Friday 6 July 1990: the Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet turned 20 years old and it celebrated by hosting the French Formula 1 GP for the last time until it returned to the calendar in 2018. It was the seventh race of the season and the pattern continued, featuring a great duel between Ayrton Senna in the McLaren and the World Champion Alain Prost who, during the winter, had moved to Ferrari and was coming off the back of a win in Mexico.
At Paul Ricard, Ferrari showed the same domination they had displayed in Mexico City. Nigel Mansell took pole position but Prost was among the drivers who were dissatisfied after the session, as he was forced to qualify with the race engine after the more powerful one went up in smoke during free practice.
In terms of the race, the main worry was the tyres and there was concern that two stops may be required to get to the end of the race. However there was one team, which up until then had never been a front runner, which had an ace up its sleeve. It was Leyton House, previously March, which had a car so susceptible to the set up, that on the bumpy tarmac in Mexico, Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin could not even qualify. The designer, a 27-year-old by the name of Adrian Newey, had just left the team but before leaving, he had introduced an aerodynamic element on the CG901 which made Le Castellet the perfect track for them.
At the start, Riccardo Patrese in the Williams surprised the pole sitter Gerhard Berger, who also lost second place to his McLaren teammate, Ayrton Senna. On lap 13, Mansell was running in second but it was Prost who caught everyone’s attention with such a fast pace that he was cutting through the field, and by the second half of the race, the Frenchman had caught up to the leading group.
Fifteen laps from the finish, Prost passed Mansell and gained ground on Senna who started to suffer with tyre degradation problems related to his strategy which was different to Ferrari’s, the Brazilian opting not to pit.
Prost took the chequered flag ahead of Capelli and Senna. For Scuderia Ferrari, it was victory number 100 in Formula 1, while Alain’s second victory in a row reopened the fight for the World Championship given that he was now just three points off Senna. In the statistinc for being the most winning team Ferrari led the field. McLaren had 83 wins, Lotus 79 and Williams 43. A few hours later, in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, the Germany-Argentina match was starting, the final of the football World Cup, but for Italian fans, they had already won the most important match that day.