2009 season opener?

May 6, 2009

And so, then, the Spanish Grand Prix.  This is the one we’ve been waiting for, when the pre-season favourites will suddenly re-emerge and put the upstarts in their place.  Sadly, for them at least, this is not a theory I subscribe to.  I expect that McLaren, Renault and Ferrari will make some significant progress as the year goes on, but I do not see that it will be at the expense of the teams who have started 2009 running at the front.  It should present an almighty treat for us, though, if in an already extraordinarily close year we were to gain four, six or even eight new cars and drivers with a realistic chance of winning any particular weekend.

The new look to the front of the pack this season has, I think, tricked a lot of people’s minds into thinking that there’s something not quite real about the current championship situation, that things will soon be redressed when we all wake up.  The fact of the matter is, however, that all the races so far have been normal events with points to be had.  For all of the new winners and surprised-looking mechanics and grim-faced Ferrari management, Jenson Button arrives in Barcelona with 31 points from a possible 35, twelve ahead of his teammate and 13 ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel – looking increasingly likely to be a serious championship protagonist this year.

Had Lewis Hamilton or Felipe Massa arrived at the Circuito de Catalunya with such a margin, people would already be writing this season off as a contest.  They’d be treading dangerous ground to do so, but there’d still be a reasonable chance they’d be proven completely correct.  I don’t see why the same can’t be applied to Button’s chances.  The reason why we expect Hamilton, Räikkönen, Massa or Alonso to be in Button’s position is because they drive for teams who have, traditionally, done the best job in producing a fast car.  This year, Brawn did the best job.  Quite whether they will be able to match their more experienced rivals’ pace of development is a big question mark, as is how they will balance this season’s races with their efforts to maintain their competitiveness in 2010.  Let there be no doubt, though.  However plain their car’s paintwork, however unlikely the story, Jenson Button is very much in the mix to win this.  The points don’t lie.

Spain will, though, be a race of much intrigue.  Countless new parts will be appearing all over every car in the pitlane – including on a Brawn car which looked a little breathless against Toyota and Red Bull in Bahrain, if only in qualifying.  Ferrari and Renault will be looking for big steps forward, whilst McLaren – finally free from the Melbourne fiasco and able to concentrate on going forward – will be looking to continue to steadily build, as they have impressively been doing at every race this season.

Even the smallest teams will be looking for any advantage, in a season where half a second either can either bring you a point or see you last of the runners.  Force India’s KERS is, I understand, nearing being ready for race weekends.  Williams’ innovative flywheel system cannot be too far behind, either.  All of this brings BMW’s struggles into stark contrast: the Munich outfit will be without the system this weekend.

However, for me the most important indicator of progress I’ll be watching for on Sunday afternoon is whether or not the new rules – designed with the specific purpose of improving the racing on-track – are really working.  Barcelona has, in recent years, provided some of the starkest, bleakest and most dismally processional races you could ever wish to see.  Forget finding out who’s going to be competitive for the rest of the year… I want to find out if one car will be able to make a competition of it by passing another one on the circuit.  Fingers, as ever, crossed.

Useless prediction:

Pole position: Button (Brawn Mercedes) (because Barcelona favours the most aerodynamically efficient cars always)

Race result: 1st: Button (Brawn Mercedes); 2nd Vettel (Red Bull Renault); 3rd: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes).

This time they are really spoiling us…

The BBC’s exceptional coverage of the 2009 Formula 1 season continues at apace with these magnificent pieces from their cavernous archives.  Readers in the United Kingdom can watch re-runs of their Grand Prix highlights package from the Spanish Grands Prix of 1981 and 1986 online. Watching even a processional dirge from those grainy turbo days is always a joy, so these two outstanding races have much more to offer.  They are especially noteworthy for two virtuoso, sleight-of-hand victories, under extreme pressure and in inferior equipment, by two of the sport’s greatest ever drivers. Commentary, of course, comes from Murray Walker and the delightfully thrummy James Hunt. Here’s hoping that the BBC – who have been presenting such online treats all season in the week before races – continue in the same vein throughout the 2009 season, particularly in the historically rich European season.


Ayrton Senna

May 1, 2009

It’s hard to believe that it has been fifteen years today since the death of Ayrton Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix.  Hard to believe because there is something seemingly timeless about Senna.  Hard to believe, too, because he represents a such a different time, a different challenge in a different age, that it is difficult to equate what we now know as Formula 1 with the activity he dominated for ten years.

