Senna Wraps Up 1991 Formula One Crown

SUZUKA, Japan (UPI) — Ayrton Senna of Brazil won the 1991 Formula One championship with a second-place finish Sunday in the Japanese Grand Prix. Teammate Gerhard Berger of Austria won the race.

It was Senna’s second straight Formula One driving title and third in four years. He clinched the title in Japan in 1988 and 1990. The Formula One title has been decided in Japan the last three years.

Senna, who was timed in 1:32.11.039, needed to finish second or ahead of rival Nigel Mansell of Britain to clinch the championship. Mansell, in a Williams-Renault, spun out on the ninth lap.

Senna lost the lead twice, finally to Berger in the 52nd lap with the McLaren-Honda team monopolizing the top two positions.

“I stuck with our plan, that we would help each other out” in defending the top two spots, Senna said. “I was a little conservative in the race because I thought it was the right strategy. Fortunately, we were able to have a clean championship this year.”

Senna was referring to the 1989 race in which a crash involving then-teammate Alain Prost of France caused him to lose in the final laps. Senna’s appeal was denied.

“I was robbed badly by the system, and that I will never forget,” Senna said.

Berger, who won the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix, started from the pole and finished in 1:32.10.695, three-tenths of a second ahead of Senna. Berger averaged 125.702 mph.

Berger led until the 18th lap, when Senna pulled ahead. Senna lost the lead in the 22nd lap, regained it in the 24th, and remained ahead from the 24th through the 52nd. He rose his arm in victory, even as he fell into second place in the final lap when Berger overtook him.

Mansell, the only threat to Senna’s title going into Sunday’s race, spun out on a dirt curve in the ninth lap. He was third at the time and had been counting on this race for his first world championship title. His departure left no real competition to the Senna-Berger pair.

Italy’s Riccardo Patrese was third in 1:33.07.426, followed by Prost at 1:33.31.456.

The race was particularly disappointing for Japanese veteran Satoru Nakajima, who plans to retire after this season. Nakajima, in a Tyrrell-Honda, crashed on the 31st lap.