ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 32

  A Race to Remember

  by Marcel Schot, Netherlands

Every Grand Prix Venue has its most remembered race; that race where the mighty gods of Formula One diced and dodged to achieve eternal greatness and set the record books straight. But every Grand Prix venue also has remarkable races that were pushed aside in the history books, for no good reason. Atlas F1 writer Marcel Schot reviews, ahead of every Grand Prix this season, one race which should be memorised and valued; that one round in history which makes a Race to Remember

The 1986 Hungarian GP

There can be little doubt about which Hungarian Grand Prix has been the most significant in Formula One history. Even if the race was the most boring one in history, which incidentally it wasn't, the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix had an impact well beyond Formula One. Bernie Ecclestone, always looking for ways to expand his empire, had managed to bring Formula One to Eastern Europe. While the initial idea of a race through the streets of Moscow proved to be a bit too revolutionary, the Hungarian government gladly agreed to organize a race near Budapest.

Nowadays, the Hungaroring is often named as the worst circuit on the calendar and every year it is a point of discussion whether it should remain on the calendar or not. The slow and tight nature of the circuit is the main reason that it is criticized. However, back in 1986 the circuit was even slower than it is now. During the building of the track between October 1985 and June 1986, an underground spring was discovered at the site where the fastest corner of the track was to be situated. Due to time limitations, it was decided to make an extra chicane to avoid the spring.

Before the race

With ten of the sixteen races done, the World Championship battle was about to go into its decisive phase in Hungary. Going eastwards, Williams driver Nigel Mansell was leading the championship with 51 points. Hot on his tail were McLaren's Alain Prost with 44, looking to defend his title, Lotus driver Ayrton Senna with 42 and his countryman Nelson Piquet, who was back with the leaders after his victory at Hockenheim, which brought him up to 38 points. Second McLaren driver Keke Rosberg was a distant fifth with 19 points. Ferrari were having their worst season of all time, Stefan Johansson and Michele Alboreto combining for a total of 13 points. French Ligier driver Jacques Laffite had scored 14 points, but he saw his Formula One career ended by a heavy crash in the British Grand Prix halfway through the season.

In the first qualifying session, Mansell immediately showed his confidence by driving the fastest lap by far. With a time of 1:30.516, the Briton was nearly a second faster than his teammate Piquet, while qualifying ace Ayrton Senna, who had scored five poles in the first ten races of the season, clocked a time 1.7 seconds slower than Mansell. Benetton driver Gerhard Berger set the fourth fastest time in the first session, helped by his Pirelli tyres. Prost appeared to have done little more than reconnaissance laps, as his fastest was 2.5 seconds off pole.

On day two, Ayrton Senna had sorted out how the track worked, scraping a massive 2.8 seconds off his Friday time to claim pole in 1:29.450. Alain Prost also found his rhythm, improving by over 3 seconds to claim third. Between the two wasn't Mansell, but Piquet. The Brazilian put his Williams next to Senna with a 1:29.785. Where most drivers found at least one and a half seconds in the second session, Mansell improved only by half a second, moving him from provisional pole to fourth. Berger suffered from the same lack of improvement, dropping from fourth to eleventh. Biggest improvement was Rene Arnoux. The old Ligier driver improved over four and a half seconds to climb from a disastrous 20th place to a decent ninth spot on the grid.

  • View the full starting grid at FORIX
  • The race

    Right from the start, it was clear that this was to be a two man show. The two Brazilians on the front row pulled away, and were only seen again when they showed up in the rear-view mirrors of the drivers they lapped. From the start, even Piquet had great trouble keeping up with Senna. The Lotus driver took off with an amazing 1:35 opening lap. Senna managed to create a small gap of about three seconds during the opening laps of the race, but Piquet counter attacked, and after eight laps he was right back under Senna's gearbox.

    During those early laps, the back of the grid was troubled by various mechanical problems. First victim was Osella's Allen Berg, who saw his turbo die in just the second lap of the race. A lap later, Dutchman Huub Rothengatter's Zakspeed stopped with a leaking radiator, thus eliminating the back row of the grid in the timeframe of one minute. During lap five, Andrea de Cesaris' Minardi suffered from a malfunctioning engine. The Italian was able to reach the pits, but that was it. Brabham driver Riccardo Patrese was the next to abandon the race, shortly followed by Arrows' Christian Danner.

    For the next four laps, Piquet tried several times to outbrake Senna, but the tight circuit didn't help him much. During lap twelve, the Williams driver finally squeezed through, immediately striking a gap. While Mansell, Prost and Rosberg didn't drive badly, the record crowd of 200,000 was in awe with the display the two Brazilians were showing them. In three laps, Piquet increased his lead to five seconds.

