The German Grand Prix promised to follow the same script as the British one, in which Senna had taken advantage of the rain to wow audiences with his McLaren, two weeks prior. Alain Prost was leading the championship, six points ahead of his teammate (54 to 48). Therefore, Senna needed a victory to start the next GP on equal footing.
On the week before the race, drivers had practice sessions at Hockenheim, and Ayrton was pleased with his performance. After driving for almost 900 km in two days, on dry and wet track, he was 2s64 quicker than second-best Thierry Boutsen, with his Benetton. It was a huge advantage, which made the Brazilian even more confident when it came to the official time trials.
A little before getting into his car for the qualifying rounds, Senna saw Steve Nichols, his car’s engineer, looking up at the sky and joked:
Every driver in Hockenheim was worried about the threatening weather. During the practice sessions, the track was occasionally dry, but the rain pounded the track throughout the weekend. Ayrton Senna had the pole position once again and was hoping for a rainy day, of course. Alain Prost, on the other hand, would rather see the sun shine.
In the session that defined the starting grid, Senna held on to the time he had clocked on Fridaym 1min44s596m 0s277 faster than Prost. It was Senna’s seventh pole position out of a possible nine in the season. The second row was occupied by Gerhard berger and Michele Alboreto. If, in previous races, the Ferraris werer no match for the McLarens, everyone expected to be different this time, since the Italian team had a V12 engine that was supposed to make a difference in the long Hockenheim straights.
On Sunday, the flaky European summer dropped a fine, intermittent drizzle over the circuit, keeping the track wet for the Grand Prix’s 44 laps. Without a modern draining system, the track never dried up, and drivers who started with wet tires didn’t even have to make a pit-stop.
At the start, Senna pulled ahead right after the first corner. Prost took a while to move, and was overtaken by Berger and Nannini, falling to fourth place. Nelson Piquet started in fifth and took a chance using slick tires, but never made past the first chicane, where he hit the tire barrier.
In the fifth lap, Senna was already six seconds ahead of Berger. The Brazilian tried to open the gap, while Prost was intent on taking back second place. On lap 11, Ayrton had a scare. The Brazilian tried to pass Philppe Alliot, one of the backmarkers, but the Frenchman slipped right when he was being overtaken and almost took Senna out of the race – he was a few centimeters away from getting hit.
After 12 laps, Prost took back the second position after passing Nannini and Berger. Ayrton was 12 seconds ahead of him, and things didn’t really change throughout the German track’s 44 laps and 6,797 meters.
Senna held on to his margin and sealed the deal. He opted to drive in a more controlled manner, racing through the beautiful landscape of Hockenheim to secure his first win in Germany – in style, from start to finish.
Prost spun out at the end of the race, but still finished in second. Berger rounded out the podium and Nannini retired from the race, leaving the fourth place to Alboreto’s Ferrari.
It was Senna’s fifth win in the season and 11th in his career. Prost had won one race less than Senna, but still had a three-point lead in the championship (60 to 57).
“I believe this championship will come down to the number of wins each of the two frontrunners is able to secure. Even though I’m three points behind Prost, it’s nice to have won more than him. I think this will make a difference at the end of the season”, said Senna to the press after the race, stressing the fact that according to the rules, only the 11 best results out of 16 would count. And, in Suzuka, the Brazilian’s prediction would turn out to be absolutely correct.