Mansell’s hopes explode, Prost wins: 1986 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix
The 1986 Australian Grand Prix must go down as the most dramatic race of the decade. The race in Adelaide was a three-way fight for the World Championship between Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. Mansell had 70 points, seven more than Piquet, but they were split by Prost with 64. Mansell was the hot favourite with Piquet next up with Prost considered an outside chance in the less competitive McLaren-TAG. In his usual style, Alain had consistently scored points, while the Williams duo fought one another.
Mansell was on pole ahead of Piquet and Ayrton Senna (Lotus-Renault). Prost was fourth followed by Rene Arnoux (Ligier), Gerhard Berger (Benetton), Keke Rosberg (McLaren), Philippe Alliot (Ligier), Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari and Philippe Streiff’s Tyrrell.
When the lights went green, Mansell led from Piquet but at turn two Senna muscled his way into the lead. Piquet and Rosberg followed him past Mansell and later that lap Piquet overtook Senna to take the lead. Hectic stuff! On the next lap Senna dropped behind Rosberg and on lap 4 behind Mansell. Two laps later Prost was also ahead of Senna.
On lap 7 Rosberg overtook Piquet and began to pull away while later on Prost got ahead of Mansell and hunted down Piquet. On lap 23 Piquet spun. Then a few laps later Prost’s title shot looked over when he had to pit for a puncture. He rejoined the race in fourth.
Piquet, clearly furious after his spin charged back through the field, passing Mansell for second place on lap 44, but Prost closed on the Williams driver and with 25 laps to go all three were running together.
On lap 63 the battle became one for the lead, when Rosberg’s McLaren suffered a right rear tyre failure. Finally it looked like Mansell was on course for his first world title when two laps later his left rear tyre exploded at 200mph on the main straight. Nigel miraculously managed to control the car and avoided hitting anything, but his championship hopes were over. Perhaps if he had crashed and blocked the track, a red flag might have made him champion.
Williams, fearing a tyre failure on Nelsons car, had no choice but to call him into the pits, and so amazingly Prost went into the lead! Piquet closed the gap from 15secs to four but Prost won the race and his second World Championship after a heart stopping finale to the season.
Third place went in the race went to Stefan Johansson in his final race for Ferrari with Martin Brundle fourth in his Tyrrell. Streiff was fifth and Johnny Dumfries (Lotus) sixth.