9 August 1987
A year ago, with a certain amount of trepidation, the Formula One circus headed behind the Iron Curtain and found an interesting circuit, excellent facilities, friendly and enthusiastic locals and an exciting race, won by Nelson Piquet after a ding-dong battle with compatriot and rival Ayrton Senna. And the two Brazilians were in the spotlight again before a wheel had turned in Hungary because Senna had dropped a bombshell: he would be exercising his option to leave Lotus at the end of the year – but no destination was announced yet. His replacement had been, though: Peter Warr had jumped straight on the phone to Nelson Piquet, who had jumped at the chance to leave Williams. He felt the British team had reneged on their agreement to give him number one status and Honda, who were paying his massive retainer, seemed to agree. All of which left questions hanging: where would Senna go? (The smart money was on McLaren) Would Williams lose their Honda engines along with Piquet? In which case, what engines would they run instead? And who would replace Piquet? With the silly season making an early start this year, it was also rumoured that Bernie Ecclestone was ready to sell the Brabham team to Atletico Madrid!
However, on Friday morning attention turned back to the track as the cars took to the twisting, undulating Hungaroring for practice. With the areas of bare earth in 1986 now fully grassed-in, the place looked better and the facilities had been improved as well. Only the weather hadn’t got the memo: it was overcast and chilly, though the rain mostly held off. Saturday was better, and by the time the sessions were finished, birthday boy Nigel Mansell was in a familiar Pole Position. But alongside him was Gerhard Berger; a Ferrari on the front row for the first time since Germany in 1985! John Barnard’s ongoing improvements seemed to be having an effect, though the man himself was off working on the 1988 car which he promised would “win races”. On row 2 were Piquet and Prost, then Alboreto in the second Ferrari. Senna was a frustrated sixth suffering grip problems, while team-mate Nakajima languished back in 17th, behind the Tyrrells of Streiff (14th) and Palmer (16th).
With several drivers including Piquet, Berger and Warwick (9th) suffering a local tummy bug (and poor Derek adding a dose of conjunctivitis to compound his misery), the grid lined up on Sunday morning with a long race in prospect; most would try to go non-stop; and when the lights went out it was Mansell who roared into the lead. He had pointed out at a press conference that overtaking at the Hungaroring was almost as hard as at Monaco, and was evidently keen to make his pole position count. Berger held second but behind him, to the delight of the crowd, was Alboreto. The two Ferraris ran tightly behind leader Mansell with Piquet following close on their tails, chased by Johansson and Prost, both McLarens suffering intermittent misfires. The luckless Nakajima disappeared with a driveshaft failure on lap one, but the crowd’s sympathy was reserved for Gerhard Berger, whose race ended on lap 13 with a blown differential. Teo Fabi and Stefan Johansson both suffered gearbox failures a lap later (the Swede was pitched into a spin and nearly took Prost out too!), so the order was Mansell-Alboreto-Piquet-Senna-Boutsen-Prost.
On lap 29, Piquet finally shouldered his Williams past Alboreto into second but Mansell wasn’t in the mood to be caught. His lead was 10 seconds and every time Piquet put in a fastest lap to try and close the gap, Mansell simply put in one of his own. Senna and Boutsen’s entertaining duel for fourth became a duel for third on lap 43 when – to another groan from the crowd – Alboreto’s Ferrari joined Berger’s in retirement. Prost made his way past both into third, and Boutsen began dropping back with boost problems. With no stops to shake up the order and difficult passing, the race settled into a processional affair with Mansell cruising to an effortless victory and a Williams 1-2.
But no! With just six laps to go, Mansell’s curse struck again. He suddenly slowed and began weaving from side to side. “Out of fuel?” wondered some. No, a wheel nut had fallen off and the resulting wobble made the car undriveable. So Piquet was gifted the win once more, with Senna and Prost joining him on the podium. Thierry Boutsen hung on for fourth, Riccardo Patrese took his first points of the year in fifth and poor ill Derek Warwick took the last point for Arrows before being lifted from his cockpit and sent to see Professor Sid Watkins for a checkup. Jonathan Palmer finished just outside the points to take the 3.5l category in 7th, and six points for Streiff in 9th wrapped up the Colin Chapman Trophy for Tyrrell with seven races still to go. Capelli and Fabre also finished to score 3.5l points.
While Patrick Head and Williams Chief Mechanic Alan Challis were left scratching their heads over Mansell’s wheel nut (“We torqued the wheel nuts up properly on the grid. There was no tyre stop. It shouldn’t have happened”), Lotus chief Peter Warr was undeniably chipper, not to say cheeky. “I think both of our chaps did rather well, don’t you?”
|11||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
|Jim Clark Cup|
|Colin Chapman Trophy|