Sunday 4 December 2011

Retro F1: the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix

The latest Retro F1 was held today, on the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix. For those who don't know, Retro F1 is watching a classic F1 race in full on YouTube and chatting on Twitter as we go.

The YouTube footage that we watched is below (or you can click here):

It was a race that featured Senna, Prost, Mansell and others, as well as the 1980s F1 turbocharged monsters. It has gone down in history as one of the sport's greatest races. So it was worth a watch!

The Twitter chat, using the #RetroF1 hastag, can be read here, and in this post I have edited highlights of the chat below.

Howdy partners. I'm clicking play now, the whole 1986 Spanish GP awaits.

Murray Walker and James Hunt commentating. Quality, I'm ten years old again.

@Parnelli98 Good afternoon (good morning for me!) Let's race!
Good morning to you! Glad you could join us.
@Parnelli98 Should be fun!

This was the first Spanish Grand Prix in five years, since Gilles Villeneuve’s famous 1981 win at Jarama, and the first ever at the Jerez circuit. Like Jarama, Jerez always struggled to pull a crowd for its F1 races, and eventually lost its place on the calendar to Barcelona in 1991.

Jerez is still used as an F1 test venue, ironically it probably gets bigger crowds for those than it ever did for an F1 race. That’s Alonso-mania for you.

The track made a couple of comebacks in the 1990s as a last minute replacement of cancelled races, including the infamous 1997 Jacques Villeneuve/Michael Schumacher title showdown.

The Jerez circuit, some years later
Credit: Andres Cuesta / CC

@LoisMarketing Yay! TweetDeck AND video are playing nice today!
@Parnelli98 I hope it continues, for at least 2 hours or so!

A bit of scene-setting: this was the second race of the 1986 season. McLaren had won the titles in 1984 and 1985, but Williams started to go well in late 1985. With spectacular bad timing Keke Rosberg (daddy of Nico) left Williams for McLaren at end of 1985, to be replaced by two-times World Champion Nelson Piquet (Snr). Piquet was fully expected to get the upper hand on team mate Nigel Mansell... and had won the opening race of 1986. Mansell crashed on the first lap in Brazil after a run in with Ayrton Senna. That was not the last one of those.

This was Senna’s ninth pole of his F1 career. He eventually got 56 more.

Right, finished scene setting.

@SartoMutiny Creeping from Senna at the start there. Probably would be penalised for that now.
Yes, it seems creeping on the line was tolerated in those days. Which was fortunate for Senna as the punishment for a jump start was a one minute penalty (no drive throughs then).

@LoisMarketing Wow oh wow... this takes me back!

Anyway, Senna leads from pole. Followed by his best friend Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Mansell and Alain Prost.

@Parnelli9813,000 rpms for a turbo? Damn impressive.

@Parnelli98 1st lap was a bit hectic, eh? Cars off, damaged, pit stops. Like it!

@SartoMutiny It always amazed me how *big* these cars look compared to the current breed of F1 cars.
@Parnelli98 True, and a bit frightening to how far up the driver's feet are to the nose of the car. Scary.
@LoisMarketing Looking back at that car I get scared!
@Parnelli98 Me too!
@SartoMutiny The odd thing is that no-one ever seemed to comment at the time how dangerous that was.
@Parnelli98 They probably didn't know any better! Been racing like that for years! Doesn't make it right though.

Ayrton Senna is his Lotus Renault 98T, later in 1986 at Brands Hatch
Credit: Peterhanna / CC

@Parnelli98 Drivers were allowed to mix & match tyre compounds back in '86, correct? Such as Bs on front, Cs back.
Yes, they were allowed to mix up tyre compounds across the car and the practice was pretty common. Don't know when this was stopped?
@Parnelli98 They were still doing it in the '90s I believe, but how deep into the '90s I don't know.

@SartoMutiny No crowd. No passing opportunities on the track. Obviously the prototype for modern F1.

@Parnelli98 200 HP less than rivals for Brabham? That has to suck!