Dominance comes in a variety of forms, of course.  Senna ran the gamut.  He was a man of unearthly talent: plainly, simply and demonstrably faster than all the rest.  To that, he added phenomenal determination and focus, the ability to transform this basic natural gift into results within the World Championship framework.  Most of all, though, his extraordinary personality projected such an air over the sport that it was inevitable, perhaps, that the day he was no longer there would be the day Formula 1 would fundamentally change.

It is rare that such genius – that word so over-applied in sport and in life – emerges.  In sporting terms, any given activity might be lucky enough to experience its emergence once per generation.  This has certainly been the case in motor racing.  However, in the 1980s, two men arrived at the same time.  That their battle would be titanic was never in doubt.  However, what actually transpired between Senna and Alain Prost was so fierce – to the point, sometimes, where it seemed like neither man had any fear for their own life – made it transcend the rather cosseted world of Formula 1 motor racing, or motor sport in general.  A genuine clash of the titans, you could honestly believe – watching them during their two years as McLaren teammates in 1988 and 1989 – that not only were there no other cars on the track, but that they were the only two human beings left in existence.

Ayrton Senna is the reason why I am so interested in Formula 1.  However, it took his death for me to follow it to an obsessive degree.  The first race I actively sought out to sit down and watch was the first race of the post-Senna era, the 1994 Monaco Grand Prix.  Before this, I was a casual observer, watching bits here and bits there, aware of the key protagonists and something of their histories.  I always knew exactly what Ayrton Senna was doing, though.  He was the star man of the piece, even in a world inhabited by terrifying 1000bhp turbocharged engines, exotic locations and drivers like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell or Nelson Piquet.  There are some people who are just too big to be contained by a wood-veneered television.

I am particularly grateful to the gods of fate that, at age 9, I happened upon the re-run of the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.  That race, the culmination of the Senna-Prost rivalry in their days together at McLaren, has been bored into my psyche.  Nothing I’ve seen since my days of study, passion or hunger for Formula 1 has been anything quite like it.  The atmosphere could peel paint from the walls.

Ayrton Senna was 20 years older than me.  When he died, he was 34, a completely distant concept to any 14 year old.  Now I am just 5 years shy of that mark, I still feel unable to understand him, his life or his motivations with any greater clarity.  Such is his enigma, I think he will always remain miles ahead – as he so often was – ageless and untouchable.  I have no doubt that soon another generation will tick over and there will be another Formula 1 star of such fingertip genius that his rivals are left floundering in his wake.  Maybe it will prove to be someone already in place, like Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso.  They will always be younger than me, though, which makes a big psychological difference to how special they will be to me, to my life.  The difference with Ayrton Senna is that he was that special to everyone – from children as I was, to hardened, cynical motor racing journalists, years his senior and who should have known better.  For all the numbers – ages, years, career statistics – Senna will remain a man apart, different to the rest.  His achievements on the track have since been dwarfed by the exceptional career of Michael Schumacher.  They will, in time, be nudged further down the all-time ladder.  Nevertheless, his name will continue to be the first one anyone looks for in the list; whose achievement one tries to equal.

Ayrton Senna da Silva is the single greatest sportsman I have ever seen.   I feel increasingly privileged to have shared a planet, albeit for such a short time, with such an outstanding human being.  I loved him.

Roland Ratzenberger 1960-1994

It would have been convenient for me to finish this piece there, all punchy and whatnot.  However, to do so would be unfair to the memory of the forgotten man from that shocking weekend at Imola 15 years ago.  Roland Ratzenberger – whose 15-year anniversary was yesterday – was the first man to die at the wheel of a Grand Prix car in eight years, the first at a race meeting in 12.  He was, as are the majority of Grand Prix drivers, an exceptionally talented man.  His popularity with his peers was starting to infect the Grand Prix paddock on a wider scale when he died.  He was old for a Grand Prix newcomer by modern standards – 33 – and the greatest shame for us all is that the most notable lasting effect from his time in the sport was to become a grim historical footnote, rather than allow us the chance to get to know him better as a driver, as a sportsman, as a man.

Ratzenberger’s accident – a head on impact with a retaining wall at 195 mph – is the cruellest and most vicious I have witnessed in Formula 1 during my lifetime.  Partially because it was caused by a mechanical problem and was not his own fault, but mainly because at the time the world had grown blasé about the phenomenal strength and safety of the cars.

