complaining about his car...Berger excelent 2nd for Ferrari. Standings: Prost, 81 (76) where group by Senna, 60. But Prost would have to discount points, while Senna woudn't...(as by rules only the best eleven results were considered), so if Senna win the last two races, Prost couldn't score more then two valid points.

15 - JAPAN Another time McLarens and Ferrari were in the front rows. And Senna 1'7 seconds ahead Prost! Amazing pole for the brazilian driver! But in the race...It seemed that Prost chose a configuration that gave him more speed in the straights and Senna had a excelent balanced car. But as Prost jumped to the front, Senna had to follow him desperately looking for an opportunity to pass. When the TV showed us on board camera of Prost and Senna, we could see that in the back straight, Prost touched 295km/h and turned the last corner near 260km/h. Senna touched 290km/h in the final point at the straight, but he manage to cross the corner at 280km/h...Unbelievable! He was very much faster than the french driver in that point. And it was exactly the point he chose to pass the french. At lap 47 he dived in the chicane braking point, surpring Prost. The french reacted closing the door and the touch was unevitable. Both cars were out of the track and Prost jumped out of his cars, but Senna asked for help of the marshals and returned to the race. He lost his front wing at that lap, came to pit, change it and returned to make some magical laps, until retook the lead, overtakink Nannini in the same point that he tried to do with Prost. Took the lead and won. He would have 69 points against 76 valid points for Prost...Is that true. Mr. Balestre? No, it's not! Senna was disqualified because he had received help from the marshal, but his car was in a dangerous positions, so the rules allowed that help...But this was not the official decision. Mr. Balestre decided that his country driver was the champion, oh!, excuse-me. He decided that Senna was disqualified and so, as consequence of that, Senna couldn't beat Prost anymore...What a shame!!

16 - AUSTRALIA Just to complet the calendar, Senna marked another pole, his 42nd one! In the race it was rainning a lot and many accidents happened. Senna and Piquet suffered almost same situations. Both were in the back straights and couldn't avoid the car that was ahead of them, simply because they couldn't see them! Prost abandoned in the beginning, and besides Piquet and Senna, 10 others accidents happened! Boutsen, Nannini, Patrese, Nakajima, Pirro and Martini were the top six. Nakajima made his best ever race: he marked five times consecutively the fastest lap...

Curious facts 

First appearance 

Wroten by : Alexandre Vasconcellos, BRAZIL