@LoisMarketing Trying to think back -- I know this was first race in Spain in several years. New track design and other construction? Seems to be.
Yes, Jerez was a new track, opened in December 1985, though it had held a motorcycle GP in the previous month (this race was in April 1986).

@LoisMarketing If we could transport ourselves back in time those stands would be packed!
If they'd only known how the race was to finish ;)
@LoisMarketing Yes, if they had only known! :)
@SartoMutiny No spoilers ;)
@Parnelli98 Yes, please no spoilers! I don't remember the finish!
@LoisMarketing None from me either, promise!

Stefan Johansson crashes and is strechered away. He was OK, just had bruising and was shaken up. The crash was caused by brake failure.

Never thought about it before, but you could argue that Jerez was the first of the 'modern' F1 venues. Purpose built, slow and twisty.
@LoisMarketing I was just thinking about that -- we see Jerez with a different perspective now, and it's relegated to '2nd tier'.

Looking forward to the bowls ;)

@Parnelli98 Not many cranes back then, eh? Cars scattered in the kitty litter in a couple of corners!
Was just thinking that! Conked out cars seem to be part of the landscape for those racing to negotiate!

Typical Murray - he sees a leader lapping someone and gets excited briefly thinking it's for position :)
@Parnelli98 Well, Senna did make the pass in a corner that made it kind of exciting. Kind of! :-)
@SartoMutiny De Angelis did try his best to get in the way, to be fair...

Mansell had been going backwards since the start, sinking to P5, but he's just passed Prost for P4.

@SartoMutiny They're just going to leave Jones's Lola there, I take it? 
Seems that way. Apparently at time a car parked for three or more laps should be considered by drivers as 'part of the course'! How things change. Seems Johannson's Ferrari isn't going anywhere either.
@SartoMutiny Doesn't even seem to be yellow flags there. These days, that would be a safety car!

Twenty laps in, only six seconds cover the first six. Nigel's looking racy all of a sudden, challenging for third.

Martin Brundle has passed Johnny Dumfries. Another typical Murray Walker trait: getting tremendously excited when a British driver passes someone for tenth place.
@SartoMutiny Even if it's another British driver he is passing, it seems. 
Must have known he'd be sharing a commentary box with him in 11 years' time.

@Parnelli98 Do you both suppose this is how the 2014 cars will sound like? 
Yes, it was 1.5L turbo V6s throughout the field in 1986. A glimpse of the future!
@Parnelli98 The revs will be higher at least. Doesn't sound too bad, just hope it is LOUD!
@ElenaF1 The cars sound is quite different than now!!
You should get used to it - they'll be sounding like this in F1 from 2014.
@ElenaF1 Wonderful!!!

This is classic Senna: get pole, lead off the line, control the race from the front. Dare I say it's Vettel-esque?

One difference between then and now is no compulsory tyre stops in 1986. It’s not clear if stops will be required in this race or not.

Another difference with now is that fuel is rationed in 1986; 195 litres per car per race. Driving 'on the gauge' for the race duration was par for the course.

Mansell now up to P3 ahead of Rosberg, which the cameras managed to miss. For all we moan now about TV missing things it was much more common then!
@SartoMutiny Mansell passes Rosberg. Murray, bless him, doesn't notice.

@Parnelli98 At least 90% of the broadcast so far has been Senna in the lead. Not that I'm complaining!
Good point. The midfield gets almost no TV coverage! Not like now when they get quite a bit.
@Parnelli98 Shame, because I'm pretty sure there are some good dicing going on. If I was a car sponsor, I'd be pissed off!
Yes, those sponsoring Benetton, Ligier, Tyrrell etc must have felt very hard done by!
@SartoMutiny Who was it that sponsored Benetton? I don't remember. 
So sharp you'd cut yourself.

Piquet seems to be struggling a bit, he's falling back from Senna and Mansell is all over him like a bad suit.

Sure enough, 'Our Nige' is up to second now ahead of Piquet. Not bad for a number two driver, as Webbo might say.
@SartoMutiny Mansell passes Piquet. At least we got to see that one.

Mansell now catching Senna 'hand over fist', to use a Murray-ism.

