He was called “Lionheart” because of his incredible courage and fighting spirit. Nigel Mansell (66), Formula 1 world champion from 1992, was therefore compared to a front soldier who courageously plunged himself into every house fight. Now the Brit showed his soft side.
In an interview with the “Daily Mail” he reports on the trauma that the fatal accident of his racing driver friend Gilles Villeneuve caused in Zolder in 1982. Mansell: “Such an experience shapes your psyche for a very long time,” Mansell says thoughtfully. “I still have to think about the fatal accident in which I was an eyewitness.”
Mansell drove directly behind Villeneuve during training in Zolder when he collided with the March from Jochen Mass and was thrown high into the air. Mansell: “Gilles and I were friends, I admired him, he gave me numerous tips. I saw him flying through the air, I saw him being pulled out of the car with his seat and how he hit the fence. I knew his chances of survival were zero. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life and the pictures still haunt me today.”
Mansell compares the time with that of today and does not take good care of the current Formula 1. Mansell: “In the 80s and even in the early 90s it was a very, very dangerous job. If you were not killed in an accident, the risk of getting seriously injured was still very high. You never knew exactly what would happen next. “
The death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 in Imola changed everything. For the good, but also for the bad. Mansell: “Ayrton’s death was a catastrophe for motorsport as a whole. It then became much safer, which is good. But the tracks became much too sterile. Before that, Formula 1 was an incredible sport, the drivers were heroes. Every mistake was severely punished. Only those who had the courage could drive into the corners with over 200 kilometers an hour.”
That is different today, criticizes Nigel “Lionheart” Mansell. “None of this matters today anymore. It no longer depends on courage or ability to drive, since a driving error has no effect. And that’s a shame. “
The English ex-champion is particularly struck by the fact that the pilots’ effort can hardly be seen anymore. “They hardly sweat. At the end of a race, they look as if they came fresh from the hairdresser. Back then you could pat yourself on the back if you were still alive after 180 Grand Prixs.”
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