The many corners of Hungaroring’s tricky circuit presented ideal conditions for cars equipped with aspirated engines to have a fair shot against the turbo-powered ones.
After an uncontested win from start to finish in Germany, Ayrton Senna was just three points behind Alain Prost in the championship standings, where the Frenchman led 60 to 57. Now he had a great chance to tie with – or even surpass – his rival.
The big contest, that year, was between the two McLarens. But after playing a supporting role for most of the season, Nigel Mansell was once again among the fastest times in the qualifying sessions, with his Williams, powered by a Judd engine.
Despite the unexpected fight for the pole position, the first place on the grid belonged to Ayrton Senna, who did better with his McLaren – but just 108 thousands of a second ahead of the Britton. The Brazilian’s best time was 1min27s635, while his biggest rival for the year’s title, Alain Prost, would start way behind, in seventh place. Thierry Boutsen and Ivan Capelli made up the second row.
The fight continued after the start, with both leaders using the several curves of the Hungaroring track as a stage for a true spectacle. Ayrton Senna kept the lead, knowing it was hard to overtake in that circuit. Prost started badly and fell to ninth place, which increased the pressure on his recovery. He got one position back before the first lap was over and, taking advantage of Capelli’s pit-stop, Prost started the second lap in the same position he had begun the race. Patrese had the best start, jumping from sixth to third place.
After the 12th lap, Mansell was still shadowing Senna, who did a good job forcing his adversary to make a mistake. He repeatedly made Mansell brake suddenly, until the Britton was knocked out. Mansell went off the track, over the grass and spun out. The Williams came back in fourth place and stopped performing well after the accident, retiring on lap 60. According to the team, it was due to the brakes wearing out. And there was another detail: Mansell had the measles, which he had gotten from one of his kids.
The fact that Mansell wasn’t in contention for the victory anymore didn’t make things easier for Senna. Patrese went after the Brazilian and bothered the McLaren driver until lap 27 when his car overheated – the hot European summer certainly didn’t help matters. The Willaims’ driver slowed down to a crawl, and Boutsen took the second place. Making a recovery, Prost was already in third place, taking advantage of the Benetton’s’ and Williams’ problems.
On lap 33 out of 76, Senna was 2.3 seconds ahead of Boutsen and 7 seconds ahead of Prost. After that, it was hard to tell the difference between them. Only on lap 47 Prost took advantage of his Hond engine power and passed the Belgian at the end of the straight, the track’s main overtaking spot.
On the following lap, Senna had to negotiate the overtaking of two backmarkers. Prost took the chance and tried to surprise his teammate at the end of the straight. Even in the inside, the Frenchman lost the ideal tangent at the end of the corner and the Brazilian took back the lead, in the race’s best maneuver.
The McLarens remained close together until the end of the race when Ayrton crossed the finish line 0s529 ahead of Prost. Boutsen rounded out the podium 31s behind. Now, both rivals were tied in the standings, with 66 points each.
After the race, happy with the 12th win in his career, Ayrton Senna said about Nigel Mansell’s misfortune:
“Now do you understand why I won the race?” I was afraid of catching the measles”.
The season’s following GP was scheduled to take place in Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium, three weeks later.