Ayrton Senna’s performance at the 1988 Monaco GP qualifying round is one of the most brilliant moments in the Brazilian driver’s career. Behind the wheel of his McLaren MP4/4, the same racecar driven by Alain Prost, the Brazilian posted a time of 1min23s998, 1s427 quicker than his teammate – which is almost inconceivable in the F1 of today.
Besides this amazing lap in the Principality, we’ve listed, in chronological order, Ayrton Senna’s 10 pole positions in which he was more than 1s faster than the driver who started the race next to him at the grid.
1- 1985 Detroit GP
It was Ayrton Senna’s fourth pole position in F1, and he made it clear right out of the gate that he would become a specialist in street circuits. In Detroit, driving a Lotus, Senna had a time of 1min42s051, 1s198 quicker than Nigel Mansell (Williams), who would start in second place. The Brazilian’s teammate, Elio de Angelis, ended up in eighth place, 2s718 behind Senna.
2- 1988 Monaco GP
The second pole position with more than a second of advantage over his own teammate took place exactly 28 years ago. As stated above, Senna was much faster than Alain Prost in the qualifying rounds and didn’t win only because of a mistake at the tunnel’s entrance on lap 67. Victory went to the Frenchman, who was more than 50 seconds behind the Brazilian driver.
3- 1989 Monaco GP
Senna wanted to make up for the previous year, when he left the race a few laps from the end. On Saturday, he scored another spectacular pole position. The Brazilian posted a time of 1min22s308, 1s148 quicker than his rival Alain Prost. On Sunday, Senna did what became known as his “Sunday drive” in Monaco, actually lapping the third-place finisher. The Frenchman was 52s behind the Brazilian.
4- 1989 Phoenix GP
Ayrton Senna was a master of street circuits. In Phoenix, the track that took Detroit’s place in the calendar, Senna did a 1min20s108 lap, surpassing his teammate, Alain Prost, in incredible 1s409. To boot, Senna also broke the record for most pole positions overall, which belonged to motor sports legend Jim Clark, at the time. It was Senna’s 34th pole position in F1.
5- 1989 German GP
At Hockenheim, Senna was once again one second quicker than Prost – 1s006 to be exact. During practice sessions, Ayrton was the fastest on both rounds and scored the pole position with 1min42s300 at the 6,797 meters long German circuit. On Sunday, the Frenchman put up a fight, and even led the race for a while, but Senna won with time to spare: 18s after 45 laps.
6- 1989 Italian GP
At Monza, Senna’s main rivals in the qualifying rounds would be both Ferraris. Prost ended up in fourth place, 1s790 behind the Brazilian, who scored his 37th pole position with a time of 1min23s720.The second place went to Gerhard Berger, 1s014 behind the McLaren..
7- 1989 Japanese GP
The 1989 Japanese GP’s biggest story didn’t take place during the qualifying rounds, but they let everyone know the extent of Senna’s superiority over Prost. The Brazilian was 1s730 quicker than his McLaren teammate. Ayrton’s pole came after a 1min38s041 lap. On Sunday, Senna’s controversial disqualifying after a win gave the title to the Frenchman.
8- 1991 Phoenix GP
Once again at a street circuit, Ayrton left the rest of the field in the dust. In the opening race of the season in which he would become a three-time world champion. Senna posted a time of 1min21s434 and took the pole position 1s121 ahead of Alain Prost, now at Ferrari. Gerhard Berger, Senna’s teammate, was 2s308 behind the Brazilian and started in seventh place. On Sunday, Ayrton Senna won for the 27th time in F1.
9- 1991 Hungarian GP
Senna dominated the weekend in Hungary from beginning to end. In the qualifying rounds, he did a time of 1min16s147, securing the pole position 1s232 ahead of Riccardo Patrese, who was in second with Williams. Berger, Senna’s teammate, was 1s558 slower than the Brazilian and would start in fifth place.
10- 1991 Belgian GP
The tenth time Ayrton Senna scored a pole position more than a second ahead of the driver who would start the race next to him took place at Spa-Francorchamps, one of his favorite tracks. It was another flawless performance, which started with his pole position on Saturday. He posted a time of 1min47s811, 1s010 quicker than Ferrari’s Alain Prost. Berger started in fourth place, after being 1s674 slower than Senna in the qualifying rounds. The race ended with a McLaren one-two, with Senna in first place once again.