Of course, Nigel Mansell won the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 1992. Indeed, that season he won a then record nine races, including the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, to become the most successful British driver in Formula One history. Thirty years later, Mansell remains second-best, statistically, behind only Lewis Hamilton. However, in his earlier years, Mansell earned a reputation as a talented, hard charging, but luckless, driver, prone to taking one risk too many.
During his fourth and final year with Team Lotus, in 1984, Mansell led the Monaco Grand Prix, held in heavy rain, only to spin off during the fifteenth lap, damaging his car and causing his retirement from the race. At that point, team boss Peter Warr said, ‘He’ll never win a Grand Prix as long as I have a hole in my arse’. Unsurprisingly, Mansell left Lotus for Williams in 1985 and defied expectation by winning the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in October that year.
In 1986, Mansell emerged as a bona fide contender for the Drivers’ Championship, winning five times and needing to finish no worse than third in the final race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, to clinch the title. However, with 19 of the 82 laps remaining, Mansell suffered a spectacular blowout when on course for third place, forcing his retirement and handing the title, narrowly, to Alain Prost.
In 1987, Mansell won six times, but ultimately lost out to team-mate Nelson Piquet in the Drivers’ Championship after a series of mishaps. A lost wheel nut in the latter stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix forced his retirement and, later in the season, a serious accident in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka exacerbated an old back injury, ruling Mansell out of that race and the final Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide.