Mansell’s title blow-out
Keke Rosberg, driving the last race of his F1 career, was right on the pace and tore past Nelson Piquet to take the lead going into lap seven.
Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost followed. Piquet had a spin, Mansell was trying to pace himself as gently as he dared, while Prost clipped Gerhard Berger’s Benetton, puncturing a front tyre. He came in on lap 32 for fresh rubber, eight laps before he was scheduled to. Goodyear technicians, after examining the tyres which came off the McLaren, decided that a non-stop run on the rubber would have been possible and advised their other users accordingly.
Going into lap 63 the order was Rosberg, Piquet, Prost and Mansell. Down the back straight, Rosberg’s race came to an end as the McLaren’s right-rear Goodyear began to delaminate, strands of flaying rubber stripping away from the tyre’s carcass.
Before Williams and Goodyear could be alerted to the potential seriousness of the situation, Mansell had started his 64th lap. As we all know, he never completed it. The Williams’ left-rear Goodyear exploded on the back straight just as he was lapping Philippe Alliot’s Ligier, nearing top speed in sixth gear. Dazed, disappointed, but happy to be in one piece, Mansell sat for a few moments before hauling himself out of the car.
With Mansell out, Piquet seemed to have the title in the bag, but wisely he was called in for fresh tyres soon afterwards. It was a precautionary, but as it turned out, unnecessary stop. His tyres were still in good shape.
He resumed almost 20sec behind Prost and had to settle for second at the flag. By such twists and turns of fortune did Alain Prost become 1986 world champion. — AH/DSJ