Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet

There was little love lost between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet when they were team mates in the mid-eighties. They had some dramatic battles along the way, none more so than Mansell’s famous comeback drive at Silverstone in 1987.

The Brazilian driver arrived at the team via Brabham, where he won two titles in 1981 and 1983. He came from behind in the final round on both occasions, taking titles from Carlous Reutemann and Alain Prost.

But after his second title the team hit a rough patch, and that led him to Williams.

Mansell, meanwhile, served a lengthy F1 apprenticeship with Lotus and finally became a race winner after joining Williams in 1985.

His title miss the following year was the stuff of legend – robbed by an exploding tyre in the final race at Adelaide – but edged Piquet in points. Dogged by unreliability in 1987, he was injured in a crash in practice at the penultimate race, making Piquet champion.

That marked the end of their time as team mates. Mansell spent two seasons with Ferrari but returned to Williams after falling out spectacularly with team mate Alain Prost.

In 1991 he was championship runner-up again, this time to Ayrton Senna. Piquet, meanwhile, had joined Benetton after two wasted years at Lotus. He claimed his final Grand Prix win for at Mansell’s expense in Canada that year.

Piquet retired at the end of the season after briefly partnering Michael Schumacher. Mansell dominated the 1992 championship at the wheel of the crushing Williams FW14B, but left for Indy Car when he discovered Prost had signed for the team in 1993.

He made a sporadic return for Williams the following year, taking a final win at Adelaide, but aborted a planned comeback with McLaren in 1995 after two desultory races.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Nigel Mansell Nelson Piquet
Nigel Mansell, Williams, 1992 Nelson Piquet, Williams, 1987
Titles 1992 1981, 1983, 1987
Second in title year/s Riccardo Patrese Carlos Reutemann, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell
Teams Lotus, Williams, Ferrari, McLaren Ensign, BS Fabrications, Brabham, Williams, Lotus, Benetton
Notable team mates Nelson Piquet, Riccardo Patrese, Alain Prost Niki Lauda, Riccardo Patrese, Nigel Mansell
Starts 187 204
Wins 31 (16.58%) 23 (11.27%)
Poles 32 (17.11%) 24 (11.76%)
Modern points per start1 8.07 8.27
% car failures2 32.62 24.51
Modern points per finish3 11.98 10.96
Notes Runner-up in 1986 and 1987, the latter after back-breaking crash Runner-up in championship in second full season
Returned to Williams in 1991, taking title in 1992 Two titles with Brabham in early 1980s
Quit for good after two-race comeback for McLaren in 1995 Ill-timed switch to Lotus followed third title with Williams
Bio Nigel Mansell Nelson Piquet

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Nigel Mansell (64%)
  • Nelson Piquet (36%)

Total Voters: 674

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192 comments on Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet

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  1. Franton said on 3rd January 2011, 19:51

    On straight stats, Mansell. On personalities … Mansell but only just. Piquet was a little stirrer who thought insulting Mansell’s wife to gain a track advantage was ok. Mansell just ended up a prima donna e.g. He demanded to know who was testing a Benetton F1 car with times faster than anyone else (Johnny Herbert as it turned out).

    Mansell was a whiner. Piquet was just nasty … and look what a cheat his son turned out to be …

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 3rd January 2011, 21:58

      I agree, but this isn’t a popularity contest

      • Haplo (@) said on 4th January 2011, 0:47

        I think this is: If not then the stats would suffice to establish who is the Champion of Champions, isn’t it?

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 4th January 2011, 1:00

          No, because stats can be deeply flawed. For instance, as said below, if it wern’t for a burst tyre and an injury, Mansell would have the three titles.

          Dominant cars can totally inflate F1 stats, if we did this on stats it’s obvious who the winner can be but stats can hide the truth.

          Famous quote “statistics statistics and damn lies”

          So as the stats arn’t completley reliable this competition is as i’ve understood it and I could be wrong. Our judgements of how good the drivers really are.

          • Haplo (@) said on 4th January 2011, 2:59

            I’m pretty sure that’s what I mean :P

            But btw, your “if it weren’t for this and that” does not mean the stats are flawed in any way. Stats are simply a recollection of things that happened or didn’t happened and how many times they happened.
            Tires may be flawed, drivers may drive with flaws leading to crashes, but stats (as long as they’re accurate) can’t be flawed.

          • Daniel said on 4th January 2011, 5:24

            The application of a statistic can be flawed. That’s what he means.

            In a close battle like this the stats are a jumping-off point. 3 titles to 1 would make PK the favourite, but then you look at the others and see Mansell scored more when he had a reliable car, and you start to look at why he didn’t win more titles. Then you start to think maybe Mansell was better.

            Then you remember that he stalled the car waving to the crowd before the race had finished and you vote for PK.

