Motor Racing: Mansell: 'I was left with no alternative': Nigel Mansell

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The Independent Online
THIS HAS been a difficult past week for me, as you will appreciate, and I have publicly expressed my feelings about the circumstances. But I have no regrets and no second thoughts about my decision to retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

I retired once before, two years ago, only for Frank Williams to persuade me to change my mind and drive for the Canon Williams-Renault team. I trust I have justified his persistence and demonstrated my commitment since then by winning the drivers' championship and partnering Riccardo Patrese to the constructors' championship. This time the situation is different and, although I could have waited longer to see if things might be resolved, I did not see the point. There reaches a stage when you have to make a judgement and have the courage of your convictions.

It is common knowledge that the issue of money brought problems to a head, but it seemed to me that this camouflaged the underlying problem. I did not feel the environment was right to go on with the team but I was, in essence, left with no alternative.

Let me stress that I shall always be grateful to Frank and everyone at Williams, Renault and our sponsors for giving me the opportunity to realise my title ambition. All good things come to an end and, much as I wanted to carry on with the car I had helped to develop, defend my championship and carry the No 1 I have dedicated myself to earning, I could not accept the state of affairs I had been confronted with. In the end I had to make the decision I felt was right for Nigel Mansell and his family. Now that I've done that I feel a great weight has been taken off my shoulders.

Throughout my career, I have made every important decision in consultation and full agreement with my wife, Rosanne. She was relieved when I first announced my intention to retire but stood by me when I elected to go on. Now she is 100 per cent behind me again. She, too, has been dismayed by events over the past few weeks because she has been involved at close quarters.

Having made this decision, I want to take my time and consider very carefully my next move. I love my motor racing, which I like to think shows in my driving. It has been my life for some 30 years. It's no secret that there has been interest from the American Indy Car scene and that provides me with an obvious option. But I'll assess and evaluate all the possibilities in due course.

At the moment, it's too early to make a firm commitment. I may even take a year off, play some golf, give more time to my family and permit myself the chance to look at the whole picture in a new light.

I have been touched by the messages of support I have received since I made my announcement at Monza on Sunday. The fans have demonstrated their loyalty in the most generous way and I will miss them when I actually walk away from Formula One, although I hope I can count on their backing wherever my future takes me.

Within Formula One, too, I have had good, loyal friends and I'd like to thank them all for their companionship and guidance. They know who they are. I will be leaving behind some great mechanics and engineers, guys who have made our success possible. Their emotions on Sunday said it all, but as I told them - we've got the world championship and they can't take that away from us.

I have to say, though, that there is much of Formula One I shall not miss. The politics and the intrigue really can be too much now. I am, and always have been, a sportsman, driven by the will to race, compete and win. The rest you can keep.

Between the various meetings and comings and goings over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, I actually had some driving to do and it really was a pleasure to get into the car and do what we're supposed to do, and, no matter what the circumstances, I never hold back in a car. It was a testing weekend because we had to contend with a handling problem yet managed to stay ahead of the rest in practice and qualifying.

We were able to stay in front on the football pitch too. Riccardo, Michael Schumacher, of Camel Benetton-Ford, and I played for the Camel press team against the Formula One photographers. I managed to pop in a couple of goals in our 6-4 win. I also collected a booking (for no good reason).

Back on the track, I secured pole position on the Saturday with a faster lap, while the other leading drivers were unable to improve their times. There seemed to be an oil line which made it difficult to go quicker so I was delighted with my time.

I was comfortably quickest in Sunday morning warm-up and felt a record ninth win of the season was well within my compass. But Riccardo was desperate to win his home race and asked me if I would help him do so. I understood how much it would mean to him and readily agreed. He said he would return the compliment, if necessary, in Portugal.

It is very rare to find such co-operation between team-mates in modern Formula One but then that is the sort of relationship Riccardo and I have and the sort of teamwork that has been the strength of Williams-Renault over the past couple of seasons.

I got off to a good start in the race (a welcome change), went away and, once Riccardo had got past Ayrton Senna, let him through as I said I would. From then on I concentrated on covering his back. Unfortunately, I had to pull out because I was stuck in sixth gear and Riccardo then dropped back to fifth place because of a suspension problem.

I have a number of engagements over the next week, including the launch of my new book, Mansell and Williams, The Challenge for the Championship. Then it's on to Estoril for the next race and, despite my announcement at Monza, I shall go into it with the same determination and commitment I always give. I owe that to myself, the team and the fans. We have achieved so much together and I'd dearly like to bow out of Formula One on a winning streak.

Nigel Mansell, who is contributing to The Independent during the season, was talking to Derick Allsop

(Photograph omitted)