Before the Monaco Grand Prix, the 1990 season had been pretty even. A different driver had won each of the three races up to that point: McLaren’s Ayrton Senna in Phoenix (USA); Ferrari’s Alain Prost at Interlagos (Brazil); and Williams’ Riccardo Patrese in San Marino.
With two wins in Monaco and the 1988 F1 world title under his belt, Senna was well on his way to becoming the King of Monaco when he arrived for the 1990 Grand Prix.
The race was marked by the Brazilian’s utter dominance. The McLaren driver won the pole position on Saturday with 1min21s314, beating Alain Prost’s Ferrari by 0s462. It was Senna’s fourth pole position in the Principality and his third one in a row.
The race had two starts. At the first one, Senna did well, but the race was suspended after Prost and Berger crashed on the Mirabeau corner. Since the accident caused a traffic bottleneck, the race officials decided to start over.
At the time, drivers were allowed to use their spare cars. So, Prost and Berger were back on the grid. At the second start, Senna was even faster, and paid no mind to his rivals. By the time the second lap was over, he was 3s7 ahead of Prost.
Senna peeled away and benefited from Alain Prost’s retirement on the 31st lap, due to battery issues in his Ferrari. That meant the McLaren driver was now 19 seconds ahead of the car in second place, driven by Jean Alesi.
Starting on lap 66, Senna slowed down his McLaren in order to preserve its Honda engine, and Alesi started gaining ground (after being 23 seconds behind Senna). The Frenchman had another motivation to start driving faster: Berger’s McLaren was right behind his Tyrell, fighting for second place.
In the final lap, Senna kept his cool and crossed the finish line only 1s087 ahead of Alesi and 2s073 ahead of Berger. It was the Brazilian’s 22nd win in Formula One. He led the race from start to finish and also had the race’s quickest lap: 1min24s468, on the 59th lap.
“I tried to preserve my tires and my car at the beginning of the race, but trying to keep some distance from my chasers. However, one third of the race in, I started having engine problems – it was still working fine, but it was losing a little power and making a different sound. Naturally, I was worried, and brought my RPM down, trying to preserve it and driving in a way that taxed it as little as possible”, said Senna.
It was a perfect weekend, crowning the third victory – out of six – by the future King of Monaco on the streets of Monte Carlo.