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F1 testing nightmares: Nigel Mansell's sizeable problem

F1 testing nightmares: Nigel Mansell's sizeable problem

F1 testing nightmares: Nigel Mansell's sizeable problem

James Phillips
F1 testing nightmares: Nigel Mansell's sizeable problem

The end of the Formula 1 career of 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell was anything but a fairytale.

The larger-than-life character ended up with a suitably large conclusion to his storied F1 legacy. Just not in a good way.

It was a meant to be a triumphant veteran run with McLaren in 1995, but it proved anything but...

How Mansell sealed F1 return

Following the tragic death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Mansell returned to Williams as a part-time replacement, sharing the seat with David Coulthard. Mansell had won the final race of the '94 season, after the infamous collision between the leading Williams of Damon Hill and Benetton’s Michael Schumacher at Adelaide.

With his stock on the rise and his services in demand once again, Mansell sought a drive for 1995. Williams had awarded the promising young Scot David Coulthard a full-time seat, so the veteran contacted McLaren who were coming off a poor year. 1994 had been a major disappointment for the Woking marque. Running works Peugeot power, the MP4/9 had good driveability but not race-winning pace. A deal had been struck in the latter part of that year with Mercedes for 1995 and beyond.

Mansell’s arrival at McLaren was the worst-kept secret in the paddock. The new MP4/10 was unveiled in London, alongside Mansell himself, in McLaren red. However, the car divided pundits at launch, with an extra wing attached to the engine cover, almost like the shark fin concept from previous seasons.

But the look of the car paled into insignificance when testing began. Mansell discovered he had a bigger problem - quite literally! He could not fit in the car.

As reported by The Race, former McLaren employee Colin Morgan recalls Mansell’s sit-fitting.

"I did the seat fitting and then we did the pre-season testing with him [Mansell],” said Morgan. "Johnny [Ostrowski, a fellow mechanic] and I did the driver seat fitting. Just speaking to other mechanics [we knew] Mansell was always tight in the car, but this time he was properly wedged in the thing."

Short-lived stint

The situation did not improve, and Mansell found himself unable to move inside the car when the car took to the track. Such was the discomfort, McLaren had to build a new chassis for the British driver.

This requirement, despite being put together in just 33 days, had far-reaching complications and repercussions for the team. Mansell was forced to miss the first two rounds while the replacement was constructed, with Mark Blundell taking over his seat.

Twitter: @UnracedF1

Once the new chassis was complete, though, it just made a bad situation worse. The MP4/10 proved to be slow, and coupled with Mansell’s waning motivation, he chose to walk away after only his second race back, just four rounds into the championship. The car did not improve either as the team picked up just 30 points across the season to finish fourth in the championship.

For Mansell himself, it was an ignominious end to an excellent F1 career which saw him pick up 31 wins and finish on the podium 59 times.

At Imola, he was in the top six (only the top six were awarded points in those days) late in the race but a clash with Eddie Irvine saw him finish 10th in the end. Then in Spain, Mansell became frustrated over his car's handling characteristics saying he didn't want to make up the numbers with no hope of the McLaren MP4/10 being competitive - a decision he'd later admit he regretted.

All in all, Mansell's F1 swansong could've gone much better.

READ MORE: F1 testing nightmares: Red Bull's Renault disaster

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