          • Scribe (@scribe) said on 4th January 2011, 12:14

            Haplo, yeah kinda lol. v tired for that post, what I ment was it’s about your judgement of ability not how nice a bloke they where, ie not a popularity contest, which I took your post to mean this was.

            @Daniel, he did do that, Mansell was occasionaly a bit silly, still a better driver than Piquet. Doesn’t change the fact that Mansell lost one title to straight up bad luck, an the other to Piquet, through injury.

          • I think the quote is: lies, damn lies and statistics.

            There was more to Mansell losing the ’87 title than simple injury – Piquet was well ahead in the points before Mansell’s shunt at Suzuka.

          • zecks said on 4th January 2011, 13:38

            Tim is correct, I believe it was Benjamin desraeli

          • pseudohendrix (@pseudohendrix) said on 6th January 2011, 7:38

            The quote is another of Mark Twain’s; ‘There are lies, there are damned lies and then there are statistics. This will surely be a popularity contest though, it’s hard to see it going any other way.
            Piquet over Mansell for me though I’ve never much liked either of them.

          • Hairpin (@hairpin) said on 8th January 2011, 18:23

            That Famous quote I believe is –

            There’s Lies, there’s dammed lies, and there’e statistics.

            Ferrari have been using this system for years.

    • Macca (@macca) said on 4th January 2011, 2:25

      On straight stats, Mansell.

      Piquet won 3 titles while Mansell only won 1 and that is the altimate stat that people race for, championships.

      • And that Piquet won 3 titles is, to me, still the most confounding and unpalatable statistic in Formula 1.

        Yeah, hats off to the guy for managing it, but those 3 titles flatter the guy beyond belief.

        • Bren said on 5th January 2011, 1:17

          he who scores most points is world champion and deservingly so.

          i personally dont think vettel drove much like a champion other than about 3 races this season. it was fernando/lewis who were the stars of the show.

          But history will show Vettel as champ if i like it or not lol.

    • MacLeod (@macleod) said on 6th January 2011, 9:50

      If stats were the thing to choose we wouldn’t have to choose it was done for us. Nelson a piece of nasty but a beter driver then Mansell but just at a slight bit.

      • Halfcolours (@) said on 10th January 2011, 23:59

        I think the best example of stats not being the be all and end all of the champion will be measured by Jack Brabham (can’t wait to see that one) may not have the race record of some of the drivers, but his total involvement in winning from every aspect is unmatched. It always about the subjective matching.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 9th January 2011, 21:13

      Mansell. Less starts, more failures but more poles and wins.

  2. Hairs (@hairs) said on 3rd January 2011, 19:51

    Mansell on account of the fact he didn’t spawn Nelson Piquet Jr., thereby having an untainted legacy.

    • Duchess said on 4th January 2011, 3:29

      And here I was thinking I was the only one to vote Mansell for this reason. :-\

    • kowalsky said on 4th January 2011, 9:19

      that’s an insane comment.
      Mansell was faster, but the question is who was better. And piquet was an overall better pilot. He won titles against prost, reuteman and mansell. In the turbo and atmosferic eras. He won races in three diferent teams.
      From the personality point of view, both were difficult men, but then again, most champions are.

      • Kirk (@kirk) said on 4th January 2011, 12:33

        As pointed out in other places here, he beat Mansell in the same car in ’87 but Mansell still won more races that year – there was nothing dominating about his championship. Piquet never beat Prost in the same car, and never won a championship when Prost had a car capable of winning championship.

        Mansell had plenty of ordinary moments, but when he was on he was really on.

  3. Ads21 (@ads21) said on 3rd January 2011, 19:52

    wow this is a tough one for a round 1 match up, I think I’m going to have to take a while to think about it before voting. Hopefully there will be lot’s of thoughtful comments to read to help me decide

    • SoLiDG said on 3rd January 2011, 19:59

      same here. Difficult one. Mansell had some near misses, wich would make him a 2/3 time champion. He was a guy who raced till the end and was very fun to watch.
      I think I’ll go for Nigel, but not 100% sure yet!

      • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:28

        Yeah it’s the first time it probably comes down to opinion and perspective. Mansells stats are inflated by the FW14B but those near misses do make him a worthy champion.

        Piquet was a highly underated driver, but I think, overall Mansell got the better of him as teamates, despite Piquet winning the title. As we know, Mansell was carrying injuries, he won more races than Piquet that year as well.

        I think Mansell shades it on comparison as team mates but very tricky one.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:21

      I agree, will wait a wile before casting my vote. I have to think it over.

      Both had very tough opponents in each other as well as Senna, Prost and Lauda to mention the best of them. Then again, they were a bit behind these guys in prowess.

