Formula One legend Nigel Mansell is actually the proud owner of a unique record. The British driver has held and F1 title and an IndyCar CART title simultaneously. Mansell won the 1992 F1 world championship and later on won the Indy CART title in 1993.
Mansell is one of the most successful drivers in motorsport history and held his own when plunged into a completely alien environment. Only four men have managed to win titles in both IndyCar and F1, such is the challenge posed by the jump between the two disciplines. Only one has reigned as champion in both at the same time.
Mansell’s switch from Formula 1 to Champ Car in 1993 was enormous news at the time and brought the American series to a new level of international attention.
After 13 years in Formula 1 and having been championship runner-up three times, Mansell finally cracked the title in 1992 with a dominating performance in the Williams-Renault FW14B. But he and Frank Williams failed to reach terms on a contract extension for 1993 as Mansell felt slighted by the discovery that Alain Prost was to join the team.
He accepted an offer by the Newman-Haas team to drive in the CART series. His aggressive driving style, plus the steely resolve forged by his earlier F1 setbacks, helped him take America by storm. After notching up five wins he took the title and, for three precious weeks, held two of world motorsport’s most coveted prizes.
In other words. he became an overnight sensation by winning first time out in Surfers’ Paradise. Then, in typical Mansell fashion, he had a huge crash in Pheonix, injuring his back. He quickly returned and won his third oval race, at Milwaukee, and went on to take the title.
The following year the Newman-Haas was distinctly less competitive and Mansell seized the opportunity to return to Formula 1 at Bernie Ecclestone’s instigation after the death of Ayrton Senna robbed F1 of its biggest name. Mansell won the season finale at Adelaide but quit after just two races in an embarrassing move to McLaren.
Other F1 drivers who have dabbled into IndyCar include Mario and Michael Andretti, Sebastian Bourdais, Emerson Fittipaldi, Alan Jones, Alessandro Zanardi, Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello and others.
However, none of these drivers have come close to achieving what Mansell did. It is quite race for one driver to excel in two different disciplines of racing, let alone in the same year.