After the craziness that was the 1989 Australian Grand Prix, Dad and I took a break from our annual trip in 1990.
In retrospect, that was a bit of a bummer as the 1990 race had one of the most exciting conclusions to any race during Adelaide’s eleven editions. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and after year off I was absolutely pumped to be returning in 1991.
For this young kid, the lead up to the race was dominated by the fact my favourite driver (Alain Prost) would not be at Adelaide. All in all 1991 was a downer of a year as a Prost fan.
He had his first winless season since 1981 and the only real highlight being a second in his home Grand Prix of France. After some choice words about the car at the Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari decided it was time to part ways. I was disappointed but it didn’t dampen my overall excitement.
For all non-Prost fans, the talk heading into the race was who out of Ayrton Senna or Nigal Mansell would win? 1991 was probably Senna’s finest year in Formula One. A year free of vital mistakes and maximum pressure on the opposition.
For the first time since 1988 however, McLaren had competition. Williams had started to capitalise on the promise of the last few years with the FW14. This car would be the base of the most dominate car for the next two years.
After a very poor start to the season Mansell started to mount a challenge from the Mexican Grand prix onwards.
He won three straight at the mid-point and was giving Senna and McLaren cause for vexation. But after a snafu at Portugal the title was pretty much all Senna’s. By the time the circus came to town the Championship was all settled but, as always with Adelaide, you wouldn’t know it. The city was amped and ready to party.
Dad decided to return to Stag turn for this year and I couldn’t have been happier. This would always be my favourite part of the circuit to view the Formula One cars from. Once again, Stag turn provided the action with about ten spins over the weekend.
In 1991 we still had two qualifying session across the Friday and Saturday. The big surprise out of qualifying was Senna and Gerhard Berger locking out the front row. Senna’s time on Friday would been enough for pole but, as if he was putting a full stop on the year, he went out and beat it on Saturday.
Berger and Mansell couldn’t improve on their Friday times so started second and third respectively with Riccardo Patrese in fourth.
Sunday started pretty normal. Warmish and overcast. Rain was predicted around mid-morning but Dad and I didn’t have the feeling it would be like 1989. In the end, it ended up being much worse. As was tradition in these situations, Dad and I would head to the pub pre-race.
Dad would drink with his mates and I’d watch the events at the track on the TV. From memory, the race start was delayed by at least one hour. In reality it needed to not go ahead at all. It was pretty clear the condition were much worse than 1989.
The race got underway and for the first few laps, everyone managed to keep it on the island but it quickly descended into carnage. What was holding the crowd’s attention was the race Senna and Mansell were putting on.
The thing I loved about this era of Formula One is I felt it was easier to visually see which drivers were extracting the most out of their cars. Every time Senna and Mansell flew past, you could just tell they were a class above everyone else.
Lap after lap after lap was mesmerising. Senna would pull out a little bit of a gap, next lap Mansell would return it with interest. Then Senna got the upper hand. Pure joy to watch in person.
Then, on lap 16, there was no Mansell and the crowd went flat. He spun off at the exit of the Senna chicane and clouted the wall hard. He would spend the night in hospital as a result. Senna, now probably snapping back to reality because he was no longer being chased, started to signal for the race to be stopped.
Officials finally saw sense and obliged a lap later. The race was over and within half an hour was called off. It was the shortest Grand Prix in history.
As a fan in attendance, at the time I felt a bit robbed but age has made me realise the right call was made. Also, it was my Dad’s money so I really wasn’t that put out. And on the plus side, I get to tell everyone I attend the shortest Grand Prix in history.