Motor Racing: Mansell waves the chequered flag: Britain's world champion retires from Formula One as disagreements with Williams prove too emotive to overcome

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL brought down the curtain on his Formula One career here yesterday and this time, he is adamant, there will be no encores.

Exasperated and dismayed at being unable to break the deadlock in negotiations for a new contract with Williams-Renault, and unwilling to drive anything but the car he has helped make the best, Britain's first world champion for 16 years decided to bow out at the top.

Mansell 'retired' two years ago, when driving for Ferrari, making an emotional farewell speech at the British Grand Prix. Ten weeks later Frank Williams changed Mansell's mind and, enthused at having the undivided attention of a competitive team, he agreed to join Williams-Renault.

He announced his second retirement hours before the Italian Grand Prix and it will take effect after the final race of the season, in Australia, on 8 November.

Mansell and Frank Williams, the team's managing director, were stuck on the issue of money but that, for Mansell, served to illustrate that his services were neither fully appreciated nor sincerely desired for next season.

A series of meetings - some of them heated - over the course of the weekend failed to find a solution. Mansell even spoke to Ron Dennis, the managing-director of McLaren-Honda, but that clearly did not shift him from his conclusion that it should be Williams or nothing. Now he will consider competing in American Indy Car racing next season.

Even as he was about to read out his prepared statement the saga almost took another twist. Williams sent one of his commercial executives, Gary Crumpler, to the press centre to deliver a message. 'It was a plea for him to reconsider,' Crumpler said. Mansell said they were now ready to give him 'what he wanted' but felt the gesture was too late.

He read: 'Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season. I have made this decision with some regret but not without a great deal of thought.

'Any relationship between a driver and a Formula One team is vital for success and partly dependent on money because it defines how seriously the team and the backers take the driver. But 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.'

Mansell first became uncomfortable about his position at Williams early this year when he learned that Alain Prost, on a sabbatical, had been lined up by the team for next season. According to French sources the offer, backed by engine partners Renault and fuel suppliers Elf, was in the region of pounds 7.5m. Mansell, thought to be earning around pounds 6m this year, appears to have reached the verge of an agreement for a retainer of about pounds 7m during the Hungarian Grand Prix meeting, where he secured the championship, last month.

Then Ayrton Senna, unhappy that McLaren were no longer dominant, offered his services to Williams 'for nothing'. Mansell claims he was then given an ultimatum - accept a huge pay cut or lose the seat to Senna. It is thought Williams proposed a 70 per cent reduction.

Mansell said: '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, and considerably less than I'm receiving this year. If I did not, Senna was ready to sign that night. I rejected this offer and said that, if these were the terms, Williams had better go ahead and sign Senna.

'Since then, it is fair to say that relations 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. To say that I have been badly treated, I think, is a gross understatement. 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.

'I no longer feel, so far as I am concerned, that the commitment from the team towards me for next year is there. To my mind, it all comes down to fair play - or the lack of it. Money, a trigger for the problems after Hungary, is now no longer an issue for me.'

Frank Williams will give a full response tomorrow, but issued an interim statement saying: 'We deeply regret the announcement of Nigel Mansell to retire. Nigel has won 26 races for Williams and our association together has been extremely fruitful. Everyone at Williams thanks him for the remarkable efforts he has put in while in the cockpit and we wish him a happy future in his retirement from Formula One.'

It was scarcely a message to encourage reconciliation. Williams also said: 'Nigel's decision is premature. The mechanics are torpedoed. But the sun will rise again tomorrow. We won't be panicking over a second driver.'

According to the Formula One grapevine, he actually had talks with the other driver currently in his employ, Riccardo Patrese, who has agreed to join Benetton-Ford next season but who, say Italian sources, has not yet officially signed. Patrese supposedly shunned Williams's original approach on Saturday and spoke passionately here yesterday about the 'team's appalling treatment of its drivers'. But later yesterday, Williams is said to have spoken to Patrese again and this time the Italian gave the impression he might be prepared to reconsider.

Patrese would obviously come cheaper than Mansell and give Williams the additional funds he maintains he would prefer to plough into the overall team effort. Within the ranks of Williams' sponsors there is much unrest. A spokesman for Camel said: 'A retired world champion is not what sponsors want.'

Mansell is not the most adept operator in the highly political world of Formula One but it seems he is the victim of the recession and a concerted attempt by Formula One to reduce drivers' salaries. Yet that does not explain why Williams were apparently prepared to meet Mansell's requirements before Senna's interjection.

Many observers believe the loss of Mansell will be bad for Formula One business, although Bernie Ecclestone, president of Foca, vice-president of Fisa and, in reality, the sport's impresario, said: 'From a personal point of view I am sorry to see Nigel go because I like him and he is popular all around the world, not only Britain, because he is a driver who gives ten-tenths all the time. But I hope Formula One is bigger than any one driver.'

