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1988 Belgian Grand Prix

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Date  28 August 1988
Course length  6.940 km (4.312 mi)
1988 Belgian Grand Prix
Official name  XLVI Champion Belgian Grand Prix
Location  Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium
Course  Permanent racing facility
Distance  43 laps, 298.420 km (185.429 mi)

The 1988 Belgian Grand Prix (formally the XLVI Champion Belgian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 28 August 1988 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The race, contested over 43 laps, was the eleventh round of the 1988 Formula One season and was won by Ayrton Senna driving a McLaren-Honda.


Race summary

This was the first race after the death of Enzo Ferrari. Nigel Mansell was forced to miss the race due to chicken pox and was replaced by Martin Brundle. The McLarens once again dominated the qualifying sessions, occupying the whole front row for the 7th time in 11 races, though neither Ayrton Senna nor Alain Prost could match Michele Alboreto on the uphill Kemmel Straight as he pushed his Ferrari to 312 km/h (194 mph). This was the first race in 1988 where neither of the new EuroBrun cars made the field.

Throughout 1988, Senna had copied Prost's car settings feeling that the Frenchman had a better handle on setting up the McLaren. At Spa Prost decided at the last minute to alter the settings on his car in a bid to gain an advantage. Unfortunately for the Frenchman this had a detrimental result and he was unhappy with the balance and handling of his car in the race, compared to Senna with Prost's original settings who reported no such problems. At the start, pole sitter Senna had too much wheelspin and Prost was able to take the lead. However, the first time through Eau Rouge Senna was clearly quicker and easily retook the lead after he slipstreamed Prost on the Kemmel straight and out braked him at Les Combes. Senna simply powered off into the distance while Prost, struggling with a car that was no longer handling to his liking, dropped back for a safe second place.

Gerhard Berger managed to get his Ferrari up to 3rd, challenging Prost briefly before pitting on lap 3 with electrical problems. He managed to rejoin and set the fastest lap before retiring on lap 12. Due to Berger's retirement, Thierry Boutsen climbed to 4th behind Michele Alboreto and ahead of a thrilling battle between Alessandro Nannini, Satoru Nakajima, Nelson Piquet, and the two Arrows. Piquet passed teammate Nakajima on lap 17 and the Japanese pitted with an acute misfire from a jammed plug, which caused him to retire. In the meantime, Ivan Capelli climbed from 9th to 6th.

On lap 36 Alboreto's engine blew up, sending him out of the race from 3rd. Just 2 laps later Nannini capped his progresses by passing Piquet with a move at the Source hairpin. The Brazilian was suffering from brake bias problems. While attempting to keep the correct balance of the brakes, he wore his tyres, which ultimately caused him to run wide off the track. In the process, grass gathered in the sidepods and caused the engine to overheat. On lap 42, Capelli passed Piquet to seize 5th place.

McLaren's 1-2 sealed the Constructors' Championship for the British team, with Benetton coming home third and fourth. Capelli and Piquet rounded out the points. McLaren-Honda won the Constructor's Championship earlier than anyone else had, with five races left. In a post-race interview, Prost virtually conceded the championship to Senna who had won his fourth race in succession and had taken the championship lead for the first time, though those who knew Prost didn't believe he would give up so easily.

Both Benettons were later disqualified for using irregular fuel, so the third podium spot went to Capelli, and the two Arrows of Derek Warwick and Eddie Cheever went into the points. The disqualification of the Benettons was not made official until long after the season had finished, so many published records list them as having finished third and fourth. The three points Arrows gained from the disqualification brought the team to fifth in the Constructors' Championship.

Championship standings after the race

  • Bold Text indicates World Champions.
  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Points accurate at final declaration of results. The Benettons were disqualified from this race, and their points reallocated, after the end of the season.
  • References

    1988 Belgian Grand Prix Wikipedia

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