Lap 55. San Marino Grand Prix. 1988. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost emphatically power past Nelson Piquet in 3rd place – not for position, but to lap him. At this point, the McLaren drivers had lapped the entire field and it was to set the tone for the rest of the season ahead…
It’s 30 years since the much-loved and truly legendary Ayrton Senna won his first World Championship in a season that saw him rewrite the record books. 1988 was also the same year Senna joined McLaren – a partnership that would become one of history’s finest. But after an unfortunate disqualification in their first race of the season in Brazil, the world would have to wait until round two in San Marino to see the true might of the Senna/McLaren pairing.
Starting in pole position, Senna led from lap one of the race and put in a near perfect performance. His teammate, Prost, didn’t get off to a smooth start, but within just 8 laps had fought back from 6th to 2nd. However, the only car he knew he couldn’t get close to that day, was Senna’s.
Their McLaren MP4/4 – combined with the championship-winning Honda V6 turbo – stands today as one of the most dominant Formula 1 cars ever built. And with still a handful of laps to go at San Marino, it first became evident that all the other teams were going to struggle for quite some time to match the stunning speed and superior downforce it possessed. It was in this moment, as Nelson Piquet – a triple World Championship winner, no less – was passed for the second time, that everyone was able to see the new difference between the best and the rest.