Nigel Mansell, born in England on August 8, 1953, is considered one of the best and most popular Formula 1 drivers of the 1980s and 1990s. He is remembered above all for his duels with racing legends such as Prost, Senna and Piquet. After earning his spurs in the premier class of motorsport at Lotus and Williams, Mansell moved to Scuderia Ferrari in 1989. From then on, he was called “il Leone” by the tifosi, Ferrari’s supporters. His time at Ferrari was marked by ups and downs. He continued to win races, but struggled somewhat with the reliability of his car, which is why he was still denied the world championship title. He is also remembered for his questionable maneuver in the Portuguese Grand Prix, when he shifted into reverse in the pit lane and failed to notice a resulting black flag, which led to a collision with Senna and a ban from the next race for Mansell.
The crowning achievement of his career came in 1992 when he returned to Williams and won a superior world championship title. He won a total of nine races. He won the first five races of the season in a row, which was a record at the time. After this great success, Mansell tried his luck in American racing, where he also succeeded in the Indycar series. After Senna’s death, Mansell returned to Formula 1 for a short time in 1994 before contesting his last races in 1995.
Alongside the gentleman, however, there is also the thoughtful Nigel Mansell. One experience on the racetrack haunts him to this day, says Mansell, the 1992 Formula One world champion, and that is the accidental death of Ferrari icon Gilles Villeneuve. “What happened to him at Zolder is something I will never forget until the end of my days,” Mansell says in an interview.
Villeneuve had collided with Jochen Mass’ March in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. “I was driving in the car behind and saw everything,” Mansell says. “I saw him fly through the air, I saw him come down, I saw him get thrown out of the car, I saw him crash into the guardrails.”
He said he can well remember what was going through his mind at that moment. Namely, that Villeneuve’s chances of survival were “virtually non-existent,” Mansell added. “It was the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen. I was upset and I still am.” But in Formula 1 in the 1980s, he said, serious accidents like this were a cruel reality.
A change in thinking in Formula 1 only set in after the accidental death of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, i.e. after the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, in which Roland Ratzenberger also had a fatal accident.
It is a great pleasure for my team and me that we are currently able to exhibit a Formula 1 car driven by Nigel Mansell here in Urdorf. Especially the comparison to the high-tech cars of today is exciting and shows the performance and courage of the drivers of that time in a different light. Visit us in Urdorf and have a look at this piece of racing history.
On December 09, 2021, B.I. Collection will host a full-day Racing Roadshow featuring the legendary Ferrari F1 car of Nigel Mansell as well as Ferrari 333 SP, 512 BB LM, 458 Challenge and the latest model, the 830 hp Ferrari 296 GTB.