After finishing in second place at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Senna could become world champion in Spain, one week later. The Brazilian had 78 points overall, 18 more than Alain Prost. The only races remaining in the 1990 season were Jerez, Suzuka and Adelaide. Senna just needed a win in any of those tracks to take the title.
Even with the prospect of seeing Senna becoming champion, the Spanish public wasn’t as crazy for auto racing as it is today. The nation’s obsession, when it came to motor sports, was motorcycle racing. Maybe that’s why just 15 thousand people showed up on what would turn out to be Jerez’s farewell – the Spanish GP was never held there again, mainly due to the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit’s success, where the race takes place today.
The practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix were marked by a terrible accident involving Martin Donnely early on Friday. His Lotus disintegrated and cameras showed the driver lying in the middle of the track.
Ayrton Senna was extremely upset with the scene and ran to help with the driver’s rescue. He returned to the pits hiding his tears. Donnely survived but would never race again after the accident.
Even though he was shaken, Ayrton Senna went back to the track and secured his 50th pole position in F1. His time of 1min18s387, better than Prost’s, was enthusiastically celebrated by McLaren – the team even made a cake for Ayrton, to mark the track’s best lap ever.
Check out Senna’s pole lap in Jerez: