The 1989 Spanish Grand Prix was completely dominated by Ayrton Senna – and it’s worth noting that it took place between the Brazilian’s two most controversial races in Formula One.
The race at Jerez followed the Portuguese GP, where Senna was taken out of the track by Niguel Mansell’s Ferrari, who had already been disqualified with a black flag a few laps before hitting the Brazilian. But that was nothing compared to what happened in the race following the Spanish Grand Prix, when Senna got involved in the category’s biggest controversy: Ayrton won the Japanese GP after being hit by Alain Prost, but was disqualified anyway in a backstage maneuver by FISA president, Hean Marie-Balestre.
Between those two controversies, some could consider the race at Jerez “uneventful” for Senna, but the driver made sure to dispel those notions when, during the post-race press conference, he was asked about the easy win: “Easy? Even getting here was hard”, said the champion of the 1988 season.
But the fact was that Ayrton had just given his rivals a driving lesson, that afternoon. The Brazilian scored the pole position on Saturday, his 40th, under a lot of pressure. If Prost won that Sunday, the Frenchman would become world champion. He wasn’t even able to start in the same row as Senna, however, since the second position went to Gerhard Berger, driving a Ferrari. Prost would be starting in third, and those three drivers ended up finishing in the same order they had started the race.
Senna crossed the finish line 27 seconds ahead of Berger and 53 ahead of Prost. It was the Brazilian’s 20th win in F1. He led from start to finish and posted the fastest lap in the race. With Senna’s triumph, the championship would be decided at Suzuka, a race that would become unforgettable to Formula One fans.