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

  1. alex said on 4th January 2011, 0:01

    I am going for Piquet because he was fast and knew to bring the car to the end. Reliability was an issue in the 80s. To save engine and tyres was not for everyone.
    Besides, what he did to Senna in Budapest 86 was incredible. Ok, he had a faster car, but that shows the kind of driver he was.
    If you want to win a championship, go with Piquet, not Mansell.

  2. LuvinF1 (@luvinf1) said on 4th January 2011, 0:02

    I consider Mansell and Piquet to be almost equal with the very slight edge to Nigel. Tough one.

  3. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 4th January 2011, 0:27

    WOW! I hope the 1st round doest stay as tough as this. How do you eliminate a 3 time world champion who was a top condender for over 10 years and the most succesfull through the era’s of Lauda, Prost, Senna and Mansell! But early memorys of watching Mansell he was electric and was brilliant to watch, memory of 92 was chasing down Senna in Monaco showed what he was all about. Piquet got the results but i have to choose Mansell on how much i enjoyed watching him, He deserved alot more than his single title, nobody can deny that. The only British driver since Stewart i can genuinly say i loved to support

  4. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 4th January 2011, 0:31

    1986+87 Piquet Rarley beat Mansell in the same car without reliability problems thats me deceided for Nigel

  5. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 4th January 2011, 1:12

    Very interesting on many levels – as they were teammates, we can actually directly compare them!

    The head says Piquet, but the heart says Mansell. And Mansell I shall vote.

  6. Mansell, had some terrible luck, but still managed more wins and poles than Piquet, and was a much better rival for Senna and Prost than Piquet. IMO, Piquet is the least deserving triple world champion.

  7. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 4th January 2011, 2:46

    So far the best & the toughest pairing,drivers of same era who have fought to the death with each other.I don’t know whom to vote but I went for Mansell as I saw some old races where he impressed me more then Piquet did.

  8. Scottie (@scottie) said on 4th January 2011, 3:09

    It was too close for me, having just watched all of the ’86 races!

    The thing that made me vote Mansell is some spectacular drives that I can’t recall Piquet matching…
    Mansell and Senna side-by-side at Catalunya
    Passing Piquet at Silverstone FTW in ’87
    The way he was exhausted at the end of a race… sheer determination

    I never really admired him, but certainly have an appreciation to the way he went racing. I found it more inspiring than Piquet.

  9. Kenny (@kenny) said on 4th January 2011, 3:17

    I am astonished that Mansell is leading here. To me, this match up is no contest…Nelson by a country mile. Three hard fought championships vs. one cake walk- that’s the bottom line IMHO.

  10. Haplo (@) said on 4th January 2011, 3:38

    I’m betting Nigel will win this one mainly because most readers are from UK?

    I watched both of them race and is very difficult to decide over any of them, I think Piquet has the edge (just) because he was a more controlled driver, while Mansell was usually all over the place… Besides, Mansell won his title in a devastating machine while Piquet won his on a more balanced field.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th January 2011, 7:45

      Less than half of the site is British. End of.

    • Mike said on 4th January 2011, 9:52

      I think your better off arguing that Mansell raced very well as recently as 93, so people here have a half decent memory of him. Yet Piquet’s best was well before the 90’s, The same as Jacques is endlessly criticised now, Piquet gets a bad reputation stemming from being well below his former form at the end of his career.

      • BasCB said on 4th January 2011, 15:05

        Especially Piquet walking out after not managing to overcome Schumi at Benneton. I agree that this is a factor here.

  11. US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 4th January 2011, 4:08

    Tough call, and since I didn’t ever see either of them drive in their day I thought I’d take a refresher and read a bit about those seasons in F1. That only made it harder. In the end though it had to Mansell for the mighty push broom on his upper lip.

  12. mark in florida (@) said on 4th January 2011, 4:17

    Mansell purely on stats not personality.Neither one was mister congeniality.

  13. Arl84 said on 4th January 2011, 5:26

    I don’t think it’s a tough call. Nelson was better and there are lots of reasons for that. Nigel won a WDC and has more GP wins or poles than Nelson, but a significant quantity of poles, wins occurred when Nigel drove the fantastic Williams FW14, one of the best ever F1 cars. Also, Nigel had no opposition from Riccardo Patrese. Riccardo let Nigel go in some occasions in 1991 and ’92. Nelson never had a car like that and even though he won 3 WDC.

