There is a saying in the F1 paddock that those who liked Nigel Mansell were those who had never met the man. That harsh exaggeration highlighted the feelings of some insiders towards a man bullish with self-confidence yet at the same time racked with wearying self-doubt.
Mansell would never take his foot of the gas and use every bit of speed from a car, racing wheel-to-wheel with the golden era of F1, equally he would complain about perceived slights and see plots against him at every turn
Mansell came up the hard way in racing, investing all his own money as he attempted to reach Formula 1 through the lower ranks. It was not until Colin Chapman was persuaded by his F3 team manager to give Mansell a chance as test driver for Lotus that things took off, and he took that opportunity and was a regular race driver by 1981. Few rated him initially despite the clear potential, and it was not until 1985, on the 72nd start, that he won his first race at Brands Hatch. From that moment onwards he became arguably the most competitive Englishman ever to sit in a F1 car, certainly the most aggressive. His 31 race wins placed him behind only the great names like Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in the all-time rankings when he finally quit F1 and even today only Michael Schumacher has overtaken him.
It was as easy to see why the fans loved him, with his never-say-die approach. He stopped his career in F1 at the very hour of his World title triumph in 1992, falling out with Williams in a row about money amongst other things, but had his revenge when he won the 1993 Indycar Championship at the first try. He did come back to F1 in 1995 with McLaren but retired during that season.
A curious Brit of contradictive emotions, Nigel Mansell was a determined driver whose character sometimes obscured his achievements. It says everything about him as a driver that he was the one man Senna knew he could not intimidate.
Born 8 Aug 1953
Active years 1980 – 1995
Front row 56
Fastest laps 30
Teams – (Lotus 1980-84) (Williams 85-88 & 91-92) (Ferrari 89-90) (McLaren 1995)
1992 FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPION
1993 INDYCAR CHAMPION