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[Finished] Case #3: The 1990 Collision between Senna and Prost at Suzuka

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#1 Billy

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 06:20

Molive has brought to the Atlas F1 Court the case of Ayrton Senna's collision with Alain Prost in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka - a collision that in effect decided the World Championship that year, in favour of Ayrton Senna.

This case has been accepted for hearing, and it is the duty of this court to decide whether Ayrton Senna acted unsportingly on the track, deliberately causing the incident with Alain Prost in order to settle the championship in his favour.

Arguments can be posted by all interested parties as of February 11th, and for a period of ten days afterwards.

Please note that the hearing length (10 days) is shorter than other trials because the advance notice gives you all plenty of time to prepare evidence.

The residing judges in this case are Rainstorm, Marcel Schot and myself.

Arguments and evidence on the subject can be posted in this thread as of the opening date, and for as long as the hearing is open. A decision on the case will be posted up to 7 days after the hearing is closed.


#2 Rainstorm

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 17:51

This case is now open for hearing. Our apologies for the delay.

And, due to the delay, the hearing will continue until February 24th (10 days as promised).

#3 Manson

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Posted 16 February 2001 - 18:39

Ayrton Senna openly admitted to causing the crash so there is no doubt whether it was intentional or not. The only question I guess is whether it was unsporting or not.

Looking at the singular incident, the answer must be that yes, it was unsporting and bad for the sport.

Looking at the history that led up to the event is another story. Factor in the Prost collision from the year before, the threat of expulsion from the first races of 1990, and the pole position fiasco (which side to start on at Suzuka) and the arguement gets murky.

In my mind Balestre was playing with Senna and the rules to the benefit of countryman Prost. Both Senna and Balestre are guilty of unsporting behaviour. Two wrongs don't make a right but the 1990 Suzuka collision closed the chapter.

If the mandate of this case is only to rule if Senna was unsporting or not, the answer is still yes. (This from a huge Senna fan).

#4 Bruce

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Posted 17 February 2001 - 02:50

Even when the crash occured, it was pretty obvious that Senna had decided to play "tit for tat" with Alain Prost, following their 1989 contretemps at the same circuit. This was later borne out in an extraordinairily frank "speech" by Senna the following year...

So, as Manson says, the question is not whether Senna was guilty of spearing AP off the track (he was) but whether or not he acted in an unsporting fashion in doing so... I believe that the answer is an unequivical "Yes - he was guilty of acting in a completely unsporting fashion".

Senna strove to explain away his actions the following year, explaining how the ridiculous (and they were) circumstances that saw him lose the possibility of the WDC at Suzuka in 1989 "drove" him to act the way he did in 1990. In saying this Senna suggests that he had no choice, that the flow of events had caught him up.... rubbish. The proper result would have been for him to beat AP in the race (as he likley would have) and take the WDC the fair way. The manner in which he took the WDC was unquestionably unsporting and it tarnished the reputation of Senna and F1 in general.

There is no justification for deliberately taking off a competitor - anyone who does so is guilty of the most reckless and egregious selfishness, exhibits a complete lack of perspective and is unquestionably guilty of lacking sporting ethics.

There is NO excuse for this sort of action.

#5 Rainstorm

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Posted 17 February 2001 - 09:52

Can anyone find and provide, perhaps, a video clip of the event and Senna's alleged admission that he did it on purpose?

Any quotes from the involved, along with other information would be helpful.



#6 LB

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Posted 18 February 2001 - 03:35

Senna was of course a strong believer in the christian faith which of course advocates an eye for an eye. He would possibly have thought that his actions were justified be those of Prost in the previous year.

I don't believe so. Senna would likely have won the championship anyway, he was in the box seat. To do what he did is unjustifiable in any form of motor sport. He was not the first to drive into a rival to win a Championship ( I believe that was Rupert Keegan )and he certainly won't be the last.

#7 jk

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Posted 18 February 2001 - 16:28

There is a clip of the incident at http://f-1.sovintel....na_prost_90.mpg
It's not very good, but it show what there is to see: Senna going for a gap that doesn't exist, and rams Prost of the road. Unsporting, yes.

#8 kenny

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Posted 18 February 2001 - 16:37

As many said before, Senna himself admitted he did it on purpose (which not many have to guts to do that)...
anway, that doesnt make it right at all!

