Ayrton Senna dominated the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix all weekend, with his qualifying lap widely regarded as the best single lap in F1 history.
The McLaren-Hondas domination continued. Ayrton Senna’s amazing qualifying lap was 1.4 seconds quicker than second place Alain Prost and 2.7 seconds than third qualified Gerhard Berger in the Ferrari.
Out of the 30 drivers trying to qualify only the fastest 26 were allowed to start the race. Satoru Nakajima (Lotus), Bernd Schneider (Zakspeed), Adrian Campos (Minardi), and Julian Bailey (Tyrrell) failed to qualify.
Ayrton Senna's qualifying lap during the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix is widely regarded as one of the best single laps in F1 history.
"I was kind of driving it by instinct, I was in a different dimension, I was in a tunnel, well beyond my conscious understanding. Some moments when I am actually driving just detach me completely from anything else."
- Ayrton Senna about his qualifying lap at Monaco 1988
Senna led from the start, Prost monetarily could not engage second gear and Berger overtakook him. The first corner at St Devote saw many accidents: Alex Caffi in his new Dallara-Ford hit the wall, AGS's Philippe Streiff retired from a stunning 12th place on the grid when an accelerator cable broke, and reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet had to retire at the end of the first lap after a collision with Eddie Cheever's Arrows.
Senna lead Berger, Prost, Mansell, Alboreto, and Nannini until lap 33 when Alboreto took Mansell off at the Swimming Pool while trying to overtake him. Mansell was out on the spot but Alboreto’s Ferrari was not damaged and was able to continue.
On lap 51, Riccardo Patrese tried to lap Philippe Alliot at Mirabeau and the pair collided heavily.
Prost managed to pass Berger on lap 54 for second place, but was some 55 seconds behind Senna. During the following laps the McLaren teammates traded fastest laps, but the gap stayed at around 55 seconds. With only 11 laps to the finish Ron Dennis, McLaren’s team boss, thinking of ensuring a 1 - 2 finish instructed Senna by radio to slow down, but Senna lost his concentration and crashed his MP4/4 into the barriers at Portier.
Senna stepped out of his McLaren and headed immediately to his home, a few blocks away from where he crashed. Prost won the race, followed by the two Ferraris of Berger and Alboreto completing the podium. Derek Warwick finished fourth in the Arrows, from Jonathan Palmer’s Tyrrel, and Riccardo Patrese claiming the final point for Williams.
The McLaren team did not hear from Senna until that evening when he walked into the pits as they were packing up. Ron Dennis confirmed in an interview in April 2014, that Senna had been so angry with himself that he went back to his flat in Monaco to let go and digest what had happened.