      Mansell had all those near misses has more races won and his jump to IndyCar and getting the title there immediately was great to watch, but I have never been a big fan, and his WDC year was largely from an absolute killer in the Williams FW14B

      Piquet is a 3 time WDC, but never really shows up in top of the all time greats lists.
      His win rate is not top notch, average points not too good, but that will be because of his spell with Lotus in between. Still he did clinch these 3 titles with quite some years in between and was quick right from the start.
      Against him is his pretty unpleasant character (what I have heard of him) and the way he handled his son’s F1 career and the fall out. Then again it is

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:22

        … about how good a champion he was, not about being mr. nice guy.

        • GreyoTG (@) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:10

          A good world champion doesn’t always mean whether they were a great driver on track.

          Many remember James Hunt, after winning the world title, he still admired and even expressed sympathy with Niki Lauda.

          A great world champion means being an ambassador for your sport, not just the best behind the wheel.

          I voted for Mansell, partly because of his obvious talent behind the wheel, but also because he loves his sport and has its best interest at heart (As well as his at times) Piquet just had his interest at heart. There is a fine line between World Champion rutheless and ‘win-at-all-costs’ rutheless.

          Of course this will become a major talking point when it comes to Senna… (Let’s leave that for later…)

          • Why should the World Champion be the sport’s ambassador? Drivers that win the title don’t sign up to be the ambassador, the just try to retain the title the following year. The ambassador job can be left to the leader of the GPDA.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 4th January 2011, 9:02

          Good summary – I too am deliberating those points.

  4. Slr (@slr) said on 3rd January 2011, 19:57

    Nice one Keith, this is a good line up. It was pretty difficult to choose this time. In the end, I had to give it to Piquet as Mansell had more shortcomings when trying to win the title. But they were both pretty equal and Mansell was a great driver.

  5. Piquet was 2nd to Piquet?

  6. newnhamlea1 (@newnhamlea1) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:01

    Although Nigel only won one wdc, the stats alone, in my opinion make him better than piquet.

    • RobertG said on 3rd January 2011, 22:14

      btw, Nigel won his WDC by miles, Piquet got all 3 nervously with lots of luck

      • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:33

        Mansell’s stats where inflated somewhat by the FW14B superiority. He won 9 times in 1992, while Piquets wins came in generally more balanced feilds. Still, Mansell suffered bad luck that deprived him of a few championships.

        Wish the stats clinging would stop, there often misleading.

        Regardless, I think that Mansell’s shaded superiority over Piquet as his team mate makes him the better driver.

  7. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:04

    I am going to vote for Mansell despite not being a great fan of him. The reason simply being that I think he was the faster and probably more complete driver. The last driver that Ferrari personally signed says a lot for his talent and he was also signed by Colin Chapman. I feel Piquet’s titles were tainted by having a superb car and relatively low competition. The Murray Brabham’s really were the car of the day. Championships lost in 1986 were more down to silly errors and Prost’s brilliant knack for winning from no-where.

    Mansell showed more raw talent over the course of his career, let’s not forget that Mansell came back for a one-off appearance and won. After Piquet’s title his only win came as a result of Mansell’s mistake/poor fortune depending on who you believe.

    This is Keith’s first tough one and it will be interesting to hear comments as Piquet certainly was a personality and that goes a long way.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:34

      Great post, I’d tend to agree.

      Shows the differance between those two and Prost though huh?

    • frood19 (@frood19) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:42

      i think piquet won at least twice after 1987. certainly the 1991 canada win that is mentioned in the article (where mansell started waving the crowd on the final lap and then stalled/broke down). he won a couple on the trot for benetton (might have been 1990).

      • RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 4th January 2011, 0:01

        Correct, sorry for the oversight. He won the Japanese GP 1990 after Senna and Prost collided and he won the following race in Australia from seventh. I watched the race on the bbc calssic series but unfortunately , it shows a greater array of Mansell’s skills than Piquet’s I feel. Senna’s backmarker ability is phenomenal here.

        This race is a great example of stats not being everything!

        Thanks for pointing that out, really enjoyed watching this great race again!

      • Arl84 said on 4th January 2011, 6:20

        In Susuka 90 Nelson won after Nigel smashed Ferrari’s gearbox during his pitstop.

        In Adelaide, Senna and Mansell battled during most of afternoon, but Nigel destroyed his tyres. He did a good recovery, but Nelson deserved the victory.

        Btw, this championship is a good example of Nelson’s talent. He finished 3rd in Drivers Championship even driving a underpowered Benetton Ford against Mansell, Berger and both Williams drivers in most powerful cars.

  8. RIISE (@riise) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:05

    Arghh this is tough, Piquet I rate in my top 5 drivers, although Mansell’s story is brilliant. Hmmm, i’m going with Piquet, purely because ’87 was an awesome season and he beat Mansell fair and square, ’86 was closer but that was marred with ridiculous incidents. It was very much a Senna v Prost type situation, the rivalry was brilliant but Piquet for me showed he was the more complete competitor.

