As the championship’s leader before the British Grand Prix, the season’s seventh race, Ayrton Senna knew how hard it would be to face the Williams in a race without any incidents. The Brazilian’s victories with Lotus, in 1987, had taken place in Monaco and Detroit, both street circuits, where the driver had proven to be a cut above the competition.
In the standings, Senna had 27 points; Prost (McLaren) was in second place with 26; Piquet (Williams) had 24 and Mansell (Williams) had 21.
Even though he had won several times at Silverstone in the entry categories to Formula One (Formula Ford and F3), Ayrton had never even finished in the top-three at one of his favorite circuits since his F1 debut. But there was an explanation for that: Silverstone and Brands Hatch took turns hosting the British GP – a tradition that would end in 1987. Therefore Senna had driven an F1 racecar at the UK’s most celebrated track only once, in 1985, when his Lotus led the race up until lap 59 – six away from the end – but had to retire after running out of gas.
With Prost and Senna fighting it out, both Williams distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. On lap 12, Mansell started complaining to his team about tire issues. Goodyear, that season’s tire-maker, had assure the teams that they should be able to finish all 65 laps without any trouble. That meant that a pit-stop could be a huge setback for any driver.
Even though Mansell was reporting vibrations in his car, Piquet wasn’t able to put much space between the two of them, and the Britton didn’t leave his rearview mirror for the 20 initial laps.
The Williams mechanics were on standby for a possible pit-stop by Mansell, but that only happened on lap 35, when his tires gave out completely.
Even before that, Alain Prost had been the first among the leaders to make a stop, on lap 29. The Frenchman had been pushing his car too hard, which allowed him to gain 10 seconds on Senna, but he ended up squandering that advantage to change his tires. The 1986 champion returned in fifth place, behind Alboreto (Ferrari), and would have to climb his way to the top-three all over again.
A. de Cesaris
position in championship following the race
championship points accumulated
The two Williams were much superior and there wasn’t much I could do to oppose them.