The response to my invitation for guest writers was fantastic and I’m very happy to share the first of these new articles today. Journeyer, a long-time contributor to the comments and Live Blogs on F1Fanatic, covers the history of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Formula 1 has been around for 58 years now. With it goes a very rich and colourful history. I’ve always been a keen student of Formula 1 history, so I tend to go out of my way to know more about races that took place in the past, especially those before I started watching the sport in 1996.
So when Keith floated the chance for us to write guest articles, I took the chance. This is the first (and hopefully not last) of a series that will cover the rest of this season. This article will look at the most dramatic moments in previous Spanish Grands Prix.
1951: The second ever F1 season was a tight one. It went down to the final round at Pedralbes with a straight duel between Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari for the title. But Ascari’s tyres went off too quickly, and the Italian was forced to take multiple pit stops to get them changed. Fangio was able to take care of his tyres better. That allowed him to win the race, and with it, his 1st of 5 drivers titles.
1975: This race, held at Montjuich Park, was one of the most controversial race weekends in F1 history. It started with a strike from the GPDA who were demanding for higher safety standards. They were threatening to boycott the Grand Prix, but after legal threats from the organizers, they decided to go ahead. However, on lap 26 of the race, race leader Rolf Stommelen (driving for Graham Hill’s Embassy team) suffered a rear wing breakage on his car. Stommelen lost control of the car, seeing it fly over the barrier. Stommelen himself suffered multiple injuries, while four spectators were killed. They would never race at Montjuich Park again. As for the race, it was called off at half-distance, with Jochen Mass the winner in a McLaren. Lella Lombardi took sixth, which makes her the only woman to ever score points in an F1 race.
1980: This was one of the key battles of the FISA-FOCA war. Alan Jones and Williams won this race at Jarama, but it was later removed from the championship records. FISA (the FIA’s predecessor) declared the race illegal. Because of that, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Renault decided to skip the race.
1981: Gilles Villeneuve scored one of his most memorable wins this year in the Ferrari, holding off 4 very quick cars behind him. The top 5 were only separated by 1.24 seconds.
1986: After a four-year hiatus, the Spanish Grand Prix returned to the calendar, this time at Jerez. Ayrton Senna beat out the recovering Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 seconds. Had the start line not been moved back a hundred yards for the race, Mansell would have won. This would be remembered as the closest-ever F1 finish until 2002.
1991: Not only was this the first race at the Circuit de Catalunya, this was also the first race of Max Mosley as the new FIA president. Many will remember Mansell’s overtaking pass on Senna, with the two cars just inches apart, with sparks flying all over! Mansell would go on to win the race.
1994: This was the début race of David Coulthard (pictured above with Frank Williams). But this will go down as the race Michael Schumacher ran with only 5th gear. In spite of that, he managed to finish second to Damon Hill. Those six points would be handy at the end of the season…
1996: Schumacher took his first Ferrari win here, in the pouring rain. Jacques Villeneuve took third behind Jean Alesi, while Damon spun out on lap 12. In the words of Martin Brundle, “Michael didn’t have the best car by a mile, but he won it by a mile.”
2001: Mika Hakkinen was on course to take his 4th consecutive Spanish GP win. He was leading Schumacher by almost a minute entering the final lap, but then his hydraulics gave up. This race would also see the first podiums of Juan Pablo Montoya and the BAR team (thanks to Jacques Villeneuve).
2006: Fernando Alonso won that year in the Renault, making him the first ever Spaniard to win his home race.
2007: Alonso was not so lucky this year. He tried to pass Felipe Massa’s Ferrari at the start, but he ran out of room and went off the track. Massa would go on to win the race, while Alonso was lucky to finish third behind team mate Lewis Hamilton after Kimi Raikkonen retired.
The Spanish Grand Prix (especially the races held in Barcelona) may be notoriously boring, but who would have thought it had so many dramatic moments in its history?
This article was written by Journeyer. If you’re interested in writing for F1Fanatic have a look at the guest posts section of the website.
Have you been to the Spanish Grand Prix? Read about other people’s experiences and share your own stories about visiting the Circuit de Catalunya.