REVISITED: Nigel Mansell becomes World Champion at the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix

Published on
18 Jul 2024
Est. reading time
5 Min

Remembering that memorable race 32 years later

We are back at the Hungaroring, a venue that brings back plenty of special memories for all Williams fans.
In 1992, it was the location where Nigel Mansell, Red 5, became a Formula 1 World Champion at long last.
Budapest played host to Our Nige's championship-winning race in the 1992 Hungarian GP. In a season where Nigel was so often in a class of one – he had won eight of ten Grands Prix heading into the weekend – he had to work hard that Sunday to clinch the crown.
Heading into the race, Nigel's exceptional early season form in the Williams FW14B meant he knew he could make his lifelong dream of being an F1 champ come true if he finished in third place or higher.
Of course, with the Brit taking nine pole positions from the ten prior rounds, he may have hoped for a straightforward lights-to-flag run, but even on Friday, it didn’t look so simple.
After a Free Practice session that saw Nigel struggle to get laps in due to an electrical issue, Riccardo Patrese had the upper hand in the second Williams.
First, the Italian driver went fastest in Friday Qualifying. Then, when no one could beat his time in Saturday's Qualifying session, he claimed his first and only pole position of the season while Nigel would start from second.
Although the two Williams drivers shared a garage, there weren't any favours between the two teammates. Riccardo had been quick off the line in the races leading up to Hungary, and his run of solid starts continued when the lights went out at the Hungaroring.
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Nigel and Riccardo hurtled down towards Turn 1 side-by-side, and with Nige unable to edge ahead on the inside line, the Briton backed out to leave our Italian driver unchallenged for the lead.
Nigel's self-preservation, unfortunately, meant he would lose positions to the fast-starting McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger, who powered around the outside of the first right-hander.
With our British racer needing a podium finish to be crowned champion, dropping to P4 was not the ideal start.
While his teammate extracted the most from the FW14B to create a gap away from the chasing Senna, Nigel had to watch his mirrors for a pair of Benettons behind while also trying to close in on Berger ahead.
By Lap 5, an opportunity opened up. Berger had a slow exit on the final corner, meaning Nigel could make a move at the primary overtaking spot on the circuit – down the pit straight and into Turn 1.
While Berger kept on the racing line, Red 5 jinked to the right to fight down the inside and outbraked the Austrian driver to take P3 and a championship-winning position.
With one McLaren down, Nigel began chasing the second red and white car, but Senna would not be such an easy mark.
The Brazilian racer kept his McLaren perfectly positioned to keep Nigel behind at the notoriously tough-to-pass track. But, try as he might, he could find no way past.
The laps ticked by, including an odd Safety Car period that saw no Safety Car come on the track, and Nigel remained in P3.
He had set the Fastest Lap, showing how fast he and his Williams were, but the combination of Senna's defence and the tight circuit kept him behind. Nigel ran wide at the penultimate corner in his frustration, and Berger retook third place.
As the race approached half distance, Nigel used his learnings on how to pass the #2 McLaren to repeat the feat down the pit straight on Berger once more.
Berger pushed the Brit hard, but the Williams' superior speed meant it was a repeat of the early-race overtake – and it wouldn't be for the last time that day.
Nigel's hopes of becoming champion were also about to get a boost. Riccardo had spun from his sizeable lead, handing Senna P1 and Nigel P2.
Although Riccardo got his FW14B going again with the help of the marshalls, he had dropped well down the order and wouldn't be a factor for the frontrunners as he soon retired with an engine failure.
Knowing there was now a buffer to the non-podium places, Nigel switched from attack to management mode.
The story didn't stop there, however. Despite driving steadily to reach the chequered flag, concerns that Red 5 had a slow puncture meant that our mechanics had their part to play in the championship-winning day.
Choosing to be cautious by replacing the tyres in a pit stop dropped Nigel back to P6, and he would need to make even more overtakes to become champion.
The fresh rubber turned the FW14B into an even mightier machine, and Nigel soon closed up on those ahead. In a stroke of luck, he had one fewer car to overtake after the two Bennetons collided, breaking Michael Schumacher's rear wing and causing the German to retire.
Mika Hakkinen was the first victim in Nigel's fight back up the order, with the Lotus powerless to stop the Williams down the pit straight.
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Martin Brundle, in the sole remaining Benneton, was the next to fall as Nigel dispatched his compatriot while also lapping a backmarker in a ruthlessly efficient move, again down the pit straight.
Finally, although Berger tried to fend Red 5 off, Nigel made his third pass on the McLaren in a carbon-copy move of his earlier passes to return to second place.
Nigel couldn't catch Senna, but it didn't matter. By finishing the race on the podium, 12 years after his Formula 1 debut, Nigel Mansell became the World Champion as a Williams driver.
"Driving for 30 years and being second twice to Ayrton and once to Alain [Prost], you think that you're never going to crack it," said the newly crowned champ in the post-race press conference.
"I think that race was... interesting, to say the least, wasn't it?!" Nigel concluded before letting Senna and Berger fulfil their media duties while he could take the historic moment in.
Nigel was right, of course – the race was interesting, to say the least. He started the race in P2, and 77 laps later, after making five on-track overtakes for position, he crossed the line still in P2.
Those five passes for Red 5 at Hungary meant he could race the remainder of the season as the champion and have the Hungaroring as one of the most memorable locations in his racing career.
As he told us at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed, “only very few people win a World Championship, so it’s absolutely beautiful to be part of that private club.”
WATCH: Mansell reunited with the FW14B at Goodwood 2022
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