COVENTRY, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to run away with the Formula One crown even though he has won five of the last six races and is potentially one of the greatest drivers of all time, says Nigel Mansell.
Mansell, who won the title with Williams in 1992, said Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg now faced a tough task to overhaul the Briton at the top of the standings.
“I don’t think he’ll run away with it but for sure Nico’s going to have his work cut out,” the former world champion told Reuters in an interview before teeing-off in the British Par-Three Golf Championship pro-am at Nailcote Hall on Tuesday.
”But you only need to have a few reliability problems, and that happened to Lewis earlier in the year, or make a few mistakes, or someone can drive into the back of you.
“That has happened to Sebastian Vettel in a couple of races this year. He’s had no luck at all,” said Mansell. “It’s going to be an incredible fight, I just hope it’s close.”
Hamilton’s win in Hungary on Sunday lifted him six points clear of Rosberg having trailed the German by a massive 43 points after the Spanish Grand Prix in May following a spate of reliability problems in the early part of the season.
”It just demonstrates it’s never over until it’s over,“ said Mansell. ”The Mercedes team are magnificent, the cars are flawless machines and reliability seems to be impeccable.
“Sunday’s race was probably won and lost in the first half-a-second when Lewis won the first corner. He drove beautifully the whole race and just controlled it,” added the 62-year-old Englishman.
Hamilton has three world titles and has 48 grand prix victories to his name and there is no telling how many more the 31-year-old could chalk up in the future, according to Mansell.
”There’s no reason why Lewis can’t rise all the way to the top,“ he said. ”He’s three away from tying the second most winning driver in history (Alain Prost).
“More world championships are down to him and his commitment, his desire and keeping his focus. He’s got enough years that if he wants to win a load more championships it’s possible, especially with the might and backing of Mercedes.”
Mansell, a steward in this month’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, also spoke passionately about the recent radio-rules controversy.
Former world champion Vettel slammed last week’s decision to tighten the regulations, saying that drivers and teams should be free to say whatever they want to each other during a race.
“We were also in the thick of that at Silverstone,” said Mansell who won the Indycar world title in 1993.
”The race director informed us an infringement had occurred...we came up with a decision that put the teams on point in terms of there are certain things they can say and certain things they can’t say.
”Whether I agree with the rules or not, it’s immaterial, the rule is there. You can have an opinion on the rule but you are best left keeping it to yourself because if you are racing in the world championship, you respect them.
“Mercedes and all the great teams know that but if they want to change that rule they need to get behind closed doors and thrash it out,” he said. “You shouldn’t do it in public.”
Mansell has a wealth of experience to draw upon when it comes to Formula One cars but even he was stunned to learn of an incident in Hungary last week involving former world champion Jenson Button’s McLaren.
”I was shocked, absolutely astounded, when Jenson said his brake pedal went to the floor and he had no brakes,“ explained Mansell. ”I was stunned to hear he could go to the fail-safe position on his steering wheel and it then gave him his brake pedal back.
”In years gone by you were finished so compliments to the engineers and all the amazing technology on the cars...they rescued the car.
“I think everybody was unaware that was the situation. Normally when a brake pedal goes to the floor it’s game over but to put it into a different mode and get your brakes back, wow, I‘m impressed,” said Mansell.
“It didn’t happen in our day. We changed our pants and that’s only if we were still conscious,” he laughed.
Editing by Toby Davis