Nigel Mansell is the 1992 Formula One world champion. He is one of the ten British Formula One champions but the only one who was at the same time Formula One and Indy champion. A year after winning the Formula One title, he debuted in the CART Indy Car World Series and took another big title, becoming the first debutant Indy champion and the only driver who simultaneously held both titles.
There is one more interesting fact which makes Mansell special among the living F1 legends. In 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix returned to Formula One after 23 years. Back in 1992, Mansell was the winner of the last Mexican Grand Prix race, so in 2015, he was presented as a special guest on the new track, where even one corner was named after him, which is an honor rarely seen among the living drivers.
Complete F1 results: 31 wins in 187 Grand Prix races
Mansell's F1 career spanned over 15 seasons; he registered 187 Grand Prix races and scored 31 wins and 59 podiums. He was seventh overall in the Formula One race winners list. He drove for four big F1 teams – Lotus, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren. Before the 1992 title, he was second placed three times (1986, 1987 and 1991).
Racing career started in 1976
Nigel Ernest James Mansell was born on 8 August 1953 in Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire. After a considerable success in kart racing, he moved on to single-seaters in 1976. He drove various machines but was most successful in the Formula Ford, in which he won the 1977 British championship. The next step was Formula 3. Although he started the 1978 season with a pole position and 2nd place finish, he was not competitive for most of the season, because his Unipart team used Triumph engines, which were inferior to Toyota engines of other teams. In 1979, he scored one victory at Silverstone and finished 8th in the championship.
Formula One championship debut with Colin Chapman
Mansell's driving caught the eye of Colin Chapman, the owner of Lotus, who invited him to test the Formula One car. That year, Lotus was searching for a second driver alongside Mario Andretti. Elio de Angelis got the seat in 1980, while Mansell was selected to become a test driver. He spent a year driving Formula 3 and Formula Two races. In 1980, Mansell debuted with Chapman's team at the F1 Austrian Grand Prix. He recorded one more start at the Dutch Grand Prix and the qualifying failure at Monza.
First full F1 season for Mansell in 1981
His first full season followed in 1981, as a second driver alongside Elio de Angelis. Mansell scored 3rd place at the Belgian Grand Prix and finished 14th in the championship. In four years as a full-time Lotus driver, Mansell struggled and his best finish was third place, which he achieved five times during the four years. In the championship classification, his best result was 10th place in 1984.
He was paid not to race at Le Mans
During the 1982 season, Mansell planned to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in order to earn extra money. He was paid £50,000 a year by Lotus and was offered £10,000 to take part in Le Mans. His boss Chapman believed that by entering the Le Mans race, Mansell would be exposing himself to unnecessary risk and paid him £10,000 not to take part in the race.
Chapman also extended Mansell's contract to the end of the 1984 season and made him an equal member in the team with De Angelis. This resulted in Chapman and Mansell becoming more than just a boss and a driver. Unfortunately, their friendship was interrupted by Chapman's sudden death in December 1982.
After Chapman's death, Mansell moved to Williams
Following Chapman's death, relationships at Lotus became strained, as the interim team principal Peter Warr didn't really sympathize with Mansell. He promoted De Angelis back as the number 1 driver for 1983. In 1984, Mansell finished the championship in the Top 10 for the first time, but far behind De Angelis, who finished 3rd. Later in the season, Lotus announced the recruitment of Ayrton Senna for the following year, so Mansell made an agreement with Frank Williams.
1985 - high speed crash and maiden F1 win
Mansell's team-mate in Canon Williams Honda team was Keke Rosberg, for whom Mansell later said that 'he was probably one of the best team-mates in his career'. The season of 1985 was marked by Mansell's record high-speed (over 200 mph) accident at Circuit Paul Ricard during the practice run for the French Grand Prix and his first F1 victory at European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. With one more victory at the South African Grand Prix he finished 6th in the championship.
In 1985, the Red Five legend was born
1985 was the year when the story about the 'Red 5' began. It was the number which has been associated with Mansell for many years in his F1 career. He got the car number 5 when he joined Williams; to make it more distinctive from car number 6, it was decided that Mansell would be given a red number. BBC F1 commentator Murray Walker was the first who described Mansell's car as the "Red Five", and the legend was born. Upon his return to the team in 1991, Williams had retained the number 5 car, allowing Mansell to race as the "Red Five" once again. After his departure to Indy Car Racing in 1993 to drive for Newman/Haas, he still retained the signature red number 5.
Nelson Piquet as a new teammate in 1986
In 1986, Williams had the car capable of winning regularly, and Mansell had established himself as a potential World Championship contender. He also had a new team-mate; the double World Champion Nelson Piquet. Mansell scored five wins and came to the last race (Australian GP) as the championship leader, ahead of Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. Mansell was third in the race with 19 laps to go, which was a good enough result for the title, but then the left-rear tyre of his car exploded. Eventually, Prost won the race and the championship.
Suzuka accident get him out of the title fight
This event was followed by six more wins in 1987, and Mansell was once again one of the main championship contenders. Unfortunately, a heavy accident at Suzuka qualifying caused severe injuries for Mansell, and he missed the last two races of the championship, allowing his team-mate Nelson Piquet to become the champion for a third time.
In 1988, McLaren switched from Honda's V6 turbo engine to Judd's V8 naturally aspirated engine. The results were catastrophic; Mansell finished only two of fourteen races, both with 2nd places. During the season, Mansell announced that he would be leaving Williams to join the Scuderia Ferrari.
