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