Today’s ‘F1 Rewind’ feature marks the twentieth anniversary of Ayrton Senna claiming his third and final World Championship crown, with the great Brazilian achieving the feat when his championship rival Nigel Mansell spun his Williams off into the gravel early in the race.
Coming into the penultimate round of the 1991 season, Mansell (69 points) needed to win to keep his championship hopes alive, while Senna (85 points) simply needed to finish ahead of Mansell. But with Senna having not won since the Belgian Grand Prix, and Williams having won each of the three previous races, there was still everything to play for.
Senna’s cause was helped by McLaren claiming a front-row lockout in qualifying, with Gerhard Berger enjoying a late-season qualifying surge to claim pole by 0.198 seconds from Senna. Mansell would start from the second row, sharing it with Alain Prost.
After hounding Senna for nine laps, Mansell was beginning to look for a way by the Brazilian. But on the tenth lap, he carried too much speed into Turn 1, ran wide on the exit kerbing and slid straight into the gravel. His race was over, and Senna was the 1991 World Champion.
But the race wasn’t over yet. Now free of Mansell, Senna began his chase of Berger, who had overcooked his tyres trying to build a gap over the Senna-Mansell battle.
On Lap 18, Berger let Senna by, and the pair sauntered to a McLaren 1-2, trading fastest laps as they went.
Further down the order, Michael Schumacher (after suffering a huge smash in qualifying) had taken his Benetton into the points and was hotly pursued by Pierluigi Martini in the Minardi, but both would retire with mechanical gremlins in the closing stages.
This left Martin Brundle to claim a plucky fifth in his Brabham, the last ever points for the team.
In the closing stages, Berger dropped back as his Honda engine began to sound rough, but on the final lap, Senna moved over for his team-mate within sight of the finish line, a perhaps disingenuous way of thanking the Austrian for playing the role of dutiful number-two all season.
1991 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (53 laps):
|1.||Gerhard Berger||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||53||1:32:10.695||1|
|2.||Ayrton Senna||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||53||+ 0.344||2|
|3.||Riccardo Patrese||Williams – Renault V10 FW14B||53||+ 56.731||5|
|4.||Alain Prost||Scuderia Ferrari V12 643||53||+ 1:20.761||4|
|5.||Martin Brundle||Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y||52||1 lap behind||19|
|6.||Stefano Modena||Tyrrell – Honda V10 021||52||1 lap behind||14|
|7.||Nelson Piquet||Benetton – Ford V8 B191||52||1 lap behind||10|
|8.||Maurício Gugelmin||Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911||52||1 lap behind||18|
|9.||Thierry Boutsen||Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B||52||1 lap behind||17|
|10.||Alex Caffi||Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C||51||2 laps behind||26|
|11.||Olivier Grouillard||Fondmetal Cosworth V8 F1||50||3 laps behind||24|
|DNF.||Érik Comas||Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B||41||Alternator||20|
|DNF.||Pierluigi Martini||Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191||39||Clutch||7|
|DNF.||Michael Schumacher||Benetton – Ford V8 B191||34||Engine||9|
|DNF.||Johnny Herbert||Lotus – Judd V8 102B||31||Engine||23|
|DNF.||Satoru Nakajima||Tyrrell – Honda V10 021||30||Suspension||15|
|DNF.||Aguri Suzuki||Lola – Cosworth V8 91||26||Electrical||25|
|DNF.||Gianni Morbidelli||Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191||15||Wheel||8|
|DNF.||Nigel Mansell||Williams – Renault V10 FW14B||9||Spin||3|
|DNF.||Alessandro Zanardi||Jordan – Cosworth V8 191||7||Gearbox||13|
|DNF.||Mika Häkkinen||Lotus – Judd V8 102B||4||Spin||21|
|DNF.||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan – Cosworth V8 191||1||Collision||11|
|DNF.||JJ Lehto||Dallara – Judd V10 191||1||Collision||12|
|DNF.||Emanuele Pirro||Dallara – Judd V10 191||1||Collision||16|
|DNF.||Karl Wendlinger||Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911||1||Collision||22|
|DNF.||Jean Alesi||Scuderia Ferrari V12 643||0||Engine||6|
|DNQ.||Michele Alboreto||Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C|
|DNQ.||Nicola Larini||Modena – Lamborghini V12 291|
|DNQ.||Eric van de Poele||Modena – Lamborghini V12 291|
|DNQ.||Éric Bernard||Lola – Cosworth V8 91||Injured|
|NPQ.||Mark Blundell||Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y|
|NPQ.||Naoki Hattori||Coloni – CosworthV8 C4|
|Ayrton Senna||McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6||39||1:41.532|