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One of the most exciting drivers ever - Nigel Mansell
Determined, aggressive, daring and exciting. One of the all-time greats!
Posted Sep 22, 2010 by Jeff Dawson
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Nigel Mansell was hugely determined, immensely aggressive and spectacularly daring. He was without doubt one of the most exciting drivers ever to race in Formula One.
He was one of the last great drivers in my opinion, more spectacular than the likes of Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher, more determined than Jenson Button or Mark Webber, more aggressive than Fernando Alonso. He is a legend of the sport that he worked so hard to get into, and then worked even harder to stay there.
He had this amazing attitude that he was either going to win or crash out trying to get the maximum points. Of his 191 Grand Prix, Mansell won 31 and crashed out of 32 but he was to become the most successful British driver ever in the process.
His life is by no means the story of a driver who has had everything handed to him on a plate as some of the modern day drivers have.
Mansell’s tale tell a story of misfortune, pain, anguish, financial difficulties and serious injury. He enjoyed sensational success in karting before becoming the 1977 British Formula Ford champion – this was despite suffering a broken neck in a testing accident. Following this, doctors told the great driver that he had come close to quadriplegia, that he would be confined for six months and would never drive again. He had other ideas!
Mansell sneaked out of hospital and raced on. Three week prior to this horrific accident, the Brummie had resigned from his job as an aerospace engineer and had sold most of his belongings to finance his move into Formula Ford. He then convinced loyal wife Roseanne to sell their house to finance a move into Formula Three. He suffered another shocking injury here, crashing spectacularly and breaking his back.
Shortly after this, full of painkillers and hiding the extent of his injury, Mansell performed well enough to earn a tryout with Lotus to become a test driver for the Formula One team. In his F1 debut, at the 1980 Austrian GP, a fuel leak in the cockpit left him with painful first and second-degree burns on his backside.
These trial and tribulations only pushed the desire in him to succeed. However, he had to wait 71 races and over four years for his first win but once they came, they came in droves.
He was to suffer two more pieces of heartbreak before finally going on to win the World Championship in 1992.
In 1986 a burst tyre in the final GP in Adelaide cost him the title by a point and in 1987 a serious qualifying accident at Suzuka handed the title to his arch-rival/Williams-Honda teammate Nelson Piquet.
After a brief stint with Ferrari, Mansell returned to Williams and won five times in the 1991 season before losing out to the great Ayrton Senna on reliability. However, the next season he dominated winning nine of the 16 races to take the title.
He then quit to American and IndyCar racing where he dominated and became champion in 1993. He later returned to F1 but it was short lived and he decided to call it a day, aged 41 and after 187 races and 15 seasons in the sport.
He was loved by the adoring fans simply because he gave it his all and tried to make the races interesting as he never wanted to lose. He was missed from the sport following his retirement and there has certainly never been another driver like Nigel Mansell.