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. baldyjabg (@baldyjabg) said on 4th January 2011, 17:05

    Has to be mansell, it was him that made me interested in f1 was i was a kid :)

  2. Easy choice: Mansell was the better of the two, and I say this as someone who simply couldn’t stand the man.

    He was a tedious, paranoid, self-absorbed drama queen, even (in fact especially) when in the FW14B he had a ride 2 seconds quicker than anything else, and a team mate who couldn’t handle its active ride and was therefore only 1 second quicker than all the others. Mansell’s droning “this was such a tough race, incredibly hard” post-race interview routine that year was simply nauseating. I was personally insulted by it, as a viewer. In fact I still am.

    He had a career-long chip on his shoulder about his underprivileged (in motorsport terms) background, as if he was the only driver who ever lacked a budget to go racing or had to overcome adversity to get to F1 (yes, Nigel, we know, you didn’t like Peter Warr and he didn’t like you either, but unlike, say, Tommy Byrne, you were afforded multiple shots at the WDC by the team owners and managers you thought had it in for you, and you still took the time to mouth off in public about how Williams-Honda must be turning your engine down). This revealed itself recently when he called Hamilton’s career ‘manufactured’ and got both the age and the amount of McLaren’s support for his fledgling career wildly wrong (you’d think he might identify with a WDC from a council estate but, it turns out, not). I’ve rarely seen an F1 driver with less personal grace than him.

    When I lived near his golf course in Devon I used to chat to some of his employees, and their testimonials spoke of someone who was borderline neurotic, boorish and unusually unpleasant to work with. I think we saw the same guy in F1. He was always in the right, even when he had ignored black flags for several laps after reversing in the pitlane in Portugal, and then collided at high speed with the rear axle of another driver. It wasn’t his fault, of course, because he “didn’t see the blag flag”. And he kept on retiring from F1, more often than not in a fit of pique over something, and then unretiring! I can’t have been alone in wishing he’d do it for real, long before he became too fat to sit in an F1 car.

    So, believe me when I say it is not through personal warmth that I rate him above Piquet. It’s just that he was obviously, head and shoulders above Piquet on raw pace when they were together at Williams, and was just better at dominating and winning races, a number of which I saw from trackside and witnessed first-hand the relentless charges he made. Yes, he made his own bed as often as not: the Adelaide blowout was immediately preceded by his forgetting to select first gear in Mexico and blowing everything, he made his own misfortune in ’87 including his off in the Suzuka esses that ended it, as well as trying to settle the Belgian race on lap 1 and pass Senna on the outside of a fast corner (really dumb move), he’s the one who threw it in the gravel at the WDC in Japan in ’91 (the fault of a “soft brake pedal”, of course) in a car that should have won the title, it was drama drama drama all the way and much of it his own fault. But when he had the hammer down he was what F1 is all about. The opportunistic pass on Senna when they hit backmarkers in Hungary, the Brands Hatch wins, hunting Piquet down at Silverstone and that pass at Stowe, going wheel to wheel with Senna at Barcelona, strong in wet weather, fearsome in places like Spa, brave as heck, and just plain quicker than Piquet. If ever the subject of not-really-well-deserved F1 WDCs comes, up Piquet’s ’87 crown is always the first one to spring to my mind.

    Piquet, for his part, made a bit of a fool of himself in the late 80s, in my view. If you’re going to tell the press how ugly you think your rival’s wife is, withhold information within your own team about what you learned during testing, and call another rival both the “Sao Paulo taxi driver” and gay, then it had better worth the psychological war in terms of results. As it was, Senna went on to win the ’88, ’90 and ’91 titles and Mansell in ’92, while Piquet faded to black, returning to spawn a driver whose most memorable feat other than hitting a wall in Singapore was being the victim, at Becketts of the best GP2 pass of all time.

    • Hairs said on 4th January 2011, 21:31

      Excellent post.

      You did a remarkable job on picking up my original, inspired post on page 1 about Piquet’s legacy. Diligent research there, sir, although I’ll have to request credit as a “based on an original idea by Hairs” post, naturellement.

