No one has ever achieved the feat of being Formula One World Champion AND IndyCar Champion at the same time, except one man - Nigel Mansell. And here’s how he did it.
Only three other drivers managed to reign both series and all of them come close to being or just simply are stuff of legend - Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jacques Villeneuve, but Mansell was the only one winning the two championships back to back, resulting in being champion at both at once with the 1993 F1 World Championship not being decided yet by the time he already won the IndyCar title the same year.
Frank Williams is not an easy man to deal with, nor Nigel Mansell. Together they were like mixing two different, highly explosive material. Still, both are quite magnificent in their own way, which ultimately lead to Mansell winning the 1992 Formula One World Championship with the team (helped by the super-gizmo active suspension system) after having spent 12 years in the series. But push comes to shove, the two people eventually fell out and Mansell left Williams’ team as the latter wished to sign Alain Prost as his team mate. These two have already been together at Ferrari in 1990 and having had a quite strained relationship back then, Mansell decided to bow out. [Note: Ironically, after Prost joined Williams and won the championship in 1993, he, too, left Williams for the same reason as Senna was signed for 1994. Their earlier, stressful relationship at McLaren is widely documented and is one of the most cited periods of all F1's history.]
Soon after, Mansell was already testing with the Newman/Haas IndyCar team at the Firebird International Raceway outside Phoenix, Arizona, the same place Ayrton Senna had his own private test with Penske, literally a few weeks before.
While Senna was driving the 1992 Penske Chevy just for kicks against Emerson Fittipaldi’s car for the 1993 season, Mansell was testing the 1993 Lola Ford hard for the upcoming season. A season that included drivers like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Eddie Cheever, Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy, Al Unser, Jr., Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, etc.
No change is simple enough, and although F1 and Indy cars might look quite similar, it is still a challenge to adapt from one to another, mastering them as he now should explain the differences:
The first race of the season at Surfers’ Paradise started strong with a pole position,continued with a fastest lap during race and finished the weekend off with a race win:
His first oval race at Phoenix right after that, however, did not go so well. Crashed into the wall, suffering a back injury:
This did not encourage him though, he was quick to return to pole position at Long Beach, which he tackled before during his Formula One years:
Rest assured, he was quick enough on road/street courses due to his F1 expertise (as he scored three other pole positions at such tracks during the season), but how can he possibly be good at American racing’s birthplace: at ovals - asked his critics, pointing at his Phoenix accident with the 77th Indy 500 coming up. For once and for all, he shut all- nay-sayers up by coming in at third place at the legendary race. not being quick enough at the restart.
Moreover he got so used to ovals that he spent the rest of the season winning all four of them, starting two from pole position and ran two fastest laps - no further road/street course win - including being victorious at one of the fastest of them all, the Marlboro 500 at Michigan Speedway, while battling with dizziness and sickness, also the New England at Loudon a week later - on his 40th birthday:
Eventually, the championship came down to the penultimate race of the season, at Nazareth, Pennsylvania:
Securing the 1993 title in IndyCar, he was now double champion, but unfortunately he was never able to repeat his success. Although he scored a few pole positions and fastest laps, he never won a race again. He returned to Formula One to help out Williams at the French Grand Prix following Senna’s death, just between the Oregon and Cleveland races, and once the Indy season was done, he bid farewell to the series and raced in the last three Formula One races, winning the Australian Grand Prix, his last ever victory. He had a brief comeback in 1995 with McLaren, but the legend of the “Red 5" was already a thing of the past, yet an unrepeatable stuff of legend.