The race was won by Ayrton Senna, with Nigel Mansell in second position. Mansell was unable to take part in the post race podium ceremony, following a crash at the end of the race that left him requiring hospital treatment. Gerhard Berger, Senna's McLaren teammate, finished in third position. Because less than half the scheduled race distance had been completed, only half the normal World Championship points were awarded.
Both practice and qualifying sessions were sunny and dry. In pre-qualifying Gabriele Tarquini failed to pre-qualify as his track time was limited after a left rear suspension failure on the exit of turn 11, which turned his car into the wall. Naoki Hattori ended the season for Coloni with another pre-qualification failure, which they had achieved in every race meeting of the 1991 season. Hattori would not get another chance in Formula 1 after this event. In the main qualifying session, Aguri Suzuki crashed heavily at turn 1 which contributed to his failure to qualify. His new team mate Bertrand Gachot also didn't progress through qualifying. Martin Brundle, having finished in the points in the last race, surprisingly struggled and failed to qualify in his last race for Brabham-Yamaha. Stefano Modena also crashed in qualifying but was unhurt and able to take the race start on Sunday, having already set a time that was sufficient for him to secure th place on the grid. McLaren managed to qualify both their cars on the front row of the grid with Senna in pole position. Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, in the two Williams-Renault cars, occupied the second row. Benetton occupied the third row with Nelson Piquet out-qualifying Michael Schumacher for the only time in the 1991 season.
In the torrential rain the race started mostly without incident. Riccardo Patrese lost two places at the start and emerged behind Jean Alesi’s Ferrari but there were no accidents in the first few laps. However as the race continued into lap 3 Gerhard Berger, unseen by the television cameras, ran wide which allowed Nigel Mansell to move up to second position, but rejoining in third. Nigel Mansell then proceeded to quickly close the gap to Ayrton Senna in first place. But by lap 5 the incidents began to occur which would affect Nigel Mansell’s ability to pass Ayrton Senna. This was because so many yellow flags were being displayed by the marshals around the extremely wet circuit. On lap six Nigel Mansell moved alongside Senna on the Brabham Straight but quickly saw a wave from a marshal, who was leaning out from the barriers, to warn of wreckage ahead. Nicola Larini’s Modena-Lambo had crashed on the straight and was lying across the track. Mansell had to abandon his line and rejoin the racing line behind Senna, who had also had to avoid Jean Alesi’s stricken Ferrari, which had also crashed yards after Larini on the other side of the road.
Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi car aquaplaned on the Brabham Straight on lap 10, which sent his car straight into the right hand wall and rebounded to the other side of the track before eventually stopping out of the driver’s way. This indicated that the rain was beginning to fall even harder, and more torrential than before.
Riccardo Patrese was struggling with his car because a front wing, from another car, got stuck towards the front of his undertray. This was spotted by James Hunt in the BBC race commentary, although Murray Walker had suggested earlier that it was the undertray that was loose. Nigel Mansell then, as a result of the increasing downpour, spun off on the start of lap 16 on the Wakefield Road straight, before turn 3, having "instantly gone out of control". This was according to Mansell himself. The torrential downpour also made Michele Alboreto spin out of the race on lap 15 as well as Stefano Modena, in his last race for Tyrrell-Honda, although he continued.
Gerhard Berger spun off at the end of lap 16 having just recovered from an earlier spin at the Malthouse Corner moments before. Murray Walker said that the weather was becoming worse and the rain was lashing down on the start/finish line. Just after this happened Ayrton Senna drove onto the start/finish straight and gestured to the race officials, as he went past, to try to get the race stopped. Moments later, with Ayrton Senna on lap 17, the race was finally stopped. By the end of lap 16 the race order actually was Senna in 1st from Piquet, Morbidelli, de Cesaris, Zanardi and Modena. However, the race officials decided to count back to lap 14 despite the 1991 ruling that early race stoppages should have been counted back one lap. This incident was similar to the controversy of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, where computers finalising the race concluded the result a lap too early.