      • You accusing me of plagiarism or something?

        Most likely we just watched the same era with the same perspective, though I clearly have a lot less to say about Piquet than I do about our Nige.

        • Hairs said on 5th January 2011, 11:31

          No, I’m accusing you of being inspired by one of the greatest, most insightful, and most beautiful commenters on this fine site. You’ve nothing to be ashamed of, after all, we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars – or up at my radiant magnificence.

          • Yes, I see that you used the word “spawned” before I did.

            You are clearly magnificent, but one wonders what better generic description there could ever be for the process by which Piquet Sr, er, reproduced. It sort of rolls off the keyboard, after all.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 4th January 2011, 23:24

      Nicely done.

  3. Bullfrog said on 4th January 2011, 21:30

    Can I vote for “neither”?

  4. qazuhb (@qazuhb) said on 4th January 2011, 21:52

    I voted Piquet, even tought he was a little bit nasty sometimes. A matter of personal taste for me. A very close call, it took me by surprise after the two previous “easier” rounds. My two biggest memories from Nelson: his powersliding overtake move on Senna in Hungary, and his pounding of Eliseo Salazar at the Hockenheimring.

  5. Bueno said on 4th January 2011, 21:59

    It is Piquet and it is not even close.

    Piquet had a better start of a career, Driving at same level Lauda drived on his first full year in F1, and challenging Jones for the title in his second year.

    He won 2 world titles in a time when you had more than 2 teams challenging for the WDC. And more important, he rose to the occasion, since in this 2 championships he came from behind to clinch the title.

    He had a really good knack for developing and seting up the car.
    Which can be shown in the 83 Brabham via Gordon´s testimonies on how they had to catch up in the middle of the season to get to the same level of Renault and Ferrari, and most of this catch up came from the joint work of Gordon and Nelson.

    Also, he was really smart when driving, which can be measured very well in his 2 years driving alongside Nigel in the Williams.
    There was a reason why Nigel had so many DNF, and that is not just being unlucky.

    Of course Nigel was the fastest driver, but being fast is not everything in F1, specially in the 80s when you could gain much more time by setting up the car perfectly, driving aiming full race speed average, and not just one lap speed average, and also developing the car, as Nelson did with Williams active suspension in 87 which he was later prohibited to use because Nigel didn´t learn how to use himself.

    Mansell on the other side had a weak start of his career, failed to win the 87 title not because he crashed in Suzuka (because Nelson also missed a race in San Marino), but because he didn´t drive with his head for most of the season and at some point of the season Nelson decided not to share set ups anymore.
    After all, whats the point of sharing a setup with your main opponent for the WDC.

    It is a big merit of Nelson, perhaps as big as his 2 other WDC, that he managed to beat a British Driver, driving a British car, in a team full of British staff.
    Nelson also , perhaps from his background as a mechanic, invented things like the Tyre heating prior to the races in f3, the adjustable brakes…

    Mansell on his part had to have 4 opportunities having the best car of the season to win 1 championship, so i just can´t see how he can be put in the same sentence of a 3 time WDC…

    Nelson belongs on the group of Prost, Senna, Lauda, Stewarts..

    Nigel belongs on the group of Rosberg, Jones, Hakkinen

    • Mike Paterson said on 4th January 2011, 22:31

      well I for one loved Rosberg Jones and Hakkinen, and would stick Senna in amongst that lot rather than the first lot.

      Actually Piquet belongs in neither group. His ability pales into insignificance against any of those that you site, whereas Mansell woiuld sit happily in either group.

      Therein is another reason whty Mansell is head and shoulders above Piquet,

  6. kimilimi said on 5th January 2011, 1:32

    Mansell looks like Mario on that picture. Just sayin’

  7. Mr. T (@mr-t) said on 6th January 2011, 12:23

    Our Nige!

  8. I would have to say Mansell.

    Piquet may have been World Champion 3 times but he enjoyed the super powerful BMW for 2 of them. He did beat Mansell fair and square in 1987 but Mansell was a very slowly evolving animal and, later, he was the only one able to mix it up with Senna and Prost in the early 90s.

