Jenson Button just needs to loosen up a bit, the constant scandals and controversies are damaging Formula 1 and Valentino Rossi is an 'extraordinary talent' who 'wouldn't fit in' amongst all the political wrangling and in-fighting so prevalent in the top flight – those are the views of Nigel Mansell as the 1992 world champion and British racing hero shared his views with Crash.net Radio
of the state of play in the sport in 2009.
If Jenson Button manages to successfully recover from the mid-season 'wobble' that has seen him average barely two points from each of the last five grands prix – a far cry from his peerlessly dominant early run of six triumphs from seven starts, when he looked practically unassailable – and his advantage in the drivers' standings come under increasing threat from his pursuers, then the Brawn GP star looks set to make it back-to-back British title successes at the highest level. Mansell is confident that the 29-year-old he can do just that – and that such an outcome can only do good for the wealth of young home-grown stars bidding to follow in Button's wheel tracks.
“I think he's got to be careful,” the former Williams star urged. “I think he's got to give a bit of thought to what's been happening to him over the last few races – you can't have your team-mate out-qualifying you and out-racing you. There's obviously something going on with himself, but I think he's a mature enough driver now and accomplished enough to realise that even with a 16-point lead he's got to pay attention.
“He's got to just un-tighten himself; I think what it is, is that he's got a bit tight – when you win six races on the trot pretty much, you think 'oh, this is easy', but it's never easy until you cross that finishing line. I really do believe he'll still bring the crown home for Great Britain, though, and hopefully that will help demonstrate to sponsors and to all the teams that the home of motorsport is England. Hopefully British drivers and British teams will get more funding, because it's been very difficult these last few years.”
One competitor who Mansell clearly believes would add a great deal to F1 – but who he adds will likely never be given or accept the opportunity to do so – is record-breaking multiple motorcycling world Champion Rossi, who the 31-time grand prix-winner describes as 'unbelievable'. Earlier this week, fellow British great Sir Stirling Moss argued that the flamboyant, effervescent Italian is 'too good' to take a 'a backwards step' in joining the far more sterilised, clinical environment of MotoGP's four-wheeled equivalent [see separate story – click here
] – and 'Il Leone' broadly agrees.
“Valentino Rossi is fantastic,” he stressed, “and not only as a rider and a driver but as a human being. I had a sensational time with him at Donington when I was invited to be his guest there, and [sons] Leo, Greg and I and some friends had a blast. It was unbelievable! I'd never been to a MotoGP race before, and I want to go to another one soon!
“He is the real thing. He is just extraordinary in terms of his talent, and he is absolutely crazy – the character he's got, with those donkey ears when he won at the last race, was sensational – but I think Sir Stirling is probably right. He probably wouldn't fit in, unless he could own his own team in Formula 1, run it properly and protect himself from all the political wrangling that happens there.
“I think Valentino will stay where he is. I hope he pulls off the championship; he should – he's 30-something points in the lead. It's never over 'til it's over, but he is just brilliant – he's a great guy, and his team are fabulous. I love him to death.”
Mansell was less willing to comment, by contrast, upon the 'Singapore-gate' row currently engulfing F1, with the top flight's latest scandal threatening to drive one of its staunchest competitors in the form of Renault out of the exit door. The 56-year-old expressed his opinion that the sport could well do without the series of controversies that have rocked it in recent years – when there has almost been more action off the track than on.