The 1989 Hungarian Grand Prix is one that stands out in the memory thanks to a wonderful showing from Nigel Mansell, who charged to victory for Ferrari, getting the better of Ayrton Senna in the McLaren to make the victory all the sweeter.
Having struggled on the qualifying tyre over the weekend, Ferrari’s Mansell actually set his qualifying time on Saturday using a race spec Goodyear tyre, but was down in a lowly 12th spot on the grid. With the track renowned as being difficult to overtake, Mansell had it all to do on Sunday. With a good race setup from his work on the race tyre, Mansell would be fast, but how far could he progress on the tight Hungaroring track?
Mansell made an aggressive start, switching from his inside grid position to the outside of the track into turn 1, and going all the way around the outside he emerged in 8th position coming out of the first corner. At the front, Patrese (Williams) from pole squeezed Senna (McLaren) into the first corner and held station at the front, while Alex Caffi, who had a terrific qualifying performance in his Pirelli shod Dallara to take 3rd on the grid, was quickly passed by Mansell’s Ferrari teammate Berger and Prost in the second McLaren, but from there managed to hold a train of cars behind him. Allesandro Naninni(Benneton) pitted from 7th on lap 12, and Mansell got past Thierry Boutsen (Williams) on lap 20 to take 6th. 6th became 5th when Mansell managed to pass Caffi on lap 22, with Mansell now 20 seconds back on the leaders, all bottled up behind Patrese’s Williams.
In clear air Mansell began to push, catching the leading train. Both Ferrari’s were on the softer option Goodyear tyre, intending to make a single stop to replace them during the race, while the McLarens were on the harder. Mansell had good fortune when teammate Berger, who had been running 3rd stopped on lap 29 to swap tyres. Berger dropped behind Mansell, now up to 4th. Upon inspecting Berger’s tyres Ferrari realised the softer Goodyear tyre would be able to complete a race distance, so Mansell would not have to stop! Mansell pressed on, and caught and passed Prost for 3rd on lap 41, and was now right behind Senna, who was still stuck behind Patrese, who had been holding Senna comfortably all race. But Patrese would suffer a damaged radiator, and Senna flew past on the straight on lap 52. Mansell followed at the next corner, as the unfortunate Patrese dropped down the field and retired. Mansell was now all over the back of Senna trying to take the lead, but while Mansell clearly had the pace advantage over the lap the McLaren had the grunt on the straights with its Honda engine pulling Senna clear, and a pass look unlikely.
However as Senna came upon Stefan Johansson’s Onyx on lap 58 the race turned on its head. Johansson was struggling with gearbox problems, and Senna lost momentum as he pulled too close to the ailing Onyx and had to back off to flick around Johansson. Mansell didn’t hesitate and seized the opportunity, flinging his Ferrari sideways to the outside of the track and passing by Senna as Senna passed Johansson! Senna tried to tuck in behind Mansell, but the Ferrari was off through the twisty track and pulled clear, heading to a famous victory.