July 30, 1989, exactly 32 years ago, Ayrton Senna won the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheim Raceway. The Brazilian driver had retired in the four previous races – three of which were won by Alain Prost – and winning was the only option if he was to fight for the championship.
Senna was fast in all the practice sessions in Germany, and took the pole position with a time of 1min45s884, 0s995 quicker than Prost. With a powerful Honda V10 engine, team McLaren was predicting a two-driver fight between Senna and Prost on the long straights of the German track. And that was exactly what happened on Sunday, but not before Senna faced some serious problems. Due to a radiator issue, the Brazilian was forced to use his spare car.
Avoiding several crashes, the McLaren teammates dominated the race, with Senna in the lead. However, after a long pit-stop in which the Brazilian spent 23 seconds at the pit-box, Prost took over.
The Frenchman was four seconds ahead of the Brazilian, who kept getting closer, one tenth of a second at a time, up until the final laps.
Two laps away from the checkered flag, when Prost was less than a second ahead of Ayrton, the Brazilian stepped on the gas and overtook him. The Frenchman slowed down, since he was experiencing gearbox problems, and crossed the finish line 18 seconds after Senna. Mansell rounded out the top-three with his Ferrari.
After the podium ceremony, when he was awarded the prize for a complete win – with a pole position and the quickest lap – Senna talked about shrinking a 20-point gap to 17 (53 to 36) in the championship, with Prost still ahead.
“The result doesn’t really change a lot. I’m still fighting for the title and I still have a long way ahead of me to make it a close fight. It won’t be easy, but I’m used to obstacles, since I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve ever achieved, but always keeping the faith, like I did in this race. When the car was put back on the floor, the mechanic in charge of the right rear wheel wasn’t sure it was screwed on tight, so the car was raised back again and they repeated the operation. I thought the race was over for me, but then I saw that Alain wasn’t that far ahead, and tried to keep my cool in order to not make mistakes and get closer to him. I was waiting for the backmarkers to allow me to gain some ground, but they were favoring Alain, since he was lapping them on the straights and I was dealing with them on the corners. Anything could happen, and I was right behind him on the final laps, hoping for the slightest opening so I could overtake him. That was when Alain started having car troubles. There are no ‘ifs’ in F1. I can’t say if I would be able to overtake him otherwise. But the final result is what counts.”