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When wild Silverstone celebrations pointed Nigel Mansell to the F1 title | Sport


Almost exactly 25 years ago, Nigel Mansell was unable to return to the pits after winning the 1992 British Grand Prix. He was beloved by the fans and they had descended en masse on to the track in such numbers that his car could go no further. The British driver was mobbed and marshals had to ferry him back to the podium. There was exultant celebration, of course, but looking back on the year he finally secured a world championship, Mansell believes it was actually underpinned by a sense of relief .

After two years at Ferrari, where the tifosi also took Il Leone to their hearts, he returned for his second stint at Williams in 1991 and a year later was behind the wheel of the FW14B designed by Adrian Newey. Mansell had been championship runner-up for the team in 1985, 1986 and 1991, and at that point had competed in the most number of races before becoming world champion – 180, a record that stood until Nico Rosberg took the title last year after 206 grands prix.

That Renault-powered Williams of 1992 was magnificent and Mansell finally put the opposition – including his team-mate Riccardo Patrese – to the sword. He won nine of the 16 rounds and had the title sealed by the 11th race, in Hungary in mid-August.

“I had been the bridesmaid three times before,” Mansell recalls. “Sir Stirling Moss was a fantastic driver but never won a world championship … he was a world champion in everyone’s eyes. I had that accolade as well until I won it in with Williams in 1992.

“There was a sense of relief from fans worldwide that I had achieved it. It was a huge relief that it wasn’t for nothing.

“The fans had seen the rollercoaster ride. I was team-mates with three different world champions, in three different teams, and the politics involved and the ducking and diving that happened was so immense. I just related to the fans which I have embraced my whole life and it was fantastic to do something for them.”

Everything had come together to finally ensure that Mansell shook the monkey off his back. “Patrick Head was at the height of his engineering skills, he was such a brilliant robust person who ran the engineering department like a general,” he says. “It was absolutely fantastic. You knew exactly where you stood with Patrick. I found that refreshing, also with Adrian Newey on board on the aerodynamic side, it was very, very exciting times to be part of the team.”

Sir Frank Williams has described Mansell as magic behind the wheel but a handful to deal with out of the car. His support from the fans, however, was unqualified and reflected their admiration for a career in which he went wheel to wheel with Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet.



Nigel Mansell on Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Mercedes F1

“The intensity of the battle and the pressure just to qualify for the race was huge,” says Mansell. “Then in the race you had world champions racing together. The breadth of competition was wide. I will never forget some of the circuits we used to race on. The overall commitment you needed when going into some of those corners, where the barriers were right on the edge of the circuit and you were exiting the corner at 200mph – if something goes wrong there is going to be huge accident.”

Mansell’s commitment was never questioned and after he had led from pole to flag at Silverstone the crowd were in the mood to ensure it was recognised; 25 years on he acknowledges just what that meant. “There were some fantastic highs, some great achievements and great disappointments,” he says. “In between everything the overall memory is what a fantastic opportunity it was, how grateful I was to the sponsors, engineers, mechanics and tea ladies – everybody who put the effort in to get those cars to the race and be as competitive as they were.

“Thanks to the Chapman family and having the great opportunity to join the Williams team with Ginny Williams, Frank Williams and Patrick Head and everybody who gave me the opportunity to drive for a great team, I have incredible memories.”



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