There are few drivers left on the Formula one circuit, save for Lewis Hamilton, that have known hardship and struggle to get into Formula one and win the world title. Unlike many of the new drivers who bring sponsorship and buy a drive few have raced from the humble beginnings of Karting to the ultimate in motorsport. Born in the Worcestershire town of Upton on Severn the young Mansell had to make his own way into the sport working in a variety of jobs including window cleaning to earn the cash to enter races. His family were against the move into Formula Ford even though he had done extremely well at karting. He made a great success of Formula Ford even after a horrific qualifying session that broke his neck. Doctors at the time had told him there was a very good chance he would lose the use of his body below the neck if he carried on. He discharged himself from the hospital and went straight back out to race.
He graduated to the next stage of racing by getting a drive in Formula three. His car was seriously under powered but as s typical of a Champion he got the utmost out of the car and consistently finished in the top 6 when he had no right to. He returned the next year finally being paid for his efforts and was noticed by Colin Chapman of the Lotus team. Despite being involved in a bad crash and a broken vertebra with the help of pain killers he drove the Lotus so well he was offered the job of the test driver.
Again he seemed cursed. His skill in the car meant that he was given some F1 starts. He was unable to qualify for one, had to retire in a second and then after a oil leak had caused a fire he had painful burns on his rear. His time at Lotus was fraught. When Mario Andretti left the team he got the drive but suffered with reliability issues and personality clashes within the team. He was also out performed by his teammate. It was during this time that he pushed the Lotus over the line in Mexico to secure a championship point to great applause and respect. It would have been incredible to watch this talented racer from the luxurious surroundings of the Italy F1 Paddock Club.
Leaving Lotus for Williams, Mansell came within a whisker of the title in 1986 only to lose out with a tyre failure. He also had stints at Ferrari earning the nickname “il Leone” from the struggling team with his efforts. He returned to Williams after a set of demands were met and he finally won his title in 1992.