Ratzenberger’s greatest legacy to the sport he loved is that, aside from Ayrton Senna a day later, Formula 1 has now entered its longest ever spell without a mortal accident.  But more than the awareness he so tragically raised, the sight of him and of Senna sat lifeless in ruined cars on global television has made the powers that be – the FIA, the drivers and the circuits – never relent or rest on their laurels in trying to improve the chances for the drivers or spectators when, as they always will, things come unstuck.

It could be argued that Roland Ratzenberger will prove to be one of the most important racing drivers in the history of Formula One.  But I can’t help but wish he’d merely have slipped, alive and well, into gentle anonymity instead.

Slow starters

April 22, 2009

There has been much discussion in the press, on the broadcast media and online about the dismal start to the Grand Prix season being endured by Ferrari.  This reaction is understandable given their almost monotonous level of success over the past decade, where they have won all but two Constructors’ Championship titles.  However, Ferrari are no real strangers to adversity, as you might expect from any team of a 59-year pedigree.  Previous fallow periods include the early 1990s – when the team went for nearly 4 full seasons without a race win – the early 1980s and the early 1970s, which culminated in a season of such lacklustreness in 1973 that the team often ran just one car for Jacky Ickx and didn’t even bother entering four of the the last six events.

The common uniting thread in all this, however, is that competitiveness has always returned.  In 1974, under new management with a new car and new drivers, Ferrari began a 6-year spell which yielded 3 drivers’ and 4 constructors’ championship titles.  The early 1980s saw a pair of dismal years immediately followed by two title-winning efforts for the team.  And the 1990s slump led to the construction of the Todt-Brawn-Byrne-Martinelli-Schumacher superteam who swept all before it in unprecedented style.

Ferrari’s problems this year seem to be related to grip, which a new aerodynamic package will be looking to address.  More of a concern must be their lack of reliability.  Previously bulletproof, Ferrari will be mindful of the old motor racing truism that it is easier to make a reliable car fast than it is to make a fast car reliable.  I think it’s fair inconceivable that the team will be in the doldrums for the whole of the 2009 season.  Felipe Massa particularly has demonstrated good speed in the races, only to be let down by his machinery, and their technical team is second to none.  The fact, however, remains that the team go into this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix knowing that a failure to score any points for the fourth successive race at the start of a season will be a new low tidemark.

In the spirit of Toto Roche’s Flag, I have decided to take a look through the history books (literally, in this case), to look at Ferrari’s other bad starts to a Grand Prix season.

1993 After 3 events: 1 point (@ 0.167 points-per-start)

Ferrari were really in a hole in the early 1990s.  Their drivers – Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger – managed just a finish apiece in the first 3 races of 1993, with Berger taking the only point at the season opener at Kyalami.  In the July of this year, Jean Todt was brought in as team manager after a success in a similar role at Peugeot motorsport. 

What happened next: Fortunes picked up slightly as the season wore on, but the team only managed a final total of 28 points, good enough for 4th place.  The high point were three podium finishes – two for Alesi and one for Berger – with a best of 2nd in Italy.

1992 After 3 events: 5 points (0.833)

At the end of a disappointing 1991 season, where the team failed to win a race a season after fighting for the drivers’ championship, lead driver Alain Prost was made the scapegoat and sacked for unflattering comments about his car’s handling in the press.  Lacking any real experience or direction, Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli struggled on as best they could with an unreliable and slow car.  Their haul of points all came at the third round in Brazil as the cars finished 4th and 5th, after retirements for both drivers in the first two races. 

What happened next: The team again finished 4th, with just 21 points to their name.  Alesi managed two podium finishes again – including one in the fourth race.  Capelli, however, struggled badly and was dropped for the last two races, replaced by the none-more-successful Nicola Larini.

1986 After 3 rounds: 3 points (0.500)

Again, Ferrari made a meal of things a year after a season where their lead driver challenged for the world crown.  In this instance, their points came from Stefan Johansson’s 4th place at the season’s 3rd round in Imola.  The problems were again twofold, with a slow and unreliable car. 

What happened next: Ferrari finished 4th with 33 points, Stefan Johansson’s four 3rd places and Michele Alboreto’s second in Austria the highlights.  Behind the scenes, major changes were afoot.  For 1987, Ferrari signed McLaren designer John Barnard, whose Guildford Technical Office built a car which won the final two races of the 1987 season in the hands of Gerhard Berger.