The bowls continues to tempt. Also, must be one hell of a cricket match, it only lasts 15 minutes!

Senna and Mansell nose to tail now for the lead. Put on your tin hats.

@Parnelli98 Laffitte's pit stop looked like a bad fire drill! Not much practice doing that guys?
Even by standards of the time that stop was a poor one. Around eight seconds was the norm.
@SartoMutiny Again, it's amazing how amateurish things looked compared with the slick pit stops you get these days.
Parnelli98 And he just about ran over the lolipop person! Crazy.

It's all going on. Mansell passes Senna for lead into turn 1, Brundle practices for a commentary career by watching it all in his mirrors.
@SartoMutiny Mansell passes Senna, at least partly due to a somewhat uncooperative Martin Brundle.
@ElenaF1 What an overtake!! Three cars together and without DRS or KERS...

And Piquet's car takes a huff at this by stopping in a cloud of smoke on the same lap, so Prost is up to third.

@Parnelli98 Mansell gapping Senna after only a lap or two. Nice!

@SartoMutiny Gerhard being lapped? What madness is this?
Gerhard Berger's in P5 as well and we're only just over half distance. There's a much bigger gap on pace between the cars then than now.

Mansell streaks clear and looks like the race is in the palm of his hand, but what can the master strategist Prost do from P3?

Nigel Mansell's 1986 Williams Honda FW11
Credit: Morio / CC

Oop, we obviously cut away to some badminton. Now it's lap 52, Senna looks much closer to leader Mansell, Prost is lurking in P3.
@Parnelli98 Is this the BBC highlighted version from 2012? Forward, into the past? :-P
We just skipped a few laps (that's how it was done on the BBC in those days!)
@ElenaF1 As today in here!!
Oh dear. And in Britain we complain about some of the races going to Sky :)

Johnny Dumfries is now called Johnny Bute. Apparently that's what aristocrats do.
@Parnelli98 Johnny didn't change anything else besides his name, did he? Like his plumbing? ;-) Just call him Joan.
Not to my knowledge but you never know ;)

Rosberg's now about to be lapped (in P4). If you're wondering why he's dropped back so much, he was spendthrift with fuel early on.
@SartoMutiny How unlike him.
If there ever was a driver not suited to discipline with turbo boost and fuel consumption it was Keke.

The seventh place car has been lapped *three* times! Also, only eight of the 25 starters are still going.
@ElenaF1 Upss!!! and i was thinking this year we had too much lapping!!!

@Parnelli98 Wow, look at all the empty grandstands! Shame, missed a great race!

Senna now all over Mansell. 'They're not very good friends at the moment' says Hunt. They would continue not being friends.
@SartoMutiny Prost stalking the two of them, doing his usual thing.

@SartoMutiny Senna tries to pass Mansell, so naturally we cut to Rosberg leaving the pits.
@Parnelli98 No, director!
He obviously thought Rosberg exiting the pits while a lap down was much more important than the battle for the lead.
@Parnelli98 What was I thinking? Lol! Maybe the director is a fan if Rosberg? ;-) Great three way fight for the lead!

@SartoMutiny Prost was such an intelligent driver. He did this so many times, nowhere to be seen, then he suddenly appears at the front.
Yes, Prost had a real inexorable quality about the way he raced didn't he? Something very beautiful about it.
@ElenaF1 For me Prost was a better driver than Senna. I would like to have seen both five years after Senna died.
@SartoMutiny Prost was a very underrated driver. I know someone who once wrote an article about that (Hiya @TalkingaboutF1! Hiya pal!)
You mean this one?

Senna and Prost pass Mansell within two corners. Classic Murray kiss of death! 'Mansell has the whip hand in the lead - d'oh!'

Mansell in P3 immediately dives in for new tyres. 10 laps to go, roughly a 20 second deficit...

@Parnelli98 Mansell now on new tyres. Can he make it back to the front before the end?

Murray thinks Mansell 'doesn't have a hope' of catching the cars in front.
@SartoMutiny That's Senna screwed, then.

@SartoMutiny Mansell 19 seconds behind with 8 laps to go. Let's see exactly how advantageous fresh tyres are!

