Thirty years on – Alain Prost’s finest drive? And not the one you think

It’s human nature that it’s the final showdown we remember. The big finish. The crescendo that remains ringing in our ears as we walk away.

But often – in F1 at least – it was the one before that contained the grander shift. Not only of the mathematics but also of the mood. But readily it gets forgotten about. Think of Kimi Raikkonen’s stunning late seizing of the title in 2007 in Interlagos; Lewis Hamilton’s mysterious delay and all. Yet it was actually the round before in China that did more for Kimi. As I said it’s human nature – as one with experience in market research I’m well aware of what the trade calls ‘recency effects’.

Perhaps reflecting the same thing when a few years back the sport made its most recent fatuous attempt to ‘ban’ team orders they seemed to conclude laterally that orders in the final round were actually OK, as if it had some kind of stand-alone status. Plenty mused that actually all rounds count towards your points total…

And so it is too with the astonishing title showdown of 1986 in Adelaide that we’re almost exactly 30 years on from. That in which three drivers had a chance, and after a gripping and corkscrew-plotted finale the least likely of them sneaked through to snatch the championship – Alain Prost so doing between the two warring Williams-Honda pilots of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.

Even now some say it’s the last time the F1 world crown was won in other than the best machinery. Whatever the achievement was magnificent, and likely even Prost’s greatest glory of all.

He [Prost] remained in title contention, because he unfailingly got the maximum from his car, because his racecraft was without equal – Nigel Roebuck

No doubt with the 30th anniversary there will be plenty of retrospectives, and indeed Motor Sport magazine just named this one as the finest F1 race ever. But in Nigel Roebuck’s article outlining what happened that day he reminded us of the round that preceded it too, the Mexican Grand Prix. It was at least as important, not least for the eventual champion Prost.

The TAG engine in the back of his McLaren did not provide close to the power of the Honda that the Williams drivers could count on. “He [Prost] remained in title contention” said legendary scribe Roebuck, “because he unfailingly got the maximum from his car, because his racecraft was without equal”.  And the penultimate round of the season in Mexico was, as Roebuck said, a “brilliant drive” from The Professor. One in which that famous racecraft was seen at its finest.

It also was more typical Alain than in Australia a fortnight later. In Adelaide Prost recovered with sheer abandon from a deflated tyre delay, and by his own admission he eschewed most of his usual cerebral ways, given it was win or bust. He even ignored his fuel gauge – and judging this was in normal circumstances Alain’s trump card – as had that been accurate his McLaren would have conked out before the end. He rolled the dice needing a six, and got it. In Mexico though – with an ethereal touch allied to brain power that outdid them all – the drive was pure Prost.

Prost accepted that clawing back 11 on Nigel with just 18 left available wasn’t realistic. Alain went so far as to congratulate Nigel on his championship.

And as with most great drives Prost had plenty to overcome in this one. Entering it there seemed little doubt who would walk off with the title. The afore-mentioned Mansell had triumphed in crushing fashion in the previous round in Portugal, and that seemed that. Prost even, while not conceding his crown, accepted that clawing back 11 on Nigel with just 18 left available – and in effect the gap was even wider as then only your best 11 scores of 16 counted – wasn’t realistic. Alain in the race’s aftermath went so far as to congratulate Nigel on his championship.

With this he needed to get something back on Mansell in Mexico. He did, and moreover he did it having driven much of the race a cylinder down…

The ’11 best’ rule again confused matters but someone worked out that all Mansell needed was fourth place in Mexico to make the thing sure. Prost’s McLaren-TAG as outlined wasn’t in the class of the Williams-Honda at the best of times, and here at exasperating mile-and-a-half altitude these were conditions that would play to the strengths of the grunty Japanese unit. While in addition to Mansell’s pomp as underlined in Portugal his team mate Piquet was having a late year resurgence of his own, having won three from four prior to Portugal. Ayrton Senna too while now out of title contention was still expected to be in the mix for the race win and of course would relent not a bit.

Compounding the matter McLaren’s Porsche engineers had trouble getting the revised turbos brought for these peculiar Mexican conditions programmed into the car’s engine management system. The upshot for Prost was severe engine lag, less boost that he’d have liked and just sixth place on the starting grid.

Prost needed to get something back on Mansell in Mexico. He did, and moreover he did it having driven much of the race a cylinder down…

As we were reminded 12 months ago a Mexican round parachuting onto the calendar was not at all like the usual new-fangled host. Not least because it has considerable F1 previous.

