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F1 Flashback: Senna disqualified on McLaren debut (VIDEO)

Apr 3, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT

Ayrton Senna’s first F1 start for McLaren ended in a controversial disqualification from his home race on this day 25 years ago.

Senna planted his Honda-powered McLaren MP4-4 on pole position at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro. But as the cars prepared to take the start a gear linkage broke, Senna waving his arms calling for the start to be aborted.

The grid re-formed with Senna now starting from the pits in the spare McLaren. Nigel Mansell became the de facto pole sitter but his normally aspirated Williams-Judd was outgunned by Alain Prost’s turbo-powered McLaren.

While Prost motored off into the lead Senna was slicing his way through traffic. He came around in 21st place at the end of lap one, but by lap 13 he’d broken into the top six points-paying positions.

Thierry Boutsen (Benetton) and Nelson Piquet (Lotus) were next to succumb to the McLaren. Mansell stopped with a blown engine on lap 19 and now Senna was in a podium position. He came around the next lap in second place having dispensed with Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari.

But it was all in vain. The rules prohibited drivers from switching cars after the start had been given and Senna was belatedly black-flagged after 31 laps.

Prost ran out an easy winner – the first of 15 victories for McLaren that year in a season they dominated. But in their first season as team mates Senna ultimately proved too much for him, beating Prost to the drivers’ title.

Sadly construction work for the forthcoming 2016 Olympic Games has led to the demolition of the Jacarepagua circuit. It held ten rounds of the world championship between 1978 and 1989 and its oval course was later used for CART IndyCar races.

  1. wallio - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    “But in their first season as team mates Senna ultimately proved too much for him, beating Prost to the drivers’ title.”

    Only because of an absolutely moronic points system in whih the driver with the most points (Prost by a fair number) didn’t win. The results of that season lead to F1 scrapping this stupidity and making the season’s best driver actually be champion.

    • icemanpjn - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:33 PM

      Senna had 90 championship points versus Prost’s 87 points at the end of the 1988 season, so the driver with the most points won. Technically Prost earned more, but not all of them counted. Yes, this oddball system qualifies as “moronic”, but this system put Senna ahead in the points, which meant that the driver with the most points did win.

    • Keith Collantine - Apr 8, 2013 at 6:58 AM

      It’s not as if Senna and Prost were unaware how the points system worked when the season began. Prost knew he had to win more races to beat Senna but he didn’t get the job done.

      I’m glad the system has changed since then but let’s not pretend it was somehow unjust or designed to catch Prost out.

  2. wallio - Apr 3, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Like you said, Prost scored more, but not all of them counted. So no, the driver with the most points didn’t win, and after this, the system was dropped. Pure Idiocy, but water under the bridge now. Could be worse, it could be the Chase…..

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