Ayrton Senna may have only been in his second season of Formula 1 in 1985 but he had already established a reputation as a qualifying specialist. The Brazilian moved from Toleman to Lotus that season and wasted no time confirming his status as a rising star in Formula 1, claiming pole position in four of the first six races of 1985.
Senna had the most pole positions across the season with six heading into the first Adelaide Grand Prix. And with the fastest times in the qualifying sessions on the streets of Monte Carlo and Detroit, he was the favourite to score the inaugural pole position in Adelaide. Williams’ Keke Rosberg outpaced Senna by one-hundredth of a second in the first qualifying session on the Friday, though Senna bounced back emphatically in the second session on Saturday.
Flicking his Lotus 97T Renault around the Adelaide Parklands circuit, Senna became the only driver over to set a time in the 1:19 bracket that weekend. His 1:19.843 lap was seven-tenths quicker than the next best achieved by Nigel Mansell; two seconds faster than Rosberg and the rest of the field; and over three seconds faster than teammate Elio de Angelis.
Senna’s race ended with an engine failure following on from a tangle with eventual winner Rosberg. But Senna’s seventh pole position confirmed his arrival as a genuine force in Formula 1, coinciding with the start of the Adelaide Grand Prix era.