Features - News Feature
SEPTEMBER 1, 1992
Mansell quits F1
BY JOE SAWARD
"As you can see," says Nigel trying to make light of the situation, "I took it very easy in the warm-up this morning..."
But the veneer of humour is short-lived. This is serious and Mansell is soon insisting that eager reporters do not to jostle him. If people won't do as he says, he tells them, he will leave. He seems tetchy.
Finally, he says that he has a statement drafted which he plans to read.
"It has taken many hours to put together and I haven't slept this weekend at all," he assures the media.
He is about to continue when Gary Crumpler, a member of the Williams marketing department, rushes into the Media Centre carrying a message. He whispers to Mansell. It is a last-ditch attempt to stop what is going to happen.
Nigel explains that the note urges him to say nothing and that Williams has agreed to meet his terms. It is all very dramatic. For a moment the World Champion pauses and then he begins to read his prepared statement.
"Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have decided to retire from F1 at the end of the season," he reads. "I have made this decision with some regret, but not without a great deal of thought.
"Any relationship between a driver and an F1 team is vital for success and partly dependent on money - because it defines how seriously the team and its backers take the driver. Those who know me well understand the importance of the human side and the mutual trust and goodwill and integrity and fair play that are the basis of all human relationships. All these issues have suffered in recent weeks.
"Looking back, I feel that the relationship between me and the Canon Williams Renault team started to break down at the Hungarian Grand Prix. A deal was agreed with Frank Williams before that race - in front of a witness - and I have to say that at that time I felt very good about racing again with Williams in 1993.
"Having won the championship, I was looking forward to defending the title with what I believe to be a very competitive car. However, three days after Hungary I was telephoned by a Williams director who said that he had been instructed to tell me that - because Senna would drive for nothing - I, the new World Champion, had to accept a massive reduction in remuneration from the figure agreed in Hungary, considerably less than I am receiving this year. If I did not, then Senna was ready to sign "that night". I rejected this offer and said that, if these were the terms, Williams had better go and sign Senna.NP
'Since then, it is fair to say that the relationships with the team have not been good - and I refer here to the directors rather than the scores of people behind the scenes at Williams. I have listened to many different opinions, some well-meaning, some not."
Suddenly the public address system changes its note: Mansell thinks it is being broadcast around the circuit and stops talking.
"I prefer this to be private and not go out on the circuit,' he says. 'Unless that it stopped immediately, then I'll stop.
"To say that I have been badly treated, I think is a gross understatement,' he continues. 'Of course a team owner - any team owner - is free to choose whomever he likes to work for him. It was the lack of information, and the sudden changes, that I have found disappointing.
"It is difficult to put into words the sort of commitment you have to make in order to succeed in F1. I am aware of criticisms made of my approach to racing. But I am the way I am because I believe in total sacrifice, a total ability to withstand pain and a total belief in myself and my ability.
"To have the motivation to win a World Championship you must in turn have those commitments back from the team. When I returned (to Williams) from Ferrari I did so with the belief that I had that motivation and the team had that commitment. I don't think that I was wrong.
"Now things are different. I no longer feel, so far as I am concerned, that the commitment from the team towards me for next year is there. There are many reasons for this. I have tried to give some idea of how I feel - other people will no doubt draw their own conclusions.
"One thing is clear that Alain Prost has been committed for the team for months to drive for Williams. For another, I thought I had a deal when, clearly, I did not. Needless to say, I do not understand why these things have happened.
"In recent weeks, various key people have tried to smooth things over. I respect that and I thank them for their time. A lot of things have happened. A lot of things have just happened here while I have been sitting in front of you. But I now realize that it is too late. To my mind, it all comes down to fair play - or to the lack of it. Money, a trigger for the problems after Hungary, is no longer an issue for me. And - just so you know because I want you to know everything - I was just told that everything is agreed, just as I was sitting here.
"So, money is not the motivating thing for me and never has been in my F1 career. In finishing, I would like to say in the most sincerest of ways, that I will always be grateful to the Williams team and to Renault for the support they have given me and hopefully will still give me in 1992. I want to win or try and win all the remaining races and I am sure that their FW15, from what I know about it already, will do the job in 1993.
"As for myself, I know that I am not yet ready to retire completely. I still love my motor racing. I still want to win. So, I may look at the IndyCar World Series and see what opportunities are available - if any.
"Frank Williams and I spoke just minutes before coming here," continues Nigel. "I publicly congratulate him for his team and his achievements this year. I congratulate and thank Renault and all the associated sponsors. We have not - repeat not - fallen out.
"I have to say that now I am relieved and I wish to enjoy my racing for the rest of the year and then retire from F1.
"I have said what I have said. I think it is very clear. And there is no problems between me or the team or anything. I wish them all the success they can have in the future. Thank you."
As Nigel stops speaking pressmen from all around the world run for the telephones. World Champions do not generally come forward and spill the beans about their contractual discussions - this is a big story. The big British national newspapers - defenders and promoters of 'Our Nige' - are going to roast Frank Williams.
Down below in the team garage, there are clumps of people standing around whispering to one another. In a quiet corner of the garage Patrick Head, Williams's partner in the team and the technical muscle in the team, reads Mansell's statement to Frank. Head shakes his head. Williams is not happy.
Looking in from the outside the feeling is that we have heard one understanding of events. No doubt Frank sees things differently but at the moment he is saying nothing.