French GP 1989
JULY 9, 1989
French GP, 1989
There were a string of changes at the French Grand Prix. Alain Prost announced that he would not be staying with McLaren in 1990. McLaren signed up Gerhard Berger as his replacement. The political battle at Benetton came to a head with Johnny Herbert being restedby the team and Emanuele Pirro coming in to replace him. Larrousse decided that Yannick Dalmas was not sufficiently recovered from his attack of Legionnaires Disease and he too was dropped, making way for Eric Bernard. Tyrrell had landed a sponsorship deal from Camel. This meant that Marlboro-sponsored Michele Alboreto left the team and was replaced by a youngster called Jean Alesi while Derek Warwick had damaged hi back in a karting event and so his place was taken for the weekend by Martin Donnelly. In total there would be five F1 debutantes in the race as Bertrand Gachot finally managed to get his Onyx through prequalifying.
Despite all the changes there was little changed in the overall picture with the McLaren-Hondas still well clear of the opposition with Prost on pole from Ayrton Senna. Nigel Mansell was third fastest in his Ferrari ahead of Sandro Nannini's Benetton, Thierry Boutsen's Williams, Gerhard Berger's Ferrari and Philippe Alliot's Larrousse Lola. The top 10 was completed by Riccardo Patrese's Williams, Jonathan Palmer's Tyrrell and Mauricio Gugelmin's Leyton House. Gachot qualified 11th in his Onyx, the fastest of the new boys.
At the start Senna went into the lead from Prost but behind the two McLarens there was chaos as Gugelmin ran into the back of Boutsen and Mansell and took off, bouncing amidst the other front-runners. The race was red-flagged and there was a rush to spare cars. Mansell, Gugelmin and Donnelly all started from the pitlane.
At the restart Senna's McLaren went out immediately with a transmission failure, leaving Prost in the lead. He would remain there all afternoon to win the race. In the early laps it was Berger who led the chase but he soon dropped behind Nannini and Boutsen, the Ferrari retiring with an oil leak before half-distance. Nannini went out with rear suspension problems while Boutsen disappeared with gearbox trouble which left Ivan Capelli second until he suffered an engine failure. Briefly the remarkable Alesi ran second before he had to stop for tires and Patrese moved up but towards the end he had fallen behind Mansell. Bernard impressed getting his Lola up to fifth before he had to stop for tires.