A thick moustache, an even thicker accent and a thick collection of points collected in his Formula 1 career. British legend Nigel Mansell is a cult hero in F1 for several reasons, despite 'only' winning a single title throughout his time in the sport. After Lewis Hamilton, he is the most successful British F1 driver of all time.
Brummie at Lotus
Without proper financial support, Mansell was left to his own devices in the early years of his racing career. Through go-karting, he, like many before him, moved on to Formula Ford, winning the category in 1977.
A switch to Formula 3 followed in 1978 and not long after that, he got the promotion to Formula 1, albeit as a test driver at first at Lotus. In 1980, the Brummie competed in several Grands Prix and took his maiden podium in Belgium.
Mansell stayed at Lotus until 1984, never consistently scoring points. The Birmingham-born would get on the podium four more times (finishing third on all occasions) before switching to Williams in 1985.
The switch had been coming, as the situation within the Lotus team became untenable. Team principal Peter Warr was on bad terms with Mansell and the Brit was eager to leave.
Williams, Ferrari and back to Williams
Together with Keke Rosberg (father of Nico Rosberg) Mansell gets Williams to P3 in the constructors' championship in 1985, before taking the title in 1986 and 1987. Among the drivers, Alain Prost took the title '86 after Mansell’s dramatic puncture in Adelaide in the final race, and Mansell’s new teammate Nelson Piquet becoming champion in his Williams a year later: Nigel Mansell had to settle for second.
After a disappointing 1988 season, Mansell again switched teams as he suited up for Ferrari. Here, he gained his nickname ‘The Lion’. In the two seasons he drove for the Scuderia, Mansell won three Grands Prix. A good yield, but not what Mansell hoped for. The Brit announced his retirement.
However, Sir Frank Williams, of all people, put a stop to that, a choice that later turns out to be a very good one for Mansell. In 1991, he won five races and showed himself to be a real lion in a duel with Ayrton Senna, although the Brazilian did snatch the title for McLaren.
A year later, the stars finally align for Mansell. Williams have a dominant car in the FW14B, taking win after win. Even though he retired from four races that year, his 14 pole positions (!) and nine wins are more than enough to give him the title in 1992. At the age of 39, Mansell was finally an F1 champion, the oldest since Juan Manuel Fangio.
Retirement, return and the final goodbye
After the success of 1992 and again internal problems within the team, Mansell did leave Formula 1 in 1993. He switched to CART (IndyCar), and the Brit immediately won the title with NewMan/Haas Racing. As the 1993 F1 season was still going, Mansell became the only driver ever to hold the F1 and IndyCar championships at the same time!
He returned to the Formula 1 grid in 1994, when Williams offered Mansell a place in the last three races of the season. Mansell won in Australia but Williams eventually chose reserve driver David Coulthard for 1995.
The Brummie would drive two more races for McLaren in 1995 before throwing in the towel for the rest of the season. He would later rue this decision.
In 2005 and 2006, Mansell did participate in the Grand Prix Masters, where he won in South Africa and Qatar. A few years later the Brit also appeared at the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with his two sons, but their race ended after just four laps as he suffered a puncture at over 200 miles per hour and had a monster crash, leaving him badly concussed.