On the 5th of November, 1989, Williams driver Thierry Boutsen won Australian Grand Prix in horrid conditions. It happened on the Adelaide street circuit, which was the chosen venue from 1985 to 1995.
The controversy before the race
This was the last race of the 1989 F1 season, which concluded in a controversial fashion. Due to the disqualification of Ayrton Senna from the Japanese Grand Prix, following the crash between him, and Alain Prost, the latter became a World Champion.
Senna, respectively, threatened the governing body, that he will leave the sport, and not attend the last race of the season. Some persuasion from his boss at McLaren – Ron Dennis, and his family members was enough to keep him on the grid.
Adelaide was a tricky street track
The Brazilian was significantly faster than everybody throughout practice and the qualifying session. One, that saw backmarker Minardi achieve a third-place starting position with Pierluigi Martini.
Unfortunately for Martini, the conditions on Sunday were treacherous. It was so bad, that Prost went out with a statement, that he will not race more than one lap. Surprisingly, he really pulled into the pitlane at the end of lap 1.
Not long after that, the race was stopped. When it eventually resumed, Ayrton Senna produced an amazing first lap to pull a 9-second lead on the Minardi. By the time Boutsen overtook Pierluigi Martini, he was 23-seconds behind leader Senna.
Soon later, another Formula 1 legend, retired from the race, after being pushed wide. Rene Arnoux participated in his last Grand Prix, ending his career with a DNF.
On lap 12, Ayrton Senna was leading the race by a mile. Unfortunately, while trying to lap the Lotus of Nelson Piquet and the Brabham of Martin Brundle, Senna was blinded by the spray coming out of Brundle’s car. He crashed right into the back of the Brit, leaving him with no rear wing, and losing his front-left tire in the process.
Faith turns in favor of Thierry Boutsen
This meant that the overly cautious Thierry Boutsen inherited the lead. His race was mainly quiet until the moment he closed down to the back of Emanuele Pirro. He was driving for Benetton, whose team leader Alessandro Nannini was quickly eating through Boutsen’s lead. After three laps of ignoring blue flags, Pirro was overtaken by the race leader, who was outraged.
Then, the Belgian would pull a 28.658-second gap to second-placed Nannini to win the Australian Grand Prix at the 2-hours mark. Despite being three laps down, Pierluigi Martini with Minardi finished in sixth place, which back then was the last point-scoring position.