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1989 Mexican Grand Prix

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Date  28 May 1989
Course length  4.421 km (2.747 mi)
1989 Mexican Grand Prix
Official name  XIII Gran Premio de Mexico
Location  Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Magdalena Mixhuca, Mexico City
Course  Permanent racing facility
Distance  69 laps, 305.049 km (189.548 mi)

The 1989 Mexican Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City on 28 May 1989. It was the fourth race of the 1989 Formula One season.



Pre-qualifying was again dominated by the Pirelli shod Brabhams with Martin Brundle and Stefano Modena easily the quickest. Alex Caffi was third in his Dallara while Stefan Johansson was the final pre-qualifier in his Onyx.

In qualifying proper, World Champion Ayrton Senna scored his 33rd career pole position, equalling the long-standing record held by Jim Clark. Senna's pole time in his V10 McLaren-Honda was 0.408 slower than his pole time in 1988 in the turbocharged McLaren MP4/4. His McLaren teammate Alain Prost was predictably second fastest with the V12 Ferrari 640 of Nigel Mansell third. Mansell's teammate Gerhard Berger, returning to action in Mexico after his crash at San Marino, was 6th, the Ferraris split by the March-Judd of Ivan Capelli and the Williams-Renault of Riccardo Patrese. Surprisingly, Capelli's teammate Maurício Gugelmin failed to qualify. Berger, still suffering the effects of the Imola crash, admitted that if not for Ferrari's innovative semi-automatic transmission (which meant he did not have to change gears as with a normal stick shift), he would not have been able to race.

The back row of the grid was arguably the best credentialed and most experienced in Grand Prix history. 25th was the Ligier-Ford of 7 time GP winner René Arnoux, while 26th and last on the grid was triple World Champion Nelson Piquet in his Lotus-Judd.


Senna chose medium compound Goodyear "B" tyres for the race while Prost went for the softer C-compound tyres in the hopes of gaining a speed advantage (supremely confident in his set up, Senna spent some time before the race in Goodyear's hospitality tent watching the 1989 Indianapolis 500 on television). Despite the pole being on the dirty side of the track in Mexico, Senna made a better start and was able to lead into the first turn from Mansell, Prost, Berger, Patrese and the Tyrrell-Ford of Michele Alboreto. However, it all meant nothing as Modena spun his Brabham into the Peraltada on the first lap and was tapped by the Ligier of Olivier Grouillard and finished against the tyre wall. Despite the car not being in a dangerous position, the red flag was shown and the race had to be restarted.

Senna won the restart and led Prost, a fast starting Berger, Mansell and the Williams pair of Patrese and Thierry Boutsen (Capelli had been forced to start from the pits in the spare March after going off and damaging a brake line on the original opening lap). Prost, with his softer tyres giving him better grip, soon moved onto the back of his teammate's car. However, Mexico would be where Prost started questioning the power of his Honda V10 compared to the ones used by Senna. For a number of laps Prost, clearly faster through the final Peraltada curve coming onto the main straight, could not make an impression on Senna despite being in his aerodynamic tow on the 1.2 km long main straight. Indeed, the #1 McLaren was seen to pull away from the #2 car on the straight. Running close to his teammate eventually had a detrimental effect on Prost's tyres and he was soon into the pits for a change of rubber. The McLaren team then mistakenly gave the Frenchman another set of C tyres rather than the B's he had come in for. Prost was soon back in for another tyre change and went back into the race only seconds in front of Senna who now had nearly a lap lead over his closest championship rival. Despite being on far fresher tyres than his teammate, Prost still lost ground to Senna and was eventually lapped when the Brazilian swept past on the main straight, fueling Prost's claims that his engines were down on power compared to Senna's. McLaren team boss Ron Dennis later publicly apologised to Prost for the foul up in his pit stop.

Both Ferrari's ran well until Berger's race ended on lap 16 with transmission failure while Mansell's gearbox lasted until lap 43. This left the Williams of Patrese in second place with Alboreto a surprising third. This was how the top three finished with Alessandro Nannini fourth in his older model Benetton B188 in fourth place. The Benetton team had hoped to have their new car available in Mexico, but on-going problems with the new Ford V8 (as well as Nannini crashing the only completed car in private testing) saw to it that the team still had to use their 1988 car and engines. Prost, who later unlapped himself after Senna let him through, finished 5th to be the last car on the lead lap. Italian Gabriele Tarquini finished 6th for the last championship point in his AGS-Ford for what would ultimately prove to be the only points scoring finish of his Grand Prix career.

Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
  • References

    1989 Mexican Grand Prix Wikipedia

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