1988 Formula One season

1988 Formula One season

F1 season
Previous = 1987
Current = 1988
Next = 1989
The 1988 Formula One season was the 39th FIA Formula One World Championship season. It commenced on April 3, 1988, and ended on November 13 after sixteen races.

eason summary

The pre-season was a very contentious time, with many theories of the championship flying around. Would the Honda engines prove successful with McLaren? Would Ferrari be able to continue the trend set by the last two rounds of 1987 where Gerhard Berger took successive victories? Would Williams be able to continue their success without Honda and Nelson Piquet? Could World Champion Piquet succeed in defending his title with the Honda powered Lotus?

The Jim Clark and Colin Chapman cups had been withdrawn as the "atmospheric", naturally aspirated engines were making a return as the sole engine for 1989, with severe restrictions on turbos for this season. Many teams took the gamble of using Judd or Cosworth V8 engines, to get an extra year in to get used to the new regulations, whilst other teams like Ferrari and McLaren decided to make the most of their turbo experience and made one last turbo car to hopefully bring the most of the cars despite the regulations.

With Ferrari being the only completely stable option, many agreed that Gerhard Berger would be in serious contention, and this was supported in his second place behind Alain Prost's McLaren as well as securing the fastest lap for the Scuderia. Remarkable, also, was Nigel Mansell's recovery from his accident in Japan to score a front row position for his non-turbo Judd-powered Williams on his first race back. Ayrton Senna suffered from a failure at the races beginning, eventually being disqualified after switching to a second car. At the time he had risen up to second place after starting from the pits.

At Imola, however, it was plain to see what all the teams had feared. Gordon Murray's MP4/4, combined with the championship winning Honda Turbo, made a mockery of the rest of the grid. Even the Lotus-Hondas of Piquet and Nakajima were left a lap behind race winner Senna, with team-mate Prost less than five seconds behind him. At the front of the grid, things were as tight as ever, however for everyone else it had become a race for third.

Despite what many expected, the championship would hardly be considered boring with the McLaren onslaught peaking with the drivers fighting in several feuds. At Monaco, after Alain Prost set the fastest lap, Ayrton refused to accept that his team-mate could be driving faster than he was, especially after Senna out qualified Prost by over a second. Senna pushed and after scoring the fastest lap, he had a lapse in concentration and hit the wall. Berger picked up second place behind Prost.

In Mexico, it was nearly a repeat of San Marino. McLaren 1-2, with this time only one driver on the lead lap. Gerhard Berger had picked up his third podium in four races, giving him the edge on Piquet and Alboreto for the title of "Best of the Rest" - The race for third.

Canada again proved a repeat of the McLaren onslaught, this time Boutsen's Benetton being the only other car on the lead lap, and 50 seconds behind. This was repeated in Detroit, however this time Boutsen failed to stay on the lead lap as Senna took his second victory in a row, making it six out of six for McLaren and Honda.

The following race at Paul Ricard saw another 1-2 for McLaren, this time with Prost at the helm for his home Grands Prix, followed by the Ferraris of Alboreto and Berger, with only the former on the lead lap. Piquet raced a brilliant race, despite lacking second gear, to come through for a fifth place.

At the wet British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Nigel Mansell surprised all by scoring a second place for an atmos car for his first finish of the season after seven races of DNF's, a result which definitely pleased the hordes of British fans who were still gripped in Mansell-mania despite the driver's (or rather, the car's) lack lustre performance through the year. The podium was rounded off by Nannini, proving that Silverstone's long straights, although showcasing the high speed of the turbos, was not a good race for the to-be-banned cars, with the efficiency of the atmos cars proving a much better deal, albeit Senna still dominating in his McLaren, proving once again his skill as a wet weather driver.

Germany proved a return to the year's trend, with again long straights of Hockenheim showcasing the brute strength of the turbos, with the only atmos car on the lead lap behind both McLaren and Ferraris respectively being Capelli's March. Senna took the win to Prost, with Berger taking the bottom step of the rostrum. At the following grand prix at Hungary, Senna secured his 24th pole position, securing the third highest total after legendary champions Jim Clark and Fangio, backing his qualifying effort up with a victory, less than a second in front of team-mate Prost. This was Senna's sixth win of the season, and third on the trot, with Prost on just four wins.

