Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mansell was born in Upton-on-Severn , a small town in the English county of Worcestershire. He spent most of his childhood and early adult years in Hall Green, Birmingham. He was a pupil at Rosslyn School then Hall Green Bilateral before studying engineering at Matthew Boulton College
He had a fairly slow start to his racing career, using his own money to help work his way up the ranks. He was struggling for money by the time he reached Formula 3, but thanks to a relatively consistent 1979 season, his F3 manager and team owner of Lotus, Colin Chapman, gave him an opportunity to test drive for Lotus, one of the top racing teams in F1 at the time. Mansell's skill impressed Lotus enough to give him a pair of starts in F1 in 1980, and eventually gave him a ride for a full season the year after.
His four years as a full-time Lotus driver, however, were a struggle as the Lotus cars were unreliable and he managed a best finish of third place. After the death of Colin Chapman in 1982 relationships at Lotus became strained. At the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix managed the impossible by overtaking Alain Prost in a wet race for the lead but soon after retired. The teams new managers were keen to make space for Ayrton Senna and Mansell left at the end of the season.
In 1985 Frank Williams snapped him up for a drive alongside Keke Rosberg at the Williams team. Mansell was given the now infamous "Red 5" car which he drove throughout his career (for Williams and Newman Haas) and which was brought to the public's attention mainly through commentator Murray Walker and his enthusiastic commentry for the BBC.
However 1985 appeared to be more of the same for Nigel, but he showed hope at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with a second place and followed it up with his first victory in 72 starts at Brands Hatch in England. He won again with a second straight victory at Kyalami in South Africa. The victories at end of 1985 helped turned Mansell into a Formula 1 star.
He followed up 1985 with five wins in 1986, a season which is most known for his now famous tyre burst with 19 laps to go in the season finale in Australia, a race which Mansell, Alain Prost, and teammate Nelson Piquet were all capable of winning the world championship, Mansell ended the season runner-up to Prost. Mansell and Piquet grew to despise each other after their first race together when Piquet barged Mansell off the road. The Brazillian publically describing Mansell as "an uneducated blockhead" and criticising his wife while Mansell privately felt Piquet did not pull his weight and was engaged in power politics.
Six more wins followed in 1987 including an emotional victory at Silverstone in which he came from behind to beat Piquet and then stopped on the track on his victory lap to kiss the spot where he had overtaken his rival. However at the Italian Grand Prix he was caught napping by Piquet and an incident during qualifying at Suzuka in Japan caused him to miss the last race of the season and almost certainly cost him the championship and ended the season runner-up to Piquet.
Nigel was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as the good-humoured Mansell with his down home manner reminded many people of the late Graham Hill, a two time champion with a similar rise up the F1 ranks in the 1960s. He was also popular for his aggressive and fast racing style. He also got a reputation in the F1 paddock for complaining about minor details and regularly felt that others were plotting against him.
In 1988 Williams lost the turbo power of Honda to Mclaren and had to make do with a normally aspirated Judd engine. A dismal 1988 season followed which crashed him back to earth as he only finished two races of the fourteen he appeared in, illness caused him to miss two more. However, not wanting to let his adoring fans down he somehow managed a magnificent 2nd place and the fastest lap at the British Grand Prix.
In 1989, Mansell became the last Ferrari driver to be personally selected by the late Enzo Ferrari. In Italy he became known as "il leone" ("the lion") by the tifosi (Ferrari fans) due to his fearless driving style. In his first appearance with the team he won at Brazil, his least favourite track and also the home race of the reviled Piquet. The rest of 1989 was characterized by gearbox problems and a handful of disqualifications but finished fourth in the championship with help from a memorable second win at Hungary where after concentrating on the race set up of the car he won after starting only 12th on the grid.
After a tough 1990 with Ferrari where he had more reliability issues with the car (7 retirements). In the 1990 season he was paired with Prost who also played on Mansell's inferiority complex and after retiring from the British Grand Prix he announced he was quitting Formula 1. Frank Williams again stepped in and signed up Mansell with the promise that he would be the focus of the team.
His second stint with Williams was even better than the first. Back in the familiar 'Red 5' he won five races with them in 1991, most memorably in Spain after going wheel to wheel with Senna with only cm's to spare at over 200mph down the main straight. However an unreliable semi automatic gearbox meant he finished second in the championship behind Ayrton Senna.
1992 would be Mansell's finest season, as he started the year with five straight victories (a record still to be beaten), and eventually won the drivers' championship by setting the then record for the most number of wins in one season (9) and highest number of pole positions (14). He only narrowly lost Monaco in high tempratures to Senna after a puncture but still finished second place and had to be supported on the podium. Mansell was crowned Formula 1 Drivers' Champion early in the season at the Hungarian GP where he finished 2nd, adding another record to his collection by winning the drivers championship in the least number of Grand Prix since the 16 race season format started.
Despite being world champion, he had a falling out with Williams over money and the prospect of Frenchman Alain Prost joining the Renault powered team, he consequently left to join the Newman/Haas CART team in 1993. At Surfers Paradise Australia he became the first "rookie" to take pole and win in his first race. He had a five-win season, and it was good enough to give him the championship. He became the only driver in history to hold both the Formula 1 World Championship and CART championship at the same time.
In an unreliable Newman/Haas car he did less well in 1994. After the untimely death of Ayrton Senna he returned to Formula One with Williams replacing rookie David Coulthard for the French Grand Prix and the last three races of the season. Mansell won the final race in Australia out qualifying Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher in the process.
Mansell eventually ended up with McLaren in 1995 but frustrated with the cars handling characteristics, he chose to retire after just two races with them. He retired with 31 victories in F1, the third highest number at that time, behind Prost and Senna; Michael Schumacher's success has since made him fourth of all time. Mansell's 'all or nothing' approach to driving may have cost him more victories and championships (crashing out of 32 Grand Prix) than it won but it also made him adored around the world. It is worth note that of his 12 full seasons in Formula 1 only 7 were with a car that was competitive and he never had the advantage of team orders .
Mansell made a brief return to racing in 1998 in the British Touring Car Series driving in a highly uncompetitive Ford Mondeo. However fans were treated to a last glimpse of Mansell at his very best at Donnington Park, as rain fell he went from last into the first corner to leading the race for several laps and finally finishing 5th in a race regarded by many fans as one of the greatest in touring car history.
"The Nigel Mansell World Of Racing", a Ferrari dealership and museum in his name is in Woodbury, Devon. The museum contains memorabilia and a number of historical Formula One cars as well as the actual cars that he drove to victory.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details