    Nelson was miles ahead when setting up the car. In 1986, it’s a fact that Nigel edged Piquet by a whisker, but also is a fact that in most of occasions, Nigel just copied Nelson’s set up (e.g. British Grand Prix, which he won with Nelson’s spare car). It’s not only a coincidence that once Nelson’s crew stopped sharing set up informations with Nigel’s crew the Brazilian he started to beat Nigel frequently (from German GP on). Let’s remember that Nelson did all the job in Williams first active suspension in 1987. While he had no problem driving that car, Nigel hated it. In 1988, without Nelson, Williams suffered and gave up the device.

    People say that Nigel lost the championship in 1987 due to his accident in Suzuka (caused by Nigel’s overdriving), but Nelson had a terrible crash in Imola (caused by a tyre failure) that affected him for most of season.

    It took almost 5 complete seasons to Nigel win a single Grand Prix. In his 5th complete season Nelson won his 2nd WDC. In his first complete F1 season Nelson frequently outqualified Niki Lauda. Nigel was beaten fair and square during 4 years he raced with Elio de Angelis at Lotus (the same driver that Senna easily destroyed in 1985). Nelson was really really good in race strategy. His partnership with Gordon Murray ( 1983 is the best example) was in minor scale, similar to Schumacher-Brawn duo. Both championships he won in 81 and 83 were nearly lost and Nelson recovered in similar ways that Raikkonen in 07 and Vettel last year did.

    In early 80’s F1 was very very competitive (more competitive than now). Each race could be won by 8 or 10 different drivers (from Williams, Renault, Ferrari, Ligier, McLaren and Brabham teams). It was a totally different situation from late 80’s or early 90’s when only 2 teams and in lots of occasions only one team could win races. Nigel and Nelson competed and both eras. Nelson was a tough competitor and regular contender in both eras while Nigel only achieved success in the second period.

    Nigel was very aggressive. A never-say-die driver. Nelson was more complete, though. He knew when, where and how to be aggressive. Nelson’s overtake in Hungary ’86 (against Ayrton Senna) was probably the best ever. Nigel’s driving style and some disastrous overtaking trials cost him races and championships.

    Obviously, Nigel was more charismatic but we are not judging personality, we are judging drivers and Nelson is far ahead of Nigel in this subject.

    • Arl84 said on 4th January 2011, 6:29

      Sorry by strange expressions. Yet a english student…

    • nicky santoro said on 4th January 2011, 14:06

      Finally a more thorough comparison that casts a fairer light on both.
      BTW, Piquet’s outrageously ballsy and controlled pass on Senna at HUN’86 was for the lead…
      I remember loving both guys, Mansell and Piquet on their time. I had a soft spot for Mansell, in fact. But i’d always choose Piquet.

    • BasCB said on 4th January 2011, 15:08

      Thanks for putting up this background. It certainly helps in forming an oppinion

  14. Daniel said on 4th January 2011, 5:28

    Just wondering, did ‘BS Fabrications’ really think their name through properly?

  15. Gun4a said on 4th January 2011, 7:05

    Why I can’t vote?

  16. perveze7 (@) said on 4th January 2011, 8:17

    clearli its mansell , who was a much better racer than piquiet.

  17. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 4th January 2011, 9:02

    Sorry if this has already been covered, but can we have some sort of repecharge round before the final 16?

    For example, what if we think that both Mansell and Piquet are better than Alonso (using a possible example of the already-featured drivers). One of Mansell and Piquet has to be eliminated.

    So maybe a few of the drivers with the lowest winning percentage should go up against some of the drivers who only just lost to make sure the best 16 get through.

  18. Funkyf1 said on 4th January 2011, 9:18

    I must compliment Keith on the match up! Tough choice, as mentioned Piquet has the titles, but I believe Mansell had the balls, still yet to decide.

  19. alexf1man said on 4th January 2011, 9:19

    Thanks for putting this on after I asked what had happened to it :-)

  20. Chalky (@chalky) said on 4th January 2011, 9:34

    % car failures2 32.62

    Definitely my early memory of F1.
    It was where would Nigel finish but would Nigel finish.

    How many extra DNF’s were due to Mansell’s driving technique? He was aggressive and he pushed very hard.
    Oh this one is a tough one and Arl84 has made a very good argument for Piquet.

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