The Mexican Grand Prix: Round 15 of 16 in the 1986 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Williams-Honda driver Nigel Mansell led the Driver’s Championship by 70 points ahead of his team mate Nelson Piquet in second place with 60 points and ahead of McLaren-TAG driver Alain Prost in third place with 59 points.
With Formula 1 made its first return to Mexico since the 1970 Mexican Grand Prix. That race had been marred by severe crowd control problems as the spectators could not be persuaded to abandon their vantage points sat at the edge of the track.
Despite the after-effects of a series of earthquakes which had killed over 10,000 people (and possibly far more), Mexico successfully held the football World Cup earlier that year. Now it welcomed the sport back in the heart of the city and named the circuit the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in honour of the late Mexican racing brothers Ricardo and Pedro.
This caused grumbles from the drivers when they took to the circuit for the first time on Thursday. The practice of giving drivers extra time to practice on a new circuit has since been abandoned.
The surface was been bumpy and low on grip. But the configuration proved decidedly satisfying with a long straight for overtaking, a Suzuka-esque series of fast, rhythmic sweeps, and the daunting 180-degree Peraltada at the end of the lap. The only change from the field at the Portuguese GP was that AGS had not made the trip to Mexico.
In Qualifying, Ayrton Senna claimed Pole Position for the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix ahead of the Williams-Honda drivers of Nelson Piquet in second place and Nigel Mansell in third place.
Gerhard Berger qualified in fourth place ahead of Riccardo Patrese in fifth place, Alain Prost in sixth place and Derek Warwick in seventh place. Patrick Tambay ended qualifying in eighth place ahead of Teo Fabi in ninth place and Phillipe Alliot who rounded off the top ten finishers of the session.
On Race Day on Sunday, let us not forget that Mansell was in the position to win the World Championship if he could score a good result but at the start he made a mess of it and was left at the back of the field. Piquet and Senna were running first and second. Berger was third with Prost fourth.
On the seventh lap, Prost got ahead of Berger. Mansell charged up through the backmarkers but then had to pit for new tires. The only man not to do so was Berger, who reckoned that he might be able to go the distance on his Pirelli tires. When the other front-runners returned to action they were not able to close on Berger because the Goodyears were blistering in the heat.
As a result of this Berger thus took his first Formula 1 victory, followed home by Prost in second place and Senna in third place. The Williams-Honda drivers of Piquet and Mansell finished the race in fourth and fifth places ahead of Alliot who scored the final point of the race in sixth place.
Thierry Boutsen finished the race in seventh place ahead of Andrea de Cesaris in eighth place, Christian Danner in ninth place and Jonathan Palmer in tenth place.
The 1986 Mexican Grand Prix will always be remembered as the first ever race win for Gerhard Berger who managed to score nine more wins in a Formula One career that was thirteen years long.
It will be also remembered by fans that it wasn’t a great race overall with regards to action on the track, but will be race that many British fans will want to forget especially given the fact that Mansell could have won the Drivers’ Championship at this event if he didn’t have the start that he had.
And as the 1986 World Championship continued at the finale at the Adelaide circuit in Australia, Mansell still lead the Driver’s Championship with 70 points ahead of Prost with 64 points and Piquet slipping to third place with 63 points.