French Grand Prix – 1988


Alain Prost was in his own country. Referencing this, he affirmed with a timid smile: “To race at home is the cherry on top”.

After two consecutive wins by Ayrton Senna in the 1988 season (in Canada and the USA), Formula One was back in Europe for the French Grand Prix. Alain Prost was in his own country. When asked to comment on this, he gave his timid smile and stated that “racing at home is the cherry on top”.

Prost led the tournament with 45 points, while Senna had 33. Besides lagging behind in the standings, Ayrton wanted to change his spotty record at Paul Ricard. His McLaren teammate had won in France in 1981 and 1983, while Senna’s best result in his rival`s home-turf had been a humble 4th place in 1987.

Senna had secured the pole position in each of the six races up until then, and he was looking to add to that number at Paul Ricard. Prost wouldn’t let him. The Frenchman broke a 2-year curse, scoring a pole-position for the first time since the 1986 Monaco Grand Prix.

The #11 McLaren’s quickest lap left everyone in attendance speechless. Posting a time of 1min07s589, Prost was 0s479 faster than Ayrton, who would be starting next to him on Sunday.

Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto, both Ferrari driver, occupied the second row, while the Benettons driven by Thierry Boutsen and Alessandro Nannini, had the third row.

On the day of the race, the heat in the Le Castellet region was strong, and the speedway was at full capacity. At the start, Prost kept the lead. Berger started better than Senna, but the Brazilian took the second position back even before reaching the first corner. Nelson Piquet, who started in seventh, with a Lotus, jumped ahead of both Bennetons and was now in fifth place.

The front of the pack remained unchanged after the beginning of the race. On lap 17, Boutsen made a pit-stop and retired a few laps later due to engine issues.

The race’s leaders started making their pit-stops on lap 22. Berger went off-track, damaged his tires and fell to sixth place when he stopped to change them. That meant Senna was free to pursue Prost without the need to check his rearview mirrors all the time. After 27 laps, there was just a 1s958 gap between them.

On lap 34, Senna decided to make his move and go after the lead. The Brazilian was called to change his tires before Prost, and McLaren made a quick pit-stop. The Frenchman went to the garages two laps later and returned to the track right behind the Brazilian. Senna’s tire change was 3 seconds faster than his teammates, which allowed Senna to take the lead.

It was a very similar race to when it started – both driver very close together, only now with Senna in the lead. The Brazilian started having problems on lap 45, when Ayrton lost one of his gears, making it harder to overtake backmarkers.

Prost realized his teammate was having trouble keeping a steady pace and, on lap 61, even though Senna put up a fight, the Frenchman took back the lead and didn’t let it go until the race’s 80 laps were over. Ferrari’s Alboreto rounded out the podium at Paul Ricard. Berger recovered and finished in fourth place with the other Ferrari. Lotus’ Nelson Piquet was in fifth and Benetton’s Alessandro Nannini was in sixth place.

It was the Frenchman’s fourth win in the season, while Senna had three triumphs. That meant Prost had every reason to be happy during the traditional press conference given by the three drivers who made it t podium. Ayrton listened, took his lumps and was very polite when commenting on the fact that he led for 24 out of 80 laps.

But, after the spotlights went out, the Brazilian grumbled from the corner:

“He should thank my car for the the two times the gearshift broke. That was the real “cherry on top”.

Now, Prost had 54 points in the tournament, while Ayrton Senna 39. The season’s eighth race was set to take place in Silverstone, where the Brazilian would make history once again with another triumph in the rain.

Resumo da Corrida

  • 1 A. Prost
  • 2 Ayrton Senna
  • 3 G. Berger
  • 4 M. Alboreto
  • 5 T. Boutsen
  • 6 A. Nannini
  • 7 N. Piquet
  • 8 S. Nakajima
  • 9 N. Mansell
  • 10 I. Capelli
  • 11 D. Warwick
  • 12 A. de Cesaris
  • 13 E. Cheever
  • 14 A.Caffi
  • 15 R. Patrese
  • 16 M. Gugelmin
  • 17 P. Streiff
  • 18 P. Alliot
  • 19 Y. Dalmas
  • 20 S. Modena
  • 21 B. Schneider
  • 22 P. Martini
  • 23 J. Palmer
  • 24 N. Larini
  • 25 L. Perez-Sala
  • 26 O. Larrauri
Voltas 80
Tempo Nublado
Volta mais rápida A. Prost - 1´11´´737
Podium 1º A. Prost 2º Ayrton Senna 3º M. Alboreto
Carros 26
Abandonos 11

Senna na corrida

Posição de largada 2
Posição final 2
Melhor volta 1’11’’856
Pontos somados para o Campeonato 6
Posição no Campeonato após a prova 2
O que disse após a prova
“He (Prost) should thank my car for the the two times the gearshift broke. That was the real “cherry on top”.