Mexico 1986: Gerhard Berger’s first win with a different tire rubber on each sideWritten by Ζήσης Βουργάνας
Translated by Georgia Mystrioti
The whole world definitely got puzzled, or even laughed, when Williams’ engineers changed Valtteri Bottas’ tires in the Belgian GP 2015 and placed 3 soft rubber tires and a medium one.
Of course, this did not happen by choice of the team or the driver, but by accident.
However, what happened in the Mexican GP 1986 clearly was the race driver’s choice.
Austrian Gerhard Berger, who was driving for Benetton at the time, started in 4th place behind Ayrton Senna’s Lotus and the Williams of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. He knew he had to try something extreme in order to win.
Thus, he sat down and calculated the pressure the tires endure on each side and he concluded that the left ones deal with more strain.
As a result, the engineers put hard rubber tires on the left side of his vehicle and soft ones on the right, as the pressure was much lower.
This trick benefitted him a lot in the end, as he managed to finish 1st without having his tires changed, while Alain Prost, who finished 2nd (25 seconds later) had a pitstop, Ayrton Senna, who finished 3rd, needed 2 pitstops, and Nelson Piquet needed 3, eventually reaching 4th place.
And if someone says that Berger won because Benetton was using Pirelli tires compared to Lotus, McLaren and Williams who were using Goodyear ones (which were better in quality), we can tell you that the next vehicle that had Pirelli tires finished 6th (1 lap behind) and it was Philippe Alliot’s Ligier, which needed a pitstop.
It was the first of Gerhard Berger’s 10 victories.
We don’t know if it was the best, but it surely was the most ingenious.