Ecclestone added: 'I believe Nigel will drive in Indy racing next year and that's what really concerns me. I don't believe he should, because we all know the dangers. If you are going to have an accident have it in a Formula One car. I don't want to see Nigel have the kind of accident that Nelson Piquet had and which ended his career.'

MANSELL'S GRAND PRIX RECORD

1980: Lotus-Ford, debut Austria. . . . . . . . . . . . (no points)

1981: Lotus-Ford. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14th (8pts)

1982: Lotus-Ford. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14th (7)

1983: Lotus-Ford/Lotus Renault. . . . . . . . . . . . .12th (10)

1984: Lotus-Renault. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9th (13)

1985: Williams-Honda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6th (31, 2 wins)

1986: Williams-Honda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2nd (70, 5 wins)

1987: Williams-Honda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2nd (61, 6 wins)

1988: Williams-Judd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9th (12)

1989: Ferrari. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4th (38, 2 wins)

1990: Ferrari. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5th (37, 1 win)

1991: Williams-Renault. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2nd (72, 5 wins)

1992: Williams-Renault. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . champion

Grand Prix starts:. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Pole positions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

Fastest laps. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

Wins. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

MANSELL'S ROAD TO RETIREMENT

July 1990: Mansell announces his retirement after his Ferrari breaks down at British GP, saying: 'There comes a time in everybody's life when they call it a day.'

October 1990: Mansell is persuaded out of retirement by Williams-Renault. He cites having the undivided attention of a competitive team as the reason for his change of mind.

1991: Mansell wins five GPs in the Williams-Renault and finishes second in drivers championship.

March 1992: Williams-Renault enter new season confident that a winter of hard work has made their car competitive with the McLaren-Honda that has won the world championship for the last four years.

May 1992: Mansell sets record after winning first five GPs of season.

July 1992: Persistent reports that Alain Prost will race for Williams-Renault next season, despite Mansell's public objections.

August 1992: Mansell claims a deal was agreed between him and Frank Williams before the Hungarian GP. Mansell finishes second in race to win world championship. On the same day Senna is reported to have offered to drive for Williams for nothing. A few days later, Mansell claims, the Williams offer is withdrawn and he is asked to take pay cut. He refuses.

September 1992: Mansell retires for the second time.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX DETAILS

(307.400km, 191.009 miles, 53 laps)

1 A Senna (Bra) McLaren-Honda 1hr 18min 15.349sec (ave speed 235.689kph, 146.450mph); 2 M Brundle (GB) Benetton-Ford +17.050sec; 3 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford +24.373; 4 G Berger (Aut) McLaren-Honda +1min 25.490sec; 5 R Patrese (It) Williams-Renault +1:33.158; 6 A de Cesaris (It) Tyrrell-Ilmor +1 lap; 7 M Alboreto (It) Footwork-Mugen Honda +1; 8 P Martini (It) BMS Dallara-Ferrari +1; 9 U Katayama (Japan) Venturi-Lamborghini +3; 10 K Wendlinger (Aut) March-Ilmor +3; 11 J J Lehto (Fin) BMS Dallara-Ferrari 6. Did not finish (not classified): 12 M Gugelmin (Bra) Jordan-Yamaha 42 laps covered; 13 N Mansell (GB) Williams-Renault 41; 14 T Boutsen (Bel) Ligier-Renault 41; 15 E Comas (Fr) Ligier-Renault 35; 16 G Tarquini (It) Fondmetal-Ford 30; 17 O Grouillard (Fr) Tyrrell-Ilmor 26; 18 J Herbert (GB) Lotus-Ford 18; 19 E Naspetti (It) March-Ilmor 17; 20 J Alesi (Fr) Ferrari 12; 21 I Capelli (It) Ferrari 12; 22 G Morbidelli (It) Minardi-Lamborghini 12; 23 B Gachot (Bel) Venturi-Lamborghini 11; 24 M Hakkinen (Fin) Lotus-Ford 5; 25 A Suzuki (Japan) Footwork-Mugen Honda 2. Did not start (failed to complete one lap): 26 Eric Van De Poele (Bel) Fondmetal-Ford. Fastest lap: Mansell 1:26.119 (242.119kph, 150.655mph).

World Drivers' Championship standings (after 13 rounds): 1 Mansell 98 (champion); 2= Patrese, Schumacher 47; 4 Senna 46; 5 Brundle 27; 6 Berger 26; 7 Alesi 13; 8 Hakkinen 9; 9= Alboreto, De Cesaris 5; 11 Comas 4; 12= Wendlinger, Capelli 3; 14= Martini, Herbert 2; 16 Gachot 1.

World Constructors' standings: 1 Williams-Renault 145pts; 2 Benetton-Ford 74; 3 McLaren-Honda 72; 4 Ferrari 16; 5 Lotus-Ford 11; 6= Footwork-Mugen Honda, Tyrrell-Ilmor 5; 8 Ligier-Renault 4; 9 March-Ilmor 3; 10 BMS Dallara-Ferrari 2; 11 Venturi-Lamborghini 1.

(Photograph omitted)

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