Classic #jonesonf1: 1991 Spanish Grand Prix

Senna and Mansell battling each other wheel to wheel:- the most iconic image of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

Senna and Mansell battling each other wheel to wheel:- the most iconic image of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

The Spanish Grand Prix: Round 14 of 16 in the 1991 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, McLaren driver Ayrton Senna was leading the Drivers Championship with 83 points ahead of Williams driver Nigel Mansell in second with 59 points and fellow Williams driver Riccardo Patrese in third with 44 points.

There was a lot of action in the backrooms in the week separating the Portuguese and Spanish Grands Prix with the big news being that Max Mosley was elected president of FISA, replacing Jean-Marie Balestre.

There were also changes in the driver line-ups as Michael Bartles returned to Lotus replacing Johnny Herbert who had obligations in the Japanese Formula 3000 series. Jordan had replaced Roberto Moreno with young Italian rookie Alessandro Zanardi and Fondmetal had sacked Olivier Grouillard and replaced him with Gabriele Tarquini of AGS with Grouillard promptly taking Tarquini’s old seat.

The cash-strapped Coloni team was in dire straits with their driver Pedro Chaves having decided to jump off the ship before it sunk and, as no-one else wanted to attempt to pre-qualify the car (something that Chaves had been unable to do all season), the team were forced to stay in the garage. Championship challenger Nigel Mansell was limping all weekend, the Williams driver having injured his ankle in a football match.

Gerhard Berger took Pole Position for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

Gerhard Berger took Pole Position for the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

In Qualifying, Gerhard Berger did a favour to his team mate Aryton Senna taking pole position from Mansell, Senna, Ricciardo Patrese, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Jean Alesi, Ivan Capelli, Emanuele Pirro and Nelson Piquet. 

The start of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

The start of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

On race day on Sunday, it was raining, but by start time it had stopped, although the track was still wet. At the start Senna got away well and challenged Berger, while Mansell was right on his tail. Toward the end of Lap 1, Schumacher surprised Mansell to take third place.

Eric Bernard

Eric Bernard after his contact with Erik Comas in the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

At the back Eric Bernard and Erik Comas collided with both men being out on the spot as a result of this incident. The track was incredibly slippery and there was a lot of action at the front with Senna, Schumacher, Mansell, and Alesi all fighting over third place, while Berger started to scamper away in the lead.

Nigel Mansell setting off after Gerhard Berger in the early stages of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

Nigel Mansell setting off after Gerhard Berger in the early stages of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

Mansell tried to chase the leader and forced his way past Schumacher before setting off after Senna. Eventually he pounced on the main straight, the two great rivals going wheel to wheel, just millimeters apart; with Mansell taking the position beautifully and setting off after Berger (see picture at the top of this report for the amazing overtaking move).

Prost was the first front-runner to stop for dry tyres followed shortly by leader Berger, who had a very bad stop. Mansell and Senna both stopped on the same lap and it was the McLaren team who won the confrontation, getting Senna out ahead and into the lead from Berger, Mansell and Schumacher.

On the following lap, Senna let Berger through as Mansell was closing in. The rain returned and Senna had a dramatic spin at the last corner, dropping from second to fifth while Schumacher passed Prost for third. Mansell closed on Berger and on Lap 20; he made his way up the inside to take the lead and proceeded to pull away, while Berger came under pressure from the charging Schumacher.

Jean Alesi passing Aryton Senna in the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

Jean Alesi passing Aryton Senna in the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

A close battle ended when Schumacher spun while trying to pass, he would stay in the race, but down in sixth place, which would become fifth when Berger retired with yet another electronic failure. The action continued for the major placings as Patrese passed Senna for third then Alesi blew past Senna for fourth after Schumacher pitted.

Nigel Mansell wins the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Alain Prost in second place and Ricardo Patrese in third place.

Nigel Mansell wins the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Alain Prost in second place and Ricardo Patrese in third place.

Mansell duly took victory from Prost in second place and Patrese in third place. Alesi finished in fourth place ahead of Senna in fifth and Schumacher in sxith place. A last lap collision between the Minardi drivers of Gianni Morbidelli and Pierluigi Martini ended the race red flagged.

The 1991 Spanish Grand Prix saw Mansell’s win with Senna fifth meant that the title race was back on, but Senna still led by sixteen points as the teams headed on to Japan. But Mansell drove a great race and battled through the grid to win and the overtaking move on Senna is one of the best I have ever seen and the race is remembered fondly by the fans for this move and is still talked about today.

I should also point out that following the race, the AGS team withdrew from Formula One and also this race will be remembered for Alessandro Zanardi’s F1 debut where he finished in ninth place for the Jordan team.

And as the 1991 World Championship leaded towards the next round in Japan at the Suzuka Circuit, Senna was leading the Driver’s Championship by 85 points ahead of Mansell with 69 points, Patrese with 48 points, Prost with 31 points and Berger with 31 points.

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