Phoenix Grand Prix – 1990

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Phoenix 1990

Senna was intent on winning his second world title, which had escaped him at the controversial 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. The Brazilian knew he had to keep his cool, making an effort to avoid the retirements that ended up affecting the previous year’s result.
1990’s first Grand Prix was marked by several debuts. At McLaren, Ayrton Senna had a new teammate, Gerhard Berger. Experienced drivers, like Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost were also defending new teams: Benetton and Ferrari, respectively.

Training sessions were marked by the surprising rain that fell over the Arizona desert on Saturday, causing only the Friday results to be considered. That explains why Berger scored the pole position, followed by Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi and Andrea de Cesaris’ Dallara – two huge upsets. Ayton Senna started at the third row, alongside Piquet. It was the first time Senna was absent from the first row since the 1988 Silverstone GP. But that Sunday – like so many others – had a happy ending in store for the Brazilian.

At the start, Alesi caught Berger by surprise, jumping from fourth place to the lead. The Tyrrell driver, also debuting as a main driver, was the race’s biggest highlight, by categorically leading for 34 laps. After just four laps, Senna had jumped from fifth to third place, and he stayed on Berger’s rearview mirror for five more laps.

At the ninth lap, Ayrton took advantage of an error by his new teammate, who ended up crashing with a tire barrier. Now in second place, he pursued the Frenchman – Alesi, not Prost, for a change. Despite being new to the category, Alesi wasn’t willing to give up the lead.
When Senna finally caught up with Alesi, he felt the Frenchman was wearing out his tires, and started pressuring him.

It was the race’s high point. Senna intensified the chase and, on lap 34, overtook Alesi at the end of the main straight. The only thing the Brazilian didn’t count on was, maybe, Alesi’s daring. He took his revenge on the very next turn, crossing in front of Senna.

On the following lap, the Brazilian showed no mercy: after both hit the bakes together, at the same corner, Senna pointed his McLaren’s nose to the inside of the track and even waved goodbye. The Frenchman tried to pull the same trick twice, but this time Senna cut in front of him and didn’t let the Frenchman regain the lead.

In a day full of debuts, Senna was once again the big victor.

At the podium, Jean Alesi joked: “next time, I’ll be waving goodbye”. Thierry Boutsen finished third and Piquet fourth.

After the race, Ayrton talked about the race and complimented newcomer Alesi: “I was impressed with the way [Alesi] drove. He kept a clean line, but he was very determined. It was exactly my kind of race”.

On the other hand, Senna’s usual French rival, Alain Prost, started in seventh place and his Ferrari had engine problems when he was in fourth.

Race Summary

  • 1 G. Berger
  • 2 P. Martini
  • 3 A. de Cesaris
  • 4 J. Alesi
  • 5 Ayrton Senna
  • 6 N. Piquet
  • 7 A. Prost
  • 8 O. Grouillard
  • 9 T. Boutsen
  • 10 S. Modena
  • 11 S. Nakajima
  • 12 R. Patrese
  • 13 N. Larini
  • 14 P. Barilla
  • 15 E. Bernard
  • 16 R. Moreno
  • 17 N. Mansell
  • 18 A. Suzuki
  • 19 M. Donnelly
  • 20 B. Schneider
  • 21 M. Alboreto
  • 22 A. Nannini
  • 23 G. Foitek
  • 24 D. Warwick
  • 25 M. Gugelmin
  • 26 I. Capelli
Turns 72
Time Nublado
Fastest lap G. Berger - 1´31´´050
Podium 1º Ayrton Senna 2º J. Alesi 3º T. Boutsen
Cars 26
Leaving 12

Senna in race

Starting position 5
Final position 1
Best lap 1’32’’178
Points added to the Championship 9
Championship position after the race 1
What did he say after the race
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