But in away, it was just an act of revenge of Senna... An act to show to Prost and the FIA, that he doesnt like it when they mess with him... I think it was all a matter of honour for Senna, to show he doesnt go on his knees for the fia and prost...
He should have done it in an otherway, by winning the race...

Anyway, As Senna himself said ' It was a sad championship, but a result of the interfering of Balestre'

Was it unsporting? Yes...
Did Senna have good motives? I think So
Should he have done it? NO

You should ask yourslef this question..
Would I have done the same thing, in the exact same situation? I think so... (In my case)
Ofcourse its hard to tell this... Because now you can say, No way I would never do that... but when the moment arrives we all act differently...

I think this is a different situation that Suz89, Aus94, JEr97... Since Senna had already made up his mind(becuase of the Pole-position side on the grid) that if Prost would turn in on him, he would go for it.... and he did...

#9 DJS

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Posted 19 February 2001 - 10:34

Telemetry from Senna's car showed that he never lifted off the throttle, and had no intention of ever turning into the corner. He had one goal in that race, to eliminate Alain Prost from the championship. This he did.

Unsporting? Yes, most likely. What needs to be decided is his true motivation for doing so.

#10 TAB666

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Posted 20 February 2001 - 16:40

I just saw the "accident" and i think Senna was so wrong.
He should atleast have been striped off all point (like Schumi 97) and some race suspensions.
Why wouldnt he say he was planing to do it? it's so clear that it was planned.


#11 Blade

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Posted 20 February 2001 - 21:04


During an interview with Prost, Prost said Senna told him not to get ahead of him, if he did, Senna is going to ram him from the back, which did happened. Senna also insist the FIA to change the grid, so that the pole position will be located on the left hand side which is the cleanier part of the track. However, FIA refuses Senna requests, and Senna, starting from P1 on the right hand side of the track, gets a slower start than Prost. Prost get ahead of him and htere is no question Senna would ram him from the back. I think this is really bad sportsmanship compare to 1989. We don't need these kind of 'revenge' driving.. especially when the collision is taken at 130R which is driven at high speed.

#12 George Bailey

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Posted 20 February 2001 - 21:47

It would have been safer, and just as sporting, if Senna had just taken a knife to Prosts tires on the grid before the parade lap.

And LB, it's Christian to turn the other cheek, not to slap it with your Mclaren!

#13 LB

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Posted 21 February 2001 - 05:05

George I know, but the ambiguieties of the Bible are not really worth going into. Thats a whole different debate. Actually maybe not!

Blade the collision is at the first corner (the 130R is the fast one before the chicane).

There isn't really much you can say about this. Senna was an aggresive driver who believed in winning at all cost he didn't care if he ran over his teammate, witness Imola and Estoril previously, where the two had had major disagree ments. Senna obviously believed that Prost had taken him out a year previous (something that has already been agreed upon by this court). His anger at his subsequent disqualification led directly to the situation that we have here. He had always thought that Balestre was behind it all because Prost was a frenchman. He may not have been wrong.
This directly led to the action we see here!

If we hold all that to be true, the subject is now weither it is justifible to seek revenge in this way. Senna for one should have waited until a slower area it is not beyond the bound of possiblity that one or both could have lost there lives, he also should really have tried to win fairly before resorting to this action. Other than that it does actually come down to this.

Eye for an Eye
Turn the other cheek.

I'm not making that call, have fun with that!

#14 Zawed

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Posted 21 February 2001 - 09:48

The incident most certainly was deliberate: Coming into the first corner, Prost was well ahead going into the first right hander after the pit straight. Senna put his car on the inside, and into contact with Prost's rear wheels. Therefore Senna could see what he was doing; it was not as if Prost suddenly turned in on him. In fact the contact happened before the corner, as Prost moved onto the racing line. If Senna was making an overtaking move it was a wildly optomistic passing attempt. Anyway, Senna did the following year, admit to DELIBERATELY driving Prost off. Part of the reason for his actions was the refusal by the stewards to put PP onto the cleaner side of the track. This actually was not an unreasonable request, as in previous years this request had actually been carried out. The refusal of stewards to change grids, plus the controvesy from the previous year over the collison in the 1989 Japanese GP with Prost combined to make Senna believe that his course of action (driving into Prost)was the right one. An eye for an eye, as others have suggested. Senna's actions were unsporting. Senna's actions showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others, nor was there a sense of fairplay. In recent times, unsporting behaviour has been punished eg. Schumacher in 1997, which was not as blatant as Senna's. Given the current attitude towards unsporting driving, if Senna (or anyone else) had committed that action in the past 2-3 years, it is likely that a heavy punishment would result.

