“Team Lotus: My view from the pit wall” by Peter Warr – review


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Team Lotus: My view from the pit wall by Peter Warr

Nigel Mansell will never win a Grand Prix as long as I have a hole in my arse.”

The memorable words of Peter Warr, former Lotus team principal and Colin Chapman’s right-hand man, as Mansell left the team at the end of 1984. Warr was never short of an opinion or two, particularly on the subject of Mansell.

Not that Mansell didn’t give as good as he got, claiming “most of what he achieved had been on Colin’s coat tails” in his 1995 autobiography.

The passage of time – and Mansell’s eventual tally of 31 career wins, the fourth-highest of any driver – did not cause Warr to revise his view of his former driver.

He spends over a dozen pages on Mansell in this new volume of memoirs, calling him a “seriously flawed driver” who “threw away two championships” and even claiming he got an extended contract at Lotus due to “a completely uncharacteristic moment of weakness” on Chapman’s part.

Clearly, Warr’s memoirs do not suffer from the rose-tinted spectacles effect which can make dreary reading of such works. His trenchant views come across in every page, though few are as negative as those on Mansell.

The books is split into five main sections: on Colin Chapman, Bernie Ecclestone, mechanics, engineers and – by far the longest chapter – drivers.

The latter includes many great names from the golden age of Lotus. Warr critiques them from his unrivalled vantage point having watched so many of them at close quarters. It includes a passage on Jochen Rindt, where Warr gives a considered opinion on the factors leading to his fatal accident at Monza in 1970.

Warr has interesting things to say of Emerson Fittipaldi who excelled for the team but left under a cloud in 1973 after being joined by Ronnie Peterson – who Warr heaps praise on.

The same goes for Ayrton Senna. Warr gives an especially absorbing account of not just Senna’s well-documented genius at the wheel and technical savvy, but also his hard-nosed contract negotiations and how he spurred the team on accelerate development of their cars.

The section on mechanics is also worthy of special mention. It gives credit to the team’s unsung heroes and contains some of the book’s best anecdotes.

Warr’s plain and unvarnished recollections make for a compelling read, one you you wish went on twice as long.

Had Warr not succumbed to a heart attack in October 2010, this might have been so. According to son Andrew, when they unearthed the file on his computer it included a contents list twice the length of the completed material.

Veteran motorsport journalist Simon Taylor finished the book and had the wisdom to use a light touch and leave Warr’s prose virtually untouched, save for a few useful additions to provide necessary context.

The rest of Warr’s memoirs may be lost to us forever, but what remains is an unmissable read.

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“Team Lotus: My view from the pit wall” by Peter Warr
Published by Haynes
ISBN: 9780857331236

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on ““Team Lotus: My view from the pit wall” by Peter Warr – review”

  1. A bit harsh on mansell

    1. Harsh does not automatically mean unfair. Mansell had a real shot at the 1986 title; he was leading the Australian Grand Prix before his tyre went and Prost swooped in. Likewise in 1987, especially with Piquet retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix – but he crashed in practice and was forced to miss Suzuka and Adelaide. One can only imagine what would have happened if he kept it on the road.

      I’m not denying that Nigel Mansell was a good World Champion … but he could have had three titles to his name, which would have made him a great World Champion.

      1. But the tire blow-out in 1986 was completely bad luck. He couldn’t have prepared for that

        1. Mansell has stated since, that when the tyre blew, had he veered off and crashed into the wall lineing the track and not, as he did, control the car to saftey, then the race would in all likilihood have been red-flagged and he’d have won the title.

          Hindsights a bitch aint it.

      2. In short, plain bad luck. He clearly had speed and consistency on his side, and luck against. I can’t see how that equates to “throwing away two championships.”

        1. To be fair, Mansell shortcoming in 1986 can’t just be pinned on the last race. If he’d performed better in races that his rivals won, he could have still won the title.

          1. @Slr

            If he’d performed better in races that his rivals won, he could have still won the title.

            As with any championship triumph :)

      3. Prisoner Monkeys,Mansell was 3rd on the road in the Australian GP when the tyre went. According to Mansell, he asked cud he come in as he had a minute ahead of 4th place, but the team told him his tyres wud last the distance, as for 87, he was 12 points behind with 2 races left and that is not really throwing it away. Warr didn’t like Mansell simple as. In Mansells book, Mansell says that Jim Clark and Grahma Hill were so sick of Warr once that threw him into a river

    2. Any chance for an Amazon.com link for the Americans? Would definitely purchase this book and I would prefer to help out F1F too :D

      1. @d3v0 That feature should be added to the site very soon. Stay tuned!

