It’s time to once again go back in the Formula 1 vault and go over five classic races ahead of the next round of the championship.
This weekend we head to Mexico, for the 23rd running of the Mexican Grand Prix. First held as a World Championship race in 1963, the race has appeared and disappeared several times on the calendar.
It was held every year between 1963 and 1970, then returning again between 1986 and 1992, before taking its current place in 2015.
The race has been held at the same circuit, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, every year it has appeared on the calendar, although it was formerly known as the Magdalena Mixuca before being renamed after the late Ricardo Rodriguez after his death in 1962.
The race is also today referred to as “The Mexico City Grand Prix” but for the case of this article, we will simply call it the Mexican Grand Prix.
No Aussie has ever won the Mexican Grand Prix, with Jack Brabham’s second place in 1963, 1966 & 1967 the best ever finish by an Australian at the race.
So with all that in mind, which five Mexican Grands Prix were the best? Let’s find out.
5. 1991 – Winner: Riccardo Patrese (Williams)
A tense battle between Williams teammates Riccardo Patrese and Nigel Mansell headlined what would be the penultimate Mexican Grand Prix until it returned in 2015, although a barrel rolling Ayrton Senna in qualifying also made this a memorable event.
The Brazilian had crashed out into the infamous banked Peraltada corner, flipping his McLaren in spectacular fashion. He was able to recover though and lined up on the grid in third behind both the Williams cars.
Patrese had taken pole but dropped to fourth off the line, before re-taking the lead from his teammate on lap 15. And although Mansell suffered engine issues and dropped back behind his teammate, he soon overcame them to force his way back behind Patrese, giving fans an epic showdown between the pair fighting it out for the lead.
No matter what Mansell did, he couldn’t find a way past, and Patrese took the win ahead of Mansell, with Senna finishing where he started in third.
4. 1990 – Winner: Alain Prost (Ferrari)
A race perhaps best known for one of the best overtaking maneuvers of all time, it also gave Ferrari their first one-two finish in nearly two years.
The move was made by Ferrari’s Nigel Mansell on McLaren’s Gerhard Berger on the penultimate lap of the race. Mansell, in third, had been chasing second-placed Berger down for several laps after he had spun off chasing down Prost for the lead.
Mansell came behind Berger into Peraltada, with Berger defending hard as he saw the red car in his mirrors. Mansell swept to the outside of the high banked curve and kept it flat out, bravely storming past the McLaren of Mansell and back into second place, a position he wouldn’t soon lose again. It was an incredible move still fondly remembered by many to this day.
The race was won by Prost that helped kickstart the 1990 Championship into gear and made it sure to be a strong season long battle between himself and great rival Ayrton Senna.
3. 1986 – Winner: Gerhard Berger (Benetton)
The 1986 season is perhaps best known for the epic final race title battle between Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost but few remember that Mansell could’ve won the title at the penultimate race in Mexico. He simply needed to win the race to take his first title, and at the first Mexican Grand Prix in 16 years, few were doubting he could achieve it.
However in the lead-up to the race, Mansell took ill with a severe stomach bug that affected him right across the weekend. He also only managed to qualify third behind Piquet and Ayrton Senna, and had a terrible start that dropped him from the second row of the grid right back to 18th.
He was never able to recover from that position, with tyre wear affecting his charge and he was only able to finish in fifth place. Piquet would finish in fourth, while Prost would finish second, setting up the epic showdown in Adelaide.
The big beneficiary from all the title contenders falling down the pack was Berger, who was able to drive through the tire wear storm to claim his first ever win, as well as the first ever win for the Benetton team, showcasing just what was possible from the Italian team in the next decade, as well as giving the popular Berger a taste of victory champagne.
2. 1967 – Winner: Jim Clark (Lotus)
A Trans-Tasman battle for the Championship, both Denny Hulme and Jack Brabham went into the 1967 Mexican Grand Prix with their eyes on the prize in their respective Brabham cars. Hulme simply had to finish in fourth or higher to win the title, Brabham had to win with Hulme fifth or lower to claim his fourth crown.
Both drivers qualified poorly, with Hulme sixth and Brabham fifth. Jim Clark took a dominant pole position for Lotus and was nearly wiped out at the start of the race after Dan Gurney ran into the back of him off the line.
This incident damaged the exhaust of his car, but he was still able to continue and eventually retook the lead and would never relinquish that position.
This meant that it was impossible for Brabham to claim the Championship, and he would finish the race in second, one spot ahead of Hulme who became the first (and only) World Champion from New Zealand.
1. 1964 – Winner: Dan Gurney (Brabham)
The final race of the year saw three British drivers in the hunt for the World Championship: John Surtees for Ferrari, Graham Hill for BRM and Jim Clark for Lotus.
There were a wide variety of scenarios that could play out, but it seemed most likely a championship for Hill, with Clark the long shot and Surtees there to collect the scraps no matter what.
The race itself was in favour of Clark, who started on pole and led early on. He had to win in order to win the championship and looked likely that he would do so.
However with seven laps remaining his engine broke down, costing him the World Championship and also costing Lotus the Constructors Championship and giving it to Ferrari.
Hill wasn’t able to capitalise on Clark’s misfortune as he had been sent back towards the back of the field after being hit by the Ferrari of Lorenzo Bandini early in the race, meaning Surtees was in the prime position to take the title.
Entering the last lap, he was in third place behind teammate Bandini and the Brabham of Dan Gurney. Surtees however needed to finish in second or higher to win the championship. Ferrari team members jumped on to the track to wave furiously at Bandini to slow down to let his teammate through, something he would ultimately do, giving Surtees the second place he needed.
In doing so, he became the first (and only) ever driver to win both the F1 World Championship and World Motorcycle World Championship.
This was also the race in which Ferrari famously (or perhaps infamously) raced in a blue and white livery instead of their iconic red livery after a dispute between Enzo Ferrari and the Italian National Automobile Club saw Enzo change the colours of his cars in protest. Oh the 1960s…
Do you agree with this list? Which Mexican Grand Prix is your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here