F1 legend: Earlier cars wanted to “kill you”

Formula 1 drivers of the 2019 generation will never experience what a “true” Grand Prix racing car feels like. At least that’s what champion Nigel Mansell believes.

The Brit remembers his active time in Formula 1 and believes that much of the magic of the top class of motorsport has been lost.

Mansell spoke to the FIA magazine “Auto” about his active career (1980 to 1995). He believes that Formula 1 will never return to cars he was allowed to drive in the turbo era of the 1980s. “Driving those turbo cars was the most exhilarating, but also the most frightening feeling you can feel in life.”


While Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Co. are currently complaining about the high weight of their cars, Mansell was able to put more horsepower down through a much lighter car with next to zero downforce.

In 1987, the Williams weighed only around 540 kilograms and was therefore 200 kilograms lighter than today’s cars.

He especially remembers the Williams FW11B: “Nothing in the world comes close to this car. Formula 1 will never return to it again. Really, today’s drivers don’t even know what a true Formula 1 car feels like.”

In qualifying he had up to 1,500 hp at his disposal. “And then you have spinning wheels in sixth gear down the straight at around 290 km/h”, Mansells excitement is palpable as he recalls the experience.

“You can’t put that into words as a driver.”

“In every single turn, you just thought the car was going to kill you.” Even run-off zones were not an issue at the time. Mansell remembers the old circuit at Silverstone: “If you’re down the hangar straight with a qualifying boost, then you’re over 320 km/h. At Stowe you went full throttle.”

In the bends there were 15 centimetre wide posts wrapped with wire marking the track boundary. “Then you drove through the club and didn’t take your foot off the gas either. When you came out of the bend, you took a deep breath.”

On the one hand, because he could breathe again, because in the curve the g-forces were especially high. On the other hand, he exhaled deeply out of relief. “You came out of the curve and thought: ‘I did it!'”





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