The last Ferrari driver selected by Enzo
Mansell was the last Ferrari driver to be personally selected by Enzo Ferrari before his death in August 1988, an honor Mansell described as "one of the greatest in my entire career". The 1989 season was marked by FIA banning of the turbo engines and the introduction of the electronically controlled semi-automatic transmission by Ferrari. Mansell believed that it would be a development year because of the unreliable new transmission, but surprisingly, he won in his debut with Ferrari in the first race of the season (Brazilian Grand Prix).
Mansell wanted to retire in 1990
The rest of the year was characterized by gearbox and various other problems, including a disqualification at the Canadian GP and a black-flagged incident at the Portuguese GP for reversing in the pit-lane, which resulted in a ban for the following race in Spain. However, Mansell finished fourth in the championship with the help of a memorable second win for Ferrari at the tight and twisty Hungaroring.
A tough 1990 season took place with Ferrari, in which his car suffered more reliability problems, forcing him to retire from seven races. He was paired up with Alain Prost. They had an unequal status and Mansell even announced that he would retire from racing at the end of the season. With only one victory (Portuguese GP) he finished 5th in the championship.
In a dominant way Mansell took the F1 title
Mansell's retirement plans were halted when Frank Williams again stepped in and they signed a multi-million dollar contract, which made Mansell the highest paid British sportsman at the time. Williams agreed to Mansell's list of demands, but Mansell paid back all the money he got with good results and wins. In 1991, Mansell won five races but the drivers' and manufacturers' titles went to Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda.
The following year, the Renault-powered Williams FW14B was the dominant car and Mansell scored nine victories and three 2nd places. He won the championship with an enormous gap ahead of team-mate Riccardo Patrese (108-56) and Williams also took the manufacturer's title. Mansell set the record for the highest number of wins in one season, which was broken in 2002 by Michael Schumacher. He also managed to get 14 pole positions that year, a record only broken by Sebastian Vettel in 2011.
Fantastic rookie season in the CART Indy Car World Series
Despite being the world champion, Mansell left the championship because of a disagreement with Williams. The main reason was the fact that Williams signed Alain Prost for the 1993 season. Mansell still had a bitter taste in his mouth from their bad days in Ferrari and didn't want to drive with Prost as the team-mate. Mansell then signed with Newman/Haas Racing to pair up with Mario Andretti in the CART Indy Car World series.
His debut was fantastic; at the season opener at Surfers Paradise, Australia, he became the first "rookie" to take pole position and win his first race. He scored five wins in the 1993 CART season and clinched the title, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi.
Poor second season alongside Mario Andretti
In the following season, he stayed with Newman/Haas, but the result was very different from that of the previous years. He collected only three podiums and finished 8th in the championship. He also ruined his relationship with the team-mate Mario Andretti, who described Mansell as the 'worst team-mate he ever had'.
Final Formula One years with Williams and McLaren
In 1994, after the CART season ended, Mansell returned to Williams one more time. In the meantime, Alain prost won the 1993 drivers' championship and then retired after the season. Mansell took over Ayrton Senna's car, who was, unfortunately, killed earlier in the season. Mansell's team-mate was Damon Hill. Mansell's return was aided by Bernie Ecclestone, who wanted the world champion in the series to increase worldwide TV viewing. Mansell was a superstar and he was paid like a superstar, approximately £900,000 per race, compared to his teammate Hill, who was being paid £300,000 for the entire season. 40-year-old Mansell participated in four races and scored his last F1 victory, at Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide.
Mansell couldn't fit in the narrow F1 car
In 1995, Williams replaced Mansell with David Coulthard, so Mansell signed to drive for McLaren in 1995. That deal didn't last for long. Mansell missed the first two races of the season because his body couldn't fit in the narrow car and Mark Blundell replaced him. He participated in San Marino GP at Imola and finished 10th. Shortly after, he retired from the Spanish GP, but also retired from his F1 racing career.
Mansell and his sons together at Le Mans
Three years later, Mansell competed in the 1998 British Touring Championship, driving the Ford Mondeo Ghia at six races. At his first event at Donington Park, he retired three laps into the sprint race, which meant he would start the feature race in the 19th position on the grid. As the conditions changed and the track got wetter, Mansell found himself leading the race for several laps and he finished in 5th position. He failed to finish the race at the next round at Brands Hatch, and at his final race at Silverstone he finished in 14th and 11th place.
In the last ten years, Mansell took part in many occasional races and racing events, for example; DTM Race of Legends, FIA GT Championship and the Le Mans Series. He was the founder of Grand Prix Masters series in 2005, and in 2010 he finally fulfilled his dream of racing at 24 Hours of Le Mans. Together with his sons Leo and Gerg, he drove the Ginetta-Zytek LMP1 prototype. They qualified as 18th overall but in the race they retired after just four laps.
Long list of awards
Mansell was inducted to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005. He was awarded the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year in both 1986 and 1992. Only two other people have won the award twice, one of whom being fellow racing driver and former F1 World Champion Damon Hill. Mansell won the Hawthorn Memorial Trophy, an award for the leading British or Commonwealth driver in F1 each year, a record seven times in his career (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992).
Already Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Mansell was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to children and young people. The reason is because in 1999 Mansell became the President of one of the UK's largest Youth Work Charities, UK Youth, and worked tirelessly to promote the charity.
Video: Documentary about Nigel Mansell (part 1)