Ten of the best… British Grands Prix

Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Aintree, 1955The British Grand Prix is one of only two races to have held a round of the world championship every year since the series started.

So it must have held a few decent races in 57 years? Damn right. Here’s ten of the best:

Silverstone 1950

Perhaps not the best Grand Prix, but a great occasion – the first ever World Championship Grand Prix.

Giuseppi Farina took pole position with a lap of 1’50.8 around a Silverstone circuit that then only had eight turns worthy of the name. He won the race too, setting fastest lap, and went on to become the sport’s first ever world champion.

Aintree 1955

Aintree is now a horse racing circuit, but 52 years ago it served up a classic British Grand Prix. The dominant Mercedes duo of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss left the field behind – but like Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton today this was no cruise to the flag – it was a first for the lead.

At the final corner Moss slipstreamed and overhauled Fangio, But he was never satisfied that on that day the Argentininian maestro hadn’t lifted his foot form the throttle and allowed Moss to win his home race…

Brands Hatch 1970

Jochen Rindt had classic champion’s luck in 1970. He ran third in the opening stages of the Brands Hatch race but leader Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari gave up after three tours, and Rindt passed Jack Brabham to lead.

Brabham hung on though and, with 12 laps remaining, re-passed Rindt. But the Australian in his own car ran out of fuel on the final lap. For the second time that year Rindt passed Brabham on the last lap to win, Brabham coasting across the line in second, Denny Hulme third.

Silverstone 1975

Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren-Ford, Silverstone, 1975By no means a vintage race but a curious story. Tom Pryce started from pole and led for two laps before crashing out on lap 20. But a heavy rainstorm forced the end of the race on lap 56 by which time only six drivers were still circulating including victor Emerson Fittipaldi.

Carlos Pace, Jody Scheckter, James Hunt and Mark Donohue completed the top five – and all four had crashed out of the race!

Brands Hatch 1976

Stranger things followed at Brands Hatch the next year. The two Ferraris tangled at the first corner and Hunt could do nothing to avoid them. The melee brought out the red flags and forced a restart – but the crowd kicked up a fuss when the organisers refused to let Hunt restart followed a technical transgression.

Amid the deafening boos the organisers relented and Hunt was allowed to start. He took the win but was later disqualified. Happily the following year he finally won his home Grand Prix – this time at Silverstone.

Silverstone 1979

It was a mixed year with a wide range of different teams winning races. The British Grand Prix saw a new team join the roster of victors – Williams. Alan Jones led early on, but after he retired team mate Clay Regazzoni took up the lead.

He duly gave Williams their first win – but it was to be his last. The team dropped him for 1980 and while driving for Ensign in the Long Beach round he crashed heavily and was partially paralysed.

Silverstone 1981

Renault romped away with the lead at 1981 – their 1.5 litre turbo engines suited perfectly to the flat, open spaces of Silverstone. When Gilles Villeneuve triggered a multiple car shunt behind them it looked like they had the win in the bag.

But John Watson in third place began inching up on the two leaders. First Alain Prost then finally Rene Arnoux succumbed to car failure and Watson scored an immensely popular home win.

Brands Hatch 1986

Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Brands Hatch, 1986The beginnings of Mansell-mania. Nigel seemed to be out of luck at the start of the race as his car rolled to a halt within metres of the line with a broken differential. But a massive crash that badly injured Jacques Laffite forced a restart.

Mansell hopped into team mate Nelson Piquet’s space car and promptly thrashed him with it, which the Brazilian did not take well to.

Silverstone 1987

Piquet was even less impressed by the outcome at Silverstone the following year. Mansell had fallen over 20 seconds behind after pitting for tyres. Fuel economy was critical that year but Mansell threw caution to the wind and shot after Piquet.

Lap by lap the Brazilian’s lead fell as Mansell repeatedly claimed new lap records. With three laps to go the two were together. Mansell didn’t hesitate – approaching Stowe corner he sold Piquet a perfect dummy move, switching to the inside at the last second and seizing the lead.

Mansell’s fuel gauge was reading zero as the final lap began – but he held on to the end. As the car coasted to a halt on the way back to the pits the crowd poured onto the circuit and swallowed him up.

Silverstone 2003

Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button, Silverstone, BAR-Honda, 2003It could have all gone horribly wrong – but it ended up being one of the best British Grands Prix ever. A lunatic ran onto the circuit and race control immediately sent out the safety car to quell the race. But it sent drivers rushing into the pits and completely changed the running order – suddenly two Toyotas were leading the race.

When the safety car peeled in the fans were treated to one of the most spectacular races ever. Drivers from the front to the back of the field were were scrapping position at every corner.

But rising above them all was Rubens Barrichello on one of his rare 110% days. Not a single other driver – even Michael Schumacher – dispatched his rivals with the cool efficiency of Barrichello. It took him through Abbey, Bridge and Priory to prise the lead out of Kimi Raikkonen’s hands – but he persevered – and deservingly won a thrilling race.

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