#15 Simioni

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Posted 22 February 2001 - 05:17

Actually, the stewards AGREED before qualifying to put the pole spot on the left side of the track. After Senna got pole, Ballestre interfered and went back on the agreement. If you weigh that up with what happened the previous year, you can understand why Senna got so insensed. That doesn't justify his action, but it's a hell of a good motive. To say that Senna "wanted to win at any costs" is untrue and unfair, becase Senna had been in the position to settle the championship the same way in both 88 and 91 suzuka finales but he kept it fair, as in fact he did more often than people give him credit for. Senna's main reason for crashing Prost was not to get the championship. In fact, it's very unlikely that Prost would manage to reverse Senna's advantage in the championship even if he had gone past that first corner. What Senna really wanted was to make clear that he was not going to accept being screwed around by a biased french politician. He said so in his 91 post-championship interview. I have it at home, I'll post it in the morning if the trial is still open by then.

#16 Simioni

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Posted 22 February 2001 - 14:58

This is a part of the Suzuka 91 interview, from N. Roebuck's 5th collumn on may 98:"I think what happened in 1989 was unforgivable, and I will never forget it. Even now I struggle to cope with it. After I rejoined that race, I won it, but they decided against me, and that was not justice. It was theatre, but I couldn't say what I thought - if you do that, you get penalties, you get fined, you lose your license maybe. Is that a fair way of working? It is not.Then last year I asked the officials to change pole position, and they agreed - but what happened? Ballestre gave an order it wasn't to be changed. I know how the system works, and I thought to myself this was really ****. So I said to myself, 'Ok, whatever happens, I'm going to get into the first corner first. If I'm near enough to him (Prost) he can't turn in front of me - he has to let me through'. I didn't care if we crashed, I just went for it..."So you did cause it then, someone said. "Why did I cause it?" Senna responded. "If you get f***** every time you try to do your job cleanly, within the system, what do you do? Stand back, and say thank you? No way. You should fight for what you think is right. If pole had been on the left, I'd have made it to the first corner in the lead, no problem. That was a bad decision to keep pole on the right, and it was influenced by Ballestre. And the result was what happened in the first corner. I contributed to it, but it was not my responsibility".Interesting to notice is that, from 91 onwards, the pole position is suzuka was indeed moved to the left, as logic would suggest. Why did they go back on it in 1990, other than giving Senna a handicap?

#17 magic

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Posted 24 February 2001 - 18:59

senna was angry at balestre who tried to ruin senna's race and wdc all over again.this time HE would decide the outcome of the wdc, not balestre and prost.senna never had a problem of beating prost on the suzuka track fair and square before and after suzuka '89 and '90.in both '88 (12th into first corner) and in '89 he came from behind toovertake the leading prost and win.he was in fact always quicker than prost in suzuka.in '88 he qualified on pole, the gap to prost 0,3 secs.in the race the diff was 0,1 sec.in '89 he qualified on pole, the gap to prost 1,7 secs.in the race the diff was 0,5 sec.in '90 he qualified on pole, the gap to prost 0,2 secs.in '91 he qualified second, the gap to prost 2,2 secs.in the race the diff was 2,2 sec.in that race senna handed the vic to berger.the biggest senna suzuka vic maybe in '93 when he beat prost again, without touching.remember prost was in the dominant newey-newey-active-williams, and senna in the customer-ford-mac.

#18 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 25 February 2001 - 02:51

Your honor magic's posts are irrelevant and are only included to cloud the issue and divert attention from the case at hand I move for their removal

#19 nordschleife

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Posted 25 February 2001 - 21:01

Is this court charged with determining if the incident violates today's standards of sportsmanship? That would surely be temporal chauvinism, to quote an esteemed colleague.

The parameters of sporting conduct that test a specific case are determined by the governing body OF THE DAY. Until officialdom puts its foot down and says,"That's going too far" then participants must take their cue from the extent to which action has been allowed in the past. It has always had the rules and the responsibility to identify violations and mete out punishment. In this case it did not and when identical precedents are noted it is no wonder.

