Japanese GP 1991

Japanese GP, 1991

There were signs of change in the paddock in Suzuka. The Leyton House team was struggling for money following the arrest of Akira Akagi and so Ivan Capelli was dropped and Karl Wendlinger took over, bringing financial support from Mercedes-Benz. AGS did not turn up, while Arrows announced that the adventure with Porsche was over and that the team would use Mugen-prepared Honda V10s in 1992 with Aguri Suzuki and Michele Alboreto driving. Minardi also announced a change of engines with plans to run Lamborghini V12s in 1992.

Bertrand Gachot reappeared in the paddock, hoping to regain the Jordan drive he had lost when he was jailed but things had moved on and Alex Zanardi stayed in the car. Coloni was back in action having found Naoki Hattori to drive while Johnny Herbert was back in action for Team Lotus once again, having missed the previous race because of an F3000 commitment in Japan. On Friday morning Eric Bernard crashed his Larrousse Lola heavily and broke his ankle.

In qualifying World Championship favorite Ayrton Senna took pole for McLaren-Honda but his challenger Nigel Mansell was second in his Williams-Renault. Senna's McLaren team mate Gerhard Berger was third. Alain Prost was fourth in his Ferrari ahead of Riccardo Patrese in the second Williams, Jean Alesi in the second Ferrari, Pierluigi Martini and Gianni Morbidelli in the Minardi-Ferraris and Michael Schumacher in the faster of the Benettons. The German had a huge crash in qualifying while Nelson Piquet completed the top 10 in his Benetton.

Berger led Senna into the first corner and then drove away leaving Senna holding up the two Williams-Renaults. As Mansell needed to win the race to keep his World Championship hopes alive he knew he had to react.

Alesi disappeared quickly when his Ferrari blew and as a result de Cesaris spun. This caused JJ Lehto (Dallara) to brake and he was hit from behind by his team mate Emanuele Pirro. As more cars arrived de Cesaris tried to rejoin and drove into the path of Wendlinger who was then bounced into Lehto.

Mansell was beginning to look for a way to pass Senna when he went off at the start of the tenth lap. Senna was the World Champion. He then began to charge after Berger, who had sacrificed his tyres to help Senna. On lap 18 Ayrton took the lead. Senna and Berger traded fastest laps. As the race went on Schumacher went out with engine trouble and Martini with an electrical problem and so Martin Brundle (Brabham-Yamaha) moved to fifth and Stefano Modena (Tyrrell-Honda) to sixth. In the final laps Berger's engine began to misfire and he dropped back. Senna had agreed before the race that whoever led the opening laps of the race should win the race and so he backed off at the final corner and let Berger through to victory.

After the race, Senna launched a tirade of abuse against the recently-departed FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre which rather spoiled his World Championship celebrations.

Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda  53 1h32m10.695s  
Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda  53 1h32m11.039s  
Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault  53 1h33m07.426s  
27 Alain Prost Ferrari  53 1h33m31.456s  
Martin Brundle Brabham-Yamaha  52  19 
Stefano Modena Tyrrell-Honda  52  14 
20 Nelson Piquet Benetton-Cosworth  52  10 
15 Mauricio Gugelmin Leyton House-Ilmor  52  18 
25 Thierry Boutsen Ligier-Lamborghini  52  17 
10 10 Alex Caffi Footwork-Porsche  51  26 
11 14 Olivier Grouillard Fomet-Cosworth  50  24 
26 Erik Comas Ligier-Lamborghini  41 Alternator 20 
23 Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ferrari  39 Clutch 
19 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Cosworth  34 Engine 
12 Johnny Herbert Lotus-Judd  31 Ground Wire/engine 23 
Satoru Nakajima Tyrrell-Honda  30 Suspension/accident 15 
30 Aguri Suzuki Lola-Cosworth  26 Electrics 25 
24 Gianni Morbidelli Minardi-Ferrari  15 Wheel Bearing 
Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault  Brakes/spin 
32 Alessandro Zanardi Jordan-Cosworth  Gearbox 13 
11 Mika Hakkinen Lotus-Judd  Spin 21 
11 Mika Hakkinen Lotus-Judd  Spin 21 
33 Andrea de Cesaris Jordan-Cosworth  Accident 11 
22 JJ Lehto Dallara-Judd  Accident 12 
21 Emanuele Pirro Dallara-Judd  Accident 16 
16 Karl Wendlinger Leyton House-Ilmor  Accident 22 
28 Jean Alesi Ferrari  Engine 
nq Michele Alboreto Footwork-Porsche    27 
nq 34 Nicola Larini Lamborghini    28 
nq 35 Eric van de Poele Lamborghini    29 
nq 29 Eric Bernard Lola-Cosworth   Accident/injury 30 
npq Mark Blundell Brabham-Yamaha    31 
npq 31 Naoki Hattori Coloni-Cosworth    32