On This Day in #F1: 05 January

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio

– 1993: Nigel Mansell tests an Indycar

Isolationism; a doctrine that has served America for decades was in full force when the Briton arrived. He was the reigning Formula One World Champion and yet was judged as a rookie by the American press and spectators alike. To this day, to hear the local commentators express surprise at his ability is astonishing.

Nigel Mansell 1993

Nigel Mansell was the Marmite man. You either loved him or loathed him but very few were indifferent to the theatre he brought to motor racing back in the eighties and nineties.

Twenty one years ago, he took the to the track in an Indycar for the first time and ended the day with the lap record to his name; an auspicious start to his stateside career.

After the Senna Indycar test of a few weeks earlier, Mansell was never going to simply work his way into the sport and this was borne out with the ensuing season mirroring his entire career.

He would win in dominant fashion, survived a huge crash on an oval – which supposedly injured his back – missed out on winning the Indy 500 because of his inexperience with rolling starts and then won at Michigan, a harder challenge than the Indy oval.

And whilst doing all this built himself an army of fans that delighted in his combative driving abilities; establishing records  unlikely to ever be matched.

He became the first ever rookie to take pole and the victory in his first race.

He would claim the championship at his first attempt and for a period of weeks, was both the Formula One World Champion and the Indycar Champion.

Whilst it is a possibility that a rookie could win on his debut and repeat Mansell’s historic achievements, the likelihood of a reigning Formula One champion defecting to the States becomes more and more unlikely as the Indycar championship is seemingly in terminal decline.

An engineer was once quoted by a zealous journalist as saying of Mansell, “I believe he is actually misunderstood. I have always found him to be a balanced individual, he has a chip on both shoulders!

This mis-use of a journalistic platform actually says more about the British journalistic profession – and their belittling attitude – than it does about this brave warrior.

Mansell was a brilliant talent, one that commanded the full respect of a certain Senna. He was adored by race goers the world over and was named IL Leone ( the Lion ) by the tifosi when he raced for Ferrari.

Yet the arrogant media seemingly never forgave him for being from Birmingham and being christened Nigel rather than Stirling, Damon or James with their private educations.

Mansell sold his home to pay for his progression to the pinnacle of motor-sport, overcame a broken neck and a number of other obstacles, yet the British media continues to portray him as a commoner with luck rather than use his example as an inspiration for others.

His team-mate over the 1993-94 seasons was veteran Mario Andretti: “I guess if Ronnie Peterson was the best team-mate I ever had, Nigel Mansell was the worst. I had a lot of respect for him as a driver, but not as a man.

Lest we forget, this was a man who demanded Peterson subvert his ambitions to the Andretti legend in 1978..

27 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 05 January

  1. Thanks Carlo.

    I have the height of respect for Red 5. I think he was very unlucky with accidents \ injuries over the years but he definitely hammed it up a little.

    Wheel to wheel with Senna is a seminial F1 moment.

    His autobiography is interesting also, definitely worth a read.

  2. Mansell was the reason I got drawn into F1 and until the arrival of Lewis, I have not had the same admiration for a true hard charger. It’s true that his voice was not really engrossing, but his driving style left nothing in reserve. Some of my best F1 memories involve him, the pass at Hungary on Senna, outside of Berger in Mexico and obviously the double dummy on Piquet. He is up there with Senna for me, not that we have ever had a direct comparison, but I’m glad he was around to trigger my F1 obsession back then.

  3. So great to see my man Nigel being featured in an article. There’re two men, who I carry a fanboy torch for – Nigel and Alex Zanardi, both made their name in champcars when the series was still healthy. Thanks a lot Carlo.
    A little correction though. Nigel held both titles not for weeks, but actually A week. He claimed the indy title on sunday and the next sunday was the Portuguese GP at Estoril, won by Schumacher, but Prosts 2nd place was enough to clinch the title.
    BTW, funny pub quiz detail: in 1993 Indycars had 3 F1 champions on the grid (Fittipaldi, Mansell, Andretti), while F1 had only two (Senna, Prost) 🙂

      • Don’t think so. Just because I chose not to hate Red Bull or Vettel out of petty jealousy, doesn’t mean that they mean as much to me as the Red 5 or Alex

        • And even of you did, i dont see anything wrong with being a vettel fan. I am one. After irvine stopped i watched for years without a driver who had my support. But the moment vettel came in, i was a “fanboy”. There is something about that kid that says he’s going to be one of the all time greats. If you like him or not. But i geuss hate for someone is, sadly enough, a part of topsport.

