Race of my Life: Prost on the 1990 Mexican GP

The latest episode in Autosport’s Race of My Life podcast series is four-time world champion Alain Prost’s remarkable victory in the 1990 Mexican Grand Prix

Race of my Life: Prost on the 1990 Mexican GP
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Race: 1990 Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City

Car: Ferrari 641

There were several races that I could choose from, but if I had to pick one it would be the 1990 Mexican Grand Prix and 1986 Australian. Maybe Mexico was stronger for me.

The main thing was that, although the car was OK, I was struggling with the qualifying tyres. I decided to concentrate on the race set-up during qualifying and, in fact, not use any qualifying tyres.

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The decision not to qualify on qualifying tyres and concentrate on race set-up is never easy, but I was sure that it was the right decision. So I was obviously surprised and disappointed to start 13th. I was expecting to be maybe fifth, sixth or seventh, but 13th was quite hard. To be honest, when I qualified I said to my race engineer, “Don’t worry”, but nobody believed me at the time.

Alain Prost, Ferrari 641

Alain Prost, Ferrari 641

Photo by: Sutton Images

In this type of team, when you have a car capable of the front row and you’re fighting for the championship, and you then qualify 13th, sometimes people do not understand. Even if they trust what you’re doing it’s not that easy, especially in the Latin teams. But the race was perfect.

In the warm-up in the morning I did everything that I wanted to. I remember being with the race engineer and the guy from the engine department and I said, “I will win the race”. One of them said, “Nobody wins the race from 13th!”

Alain Prost, Ferrari 641/2, leads Nigel Mansell, Ferrari 641/2

Alain Prost, Ferrari 641/2, leads Nigel Mansell, Ferrari 641/2

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

The good thing was that I overtook everybody. Nobody stopped because of reliability problems.

All of the frontrunners had the same tyres, so I think my set-up was better in terms of handling. Mexico City was very bumpy and very tiring physically because of that.

I decided to run with less downforce. This was to try to push much less on the car and not to go too strong on the bumps. This would ask a little bit less of the tyres and I would have good speed on the straight. That was the main reason for my advantage in the race, but this set-up simply didn’t work in qualifying.

Podium: race winner Alain Prost, Ferrari, second place Nigel Mansell, Ferrari

Podium: race winner Alain Prost, Ferrari, second place Nigel Mansell, Ferrari

Photo by: Motorsport Images

During practice optimise what you have, and it worked out. But, of course, I still had to drive. I had to overtake, because on the first lap I think I was 14th or 15th, but I saw very quickly that the car was braking perfectly.

It was really one of my best races, or should I say, my best weekends.

Interview by Peter Mills, first published in Autosport, 9 September 2010

 

 

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