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GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #16 - Nigel Mansell

GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #16 - Nigel Mansell

28-02-2020 19:00

Hello there and welcome back to the next instalment of GPBlog’s top 50 F1 drivers of all time. We’re counting down one day at a time to the season opening race in Australia and we’re now just 16 days away. In at 17 yesterday was the great Graham Hill and today we’ve got another British champion, Nigel Mansell.

Nigel Mansell is seen as one of the grittiest and most determined F1 drivers of all time, not giving up until he eventually won the ultimate prize.

Following a junior career that nearly saw him killed on more than one occasion, Mansell signed with Lotus as test driver in 1980 and made two appearances on the grid, retiring from both.

In 1981 the drive was made full time and over the next four season with the team he would score five podium finishes, earning him a drive with Williams for 1985.

He took a while to get used to the FW10, but at the end part of the season he showed his ability, taking victories at both Brands Hatch and Kyalami.

For 1986 he was joined by already double world champion Nelson Piquet, and the pair took on McLaren’s Alain Prost and Lotus’ Ayrton Senna.

Mansell had a tough start to the year, but went on an incredible run to win four of the next five races and take the championship lead from Prost after a huge win at Brands Hatch.

Another win in Portugal gave him a ten point lead over Piquet heading to the penultimate round, where he only managed P5.

Nevertheless, he still held the lead heading to Adelaide. He was running third, enough to take the title until a dramatic tyre failure forced him to retire. Prost won the race and snatched the title by just two points.

1987 was a similar story, Mansell took six victories, but ran into problems with reliability, leading to him trailing Piquet heading to Japan.

Mansell suffered a big crash at Suzuka in qualifying, injuring his back and ruling him out of the last two races of the season, gifting Piquet the title.

The following season was disastrous for Mansell, who was only able to finish twice in the unreliable Williams and he decided to move to Ferrari for 1989.

The season started perfectly, with victory in Brazil, but reliability caught up with him again and he retired more often than not.

However, he still showed his natural pace, finishing on the podium at every event he finished including a win in Hungary.

1990 was a similar story and Mansell won only once, in Portugal. Now aged 37, he resigned with Williams for 1991 for another effort at the world title.

A slow start to the season allowed Senna to run away with a championship lead, but three consecutive wins brought Mansell back into the mix.

Unfortunately, Senna took the next two victories and again at the final race of the season to secure his third world title, leaving Mansell to finish second in the standings once again.

1992 was Mansell’s year though. He took pole and victory in the first five races of the season driving the dominant Williams FW14B.

Further victories in France, Britain, Germany and Portugal saw Mansell claim his only world title, a deserved title considering the many close calls before.

Mansell left F1 at the end of the season and went on to claim the IndyCar title the following season, holding both titles at the same time for a brief few weeks.

He returned to Williams in 1994 following the death of Ayrton Senna, taking victory at the season ending race in Adelaide.

Two races with McLaren the following year were the last in his F1 career and he retired with a superb haul of 31 race victories.

The moustachioed Mansell left a huge impact on F1, being competitive almost every week on one of the most stacked grids ever seen in the sport, and will go down as one of F1’s hardest competitors.

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