Mexico 1990: Mansell reveals all on his greatest F1 overtake

Jonathan Noble

The around-the-outside manoeuvre at Peraltada, one of F1’s most fearsome bends, showed bravery of the highest degree from Mansell, and incredible trust between him and his Austrian rival about going side-by-side through there.

Had their wheels interlocked, then it would have been an aircraft accident.

The moment played out on the penultimate lap of the Mexico race as Mansell in the Ferrari chased down to repass then second place Gerhard Berger, with Alain Prost out of touch in front.

Peraltada corner

Peraltada corner Sutton Images

Sutton Images

Mansell hounded Berger and was looking for any opportunity to get his position back.

As they approached the super fast banked right handed final corner for the penultimate time, Berger moved to the inside to cover what he thought would be the most obvious plan for Mansell to try a move.

But Mansell wasn’t going to wait and instead went high into the corner – swooping around the outside as television commentators around the world went wild.

For a man known for his bravery in the cockpit it was a stand out moment, and he has confessed to it being something super special.

“It was one of the greatest overtaking manoeuvres of my career probably,” said the 1992 world champion. “It’s mainly because when I review it now, being here, I think 'did I really do that?'

“In that day, if it went wrong you were going to get seriously hurt. You had to be a bit mental to take it on. When I revisited it on YouTube, I didn't realise that I was going at it all down the straight too.”

The Peraltada corner was partly bypassed by a stadium section when Formula 1 returned in 2015

The Peraltada corner was partly bypassed by a stadium section when Formula 1 returned in 2015 Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Mansell is aware that safety concerns have had to take preference in recent years, but he say it is a shame that some of F1’s more challenging turns have gone.

“I have a lot of regrets that two people lost their lives in 1994 and that changed all circuits around the world forever - because we have lost iconic corners,” he explained.

“If you look at Silverstone, the old Becketts, Copse, Stowe and Club have all disappeared. I have to say it’s been done for the right reasons, but the psyche you had to have, with your ability to try something, was something different.

“As a driver you are not suicidal, you don’t want to go and lose your life, but you had to fight with your right foot and your brain because your head is saying ‘back off a little bit’, but you want to be quicker and you want to do it and it to come off.

“You cannot stop your foot coming off. Your brain has a self-preservation chip which we all have. You know when you are right on the edge, that it is going to do that. So when you can overcome that, and just change it like the rev limiter on an engine, you can up it to a different level and it is pretty neat.”

Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, Ferrari

Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, Ferrari Ercole Colombo

Ercole Colombo

Mansell has taken heart from the fact that people still talk about that Mexico moment from 1990; but he feels a sense of sorrow for the current generation of drivers who have to drive cars that he thinks are not capable of repeating what he did.

“To be fair to the drivers today, we had an unfair advantage years ago,” he said. “The unfair advantage we had was we had bigger tyres.

“We could put our personality into the car. There was no power steering, no traction control, and everything was down to us.

“When we went into the corner with our hair on fire, we knew how the car was going to operate. And the car was always constantly moving, so we were having to dance with the car a little bit.

“Now, it's changed immeasurably because of the sophistication of the computer and the controls. The cars can't be driven irregularly or with personality, because if you do that, the tyres are so small, you wear them out quicker and you degrade them sooner.

“So it doesn't get the best out the whole package. Drivers have some constraints on them, which aren’t their fault.”

Mansell’s move at Mexico in 1990 looks set to remain a stand-out moment for F1 forever.