The 1988 Belgian Grand Prix showed Prost one thing: to not change his set-up at the last minute. All through the year, Prost's better feel at setting up a car was not only noticed by his team-mate, but mimicked. Senna had used Prost's set-ups for every race thus far, and the race at Spa was no different. This annoyed Prost, and he changed his aero-settings at the last minute, hoping to give himself an edge over the pole-sitting Senna. At the start, Prost took the lead after Senna suffered wheel spin but was caught and passed half way around the track.

Senna went on to secure the victory to Prost, a distant second. Third and forth was filled by the two Benettons, however their places were stricken long after the season had ended, giving Capelli his first podium of the year. The 1-2 for McLaren signified the end of any statistical hope of Ferrari catching them in constructors championship, securing McLaren one of the earliest recorded constructors victories.

Before the Italian Grand Prix, Prost was quoted as saying that, as it was very possible that McLaren would take out a perfect sixteen out of sixteen victories, the winner would be determined between which McLaren driver would take the most wins, and on the change they both took eight, it would be determined on their second places, which at the time Prost had more of despite having less wins. This meant Prost could only let Senna win one more time.

Monza, being another high speed circuit, would prove to be another McLaren dominated race, with both sitting on the front row, again with both Ferraris behind. The race fell into regular routine as Senna lead from the start and Prost close behind. However, on lap 35 of 51, Prost's championship hopes seemed to evaporate in a cloud of smoke, leaking from his engine. The tifosi cheered as their drivers were shifted to second and third, and Honda were livid in their engine expiring on a track that was being dominated by the turbo cars.

Senna looked set to secure another victory, and albeit seal his championship hopes, when lapping Schlesser, filling in for the still ill Mansell, decided it was wise to do so on one of the track's corners, instead of waiting for the long straight that would follow. Senna accidentally hit Schlesser and was livid, whilst the tifosi erupted; Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto sat first and second. They went on to finish that, unfortunately it was only weeks after Enzo Ferrari's death, with both drivers and team dedicating the victory to him. This race would prove to be the only chink in the McLaren's perfect year and their only double retirement.

The following grands prix at Portugal proved to be an exciting affair, for all but Ayrton Senna who suffered race long with fuel troubles. He ended sixth while Prost kept his championship hopes alive to secure his fifth race of the year. Then at Spain, he secured his sixth, again in an attempt to delay an almost inevitable eighth race for Senna - a race that would secure his first of three championships. Senna suffered from similar problems and was lucky to secure fourth whilst Mansell doubled his British Grand Prix efforts and scored another six points.

The penultimate round in Japan proved, once again, to be the home of where the title was decided. This time it was the end of the weekend, and not the beginning. Prost made a superb start to the lead, whilst Senna stalled, lucky in the fact that Suzuka had a sloping grid, helping to start his car. Senna knew he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this race, and knew he could seal the championship here. By the end of the lap he had already made up six positions, and by the fourth lap he was sitting in fourth position. The top six cars were all sitting very close and when the rain started to fall, so did Prost. Capelli took this chance to become the first naturally aspirated car to lead a Grands Prix in over 4 years, thrilling the March team. Unfortunately, this was not to last as his electronics would eventually fail.

By then, Senna was hot on the tail of Prost. Prost hated the wet, as much as he hated to lose, and his failing gearbox only added to the Brazilian's chances. When the pair came round to lap some back-markers, as Prost was caught up with de Cesaris, Ayrton went past to take the lead, and set three consecutive fastest laps and setting a new lap record. As he was now out on a wet track with dry tires, as many other drivers were, he signaled to stop the race. However, the race ran its full distance and Honda were reveling in their 1-2 finish, whilst Prost was bitter. He would go on to win in Adelaide, and score eleven more points in total than Senna, but only the eleven highest scores counted, with Senna's eight wins and three seconds giving him a total of 90 points to Prost's 87. He went on to be a proponent of essentially the 90's scoring system - all results counting to the final results with the winner scoring 10, not 9, points.

Drivers & Constructors

The following drivers and constructors competed in the 1988 season

1988 Drivers Championship final standings

* Only best 11 results counted toward the championship. Prost scored 105 points during the year, but only 87 points were counted toward the championship. Senna scored 94 points, with 90 points counted toward the championship. Thus, Senna became the World Champion, although he did not score most points over the course of the year.


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