    • That really is a strange outcome for Indy to have more F1 champions than F1, so I wonder what it reveals about the states of F1 and Indy at the time (F1 weakened from a competition POV with the domination of Williams? Who had an incumbent WDC vs. Hill line up as well.. FIA attempts to rectify this in 1994 leading to the deaths of Ratzenberger and Senna?). I also wonder if anyone at the time could have foreseen how the fortunes of the series would diverge, in no small part to the split of 1996. But would it have been the same outcome otherwise?

  4. Great stuff Carlo, how can we not love “Il Leone”, the last driver “hand picked” by Il Commendatore himself.
    Nigel, according to Enzo Ferrari, was the perfect mix between madness, heavy foot and determination (grinta)

    Ps. Carlo, how would you translate the Italian word “grinta”, i always find it difficult to explain the exact meaning 🙂

      • “Determination, almost to the point of madness” is a very apt phrase for some of the F1 champions of that era (Senna, in particular, when in the car!).

        Maybe Alonso and Kimi is the best driver pairing that Ferrari have had since Prost and Mansell? Runner ups being Schumi/Barrichello, Schumi/Massa, Kimi/Massa and Alonso/Massa, with an honourable mention for Berger/Alesi.

        • I’d take Berger/Alesi any day over the others… but I’m really hoping for a few fireworks from Alonso/Kimi – and not damp squibs.

          • They are both very close and it could be another Alonso/Hamilton come the end of the season. But Kimi is less political, and both being in their mid-30s now, perhaps we may not see the same fracas as happened at McLaren?

            I cannot imagine Montezemolo allowing that to happen, either! He would surely put his foot down and declare which driver has the best chance of winning the title, and that the other should support him for the team.

          • I was watching the 1995 Italian GP the other day on Sky F1. How unlucky Berger was that Alesi’s camera dislodged and broke his suspension (also pre-cursoring Massa’s accident in a scary way)! He was really robbed of a win that day (and Alesi broke down from a likely Ferrari 1-2), with Herbert coming through to win (some luck for him after his Brands accident).

            It’s still amazing that Herbert won three races, despite his ankle not allowing him to keep his foot flat at Suzuka t1 for example due to the G forces. That his 3rd win came in masterful circumstances (also beating Barrichello, who was strong in changing conditions, and Trulli, while Frentzen retired and Coulthard, Fisichella and Ralf all lost the lead) says something in itself. That the GP had Badoer retire from 4th, Villeneuve from 5th and the title decided by Hakkinen passing a sleep-deprived Irvine (who then failed to pass Gene for 6th) makes it one of the most iconic GPs for me at the Nurburgring of all time.

          • As a Ferrari fan, sometimes a single race win, feels better then a world title, Patrick Tambay winning the Italian Gp at Imola in ’83, in front of the very emotional Italian Tifosi, driving the legendary #27 Ferrari, is one of my
            dearest childhood memory’s.

  5. I always wondered how 78 would turn out without team orders. Both drivers have shown pace at the earlier parts of their F1 careers. Same with 79.. Problem is, it would be hard to work out, unless you saw it live at the time, and had the benefit of full Q/race coverage like we have nowadays, reports on car condition and driver efforts etc.

    Mansell was a totally self-made man, and that deserves respect. That he also does a lot for charity (and was honoured again mainly for that, alongside his previous one for being F1 champion) says a lot about him. Senna also donated, which could be why they had a lot of mutual respect for each other on and off track.

    It would be fair to say that there are many comparisons with Lewis, in driving style and being self made.. we just have to see if Lewis is as charitable, but fair to say, most people think his mind is elsewhere at the moment (celebrity and fame). He does have a position as a UNESCO global ambassador though, as shown by his visits to raise awareness for poor youngsters in poor countries, so who knows what the perception could be by the end of his career. Is it possible to strive for both (chase fame and celebrity, while being committed to charitable causes)? Things could change however if he has a child with Nicole (and in which direction I am not sure), which could be on the cards if the recent twitter investigation shows they are back together. Maybe Roscoe is training to be ready for a kid? First a pet, then a child. But if both are busy, who’s going to look after the baby..

    • Fame and charities go well together. The rich and the famous get other rich and famous people to trow money in the right direction. Maybe indirect by making them spend money on big balls or auctions. But it happens.

      • True, I guess there is an American tradition of this sort of charity giving. Perhaps we should watch out and see if this occurs at some point.

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