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Ayrton Senna passed away in a tragic crash the 1994 San Marino GP and Nigel Mansell was brought back to fill the void.
Senna was one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. The Brazilian was hugely popular among fans and known for his aggressive style of driving. However, his fateful crash at the 1994 San Marino GP in Imola left the entire world in shock.
After Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger passed away after a crash during Qualifying on Saturday, fans thought that they had seen the worst. That was until Senna suffered a crash the following day, and passed away shortly thereafter. It was one of the darkest weekends in F1 history.
The Senna statue at Imola is one of the most moving monuments in sport 💛 pic.twitter.com/eCWsHK0O1R
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) April 23, 2022
From a business point of view, however, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had to do something. Senna’s death meant that there would be no existing World Champion on the grid, which was highly unusual. To bring some star power back to the line up, he turned to a former Title winner in hopes of elevating the sport’s viewership again.
The man he turned to was 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell.
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Mansell’s last race in F1 was in 1992, after which he left the sport. He hopped across the pond to compete in IndyCar, a series which the Brit admitted he was thoroughly enjoying.
Ecclestone, however, approached the former Ferrari driver to bring him back to Formula 1. It was an offer that tempted Mansell, but he insisted he wasn’t comfortable being Senna’s replacement driver.
“I won’t go into the details but I had four or five contracts in America and I was really happy in America and defending the title, or at least trying to,” Mansell said in an interview with Adrian Flux.
I can’t believe how big Senna’s death was. Wonder if we’ll see anything of that magnitude again
— 🚩 (@tsrbys) November 10, 2021
“And then two drivers on that terrible fateful weekend at Imola. Roland Ratzenberger died on the Saturday, Ayrton died on the Sunday. It was horrendous. At that time then, there was no Formula 1 World Champion that was then racing in Formula 1, so Bernie Ecclestone decided he had to do something about that.”
He bought all my contracts out in America and obviously brought me back to Formula 1,” the 69-year-old continued. “It was the most amazing thing then psychologically. Ayrton was such a huge figure – to drive a dead man’s car wasn’t very pleasant and it affected me enormously.”
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