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Do you remember… Piquet’s amazing overtake on Senna in Hungary

21 Jul 2015

F1 racing’s historic first trip behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ in 1986 resulted in an epic dual between two Brazilian superstars - and one of the most celebrated overtaking manoeuvres of all-time...

Ayrton Senna certainly didn’t make it easy.

Approaching the Hungaroring’s tight Turn 1 - the twisty track’s only real overtaking spot - the prodigious youngster, bright yellow crash helmet peeking out from his pitch black Lotus, positioned his Renault-powered machine in the middle of the track, protecting the inside line.

If countryman Nelson Piquet was going to pass him, he was going to have to do it the hard way: around the outside.

Piquet had already overtaken Senna’s leading Lotus twice; once on Lap 12, and once briefly on Lap 55 after he’d roared back onto his younger rival’s tail having lost significant ground - not to mention the lead - during the pit stop sequence. On the latter occasion the Williams driver had dived boldly down the inside into Turn 1, but unlike his earlier copycat move he couldn’t make it stick on the dirty line, and as he slithered wide Senna gamely re-took his place.

Having taken a couple of laps to close back in on the Lotus, it was clear from his aggressive body language that Piquet wasn’t in the mood to let another overtaking opportunity pass him by - this was a two-horse race for victory and the double world champion was determined to win it, come hell or high water.

As the duo crossed the line and hurtled swiftly towards Turn 1 at the start of the 57th lap, Piquet jinked out of Senna’s slipstream and, in a shower of sparks, lunged bravely into the increasingly narrow ribbon of tarmac between the black and gold car and the grass.

Senna braked as hard and as late as he could, but Piquet - carrying an enormous amount of speed - braked later still, and as he shot spectacularly around the Lotus he locked his right-rear tyre and lurched into a lurid slide. For a split second it looked like he’d overcooked it again, but remarkably Piquet not only managed to wrest his turbo-charged mount back under control, but also to cut across in front of Senna, thereby denying him any chance of a counter attack.

Hard, fair and wheel-to-wheel, this was Formula One racing at its finest, and as the rivals rushed onwards towards Turn 2 the fans on the spectator banking roared in approval.

As it happened, Piquet’s barely believable pass would prove to be the closing act of a pulsating battle. Once in clear air the elder Brazilian stretched his legs and went on to win by 17 seconds, but only after Senna, hamstrung by a lack of straight-line speed, had reluctantly ended his own heroic fight.

"I think the Lotus was as quick as the Williams in the corners,” he said afterwards, “maybe even a little better in some places, but Piquet was much faster in the straights."

But as disappointed as Senna was, the sell-out crowd - estimated at around 200,000, making it the biggest sporting attendance in Hungarian sporting history - were utterly enthralled by what they’d seen. In a country that had for so long been cut-off from much of the western world, Formula One racing’s arrival had been eagerly anticipated - and in one exhilarating moment Piquet and Senna had shown them just what they’d been missing.