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Mansell Baffled by Ferrari's Fall

Nigel Mansell is baffled by Ferrari's sudden slide from dominant champions to Formula One also-rans

"I'm completely at a loss for words about what has happened to them this year," the former World Champion, dubbed 'Il Leone' (The Lion) when he drove for the Maranello team in 1989 and 1990, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"I don't know if they've been told to disappear for a year. It's all been too quick."

Ferrari won 15 of last year's 18 races and have been constructors' champions for the past six seasons while Michael Schumacher has won the drivers' title an unprecedented five times in a row.

Yet they arrive at their home Grand Prix at Monza this weekend with just one hollow win in the six-car US Grand Prix in June and their title hopes about to be extinguished altogether.

If Schumacher fails to score more points than Renault's Fernando Alonso on Sunday, his record-breaking five-year reign will be over. He is 40 points behind with five races left.

Mansell meanwhile is looking forward to a comeback of his own, ready to revive old Formula One battles with his former Ferrari teammate and rival Alain Prost in a new Grand Prix Masters series.

The idea is for an international cast of champions and other former racers, who must be over 45 years old, to compete in equal equipment four or five times a year.

"The rivalry is still there, definitely," the 52-year-old Mansell said.

"Alain will do everything in his power to win, he doesn't like getting beaten by anyone and least of all me."

Unprecedented Access

Despite the obvious link with Formula One, with former champions Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil and Alan Jones of Australia also signed up, Mansell said the series was "nothing to do with Formula One, really".

"Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport. This is something we are putting together to entertain the fans," added the Briton.

"There won't be the high pressure or the high commercial interests but it will have a very high profile ... it is going to be a spectacle."

The new series promises, in Mansell's words, "fun, entertainment and unprecedented access for race fans" - something he believes is lacking in Formula One.

"The one lap qualifying system demeans Formula One for me," he said. "Formula One is better than one lap qualifying and it sometimes spoils a race. I think that's a great shame, fans spending all day on Saturday to see just one lap."

The Briton said that Grand Prix Masters, with 600bhp cars and a weekend format similar to the old days, would offer a real race although the drivers had nothing to prove and would be clearly aware of their limits.

"All of us are a lot wiser. We're not going to do anything outrageously silly," he said.

With Fittipaldi now in his 60s and other drivers hardly slimline - Mansell's Grand Prix career ended in 1995 when he failed to fit comfortably into his McLaren - fitness will be an issue.

"We're going to have to be a hell of a lot fitter than we are now to do a proper job," said Mansell.

"I'm going to exercise a lot more, although when you get to a certain age you can injure yourself in training as well."

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