In 1986 the Mexico race, as was the case last season indeed, was returning after a spell away, and returning then as now to the track in Mexico City’s Magdalena Mixhuca parkland. Then as now too while the layout had been tweaked the resemblance to before was clear (though then unlike now the mighty and mighty treacherous Peraltada curve remained in all of its glory).

Like then too the main shift had been off the track. Many with longer memories returned in 1986 with some trepidation, as the previous round there in 1970 was run literally “lined with human guardrails”, as that year’s Autocourse put it. Some 200,000 turned up and most decided to get a better view by breaking down the safety fences and settling next to the edge of the track, with literally nothing between them and the cars. It was sheer merciful deliverance that unimaginable carnage and death among those watching on didn’t happen.

It wasn’t repeated 16 years on though, in part down to the presence of double rows of high barbed wire-topped fences and guards with vicious-looking dogs patrolling between them. Also though part of the explanation was that the crowd was only around a quarter the size of before, with ticket prices set far beyond many local wallets.

F1 at this point in history was more generally though experiencing an awakening. The sport was beginning to really establish itself as a Bernie-inspired TV extravaganza with a mass following, and adding to it Mansell that season was – after six years in the sport – becoming an overnight sensation with his title run. As we were to find out the everyman ‘Our Nige’ established popularity in his homeland never touched before or since most probably.

Expecting a world title confirmation the British press decamped to Mexico in large numbers. This step into the unknown perhaps explains why the Mexican pre-weekend press gathering with Mansell was arranged to take place in, erm, an airport café…

And expecting a world title confirmation and with it the first British crown in ten years, as outlined in Maurice Hamilton’s book Chequered Conflict the British press decamped to Mexico in large numbers (albeit beaten likely by those witnessed routinely today). This step into the unknown perhaps explains why, in these days before a strict schedule of official pressers, the Mexican pre-weekend press gathering with Mansell was arranged to take place in, erm, an airport café. The other side of the passport and security checks…

Underlining just how things have changed too Autosport boasted of the “extensive coverage” the BBC would give the race on British TV, which amounted to showing the first ten minutes of the race as well as the final 30 minutes live. And, oh yeah, a short race report would be on Radio 2 that evening.

‘The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there’, as goes the opening line of The Go-Between.

Whatever, Alain hardly was mentioned while all this was going on. He still wasn’t when we discovered something else that would in time became numbingly familiar. That drama – and of the scarcely credible kind – seemed somehow to follow Mansell around. Nigel as many visitors do in Mexico picked up some ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ prior to the race; apparently on the Friday evening from a dinner celebrating the birthday of long-serving commentator Murray Walker… But still it seemed even with his obvious discomfort it wouldn’t halt him where it mattered, particularly as he qualified a solid third behind habitual pole man Senna and Piquet alongside.

But the opening ten seconds of the race did a lot to halt Nigel. Or rather, not get him moving from the halt. When the green light was shown Mansell’s FW11 didn’t move and cars flashed by on all sides, before Nige eventually got up and running, 18th at the end of the first tour. Mansell said simply that first gear wouldn’t go in. Some suggested uncharitably that he’d simply neglected to remember to put it in.

Any thoughts that those behind could chase Berger down on their fresh rubber were dashed, as instead they then put on an extraordinary show of tyre abuse. This clearly was a battle for survival.

All might not have been lost though as Mansell passed eight cars in 10 laps, but then we got a portent of the chief discriminator of the day. On the track’s abrasive surface and in intense heat Mansell’s charge had taken its toll on his tyres, and he came in for new wheels, losing him several of the places he’d gained. He only made one more halt after that, but it ensured that his goose was cooked.

It took a while for this to manifest at the front though. For a time the hardly-friendly Brazilian pair Piquet and Senna disputed the lead, with Prost and the apparently interloper presence of Gerhard Berger in his Benetton employing a watching brief. It stayed that way until nearly half distance when it was assumed all would make routine solitary tyre stops.

Prost, Piquet and Senna did peel in, but the shape of the day started to change. As Berger did not. He was on Pirelli rubber rather than the Goodyears the rest used, and the Italian product was noted for its durability and allowing non-stop runs (another case of the past being a foreign country you might say). That’s exactly what Gerhard was doing, and did. And any thoughts that he would wilt under the pressure of an impending freshman F1 victory both for him and his team were not at all borne out, as he proceeded as if on rails to win.

