1990 Japanese Grand Prix

The 1990 Japanese Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 21 October 1990 at Suzuka. It was the fifteenth and penultimate race of the 1990 Formula One season. It was the 16th Japanese Grand Prix and the 6th held at Suzuka.

1990 Japanese Grand Prix
Race 15 of 16 in the 1990 Formula One World Championship
Suzuka circuit map (1987-2002).svg
Race details
Date October 21, 1990
Official name XVI Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix
Location Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Mie, Japan
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 5.859 km (3.64 mi)
Distance 53 laps, 310.548 km (192.966 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver McLaren-Honda
Time 1:36.996
Fastest lap
Driver Italy Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault
Time 1:44.233 on lap 40
First Benetton-Ford
Second Benetton-Ford
Third Lola-Lamborghini

The race is best remembered for the first corner collision between World Championship rivals Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost, the second consecutive year the two had collided at this race with heavy championship repercussions. It immediately put both cars out of the race and secured for Senna his second World Championship, a reversal of fortunes from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, where the collision had secured the championship for Prost.

The race saw a best result to that point for the Benetton Formula team, with their drivers Brazilian veteran Nelson Piquet and his protégé Roberto Moreno finishing first and second in their Benetton B190s. It was back to back wins for Benetton in Japan after the team's win the previous year. Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki scored a career best result for himself and the Larrousse team, finishing third in his Lola LC90 in the only podium driver and team would achieve.

With Ferrari scoring no points after Nigel Mansell's retirement, the McLaren team secured their sixth and third consecutive Constructors' Championship.

As of 2020, this race marks the only time a Lamborghini powered car finished on the podium in Formula One.


There were many announcements prior to the race, Brabham announced they would use Yamaha engines for 1991, Footwork also announced a Porsche engine deal for 1991 and they also retained both drivers in Alex Caffi and Michele Alboreto. Prior to the race, the Life Racing Engines and EuroBrun teams withdrew from the sport. EuroBrun's Roberto Moreno joined the Benetton team replacing last year's race winner Alessandro Nannini, who was unable to attend the race following a helicopter crash that also ended his Formula One career, one week after the Spanish Grand Prix.

Alesi did not start due to a neck injury during Friday's practice. As his grid position was left empty, this was the third consecutive race to have only 25 starters instead of the usual 26.

Nigel Mansell also announced a U-turn on his decision to retire by making public his agreement to join Williams-Renault for two years from 1991 after being given assurances from Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Renault that they could deliver him a car in which he could win a world championship and that he would be the team's undisputed #1 driver. On Saturday Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda, met Ayrton Senna in the McLaren pit.[1]


Qualifying reportEdit

After the withdrawal of the EuroBrun and Life teams, there was no need for a pre-qualifying session as only 30 cars remained in the event. The four drivers relieved of the necessity to pre-qualify, Yannick Dalmas, Gabriele Tarquini (both AGS), Olivier Grouillard (Osella) and Bertrand Gachot (Coloni) were ultimately the four drivers that failed to qualify for the race. Gachot crashed heavily in the Friday session. Roberto Moreno, who had left EuroBrun and joined Benetton, qualified easily in ninth position.[2]

