Mansell: Today’s F1 drivers don’t need to be brutes like we did – Grand Prix 247

Nigel Mansell Williams photo paul velasco Nigel Mansell Williams photo paul velasco
The 1993 F1 World Champion, now 69, raced in an era where the cars were extremely physical to drive, especially in the eighties.  Looking back at that era during an interview with Adrian Flux, headline sponsor of The Classic at Silverstone, Mansell added: “Today’s drivers don’t need to be brutes like we did.
“There’s no sweat, there’s no nothing because the biggest thing that’s been designed in a F1 car is power steering. We needed to have really strong arms and catch the car in a corner, and if you didn’t have the physical strength to hang onto a F1 car you went off and had an accident. Now you drive it with one finger.
“It’s opened the sport up to a lot of drivers that didn’t actually have the physicality. You had to be strong, you had to be a bit of a brute years ago.
“If you were you could make up some speed during a race because you used to get physically whacked out, like really whacked out, like I can’t drive anymore, I just can’t breathe anymore especially with the ground effects.
“Now with the seats and the technology – you’ve got 30 to 50 engineers balancing the car for the driver telling them to keep the car in balance, do this. We had one engineer, a designer and a head analyst but we did it ourselves. It’s changed beyond all belief and it’s amazing where the sport is today,” declared Mansell, winner of 31 Grands Prix.
Without a doubt, F1 driver safety has progressed massively, with drivers these days walking away from crashes they would never have survived during Mansell’s time in the top flight, from 1980 to 1995, years in which six F1 drivers perished doing their jobs.
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Death visited the sport again during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, which snuffed out the promise of Jules Bianchi; prior to that F1’s darkest hours were during the Imola weekend where Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives.
Mansell recalled the reaction to those fateful days in 1994: “The shockwave went through all the circuits throughout the world and they were sterilised. So all the fast, dangerous corners were taken away – they were obliterated, which was a great shame.
“A lot of the fast corners now you’ve got these enormous run off areas, the kerbs are very small. You can make a mistake and drive off the circuit and drive straight back on.
“When we used to make a mistake years ago we paid a penalty. We hit something: the Armco, the concrete wall. You say about people dying, there were (also) so many people injured out of the sport; broken leg, broken arm, broken backs.
“They just weren’t physically able to drive a F1 car for the rest of their lives. In 1994, a month or so after the terrible double-fatality, the whole of perspective in F1 changed forever.
“From a driver’s point of view it’s Christmas on sticks. They feel like they are superhuman. They can have the most heinous accidents with the cars presently and walk away from it. It’s astonishing.
“Sometimes the old drivers wince and go ‘oh, it’s going to be terrible’ but then the driver just hops out of the cockpit and off back to the pits and they’re fine which is fantastic,” added Mansell.
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