Mansell recalls the race, 25 years ago, when Silverstone saw something… A Brit special
21:30 GMT, 3 July 2012
21:31 GMT, 3 July 2012
There is a school of thought that those who do not get Nigel Mansell simply do not get Formula One.
Those who are not Mansell fans are quick to describe him as a difficult customer, egotistical, perhaps, even a bit miserable.
But wind back the clock 25 years from this weekend's British Grand Prix and you would struggle to find anyone among the thousands invading the track to engulf a victorious Mansell who harboured such negative opinions.
For those who burst through the fences to celebrate with their hero, after he had just pulled off one of the most remarkable victories in the history of Formula One, he was simply 'Our Nige'.
Champagne moment: Mansell celebrates after winning the 1987 British Grand Prix in a thrilling finale
Indeed, the manner in which Mansell reeled in a 29-second gap to overhaul his Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet encapsulates just why he was the darling of British motorsport fans long before the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
'You always feel an added weight of expectation on your shoulders,' recalls Mansell of his emotions in the run-up to his home race.
'There are drivers who feel the pressure far too much and it inhibits them doing the very best job they can. I turned it into an advantage rather than an extra pressure. Being British, the fans expect you to try and deliver something special.'
Special does not do the circumstances of his win justice as Mansell's fierce rivalry with Piquet provided the ideal backdrop for the drama which was to unfold.
Red Five: The British ace set a number of lap records to catch and pass Piquet in the closing stages of the race
'All these years later, I think Nelson has admitted that he was blown away by how quick I was,' says Mansell. 'So Nelson had to use as much psychology as he could to get an edge.
'As well as being a great driver and a great champion, he was, shall we say, a little unorthodox and a little unfair and rude at times. It is fair to say that when you are a reigning world champion and you have got a team-mate who is as quick as you, if not quicker, it rattles you, doesn't it'
With the battle lines drawn and Mansell eager, as ever, to put on a show for his adoring public, the Formula One circus rolled into Silverstone.
It would not be long before he realised how difficult his afternoon's work would be.
'I realised within the first half a dozen laps I had a small vibration on the front which turned into a massive vibration,' he explains.
Crowd favourite: Mansell is mobbed by British fans after winning in front of his home crowd
'I was just hanging on to Nelson but I could see him edging away. 'Going down Hangar Straight I could hardly hold on to the steering wheel. It was affecting my visibility of the corner apexes.
'There was no way I was going to be able to make it to the end of the race. So I had to make the big decision to go into the pits sooner rather than later.'
As he blasted out of the pit-lane, with 28 of the 65 laps left and 29 seconds behind Piquet, Mansell was already doing the maths and despair quickly turned to elation.
'Going into the pits you are dealing with disappointment, the frustration of having to do a stop that wasn't planned,' recalls Mansell.
'Then, coming out, you see the time you have done, which was a couple of seconds faster than previously. What was so pleasing was that when I came out the car felt so beautiful.
In black and white: Mansell shares a handshake with rival Piquet on the rostrum
'All of a sudden the crowd are getting excited. You come past, you do your maths and you keep saying to yourself, “If you press on at this pace then you have got half a chance”. I settled into a rhythm and found myself catching him by almost a second a lap.'
As if Mansell needed any further encouragement, it came via the roars of the crowd, which increased in volume with each passing lap.
'It was like a flipping Mexican wave all the way around the circuit,' says Mansell. 'The last 11 or 12 laps were just incredible. 'I think I broke the lap record 11 times in the last 15 laps.'
By lap 62, the cars were nose to tail. But catching is one thing, passing another – especially when your quarry is hell-bent on spoiling the party.
'In those days you could block and do anything you bloody well wanted'
'I knew it would be brutal,' admits Mansell of his stunning overtaking manoeuvre two laps from the finish, selling Piquet a dummy and then diving down the inside into Stowe Corner.
'I was chasing him down and he was responding. He was my teammate and at that time he had already won two world titles, so he wasn't going to pull over and say, “Here you go, thanks very much”.
'It was going to be a very tactical thing, how I would get him and where I would get him. What people don't realise is that several laps before I was being told to slow down and stay in position.
'I was told on the pit board I was running out of fuel and I had to turn the engine down. So I had a lot of emotional things to deal with. But I just thought, “Hang on a minute, this is the British Grand Prix and it could be one of the greatest races ever”.
'I knew I had to sell him a dummy. I knew I had to get his head to turn in the cockpit. As soon as I had managed to do that, then I knew I had him. Even then, he came across on me going into Stowe and we touched at 200mph. In those days you could block and anything you bloody well wanted!'
The move sent the crowd into raptures and, as Mansell's fuel tank ran dry after the miraculous win was sealed, they spilled on to the track to engulf him.
'Fans appreciate it when they can see a sportsman giving their all,' reasons Mansell as the fond memories come flooding back.
'They used to give me extra power. That is why I called it people power. They used to love it and I love them for it.'
For those who still do not get Mansell, surely that is what Formula One is all about.