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Your classic Hungarian Grand Prix

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Andrew Benson | 13:40 UK time, Tuesday, 21 July 2009

For the Hungarian edition of our classic grands prix series we have chosen Nigel Mansell's brilliant victory in 1989 as the winning race.

In responses to this blog, the Englishman's famous win was by far the most popular request, with Damon Hill's heartbreaking last-lap loss of the race in 1997 and Jenson Button's maiden victory in 2006 some way behind.

All three would have been worthy choices for extended highlights, but Mansell's brilliant drive to take his second victory for Ferrari feels like the right choice, in that it satisfies both the romantics and the cognoscenti.

You can watch the full 'Grand Prix' highlights programme from the time here:

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Watch short highlights of the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1988 Hungarian Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1989 Hungarian Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix
Watch short highlights of the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix

The highlights will be available on satellite and cable from 0900 on Wednesday 22 July and will stay up until Saturday 25 July. They will be on Freeview channel 301 from 1600 on Thursday 23 July until 0830 on Friday 24 July.

Mansell had actually won on his debut for Ferrari in Brazil at the start of the season - a victory that ranks among the most unexpected in F1 history.

Ferrari designer John Barnard pioneered the semi-automatic gearbox with this car, the 640. Within a couple of years, the system, operated through paddles on the back of the steering wheel, was to become de rigueur in F1. But Ferrari had serious development pains with it.

The car had failed to complete more than a handful of laps at a time in pre-season testing. And so convinced was Mansell that it would not last the distance in the heat of Rio de Janeiro's Jacarepagua circuit that he booked an early flight home - which he promptly missed when the Ferrari not only lasted the race, but finished it first as well.

No-one seemed quite sure how the car had lasted, and sure enough Mansell and team-mate Gerhard Berger had to get used to parking their cars at the side of the track during the first half of the season.

By Hungary, though, Ferrari had got on top of their reliability issues, and the car was becoming a major challenger. Nevertheless, Mansell's chances of a second victory of the season did not look great when he qualified 12th, complaining of traffic, at a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Things began to look up when he vaulted up to eighth with a great start, and things further played into his hands when pole-sitter Riccardo Patrese held on to the lead in his Williams, and delayed McLaren's Ayrton Senna and Berger, who were soon joined by Senna's team-mate Alain Prost in a four-way battle for the lead.

Mansell, meanwhile, was at the back of a four-car battle for fifth place headed by Dallara driver Alex Caffi - who had qualified an astonishing third, thanks to his Pirelli tyres offering better one-lap grip on the dusty surface than the Goodyears used by the front-runners. And by the time Mansell had worked his way to the front of that group, he was 17 seconds behind fourth-placed Prost.

This, though, was when it became apparent that he had a genuine shot at victory. He started slicing into that gap at around two seconds a lap and by half distance was on the back of the lead group - which meant fourth place as Berger had by now stopped for tyres.

There then followed two of the best overtaking moves you will ever see. Mansell blasted past Prost between Turns Three and Four - not a recognised overtaking place - having gone through Three much faster than the Frenchman.

No sooner was he past Prost than his battle with Senna became for the lead, as Patrese began to run into problems that were to lead to his retirement and both the Brazilian and Mansell overtook him within a couple of corners with about 20 laps to go.

For a few laps Mansell tracked Senna and despite clearly being faster was unable to challenge, as the superior horsepower of the McLaren's Honda engine pulled the world champion just far enough ahead down the main straight to be safe from an attack under braking.

But then, with 20 laps to go, Mansell saw his chance. Coming out of Turn Two, Senna was closing rapidly on backmarker Stefan Johansson's Onyx. Through Turn Three, the Swede was on the racing line and, right behind him, Senna uncharacteristically hesitated and had to lift off the throttle. Mansell stayed flat, and on the exit of the corner the Ferrari jinked out from behind the McLaren and its superior momentum carried it ahead up the hill into Turn Four.

And with that, the race was in the bag. It was, as Murray Walker put it in the commentary, "one of the most memorable grands prix for a long time".

Let's hope this weekend's race in Hungary can live up to it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Awesome. Thanks, Andrew!

  • Comment number 2.

    Good stuff Andrew!

    A comment about the semi-auto 'box. Contrary to popular belief, the semi-auto gearbox was actually tested by Ferrari as far back as the Gilles Villeneuve days. Also, I believe the Ferrari used for this race was the F1-89 or 640. The 639 was tested pre-season without an airbox which was introduced for the Mexican event.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was at this race, my one and only grand prix - not a bad one to pick. It took place in the short period between the end of my education and the beginning of my working life and is a great memory. Mind you, I remember more about events leading up to the the race than the actual race itself:
    The long wait in Vienna to pick up a Hungarian visa.
    The train journey from Vienna and the guards kicking people of at the border because they didn't have the aforementioned visa - plus the Kiwi who managed to bribe his way across anyway. I'm sure he was not the only one.
    The local who met us at the station and rented us a couple of rooms in his apartment - "do not worry boys, I will look after you, but remember, I am not a homosexual!". He seemed to have a rather blinkered view of the British?
    The local wine cellars that sold some sort of dirt-cheap (maybe fortified) wine out of large vats. It seemed to me that these were as close as you could get to a 19th century London ginmill. You couldn't see (or breathe) for the fag smoke - maybe that was a good thing. I was back in Budapest 5 years ago and was delighted to find that some of these places still exist.
    The Lada race that took place at the track after the qualifying - quality.
    The searing heat and the deafening noise of the engines at the start.
    Mansell's passing manoeuvres? Missed them all - we were in a stand just before the home straight. Until this day I didn't even know the full story of the race. At the time all we knew for sure was that he was working his way steadily through the field. Thanks for filling me in, albeit 20 years later!

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting to note who the first few posters are in response to Andrew's latest post on which Hungarian GP "won" the "vote".

    I for one am delighted that '89 has been chosen for the full GP highlights, being as I am both one of the romantics and the cognoscenti ;o)

  • Comment number 5.

    Higlights of the 2006 race are awesome especially the spectacular over-taking and crashes and, of course, a first race win for Button!

  • Comment number 6.

    Great to see all the clips / highlights again. THANKS!

  • Comment number 7.

    Great race, thanks Andrew, and I am very happy to hear it will be on Freeview.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thanks for getting us a slot on Freeview Andrew. Good Work

  • Comment number 9.

    2006 hungray was longer than 5MINS!!! YEAH!

    does this mean that BBC can show clips longer than 5mins now between 1997-2008 or will they show 5mins or less on the red button ?

  • Comment number 10.

    Great videos there Andrew, sets fire to all those myths which say the Hungaroring is forever a dull circuit :)

    Once in a while, you get a guddun'

  • Comment number 11.

    Mansell's victory in '89 was by far the best race.

    Fantastic to see Piquet's overtake on Senna again. Proper racing!

  • Comment number 12.

    i can't wait to watch them but my internet connection is too slow grrrr! looks like i'll have to wait till its on tv

    good pick by the way, but then again i did vote for it!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Glad to see the one that I voted for winning.

    Also, i'll be able to watch it before I go on holiday tomorrow

    Cheers Andrew


  • Comment number 14.

    Senna27 - thanks for the nudge on the type number of the 1989 Ferrari. You are absolutely right. Normally I'm a stickler for correct type numbers, but for some reason my brain had slipped a gear and I'd remembered the 639 as the '89 car and the 640 as the Prost/Mansell '90 car with the rounded front top edges to the sidepods. But in fact, as you say, the 639 was the test car, the 640 the '89 race car and the 641 the (more beautiful - and effective) one they raced in 1990.

    Anyway, I've taken my anorak off and changed it in the copy now.

    To the rest of you, I'm glad you're enjoying it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for this continuing excellent feature Andrew.

    You said that Mansell had one of the most unexpected victories of all time at the season opening Brazil Grand Prix of 1989. I think that quite a few unexpected victories have occured at the Hungaroring. I think of Jenson Buttons 2008 win and Mansell in 1989. For me, other unxexpected wins at other circuits include Nelson Piquet (Canada 1991) and Eddie Irvine (Australia 1999).

    The highlights programme of 1989 bought back so many memories. I really enjoyed the 1988, 1989 and 1990 seasons, watching the Senna/Prost rivalary come to a head. I hope that later in the season we are offered the chance for highlights of the 1989 Japaneese Grand Prix.

    I also remember regularly mistaking a view of the Dallara for one of the Ferrari's during that era. I still make the same mistake whilst watching the highlights now!

    Finaly, that is the first time that I have seen the 1997 race for while, and the I still get pi***d off watching those final laps! It's a bit like watching The Great Escape each Christmas. I'm sure that Steve McQueen will make the jump over that second fence one day.

  • Comment number 16.

    Agreed about the 1990 Ferrari bieng the better looking.(It's my all-time fave F1 car), but where's the 1990 and 1992 (full or short) higlights?
    1990 was another great race(another Williams train causing mayhem behind,) and 1992 was also a great race(not for the lead, mind). Nige won the title there, with some great racing!
    Surely that was worth aknowledgment.


  • Comment number 17.

    Just watched the highlights from 1989, and I was amazed at Nigels' drive. Trully one of the most amazing races ever.

    You can now understand why Alain went to Ferrari the for 1990.

    Thanks again


  • Comment number 18.

    Also. Isn't it about time the BBC had a bone-fide classic sports channel on Freeview? It would render this megre selection, irrelevant.

  • Comment number 19.

    StaffSteve, that 1997 Hungarian feels so much like the weekends just gones golf doesn't it.

    Definitely one of the most heartbreaking sporting moments I can remember watching.

  • Comment number 20.

    I've just watched the epic '89 GP highlights and two things have struck me as being very different from what we see today and one thing has reminded me very much of what we do see this year.

    Firstly; How close could one car follow behind another?! Very close! Around such a high downforce circuit, and through the twistiest parts, cars could follow virtually nose to tail.
    That shows me that the Overtaking Working Group have got a lot of 'Working' yet to do!

    Secondly: What power that Honda engine had! The way it just pulled away on the straights! It was a bigger difference than KERS vs non-KERS, really!

    And finally, I got the distinct impression that the 2nd & 3rd placed drivers just abandoned Nigel, once they'd got their trophies. No 'friendly' group photos in those days!

    Overtaking Working Group, digitus extracticus!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I have to admit of all the races in 2008 this was one of the best so I doubt anything from last Year will end up being shown as number one. Brilliant choice, 89 and 97 were the best :)

  • Comment number 22.

    "I also remember regularly mistaking a view of the Dallara for one of the Ferrari's during that era."


    So did Murray. Hardly a race went by without him losing it when he caught sight of a Dallara being lapped.

    MW: "And... Berger's got past! We didn't see it, but Senna must have made a mistake."
    James Hunt: "It's a Dallara."
    MW: "Its... it's a Dallara."

    Hungary's often ridiculously tedious, but 89 is one of the all-time classics from any track. I remember at the time being in a total daze for ages at the way Mansell pulled that move, and then somehow stayed out of the clutches of the McLaren's vastly superior straight-line speed.

  • Comment number 23.

    Cant wait to view the races. I love F1, watch all the races and have done for years with gaps due to weekend working when younger and times when girls have lead me astray.

    I have to say thought that there are some true anoraks on here though!

    Go Button!

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm pleased it's on Freeview, well done!

    A shame it's a ferari victory though, the drivers have never interested me much - just the teams - and ferari are The Enemy.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Andrew,

    I know i'm jumping the gun a 'bit' here but as I believe the European GP will obviously be a forgone conclusion with 1993 and 1985 winning, I was wondering about the Belgian GP. As this is an increasingly rare thing these days by being a GP with a wealth of hisotry, I was wondering if we could take the opportunity to use any golden bits of bbc archive from races before 1978? Apart from brief highlights of Monaco 1961, we havent really seen any footage from the days when drivers could really get the back end sliding. Would just love to see extended highlights of a race before 1978!

    Also, a heads up for the slipstreaming race at Monza 1971!! That is a must!

  • Comment number 26.

    Great Highlights,so many famous overtakes involve Mansell, what a driver?
    Quick request for European GP- put 2007 at the Nurburgring in the selection please. I know it's a recent one but it's an awesome race, and I think I'm right in saying Murray Walker was commentating for 5Live on it...

  • Comment number 27.


    Please, please don't select 1993. I don't think we need to see it again - how many times have we seen the first lap of that race? If 1995 is up, I'll select that. Europe actually is a really tough choice, I hope you guys select:

    - 1985
    - 1993 (inevitable, I guess)
    - 1995
    - 1999
    - 2007

  • Comment number 28.

