A picture taken at the pit boxes of the Estoril Raceway, in Portugal, went down in history on September 21, 1986. It featured Ayrton Senna (Lotus), Alain Prost, (McLaren), Nigel Mansell (Williams) and Nelson Piquet (Williams) – the four greatest F1 icons of the 1980s, also known as the Golden Age of the main category in motor sports.
At the time, the four legends of the sport had only three world titles in total – one by Prost (1985) and two by Piquet (1981 and 1983) and 51 wins between them. But one person had a strong hunch that those numbers would be growing pretty soon…
Eventually, Ecclestone was proven absolutely right, even if that was the last time all four drivers fought for a world title up until the final races. They did have fierce duels, like Senna vs. Prost in 1988, 1989 and 1990 or Senna vs. Mansell in 1991. But, in 1986, any one of them could end up with the title – so much so that only four races away from the end of the season, only 8 points separated the driver in first place in the standings (Mansell) from the one in fourth (Piquet). Prost ended up securing the title in the final race, in Adelaide, Australia.
The historic picture was taken on a Thursday. Two days later, during the qualifying sessions, Senna was the fastest, securing his 14th pole position in F1 and his 7th in 1986. The Brazilian was 0s816 faster than Mansell, who started in second, and more than one second faster than Prost, the third on the starting grid.
On Sunday, Mansell was dominant and won the race, while Senna was able to fend off Prost’s and Piquet’s advances up until the final lap, when his Lotus ran out of fuel. The Frenchman took the second place from Senna and Piquet rounded out the podium. Ayrton managed to finish in fourth, but saw his shot at the title slip away. He would get there two years later, with McLaren, at Suzuka.
And that picture of the four promising drivers proved prescient. They ended up winning 11 world titles (three by Senna) e 146 races (41 by Ayrton).