Mansell's famous tyre failure, 1986 Australian GP

As we celebrate the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix, we’re going to roll back the years and talk about some of our favourite Formula 1 races in Australia.

And what better way to continue than to reminisce about the 1986 race at Adelaide, which many will consider to be one of the most dramatic an exciting of the 1980s…

The season-ending race was the showdown of a three-way fight for World Championship honours between the warring Williams pairing of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, with McLaren driver Alain Prost lurking in the background and ready to pounce in the event of any slip-ups.

Mansell came into the race weekend with 70 championship points, seven points ahead of Piquet, who himself trailed Prost with 64 points. Williams’ Honda-powered FW11 had proven to be the pacesetter all year, while Prost’s McLaren TAG was less powerful, but had generally enjoyed the better reliability record. Prost also had the advantage of a team-mate, Keke Rosberg, who had not pinched points off him in the manner that the two Williams drivers had done as they waged their battle at the front of the field.

Qualifying saw Mansell hustle around Adelaide streets to claim pole position, sharing the front row with Piquet, while Ayrton Senna in the Lotus would start on the second row alongside Prost, with Rene Arnouz (Ligier) and Gerhard Berger (Benetton) taking Mansell leads from the startthe third row.

Mansell’s pole advantage lasted all of two corners before Senna forced his way ahead to claim the lead. The Englishman had a fairly circumspect first lap, and dropped to fourth behind Piquet (who needed no less than a win to have any hope of the title) and a fast-starting Rosberg, who had started the race in seventh place.

Before the end of the first lap, Piquet had blasted past Senna to become the third leader on the one lap, and Senna would lose positions to Rosberg and Mansell over the next three laps. By the end of the sixth lap, he’d also succumbed to Prost.

Keke Rosberg On the seventh lap, Rosberg – who had announced that he would retire from Formula 1 after this race and was determined to defend his win here the year before – claimed the lead from Piquet and quickly set about building himself a lead.

Behind them, the positions kept changing as Prost got by Mansell and set about chasing down Piquet. Mansell was seemingly content to sit in fourth and wait for the battle to unfold ahead of him.

There would be more drama when Piquet, under pressure from Prost, had a quick spin at Turn 3 before pirouetting back into the running behind Mansell.

Prost’s hopes of snatching the championship went belly-up when he suffered a puncture and had to pit, rejoining in fourth behind Rosberg, Mansell and Piquet.

On the 44th lap, Piquet blasted by Mansell to claim second place, while Prost set about closing on the pair of them. With 25 laps to go, the trio were running close together.

The battle still wasn’t over, and their fight became one for the lead when Rosberg’s right-rear tyre delaminated and he was out of the race.

Piquet now led, but he needed Mansell to retire to have any hope of a third championship crown for himself…

And Mansell duly did, in spectacular fashion, on Lap 65. Rocketing down the circuit’s long back straight, Mansell’s left-rear tyre exploded at 180mph. It was a miracle he managed to pull the car up to a stop without hitting anyone, but his title hopes were finished.

With Williams now feeling circumspect over two tyre failures in the space of three laps, Piquet was called into the pits for a fresh set of tyres, losing the lead to Prost.

Prost, now fifteen seconds in front, was facing his own dramas, with his fuel gauge long since claiming that he was going to run out of fuel before the end of the race. The Frenchman lapped as slowly as he dared, while Piquet trimmed the gap lap after lap.

On the final lap, it was down to just over four seconds, but a disbelieving Prost stuttered over the line to claim a famous, if unlikely, race win and the second of his four Drivers’ Championship titles.


1986 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (82 laps):

Driver Team Laps Result Grid
1. Alain Prost FRA McLaren – TAG V6T MP4/2C 82 1:54:20.388 4
2. Nelson Piquet BRZ Williams – Honda V6T FW11 82 + 4.205 2
3. Stefan Johansson SWE Scuderia Ferrari V6T F186 81 1 lap behind 12
4. Martin Brundle GBR Tyrrell – Renault V6T 011 81 1 lap behind 16
5. Philippe Streiff FRA Ligier – Lamborghini V12 JS35B 80 Out of fuel 10
6. Johnny Dumfries GBR Lotus – Renault V6T 98T 80 2 laps behind 14
7. Rene Arnoux FRA Ligier – Renault V6T JS27 79 3 laps behind 5
8. Philippe Alliot FRA Ligier – Renault V6T JS27 79 3 laps behind 8
9. Jonathan Palmer GBR Zakspeed L4T 861 77 5 laps behind 21
10. Teo Fabi ITA Benetton – BMW L4T B186 77 5 laps behind 13
NC. Patrick Tambay FRA Haas Lola – Ford V6T THL2 70 12 laps behind 17
DNF. Nigel Mansell GBR Williams – Honda V6T FW11 63 Tyre failure 1
DNF. Riccardo Patrese ITA Brabham – BMW L4T BT55 63 Electrical 19
DNF. Keke Rosberg FIN McLaren – TAG V6T MP4/2C 62 Tyre failure 7
NC. Allen Berg CAN Osella – Alfa Romeo V8T FA1F 61 21 laps behind 26
DNF. Derek Warwick GBR Brabham – BMW L4T BT55 57 Brakes 20
DNF. Christian Danner DEU Arrows – Megatron L4T A8 52 Engine 24
DNF. Thierry Boutsen BEL Arrows – Megatron L4T A8 50 Throttle 22
DNF. Ayrton Senna BRZ Lotus – Renault V6T 98T 43 Engine 3
DNF. Gerhard Berger AUT Benetton – BMW L4T B186 40 Engine 6
DNF. Andrea de Cesaris ITA Minardi – M’Moderni V6T M186 40 Extinguisher 11
DNF. Huub Rothengatter NED Zakspeed L4T 861 29 Suspension 23
DNF. Alan Jones AUS Haas Lola – Ford V6T THL2 16 Engine 15
DNF. Alessandro Nannini ITA Minardi – M’Moderni V6T M185B 10 Accident 18
DNF. Piercarlo Ghinzani ITA Osella – Alfa Romeo V8T FA1G 2 Crown wheel 25
DNF. Michele Alboreto ITA Scuderia Ferrari V6T F186 0 Accident 9
Nelson Piquet BRZ Williams – Honda V6T FW11 82 1:20.787  

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.