The Monaco Grand Prix at the start of May, the sixth Grand Prix of the season, was the first Mansell didn’t win.
There, the Englishman was was thwarted by loose wheel nut prompting a late pit stop and an epic duel ensued as he caught and tried, in vain, to pass McLaren’s Ayrton Senna who’d inherited the lead and, ultimately, the win at Mansell’s expense.
Second place was Mansell’s reward before the Grand Prix circus moved to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada for the seventh round of the 1992 F1 Championship on the 14th of June as he and Williams looked to get back to winning ways.
Qualifying threw a surprise as the straight line speed of the Honda engine in the back of Ayrton Senna’s McLaren was enough to give him pole position ahead of the two Williams of Riccardo Patrese and then Nigel Mansell in an unfamiliar second row start.
Senna led away at the start with Mansell hot on his heels after jumping Patrese on the run down to turn 1.
Controlling the pace from the front, Senna’s pace was sufficiently slow to allow the top eight to form a snake behind, jockeying for position here and there.
This conservative pace meant that for 15 laps, Mansell was tucked up behind his Brazilian rival plotting when and where to attempt a pass.
So when that attempt came (on lap 15) it came on the back of 15 laps of frustration at Senna’s speed on the straights and conservative yet defensive cornering.
Mansell attempted a ‘go big or go home’ lunge into the chicane ahead of the start-finish straight, Senna blocked and Mansell careered off-track and into the sand trap.
In typical Mansell style, rather than backing off and making sure he could rejoin intact, he kept his foot in in an effort to make the move stick and found his FW14 pointing the wrong way on the main straight, shorn of a front wing and out of the race.
‘Senna pushed me off’ Mansell would later say, but Motorsport magazine saw it differently:
“A more championship minded driver would have weighed the odds, considered waiting a little longer to see how things developed and in any case wouldn’t have tried down the inside of an area known to be slippery.
A wiser head might well have been prepared to accept only six points rather than try for 10, especially since he nursed a 38-point championship lead going into the event, but then Mansell’s character has always been one to seize every opportunity. This time it simply didn’t work out”
No footage exists of the incident and so we’re not able to make up our own minds about who was to blame, however, given their respective histories it’s probably safe to assume that it was part classic Mansell bravery and opportunism in forcing the pass, and part classic Senna defiance in preventing it.
Neither man would finish the race, as following Mansell’s retirement, Senna would complete a further 20 or so laps before stopping as a result of an electrical issue.
Undeterred by two winless races in Monaco and Canada, Mansell would win the next three Grand Prix (France, Britain and Germany), and seal the championship with a second place at the next round in Hungary.