Tuesday August 21st, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Ferrari and Michael Schumacher could rule Formula One for years to come, according to former World Champion Nigel Mansell. But he urged the German, who won his fourth title with victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, to repay past favours to Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello in some of 2001's four remaining races.
"I think Michael's a great driver, he's one of the true greats," the Briton told reporters before competing in a 12-lap race - organised by the Minardi team - of two-seater Formula One cars. "The reliability that Ferrari have demonstrated for both their drivers this year has been unsurpassed and astonishing," added the man Ferrari fans dubbed 'Il Leone' (The Lion) when he drove for them.
"I really do believe Ferrari are going to be sensational and so hard to beat over the next few years. If Michael's got the will to win, which obviously he has, I don't see anyone stopping him next year unless someone comes out with a great package, great car.
"I see no reason why Ferrari shouldn't win the next three world titles," he said. Mansell secured his world title with Williams in Hungary in 1992 with five races to spare, compared to the four left for Schumacher this year.
"It's not so important, you can back off a little bit," he said of how he had felt in those later races.
"You still go for the qualifying and you want to win races if you can but I think you'll find that Michael might be very generous and give a race maybe to Barrichello if it's possible.
"Rubens has helped him on a number of occasions...Michael's taken points off Rubens several times in the past. I don't see it as problem at all if Michael does default in a future race to Rubens.
"I think that's fantastic for Ferrari and it demonstrates what a fantastic team they are to work for and it would be great for Rubens if that happens."
Barrichello is currently third overall, five points behind McLaren's David Coulthard whose Championship hopes were ended in Budapest. The Brazilian obeyed team orders and let Schumacher, who needs one more win to set a Formula One record of 52, overtake for second place in Austria.
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said at the weekend that the team would do what they could to help the Brazilian to second overall. Mansell shares the record with Schumacher for the most wins in a season - nine - while Schumacher has seven so far this year.
"Records are there to be equalled and broken but what's more important and what Michael should be setting his sights on now is maybe the fifth World Championship because that would be astonishing," said Mansell. "And then, setting an unbelievable record of six World Championships - and I honestly believe that is possible."
The Briton said Williams, who replaced him for 1993 when he went and won the Indy Car title in America, had a way to go yet to challenge Ferrari.
"It's wonderful to see them quick, winning races but it's different to win a World Championship," he said.
Published at 15:55:08 GMT