The gloves came off in the 1988 championship contest between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost 25 years ago today.
What had been a tense rivalry between the two McLaren drivers began its transformation into a grudge match following a notorious encounter in the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Prost beat Senna to pole position, but the Brazilian driver took the lead at the start. Prost fought back as lap two began, drawing alongside – only for his team mate to push him towards the pit wall.
“If we’d touched at that speed, it would have been like a plane crash,” Prost fumed afterwards. “If Ayrton wants the championship that badly, he can have it.”
Senna continued to drop back, suffering a rare engine problem with his Honda V6 turbo. While a relieved Prost retook the championship with his fifth win of the season, Senna slipped back to sixth place.
But the die had been cast – for their relationship and the rest of the championship. Prost had now scored 11 times and a driver could only count his best 11 results. Therefore over the remaining races Prost would have to keep scoring highly to continue adding to his total – and that meant beating Senna.
Also on the podium that day was Ivan Capelli, who’d qualified third in a March honed by the burgeoning aerodynamic genius of Adrian Newey, and Thierry Boutsen’s Benetton.