Motor Racing: Hard work earns its reward: Nigel Mansell: The Williams driver is giving his views in the Independent during the world championship

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The Independent Online
SOME wins come more easily than others, but achieving our eighth victory of the season in the German Grand Prix was definitely not straightforward for the Canon Williams-Renault team. It was done the hard way and that made it, professionally, extremely satisfying.

We had a lot of problems in practice and Sunday's race, and that meant a difficult weekend for all concerned. The fact that we came through it, however, with another 10 points shows what a great team this is and how dedicated we are to getting the job done.

It's just a pity that my team-mate, Riccardo Patrese, spun off coming into the Stadium for the last time as he tried to pass Ayrton Senna and make it another Williams one-two success. Riccardo gave it everything, but Ayrton is a very tough man to get by, as I had been reminded earlier in the race.

We arrived in pretty good shape after our test at Hockenheim the previous week. On the first morning, though, Riccardo had electrical and chassis problems and that cost him valuable time. By the end of qualifying I was at the front of the provisional grid, but Riccardo was third, behind Ayrton.

On the second day we worked superbly as a team and concentrated on trying to get Riccardo on the front row. I was happy for him to have the spare car for most of the qualifying session and he used it to good effect, moving up to second spot. I took over the car for the closing stages and improved my time, so we again had the first and second places we wanted.

Riccardo went off the track in his spare car at the end of the session, an experience shared by many drivers over the course of the weekend. There was a quite remarkable catalogue of 'offs'. Even on the second day, with more rubber down and therefore better grip, it was terribly slippery off line.

I'm afraid the layout of the Hockenheim circuit, with its long straights and chicanes, isn't all it should be and the revised second chicane proved especially troublesome. Bear in mind that we are hurtling down those straights at around 212mph. Even the slower cars are capable of more than 200mph. The slightest error or misfortune - picking up dust or debris - is liable to throw you off.

Cars coming to grief then drag more dust on to the track so the danger is compounded. That second chicane is also terribly bumpy at the exit, as the television shots of the cars clearly showed.

In the warm-up for Sunday's race we were not content with the handling of our cars, so we still had our concerns. What's more, the McLaren-Hondas had made up ground and we have all seen the progress made by Benetton-Ford this season. I was anxious for reliability and a good start. Needless to say, I didn't get the good start.

The car jumped from first gear to third and I was bogged down, while Riccardo flew past me for the third time in three races. Once we were round the first corner I managed to get a good tow and had the lead going into the first chicane. Soon I had another worry. I was losing grip and the handling of the car changed alarmingly. When our new puncture warning light came on I was naturally convinced a puncture was the cause. I decided there was no point risking another lap, and came into the pits, well ahead of my scheduled time. It transpired that I hadn't got a puncture but we'd made the stop and I then had to look after my second set of tyres as well as I could.

The complication there was that I had to chase Ayrton and we had a fair old tussle for a lap or two. As we came into a chicane he almost lost it and then I almost lost it and went straight on. Luckily, we got through OK and I was able to take him soon after.

Riccardo had to fight his way past Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Ford and then had the problem of dealing with Ayrton, so there was no shortage of incident or excitement. Life was still eventful for me, too, because my tyres were blistering badly and chunks were coming out of them. The car was vibrating so badly I had blurred vision. I was very relieved when I came round that final corner and saw the chequered flag.

Our weekend's work wasn't helped by the constant speculation about my future and the driver line-up at Williams next season. We can't really say anything at this stage because there is nothing to say. My overriding concern is for us to maintain the pressure and level of performance in the championship this season.

People may find it strange that I am reluctant to talk about the championship but please try to understand the disappointments I have had to endure in the past, particularly Adelaide, 1986. I'll say I'm optimistic, but I certainly won't be heading for Hungary in a couple of weeks believing we're going to wrap it up there.

I'm now looking forward to having spending a few days with the family and, on Friday, thanks to one of our sponsors, Labatts, a bit of fun with Brian Clough and his Nottingham Forest football team. My two sons are great football fans and they should have a fabulous time. I don't think Frank will let me play, not after injuring my ankle in a press match two days before the Spanish Grand Prix last season, but then I suppose it depends what Cloughie has to say about that . . .

Nigel Mansell was talking to Derick Allsop