1981 After 3 rounds: 0 points

1980 After 3 rounds: 0 points

Ferrari began the 1980s in a terrible state.  Their 1980 season was a disaster, with defending World Champion Jody Scheckter scoring only 2 points all year and failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix.  In his teammate Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari had the generation’s outstanding driver, but even he was unable to wring anything out of the dire 312T5, a best of two fifths and two sixths.  He faired a little better in 1981, now alongside Didier Pironi in place of the retired Scheckter.  The season started even more woefully, though.  In 1980, the team at least managed a 16th place finish in the first 3 rounds.  In 1981 the first 6 starts yielded not a single finish. 

What happened next: Thanks in the most part to the brilliance of Villeneuve, Ferrari won two races in 1981, both of them masterpieces of the art.  Villeneuve won the Monaco Grand Prix in the worst handling car in the field when his exceptional teammate Pironi struggled to even qualify the car.  He followed this up with his famous Spanish Grand Prix win at Jarama, where he successfully used his car’s one major façet – it’s straighline speed – to defend against attack from a queue of four faster cars.  Ferrari went on to win the Constructors’ Cup in 1982 and 1983, but it was not without a cost.  Villeneuve died in a qualifying crash early in the 1982 season, whilst Pironi’s season was ended prematurely – with the Frenchman leading the championship – after a terrifying leg-breaking shunt in practice for the German Grand Prix.  1980’s tally was 8 points and 10th place, with an improvement to 34 and 5th in 1981.

1970 After 3 rounds: 0 points

Ferrari were all out of sorts at the beginning of the 1970s, as the new Cosworth DFV engine was adopted by the majority of their rivals, leaving Ferrari’s V12 hopelessly heavy and antiquated.  Behind also in chassis development, the team cut their losses and only entered a single car for Jacky Ickx in the early rounds, but it failed to finish a single one. 

What happened next: Ferrari’s fortunes picked up hugely from mid-season, the team eventually finishing second with 52 points.  Drivers Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni racked up 4 wins, 5 pole positions and 8 fastest laps.  Their form was not sustained, however, as the introduction of Tyrrell’s first self-made car took all the honours for 1971.  By 1973 the team were in turmoil, leading to wholesale management changes and the appointment of Niki Lauda as lead driver.

1969 After 3 rounds: 0 points

Similarly to their 1970 season, Ferrari’s main problem in 1969 was the new DFV engine.  Their sole entrant, Chris Amon, failed to finish in any of the first 3 races.  What happened next: Ferrari scored just 7 points in1969, finishing equal bottom of the standings.  The highlight of their year was Amon’s 3rd place in the Dutch Grand Prix.

1964 After 3 rounds: 6 points

A slow start to the season, their sole points score coming from John Surtees’ 2nd place in round two. 

What happened next: After a slow first 4 rounds, Ferrari burst into life in the final 6 races of the season.  Finishing with at least one car on the podium of each of them, John Surtees 5 such finishes were enough to give him the drivers’ crown after the final race decider in Mexico.  Teammate Lorenzo Bandini also won a Grand Prix, at Austria, to go alongside Surtees’ two victories.  With a further 3 third places from Bandini, Ferrari also won their first Constructors’ Cup since 1961.

Since Red Bull Racing’s bold strut into the winners’ circle last Sunday morning, I have seen literally nobody ask the question: how many teams have now won a World Championship Grand Prix race?  Luckily, I’m always on hand to answer any such non-questions.  The answer is 30.

This is not completely straightforward, however.  The thirty ‘teams’ in question are in fact manufacturers or constructors.  It must be remembered of course that numbers 6 and 8 in the list – Cooper and Lotus – had their first Grand Prix successes courtesy of Rob Walker Racing’s privateer team, whilst 14 (Matra) scored all of their success thanks to Ken Tyrrell’s team’s stewardship at the track.  Tyrrell also won the first victory for March (number 15) in the year before he went solo and became number 16.  More recently, of course, it’s arguable that Toro Rosso’s maiden victory in Italy last autumn was in fact a success for Red Bull Racing, whose chassis the Italian team use.

Also complicating matters are issues such as family trees – the Red Bull Team bought the assets of Jaguar, who did the same to Stewart Grand Prix, race winners in their own right.  Brawn GP, too, have a complex past, with former race winning efforts from Honda and Tyrrell in their direct lineage.  Meanwhile, Lancia do not make the list, although their superb D50 car won several races after the outfit was forced to sell their stock to Ferrari, Juan Manuel Fangio winning the 1956 championship in a car badged as a Lancia-Ferrari.

