Dominant Mansell romps to first drivers' title
This was the year when Nigel Mansell finally showed the racing world he could be a World Champion, and not just a melodramatic bit-player. Seldom has any driver dominated the Formula One championship to such an extent as he did.
It was the sixth race before Nigel Mansell was beaten and his tally stood at eight wins after the first ten. He wrapped up the title at the next race, with five still to run.
By year's end, he had almost double the score of the second-placed driver, Williams team-mate Riccardo Patrese. Nigel's driving was from the top drawer, but he was given a huge help by Williams with its fabulous chassis and world-beating Renault engine.
There was an unusual degree of continuity among the top teams, with Williams, McLaren and Lotus keeping their driver line-ups from 1991. Struggling Ligier did too. But the most talked-about change was Alain Prost being replaced at Ferrari by Ivan Capelli, that rare thing, an Italian driver racing for this most Italian of teams.
With Brabham having achieved precious little in 1991, Martin Brundle was keen to move on and did so by joining Benetton to race alongside Michael Schumacher, a driver already seen as a future champion.
Mark Blundell was not so lucky and found himself without a drive as the Brabham team continued to slide, offering Eric van de Poele and Formula One newcomer Damon Hill little chance. Having ranked a hugely commendable fifth overall in its maiden season, Jordan was back for more, but this time with new drivers in Mauricio Gugelmin and Stefano Modena at the wheel, both of whom would curse the team's decision to affiliate itself with a motor manufacturer: Yamaha. They would spend the season wishing they still had Cosworth power.
Tyrrell was another team that swapped everything, with Andrea de Cesaris and Olivier Grouillard assuming the driving duties and Ilmor engines taking over from Honda. Likewise, Minardi changed Ferrari power for Lamborghini and inserted Formula 3000 champion Christian Fittipaldi and Gianni Morbidelli.
March was called March again after its spell of being Leyton House, and it too was a case of all-change, with Capelli and Gugelmin being replaced by Karl Wendlinger and actor's son Paul Belmondo.
The merry-go-round at the tail of the field continued, with AGS, Coloni and Lambo not reappearing, and the Andrea Moda taking up the challenge, half-heartedly.
The season started in South Africa and Mansell enjoyed his reacquaint-ance with Kyalami, for he won by 24s from Patrese. Mexico was next, and it was the same story, with Mansell heading a Williams one-two. Schumacher made his first podium visit, finishing third for Benetton.
At Interlagos, Williams were first and second again, Mansell winning by 30s.With Mansell dominant in Spain, the major surprise was that it was Schumacher not Patrese who came second after Patrese spun. Mansell took his fifth win at Imola, with Patrese second again. Senna fought to third, but his input had been so great that it was 20 minutes before he was able to climb from his McLaren.
Mansell's run came to an end at Monaco, losing to Senna. But only just, with Mansell only 0.2s away after a struggle to re-pass Senna after he'd pitted to replace a puncture. Senna had led past half-distance in Montreal, but his electrics failed, by which time Mansell had spun and Berger came through to win. The French Grand Prix should have been Patrese's, but the race was halted by rain and he lost out on the restart as team orders forced him to wave Mansell past. Patrese wasn't happy.
There was only going to be one winner at Silverstone: Mansell. Pole, fastest lap and victory by 40s was proof of that. Patrese was second, with Brundle taking third when Senna pulled off. Mansell won again at Hockenheim, this time ahead of Senna, with Schumacher third. Mansell hoped to wrap up the title with a win at the Hungaroring, but had to play second fiddle to Senna. However, that was enough for him to claim the coveted crown.
Schumacher scored his first win, at Spa-Francorchamps. Despite light rain, everyone started on slicks. But the rain grew worse and only Senna stuck with slicks. If the rain had stopped, it would have been a masterstroke, but it didn't and Senna would finish fifth. Schumacher judged conditions best to win from Mansell and Patrese.
Mansell ceded the lead at Monza so that Patrese could win, but both hit gearbox problems, with Patrese limping home fifth as Senna came through to win.
Mansell was back to winning form at Estoril, but he was nearly caught out by wreckage from Patrese's car after the Italian had flipped after clipping Berger.
Mansell waved Patrese into the lead at Suzuka, but his engine blew. The season came to an end in Adelaide, with Berger grabbing his second win ahead of Schumacher in a race that lost Mansell and Senna in a shunt when contesting the lead.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books