Qualifying classificationEdit

Pos No Driver Constructor Q1 Q2 Gap
1 27   Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 1:38.828 1:36.996
2 1   Alain Prost Ferrari 1:38.684 1:37.228 +0.232
3 2   Nigel Mansell Ferrari 1:38.969 1:37.719 +0.723
4 28   Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda 1:38.374 1:38.118 +1.122
5 5   Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault 1:39.577 1:39.324 +2.328
6 20   Nelson Piquet Benetton-Ford 1:41.041 1:40.049 +3.053
7 4   Jean Alesi Tyrrell-Ford 1:40.052 no time +3.056
8 6   Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 1:40.355 1:40.664 +3.359
9 19   Roberto Moreno Benetton-Ford 1:41.719 1:40.579 +3.583
10 30   Aguri Suzuki Lola-Lamborghini 1:41.442 1:40.888 +3.892
11 23   Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ford 1:40.899 1:41.964 +3.903
12 11   Derek Warwick Lotus-Lamborghini 1:41.482 1:41.024 +4.028
13 16   Ivan Capelli Leyton House-Judd 1:41.657 1:41.033 +4.037
14 3   Satoru Nakajima Tyrrell-Ford 1:41.208 1:41.078 +4.082
15 12   Johnny Herbert Lotus-Lamborghini 1:43.111 1:41.558 +4.562
16 15   Maurício Gugelmin Leyton House-Judd 1:42.049 1:41.698 +4.702
17 29   Éric Bernard Lola-Lamborghini 1:42.141 1:41.709 +4.713
18 25   Nicola Larini Ligier-Ford 1:43.396 1:42.339 +5.343
19 21   Emanuele Pirro Dallara-Ford 1:40.230 1:42.361 +5.365
20 24   Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Ford 1:42.858 1:42.364 +5.368
21 26   Philippe Alliot Ligier-Ford 1:44.106 1:42.593 +5.597
22 8   Stefano Modena Brabham-Judd 1:42.617 no time +5.621
23 7   David Brabham Brabham-Judd 1:43.156 no time +6.160
24 10   Alex Caffi Arrows-Ford 1:43.270 1:43.887 +6.274
25 9   Michele Alboreto Arrows-Ford 1:43.304 1:43.610 +6.308
26 22   Andrea de Cesaris Dallara-Ford 1:43.601 1:43.647 +6.605
27 14   Olivier Grouillard Osella-Ford 1:43.993 1:43.782 +6.786
28 17   Gabriele Tarquini AGS-Ford 1:44.281 29:56.038 +7.285
29 18   Yannick Dalmas AGS-Ford 1:44.410 1:46.326 +7.414
30 31   Bertrand Gachot Coloni-Ford 20:22.535 1:45.393 +8.397


Race reportEdit

This race is best known for its first corner incident involving world championship contenders Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Senna secured the pole, but was unhappy with the side of the track it was situated on, claiming that pole should always be on the racing line. He and Gerhard Berger then went to the Japanese stewards, to request a change of position of pole to the cleaner left side of the track. The stewards initially agreed but an injunction by FISA president Jean Marie Balestre later that night rejected the decision and the original pole position remained on the dirtier, less grippy right side of the track. In addition, as revealed by F1 journalist, Maurice Hamilton,[3] the FIA had warned that crossing the yellow line of the pit exit on the right to better position oneself at the first corner would have not been appropriate, further infuriating Senna.

Some in the Formula One paddock found Senna's complaints as strange given that the pole was actually on the same side of the track (the inside next to the pit wall) as it had been since the first Japanese Grand Prix held there in 1987. Many also noted that Senna had not complained about the position of the pole in either 1988 or 1989, both races he had started on pole and both races he was fighting Prost (who qualified 2nd in both years) for the World Championship.[citation needed]

After this, Senna vowed that if Prost (starting second) got the advantage into the first corner, which most were sure he would, Senna would attempt to take the lead into the first corner, regardless of the consequences.[citation needed] The two drivers made contact in the first corner, sending both drivers off the track and into instant retirement. The crash meant that Senna had clinched the Drivers' Championship for a second time, as with one race left in the season, Prost could not overtake his points tally. Benetton-Ford's dominance of the podium prevented Ferrari from scoring enough points to stop McLaren clinching its sixth constructors' title.

The two discussed the event afterwards[4] with Senna claiming it was not how he wanted it but how it had to be, with many others accepting his actions as a solution (or revenge, to an extent) to the incident the year before.[5] Prost was infuriated by this and publicly slammed the move as "disgusting" and Senna as "a man without value". He later admitted that he almost retired from the sport instantly after the incident.

The pair went on to win one more championship each and eventually reconciled their differences in their final Grand Prix together.[6]

After the collision, the race proceeded with Gerhard Berger's McLaren MP4/5B leading and Nigel Mansell's Ferrari 641 second. Berger spun off at the first corner on lap 2, on sand thrown onto the track by the Senna/Prost collision, leaving Mansell to lead the race from the two Benettons of Piquet and Moreno. Anticipating that Benetton would follow their usual strategy of not making a pit stop, Mansell built up a gap until he pitted for tyres at the end of lap 26. After a quick stop, he left his box with heavy wheelspin, and a driveshaft failed. The Ferrari pulled over at the end of the pit lane and retired. Piquet inherited the lead and retained it all the way to the chequered flag, with his teammate Moreno following closely. Aguri Suzuki also drove a non-stop race, finishing third, the first Japanese driver to do so. The two Williams FW13B-Renaults of Riccardo Patrese and Thierry Boutsen finished fourth and fifth, while Satoru Nakajima finished sixth in a Tyrrell 019, the second Japanese driver in the points.

