With two races to go in the 1987 season, Nelson Piquet had a handy 12-point lead in the championship over teammate Nigel Mansell. Piquet’s approach had been one of consistency, including an impressive (for 1987) mid-season run of nine consecutive podiums, whilst Mansell adopted a typically all-or-nothing attitude, winning six times but suffering from accidents and poor reliability.
Mansell’s approach looked as if it may pay off, as the dropped scores system favoured wins over consistent results (as with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna the following year), but it all came undone in practice for the penultimate race at Suzuka when Mansell had this monster accident.
The impact left him with bad bruising and aggravated an old back injury, and he was told he couldn’t race in Japan, nor the final race in Adelaide two weeks later.
Just like that, Piquet was the champion, and in his typically honest style described it as “a win of luck over stupidity”. He’d had a pretty nasty accident himself at Imola earlier in the season which left affected his vision, and he later claimed that he was never been the same driver afterwards.
For Mansell, it was the second time in two years that he’d missed out on the championship and for a while, it looked as though he’d leave the sport without one. But then came 1992, and the Williams FW14B…