Ferrari T641 1990
Nigel Mansell, originally brought into Formula One by the legendary Colin Chapman of Team Lotus, had a career marked by close misses, tragic accidents and equipment failure, and perhaps the most dominant single season ever by an F1 World Champion. Mansell’s early years with Lotus and Williams were a learning period in which this hot-tempered Brit mastered the craft of F1 racing the traditional way — with mistakes — as in his slide into the Armco at a rain-filled 1984 Monaco GP while leading in the JPS Lotus. Mansell’s aggressive overtaking moves earned him the affectionate titles “Il Leone” (The Lion) from the Ferrari Tifosi, who embraced him as one of their own, and “Red 5,” for the number worn on his Canon-Williams-Renault during the 1992 championship season.
Mansell’s single season record of nine wins in 16 races, combined with 14 poles and five consecutive GP victories, tying Jim Clark, has been surpassed only by Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari-dominated 2004 season. His 1991 chase of eventual World Champion Ayrton Senna, ended by a spin into the gravel at Suzuka, was marred by the loss of a wheel during an ill-fated pit stop at Estoril and the extraordinary electrical failure of his Renault “black box” (once again while leading) in the final corner of the Canadian GP. Earlier, Mansell missed two other “sure” championships in 1986 and 1987 when he had a tire explode at 250kph on the main straight in Adelaide, Australia while leading, and the next year when he crashed during practice at the final race in Suzuka, Japan, breaking his back.
Mansell’s mercurial relationship with the F1 establishment — epitomized by his 1990 “retirement” from Ferrari, his subsequent departure announcement from Team Williams midway through the 1992 campaign after learning that Frank Williams had signed Alain Prost for the next season, and his final 1995 “comeback” in the so-called “fat” McLaren, especially redesigned to fit his extra-wide rump — are the stuff of Grand Prix legend.
Everything in Formula 1 has been sterilized now, the whole thing is controlled too much.
— Nigel Mansell (1995) —
But perhaps his crowning achievement was Mansell’s back-to-back championships in F1 and IndyCar, a feat sure never to be repeated. But for a brush of the wall in the closing laps of the 1993 Indianapolis 500, Mansell came within a hair’s breadth of becoming just the 4th Formula One World Champion in history to drink the fabled milk of Indy.
|Nigel Mansell’s Career Profile|
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Other Nigel Mansell Sites
Formula1.com Hall of Fame
Biography by Dennis David
AutoSport—F1′s Greatest Drivers
ESPN F1 Profile
McLaren Heritage Profile
F1 Pulse Profile
Nigel Mansell Video