There were attempts to restart the race from the officials, who showed their determination to do so by ordering the 10 minute warning board to be displayed to the drivers and teams to indicate a race restart. But after serious protests from Ayrton Senna and Riccardo Patrese who stormed up the race stewards to argue against a restart, the race was finally abandoned for good. Roland Bruynseraede eventually waved the red flag to indicate the stoppage to the spectators, drivers and teams. As a result, Ayrton Senna was declared the race winner from Mansell and Berger.
The podium ceremony only had Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger present because Nigel Mansell was sent to hospital after the injuries he sustained in his crash on lap 16. Ayrton Senna in the post race press conference mentioned that “I don’t think that was a race, it was just a matter of staying on the circuit, and there was no point to try to go quick at all. It was impossible! We had a race, a very bad one, here a couple of years ago and then was impossible [in reference to the 1989 Australian Grand Prix] and today was even worse! There was even more water on the back straight”. Nigel Mansell, after being helped from his Williams-Renault commented that “everything was ok other than it was a complete joke, I mean there were debris all over the place”. He also made reference to the fact that “there was a truck down the straight” as well as four cars and, as a result, the race should have had 10 laps to be stopped.
With less than seventy-five percent of the race distance being completed, half the usual world championship points were awarded. Senna and Berger's result was enough for McLaren to win the 1991 World Constructors Championship by 14 points over Williams. This was McLaren's seventh constructors championship, and their fourth and last championship won with engine partners Honda.
|12||33||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan-Ford||1:17.050||+3.009|
|14||15||Mauricio Gugelmin||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:17.344||+3.303|
|26||16||Karl Wendlinger||Leyton House-Ilmor||1:18.282||+4.241|
|DNQ||35||Eric van de Poele||Lambo-Lamborghini||1:19.000||+4.959|
|2||5||Nigel Mansell||Williams-Renault||14||+ 1.259||3||3|
|3||2||Gerhard Berger||McLaren-Honda||14||+ 5.120||2||2|
|4||20||Nelson Piquet||Benetton-Ford||14||+ 30.103||5||1.5|
|5||6||Riccardo Patrese||Williams-Renault||14||+ 50.537||4||1|
|6||27||Gianni Morbidelli||Ferrari||14||+ 51.069||8||0.5|
|7||21||Emanuele Pirro||Dallara-Judd||14||+ 52.361||13|
|8||33||Andrea de Cesaris||Jordan-Ford||14||+ 1:00.431||12|
|9||32||Alessandro Zanardi||Jordan-Ford||14||+ 1:15.567||16|
|10||4||Stefano Modena||Tyrrell-Honda||14||+ 1:20.370||9|
|11||12||Johnny Herbert||Lotus-Judd||14||+ 1:22.073||21|
|12||22||Jyrki Järvilehto||Dallara-Judd||14||+ 1:38.519||11|
|13||9||Michele Alboreto||Footwork-Ford||14||+ 1:39.303||15|
|14||15||Mauricio Gugelmin||Leyton House-Ilmor||13||+ 1 Lap||14|
|15||10||Alex Caffi||Footwork-Ford||13||+ 1 Lap||23|
|16||24||Roberto Moreno||Minardi-Ferrari||13||+ 1 Lap||18|
|17||8||Mark Blundell||Brabham-Yamaha||13||+ 1 Lap||17|
|18||26||Érik Comas||Ligier-Lamborghini||13||+ 1 Lap||22|
|19||11||Mika Häkkinen||Lotus-Judd||13||+ 2 Laps||25|
|20||16||Karl Wendlinger||Leyton House-Ilmor||12||+ 2 Laps||26|
|Ret||23||Pierluigi Martini||Minardi-Ferrari||8||Spun Off||10|
|Ret||19||Michael Schumacher||Benetton-Ford||5||Spun Off||6|
|Ret||34||Nicola Larini||Lambo-Lamborghini||5||Spun Off||19|
|Ret||3||Satoru Nakajima||Tyrrell-Honda||4||Spun Off||24|
|DNQ||35||Eric van de Poele||Lambo-Lamborghini|