Austrian Grand Prix – 1985


After winning his first victory in F1 under torrential rain, in Portugal, at the second Grand Prix of the 1985 season, Ayrton Senna kept on displaying speed in his second year competing in the world’s main motor sports category. So much so that, at Estoril, he started an impressive series of four pole positions (Portugal, Ímola, Monaco and Detroit) in five races. But there was catch: his Lotus racecar ended up failing him on several occasions, keeping him from turning his good performances in the practice sessions into Sunday wins.

1985’s tenth race would take place in Austria, birthplace of three-time champion NIki Lauda, who took the chance to announce he was leaving GP racing for good at the end of the season (he had already left F1 and come back a few years prior). With Alain Prost as his McLaren teammate, the Austrian was unable to keep up with the Frenchman – who, at 30 years-old, would become that year’s world champion.

At the end of the qualifying session, Ayrton Senna vented to the Brazilian reporters present in Austria:

“I paid for all my sins in this qualifying session.”

He was referring to the hard time he had in setting up his car for the speedy Zeltweg track, where he wasn’t able to go beyond a 14th place n the grid. Alain Prost took the pole position with 1min25s490. The Frenchman was in second place overall, trailing Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto by just five points. The Italian would be starting in ninth place, giving Prost a good chance to close the gap. Next to the Frenchman, Nigel Mansell rounded out the first row. The second one was shared by Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg.

Ayrton and his Lotus team still had many adjustments to make in the few hours left before the race. On Sunday morning, after a satisfactory practice session, Ayrton Senna got out of his car with a mischievous smile on his face and said to those nearest:

“We’re going to give them hell!”

And he really did. Strangely, the Lotus responded very well to the track conditions when it was running on a full tank.

At the first start, Lauda jumped ahead, but the race was interrupted due to a crash involving several drivers, like Teo Fabi, Gerhard Berger, De Angelis and even the championship’s leader, Michele Alboreto.

When drivers were about to finish the first lap, race officials waved the red flag calling for a new start. This worked in Alboreto’s favor, since he had barely moved the first time. The Ferrari driver, like Fabi, Berfer and De Angelis, would be using their teams’ spare cars for the restart.

When everyone was in place on the Osterreichring straight, the race was restarted, and a new protagonist emerged: Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian put his vast repertoire of overtaking techniques to use, closing out the first lap in tenth place. Prost also started well, and got back the lead, followed by Rosberg and Lauda.

Rosberg retired in the fourth lap, as he had problems with his Williams’ Honda engine. Senna passed several adversaries – such as Tambay, Alboreto and Fabi – until he breached the scoring-zone. By the end of the tenth lap, he was in sixth place.

Performing very well, the Brazilian’s Lotus had caught up to Mansell – a hard driver to overtake. The Williams driver passed Elio De Angelis, and Ayrton Senna took the chance to get close to his Lotus teammate on lap 19 and overtake him three laps later.

While Senna tried to get close to Mansell, Prost tried to lose Niki Lauda. Lap after lap, the Austrian was closing the gap between them. On lap 26, the Brabham’s BMW engine slowed Piquet down, and Ayrton climbed to fourth place.

Lauda took the lead after Prost’s pit-stop. But the Frenchman was lucky enough to come back in second place, since Mansell stopped on the grass due to engine issues. That meant Senna was headed to the podium, in third place.

All signs pointed to an easy Lauda win, until his McLaren’s turbocharger gave out, frustrating the Austrian crowd in Zeltweg. Prost and Senna were able to finish the race, taking first and second places, respectively. It was the second Prost-Senna one-two in history, the first one being at the legendary 1984 Monaco GP.

Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) wasn’t too happy with Senna, as he had battled head to head for the title with the race’s winner, Alain Prost (McLaren). Alboreto put pressure on Senna at the end of the race, but wasn’t able to wrestle the second position away from the Brazilian, who stepped on the podium for the fifth time in his career – the second as a Lotus driver.

At the end of the race, the embittered Italian driver declared: “This Brazilian guy races like a madman, as if he were in Formula 3”.

Resumo da Corrida

  • 1 A. Prost
  • 2 N. Mansell
  • 3 N. Lauda
  • 4 K. Rosberg
  • 5 N. Piquet
  • 6 T. Fabi
  • 7 E. de Angelis
  • 8 P. Tambay
  • 9 M. Alboreto
  • 10 R. Patrese
  • 11 M. Surer
  • 12 S. Johansson
  • 13 D. Warwick
  • 14 Ayrton Senna
  • 15 J. Laffite
  • 16 T. Boutsen
  • 17 G. Berger
  • 18 A. de Cesaris
  • 19 P. Ghinzani
  • 20 E. Cheever
  • 21 P. Alliot
  • 22 S. Bellof
  • 23 Achenson
  • 24 H. Rothengatter
  • 25 J. Palmer
  • 26 P. Martini
Voltas 51
Tempo Nublado
Volta mais rápida A. Prost - 1´29´´241
Podium 1º A. Prost 2º Ayrton Senna 3º M. Alboreto
Carros 26
Abandonos 15