The Spanish Grand Prix: Round 2 of 16 in the 1986 Formula One World Championship. Heading into the race, Williams-Honda driver Nelson Piquet led the Driver’s Championship by 9 points ahead of Lotus-Renault driver Ayrton Senna in second place with 6 points and ahead of Ligier-Renault Jacques Laffite in third place with 4 points.
There had not been a Spanish GP for five years but the local authorities in Jerez had built a new circuit and so the F1 trucks rolled down to southern Spain for the event.
In Qualifying, Ayrton Senna claimed Pole Position ahead of Nelson Piquet in second place, Nigel Mansell in third place and ahead of the two McLaren-TAG drivers of Alain Prost and Keke Rosberg in fourth and fifth places.
Rene Arnoux qualified in sixth place ahead of Gerhard Berger in seventh place, Jacques Laffite in eighth place, Teo Fabi in ninth place and Johnny Dumfries who rounded off the top ten finishers.
On Race Day on Sunday, Senna took the lead at the start with Piquet second and Rosberg and Prost quickly getting ahead of Mansell. The Englishman then began to charge and he moved gradually back up to second place during the course of the race.
But on Lap 39, he overtook Senna to take the lead. Mansell then pulled out a four second lead by Senna gradually reeled him in again, while Prost sat on his tail in his McLaren-TAG, Piquet having gone out with engine trouble.
With 10 laps of the race to go, Senna challenged for the lead but Mansell held him off. Senna was not going to be beaten and tried again at the hairpin at the back of the track. This time he made it through and Mansell had to lift off, which allowed the canny Prost to sneak into second place.
Mansell decided to go for a desperate gamble. He pitted for fresh tires, emerging 20secs behind Senna with nine laps to go. Those were mighty laps as Mansell carved into Senna’s lead at a rate of four seconds a lap. But ahead of him on the road was Prost – and he was not going to give up without a fight.
Mansell was then able to pass Prost but he was 0.7s slower on that lap than Senna. Mansell took up the chase again and as they set off on the last lap the pair was separated by only a second and a half.
At the hairpin Mansell was right with Senna but there was nothing he could do through the next few corners. It was all going to be down to the acceleration out of the last corner.
The Williams-Honda of Mansell was quicker but Ayrton Senna got to the line first ahead of Nigel Mansell in second place; the two cars side by side, separated by 0.014secs. Alain Prost finished the race in third place ahead of Keke Rosberg in fourth place and Teo Fabi in fifth place. Gerhard Berger ended the race in sixth place ahead of Thierry Boutsen in seventh place and Patrick Tambay in eighth place.
The 1986 Spanish Grand Prix will always be remembered as the race that saw the third closest finish in F1 history. But it will be best remembered by fans that it was a great race overall with regards to action on the track which was going on throughout the field and you couldn’t take your eyes off it; especially with Mansell and Senna. And I still couldn’t when I re-watched the race from start to finish to write this review!
In an interview after the race, Mansell said he had no problems with Senna’s defensive driving (blocking) at the end of the race when the Williams was clearly the quicker car, saying that Senna was entitled to protect his lead. He then jokingly added that the finish was so close they should give them both 7½ points each.
It was also a race where many records that Senna and Lotus smashed. It was his ninth Pole Position of his career, Renault’s 44th Pole Position, the third GP victory for Senna, the 76th win for the Lotus team at their 350th GP start as a team and the 19th win for a Renault powered car in the sport.
The 1986 Spanish GP saw Keke Rosberg start his 100th GP, the Haas Lola team finish their first GP and the final GP finish for the Hart 415T engine.
And as the 1986 World Championship continued at San Marino at the Imola circuit in Australia, Senna now still led the Driver’s Championship with 15 points ahead of Piquet with 9 points and Mansell in third place with 6 points.