Nigel Mansell: “We need new blood in there”

Nigel Mansell

Recently at the Autosport International show, Stephen Camp had the privilege to sit down with the one and only Nigel Mansell to discuss his career and how he feels about the current climate within Formula 1. Here’s how the interview went.

Nigel, over the course of your career, which race do you feel was the most complete performance in either Formula 1 or in IndyCar?

Hmm, that depends on which way you look at it technically, from start to finish or the execution of the race. I think the most challenging and rewarding one was winning with Ferrari in 1989 at the Hungaroring, starting in 12th and getting to seventh by the first corner and then winning the race and obviously passing Ayrton [Senna] was a very satisfying race which we had no right winning, but we did.

Then there are other races you win where everything works perfectly, 1992 British Grand Prix was a dominant exhibition of speed and commitment by the team and myself, executing it I remember vividly on the last lap smashing the lap record by well over a second, just to demonstrate that I was there to do the business.

I remember one specific race with Patrick Head as my engineer at Montreal which is very dear to my heart. I think it was 1985 where I was leading the race, I had to turn the boost down and I dropped back to third place because we had to conserve fuel, then Patrick gave me the green light to turn the boost back up with about 20 laps to go and we managed to win the race in the end.

So from a technical point of view, working together with the team I’d single that one out with Patrick managing the car technically, managing the driver which was very frustrating in the car not being able to go flat out, that was very rewarding.

I’ve also got to include the first race I won at Brands Hatch, Keke [Rosberg] and I had the most fantastic test a couple of weeks before the race where Patrick and the engineers and Adrian Newey, I think, was also onboard at that time was where we got a new suspension with “anti-squat”, we all of a sudden found half a second to seven tenths a lap which was huge.

So we went into the weekend being competitive and then thought we had a bit extra in our pocket and of course we ended up dominating the race. It was even nicer to win the next race in Kyalami and doing the back-to-back wins which really helped launch my career.

If I had my time again, maybe some of the decisions might have been a little bit different.

Nigel Mansell

Do you regret not trying the Indy 500 for a third time after you finished your time in Formula 1?

I’ve never really looked at it like that, I think regret is a very strong word. I think I have frustrations that I wasn’t allowed to defend my Formula 1 world title in the manner I won it, frustrated that the two Indy 500s I did I should have won.

In 1993 I got a caution flag with a few laps to go towards the end where there was no incident on the track, I think someone came into the wrong pits, so they threw a full course yellow out which was not correct which meant I got jumped on the restart.

Sometimes you have to put it down to fate and destiny, some things happen and some things don’t. I think we were very unlucky at Indy, whether or not to go back there in 1995, a lot of stuff was happening in Formula 1 around that time poor Ayrton lost his life with Roland Ratzenberger in 1994, there was a lot of dynamic changes going on around the world at that point in time.

If I had my time again, maybe some of the decisions might have been a little bit different.

Moving onto Formula 1 today, I just wondered what your thoughts were on how Liberty Media have done in their first season in charge?

I think they’ve realised they have their challenges with viewing audiences dropping off and so forth, but with the team they put together, they would really like to create a more level playing field for people to be able to compete. You want more cars being able to win and I certainly think we need at least 26 cars on the grid, in my day we had 43 cars trying to qualify at some races.

We need new blood in there, so let’s get a level playing field and bring the costs down.

That leads me nicely to my final question. Is there anything specific you would change with Formula 1 that would maybe make things better?

It’s so easy to say and so hard to actually achieve, I really want to stress this again, but a level a playing field is of crucial importance. You glance at the cars out there now and there are one or two cars that just stand out head and shoulders above everybody else. Is that down to finance? Is that down to capability? I’m not quite sure about that.

We should have simpler regulations that prevent all these aerodynamic add-ons, because you look at the Mercedes out there – it is beautiful, sculptured from the front to the back with so many details to keep the airflow attached on that car to keep it on the ground. It’s like an art form, isn’t it? How do they actually produce it, make it and fit it to make sure it’s perfect and how many other teams can do that?

Therefore, if the regulations would limit the number of such add-ons you can have on, it would save an awful lot of money, plus they won’t fly off if you have a bit of contact, but the main thing here would be that hopefully other teams could then catch up and the racing show would be much more competitive for everyone.

Is there any specific way you would personally do that, perhaps through certain standardising of some parts or reducing budgets?

I don’t think we should standardise things, and I’m definitely not saying other teams can’t evolve, but there has got to be a limit – just take a look at the front wing, rear wing, sidepods, the floor and the diffuser amongst everything else, there are zillions of alterations and little bits and pieces. You could spend years on it and if you haven’t got the budget, the wind tunnels, the people and resources to do it, you’ll never catch up with the leading teams.

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