1992 F1 world champion, Nigel Mansell, welcomes the current safety standards in F1, although he feels that some circuits and corners have been ‘sanitised’ as a result.
Nigel Mansell’s F1 career began in 1980. Serious injuries and deaths were more common then. Mansell himself was injured in an accident in 1982 and 1987 and was forced to miss the race.
With driver safety becoming an increasingly pressing issue in recent years, many corners have been altered to slow cars, and a large amount of tarmac runoff has also been installed.
Nigel Mansell laments such changes despite the reduced risk of injury.
“The shockwave has been sterilized by being exhausted on every circuit in the world,” said Nigel Mansell in an interview with Adrian Flux.
“So all the fast and dangerous corners have been removed. It’s small. Even if you make a mistake and leave the circuit, you can come straight back.”
“When we made a mistake years ago, we paid the penalty. We hit armco, a concrete wall and so on.”
“You talk about people dying, but a lot of people had injuries that forced them out of the sport. Broken legs, broken arms, broken backs. They spent the rest of their lives driving a Formula car 1 physically. I couldn’t drive properly.”
Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, making them the first drivers to die in a Formula 1 car since Elio de Angelis in 1986. Mansell also tackled changes to F1 safety that came in effect after the weekend.
“In 1994, about a month after two horrific fatal accidents, the overall outlook for F1 has changed more than ever,” said Mansell.
“From the driver’s point of view, it’s a Christmas decoration. They feel superhuman. Now they can get into the most brutal car crashes and get away. It’s amazing.
“Older drivers look at it and think, ‘It’s going to be terrible’, but the drivers jump out of the cockpit and go back to the pits and they’re fine, which is great.”
Most of Nigel Mansell’s F1 career took place in an era without driver aids such as power steering and semi-automatic gearboxes. Nansel points out that today’s F1 cars do not pose as much of a physical challenge to drivers as they did in the past.
“When drivers get out of their cars at the end of some races, it’s like they’ve just come out of the barbershop,” said Mansell.
“The biggest thing that has been designed in a Formula 1 car is the power steering. No need to sweat. We had very strong arms and needed to hold the car in the corners. Just hold on to the Formula 1 car. If if I did I don’t have enough physical strength, I would have run off the track and had an accident. Now I can drive with one finger.”
“It opened up the sport to a lot of drivers who didn’t really have the physicality. Years ago you had to be strong, you had to be a bit fierce. If so, some speed during the race. Especially with ground impact cars, I was physically exhausted, like, ‘I can’t drive anymore, I can’t breathe anymore.'”
“Right now, with seats and technology, we have 30 to 50 engineers balancing the car and instructing the driver to keep the car balanced.”
Category: F1 / F1 machine