The 1988 Spanish Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 2 October 1988 at the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera. It was the fourteenth race of the 1988 Formula One season.
Benetton announced that British Formula 3000 driver Johnny Herbert would be joining the team in 1989 to replace Thierry Boutsen who would be joining Williams. At the time of the announcement Herbert was still in hospital recovering from his horrifying F3000 crash at Brands Hatch just a few weeks earlier.
During qualifying, F1's most experienced driver of the time Riccardo Patrese (who was only 3 races from equalling Graham Hill's record number of F1 starts), was on his hot lap when the slower Julian Bailey (who was heading for the pits) got on the wrong side of the track and Patrese had to slow down considerably to avoid hitting Bailey, ruining his fast lap. A furious Patrese retaliated by getting in front of Bailey and brake testing his Tyrrell, the subsequent collision sending Bailey's car into the air and off the track into the gravel trap. Officials at first blamed Bailey and also called his Tyrrell team mate Jonathan Palmer to the hearing for good measure on the premise that the slower Tyrrells were generally a menace and both drivers needed to be told. After a protest by Ken Tyrrell however, officials later reviewed the incident again and Patrese was fined $10,000 for his actions, although most in the Formula One paddock argued that Patrese's fine was not enough, and that he should also pay the Tyrrell team to fix the damages on the Tyrrell 017 and the general feeling was that Patrese, Grand Prix racing's most experienced driver of the day, should have faced a harsher penalty. One unnamed driver was quoted as saying "I hope they fine him his bloody retainer. There are enough accidental shunts in this business without people actually trying to cause them....."
McLaren locked out the front row for the 10th time in 14 races in 1988 with Ayrton Senna on pole for the 11th time. On this tight and twisty track that was as slippery as ever due to its dusty surroundings and lack of use for anything other than car and motorcycle Grand Prix racing, it was no surprise to see 1987 race winner Nigel Mansell in third place in his Williams only 2/10ths from the pole. In fact, the nature of the circuit saw atmo cars from 3rd to 7th on the grid. The next best turbo behind the McLarens being the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger in 8th place, though the Austrian was only 1.399 slower than Senna.
Both Zakspeed turbos of Piercarlo Ghinzani and Bernd Schneider failed to qualify, as did Julian Bailey, while there was a general sigh of relief on this tight circuit that the EuroBrun of Oscar Larrauri who had proven to be something of a mobile chicane in his rookie year and had a reputation for ignoring blue flags and his mirrors, also failed to make the cut. Gabriele Tarquini failed to pre-qualify his Coloni.
From the 10th all-McLaren front row of the year, Alain Prost made a good start, with the Williams of Nigel Mansell drafting past Ayrton Senna into 2nd. Ivan Capelli and Thierry Boutsen tangled, damaging the Benetton's nosecone. On lap 2, Senna passed Mansell but ran wide, allowing the Englishman to retake the lead. On lap 16, Michele Alboreto retired with engine problems on his Ferrari. For the first 28 laps there was no change amongst the top 7: Prost (cautiously conserving tyres and fuel, after the problems experienced in Portugal) led Mansell by a mere half second. Senna had to defend his 3rd place from Riccardo Patrese and Capelli, who in turn was being challenged by Alessandro Nannini and Gerhard Berger.
Around lap 30, Nannini, Berger and Piquet all pitted for new tyres. After trailing the Williams for the first hour of the race, and doing so without a clutch since the early laps, Capelli managed to pass Patrese to gain 4th place on lap 36 and then three laps later at exactly the same corner he passed Senna's McLaren. Sadly on lap 46 his engine starting smoking and the March driver retired after another outstanding drive.
Mansell managed to keep Prost within arms length, but with a less powerful engine on the tight Jerez circuit, could not get past, or close enough, to the Frenchman who was driving close to a perfect race (Mansell described it as "following the master"). On lap 47 Mansell pitted but a sticking wheel nut delayed him and enabled Prost to pull ahead. Meanwhile, Nannini was going fast on his new tyres, passing both Patrese and Senna in one lap. Mansell's slow stop allowed Prost to pit on lap 50 without losing his lead (though he accidentally selected second gear and was slow getting away from his pit), and a lap later Senna also pitted for new tyres and dropped out of the points. He passed Gugelmin and Berger before finally overtaking Patrese on lap 65, who drove the entire race on one set of tyres.
Prost sealed his 34th career victory with a fastest lap record and Mansell gaining his 2nd second-place of the year from just two finishes. Nannini collected another podium finish ahead of Senna (troubled with fuel readout problems again, crossing the line with his readout telling him he had almost no fuel left), Patrese and Berger (almost out of fuel) in 6th.Note: Boutsen's time from Q1 excluded as front wing end plates were 5mm longer than allowed.
Bold Text indicates World Champions.
Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Drivers could only count their best 11 results; numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored. Points accurate at final declaration of results. The Benettons were subsequently disqualified from the Belgian Grand Prix and their points reallocated.