Honda revisit THAT Prost-Senna crash at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix

23-10-2019 12:38
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
Honda revisit THAT Prost-Senna crash at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix

30 years after one of the most famous moments in Formula 1 history, Honda's press officer at the time Eric Silbermann has looked back on the season-defining collision between teammates Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.

Senna and Prost were teammates at McLaren-Honda and absolutely dominated the grid in the famous MP4/4, with Senna clinching his first drivers' title the year before in 1988.

In the second season of the Senna-Prost partnership, the relationship between the two had fallen off a cliff, with the two not even being on talking terms by the time the Japanese Grand Prix rolled around.

"I think it’s fair to say that Senna was Honda’s favourite son by then and Prost was the one on the back foot, as the well-established driver having to confront a young charger," Silbermann recalled on Honda's website.

"It’s not dissimilar to what Prost had done to Niki Lauda, and now you’re seeing Charles Leclerc doing it to Sebastian Vettel. That’s just a fact of life in motor racing, you’re the top dog and then a young driver comes along who is quicker, faster, keener…

Prost was leading the championship heading into the race at Suzuka, and Senna needed to win the race if he wanted to keep his hopes of winning the title alive. Despite getting pole, Prost was the one who took the lead after a poor start from the Brazilian.

Senna was right on his tail, and finally, heading into lap 46, he made the move for the lead, and as he said he would do beforehand, Prost slammed the door shut as he turned into Senna.

Prost was out. Senna urged the stewards to give him a push-start and he took the run-off chicane to rejoin the track.

“At the time I don’t think people were considering that he’d done something illegal by rejoining and getting a push at the chicane. They were just thinking ‘Bloody hell, he’s going to win it anyway!’ But then Ayrton wasn’t on the podium.

"I can remember everyone was very pleased for Nannini because he was a real character and he’d done well - it was his first win - but then all the recriminations started.”

Senna was disqualified for using the run-off, and Prost was controversially crowned champion. The Japanese fans were very unhappy, as they were all on the young driver's side, as he was the Japanese constructor's poster boy.

"By then Ayrton was already treated a bit like a god in Japan. It was a different era and I remember Soichiro Honda himself being at Suzuka and talking to the drivers."

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