    Piquet was probably better on average throughout his career as a whole but Mansell evolved into the better driver towards the first end of his F1 career.

  9. Redone said on 9th January 2011, 11:58

    I’m in a country where the “Alonsochauvinism” is spectacular … But I see that everywhere the same cows are milked. That in the comparative Piquet-Mansell Mansell wins, could only happen in England. What a disappointment!

  10. Nev Barbe said on 11th January 2011, 0:02

    Piquet for sure. 3-Times a Champion. Can’t dispute that

  11. Achille Varzi said on 18th January 2011, 20:14

    I post on this blog for the first time. And I do it to express surprise about the outcome of this poll.
    Piquet won two world titles without having the best car. And the third in the face of Mansell himself.
    Piquet was the fastest driver around in the early eighties. Never in his career Nigel was the best driver on track, and he won his only title when he was put in a condition where no one, comprise his team mate, could touch him.
    not to mention that Piquet was a much fairer driver than Mansell.
    Frankly, Piquet is head and shoulders above Mansell in the history of F1.
    Or at least this is my humble opinion.

    • Mike Paterson said on 18th January 2011, 20:56

      It never ceases to amaze me how people can see things so very differently, I find your analysis bizarre and totally wrong. No doubt you would feel the same of mine.

      To call Piquet fairer than Mansell is very odd – I don’t remember Mansell neing unfaitr at all, but I remember Piquet attacking Salazar, and also his extremely rude comments about Rosanne Mansell.

      Nasty piece of work IMHO.

  12. P.Filipe said on 21st February 2011, 11:19

    In portuguese…

    Para mim Piquet foi um grande mecânico, ele entendia muito sobre manutenção, melhoramentos e truques para ter vantagem sobre os demais pilotos, uma prova disso foi em 87, no GP da Itália em que Piquet venceu com a suspenção ativa e no GP seguinte Mansell “arriou” o carro usando a mesma suspenção ativa

    Piquet foi também bastante inteligente (usando suas artimanhas e estratégias para deixar Mansell nervoso e dividir a equipe Willians) em 87 ao vencer um campeonato em uma equipe inglesa, com um companheiro inglês: Mansell que tinha praticamente toda a equipe a seu favor.

    Voto em Piquet, pois 3 tĂ­tulos contra 1 do Mansell, pesa bastante, e o meu lado brasileiro pesa mais ainda…

  13. Rarofra said on 10th June 2014, 2:01

    I’m not a huge fan of Piquet, but Mansell is the most overrated driver ever and piquet is in top 10 of underrated drivers. Piquet was a better driver by far and should be compared to guys like Niki Lauda instead of Mansell.

    He won two titles without the best car of the grid (Williams better in 81 and Ferrari in 83) and even suffering an terrible accident at Imola and lacking performance, he beat Mansell driving in a much smarter way during season.
    Most of it, beat a british driver in a british team that after Frank Williams accident favoured Mansell in 86 and 87 seasons. Some can argue that Honda favoured Piquet, but on the other hand the team favoured Mansell.

    86 season is the biggest proof of that. Piquet was doing good, so Frank’s accident and Mansell prevails. Piquet makes a ruckus on team, splits the team and avoids to give setups for Mansell since he was better doing that. So, he starts to make better performances than Mansell repedtly and both Williams drivers only lost the title due bad strategy from team for tires in Adelaide.
    87 Mansell got more wins, but Piquet already stated many times that he lost much of his performance after his accident in Imola. Even so, Piquet’s consistency overcame Mansell’s “win or wall” way of drive giving him his third title. Williams didn’t help Piquet, who accepted develop active suspension, since only him could use the device. They reduced the development group, and when Piquet used the suspension and was easily superior of Mansell in Monza, they forbid him to use the equipment for the rest of season.

    Mansell, on the other hand, never show consistency to be world champion and only got one title due a car so superior of competition that an old Patrese as teammate scored second ahead Senna and Schumacher. If you forget 92 season, even Piquet that was a driver who favoured points over risks is ahead Mansell in wins.

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