The intense battle for the 1986 Formula 1 World Championship was entering its final throes as the circus arrived in Mexico City for the penultimate round.
On this day in... 1986
Back on the calendar for the first time since 1970, the high-altitude, bumpy Hermanos Rodriguez circuit had been shortened and made safer for F1’s return and the abrasive surface would play a defining role in the outcome of the October 12th race.
Ayrton Senna got one over the dominant Williams-Hondas of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell by sticking his Lotus on pole, although his early lead was shortlived when Piquet put the #6 Williams in front at the first corner.
With a mathematical chance of lifting his maiden Drivers’ title that afternoon, Mansell went nowhere at the start, the #5 Williams desperately slow away and running right down at the back as his title rivals made good their escape.
Piquet led the race until just before half-distance, the point at which his Goodyear slicks cried enough. It would be the first of three stops the Brazilian would need to make, highlighting the problem of the abrasive surface.
As all the frontrunners made their customary stops, the Pirelli-shod Benetton of Gerhard Berger, which had qualified fourth, pounded around relentlessly and duly moved into the lead as its Italian rubber (hard compound on the left, soft on the right) stood up to the battering.
Mansell had pulled off a stunning charge from the back to catch up to and hassle Piquet but he couldn’t find a way past the sister Williams, settling instead for fifth and two Championship points that he hoped would be crucial for the Australian GP finale. The ever-wily Prost cemented second to move closer to Mansell in the points standings.
On an historic day for both Berger and Benetton, maiden F1 victories came the way of both the Austrian and the British team. It would also mark the final win for the BMW turbocharged engine.
Two weeks later, the Championship would be decided on the streets of Adelaide in a truly dramatic fashion – and it would again involve both Williams drivers, tyre wear and the wily Alain Prost…
1986 Mexican Grand Prix
1. Gerhard Berger (AUT) – Benetton B186-BMW, 68 laps
2. Alain Prost (F) – McLaren MP4/2C-TAG, +25.438s
3. Ayrton Senna (BR) – Lotus 98T-Renault, +52.513s
4. Nelson Piquet (BR) – Williams FW11-Honda, 67 laps
5. Nigel Mansell (GB) – Williams FW11-Honda, 67 laps
6. Philippe Alliot (F) – Ligier JS27-Renault, 67 laps
Photography courtesy of LAT Images
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