The Canadian Grand Prix returned to the Formula One calendar after a year’s absence. In the meantime, major changes had been made to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: the start-finish line, pit lane and facilities had been moved from the top end of the track to the bottom end, necessitating the removal of two turns, while other turns had been re-profiled slightly.

Senna’s aspirations of winning the championship hinged on a victory in Canadá. Alain Prost had 33 points overall, 18 more than the Brazilian. The last two races had been difficult for Ayrton, and he wasn’t willing to give his teammate the slightest chance, in Montreal. He had wrecked his racecar in Monaco and handed victory over. In Mexico, he followed team orders and stayed in second place.


Senna had started in the first row in the two previous years, but he was yet to score a pole position in Canada. It came on Saturday (June 11th) 0,2 seconds ahead of the Frenchman. It was Senna’s fifth pole position in a row, in the season’s fifth race. His lap of 1:21:681 became the track’s new record for an official training session.

The starting grid’s second row had Gerhard Berger’s and Michele Alboreto’s Ferraris. Alessandro Nannini and Nelson Piquet made up the third row in a race that would have 69 laps.

Formula One changed a lot throughout the years, particularly regarding strategies and rules, but at the Canadian GP fuel had always been a major obstacle for drivers, and it wouldn’t be different in 1988.

“Though difficult, a victory in Canada wouldn’t be bad at this point. So, I’ll do everything I can to reach it. I can’t let Prost get away from me. So, I hope I have a little more luck than in the last few races”, said Ayrton before the race.

Prost was starting on the track’s dirty side and had already complained to the officials. Something similar would happen two years later, in Suzuka, when he and Senna fought for the 1990 title. Prost had the right-of-way at the first corner and took the lead.

But the Canadian Grand Prix would have to be different from what came before. On lap 19, after waiting for the right time to strike, Ayrton braked late at the hairpin corner, exited with more traction and overtook Prost. The race would go down in history thanks to this maneuver. It would be Senna’s first win after overtaking Prost.

The #12 McLaren Honda completely dominated the last 50 laps, even breaking the circuit’s official record, with 1min24s973. After both Ferraris retired, all the British team had to worry about was fuel consumption. Thinking about that, the team’s engineers asked Senna to go easy on the car. In the end, the Brazilian crossed the finish line 5s934 ahead of the Frenchman. Benetton’s Thierry Boutsen rounded out the podium, as the only driver who finished in the same lap as the MacLarens.

“I completed each lap with an eye on the gauges, trying to control fuel consumption. Even then, I surprised myself at times, burning more than the team would allow”.

At the end of the race, after scoring the pole position, setting a new record for the track with his 53rd lap and leading for 50 laps, Senna could finally relax and admit the pressure he had put on his own shoulders.

“After everything that happened in the championship so far this victory was, indeed, special. It was even better to win here than at Imola”

-Ayrton Senna

Thanks to the victory, Senna passed Berger and was now only 15 points away from Prost (39 to 24). It was his 8th win in Formula One, and his second one as a McLaren Honda driver.

source: Ayrton Senna Official


Driver/Possition Constructor Time
1. Ayrton Senna McLaren MP4/4-Honda 1h:39m:46.618
2. Alain Prost McLaren MP4/4-Honda  + 5.934
3. Thierry Boutsen Benetton-Ford  + 51.409
4. Nelson Piquet Lotus-Honda  + 1 Lap
5. Ivan Capelli March-Judd  + 1 Lap
Jonathan Palmer Tyrrell-Ford  + 2 Laps