F1 Blast from the Past: Prost wins as Mansell pulls off stunning overtake

Background & Qualifying

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City was the venue for round 6 of the 1990 Formula One World Championship.

After two consecutive victories for Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda, the Brazilian held a 12-point lead in the driver’s standings over his teammate Gerhard Berger. In Mexico however, it was the Austrian who took his second pole position of the season.

Riccardo Patrese qualified his Williams Renault in second place ahead of Senna in the other McLaren, the Brazilian conspicuous by his absence from the front row. Nigel Mansell hauled his Ferrari to fourth on the grid ahead of the second Williams of Thierry Boutsen and the inspired Jean Alesi in the Tyrrell Ford.

Reigning World Champion Alain Prost had suffered numerous problems with the qualifying set-up on his Ferrari, and opted to set his car up for the race. The result was a lowly 13th position on the grid. The Frenchman’s difficulties were nothing compared to the fortunes of the Leyton House-March team, as neither Ivan Capelli nor Mauricio Gugelmin could qualify on the notoriously bumpy circuit.

With Berger and Senna in the top-three, the pre-race expectations were for a McLaren Honda walkover.

Race day

The 69-lap Mexican Grand Prix got underway with Patrese making an excellent getaway to take the lead from Berger. Senna also got the upper hand on his teammate, passing him on the inside going into the first corner. Senna immediately set about grabbing the lead from Patrese’s Williams, the Italian firmly shutting the door at the end of the back straight.

At the end of the lap, Patrese led from Senna and Berger, with Boutsen fourth ahead of Nelson Piquet’s Benetton and Nigel Mansell who had dropped to sixth. As the field started the second lap, Senna breezed past Patrese down the pit straight, with Berger following suit into the first corner.

Patrese quickly fell backwards, his tyre compound of choice not paying off as Boutsen and Piquet also moved ahead. Tyres would be the order of the day as Gerhard Berger made a stop at the end of Lap 13 to change his blistered Goodyears, dropping all the back to 12th place.

Senna now had a healthy 15 second lead over Nelson Piquet. Though, the three-time World Champion was disposed of by Nigel Mansell on Lap 37. Piquet’s tyres also began to fade, and Alain Prost, who had been quietly been making progress from his poor grid position, took third place on Lap 42 as Piquet headed for the pits.

On Lap 55, Prost found a way past his teammate after Mansell was boxed in behind the lapped Gregor Foitek in the Onyx. Both Ferrari’s were quickly making inroads into Senna’s lead. The Brazilian’s pace had dropped substantially due to a slow-puncture. He had gambled on going the distance without a stop but it did not pay off.

On Lap 60, Prost took the lead going into Turn 1, and Senna could do nothing to stop him. Mansell quickly followed his teammate past the McLaren but on lap 64 the Englishman spun exiting turn three and handing second back to Senna.

The Brazilian would not hold the position for very long however, his right-rear tyre exploded and Senna would limp back to the pits, his 100th Grand Prix ended prematurely. Mansell’s spin had allowed Gerhard Berger to close in, the Austrian had worked his way back up the field after his early stop, to third place.

With just three laps to go, Berger audaciously dived down the inside of Mansell into turn one, barging the Ferrari out of the way to take second place. The furious Mansell was not about to let Berger get away with that manoeuvre and quickly fought back.

Coming out of the esses on Lap 68, Mansell took the outside line as they headed into the infamous Peralta corner, the Englishman took the sweeping right-hander flat out while Berger was obliged to lift the throttle slightly in one of Formula One’s all-time classic overtaking moves.

25 seconds ahead, Prost took his second victory of the season and the 41st of his career. Mansell in second completed the first Ferrari one-two since the 1988 Italian Grand Prix. Berger may have lost out in the ferocious duel between himself and Mansell but nonetheless enjoyed himself and took third place for McLaren. 

Alessandro Nannini had a solid race to take fourth place for Benetton ahead of Boutsen’s Williams. While Piquet took sixth place off Alesi in the closing stages.

With Senna not scoring his lead in the championship was cut to eight points over his bitterest rival and the stage was set for an excellent championship battle, just as the season was about to be written off as another year of McLaren domination.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Mexican GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Mexican GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Louis Edwards, Tom Horrox and Tan Jui Shien Ray in episode 146 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

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