When Frank Williams signed Nelson Piquet to his Williams Racing team in 1986, he declared that he had landed the “best driver in the world”.
Piquet had already won two world championships after succeeding in 1981 and 1983 for Brabham – the latter victory remains BMW’s first and only world title.
The Brazilian’s move to the Williams team, reported to be worth over 3million US dollars, left him vying for the role of number one driver with British rival Nigel Mansell.
The matter was complicated when Frank Williams, who was founder and team principal, suffered serious injuries after a car accident which left paralysed.
The severity of the injuries meant Williams was absent from the track and could not honour an agreement he had made with Piquet to instate him to the number one role.
As a result, the 1986 season became an ongoing tussle between Piquet and Mansell and with the latter refusing to recognise the Brazilian as the team’s lead driver, they fought for supremacy in a campaign which resulted in McLaren’s Alain Prost winning the world championship.
The following season the rivalry continued, with Mansell again challenging for the title against his team-mate.
This time Piquet prevailed, consistently finishing on the podium and racking up points to triumph over the Briton despite Mansell winning more races across the 1987 campaign.
The dispute with Mansell took its toll after the title victory as Piquet joined Lotus for the 1988 season – citing Frank Williams’ absence as the cause.