Hungary 1988, Senna leads Prost by half a second

1988 was the year McLaren lost the luxury of monopolizing 15 out of 16 scheduled meetings with the MP4/4. Among the Grand Prix awarded by the British team was also Hungary, a country behind the Iron Curtain at the time, where the Circus stayed for two years. The Hungarian circuit was not and still is not one of the most exciting on the calendar, with its concentration of slow corners and tight corners. The conformation of the late 1980s was even slower than the current one, given that there was a chicane after turn 2 that no longer exists. The mixture of curves is reminiscent of Monte Carlo, but without the yachts and Art Nouveau buildings.


Well, even on such an atypical track as the Magyar one, the MP4/4 dominated the weekend, not without dissonant notes attributed only to qualifying. If Senna’s pole position – 24th of his career, an impressive figure for the time considering Ayrton was not yet 30 years old – was already practice, then at the other end of the garage, Prost hit a tough Saturday that forced him to seventh. Mansell qualified behind the Brazilian in a distant relative of the Williams in the 1987 steamroller. Then Boutsen in the Benetton and Capelli in the March. All-Italian third row with Nannini (Benetton) and Patrese (Williams). Instead, it was midnight for a Ferrari that was in the spotlight of the press, with Berger ninth and Alboreto fifteenth, both in stardom despite one of the shortest races on the calendar.

The race was dominated by Senna, who kept the lead from the start, while representatives from Benetton and Williams battled for the podium. Prost was cautious, in keeping with his style, so much so that at the end of the first lap he was two positions behind the starting position. Capelli had to leave the company after only five runs when Judd’s engine of his march failed.

Ayrton Senna defeats Prost at the 1988 Hungarian Grand Prix.
© Angelo Bears


The only one bothering Ayrton at the start of the race was Mansell, who kept Williams in second place, putting pressure on the Brazilian, who couldn’t get away. But a spin on lap 27 left Nigel behind Prost, who in the meantime had moved back up to 4th. After 38 laps, which was half the race, the Frenchman was practically in the podium area, ahead of Boutsen and Senna himself.

From there, Alain changed speed, overtook the Belgian driver’s Benetton and contested the second half of the race with his teammate’s MP4/4 exhausts. But the tortuosity of the track, combined with the somewhat narrow roadway, prevented Prost from making an attack. The Frenchman managed to get ahead of Senna only once, entering the first corner, but then he was “long” with the Brazilian, who took the opportunity to take the lead again. The McLaren parade ended on lap 76 with Senna’s half-second victory over his teammate, one of the closest breaks ever. On the other hand, the shortcomings of the other cars were biblical: Boutsen led the Benetton to the podium, but was 30 seconds behind the McLaren duo.

1988 Hungarian Grand Prix Ayrton Senna Alain Prost
© McLaren Racing Ltd.


Behind an excellent Berger, taking advantage of other people’s troubles, he saved what could be saved for Ferrari, finishing fourth in a minute and a half from Senna. The Hungarian Grand Prix was the last Grand Prix with Enzo Ferrari alive: Drake effectively disappeared the following week without seeing his cars win again after Adelaide 1987. The first and only victory of 1988 came a few weeks after his death in Monza. ready to take the “reds” into the arms of the fans, whom Berger and Alboreto gave an unforgettable one-two. It was the only time a rival car managed to break the dominance of the MP4/4, arguably the most dominant car in history, with the 2023 Red Bull RB19.

Hungarian Grand Prix 1988 arrival order

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