Finishing First

As Formula 1™ embraces turbocharging once more, we look back to the final race of the original turbo era –

The 1988 Australian Grand Prix.

Adelaide hosted the Australian Grand Prix for a decade between 1985 and 1995, and in that time Glen Dicks became something of a celebrity. Wearing a canary yellow jacket, Dicks was the local race official who waved the chequered flag at the end of the F1 race, and spectators and TV viewers soon began to notice him because of his obvious enthusiasm for the job. Jumping and crouching, swirling and twirling, Dicks looked like a ballet dancer trying to swat a moth. 
Of all Adelaide’s GP races, one holds special significance: when Dicks whirled his flag over Alain Prost’s McLaren in 1988, he wasn’t just closing that year’s race – he was also marking the end of the first turbo era in Formula 1, and bringing the curtain down on one of Formula 1’s most remarkable seasons.
This turbo era had begun in 1977, but by 1986, mindful of rising costs and speeds, the FIA decided it would start limiting turbo power to level the playing field, before a total ban came into force in 1989.

By the start of the 1988 season, some teams had already switched to naturally aspirated engines, but others committed to one last season of turbo power before the ban. 
McLaren, with its engine partner Honda, chose to develop the MP4/4, based around a new turbocharged V6 engine. It would be driven by then-double world champion Alain Prost, along with his new team-mate, 28-year-old Brazilian Ayrton Senna. 
This electrifying combination proved to be virtually unbeatable: by the halfway point of the season, McLaren had won every race, and a clean sweep looked possible. In the end, only denied victory in the Italian GP, the McLaren pairing won a remarkable 15 of the season’s 16 races. The team claimed its fourth constructors’ title with more than double the points of its nearest competitor; and Senna, with eight wins, won his first drivers’ crown in his first season with the team. 
But it was Prost who took that chequered flag in Adelaide, in what was the last turbo race – or at least it was until March 2014, when Australia played host to the start of a new turbo era.


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