It happened today – 26 March

It happened today – 26 March

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

The 1989 World Championship got underway at the Jacarepagua circuit in Brazil on 26th March. The turbo era had ended, replaced by 3.5 litre normally aspirated engines. However, that was not the most interesting innovation, as Ferrari had turned up with the F1-89 fitted with a new semi-automatic gearchange system. It was coupled to an electronic management device that allowed the gears to be changed with paddles on the steering wheel, thus avoiding the need for the driver to remove his hands from the wheel. In qualifying, Ayrton Senna laid down the law in the McLaren. The Ferraris were third with Gerhard Berger and sixth with newcomer Nigel Mansell. Chaos reigned at the start, as Senna and Berger touched, meaning the end for Gerhard, while the Brazilian kept going, but was out of contention. Mansell was on great form and on lap 4, he passed Thierry Boutsen’s Williams, setting off in pursuit of the leaders, headed by Riccardo Patrese.

The F1-89 performed faultlessly and on lap 14, Mansell went into the lead. The high temperatures called for more tyre changes that planned. Mansell twice found Alain Prost ahead of him, but both times, he dealt with the Frenchman, lapping two seconds quicker than the McLaren. At the flag, Nigel was the surprise winner on his debut for the Prancing Horse, ahead of Prost and the March of local hero Mauricio Gugelmin.

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