Why They Named a Corner After Nigel Mansell for the F1 Mexican Grand Prix
Because he earned it.
It was called Peraltada Curve back in 1990 when Nigel Mansell left Gerhard Berger gasping at his fumes. Peraltada means ‘sloping’ or ‘cambered’ in Spanish. A pretty word for a pretty corner, one that’s long and open and fast. Like Monza’s Parabolica set into a gentle bowl.
The Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix was shaping up to be a stunner that year. Berger’s McLaren-Honda had been quick all weekend. He took pole position, and on race day paired off with teammate Ayrton Senna to show the field what was what. Reigning world champion Alain Prost started his Ferrari from 13th on the grid with plenty to prove: The Frenchman’s replacement was on pole, his former teammate and rival, Senna, assumed an early lead. (All this after Prost claimed he’d been slighted in Mexico the year prior by his own team’s engineers, who he insisted were delivering more powerful engines to Senna.)
Mansell, teamed with Prost, managed to steer clear of drama, both off-track and on, running a clean and consistent race while his teammate drove at an absolutely inspired pace. In any other race, Prost’s run up to the front of the pack would’ve been the highlight. He passed a flagging Senna and kept at it, lap after lap, assembling a massive 25-second lead. It should have been Prost’s day. But things were starting to get interesting in the fight for second place.
Berger, in the McLaren-Honda, had snuck his car past Mansell in Turn 1, working his up to second place. Now the Austrian was struggling to fend off an attack by Mansell, who wanted it back. An attack.... Many attacks. Mansell tried everything. Outside on the brakes in Turn 1, inside on the power in Turn 3. Closing quickly on the checkered flag, Mansell’s frustration was becoming palpable. Twenty-five later, the battle is still a nail-biter.
With a lap to go, Mansell made his move. It looks hairy from trackside, hairier still in slow motion. From Berger’s point of view, it looks downright suicidal. But Mansell stuck it.
Outside, into the marbles, into the gentle bowl of the Peraltada. Mansell’s move is beautiful, clean, somehow, and brave. My lord is it brave. In the footage, Berger looks a little stunned, like he’s missed a step, and Mansell opens a giant gap after slicing back onto the racing line. He went on to finish the race in second, a legendary 1-2 photo for Ferrari.
When F1 returns to Mexico this October, the Peraltada Curve will be no more. The track’s been reshaped for the modern era. Reshaped, actually, so maniacs like Mansell can’t go plunging into the thing, sending us cheering and scaring the bejesus out of us in equal measure. But the turn that replaces Peraltada Curve will bear Mansell’s name. And it should still be a little hairy and brave, just like the man it’s named after.