Sunday 4th November 1990
The 500th Formula One Grand Prix was held in Adelaide. The Australian Grand Prix was won for the second race in a row, by Brazilian veteran Nelson Piquet in his Benetton, giving the triple World Champion back to back wins for the first time since he won the 1987 German and Hungarian Grands Prix while driving for Williams-Honda. He took a 3.129 second victory over Nigel Mansell after the Englishman had tried a passing move under braking for the hairpin at the end of the Brabham Straight which almost took out both cars, Mansell somehow managed to pull his Ferrari up in time to just miss Piquet and the lapped Brabham-Judd of Stefano Modena as they turned into the right hand hairpin.
After making the best start, but being blocked in by the slow starting Berger, Alain Prost drove a steady, but for him unremarkable race other than a rare mistake when he ran wide at Brewery Bend late in the race while trying to stay ahead of the charging Mansell. Prost ran in 5th for most of the race, but eventually finished 3rd after Senna crashed out of the lead on lap 61 with gearbox trouble, and after Berger had also run wide at Brewery Bend and had to back off to conserve his tyres. Berger finished 4th, 9.6 seconds behind Prost. Rounding out the top six were the Williamses of 1989 Australian Grand Prix winner Thierry Boutsen, the last driver on the lead lap and in his last race for Williams, and Riccardo Patrese.
In Mansell’s late race pursuit of Piquet following a stop for tyres, he repeatedly broke Gerhard Berger’s 1987 lap record of 1:20.416 (set in the turbocharged Ferrari F1/87), and eventually lowered it to 1:18.203 on lap 75. In his efforts to stay ahead of Mansell, Piquet set his fastest race lap on lap 79 with a time of 1:18.527, and also emulated Prost and Berger’s earlier feats by running wide at Brewery Bend on lap 80 which allowed Mansell to close within two seconds. Piquet’s fastest lap, set on the tyres which he had started the race on, was also the second fastest lap of the race. In the post race interview with the top three finishers, Piquet said with a smile that after his lap 80 off which allowed Mansell to close up to him that he had to “drive like hell” over the last lap and a half, and that the “shit almost hit the fan”, referring to Mansell’s last-ditch overtaking move which almost took both cars out.
The victory allowed Piquet to claim third spot in the drivers championship in a countback after equalling the 43 points of Gerhard Berger (Piquet scored 2 wins compared to Berger who failed to win a race). It also allowed the Benetton team to secure third in the Constructors’ Championship over Williams, equaling its best finish from 1988.
The race was Riccardo Patrese’s 208th Grand Prix start in what was the 500th World Championship GP held. This meant that the Italian had driven in 41.6% of all Grands Prix held since the World Championship started in 1950. Patrese had started his F1 career with the Shadow team at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1977.