The date was 16 August 1992; the race the Hungarian Grand Prix at the twisty Hungaroring circuit.
Mansell’s attacking style, an excellent Williams chassis, trick ‘active’ suspension and Renault’s highly sophisticated RS3C/RS4 3.5 V10 engine had combined to create an almost unstoppable force that season. In fact the car-engine remains one of the most dominant in F1 history…
Wins in all five opening grands prix for Mansell plus further victories in France, Britain and Germany meant the title beckoned as early Hungary – even with another five races to go.
In the drivers’ championship only Mansell’s team-mate, Italian Riccardo Patrese, now had an outside chance of stopping him. Meanwhile Williams-Renault was also on the cusp of the constructors’ crown.
In qualifying Patrese led Mansell in all Williams-Renault front row and their advantage over the rest – more than half a second – left many predicting the two titles would be a formality here. A victory – or third place if Patrese failed to score – would seal it for Mansell but things in F1 are never quite so straightforward…
Patrese led the race’s first half while Mansell, seemingly taking it steady with a title at stake, initially fell to fourth but then recovered to take third.
This then became second as Patrese span out of the lead and retired soon after. Mansell now had one hand on the title but then there drama – an unscheduled pit stop to replace a suspected punctured tyre and he re-joined the track back in sixth.
Cue a famous Mansell charge! Quickly he was up to fifth when Michael Schumacher’s Benetton crashed before he moved past Mike Hakkinen’s Lotus to take fourth. Martin Brundle was his next victim and now Mansell was in the third place he required. But he was not done yet and before race’s end he had taken second ahead of McLaren’s Gerhard Berger whose team-mate Ayrton Senna won the race.
Second place though was all Mansell needed and after coming close with Williams in 1986 and 1987 and again in 1991 – the team now in its third year with Renault engines – finally Mansell was Champion.
His success was all the more significant as it marked the first title of any sort achieved by Renault in F1. In all, cars powered by Renault engines would win every F1 title except one between 1992 and 1997. Indeed, although the constructors’ title in 1992 did go Williams-Renault’s way it eventually took until Belgium – the race after Hungary – before it was eventually sewn up.
Here’s the full list of Renault’s F1 drivers’ and constructors’ in the 1990s:
1992 Nigel Mansell / Williams-Renault
1993 Alain Prost / Williams-Renault
1994 Constructors only with Williams-Renault
1995 Michel Schumacher / Benetton-Renault
1996 Damon Hill / Williams-Renault
1997 Jacques Villeneuve / Williams-Renault