While any thoughts that those behind could chase him down on their newer rubber were dashed about as emphatically, as instead they then put on an extraordinary show of tyre abuse. Piquet needed two more changes indeed; Senna another one and could perhaps have done with another as his final set blistered badly. This clearly was a battle for survival.

If there is any driver in F1 history you’d pick to drive to save your life, particularly in such circumstances, Alain would be near or at the top of your list. He continued to ghost along as it all kicked off around him.

And not least for Prost, but for different reasons. He didn’t stop again but in some part necessity was the mother of invention, as with his TAG unit lapsed onto five cylinders rather than the full six as mentioned he dared not pit again, lest his machine not fire up afterwards. But if there is any driver in F1 history you’d pick to drive to save your life, particularly in such circumstances, Alain would be near or at the top of your list. He continued to ghost along as it all kicked off around him, and got home second for six points, near enough half a minute before Senna.

Berger’s win was spoken of as a surprise, but it really shouldn’t have been. As Motor Sport magazine put it, “Anyone who has been watching the F1 scene closely will have been aware that the Benetton-BMW team and Gerhard Berger have been heading for victory…The Benetton team’s pole positions at Osterreichring and Monza had demonstrated there was not much wrong with the car, the engine and the Pirelli tyres as far as high speed circuits were concerned, and the fast Mexican track seemed to suit them.”

Indeed, a few rounds before, Berger was winning in Austria at a canter before a flat battery severely delayed him. The non-stopping tactic shouldn’t have surprised either as it was something tried and done by Pirelli runners frequently, and indeed Berger was well on course to do just that in the Austrian race. But perhaps the discussion served to take more attention away from what Prost had done in Mexico.

In Mexico Alain drove a truly incredible race – Ron Dennis

The Williams meanwhile, the class of the field, toured in an ignominious, and lapped, fourth and fifth with Piquet ahead. It might have been even worse but for late retirements in front of them. The title conclusion therefore went down under, which is where we came in.

As Jeff Hutchinson’s Autosport race report from Mexico concluded of the continuing title fight, “Mansell is still the firm favourite”. And Adelaide we know about, his exploding Goodyear, Piquet then pitting as a precaution, and Prost picking up the pieces for an unlikely race and championship triumph. But as outlined it wasn’t all about that. Something about us extraordinary had got us there in the first place.

But not everyone lost sight of the contribution of Prost’s drive two weeks prior. “In Mexico Alain drove a truly incredible race,” said his boss Ron Dennis. “We’ve always had a lot less power than the Williams-Hondas, but this time – to make it worse – he was on five cylinders for half the race and didn’t dare to make a second tyre stop, for fear of losing the engine. On a very abrasive track he had to make two sets last the whole race: Mansell needed three, and Piquet four. Alain finished ahead of both of them…”

People will say Nigel lost it because of his tyre failure, but you could also say he lost it in Mexico. He could have clinched the title that day, but instead he dropped four points to Prost – and he lost the title by two. To my mind, there’s no one near Alain – Jackie Stewart

And even amid the immediate post-race and championship hubbub in Adelaide the sage Jackie Stewart recognised the importance of what had happened in Mexico. “People will say Nigel lost it because of his tyre failure” he said, “but you could also say he lost it in Mexico, where he started in third gear, dropped to the back, then began blistering tyres and finished fifth. He could have clinched the title that day, but instead he dropped four points to Prost – and he lost the title by two. To my mind, there’s no one near Alain.

“These days, you don’t often see a guy win a GP in a slower car – but this guy’s won the championship in one!”


The new Ferrari — joeblogsf1

The Ferrari SF70H was launched this morning. The car is completely new and Ferrari hopes it will close the gap to Mercedes. The engine is also new and the team says the 062 engine is a definite step forward compared to its predecessor, when it comes to chasing performance. The layout of some of the […]

via The new Ferrari — joeblogsf1

Here’s the new Mercedes — joeblogsf1

Mercedes-AMG Petronas has launched its new W08, which is now officially known as the W08 EQ Power+, the additional EQ Power+ having been added because this will be the technology brand for all future Mercedes-AMG hybrid models. The launch formed part of the team’s official 100 km filming day, with Lewis Hamilton driving the car in […]

via Here’s the new Mercedes — joeblogsf1

@BWOAHF1 15-22 Feb Poll Results

Who will be the F1 “Novice/Rookie of the year” 2017? (Less than 10 races exp.)
08% Esteban Ocon
76% Stoffel Vandoorne
16% Lance Stroll
(66 votes)

