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1989 Japanese Grand Prix - Senna versus Prost at Suzuka 10 Oct 2008

Alain Prost (FRA) leads McLaren MP4/5 team mate Ayrton Senna (BRA) through the triangle, shortly before their infamous tangle at the entrance to the chicane. Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan. 22 Oct 1989. Alain Prost (FRA) McLaren MP4/5 walks from his car following a collision with team mate Ayrton Senna (BRA) at the entrance to the chicane. Meanwhile Senna pleads with the marshals to push start him. They did, he recovered to win, but was disqualified. Formula One World Championship, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan. 22 October 1989. After their collision, Alain Prost (FRA) walks away believing he had just won the World Championship. However Ayrton Senna (BRA) had other ideas, and insisted his McLaren MP4/5 be push started. Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan. 22 Oct 1989. Winner Alessandro Nannini (ITA), on the podium with 2nd place Riccardo Patrese (ITA) and 3rd place Thierry Boutsen (BEL) Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, 22nd October 1989 Alain Prost (FRA) was temporarily proclaimed as World Champion, as McLaren announced their intention to appeal the decision to disqualify Ayrton Senna (BRA) from the race. Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan. 22 Oct 1989.

This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix takes place at the Fuji Speedway, but back in 1989 it was Suzuka that had the privilege of hosting a race which saw the culmination of one of the most hotly-contested inter-team rivalries in Formula One history - and a surprising victory for one of that season’s lesser-known drivers.

If we’re talking 1989, the duelling team mates have to be McLaren’s Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. The pair had already banged knuckles the previous season, with Senna ultimately victorious, his eight wins to Prost’s seven bringing him the drivers’ crown. And with the McLaren enjoying similar performance levels in ‘89, the duo was just as dominant and the antagonism between them just as potent.

Senna had won the previous round in Spain in convincing fashion, but as they arrived in Japan Prost still had the advantage, with a 16-point lead over his team mate. If the Brazilian were to keep his championship hopes alive, he’d have to win again at Suzuka.

He certainly started on the right footing on Saturday by scooping his 41st pole position with one of the best qualifying laps of his career. So good was Senna’s time that Prost finished over 1.7 seconds off his team mate’s pace. Nonetheless, it was enough for second on the grid, ahead of the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell, the Williams of Riccardo Patrese and the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini.

On Sunday, however, a slip of concentration from Senna saw Prost streak away at the start. With clean air in front of him, the Frenchman was able to build up a lead of five seconds over the first half of the race. But a determined Senna wasn’t that easily beaten, and after taking on new rubber at his pit stop gradually started to eat into Prost’s advantage.

By Lap 40 of 73, Senna had Prost in his sights. But with his team mate quicker on the straights, despite Senna’s superior speed in corners, it was difficult to find a way past. Six frustrating laps later, though, he made a move, diving down the inside as they got to the chicane. It was a characteristically aggressive manoeuvre from Senna, but this time Prost was not prepared to back down and promptly shut the door on his encroaching team mate.

The subsequent collision was not serious, but brought both to a standstill. Prost jumped out of his car believing the race over, but Senna remained in the cockpit as marshals pushed him out of danger up an escape road. As they did so Senna was able to restart his McLaren, and - crucially - then cut across the chicane to return to the fray. As his rival revived his title hopes, a stunned Prost could only watch from sidelines.

The entire incident had taken just seconds, but it was enough for Nannini, who had been running third, to take the lead. But even after pitting to replace his car’s damaged nose, Senna was just five seconds behind the Italian. Bearing in mind just how much speed Senna had enjoyed before the collision, it came as little surprise when he proceeded to catch and overtake the Benetton to clinch victory.

But even though he crossed the finish line first, the Brazilian would not celebrate victory that day - nor keep his title hopes alive. Disqualified for missing the chicane, a furious Senna instead saw Nannini appear on the top step of the podium for the first and only time in his Formula One career. More importantly, back at the McLaren garage, Prost was celebrating his third drivers’ championship.

The Frenchman would move to Ferrari for 1990. While he remained Senna’s main rival for that year’s title, in a reversal of 1989 it was Prost who went to Japan needing points. As in ’89 Senna took pole, but - as in ’89 - Prost made the better start. At Turn One, the Brazilian predictably refused to give way and they crashed. This time neither driver was able to restart, handing Senna the second world crown that had eluded him the year before.