Ayrton Senna. Monaco 1988. “Close to perfection”


Hard to believe where the time goes, but this weekend marks 15 years since the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix: a race etched in the minds of diehard Formula 1 fans as one of the late Ayrton Senna’s greatest drives.

Coming into the weekend, Senna had completed only two race weekends with McLaren after signing from Lotus during the 1987/1988 off-season. His first race ended with disqualification (a result of swapping cars after an abortive start). His second in San Marino netted the Brazilian his first Grand Prix victory for McLaren, only the seventh of an eventual 41, and sent a message at new teammate – and future arch-rival – Alain Prost. Then came Monaco.

The legend that Senna would hold his breath during a qualifying lap has often been linked to his qualifying performance in Monte Carlo in 1988, a run that netted him pole position by an incredible 1.4 seconds from teammate Prost and a barely comprehensible 2.7 seconds from third-placed Gerhard Berger in the Ferrari. This on a track that took barely 1m 23s to navigate.

Fumbling a gear change at the start, Prost dropped to third behind Berger’s slower Ferrari and it would take until lap 54 before the Frenchman finally muscled his way past. By then, Senna was already 55s in the lead, and going yet faster: it was a run many compared with Juan Manuel Fangio’s superlative record-breaking run to victory (his last) at the Nurburgring in 1957, and a race Senna himself described as ‘close to perfection’.

A warning from McLaren personnel on the pitwall though to slow down opened the door for one crucial mistake, which Senna made on lap 66, smashing into the Armco before the tunnel with just 12 laps left. A disgusted Senna walked back to his Monaco apartment: an astonished Prost took victory.

From that day on, Formula 1 would never be the same again.

Source – FerrariFanF156

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