When F1 fuel saving was thrilling

prost pushing

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor OddBall

On this day… 27th July


Two things I remember about 1986, one being the horrendous accident of the NASA space shuttle Challenger and the second being the German GP at Hockenheim.

The race was started under a blistering German sun and the drivers were pushed to their absolute limit throughout the race.

The teams knew it was going to be tight with fuel given that the turbos of the day had a major drinking problem. Throw in the nature of Hockenheim circuit and everyone knew the day was going to be a rough ride.

To increase the power, teams had been producing ever bigger turbo units. However, this extra grunt came at huge cost because the regulated fuel limit was smaller than the cars required to run at full chatter for the full race duration.

Solution: Fuel saving measures were employed – sound familiar?(

Unlike today’s technological marvels these systems utilised a simple boost control that was governed by the driver, rather than a computer, and this led to some spectacular duels in these fledgling turbo years.

As the race unfolded the gaps between the leading drivers began to yo-yo as fuel became an issue.

Leads evaporated in the German sun as drivers ignored the fuel gauge and pressed for ever more power.

Alain Prost was harrying the Williams of Nigel Mansell and this battle continued until the very last lap. The margins were tight indeed – very, very tight.

As Senna approached the flag he began to weave his Lotus back and forwards across the track. Many saw it as a celeration, but it quickly became apparent he was flat out of juice.

The camera cut back to the Prost\Mansell battle and the millions of TV viewers watched enthralled as the McLaren began to slow and then sway across the track. The French champion desperately tried to get the last few drops of fuel into the engine but it wasn’t to be and his engine finally died.

Prost attempted to deploy some Jedi like powers as he rocked inside the cockpit back and forward against the steering wheel.

To his credit, he eventually climbed out of the car and pushed it towards the finishing line. But as car after car passed by, the efforts became evidently futile.

Prost wasn’t alone that day as 3 other cars failed to make the pit lane as they ran their tanks dry.

The modern computerised F1 space ships won’t allow this eventuality any more, but on THIS day back in 86 we saw just how exciting fuel saving can be.

5 responses to “When F1 fuel saving was thrilling

  1. Quite funny watching the Prost bobble-head doll pogoing down the track. Imagine all the points he’d get today for undoing his belts and hopping out while the car is moving and then pushing with cars racing by.

    • We have all been there..willing the extra drop of juice to flow into the engine, rocking the car or bike those few extra yrds to make it into the service station. My moment came at a Greek island, half way round on a moped the tank was drier than a nuns flip flop..I was rescued by a very generous German couple who tipped their own bike upside down to get fuel into my own .. boy was I grateful. Yes, he would be slaughtered now, that and the Muppet who ran across the track on the finish straight. I just loved those years because the unexpected happened, today’s cars are just so damn good, even the back of the field have more reliable motors. I think that when the hybrid units came into the mix,MrE was hoping for this kind of fail but the teams outfoxed the old guy.

  2. Must correct you there. ’86 was the year known for the massive moment when I decided that I too shall enter this cruel, cruel world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.