Mansell en route to his Hungarian surprise in 1989. (LAT archive)
LEFT: Senna leads Mansell, but the day would belong to the Briton. (LAT archive)
23 years ago this week, Nigel Mansell scored one of the most dramatic victories of his legendary Formula 1 career, coming from 12th on the grid to win at the Hungaroring – a track previously regarded as being all but impossible to pass on.
Mansell's Ferrari had started back on row six owing to traffic issues in qualifying. Instead it was the Williams of Riccardo Patrese and McLaren of Ayrton Senna that started up front ahead of the surprising Alex Caffi, whose Dallara-Cosworth benefited from running on Pirelli tires that proved well suited to the track surface.
At the start, Patrese, Senna and Caffi maintained their grid order into Turn 1, while Mansell made a good start, rising to eighth at the first corner. Caffi was soon struggling, the Dallara unable to replicate the speed it had shown in qualifying, and slipped back to fifth, where he held up a train of cars.
After he tigered past this train, Mansell found himself in second when Patrese's Williams slowed with a holed radiator, allowing both Senna and Mansell to pass him in the space of a few corners. Patrese retired from the race shortly afterward.
Mansell now began to pressure Senna, clearly faster but unable to pass due to the extra power of the McLaren's Honda engine. But when the lead pair came up to lap Stefan Johansson's Onyx, the Brazilian uncharacteristically hesitated, briefly lifting off and allowing Mansell to draw alongside as they went past and use the Ferrari's greater momentum to surge past and take the lead. Once in front the Ferrari driver pulled away to an easy victory over Senna, who said his car had developed a tire vibration in the closing stages, with Thierry Boutsen's Williams-Renault completing the podium finishers.
"I think maybe it was the best race of my life," Mansell said afterward. "On a par with Silverstone '87, anyway." He then dedicated the win to Enzo Ferrari, who had passed away almost exactly a year earlier.