• Japanese Grand Prix

Piquet crowned as Mansell withdrawal ends title fight

ESPN Staff
November 1, 1987
Nigel Mansell's car is returned to the pits after the crash that ended his season © Sutton Images

Hopes that the drivers' championship would go into the final weekend of the season were ended when Nigel Mansell crashed during qualifying and was ruled out of the Japanese Grand Prix. That handed Nelson Piquet the title as his 12-point lead became insurmountable even though he failed to score at Suzuka. As it was, Ferrari's unreliable engines held out to allow Gerhard Berger to take the win and end a 38-race barren spell for the team.

Piquet and Mansell - Williams team-mates but not on speaking terms after their simmering feud finally spilt over into public after the Mexican Grand prix - arrived in Japan with Mansell, on the back of successive wins, needing to beat his rival to keep his championship ambitions afloat. But during Friday practice he crashed and sustained neck injuries which ended his season.

Berger took pole and led from the start, the challenge of Alain Prost (McLaren) disappearing with a first-lap puncture although he drove superbly to eventually finish just outside the points. Thierry Boutsen's Benetton ran second for a while before fading to fifth, and the battle for second thereafter was between Ayrton Senna (Lotus) and Piquet.

Five laps from the end Piquet coasted into the pits with oil spewing from his Honda engine, out of the race but world champion for the third time nonetheless.

Berger was followed home by Senna, who passed Stefan Johansson on the last lap, while the Japanese crowd was delighted to see Satoru Nakajima take sixth for Lotus. Michele Alboreto recovered from a terrible start to take fourth, sparks flying from a dragging undertray for much of the afternoon.

"It's fair to say that with Nigel out, Piquet did not push as hard as he might have done otherwise," Berger admitted. "That worked in our favour but we've been knocking at the door for some time."

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