    D_M_N_ Post #27

    What about the season fianle 1997 European Grand Prix at Jerez? Surely a contender?

    Or maybe that will be considered for the Abu Dhabi race where the classic will be picked from five title deciders.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think (and hope) that'd be considered for Abu Dhabi for the reason you've said.

  • Comment number 30.

    Senna27 - i'd be surprised if the beeb had access to extended highlights prior to the late 1970's for any round of the season, other than the British GP and maybe Monaco.
    I think before the late 70's they didn't show and therefore record every GP (Though i get the impression your a bit of a F1 expert so probably know this already)

    I reckon the best they may have from the 50's, 60's and early 70's may be the odd news reel item like we had for the Nurburgring the other week.

    I fully support your idea though. Would love to see some footage from the 1960's as a choice for any of the historic tracks such as Monza and Spa. Infact would love to see any 60's footage when F1 used to visit all the 'dangerous' tracks. Would especially like to see some footage of the 'old' Spa, though the new circuit is still the best track on the calender by a long shot.

    As for the European GP, i'd agree with StaffsSteve that 1997 was a cracker, and i also thought 1999 was good too. I hope they're up as choices so we get to see them, though obviously i'd be voting for a pre 1997 race if there is one available for the longer highlights and because i don't remember them too well.

    Keep on with this feature Andrew, its another great compliment to the BBC coverage of F1.

  • Comment number 31.

    Swerve1, You are absolutley right about the BBC coverage before 1978. I suppose the point I was trying to make to Andrew, and I pray he takes this on board, is that when ever he and the archives team manages to find coverage before 1978 that can be shown as extended highlights, those races should be given priority over anything thing else, because as you say, it is so rare to get such an opportunity, when there is one, we simply have to take it. The exception being the British GP's already featured on ESPN Classic, there would be little point in showing those races as classic highlights now.

    My hope for real good archive footage before 1978 from the BBC really has to come from Grand Prix in Belgium, and Italy now, although i recall for races in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, Andrew plans to select races using a different criteria, so we may also have hope there.

    I know that ITV used to broadcast races in the 70's and 60's too, I wonder if Andrew has access to them live he does with post 1996 races?

    Clips have been shown of the 1971 Italian GP at various times by the BBC over the years, which gives me some hope that the full race or at least extended highlights must be somewhere in the archives!

    D-M_N to be honest, i'm not really bothered about the European GP as the race only dates back to 1983, i've seen them all!

  • Comment number 32.

    The 1989 Hungarian tape wasn't in the best of condition was it? Glitchy at the start of the race and the sound goes onto left channel on a couple of occasions, did you leave it in the VCR for 20 years? :)

  • Comment number 33.

    I caught this series, for the first time ever, just after 8:00am this morning when I was looking to see which of the two Freeview channels the first practice session was going to be broadcast on. I've never seen any mention of the series before - and still can't find anything other than this blog!
    Is the 1600 Thursday to 0800 Friday Freeview slot a regular thing or not?
    Many thanks for the Mansell re-run. That move on Senna was just as breath-taking as I remembered from all the those years ago!

  • Comment number 34.

    @bobellsmore: The times and dates on freeview change depending on what else is shown. On some weeks they are not shown at all on freeview but they are still shown on sky and the bbc f1 website. Managed to see the races this week and they were great, thanks once again Andrew. :)

  • Comment number 35.

    Now that was some pretty impressive racing. The laugh with these 80s races are all these teams that are dead and buried getting a mention.

    Another laugh is seeing Patresee in trouble and Hunt says "Patresee clearly has a problem". Having seen the short version of '89 right off the back of the short version of '88, I couldn't help but respond "again".

    Also, Alboreto, racing with a broken rib. Clearly a nutcase.

  • Comment number 36.

    Being a Schumacher fan (don't hate me!! LOL) I think Hungary 1998 was an absolute ripper.

    It goes soemthing like this...

    Ross Brawn - 'Michael, we need 25 seconds in 20 laps'

    Michael - 'O.K.'

    End result? Schumacher 3 stops his way to victory over the all conquering McLaren's....brilliant drive, lapping that circuit with the consistency of a of Schumacher's top 3 drives in my opinion. :)


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