Senna tiptoes through the spray, 1991 Australian GP 

It’s twenty years since Formula 1’s shortest-ever race, the 1991 Australian Grand Prix.

Held in torrential conditions on Adelaide’s daunting street circuit, the race was red-flagged after just 14 of its scheduled 81 laps due to the appalling conditions…

The big news leading into the event was the sacking of Alain Prost by Ferrari, which had grown sick of the Frenchman’s ongoing criticism of the team, and responded by terminating his agreement. In stepped Ferrari’s test driver Gianni Morbidelli, who had spent the season racing with Minardi.

Morbidelli’s seat was taken by F1 journeyman Roberto Moreno, while the injured Éric Bernard’s seat at Lola was claimed by Bertrand Gachot, fresh out of jail after his CS gas assault charges.

Conditions were appalling when the race was started Qualifying saw the McLarens sweep to a front-row lockout, with Ayrton Senna securing pole ahead of team-mate Gerhard Berger. It was a Noah’s Ark formation for the next three rows on the grid, with the Williams’ of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese being followed by the Benettons of Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher, who had the Ferraris of Jean Alesi and Gianni Morbidelli right behind them.

Sunday dawned overcast, and an hour before the race the heavens opened. With the rain intensifying, the race start was delayed in the hope that the conditions would ease.

Watch the closing stages of the torrential 1991 Australian Grand Prix here!

They apparently did, but not by enough that any driver following Senna could see properly. Conditions were impossible, and drivers struggled to control their wayward cars in the awful spray.

The two Benettons collided on the fifth lap which led to Schumacher spinning into retirement. He was hit by Alesi, who in turn was hit by Nicola Larini. A few laps later, Pierluigi Martini aquaplaned straight into the wall on the back straight.

Mansell tries to chase down Senna The rain was just getting worse, and on the thirteenth lap, Maurício Gugelmin crashed his Leyton House in the pit lane, causing slight injuries to two marshals. Berger had an umpteenth spin, while Mansell – trying to close on Senna – crashed heavily at Turn 3.

By now, Senna had simply had enough and began frantically waving at the marshals to stop the race. Duly, the red flags were unfurled and the race’s few survivors limped back to the start/finish straight.

Despite officials’ foolish attempts to restart the race, it was eventually abandoned when the rain refused to ease, and half-points were awarded.

For the likes of Piquet and Satoru Nakajima, this was an anticlimactic way to end their Formula 1 careers, but at least they had come through the race intact.



1991 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (14 laps):

Driver Team Laps Result Grid
1. Ayrton Senna BRZ McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6 14 24:34.899 1
2. Nigel Mansell GBR Williams – Renault V10 FW14B 14 + 1.259 3
3. Gerhard Berger AUT McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6 14 + 5.120 2
4. Nelson Piquet BRZ Benetton – Ford V8 B191 14 + 30.103 5
5. Riccardo Patrese ITA Williams – Renault V10 FW14B 14 + 50.537 4
6. Gianni Morbidelli ITA Scuderia Ferrari V12 643 14 + 51.069 8
7. Emanuele Pirro ITA Dallara – Judd V10 191 14 + 52.361 13
8. Andrea de Cesaris ITA Jordan – Cosworth V8 191 14 + 1:00.431 12
9. Alessandro Zanardi ITA Jordan – Cosworth V8 191 14 + 1:15.567 16
10. Stefano Modena ITA Tyrrell – Honda V10 021 14 + 1:20.370 9
11. Johnny Herbert GBR Lotus – Judd V8 102B 14 + 1:22.073 21
12. JJ Lehto FIN Dallara – Judd V10 191 14 + 1:38.519 11
13. Michele Alboreto ITA Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C 14 + 1:39.303 15
14. Maurício Gugelmin BRZ Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911 13 Accident 14
15. Alex Caffi ITA Footwork – Cosworth V8 FA12C 13 1 lap behind 23
16. Roberto Moreno BRZ Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191 13 1 lap behind 18
17. Mark Blundell GBR Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y 13 1 lap behind 17
18. Érik Comas FRA Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B 13 1 lap behind 22
19. Mika Häkkinen FIN Lotus – Judd V8 102B 13 1 lap behind 25
20. Karl Wendlinger AUT Leyton House – Ilmor V10 CG911 13 1 lap behind 26
DNF. Pierluigi Martini ITA Minardi – Ferrari V12 M191 8 Accident 10
DNF. Michael Schumacher DEU Benetton – Ford V8 B191 5 Accident 6
DNF. Jean Alesi FRA Scuderia Ferrari V12 643 5 Accident 7
DNF. Nicola Larini ITA Modena – Lamborghini V12 291 5 Accident 19
DNF. Thierry Boutsen BEL Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B 5 Accident 20
DNF. Satoru Nakajima JPN Tyrrell – Honda V10 021 4 Accident 24
DNQ. Aguri Suzuki JPN Lola – Cosworth V8 91      
DNQ. Martin Brundle GBR Brabham – Yamaha V12 BT60Y      
DNQ. Eric van de Poele BEL Modena – Lamborghini V12 291  
DNQ. Bertrand Gachot BEL Lola – Cosworth V8 91    
NPQ. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Fondmetal Cosworth V8 F1      
NPQ. Naoki Hattori JPN Coloni – CosworthV8 C4  
Gerhard Berger AUT McLaren – Honda V12 MP4/6 14 1:41.141  

Images via ESPN and LAT]


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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.