On This Day in #F1: 1st March

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio

– 1992: Mansell dominates in the Transvaal

kyalamiBuilt in 1961, Kyalami hosted the South African Grand Prix from 1967 until the 1985 event.

Formula One continued chasing the Krugerrand but this merely provoked international condemnation due to countries boycotting South African sporting events because of apartheid.

Apartheid – the state of being apart – was a system of racial segregation which was enforced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. In 1990 President de Klerk began the process to end apartheid which culminated with the 1994 democratic general elections.

The 1985 race had been won by Nigel Mansell in his William Honda but the field lacked the two French constructors – Ligier and Renault – as they boycotted the race in line with the French governments stance on South African sporting fixtures. Balestre announced days after the race that Formula One would not return until apartheid was abolished.

southafrican85rsa_001Seven years had passed before the teams returned to the southern hemisphere to compete once again. In the intervening years the landscape of the circuit had changed but the years had not been so kind to the last winner of the South African race.

Nigel Mansell had suffered outrageous fortune with his tyre disintegrating in Adelaide in 1986 whilst in touching distance of the title. In 1987 – despite humbling Piquet – fortune was looking the other way as he suffered a back injury in Suzuka.

A sojourn at Ferrari in 1989 and 1990 endeared him forever to the Tifosi but also led to a dramatic retirement announcement at Silverstone – he was fed up with the politics of the Frenchman. ( Where have we heard that before? )

Williams convinced him to return and after a number of teething troubles in 1991 – including a gearbox failure as he waved to the Canadian crowd on the last lap – he arrived in South Africa fitter than ever and armed with the Williams FW14B.

Ignoring the fact that it was designed by Adrian Newey, the car was the most technically sophisticated on the grid featuring a semi-automatic gearbox, traction control and active suspension. The rest truly didn’t stand a chance.

Mansell’s commitment to this technology was staggering. He had had nightmares with previous incarnations of active suspension at Lotus and the 1987 Williams but he placed complete trust in the engineering behind this car.

He qualified 1.5 seconds ahead of his team-mate and went on to dominate the race setting a fastest lap which would have qualified him sixth on the grid!

Many blinkered journalists still resent his success and will suggest that he was lucky to be presented with the championship that year but that would be ignoring his commitment and fight over the years including the misfortune from the 1986 Australian Grand Prix. Perhaps most telling were the fans – they absolutely adored him.

My favourite story came from a qualifying session that season. Patrese after being shocked by the difference in times, walked up to Mansell and grabbed his crotch. With the threat of being punched he explained “Sorry Nigel, I just wanted to see how big your balls are!”

9 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 1st March

  1. Hi Carlo – I find it interesting that you are both a Senna and Mansell fan. Is this because of a similarity in the two drivers’ psyche…? Most other fans, I think, would support one or the other. Interesting… I like food for thought over breakfast…
    It just occurs to me that all three of you dislike ‘The Frenchman’… 😉

    • Hated Prost after the 1982 French GP, the fact that he wanted team-orders showed someone who wasn’t honest in character and he displayed this with political savvy ever after. Balestre and Prost were an unsavoury double act and his actions after being Senna’s team-mate showed exactly what kind of competitor he was.
      His luck was he developed great relationships with the British press and his words were repeated as truth because the British press had the knives out for Senna.

      To anyone who doesn’t know, my nick on here last year was ‘herowassenna’.
      Senna was one of a rare breed, he was a race driver. As was Mansell and both were hated by the British press. Senna because he blocked Warwick at Lotus and then essentially stopped speaking to the British press and Mansell because he was a “Brummie”

      In Britain over the years there has been a certain elitism when it came to F1. Be it team owners, drivers or journalists – if you didn’t speak with the correct accent you had no place in F!. So Mansell coming from Birmingham was never going to be acceptable.

      In a very subtle way, Ron Dennis isn’t particularly liked within the British establishment because he was a mechanic and worked his way up and he has adopted what many ridicule as ‘Ronspeak’ to make himself sound more intelligent. Max Mosley hated him which speaks volumes.

      So that gives a little background but Mike Hailwood, Carl Fogarty, Valentino Rossi, Senna, Mansell, Alesi, Alonso and Hamilton will always capture my attention more than Kenny Roberts, MIck Doohan, Casey Stoner, Prost, Berger, Button or Webber.

      I think Moss once said; there are great drivers and great racing drivers and the difference is bloody huge.

  2. What stood out the most for me is this:Many blinkered journalists still resent his success and will suggest that he was lucky to be presented with the championship that year but that would be ignoring his commitment and fight over the years… I think this is something what vettel is undergoing now. History repeats itself 😉

    • I can see the way you’re describing it but I have to disagree.

      Vettel entered F1 in 2007 with full Red Bull backing. By 2008 he was winning a GP with a Ferrari engined Newey design (bet Toro Rosso had stayed with Ferrari this year) and by 2009 he was in the RBR team and challenging for the championship.

      Mansell entered F1 with Lotus in 1980 and fought for everything. When Chapman died in 1982, Mansell was left without any support in the team as Peter Warr hated him. Mansell joined Williams in 1985 but no-one expected him to turn into the winner he was. To be honest Derek Warwick was considered Britain’s no 1. 1986 and 87 were unbelievable years for him and Piquet hated being pushed out of his comfort zone and left the team. After the Ferrari years he rejoined a faltering Williams Renault team and began making changes which brought about the 1992 car and he cantered to the championship before the French decided they wanted Prost there.

