Formally the most powerful Formula One car ever built: over 1450 BHP in qualifying trim from only a 1.5 litre 4 cilinder engine! In the hands of emerging talent Gerhard Berger this proved to be a serious contender. The B186 finished in the points in the first three races of the season, including a podium for Berger at the San Marino Grand Prix. However, the car's underlying speed was blunted by run of retirements for both drivers, and uncompetitive showings at events run on tight tracks such as the Monaco and Detroit Grands Prix. Nevertheless, Berger in particular had emerged as a consistent frontrunner by mid-season, although he was criticised in some quarters for driving with his turbo boost set too high for the car's fuel consumption in the early stages of a race in order to complete "glory runs" near the front, only to drop back later on.
The B186 was a very aerodynamically efficient car, and enabled it to be most competitive in terms of raw pace at the five high-speed "power circuits" on the calendar: Imola, Spa, Hockenheim, Monza and the Österreichring. In addition to being the fastest car on the straights, the car was also very good through high-speed corners; Berger and Fabi were both running very well at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch and the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring.
The well deserved first victory for Benetton came at the Mexican Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season. Despite Berger not having the outright fastest package, the durability and choice of compound of his Pirelli tyres meant that he did not need to make a pitstop for fresh ones, in comparison to rivals Nelson Piquet (Williams-Honda), Alain Prost (McLaren-TAG) and Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda), who all lost time as a result of stops or other mechanical issues. It was generally agreed that the victory was a fitting culmination to Benetton's first season as an F1 constructor, Berger's emerging talent in what was the first of 10 career wins, and a vindication of the potential of the B186. The race would also prove to be the last win for the BMW M12 engine.
Senna on his way to victory in Detroit.