Most likely “shock” F1 headline of 2017: Gasly in, Kvyat out? Audi to F1? Kimi Raikkonen WDC? 100% live free to air TV races to return?!
37% Gasly replaces Kvyat
14% Audi announces F1 plans
25% Kimi World champion
24% Free to air TV races 100%
(71 votes)

How races will Kimi Raikkonen win?
43% 0
29% 1-2
13% 3-4
15% 5+
(56 votes)

Highest ranking non-Mercedes driver in 2017?
16% Sebastian Vettel
17% Fernando Alonso
23% Daniel Ricciardo
44% Max Verstappen
(109 votes)

Round 1: F1 World Champion (2017)?
40% Lewis Hamilton
13% Sebastian Vettel
20% Fernando Alonso
27% Max Verstappen
(83 votes)

Round 2: F1 World Champion (2017)?
29% Valtteri Bottas
28% Kimi Raikkonen
04% Stoffel Vandoorne
39% Daniel Ricciardo
(78 votes)

Which Sauber driver will score more points?
31% Marcus Ericsson
60% Pascal Wehrlein
09% Even
(85 votes)

Which Renault driver will score more points?
86% Nico Hulkenberg
14% Jolyon Palmer
00% Even
(56 votes)

Which Haas driver will score more points?
69% Romain Grosjean
27% Kevin Magnussen
04% Even
(59 votes)

Which Toro Rosso Driver will score more points?
20% Daniil Kvyat
73% Carlos Sainz Jr.
07% Even
(56 votes)

Which Williams driver will score more points?
35% Lance Stroll
62% Felipe Massa
03% Even
(63 votes)

Which McLaren-Honda driver will score more points?
17% Stoffel Vandoorne
83% Fernando Alonso
00% Even
(80 votes)

Which Force India will score more points?
83% Sergio Perez
14% Esteban Ocon
03% Even
(77 votes)

Which Scuderia Ferrari driver will score more points?
60% Sebastian Vettel
36% Kimi Raikkonen
04% Even
(88 votes)

Which Red Bull driver will score more points?
49% Max Verstappen
47% Daniel Ricciardo
04% Even
(93 votes)

Which Mercedes driver will score more points?
64% Lewis Hamilton
32% Valterri Bottas
04% Even
(88 votes)

Which “independent” team is most likely to win a #f1 race during 2017?
47% Williams
36% Force India
16% Toro Rosso
00% Haas
(55 votes)

Andy Cowell on how the 2017 regulations have impacted engine development

Laurence Edmondson F1 Editor

Although most of the focus of the 2017 rule changes has been on the chassis and aerodynamic side, Formula One’s new regulations have also impacted power unit development.

In a video on Mercedes’ YouTube channel, the head of the team’s engine division Andy Cowell explained why more downforce and wider tyres would lead to higher fuel usage and some new challenges for his engineers.

“The power unit’s principal aim is to propel the car down the straight,” he said. “Now, if the tyres are stronger and if the aerodynamics are stronger, the straight actually starts a little bit earlier because the driver can get on full power sooner and the straight actually finishes a little bit later because the driver can come on the brakes later, so the period of full throttle increases and it’s increasing considerably.

“It’s increasing by just over 10 per cent, which equates to just over five seconds of full throttle time. Now, the engine is limited in fuel-flow rate to 100kg/hour, but if the time is going up by 10 per cent then the total amount of fuel that will be used per lap is going to go up by 10 per cent. Now, last year the limit for the race distance was 100kg of fuel. That’s a limit that was set in 2014 and maintained through 2014, 2015 and 2016 and through efficiency improvement of the manufacturers we all ended up at a point where typically for a race distance we needed less than that.

“So, the starting point is less than that, the increase amount for this year is plus 10 per cent and where the regulations are set to is 105kg of fuel for the race. It still means that you need to be efficient with the aerodynamics and efficient with the power unit, but we won’t have all the ridiculous fuel saving scenarios that we had in 2014. So that’s a major change for the power unit.”

The increased workload of the power unit in 2017 will also see greater demands on cooling, which will in turn affect the aerodynamics of the car. Cowell said Mercedes has put a lot of effort into improving the cooling system on the new W08 to ensure the most efficient package possible.