At the title decider of 1964 Lorenzo Bandini's Ferrari was driven into the back of contender Graham Hill's BRM resulting in a broken exhaust and victory for the constructor Ferrari and Bandini's teammate John Surtees. During Balestre's reign of terror an incident that differed in no way from the one before us occurred. That is, of course, Mansell's removal of himself and the driver he'd sworn to hinder to Prost's benefit, Ayrton Senna. This occurred at turn 1 on lap 49 at the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix. Pictured on page 210 of the 1989 Autocourse (help!) is the moment of contact. The cars of Senna (ahead and outside) and Mansell (behind and inside) are positioned exactly as Prost's and Senna's are in 1990. Three times Mansell was shown the black flag accompanied by his number yet he continued to threaten the McLaren until his attempt to pass resulted in both ending their race in the gravel.

Quoting Autocourse, "The Englishman had been called before the stewards. He apologized and explained that he had not seen the black flag. Even so, Mansell and Ferrari were fined $50,000, the stewards recommending that he be banned from a future race. The crime, they said, was ignoring the black flag after he had been disqualified for reversing his car. The fact that Mansell had also played a major part in destroying the championship battle had nothing to do with it, of course."

So the stewards had the perfect oppportunity to cite Mansell for unsportsmanlike conduct yet chose not to, establishing the clearest precedent that bears upon the case before us. That precedent was that if you are aiming for the apex the presence of another car does not make you guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct.

The video and any and all of Senna's statements leaves one in no doubt that Senna was aiming for the apex. His statement of the previous year was never truer than when it is applied to this year: "...somebody who should not have been there just closed the door and that was that." Yes, Senna deliberately drove for the apex with unshakeable commitment as Mansell had done. No official decried Mansell's act which significantly affected the standings to Senna's disadvantage. Then, one year later, Senna was not held to account for the same act which significantly affected the standings to his advantage. What conclusion can be drawn except that Senna was operating within the bounds of sporting parameters as defined and enforced by FISA in 1990?


#20 Rainstorm

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Posted 26 February 2001 - 03:15

With 10 days past, this hearing is now closed. Thank you all for participating.

#21 Rainstorm

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Posted 08 March 2001 - 19:52

Apologies for the delay in the decision. We will post it within a few days!

#22 Marcel Schot

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Posted 17 March 2001 - 20:45

The collision between McLaren driver Ayrton Senna and Ferrari driver Alain Prost at the Japanese Grand Prix of 1990 marked the second World Championship deciding collision between these two rivals. In trying this case, however, the 1990 incident will be the main point of attention. We have to establish whether this collision was deliberate and what were the reasons, which led to the collision, in case it will be found to be deliberate.

Cause and Action - the Action

Here we have two important pieces of evidence. First, the video clip of the incident - provided by jk. Second, the acknowledgement of Ayrton Senna himself as stated in Nigel Roebuck's interview - provided by Simioni.

In fact, the videoclip merely serves as a confirmation of Senna's own words. By his own admission Senna had already 'pleaded guilty' ten years before this court session had even begun.

Hence, we find Ayrton Senna guilty of deliberately colliding with Alain Prost.

Cause and Action - the Cause

While both drivers had had differences of opinion before, resulting in a bitter relationship which had ended their cooperation as teammates the year before, it seems that this was not the main reason for Senna's action.

Ayrton Senna was convinced that as the Pole sitter, he should be allowed to start the race from the left side of the track, rather than the right. He believed that from the left, he would be able to lead immediately into the first corner. According to Nigel Roebuck's interview with Senna, the Brazilian then decided that he was going to get into the first corner first, no matter what the consequences may be.

Hence, Ayrton Senna did not only collide with Alain Prost deliberately, he did it premeditatedly. This makes Senna's action far worse than Prost's action the year before or any other deliberate collision in Formula One history. However compelling the reasons for Senna's action may have been, going into a race with the intention of eliminating your opponent at high speed is a criminal act and can under no circumstances be tolerated.

Ayrton Senna not only put Alain Prost and possibly himself in danger; he endanged the entire sport and caused great discredit to the sport and himself.

We therefore find Senna's action at Suzuka 1990 to be unsporting.


This trial attempted to settle three questions, which were found to be the pilars of the case:

1. Did Ayrton Senna deliberately collide with Alain Prost?
2. Did Ayrton Senna act unsportingly?
3. Did Ayrton Senna do this in order to secure the championship?

We believe that the first element was proven beyond doubt. We therefore believe that the second element was proven as well. However, we have not seen enough evidence to prove that deciding the World Championship was the sole or main part of Senna's motivation. This is irrelevant, nonetheless, given the fact that the collision did in effect decide this Championship in an unsporting and illegal fashion.