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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Favourite Moments in F1

To start I admit this is not an original idea. I actually came across a blog entry on the Formula 1 blog of the same theme. Nevertheless, I had to have a go and write about my very own favourite moments. So, in no particular order:

1993 European Grand Prix - Donnington Park

A rain soaked Donnington was the scene of perhaps Ayrton Senna's greatest victory in his career. Up against Prost and Damon Hill in their vastly superior Williams and Michael Schumacher in the Benetton, Ayrton in the McLaren-Ford simply annihilated the opposition. People use the term Regenmeister (Rain Master) to denote the best driver in the rain. Well, in this race Ayrton proved he was THE regenmeister. On his first lap, he passed, first Micheal Schumacher, who at the start had slammed the door on Ayrton. Then going into Redgate, he passed Heinz Harald Frentzen in the Sauber-Ilmor. In the very next corner he dismissed Damon Hill and finally he overtook Prost for the lead. And stayed there for the entire race. At one point, he lapped the entire field. Never before and never since has any driver provided such a convincing display of superior car control, balance and sheer instinct in judging the conditions to perfection.

1986 Spanish Grand Prix - Jerez

The Williams Honda of 1986 was a superb machine and by anyone's estimation, capable of sewing up both the driver's and constructors championship. Nevertheless, Ayrton Senna qualified on pole more than anyone else and did so at Jerez. In the race, the Williams and McLarens proved superior and was soon ahead of Ayrton. Nevertheless, with the aid of some consistent driving and Nigel Mansell's mistimed tyre stop, he managed to get back into the lead of the race. Nigel Mansell pitted for tyres and came back out storming eating up to 5 seconds a lap off the leading duo of Senna and Prost in the McLaren. He dismissed Prost and was soon on the tail of Senna in the Lotus Renault, whose tyres were at the very end of its life. It was a display of Nigel Mansell's famous charges. Ultimately it was unsuccessful. Senna and Mansell crossed the line side by side but Ayrton was ahead by a nose cone. The gap between them was 0.014 seconds at the end. It remains to this day, the closest ever race.

1987 British Grand Prix - Silverstone

Nigel Mansell is famous for his hard charging and battling attitude. Once he has his car set up perfectly, he was one of those drivers like Michael Schumacher who could consistently put lap after perfect lap, breaking records along the way. Mansell in 1987 drove a Williams Honda, partnered by Nelson Piquet. After half distance, Mansell dropped into the pits for tyres whilst Piquet elected to do the entire race without stopping. Mansell, half a minute behind put in such a charge as to leave the fans breathless. Lap after lap, he kept going faster and faster, passing and lapping slower cars with such bravery and skill. Who could forget him lapping a Tyrell going into Chapel curve (in those days a flat out left hander) without the slightest pause? In the end, he catches up to Piquet and after selling him a dummy to the left, outbreaks him going into Stowe corner. In those days of course Stowe was a fifth gear, flat bend rather than the awful mess it is today. After which, Piquet simply didn't have a look in.

1996 Portugese Grand Prix - Estoril

To be honest I can't remember a lot about this race except for one particular moment. A certain Jacques Villeneuve for Williams, having his first ever season in Formula 1, putting a move on double world champion Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari on the outside of the final bend at Estoril. A move he said was inspired by his time in Indycars. And what a move it was surprising the hapless Michael. Granted of course, Villeneuve was in a vastly superior car, very much suited to Estoril's high speed nature but take nothing from him, Michael and everyone else wasn't expecting that at all.

1998 European Grand Prix - Nurburgring

An incredibly exciting race I remember. Mika Hakkinen qualified third behind the Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen at this point had lost the lead in the championship and it looked like it was going to be Michael and Ferrari's year after a scintillating start to the season by McLaren. It was not to be so. Hakkinen trailed Schumacher closely throughout the race displaying incredible consistency and pace. It was really one of his better drives in his career. Schumacher dived in for his stop, whilst Hakkinen elected to keep on driving, during which he took a leaf out of Schumacher's book and put in a series of superb fast laps. After diving into the pits for a fresh set of tyres and fuel, he came out of the pits just in time to retain the lead from Michael Schumacher. I remember hollering for joy at that moment, pointing to Michael and screaming: "Not so easy eh, motherf**#er" Hakkinen went on to win the race.

1988 Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco rarely produces a good race. However qualifying is another matter. And in qualifying, Ayrton Senna is the master. At the time of writing, Michael Schumacher has yet to beat his 65 pole positions. Monaco 88 underlined Ayrton's ability to string out the perfect fast lap. During the good old days when drivers could go out anytime they wished and do as many laps as they wanted, Senna invented the technique of going out at the very last minute of qualifying, timing his exit to perfection and do a stunning banzai lap. So it proved in Monaco. Prost had done a magnificent time that was a second and half quicker than the next fastest, Gerhard Berger in the Ferrari. Prost was more than satisfied and thinking that he had done enough, got out of the car to call it a day. Then Senna went into action. He produced a lap that was a second faster than Prost's. He describes that lap as an almost out of body experience. In an interview, Senna said that it was almost like he was watching from the outside, his hands and feet doing all the work whilst he merely looked on. It was a lap of pure instinct done without any thought. That experience changed him forever after that. To me it was a mark of genius. This one lap convinced Alain Prost to admit after Senna's death that indeed Senna was better than him.

