The ‘People’s Champion’ – 17 years on


MansellCan you believe it’s 17 years since Nigel Mansell banished his Formula 1 demons by finally clinching the World Championship? It only seems like yesterday, and yet young firebrand Michael Schumacher had scored just one of his 91 Grand Prix wins, Ferrari was only halfway through its worst-ever winless slump – and Ayrton Senna was still alive.

Mansell won his title at a canter, in a car that enjoyed an advantage over its opposition rarely seen before or since. It was all over by August.

Nigel had earned his title and deserves credit for making the most of Adrian Newey’s Williams FW14B. But on his way to the crown his relationship with the motor racing press deteriorated badly. He was no longer the gritty underdog, railing against the established order. Now he was the man at the top, the man the rest had to target. And in the opinion of many, he handled it badly. There was little grace, little humility – and plenty of resentment that his efforts hadn’t earned more respect. Even his own team was talking to other drivers for 1993.

When we asked Simon Taylor to meet Nigel for lunch, we were intrigued to find out whether the old resentments had simmered and died. Were we surprised to find they hadn’t? Not exactly!

Mansell, as you will discover in this month’s issue, hasn’t changed. But the world has. A lot of water has run under the bridge and after all these years, we want to find out how the public view Nigel Mansell. Is Britain still in love with the ‘People’s Champion’? I invite you to read Simon’s interview and let us know.

From one past champion to a new one. In our December issue we acknowledge the great achievements of Jenson Button and Brawn GP, with Nigel Roebuck explaining why Britain’s 10th World Champion deserves his title.

We also feature an exclusive interview with Britain’s ninth champ – Lewis Hamilton, who talks about the challenges of a roller coaster 2009. Also, Rob Widdows meets Hamilton’s old mentor, Ron Dennis, to ask him about life after F1 and McLaren’s new road car, the MP4-12C.

Andrew Frankel discovers the real Sebastien Loeb, from the passenger seat of his Citroen C4 rally beast. Since his encounter, Loeb has won his sixth WRC title. As Andrew found out, he’s not the most talkative of chaps, but he sure does come alive behind the wheel…

One last thing I should mention: I’ve been forced to use the star key on my keyboard a little more than I’m used to. It’s all thanks to TV presenter Tony Jardine, whom I joined as co-driver on the McRae Stages rally in October. It proved to be an adventure I won’t forget. Find out why in the December issue of Motor Sport.

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