The English bloke won the Italian tifossi through his sheer determination, total attack power and courage. He lacked the charisma, although he was one of the few drivers to win a race for Ferrari on debut. In 1989, he was the Autocourse driver of the year, ahead of Prost and Senna…
His first season was a nightmare of reliability (his next finish after Brazil was France, in the middle of the season). Even so, he was so much better than in his next season with the Italian team., both regarding his victories and the heroic circumstances in which he won them. He even got a nickname after Hungaroring: “Il Leone”. Only Gilles Villeneuve and John Surtees have won the hearts of the tifossi in this manner. But Nige’ was never the political kind.
When Alain Prost joined the team in 1990, he overwhelmed the British, both in competitiveness and car set-ups and by uniting the team around him. Most of the time, the margins were very small between the two Scuderia drivers, but Mansell’s lack of cooperation with the team and the refusal of playing along with “The Professor” gave the title to McLaren that year. That was more than enough for the Italian team. And for Mansell alike. It also proved auspicious, as he arrived at Williams along with the untouchable FW14. In the hearts of the tifossi, he will always be “Il Leone”, with a fame and aura few Ferrari drivers ever had.