Head: “We’d had tyre failures with Goodyear before, and we said we thought there was a problem with the tyres, and they said no. Because we had more engine power and the car was reasonably good, we probably had a bit more downforce than the other people, or exerted a bit more load on the tyres than other teams. So if there was a problem we usually found it first. And in fact the next year there were a couple of failures, and Goodyear responded pretty quickly to strengthen the tyres up.”
Ramirez: “Williams should have stopped Nigel as a precaution, and probably would still have won, but they didn’t. Alain had fresher tyres because of the puncture, and we just kept going.”
Williams: “I was invited to the BBC studios. I can’t remember why I went there because I could have stayed home and watched it! I was obviously disappointed when Nigel dropped out”
“And look at that! That’s … a colossal … that’s Mansell, that is Nigel Mansell! And the car is absolutely shattered, he’s fighting for control, and you can see what’s happened. Mansell is out of the race. Now, this could change, and will change, the world championship.”
Head: “Nigel had his tyre failure, and Nelson was then in a position where he would have won the world championship. But we called him in to do a stop which effectively prevented him from winning the title. He fully supported the decision after the race and didn’t question it at all. I don’t remember how it was at the time, but I’m sure it was a hard decision. One or two people outside the team came out with some rather extreme reactions that I was not very impressed with. But the tyres weren’t strong enough for the load that was put on them.”
Ramirez: “It was like, ‘Bloody hell, if we finish it’s going to be perfect.’ I was really nervous. It was really fantastic. We were prepared for anything, but the party was so much better afterwards!”
“The crowd is rising to this popular little Frenchman, who has demonstrated once again that he is the driver of the day. He takes the chequered flag, he wins the Australian GP, he wins the world championship of 1986! Absolute euphoria in the McLaren pit. And he stops immediately.”
Ramirez: “He ran out of fuel just after the line. I remember he got out of the car and jumped up. I’ve got a picture with him about a foot and a half in the air, with his hands up. It was so unexpected.”
Dennis: “I think it’s one of those classic photographs. One photographer managed to get him, with the right perspective, looking like he was three feet off the ground. That was more than half his height!” Prost: “It was not only the surprise, it was the way we managed the whole weekend, the whole race. And then, at the end, if you have the result, it gives you more fun and more pleasure.”
Ramirez: “It was one of those unusual races where Alain took his wife, because she very rarely travelled. So he was coming up to the podium one way, and I rushed to the pit, got his wife, and took her to the podium on the other side. As he came onto the podium I came out with Anne-Marie. Alain didn’t expect to see her there — there were no words, only tears. That was just fantastic. I don’t think there were any photographers there — it was great. Coming back to what I said before about him being so nervous, I said to him, ‘I told you you didn’t need to be nervous.”
Dennis: “I don’t think it was unexpected, because you never give up until it’s finally over. It was for us a fitting end to a difficult season.”
Ramirez: “You could almost see through Keke’s brakes! A few more laps and there would have been no more brakes on his car, it was unbelievable. But when you saw Alain’s brakes, they could have practically done another race — and Keke had done 22 laps fewer. It was incredible. I was amazed how much smoother Alain was on brakes, gears and everything else.”
“But let us not forget in the joy of the occasion for Alain Prost’s victory, the bitter cup of Nigel Mansell, who has had the world championship dashed from his hands; let us not forget the bitter disappointment of Keke Rosberg, who might well have won the race; let us, too, sympathise with Nelson Piquet, who failed to win the world championship for the third time.”
Williams: “We should have won the title, with hindsight, given the strength of our team and driver line-up, but there are loads of reasons why you should have done things, and that’s just how it is.”
Head: “It wasn’t a good time because I had to go straight from there to Japan for some sort of promotional thing with Honda, and you could tell that Honda weren’t desperately impressed. But to their credit they didn’t say anything. They were pretty good that way.”
Nigel so near, yet…
Mansell went into 1986 in a confident frame of mind: he had two wins to his name and had proved as quick as Keke Rosberg. He felt ready to take on anyone including new team-mate, Nelson Piquet.
At Rio, however, he crashed out at the first corner after a clash with Ayrton Senna, and could only seethe as he watched Piquet lead Senna home to a Brazilian 1-2. Then in Spain, Senna beat Nigel by 0.014sec.
Alain Prost proved supreme at Imola (Nigel’s engine failed), and then dominated Monaco (Nigel was fourth).
At last, at Spa, Mansell got his first win of the year albeit a lucky one and dedicated it to Elio de Angelis, who had been killed just 10 days earlier.
‘Red Five’ then sat on pole in Montreal, and Nigel put in a perfect raceday performance to beat his title rivals. In finishing fifth at Detroit he was lapped by the victorious Senna, but at least had the consolation of seeing Piquet crash out.