“One of the consequences of having an extra 5kg of fuel and an extra 10 per cent used per lap is that the waste energy — the engine is very efficient but not 100 per cent efficient, so there is some waste energy — how do you get rid of that waste energy? We have put a lot of effort into the cooling system on the engine to get that waste energy out of the piston, out of the cylinder head, out of the crankcase and out of all the bearings, transmit that to the car and the cooling packages on the car need to increase as well.”

Now that the calendar is back down to 20 races, teams are only allowed four power units before getting a grid penalty, rather than the five power units they were allowed last year. Combined with the increased cornering forces and use of full throttle, Cowell said Mercedes has had to pay even more attention to the reliability of its power units this year.

“The last change, although not regulated, is the durability of the engine, and this is in terms of both the number of revolutions you can do, the number of qualifying laps you can do but also the structural load. If the car goes through the corner quicker because the tyres are stronger and the aero is quicker, the lateral load on the car is higher and the power unit is a critical structural element of the car, right in the middle of the car with engine mounts front and rear connected to the chassis and the gearbox.

“We have had to do a lot of detailed analysis on those and the engine is a little bit heavier as a consequence of that, but the structural stiffness has been maintained and the strength of the car has been maintained. This year, also, we are going from five power units before we get a grid penalty to four, so there is a big extra demand on each of those power units both in terms of the heat that’s going through it, the structural load and the kilometres that the power unit needs to do.”

1983 United States Grand Prix

Turbos and Tantrums

DetroitDetroit Street Circuit

5 June 1983

From the rolling hills of the Ardennes to the concrete canyons of the Motor City as the Formula One circus returned to Detroit. The inaugural Detroit Grand Prix the previous year had been a qualified success – an exciting race and a great “burn from the stern” win for John Watson, but with a slew of organisational problems and a track layout unpopular with many of the drivers. Rumours were rife in the paddock that the two planned US races later in the year were off: the New York Grand Prix wasn’t even close to ready and would be put off until 1984, while it was an open secret that the Caesar’s Palace organisers were trying to negotiate their way out of a loss-making third race. With Long Beach already switching to IndyCar for 1984, Detroit was starting to look like the future of…

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The Verstappen effect: Feeder series obsolete


Are feeder series systems, as we know them, becoming obsolete, perhaps even redundant?

Now don’t get me wrong, there will always be demand for feeder series. But is the concept of it in need of a change? First, I’m not talking about karting. For the love of God, let the kids play in their karts! It is there where they get their first feel of how racing should be. To quote Senna: ‘I started racing go-karts. And I love karts. It’s the most breathtaking sport in the world. More than F1 indeed. I used to like it the most.’  

Big words coming from the best Formula One driver of all time. -I said best, not most titles- But as we all know the one with the most titles also started out in karts. -For those of you living in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium, you might have been to…

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First glimpse of a 2017 ‘Minardi’



A farewell snap from the Manor F1 team gives us a glimpse of what a 2017 car actually looks like.


The ever consuming media giant that is have released a picture taken at Manor F1 aero department soon after the announcement that investment had failed to be found for this coming season.

Here we see a 60% scale model of the car they would’ve raced had the coffers continued to flow through the ever struggling minow team.

Manor are the last team left from the three ‘new teams’ from 2010 and in recent history enjoyed a cult following not to different to the original F1 minnows of yesteryear, Minardi.

Perhaps the fact that they graced the points a few times in their 6 year existence might be the reason.

A true underdog.

Alas, what is often forgotten is that the team had been involved with the last 2 deaths…

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Mercedes F1 started work on Hybrid as far back as 2007 — thejudge13

Never before has F1 seen such an era of utter dominance by one team than what we’ve seen from the Silver Arrows from 2014. The Ex Ferrari president, Luca Montezemolo threw some light upon why this has been the case during rather candid talks with the Italian press yesterday. He explains the reasons for the superiority of Mercedes-Benz […]

via Mercedes F1 started work on Hybrid as far back as 2007 — thejudge13

F1 drivers need to get out of the simulators and back onto the track



Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Tourdog

Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.

There was a time, when the average F1 driver could drive any car you could squeeze him into. A time when you might see the same driver drive 2 or three different cars, in different classes, on the same weekend.

Those days are now gone.

Nearly every driver in F1 is prevented from driving anything but a street car, on anything but a public road, both during the seasons and in between.

The argument for these restrictions is simple and straightforward. There is too much at stake in F1, to risk losing a driver because of an injury from another race.

This may appear logical…

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