Ayrton Senna’s first F1 start for McLaren ended in a controversial disqualification from his home race on this day 25 years ago.
Senna planted his Honda-powered McLaren MP4-4 on pole position at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio de Janeiro. But as the cars prepared to take the start a gear linkage broke, Senna waving his arms calling for the start to be aborted.
The grid re-formed with Senna now starting from the pits in the spare McLaren. Nigel Mansell became the de facto pole sitter but his normally aspirated Williams-Judd was outgunned by Alain Prost’s turbo-powered McLaren.
While Prost motored off into the lead Senna was slicing his way through traffic. He came around in 21st place at the end of lap one, but by lap 13 he’d broken into the top six points-paying positions.
Thierry Boutsen (Benetton) and Nelson Piquet (Lotus) were next to succumb to the McLaren. Mansell stopped with a blown engine on lap 19 and now Senna was in a podium position. He came around the next lap in second place having dispensed with Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari.
But it was all in vain. The rules prohibited drivers from switching cars after the start had been given and Senna was belatedly black-flagged after 31 laps.
Prost ran out an easy winner – the first of 15 victories for McLaren that year in a season they dominated. But in their first season as team mates Senna ultimately proved too much for him, beating Prost to the drivers’ title.
Sadly construction work for the forthcoming 2016 Olympic Games has led to the demolition of the Jacarepagua circuit. It held ten rounds of the world championship between 1978 and 1989 and its oval course was later used for CART IndyCar races.