    Very close though, much closer than the previous 2 face-offs.

  9. Radoye (@radoye) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:06

    Very close call. In the end i voted Piquet because of the bigger number of titles won, but at their best when put in equal cars there really wasn’t much to separate the two. They both were very capable racers and worthy champions.

  10. Well. I rank Mansell the greatest retired single title winner. Piquet, meanwhile, weakest of triple champions. Therefore I won’t put too much emphasis on number of titles. It was very competitive era when they both drove. Piquet was starring earlier than Mansell, whose glory days started in mid-80s.

    Taking account their time as team-mates, where in 1986 Mansell beat Piquet, and in 1987 had some terrible luck, I declare Nigel the better. Interesting to see whether there will be more matchups where I will vote for the driver with less titles.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:42

      Lets not forgett how entertaining Mansell was, that shouldn’t really count but my god he had balls of STEEL

      Nicknames included The Showman, an Il Leone. (Also Our Nige) Most detirmined, agressive, and spectacular overtaker F1 has ever seen. Senna thought he was nuts, but my god it was entertaining. Youtube is full off spectacular mansell moments, just go take a look.

      On the other hand, Piquet had his moments, overtaking Senna’s lotus on full opposite lock being one of them.

      • Jeffrey Powell said on 8th January 2011, 15:54

        Yes! my critera for chosing would be the abilty to win,so not a lot in it and then sheer ‘LUNACY’ so Nigel by a country mile.

  11. Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:10

    Just a quick thing Keith, with Piquet you say that he also came second in his last title year when I believe it was Nigel Mansell. Just thought I’d let you know so you can fix it up.

  12. Nigel all the way, probably the greatest entertainer in F1

  13. robk23 (@robk23) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:12

    Difficult choice, I would’ve thought Nelson Piquet having 3 championships as opposed to Mansell’s 1 would be backed up by the better statistics but obviously not. It makes it difficult to choose because they were both great champions.

  14. jihelle (@jihelle) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:15

    Having seen both on the track in the 80’s, it’s obvious to me that Piquet was a much better driver. Mansell was always all over the place when Piquet was sharp and accurate. Mansell stands as one of the most overrated driver in the history of Formula One – and a whiner on top of it all – and Piquet one of the most underrated (with Prost) and his three titles speak volume. So my vote goes to Nelson.

    • mikepaterson (@mikepaterson) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:42

      Having seen both on the track in the 80′s, it’s obvious to me that Mansell was a much better driver. Piquet never did anything special and almost “lucked in” to his championships whilst Mansell was sharp and accurate. Piquet stands as one of the most overrated driver in the history of Formula One – and a nasty one top of it all – and Mansell one of the most underrated but his stats speak volume. So my vote goes to Nigel.

      • RIISE (@riise) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:55

        You know, i’m agreeing with Jihelle, Mansell didn’t have that killer instinct to clinch more than one title. I mean he won in ’92 simply by having the best car by miles, I mean that was on par with the 2004 Ferrari in terms of sheer performance to other competitors.

        He destroyed Patrese sure, but he was an average driver whichever way you look at it.

        • Simon Duck (@simon-duck) said on 3rd January 2011, 21:15

          I’m with jihelle as well. Went for piquet. I don’t really rate Mansell.

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:45

          To be fair, he’d have two more titles if it weren’t for an exploding tyre, an the back injury that added one to Piquets tally.

          Over two seasons, apart from when he was injured, Mansell tended to shade Piquet. Hence Mansell gets my vote, he was also hella entertaining.

          • Haplo (@) said on 4th January 2011, 3:35

            That’s not being fair isn’t it?

            He “could have” 20 titles if this and that would have happened… That doesn’t count.

          • Scribe (@scribe) said on 4th January 2011, 12:18

            It doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things but when comparing and making a personal judgement on Mansell and Piquet it’s highly relavant.

            Mansell generally outraced Piquet, Piquet only got ahead of him over a season in the same equipment when Mansell was incapacitaited. I’d say it counts.

            Also the fact that Mansell lost a title to an exploding tyre is relavant when people say Piquets three titles make him clear winner.

      • jihelle (@jihelle) said on 4th January 2011, 12:10

        @mikepaterson: rotfl That’s great. I love it !!

  15. Sojcarter (@sojcarter) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:18

    This is a good example of stats hiding the true quality of the drivers. The fact that Piquet won 3 titles compared to Mansell’s 1 would suggest otherwise but the main point is their time as team mates.

    It has always been said that you judge a man against his team mate, and Mansell beat Piquet in their first season together, and was taken out of contention in their second, but was close enough to justify his superiority (just) over Piquet

    That, and he didn’t father the most hated driver in the modern F1 history.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd January 2011, 20:27

      But if you look at the rest of the stats (race wins/%, poles and points per finish with DNFs discarded) it actually backs up your choice of Mansell over Piquet.

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