    Then, on lap 18, Senna made a rare mistake, dropping no less than three seconds in one lap. Seemingly angry about this error, the Lotus driver then drove all out for several laps, while Piquet was suffering from tyre wear. By lap 25 Senna had brought the gap from eight back to three seconds, only to fall back to seven seconds again when Piquet pulled out another fast lap.

    The two McLarens were now running fastest on the track. However with their imminent tyre stops, and being already quite a distance behind the leaders, their role was pretty much one in the margin of this race. However, Alain Prost didn't even make it to the pits as he collided with his countryman Rene Arnoux. Arnoux was able to continue, but for Prost the race was over. These two weren't the only ones to collide. When Alboreto attempted to lap Derek Warwick, who had replaced Elio de Angelis at Brabham after the Italian had died earlier in the season during testing at Paul Ricard, the Ferrari and the Brabham came together. Both cars were out, too damaged to continue.

    After 35 laps, Nelson Piquet went in for his pitstop. At that time, his lead was five seconds, so Ayrton Senna easily took over the lead. The young Brazilian then went full throttle until his own pitstop in order to take maximum profit from the laps between Piquet's pitstop and his own. Senna's plan succeeded and when his pitstop was done in lap 42, he came out the leader by seven seconds. What followed was a frantic battle between two countrymen on fresh rubber posting nearly identical laptimes for nearly ten laps in a row.

    By then it became clear Senna's car wasn't 100%. In a period of five laps, Piquet was able to get back with Senna and pass his rival at the end of the start finish straight. Piquet passed Senna in a way that the Lotus driver never expected, which was probably the only way to go. Piquet went around the outside going into the first corner, and soon opened a small lead, of about four seconds.

    However, Senna responded yet again and what followed was a stunning race to the flag as the Williams and Lotus raced through the Hungarian hills faster and faster. There was little traffic left, as the number of cars had been reduced to just ten during the race. Among those who had left the race were all six BMW powered cars (Arrows, Benetton and Brabham), making it a very bad day for the Bavarian marque. Each time when one of the two leading Brazilians would improve their fastest lap, the other would respond right away.

    Ten laps from the end, Senna finally got his break as Piquet ran into backmarkers. The Williams driver posted a 1:35 and a 1:36, while Senna was running 1:34s at the time, allowing the Lotus driver to catch up for the grand finale. For the next seven laps there was rarely more than a foot between the two, but Piquet didn't give Senna a chance to pass. In lap 73 Piquet set the fastest lap of the race at a ripping 1:31.001, two tenths faster than Senna during the previous lap and 1.6 seconds faster than the third fastest driver, Keke Rosberg. Behind the two leaders things were settled, as the gaps between the various drivers were all over ten seconds.

    In lap 74 the great battle all of a sudden ended in an enormous anti-climax. When Piquet blasted past start finish, the crowd waited and waited for Senna to show. The black Lotus finally showed, eight seconds behind Piquet's Williams. As they came around again, Piquet's victory was clear. The Williams driver had stopped pushing as Senna dropped yet another four seconds. The final lap saw Senna even registering a 1:40 lap as he crawled across the line to claim second.

    Piquet's teammate and bitter rival Mansell came third, a lap and 40 seconds behind. Sixteen seconds behind Mansell, Stefan Johansson claimed fourth in the Ferrari. Surprisingly fifth was Senna's teammate Johnny Dumfries. With both McLarens and Benettons retiring, the Scotsman grabbed his chance and finished ahead of Briton Martin Brundle in the Tyrrell.

  • View the final classification at FORIX
  • View the race history chart at FORIX
  • Conclusion

    The was the first of many tough battles between two arch rivals. The rivalry between Piquet and Senna went much further than Senna and Prost ever did. This was Sao Paulo vs Rio de Janeiro, the old fox vs the young puppy. Piquet was burning with desire to show the new kid he was still the master, but at the same time he knew that this kid was going to capture his throne as most popular Brazilian driver. This rivalry showed in every inch of the first Hungarian Grand Prix. After the race, another rivalry would explode, as Nigel Mansell found out that Piquet had found a way to significantly improve his car and had neglected to inform his teammate of this. Both drivers demanded the number one spot in the team, which resulted in Frank Williams putting them on equal footings.

    The championship battle really got underway after Hungary. Mansell was still leading, now having 55 points, but Piquet and Senna were closing in. The two Brazilians now both had 48. Alain Prost suffered through his early exit, but that wouldn't keep the Frenchman from battling for the title. As the season progressed, Senna dropped back because of a lack of reliability of the Lotus, while for Piquet, Mansell and Prost, the battle for the title went all the way to the wire.

    Marcel Schot© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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