Belgian Grand Prix – 1988


GP da Bélgica 1988/ Belgian Grand Prix - 1988

The three-week interval between the Hungarian and the Belgian Grand Prixes was marked by the loss of a legend: Enzo Ferrari died on August 14th, 1988. The 90 year-old founder of the Italian team was one of the most respected figures in Motor Sports.

Before the Spa-Francorchamps qualifying sessions, Williams confirmed that Nigel Mansell wasn’t going to race, since he had contracted the measles from his children. The driver was already feeling ill in the previous GP, but this time he would spend the weekend resting. Martin Brundle, Ayrton Senna’s greatest rival in the British Formula 3, was invited to drive the car on his countryman’s behalf.

The incredible fight for the title, between Senna and Prost, was summed up by the draw in the standings: both drivers had 66 points. The Brazilian had won three consecutive races (England, Germany and Hungary), and had in Spa his best shot at taking the lead. Despite the draw, Senna had a considerable advantage: he had six wins that year, against the Frenchman’s four – and that would turn out to be vital in 1988, since the rulebook stipulated that just 11 of the 16 results counted towards the final standings.

After the qualifying sessions, the McLaren duo once again took the first row, with Ayrton Senna in the pole. By making 1min53s718, the Brazilian was 410 thousandths of a second quicker than prost, who would start in second place. With his ninth pole in eleven races, Senna matched the record set by two three-time champions: Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet who, besides Ronnie Peterson, were the only drivers to have ever won nine pole positions in the same year. It was also Senna’s 25th pole position in his career, making him the driver with the biggest amount of poles in the ‘80s – a significant feat, since he had debuted when the decade was reaching its halfway point (in 1984).

“I’m glad to have matched these drivers’ record. I’ve been close to that in a few other occasions, but I was only able to do it this year. Now, I hope to keep up the pace. Maybe I can go a little further…”, Senna told reporters.

In the race, the Frenchman started better and jumped out in front. But soon after the Eau Rouge, Senna caught up with his teammate and moved to the side on the big straight, also known as Kemmel Straight, completely overtaking Prost before the Les Combes chicane.

Ferrari was growing stronger during the championship and a head to head against McLaren was expected at the Ardennes valley circuit. But the duel only took place for the first two laps, during which Berger – who had started in third place – put pressure on Prost and tried to overtake him twice.

On the third lap, the Austrian made a pit-stop with engine problems, retiring soon after and leaving the third place to another Ferrari driver, Michele Alboreto. The Italian, however, wasn’t able to threaten the leaders. And things went from bad to worse, for the Italian team: on lap 35, Alboreto also had motor issues. Thus, local driver Thierry Boutsen inherited the third place on the podium – a big achievement for a Benetton powered by an aspirated engine.

Meanwhile, Senna took off. He wasn’t bothered by his teammate and received the checkered flag 30s470 before Prost. It was Senna’s 13th win in F1.

On the season’s 11th race, it was made crystal clear that the fight for the title was between Senna and Prost. The rivalry was intensified by Prost’s comment on the podium, when he congratulated Senna with an exaggerated “Congrats, champion”.

When talking to the press, Prost deflected all pressure: “McLaren ins going to have two world-champions”, said Prost, insisting that while he could still win the title, “Senna is driving faster and faster than me. He really deserves to be the season’s champion”, said the Frenchman.

Senna was not intimidated by the provocation:

“If he thinks that I’m going to rest on my laurels, he’s wrong.”

The result meant that McLaren had already won the builder’s championship, five races before the end of the season. After climbing on the podium with that year’s biggest names, Thierry Boutsen was disqualified, as was Alessandro Nannini, his Benetton teammate. Officials found an irregularity in the fuel tanks of both cars. Third place went to March’s Ivan Capelli. The new roster also had Nelson Piquet in fourth, Derek Warwick in fifth and Eddie Cheever in sixth.

In the driver’s championship, Senna led for the first time, with 75 points against Prost’s 72. The Frenchman tried to destabilize the Brazilian by saying his teammate had already won the 1988 title. Prost was trying to create an environment in which Senna could feel the pressure of being the frontrunner and maybe make a mistake – after all, the year had started with Prost as McLaren’s main driver, with two world-titles in his belt. But F1 fans knew that the duel between them still promised exciting chapters, that season.

Resumo da Corrida

  • 1 Ayrton Senna
  • 2 A. Prost
  • 3 G. Berger
  • 4 M. Alboreto
  • 5 R. Patrese
  • 6 T. Boutsen
  • 7 A. Nannini
  • 8 S. Nakajima
  • 9 N. Piquet
  • 10 D. Warwick
  • 11 E. Cheever
  • 12 M. Brundle
  • 13 M. Gugelmin
  • 14 I. Capelli
  • 15 A.Caffi
  • 16 P. Alliot
  • 17 R. Arnoux
  • 18 P. Streiff
  • 19 A. de Cesaris
  • 20 S. Johansson
  • 21 J. Palmer
  • 22 G. Tarquini
  • 23 Y. Dalmas
  • 24 P. Ghinzani
  • 25 B. Schneider
  • 26 N. Larini
Voltas 43
Tempo Nublado
Volta mais rápida G. Berger - 2´00´´772
Podium 1º Ayrton Senna 2º A. Prost 3º I. Capelli
Carros 26
Abandonos 11

Senna na corrida

Posição de largada 1
Posição final 1
Melhor volta 2’01’’061
Pontos somados para o Campeonato 9
Posição no Campeonato após a prova 1
O que disse após a prova
“If he thinks that I’m going to rest on my laurels, he’s wrong.” (responding to a provocation from Alain Prost after his victory)