1986 Australian Grand Prix - Adelaide

Surely one of the classics. The final race of the season that decided the driver's world championship. Mansell, in the Williams-Honda needed to finish in third to take the championship. Prost and Piquet were still in striking distance to take the crown but had to win the race and hope that Mansell finished outside the podium. The perfect interloper was played by Keke Rosberg, Prost's teammate at McLaren. It was to be Rosberg's last race of his career and he was going to go out with a bang. He stormed into the lead and looked uncatchable. Mansell, Piquet and Prost trailing. The McLarens were fast in the race and Prost soon made his way up the field. A puncture forced him into the pits and it looked like his chances were gone. Nevertheless, Professor Prost kept going, fast and consistent. Piquet meanwhile could do nothing about Mansell. It looked like the championship was going the Briton's way. Suddenly, Rosberg's tyres blew up, putting Mansell in the lead. Goodyear tyres were fragile in this race, and Mansell was forced into a spectacular retirement on the main straight when his Goodyears blew up as well. Incredibly car control saw him make it to the exit road at the Adelaide hairpin. Williams called in Piquet for a precautionary tyre stop and Prost soon found himself in the lead again. Piquet on fresh rubber, stormed out of the pits and tried everything he knew to catch the Frenchman. It was to no avail. Prost won the race with Piquet mere seconds behind. It was enough to secure Prost's second world title in a row in a superbly unpredictable season no one expected him to win.

2000 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka

The race was nothing really special for me but qualifying was a blast. Hakkinen and Schumacher both neede to win here to take the driver's title. Qualifying was crucial. These were the days of 12 lap qualifying sessions. The battle for pole was a private affair between the two. The gap between them infinitesimal. One going out. The other striving to catch. Qualifying should never have changed to the dismal affair that it is today. Back in the day, everyone watched qualifying with intense and nervous anticipation. It was enough to make one giddy. Suzuka 2000 was perhaps one of the best qualifying sessions I'd ever seen. In the end though the battle was one by Schumacher. He went on to win the race and the world title and it marked the beginning of his steamroller run of world titles.

2000 Belgian Grand Prix - Spa Francorchamp

Another classic duel between Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher in ever changing conditions. Mika had made an error early on in the race and lost time to Schuey. Schuey perhaps made an error by diving into the pits for his last stop a little too early. Mika pitted later and his tyres fresher went about hunting Michael for the lead. Who could forget his pass on Michael though. Both were coming up to lap a tail ender? The backmarker (I can't remember who it was) moved to the right to let Michael through on the main straight running up to Le Combe. Mika decided to take the opportunity to pass both going down the inside of the backmarker. Michael, blindsided, didn't spot Mika coming through and hence couldn't defend his lead. Under braking for Le Combe, Mika had the inside line and Michael could only watch haplessly as the Flying Finn took the lead and the eventually the race.

Hey Hermann Tilke, you moron. Take note. Spa always produces a great race. Learn the lesson will you?

Best Season - 1986

Four drivers with a shot at the championship. Prost, Manseell, Piquet and Senna. Can you recall a better season than this? Unpredictable all the way to the classic season finale. The season also saw the emergence of Benetton as a significant Grand Prix force. Gerhard Berger was to take his and Benetton's first ever Grand Prix win at Mexico, powered by the inline 4 turbocharged BMW engine. He had threatened to do so on many occassions including at the Oestrreichring and Monza, with only the reliability of the Benetton stopping him.

Best Season Runner Up - 1985

This was Prost's season after missing the championship in the last 3 years at the final sprint. Michele Alboreto made a spirited challenge for Prost but in those days, Ferrari was a spent, corrupt shell of a team and couldn't he arsed to take on the might of McLaren. This was also the season when Ayrton Senna went from a talented youngster to a major force in Formula 1, winning his first Grand Prix in absolutely atrocious conditions in Estoril in the season's second race beating all the seasoned hands. Significantly in the season was the number of Grand Prix winners in this season. Prost - 5 wins, Alboreto - 2 wins, Senna - 2 wins, Rosberg - 2 wins, Mansell - 2 wins, Piquet - 1 win, Lauda - 1 win, Elio de Angelis - 1 win. 8 different winners from McLaren-TAG/Porsche, Williams-Honda, Lotus-Renault, Brabham-BMW and Ferrari. There hasn't been another one like this since.

In conclusion

These are just some of the races that I remember. I'll certainly be looking back to see if there are other moments that I've missed. All in all, there have been some great classics over the years but I haven't really seen any in recent times. Here's hoping season 2005 turns out to be good one.

1 comment:

Jay Steele said...

Hey! Thanks for linking to our F1 blog ( - we'll do the same in kind. I'm enjoying reading yours, nice to see other fans out there giving their perspectives!