You don’t associate the Hungaroring with classic F1 races – but it was a thrilling Grand Prix at this very circuit that first got me hooked on Formula One back in 1989.
Nigel Mansell stormed to victory in a Ferrari from 12th on the grid, passing rival after rival on a bone-dry track. He capped it with a brilliant, opportunistic move on Ayrton Senna for the lead.
Here’s how he did it – plus some video of the race.
Mansell had struggled to get his Ferrari working on qualifying-spec Goodyears at Hungary. So he spent qualifying honing his race setup and even set his fastest time on the harder race tyres, which left him a lowly twelfth.
Not ideal at a circuit where overtaking was tough even in 1989.
Despite starting on the dirty side of the grid Mansell had picked off four cars by the exit of the first corner. Alessandro Nannini pitted for tyres on lap 12, giving him seventh, which became when he passed Thierry Boutsen’s Williams eight laps later.
By lap 22 it looked as if the winner would come from the four-car battle for the lead comprising Riccardo Patrese (Williams), Ayrton Senna (McLaren), Gerhard Berger (Ferrari) and Alain Prost (McLaren). But Mansell had other ideas. He had passed Alex Caffi’s Dallara for fifth and was closing in.
Prost past Berger on lap 29, and the Ferrari driver pitted for tyres, letting Mansell up into fourth. The Briton then made the first of his really great moves of the day, squeezing past Prost on the run up to turn four on lap 41. He was third with 36 laps to go – and there was more good news. Ferrari had taken a look at Berger’s tyres and decided that Mansell’s could go the distance.
Patrese hadn’t won a Grand Prix since South Africa in 1983. But this wasn’t to be his day either. A perforated radiator ended his race on lap 53.
Now Mansell was fighting Senna for the lead. But the Brazilian, trailing Prost by 17 points in the championship, was not about to pull over.
How many times have we seen drivers sit back, preserve their engine and back some ‘safe points’ on days like this? But that was not Mansell’s style. He harried Senna at every turn and when a precious opportunity arose he was perfectly placed to seize it.
Stefan Johansson’s Onyx was creeping around the track with a broken gear linkage, the Swede trying to keep the car off the racing line in the dust. But as the leaders reached him at the exit of turn three his route around the outside of the corner converged with the racing line.
Senna hesitated for a fraction of a second, easing up on the throttle momentarily – and Mansell pounced. He swung the Ferrari hard to the left, right to the apron of the track, and swept pack the pair of them in a move that looked almost synchronised through the television cameras.
Mansell kept up his pace and won by 26 seconds, bagging a fastest lap of 1’22.637 on the way. It was a mighty performance. Watch some of the highlights on the video below:
For those of you that may not have seen this before, note that Mansell is not the second red car in shot as the field round the first corner – that’s Caffi’s Dallara. Mansell is the third red car.