      2. @d3v0 You can now buy the book via the USA Amazon site – see the link above. (Actually, it’s only available to order at the moment, it comes out in the USA in February).

        Those of you in other regions who may want to buy the book, let me know what region you’re in and I’ll see if I can make arrangements.

        1. THANK YOU @keithcollantine

          Talk about a fast reaction. I love these kinds of books. I have read a few by different authors already and they really heighten my appreciation of a particular team and time period of the sport.

    3. Simple calculation: Nigel didn’t lost lost the 1987 WC in Japan. He lost it at Hungaroring, when the Williams lost the weel nut. If he won there Piquest -3, Nigel +9 . Men love Nigel not because his hands or mind but because his heart. I was Masnell fan since 1981, but everybody knew Warr didn’t liked him. It was documented in C.Hilton Mansell book too. Men have different opinion about differnet things

  2. “A Bit Harsh” ?

    NIGE Is Number 4 On All Time GP Winners.

    Except From Him, The Top 10 Only Includes Multiple WDC Winners.

    NIGE And All Other Aggressive Racers, Forever !

  3. Having read Mansell’s biography, Warr cam across as a selfish tyrant who put all his emphasis on his number one driver and gave the other driver no hope at all. Mansell cites Warr’s treatment of Elio De Angelis when Senna arrived at the team as example.

    However I am now rather interested to actually read Warr’s own words, no just on Mansell, but to try and see what he was actually like a person.

    Maybe it’s not a case of either Mansell or Warr being spiteful about each other, as clearly they were two egos who were always ging to clash, but maybe it’s an insight into seeing how mcuh pressure there is on one man following a legend like Colin Chapman.

    1. Really seems the unfavourable feelings were 2 sided in these two!

  4. Nigel Mansell was not referred to as “Il Leone” by Ferrari without good reason. Ferrari were not known for giving drivers praise, instead claiming the car provided the result not the driver.
    That says enough about Mansell the driver for me, conversly Warr’s prophecy was totally wrong and innacurate.

    1. I believe it was the Tifosi that dubbed Mansell “Il Leone” rather than the Ferrari team.

  5. A real shame he didn’t manage to write the rest of it, seems this is a genuinly interesting insider view of F1 and people in it.

  6. views on mansell. when I went inter railing in 1982 I met up with a couple of guys from nottingham, they were supporting mansell, at the time I couldnt undertsand how they could support this edjut, however in the next few seasons my opinions changed on “our nige” and I rate him as one the very best, I still believe it was a blow dart that done his tyre in 86! Mansell , like Alonso was probably a right royal pain in the a..e to work with/for, but from a fans point of view who cares!
    As for Warr , I think he was probably a tyrant but his heart was in the right place. Should be a good read

    1. Any Comparison Of NIGE With The Nowadays Number 5, And Only Colored RED Because Of The Team, Is An Insult To NIGE And All Aggressive Racers, Ever.

  7. Im tempted to read this book, if only for the chapters on their drivers and particularlly on Rindt’s fatal crashe (and if he was there, Hill’s leg-breaking one). 1960/70s’s Lotuses are well known for being fragile, Id love to read something by someone who was with the team in that era and see how they saw things then & now.

  8. The Warr/Mansell relationship is already fairly well documented, but Warr’s memoirs will still be worth a read.

    As I understand it, Warr and Mansell came from very different backgrounds and were like chalk and cheese – they rubbed each other up the wrong way, and that inevitably coloured Warr’s view of Mansell as a driver (it probably also coloured Mansell’s view of Warr as a team manager). There is, clearly, a degree of truth in Warr’s views – Mansell always had a bit of a flare for the dramatic and that sometimes failed to serve his best interests. Crashing out of the lead of the 1984 Monaco GP because he pushed too hard, for example, the needless retirement from the 1991 Canadian GP or the fairly daft do or die move that spun him out of the following year’s race.

    But those same qualities and willingness to take a risk led to moments like the 1986 British GP victory, or passing Gerhard Berger around the outside of the Peraltada in Mexico, 1990. They’re different sides of the same coin – you don’t get one without the other. It didn’t make Mansell a favourite among all the team managers (who generally want someone to bring the car home), but it made him hugely popular with the fans.

