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. Marco said on 3rd January 2011, 22:23

    Result of my analysis:

    Mansell – best driver of years 1987, 1992 (after 190GPs)
    Piquet – best driver of years 1983, 1986 (after 128 GPs)

    both should be 2x World champions, with Nelson achieving it earlier then Nigel… :)

    But personally, I would go for Mansell… :) He was quite nowhere in terms of performances and pace when he started his Formula One career, but transformed himself into a quick and entertaining driver…

  2. olivier (@olivier) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:31

    Piquet way ahead. 3 world championships vs 1 (the only way Mansell could be WC was by driving a rocket). Not a fan of Piquet, but he was better

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 3rd January 2011, 23:00

      Mansell lost two titles to a tyre and injury. Without that injury he’d have beaten Piquet two seasons in a row on points in the same car. Don’t see how Piquet was better driver or indeed champion, merley a luckier one.

      • Arl84 said on 4th January 2011, 5:34

        Scribe, remember that Nelson had a huge accident in Imola ’87 (and Mansell won that race). And he was really affected by that.

        Also, Nigel didn’t lost the title in ’86 just because of his tyre failure. Remember that he could be WDC in Mexico and threw the chance away after a terrible start. Something similar to Lewis Hamilton in ’07.

  3. Rocky (@rocky) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:31

    I will tip Nigel Mansell on this one although Nelson Piquet was a three time champion it seems luck stayed with him. In a fantasy battle where you could remove car failures, I think the stats speak for Nigel.

  4. Mansell for me, the ‘tash wins it (joke ofc).

    Interestingly, Mansell has mentioned that a Steward told him (after the tyre blow up at Adelaide) that if he had crashed into the wall and not run of the track as he did, the race would have been Red Flagged and he would have been WDC as a result. He mentioned it on Top Gear a few years back.

  5. AlonsoWDC (@alonsowdc) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:42

    Mansell is horrendously overrated and appreciated.

    Farcical that he would outdraw Piquet.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd January 2011, 22:44

    Mansell. It’s a well-established fact that a proper moustache will bring a full second a lap in downforce. None of this Josh Groban-style face fungus on the likes of Alonso, thanks – Mansell’s moustahe was a real man’s facial hair.

  7. RobR (@robr) said on 3rd January 2011, 23:08

    It’s got to be Mansell. Who could forget that great dummy he sold to Piquet at Silverstone in 1987?

    And then of course, Piquet took that dummy home and raised it as his own. But that’s a different story.

  8. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 3rd January 2011, 23:17

    OK, I just went through almos 3 pages of reply’s…and I.m still not convinced who was the better driver…

    But going on gut instinct I’ll go for Mansel…his 31 wins were what finally got me convinced.

    And yes, but for better luck, he could have outscored Piquett 3-2 in titles, but would have, could have, should have are not quite the same as hook, line and sinker, no mather what the circumstances…

    Also what I think is a convincing argument is adalaide in 1994…he got poll, and won the race (and yes I know schumacher and hill crashed out in front of him and were laping almost a second faster per lap)
    That show’s that after being away for a year and a half he was still up to speed, and able to compete with the top drivers of what was basicly the next generation.

    SO mansell gets my vote…if by a hair.

  9. I chose Mansell, when he had the car he was insanely fast, and had the worst luck ever. Piquet was also great but I don’t think he was quite as great as Mansell.

  10. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 3rd January 2011, 23:54

    There is a lot more to be said about Mansell than has been in this article – i.e. held the CART championship at the same time as the F1 championship.

    I think Mansell will probably win because this is a British website. However, I would also argue this is justified. Mansell lost championships because of bad luck and Piquet won them because of luck. 1987 is the perfect example of this. Mansell was a whiner and Piquet was arguably the more interesting person, but on pure racing skills, Mansell wins for me.

    The two drivers are quite mixed up in the description – i preferred the layout where there was a section for each.

    • kowalsky said on 4th January 2011, 12:53

      champion’s luck. That thing that’s imposible to define, but that all great champions have. And piquet had that in big amounts. Mansell on the other hand, had to work harder to get the results.
      I would say piquet was a natural, while mansell, working hard at it, became faster than the brazilian.
      Piquet with three titles, eventhough with less wins that the lion, had to be considered the best of them, but for a very small margin.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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.

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