      To this day, many journalists have little time for Mansell, he was from Birmingham and in the UK that is unfashionable to say the least.

      I think the problem for Vettel isn’t the journalists but the public. If you listen to commentators and media in general they are trying to build his records into the greatest of all time but the public aren’t stupid, MSC may be statistically the best but certainly not ‘the greatest’ in most peoples views.
      Vettel has had two seasons of a dominant car, 2011 and 2013. Luck won him the WDC in 2010 and to a degree in 2012, I have never seen a car spin in the middle of the pack, get hit and be able to continue at front-running speed.

      There’s a feeling that he hasn’t served his time before success, in a way the same with Hamilton coming straight in and winning races with Mclaren. Maybe as Alonso said last year, when he isn’t in a dominant car, people will judge him differently.

      • I agree with everything you say. (Althoug as im not british i dont know why being from birmingham is such a bad thing?) But hamilton doesn’t get the same treatment as vettel… People seem to hate vettel. Where as, mainly Brits, love hamilton. Even though he is as “spoiled” as vettel. The fact that one is British and one is german has a lot to do with this in my opinion. But the case is that vettel showed his teammate (with the same car, what ever criticasters say) how it’s done. And there for alone he deserves A bit more credit. I still stand by my point that bad cars don’t win championships. Why do people give all the credit to alonso for beating massa, but when vettel does the same to webber it’s all the car and no1 status? As for the building him up to be the greatest ever, that’s something the press does with everything. If a football player plays 2 good games he’s the next maradona. I dont believe all that he is the next this or that. Everybody builds his own legacy.

        • Great points.

          Just to give you and maybe other non British readers a clue, in the UK there is a north-south divide and the wealthier South will ridicule the poor North. It applies to living standards, sport and education. In football for example you have the Northern clubs, Man. Utd, Liverpool, Newcastle for example against the southern clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
          Birmingham is situated between the two hence why it’s often called the Midlands and these people seem to be the butt of considerable mirth in the UK irrespective of living in the north or south.

          In Italy there is a similar divide, the rich, industrial and powerful North and the peasant and agricultural lands of the south and yet the Northern Italians travel to Southern Italy for their holidays…

          Maybe in Belgium there is something similar? Maybe between Brugges and Brussels or other areas?

          • In belgium it’s a bit différend. The north is dutch speaking (the flanders) and the south is french speaking(walonie). And both sides hate eachoter sort of. Brussels is actually on dutch speaking soil but the french speaking took it over so that’s a big point in the twist. The french part used to be the rich part (in the industrial revolution) but now they are the poor. It’s a bit more to explain here but I get what you mean 😉it started out because we, dutch speaking side, didn’t want to be considered as a part of the netherlands (they are our big rivals) and the french part didn’t want to be france (who can blame them? 😋) I myself am not a fan of all this bullshit. I’m belgian and the whole of the country is belgium. And besides spa is in the french speaking part. So i have to love it there. Even though I’m of the dutch speaking part 😉

  3. Interesting, echoes my own views on Mansell, having followed him since i was a kid waaaay back when…The ‘specialist’ press seems to hate Mansell for whatever reason and still to this day ‘downgrade’ his achievements no matter what. Even the fanastic move on Berger in 1990 ive seen ‘downgraded’ to ‘If Berger hadnt lifted, they would have ended up in orbit’ (or similar) and ‘…look whos on the racing/correct line?’ Surely thats what overtaking is about, and Mansell was one of the best at it.

    Look on ‘8W Forix (The stories behind motor racing facts and fiction) ‘ and despite the tons of articles on various nobodys and there dogs, youll only find one i think about Mansell. I think its time to sert the record straight !!

    Theres a Mansell ‘opus’ in me ready to be written one day, i know that…

    • I always find it hypocritical that when these ‘professional’ journalists write about how elitist F1 has become they’ll speak of how drivers are kept away from the public and if you read Joe Saward he’ll continuously refer to putting the time into become an F1 insider etc. He is just a voice amongst many that derides any input from anyone other than so called pros. It’s voices like his that continue to massage the egos and we, as the public, don’t really have any say.

      I met Mansell on a few occasions at F1 tests at Silverstone and found him to be one of the few who was real and mixed with the fans. At the 1991 tests a friend and I came across him and his family sitting having lunch on the inside of Copse. We didn’t bother him but it was refreshing to see someone without airs or graces.

      TJ13 is a great platform for fans and I’d welcome a Mansell ‘opus’ as his story is a true rags to riches; it’s about time the record was put straight.
      My hero was Senna and from everything I have read there was only one driver in F1 he truly respected – Mansell.

      As to overtaking, there’s also the dummy on Piquet into Stowe at the 1987 British Grand Prix and who can forget the 1989 Hungarian pass on Senna.
      That Mexico pass on Berger was incredible and ranks amongst my top five overtaking manoeuvres ever alongside Alonso at Suzuka in 2005.
      When people say Hakkinen passing Schumacher in a straight line at Spa in 2000 I want to scream.

      Villeneuve once said that driving a car in a straight line requires no skill, it’s the corners that maketh the man.

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