Team-mates Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell fought for the title, and the Englishman was a strong contender until an accident sidelined him in Japan. Piquet accepted the laurels for the third time, even before the race started.
With the FIA considering turbos now too powerful and engine development too expensive, it made something of a U-turn and a new formula was announced: from 1989, Formula One would return to atmospheric (normally-aspirated) engines, this time of 3.5-litre capacity. There would be two interim years, however, and to encourage teams to change the Jim Clark Cup was introduced for drivers of "atmo" cars.
In response, Cosworth produced the "atmo" DFZ which was used by Tyrrell, March, AGS and Larrousse. For those sticking with turbo engines, boost would be restricted to four bar and minimum weight would be 540kg, with 500kg allowed for "atmo" cars. With Pirelli having quit in 1986, Goodyear had a tyre monopoly and elected not to produce a qualifying tyre, in order to keep costs in check.
On the engine front, Renault had withdrawn and Lotus had attracted Honda, with Satoru Nakajima as part of the package. Ford moved to Benetton, with Thierry Boutsen joining Teo Fabi as Gerhard Berger had moved to Ferrari to partner Michele Alboreto after Stefan Johansson had joined Alain Prost at McLaren. Williams continued with Mansell and Piquet.
Elsewhere, Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick lined up for Arrows, Andrea de Cesaris stepped up from Minardi to Brabham, Jonathan Palmer joined Tyrrell from Zakspeed, leaving Martin Brundle to head the other way. March returned with a single Leyton House-liveried car for Ivan Capelli.
Mansell and Piquet shared the front row in Rio de Janeiro and, although Piquet led early on, Prost won with Piquet second and Johansson third. In Imola luck went against Piquet when he crashed and was unable to start. Mansell powered past poleman Senna to win. Mansell and Piquet shared the front row at Spa-Francorchamps. The race was stopped after Tyrrell's Streiff and Palmer crashed. So did Mansell and Senna later on, leading to a confrontation. Prost won after Piquet retired, with Johansson second and de Cesaris a surprise third for Brabham, albeit running out of fuel before the finish and only staying ahead of Cheever's fourth-placed Arrows as it was a lap behind.
Mansell led at Monaco until his turbo broke, leaving Senna to score the first of his many wins there. Piquet was second ahead of Alboreto - who'd survived a clatter with the barriers after colliding with Christian Danner's Zakspeed in qualifying - and Berger. Danner was disqualified from the meeting for not showing sufficient care after exiting the pits. In Detroit, Mansell led from pole, but Senna took over as he was hit by cramp and won from Piquet and Prost.
Mansell won the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Then, after a late tyre stop at Silverstone, Mansell beat Piquet in an inspired charge that culminated in him taking the lead with just over two laps to go with a bold dive into Stowe. Senna and Nakajima followed the Williams pair home, albeit a lap in arrears, for a Honda top-four.
Mansell's engine failed in Germany and Piquet won while Johansson came second with a flat tyre as just seven cars finished. Then Mansell took pole in Hungary but failed to finish when he lost a wheel nut, and Piquet won from Senna and Prost. Senna dropped a bombshell on Lotus that weekend, announcing that his dissatisfaction with the 99T was making him quit the team at the end of the year.
The Austrian Grand Prix was stopped twice by crashes on the pit straight before Mansell won easily from Piquet. Johansson hit a deer in qualifying. Had he done so head-on, he would undoubtedly have met the same fate as the deer.
Piquet pipped Mansell to pole at Monza, and then won with Mansell third, the pair split by Senna. Berger led most of the way in Portugal but Prost won with Piquet third, while Mansell retired.
Mansell won at Jerez ahead of Prost, Johansson and Piquet. Then he won in Mexico, in a race interrupted by an accident from which Warwick emerged unscathed. Piquet was second.
For the first time since 1977 Japan had a grand prix, this time at Suzuka. Mansell crashed in practice and hurt his back. Piquet celebrated, for Mansell was out for the weekend, and was to miss the final race too, making Piquet champion. Ironically, Piquet didn't score in either. Instead, Berger won both. Senna and Johansson followed him home in Japan, then Berger led all the way in Australia from Senna. However, the Lotus was disqualified for having illegal brakes, and it cost Senna second place overall.
Palmer won the Jim Clark Cup, while Tyrrell won the constructors' version. Not that many people noticed, with Palmer 11th overall.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books