Features - News Feature
OCTOBER 1, 1991
Ayrton Senna attacks Jean-Marie Balestre
BY JOE SAWARD
Ayrton Senna launched a bitter attack on ex-FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre after the Brazilian had won his third World Championship in Suzuka. Speaking publicly for the first time since Balestre was defeated in the FISA election by Max Mosley, Senna reiterated his 1989 allegation that Balestre had manipulated the World Championship result, following the collision between Senna and Alain Prost in the Japanese Grand Prix and accused Balestre of meddling with the championship again in Suzuka in 1990, when Senna and Prost again collided while fighting for the World Championship.
'1989 was an unforgivable situation,' said Senna. 'I still struggle to cope with that, when I think about it. When we were fighting in the same team with Prost (in 1989) we had a bad time with FISA. I had a bad time with (Jean-Marie) Balestre. You all know what took place here (in Suzuka). They decided against me and that was not justice, so what took place over the winter was s**t.
'1990 was almost a way to prove the point that it was a bad decision. It was a bad season for me. Before we started qualifying (at Suzuka last year) Gerhard (Berger) and I went went to the officials and asked them to chnage the pole position because it was in the wrong place. And the officials said yes. No problem. We worked hard Friday and we sweated out Saturday. I got pole and then what happened? Balestre gave an order that we don't change pole position. We said that had been agreed before the race. They said no, we don't think so. This was really s**t.
'I said to myself: "OK, you try to work cleanly and do the job properly and then you get f**ked by stupid people. All right, if tomorrow Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner I will go for it, and he better not turn in because he is not going to make it. And it just happened.
'I wish it hadn't. He took the start and got the jump on me andI went for th first corner and he was turning and I hit him. We were both off and it was a sh*t end to the World Championship. It was not good for me and not good for F1. It was the result of the wrong decisions and partiality from the people inside making the decisions.
'I won the championship. So what? It was a bad example for everyone.
'We have got to have fair decisions. I believe that now we have that possibility with the new management in the sporting authority. I really believe that and we should work together as a whole to make a better image. If we have a better atmosphere it makes life more enjoyable.
'In the drivers' briefing today there was no theatre. It was a proper, professional job. When Max (Mosley) stood up to say just a few words he was sensible, intelligent and he was fair. I think anyone there was happy because there was no bulls**t and no people saying stupid things.
'I don't care (if I upset Balestre). I think for once we all must say what we feel is right. That's how it should be. (In the past there have been) f**king rules which you cannot tell your mind, you cannot speak what you're thinking, you are not allowed to say someone made a mistake. F**k, we are in a modern world! We are racing professionals. There is a lot of money involved, a lot of image and we cannot say what we feel. We are not allowed, because if you say what you feel you get banned, you get penalties; you pay money; you get disqualified; you lose your licence.
'Is that a fair rule? Is that a fair way of working? It is not. And nobody was able to say that because we had the sh*t in 1989. I said what I thought - and you all know that was true - what took place afterwards was theatre. It was s**t that took place that winter.'
During the winter of 1989 Senna's comments upset Balestre to such an extent that the then FISA presdient demanded an apology before Senna would be issued with a licence. This, it seemed, had been given. On Sunday in Suzuka, however, Senna denied he had ever apologised.
'I never sent apologies to that guy (Balestre). If you wnat to know the truth, they changed the press release. They changed the deal. They wanted to make a deal with us. I didn't want to make any deal. I was pushed by Ron (Dennis) and Honda to make a deal and I agreed to make a deal with some terms. after I agreed I signed the paper and sent it by fax. They had to send another paper to me and they completely changed the terms.
'I could never say these things (before now) because maybe I lose my licence. Is that a fair way? Is that a clean way to work? This is sh*t. Really sh*t. This really hurt. It hurt me a lot here in 1989 and hurt me even more what took place afterwards.
'That should be an example, not only to me but to all of us who are part of F1: drivers, the press, managers. We have to push hard for what is fair, what is clean. We have to try hard at least. Let's hope that new we have the proper opportunity to do that. It will never be perfect because there is too much at stake, but we have to try to improve the system for the benefit of all of us.
Senna went on to admit that the accidet in Suzuka in 1990 was caused by his bad feelings twoards the sport's governing body and Balestre.
'If you get f**ked every single time when you're trying to do your job cleanly and properly, by the system, by other people taking advantage of it, what should you do? Stand behind and say: "Thank you, yes, thank you." No, you should fight for what you think is right. You may make a mistake but uou may get it right, but you should fight. And I really felt (last year in Suzuka) that I was fighting for something that was correct, because I was f**ked in the winter, I was f**ked in the qualifying procedure when I got pole. I tell you if pole had been on the good side last year, nothing would have happened because I would have got a better start. I would have been first into the first corner without any problem. But it was a result of a decision, a bad decision, influenced by Balestre. I know that. we know that from underneath. And we all know why, and the result was the first corner (accident). It was not my responsibility, I did contribute to it, yes, but it was not my responsibility.'
after Senna's outburst, Alain Prost chose not to make any comment, not wishing to reopen the old arguments about who was to blame in the incidents of 1989 and 1990.