The race had two starts – on the first, pole-sitter Mansell got the jump on Senna to lead comfortably, but proceedings were stopped on the second lap following a pretty nasty accident involving both Tyrrells.
Philippe Streiff lost control at Eau Rouge and crashed, at which point he was hit by teammate Jonathan Palmer. There’s no footage around of the accident, but given that Streiff’s car was split into two, I think it’s fairly safe to say that it was a big one.
The race was restarted and this time Senna, from third on the grid, shot past pole-sitter Mansell into La Source to take the lead. The Lotus that year was a decent car but still no match for the Williams and it was clear that the faster Mansell wanted the lead back as soon as possible.
Heading out of Pouhon, Mansell had a run. Senna knew it and defended the inside heading into the Fagnes chicane, but it was dusty off-line. As Mansell sent his Williams around the outside, the pair made contact.
Was Senna being too stubborn in trying to defend a position he’d already lost, or did Mansell fail to leave enough room on the inside? Either way Senna was out, and after getting going again, Mansell eventually had to retire as a result of damage from the crash.
Back in the pits, a disgruntled Nigel went to visit the Lotus garage and years later described exactly what had gone down.
“I went over to him, grabbed him by the overalls and pushed him up against the wall. He wore loose overalls in those days and I pulled the zip up beyond his chin to just below his nose. ‘Next time you do that,’ I said, ‘You’re going to have to do a much better job.’”
Apparently, Senna then threw a few punches back at the Brit, and that was that. No post-race penalties, no jabbering about it. Well, apart from this brilliant quote from Ayrton:
“When a man holds you round the throat, I do not think that he has come to apologise.”
Alain Prost went on to take his 27th victory, drawing him level with Jackie Stewart at the top of the all-time wins list. Stefan Johansson finished second to make it a McLaren 1-2, whilst Andrea de Cesaris had to push his Brabham across the line to take third after running out of fuel on the final lap.