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F1 Throwback: When Nigel Mansell Drove the Race of His Life at the 1986 British Grand Prix

Published 01/04/2020, 9:15 AM EST

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Nigel Mansell was a fan favourite for a lot many reasons. He was fierce, ruthless and was willing to go any bit to prove his point. His tenure with Ferrari boosted his popularity even more and among the tifosi was popularly referred to as ‘Il Leone’ (Italian for Lion). Hence it only makes sense that he’s driven some of the best races in the sport and has a long standing legacy.

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One of his many races that F1 fans still remember is the British Grand Prix of 1986. It was the ninth race of the season and the last race held at Brands Hatch.

Before coming into the race, Alain Prost in his McLaren led Williams’ Nigel Mansell by a single point. Mansell had won the last race (French GP) and was looking to make it two wins in a row. However, it was his team-mate who started at pole and Mansell at second making it a Williams 1-2. The race even had the guest appearance of Frank Williams who had a bizarre crash earlier that year.


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The start of the race was dramatic with Ayrton Senna overtaking Mansell into second place but at the back there was multi-car pile-up, with all drivers coming out safe except one- Jacques Laffite breaking both his legs in the crash. Despite the crash happening just past the pits, the first doctor on the scene happened to be British driver Jonathan Palmer, who has started the race from 22nd place on the grid. Palmer stopped his Zakspeed just past Laffite’s crashed Ligier-Renault, jumped out and raced to assist the injured Frenchman. The race had been Laffite’s record equalling start for most Formula One career starts. The race was stopped after the incident. It took an hour for the race to restart.

That proved lucky for Mansell who was allowed to use the spare car after his drive-shaft failure. Ironically, the car was reserved for Nelson Piquet.

At the restart Piquet again had a good start, but after a few laps Mansell overtook him for the first place. Meanwhile Senna retired with a gear-box problem. After the first round of pit-stops Mansell remained ahead of Piquet. Piquet had an opportunity to overtake Mansell but a backmarker came between him and the first place.

Eventually Mansell managed to hold off Piquet and won the British GP 1986, much to the delight of a 110,000-strong crowd at the race. It was Williams’ first 1-2 of the season. The win also meant Nigel Mansell went ahead in the drivers’ championship. Both the Williams finished one lap ahead of every other car, including third place Alain Prost.

Mansell almost fainted after winning and the crowd roared as he celebrated in the back of an SUV on the way to the podium.

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Written by:

Shubham Singal


One take at a time