@ElenaF1 19 seconds is too much...

In the meantime, Senna's managed to scamper away from Prost a bit in the lead.

@Parnelli98 Fast lap for Nigel. Enough time left?

@ElenaF1 Mansell catching up!! now 13 secs!!

Ooh, James Hunt's twigged. Mansell's on a charge, the gap to the lead is down to 12 seconds.

All of a sudden, Mansell can see Prost ahead of him. The gap between Nige and the lead is 8.7 seconds.

@ElenaF1 Mansell is going about 3 sec faster per lap??!!

Mansell now with Prost, didn't quite pass him into the first turn, now stuck behind.

@SartoMutiny Mansell all over the back of Prost. James Hunt, ever the astute one, has noticed that Mansell can still win this race!

Mansell now up to P2 (cameras missed it again!). Now he sets his sights on Senna, three laps to go.
@SartoMutiny Mansell passes Prost, although it took him a bit longer than he would have liked.
@ElenaF1 Good and we missed the overtaking :-(

@SartoMutiny It's very easy to forget what a superb driver Nigel Mansell could be at his best. This was a golden age for driving talent.

@SartoMutiny Gap is 5.2 seconds with 2 laps to go. Oooh...

@ElenaF1 Go, Nigel Go!!!!

Senna really struggling for grip, fishtailing like crazy. Last lap, gap 1.6 seconds...

@Parnelli98 Senna oversteering out of most corners. He knows Nigel is coming up fast.

@ElenaF1 He's catching Senna!!! :-)))

@SartoMutiny Senna has traffic now. This is getting interesting...

@SartoMutiny Last lap. The gap is 1.5 seconds. Amazing stuff from Mansell.

Mansell right with Senna now...

Wow, that was a close one. Senna and Mansell cross the finish line side by side. Replay shows that Senna was marginally ahead.

@SartoMutiny Senna wins! Murray seemed oddly confident about that fact, considering the gap was about three feet in the end.
Yeah I thought that, I don't think Murray realised just quite how close it was.

@ElenaF1 Ohhhh... so tight!!!

@Parnelli98 Great finish!

@ElenaF1 Mansell, just + 0.014 :-((

Apparently Mansell returned to his pit after the slowing down lap thinking he'd won, only to get bad news from his team.

@SartoMutiny And Gerhard gets a point. All's well that ends well. Yasss.

@Vampy04 Great experience following today. Wanna know what happened? Look at TL of @TalkingaboutF1 — #F1 fans, only.

@SartoMutiny Now watching the 1985 French Grand Prix. The commentary is in Japanese.

Mansell later complained that in the course of the weekend the start/finish line had been moved up the track and that he was ahead at 'original' line.
@ElenaF1 Hahahaha... didn't know this!!

And of course, if Mansell had won here he would have been 1986 World Champion. F1 is 'if' spelled backwards, as they say.

@SartoMutiny That was the closest ever finish in a GP until Ferrari's ludicrous formation finish at the 2002 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis. 
Yes, that one was altogether less exciting. The 1971 Italian GP had a winning margin of 0.01 secs (compared with 0.011 at Indianapolis and 0.014 at Jerez), but that was when timing only recorded to two decimal places. So we don't know if that winning margin was 0.010 or 0.019 seconds or somewhere in between!

@ElenaF1 So, thanks Graham for hosting this wonderful idea and everybody else for joining, see you next time!!

@Parnelli98 Thank you all for the coverage of the 1986 Spanish GP! Enjoyed it very much! Ciao!

@SartoMutiny Thanks again for doing. A fantastic and original idea, and a lot of fun for us oldies.

With that I'll bring the latest Retro F1 to a close. Thanks all for the chat and nice comments, it's the chat that makes Retro F1!

Hope you can also join in the next one. I’m happy to hear requests for races to watch, I'll let you know when the next Retro F1 is coming around! Remember that they have to exist on the internet for free though :)

Here are a few links to full F1 races on YouTube that I've used (though I wouldn't have thought that it's exhaustive):

Classic F1 vids
TheRickSpark's Channel

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