With Formula One back in Portugal this weekend, we rewind to a wet but brilliant classic that is the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril.
This race marked the second round of the 85 season with Alain Prost leading the championship after taking victory in the season opening Brazilian GP, whilst McLaren and Ferrari arrived at this race as joint Constructor championship leaders on nine points apiece.
Toleman however were absent due to not having a tyre supplier following previous fall-outs with Pirelli and Bridgestone whilst Michelin had withdrawn at the end of the previous season, leaving Stefan Johansson and John Watson without drives.
Johansson however found himself signed by Ferrari who had dropped Rene Arnoux after Brazil whilst Watson made a guest appearance for McLaren at the European Grand Prix later in the season, replacing Niki Lauda at McLaren.
Lotus’ Ayrton Senna dominated both Qualifying sessions to claim pole with a 1m 21.007 which was 0.413 seconds quicker than future McLaren teammate, Alain Prost whilst Williams’ Keke Rosberg recovered from a disastrous first Qualifying session to qualify third ahead of Elio De Angelis, Michele Alboreto, Derek Warwick, Niki Lauda, Andre de Cesaris, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.
The top 15 on the grid had all improved their best times in the second Qualifying session with Arrows’ Thierry Boutsen qualifying in 16th position as the highest placed driver out of five drivers who set their best times in the opening session.
The race took place in overcast rainy conditions with Senna getting away from pole despite suffering moderate wheelspin due to the damp track conditions, as various drivers struggled to get clean getaways compared to others.
Zakspeed’s Jonathan Palmer was the first to retire with suspension damage which was detected during a sudden pit stop at end of lap two before Philippe Alliot and Francois Hesnault suffered a spin and electrical failure respectively on the next lap to put both French drivers out of the race.
Riccardo Patrese, Pierluigi Martini and Gerhard Berger soon fell foul of the conditions as all three suffered race ending spins whilst Senna had built a lead of over 13 seconds by lap ten ahead of De Angelis, which became a 30 second lead by lap 20 as Jacques Laffite suffered a tyre issue which ended his race before Rosberg and Mauro Baldi spun out on lap 17 and 20 respectively.
Martin Brundle soon afterwards suffered a transmission failure before Boutsen retired with an electrical issue just prior to tyre issues for Piquet and De Cesaris, with McLaren soon suffering a double retirement as Prost spun out on lap 31 and Lauda suffered an engine failure on lap 50, either side of Eddie Cheever’s engine failure on lap 37.
With the tricky conditions, it became clear that the race would go to time due to a two hour time limit on racing action and at start of lap 67, Senna was shown the signal stating that he had one lap remaining as he cruised to victory ahead of Alboreto who was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap despite finishing 1m 02.978s behind the Brazilian.
Patrick Tambay, De Angelis, Mansell and Stefan Bellof rounded out the top six points paying positions as Alboreto took the championship lead with 12 points following Prost’s retirement due to a spin.