the incubus wrote:
While many might have considered him among the top 3 ever, many others felt Prost was still too strong a force to rule out of contention for whatever position some felt Senna belonged in, myself included. Senna had the most raw talent of his era but talent alone does not make someone the best. As with all top tier sports, the mental aspect has a great deal to do with the level of success an athlete achieves. As well Senna was for Autosports editors a dream commodity. The controversy and wars and whining sure sold a lot of copies of their publications and from all the interviews I've seen from reporters who covered him throughout his career, most are heavily bias towards Senna in an almost obscenely romantic way and when they tell a story about him the romanticism is quite prominent. However, when they speak about Piquet, Mansell, and Prost, it's all matter of fact with little to no emotion and that's just not right. I doubt anyone in the history of F1 risked as much as Mansell did to break into the sport and that guy NEEDED to win more than anyone else and when he won there was a feeling of joy for him from anyone who knew how much he sacrificed and risked to make it. On top of that, he was the elder statesman yet was on par with the younger sensations, Senna and Prost. Mansell pushing his car to the point of fainting is certainly a more sensational story than most of the Senna stories (speaking only to wins), yet on the ultra-rare occasion people speak of that moment it lacks the emotion and romanticism that a story about Senna tying his shoes would.
If someone were to sit down with Nigel and write a screenplay, what an amazing story that would be, though I suspect there would be a bit of Prost bashing as well.
Ahem, Prost was only 18 months younger than Mansell, and made his F1 debut before him.
I'm not disagreeing that Mansell had a rough ride getting into F1, but until he managed to sit in the Williams FW11 he was considered to be an average driver - tough, yes, but not exactly WDC material. His reputation was built on challenging Piquet during '86, something that he was not expected to do. And he had a phenomenal ability to bully a car around the track.
The thing that always struck me with Mansell was that despite clearly being one of the strongest, toughest drivers out there, he always seemed to be the guy who was injured/exhausted. I'm not doubting that driving in Dallas in '84 was a very tiring experience, but have you ever tried to push an F1 car? You can do it with one hand. A 1984-spec F1 car only weighed 540kgs. Collapsing in front of the cameras was just the first of many times Mansell turned into a drama queen, and I don't think it did him any good. Whilst the fans loved him, there were a great number of drivers who didn't (Mario Andretti for one). The only reason he came back to Williams in '94, and subsequently McLaren in '95, was due to Bernie's insistence, as he was scared that F1 audiences might collapse unless some recognised names were running. Neither Frank nor Ron wanted to have Mansell, but Bernie 'Did a Bernie' and offered both teams incentives to place him.
So whilst undoubtedly a good driver, I think Mansell ranks last out of the 1980's 'Big Four'.