On this day, 23 years ago, Ayrton Senna was crowned a triple world champion after finishing second in Japan.
Senna had arrived in Japan 16 points ahead of Nigel Mansell. After qualifying, Berger had clinched pole position with Senna in second and Mansell in third.
The strategy for McLaren was to let Berger keep the lead, with Senna behind holding Mansell back. On the 9th lap, the Brit tried to overtake the Brazilian but couldn’t control the car and spun. His hopes were over.
Senna said: “I saw the whole thing through my rear view mirror and admit that I wasn’t sad. In that moment I thought, ‘yes, now I can race the way I like to: in high gear and to win’. I was focused on the title. That was the opportunity I had been waiting for. There was no better way to win the world title than that: winning the Grand Prix as I did in 1988, in Japan. And I was just about to do so when Ron Dennis called me on the radio. I asked him to repeat the message and, once again, I couldn’t hear it very well. Then I decided to take my foot off the gas and let Berger pass.”
What Ron had asked him was to let Berger win the race. Senna: “If I’d said I hadn’t understood the request, everyone would have believed it. But Berger gave a beautiful performance and deserved to win as much as I did.”