1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell says these days drivers look like they’ve been to a “hair salon” after they’ve completed an F1 race.
The Briton raced in an era far different to the F1 we know now, when the cars were unpredictable and serious injury or worse was a common tragedy.
He feels a driver like six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton would have done well in that era, but added it’s hard to compare because some of the crashes seen now in F1 would have been career-ending back in Mansell’s days.
“Lewis would have done well in those circumstances, but it is very, very difficult to compare eras,” he told the Daily Mail.
“Then so many brilliant drivers had a simple accident and broke their legs or arms, or whatever and couldn’t continue their careers. Now good drivers make heinous mistakes and don’t get injured.
“They barely sweat in the car. At the end of the race, it’s as if they have just come out of a hair salon.
“The beautiful thing in my day was if you had done 180 Grands Prix and you were still alive you patted yourself on the back and said you had a great career.”
Hamilton will be chasing a record-equaling seventh World Championship this season.
Few thought Schumacher’s record could ever be repeated, and rumours had been flying around for a while that Hamilton could further emulate the German by driving for the Ferrari team where he enjoyed the bulk of his success with five titles.
Mansell says that for him it was “utopia” to drive for Ferrari, but he understands why Hamilton would want to stay put at Mercedes who he feels have a better chance of success.
And with Ferrari confirming Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as their drivers for 2021, the door is now closed for Hamilton for the foreseeable future anyway.
“For me Ferrari was utopia,” said Mansell.
“It is incredible to win for Ferrari and I love the team dearly, but if Lewis wants to chase history he will probably find Mercedes are more stable now.
“Ferrari could have won World Championships in the last few years but there have been too many unfortunate mistakes made.
“As for Lewis, what an opportunity he has been given from a very early age. Like Michael Schumacher he has had the incredible support from manufacturers to demonstrate his abilities. He won his first World Championship with McLaren and then went straight to a team where he won another five.
“History will depict him as one of the greatest drivers, if not the greatest driver, in the history of our country. There is no reason why he can’t win a seventh or eighth world championship before he retires.”
But as for the all-time greatest driver, Mansell picks Juan Manuel Fangio and thinks Hamilton would agree with his choice.
“I always say Fangio because those who drove in that era — and I think Lewis would agree — were the true heroes because they had no seat belts, no proper helmets, no proper goggles and at times no gloves,” he explained.
“They had a fuel tank between their legs and if you had an accident it was 50-50 whether you were thrown free or died.
“‘But Lewis is doing fine. Everybody who gets that level of adulation gets a lot of advice. He just has to keep his feet on the ground, make his own decisions and be happy with them.”