  9. Considering Nigel is a World Champion, he must have had his reasons to say so. And this is what makes it interesting: his opinion isn’t shared by many, and I’d like to find out his explanations.

  10. I was a fan of Nigel right from his formula 3 days and I always thought and still do, that he could probably drive any car faster than anyone else… but a fast driver is not all it takes to be a champion.

    I have not read the book but I can partly understand Blind Pew’s views. At Lotus I found Mansell as frustrating as hell, he could drive fast but his race craft seemed abysmal. He would push hard when he had no need to, only to break something or crash, then the next race he would seem to coast along when hard driving could have brought real rewards. His move to Williams I always thought was a good example of how driver aids can change a driver. Williams were one of the first to use pit to car radios, suddenly Nigels driving was so much more mature, on the whole, he pushed hard when it was a good idea to push hard, he coasted when coasting was a good idea. Coincidence perhaps?

    Whatever, Nigel is certainly one of my favourite drivers of all time and he gave us some truly great moments.

  11. That yesteryear “WAR” comment directed at Mansell will always haunt him and his recent comback is but another poor pick. Mansell’s team mate at Williams was PK, the most ********* driver our sport ever seen / ask Senna. PK negotiated to have Williams developments bits eg. new diff, active rear suspension and aero parts fitted to his car first because he was the teams defacto #1. Just for the record Mansell wanted to come into the pit box down under (Australian GP 1986), however Ptrick Head told him to stay out based on their talks with the Goodyear tire rep. 1986 was one of the most challenging season with Mansell, Senna, Prost, PK and Rosberg fighting for the title. Renault was the only team with qualyfying engines in 1985/1986; that year they also introduced F1 to high revving pheumatic valved engines, individual ignition coils per cylinder bank and a suspect rear suspension ride hight system. On pure speed Mansell remains the quickes of them all, yes Senna does have tons of poles and most of those came from being in the quickest car over a one lap flyer (1985 – 1990). The Lotus was not a championship winning car as it consumed too much fuel over a race distance, but it was certainly a nimble/powerful ploe winner in capable hands. Mansell was in fine form for 1988, my only regret is that he did not have a Honda turbo engine that season as then we would have seen the clash of the titans as per Sir. Frank Williams. I rate F1 drivers by how good they’re on street circuits, in the wet and through super G circuits _________ Mansell and Ayrton Senna Da Silva was mega in those kind of settings. Colin Chapman did well in giving the sport Nigel Mansell. I remain equally thankful to Ron Dennis whose meticulous attention to detail help to make Senna another great.

  12. This is one of the greatest parts of the website. I’ve started to realize my intention to learn more about the history of F1 and I have to say that F1F book reviews are my starting point and the main source of information. I’ve almost finished reading F1 Fanatic (totally agree with the 5-star rating, by the way) and today ordered Fangio: The Life behind the Legend.

    1. @Girts Glad you’re finding them useful! The Fangio book is excellent, those point-to-point road races in Argentina were quite bonkers.

  13. It certainly sounds like a good read. Might have to invest in the future.

  14. Peter Warr made a habit out of making public predictions that went belly up on him. Mansell never winning a race is the obvious one, but there were others. Two from 1988 come to mind…..

    At the San Marino GP (Rd.2), the McLaren-Honda’s were 3 seconds faster than anyone in qualifying. The next best was Piquet in his Lotus-Honda. Warr (along with Piquet) told the press after qualifying that he believed the Lotus 100T to be better aerodynamically than the McLaren MP4/4 and that Senna and Prost would lose their advantage in the race. By lap 55 both McLaren’s had lapped 3rd placed Piquet and their fastest race laps were faster than Piquet qualified…..Far from losing their advantage, McLaren had annihilated everyone, Lotus-Honda and the reigning World Champion included.

    Then, unbelievably, at the very next race in Monaco (and you can see this on the 1988 F1 Season Review video) he said that during the off-season Lotus had focused their speed on the end of 1987 dominant Ferrari’s, but like everyone had been caught out by the speed of the McLaren-Honda’s. He then went on to say that “If McLaren can built a fast car then we must be able to as well”. Wrong again Mr Warr. Jackie Stewart tested the 100T at Snetterton during the year and hated everything about it other than the Honda turbo.

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