Circuito Permanente de Jerez
27 September 1987
Although just a week had elapsed between races, there was a change to the entry in that the Coloni team was back and, with Franco Forini still driving a second Osella, the field was up to 28 and two unfortunate drivers would miss the cut. Ayrton Senna had led home Nigel Mansell in one of the closest finishes for some time in the inaugural Jerez Grand Prix last year, and although the fans were still not flocking to the circuit, most expected another entertaining race. Jerez was a slow circuit compared to Estoril, which was expected to benefit the “atmo” cars for a closer race. Riccardo Patrese had been officially confirmed as Piquet’s replacement at Williams – with all due respect to the Italian’s ability, he was seen as a definite number 2 to Mansell.
In qualifying, Ferrari proved their form in Portugal wasn’t just a fluke as Berger and Alboreto duked it out with the Williams drivers at the head of the lap times. The latter team had brought four cars with them – one active and one passive each for Mansell and
Piquet. Mansell still preferred his passive car and sat comfortably on Pole in it until, with 15 minutes to go, Piquet went out in his active car and blew Mansell’s time away to the tune of 6/10s – a huge difference and evidence that he’d been holding his fire thus far. Mansell, still out on the track, realised he’d been had and shot into the pits to change to the active car for another go – only to be stopped for a random weight check. Hopping furiously out of the car he sprinted down to the Williams pit and jumped into the active car. He was fined $30,000 and had all his Saturday times disallowed for this breach of regulations (not that it mattered, his fastest time had been set on Friday) and Piquet would start on Pole for Sunday’s race. Mansell would be second, feeling robbed but still on an impressive 14th consecutive front row start. Behind them were the Ferraris of Berger and Alboreto, Senna fifth in the Lotus followed by Fabi’s Benetton, Prost seventh after his TAG engine misfire returned and Boutsen 8th in the second Benetton. Patrese and de Cesaris filled out the top ten in their Brabhams. Both Osellas missed the cut, with Fabre’s AGS 25th and Nicola Larini making his and Coloni’s debut in 26th place.
When the cars lined up on Sunday afternoon, Mansell was still fuming and when the lights went out he shot into the lead – and never lost it for the entire race, even during pitstops. Boring race, then? No – because while the Briton put in an astonishing shift of pure focussed determination to keep his championship hopes alive, the rest had a humdinger of a race. Piquet was second, and Senna had got ahead of both Ferraris in the start and, with a low-downforce setup and active suspension to conserve his tyres, he was planning a high-speed non-stop strategy and chased Piquet closely, himself followed by the Berger, Alboreto, Fabi and Boutsen in a six-car train all blasting around at the very limit. The Ferraris swapped places on lap 13, but otherwise they six continued together until the first round of pitstops. Prost was in first – working his way back up after losing out to de Cesaris at the start – with a quick stop, and began climbing up the order, using his fresh rubber to get past Fabi on lap 29, took 7th when Boutsen pitted on lap 32 and 6th when Johansson did likewise a few laps later.
On lap 36 – exactly half distance, Mansell came in for a fast stop and got out a mere car’s length ahead of Piquet who tried unsuccessfully to get past but the fresh tyres on “Red 5” made all the difference. Meanwhile, Prost had caught up to the Senna-Alboreto-Berger battle for third and on lap 44 he dived between the two Ferraris on Pits Hairpin to overtake both. A fantastic move and one that put him within spitting distance of the podium, but there was still plenty of race left. On lap 46, it was Piquet’s turn to pit, but it all went horribly wrong; up on the jacks, he failed to keep the brake depressed and the rear tyre men couldn’t attach wheels to the spinning hubs! 19 seconds later, he was back out on the track in fourth – and then only just, nearly taking off Berger’s nosecone as he dived in front. Catching Prost in third, he moved out to overtake, got onto the marbles and spun, losing more places to Berger, Alboreto and Boutsen. The Austrian set the fastest lap on lap 49, but it was the Belgian who was on the real flyer, moving ahead of the Alboreto, then taking fourth as Berger pitted. Then third as Prost came in. Soon he was harrying a non-stopping Senna mercilessly for second place – only to drop back again as his brakes began to fade.
Senna had been relying on his active suspension to save tyres and give him more grip, but it was fading fast and he had accrued quite a queue behind him. By lap 63 he led Piquet, Boutsen and Berger, whose Ferrari was now trailing smoke. Piquet just needed second place to all but secure his third world title, even if Mansell won – and finally Senna gave way and the queue all piled past. Lap 67: five laps left and with the title seemingly in his pocket, Piquet made another unforced error, taking an excursion into the sand traps. He recovered, but not before Boutsen and Prost had shot past. The Benetton, however, had its own spot of trouble shortly afterwards, ending up in the kitty litter to stay, leaving Piquet back in third with Prost second. Piquet came in for a precautionary tyre-replacement, letting his team-mate Stefan Johansson through into third, having already benefitted from the luckless Ferrari team’s engine failures on laps 63 (Berger) and 67 (Alboreto).
And that was how it stayed: Mansell took his fifth win of the year, with Prost and Johansson joining him on the podium. Piquet was fourth, Senna nursed his Lotus home fifth and sixth was Philippe Alliot. The Frenchman had fought a cracking battle all afternoon with Jonathan Palmer away from the camera’s gaze, only for the Tyrrell driver to be taken out by a recalcitrant Arnoux while lapping the Ligier. A shame for Palmer, but a deserved point and class win for Alliot – his second of the year.
And so the last European Grand Prix of the year ended; three races left in Mexico, Japan and Australia would decide the championship. Piquet, Mansell and Senna were in the running, with Piquet very much in the box seat – but after his error-strewn afternoon in Spain, was the pressure getting to him? Moreover, he had now scored in 11 races and according to the arcane scoring rules would only be able to count his top 11 scores over the season – so the momentum was definitely with Mansell…
|12||Andrea de Cesaris||4|
|Jim Clark Cup|
|Colin Chapman Trophy|