On a July 5, 1986, Ayrton Senna scored his only pole ever at a French GP, driving a Lotus-Renault. That year, the Brazilian driver took half of all possible pole positions in the season. Senna started eight of the 16 races of the F1 World Championship in first place. The driver would only post better numbers in three of the years he spent at McLaren – 1988, 1989, and 1990 – when he was inarguably in the best team on the grid.
Check out all the poles by Senna in 1986:
1- Brazilian GP
Senna started the season’s opening race by flying through the Jacarepaguá circuit. The Lotus driver posted a time of 1min25s501, breaking the record of the Rio de Janeiro track. Take a look at a few moments of the practice sessions in a TV Globo story ( in portuguese).
2- Spanish GP
Up against the Williams driven by Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, and also the McLarens belonging to Alain prost and Keke Rosberg, Ayrton Senna went all out and took the pole with a time 8 tenths of a second faster than Piquet’s: 1m21s605 (with an average speed of 186 kmh). At the race, Senna beat Mansell by just 0s014 in a breathtaking finish.
3- San Marino GP
Ayrton Senna was the only driver in the top-15 who posted his best lap on Friday. While his rivals tried in vain to beat his time of 1min25s050 in Q2, the Brazilian was able to use the Saturday session to tune his car for the race. It was Senna’s third pole in three races, and Nelson Piquet was alongside him, in the first row, in all of them.
4- United States GP
The 1986 Detroit GP was marked by Ayrton Senna’s act of raising the Brazilian flag from inside his Lotus after scoring his fourth win in F1. On the previous day, Senna had taken the pole position with a best lap of 1min38s301, more than half a second quicker than rival Nigel Mansell (Williams). It was Senna’s fourth pole in seven GPs so far in the season.
5- French GP
At the start of Senna’s career, the Paul Ricard circuit soon became a pain in the Brazilian driver’s neck. Ayrton never won the French GP, even after it was moved to the Magny-Cours circuit in 1991. And his only pole position there took place in 1986, when the Lotus driver posted a time of 1min06s526 in the short version of the le Castellet raceway. Mansell, who started in second after being beaten by tenths of a second in the qualifying sessions, won the race on Sunday.
6- Hungarian GP
In the Hungarian GP, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet were once again sharing the first row. Their duel during the race went down in F1 history thanks to Piquet’s daring maneuver and Senna’s defensive driving to hold on to first place. On the previous day, both were also fighting for the pole, and Senna came out on top. The Lotus driver posted a best time of 1min29s450, while Piquet was in second place, 0s335 slower than his opponent.
7- Portuguese GP
Senna’s pole at the Portuguese GP was totally undeniable: he completed his best lap in 1min16s673, while Nigel Mansell’s Williams was 0s816 slower. On Sunday, the Britton won the race and Senna was about to finish in second, but the Brazilian was left out of the podium when he ran out of fuel.
8- Mexican GP
Senna scored his 8th pole position in the year and 15th in his F1 career at the Mexican GP. With a time of 1min16s990, Senna beat Piquet by 0s289, resulting in another Brazilian first row in the season. During the race, Ayrton finished in third place and saw his friend, Gerhard Berger, win for the first time in F1.