As of November 2020, this was the last race where no European driver finished the race on the podium; two South American drivers and an Asian driver filled the three podium places for this race. It was also the only race where the Larrousse team scored a podium finish, during their eight seasons of competing in Formula One. It was also the first and only podium finish for the Lamborghini V12 engine in Formula One. Moreover, it was also the last of Brazil's eleven one-twos in Formula One, the only one featuring Piquet and Moreno – of the other ten, eight featured Piquet and Senna and the other two, Emerson Fittipaldi and José Carlos Pace.[7] Aguri Suzuki's podium finish was the first for a Japanese driver (later matched by Takuma Sato and Kamui Kobayashi) and the last for a Japanese driver at his home race until Kamui Kobayashi duplicated the feat at the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

Race classificationEdit

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 20   Nelson Piquet Benetton-Ford 53 1:34:36.824 6 9
2 19   Roberto Moreno Benetton-Ford 53 +7.223 8 6
3 30   Aguri Suzuki Lola-Lamborghini 53 +22.469 9 4
4 6   Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault 53 +36.258 7 3
5 5   Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault 53 +46.884 5 2
6 3   Satoru Nakajima Tyrrell-Ford 53 +1:12.350 13 1
7 25   Nicola Larini Ligier-Ford 52 +1 lap 17
8 23   Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ford 52 +1 lap 10
9 10   Alex Caffi Arrows-Ford 52 +1 lap 23
10 26   Philippe Alliot Ligier-Ford 52 +1 lap 20
Ret 11   Derek Warwick Lotus-Lamborghini 38 Gearbox 11
Ret 12   Johnny Herbert Lotus-Lamborghini 31 Engine 14
Ret 9   Michele Alboreto Arrows-Ford 28 Engine 24
Ret 2   Nigel Mansell Ferrari 26 Halfshaft 3
Ret 21   Emanuele Pirro Dallara-Ford 24 Alternator 18
Ret 29   Éric Bernard Lola-Lamborghini 24 Engine 16
Ret 24   Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Ford 18 Spun off 19
Ret 16   Ivan Capelli Leyton House-Judd 16 Ignition 12
Ret 22   Andrea de Cesaris Dallara-Ford 13 Spun off 25
Ret 15   Maurício Gugelmin Leyton House-Judd 5 Engine 15
Ret 7   David Brabham Brabham-Judd 5 Clutch 22
Ret 28   Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda 1 Spun off 4
Ret 27   Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda 0 Collision 1
Ret 1   Alain Prost Ferrari 0 Collision 2
Ret 8   Stefano Modena Brabham-Judd 0 Collision 21
DNS 4   Jean Alesi Tyrrell-Ford Driver injured
DNQ 14   Olivier Grouillard Osella-Ford
DNQ 17   Gabriele Tarquini AGS-Ford
DNQ 18   Yannick Dalmas AGS-Ford
DNQ 31   Bertrand Gachot Coloni-Ford

Championship standings after the raceEdit

  • Bold Text indicates World Champions.
  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuO9F-OUzf8 – Video: Soichiro Honda meet Ayrton Senna.
  2. ^ Walker, Murray (1990). Murray Walker's Grand Prix Year. Hazleton Publishing. p. 127–134. ISBN 0-905138-82-1.
  3. ^ "Senna Journalists Special". SpySportsF1. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  4. ^ http://www.prostfan.com/hk/specials/suzuka3-4.htm – Prost-biased review and discussion of the incident.
  5. ^ http://www.prostfan.com/hk/specials/suzuka.htm – Prost-biased exploration of the events.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-25. Retrieved 2007-01-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) – Adelaide Grand Prix review featuring images of Senna and Prost on the podium.
  7. ^ http://www.statsf1.com/pt/statistiques/nation/podium/double-detail.aspx?idNation=7 – Estatísticas Nações – Podiums – Por dobradinha – Brasil • STATS F1
  8. ^ "1990 Japanese Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Japan 1990 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 18 March 2019.

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1990 Spanish Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1990 season
Next race:
1990 Australian Grand Prix
Previous race:
1989 Japanese Grand Prix
Japanese Grand Prix Next race:
1991 Japanese Grand Prix