With all this in mind, though, I have tried to present a balanced and considered list of the squads and cars that have won a Grand Prix in their own right.  Here it is, along with the race in which they first took the flag and the driver at the wheel.

1. Alfa Romeo (1950 British Grand Prix, Guiseppe Farina)
2. Ferrari (1951 British Grand Prix, José Frolian Gonzalez)
3. Maserati (1953 Italian Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio)
4. Mercedes-Benz (1954 French Grand Prix, Juan Manuel Fangio)
5. Vanwall (1957 British Grand Prix, Tony Brooks/Stirling Moss)
6. Cooper (1958 Argentinian Grand Prix, Stirling Moss)
7. BRM (1959 Dutch Grand Prix, Jo Bonnier)
8. Lotus (1960 Monaco Grand Prix, Stirling Moss)
9. Porsche (1962 French Grand Prix, Dan Gurney)
10. Brabham (1964 French Grand Prix, Dan Gurney)
11. Honda (1965 Mexican Grand Prix, Richie Ginther)
12. Eagle (1967 Belgian Grand Prix, Dan Gurney)
13. McLaren (1968 Belgian Grand Prix, Bruce McLaren)
14. Matra (1968 Dutch Grand Prix, Jackie Stewart)
15. March (1970 Spanish Grand Prix, Jackie Stewart)
16. Tyrrell (1971 Spanish Grand Prix, Jackie Stewart)
17. Hesketh (1975 Dutch Grand Prix, James Hunt)
18. Penske (1976 Austrian Grand Prix, John Watson)
19. Wolf (1977 Argentinian Grand Prix, Jody Scheckter)
20. Ligier (1977 Swedish Grand Prix, Jacques Laffite)
21. Shadow (1977 Austrian Grand Prix, Alan Jones)
22. Renault (1979 French Grand Prix, Jean-Pierre Jabouille)
23. Williams (1979 British Grand Prix, Clay Regazzoni)
24. Benetton (1986 Mexican Grand Prix, Gerhard Berger)
25. Jordan (1998 Belgian Grand Prix, Damon Hill)
26. Stewart (1999 European Grand Prix, Johnny Herbert)
27. BMW Sauber (2008 Canadian Grand Prix, Robert Kubica)
28. Scuderia Toro Rosso (2008 Italian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel)
29. Brawn (2009 Australian Grand Prix, Jenson Button)
30. Red Bull Racing (2009 Chinese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel)

There’ll be a more considered look at the Chinese Grand Prix here later on, but Sebastian Vettel’s excellent win yesterday means he still has a 100% record of converting pole position into race victory.  On the whole, anybody who has taken pole for a World Championship Grand Prix has usually gone on to win one, whether from the front of the grid or not.  In the 59-year history of the championship, there are just nine drivers who saw off all their rivals in qualifying but never managed to do the same in the race.

Chris Amon (NZ) 5 pole positions (1968 Spain, Belgium, Netherlands; 1971 Italy; 1972 France)

The brilliant Amon, clearly the best Formula 1 driver to never win a World Championship round, was afflicted by the most diabolical luck when there were championship points on offer.  Despite his frequent successes in non-Championship Formula 1 races and in a multitude of other formulae – including the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1966 – Amon had to be satisfied with a best of three second place finishes.  Fortunately, a sportsman and a gentleman to the last, he was.

Teo Fabi (I) 3 pole positions (1985 Germany; 1986 Austria, Italy)

It’s difficult to know quite what to make of Teo Fabi’s career in Formula 1, encompassing 71 Grands Prix in the mid-1980s.  Driving exclusively for some fairly competitive upper-midfield teams, he would only occasionally put his head above the parapet and make his presence felt.  His best finish – two third-places – is probably a fair reflection of events.  His three pole positions, meanwhile, came out of left field.  He planted a Toleman Hart at the front of the grid for the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring in 1985, a season dominated by Alain Prost’s McLaren and Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari.  In 1986, he used the rebranded Benetton’s enormously powerful turbocharged BMW engine to take pole at the season’s two fastest tracks, leading in the first race before his motor failed.  Mechanical problems also saw him have to start the latter from the pit lane.

Jean-Pierre Jarier (F) 3 pole positions (1975 Argentina, Brazil; 1978 Canada)

An enigma.  Occasionally fast beyond belief, Jarier was too often afflicted with less-than-competitive machinery and mechanical gremlins.  He created a sensation in 1975, qualifying on pole for the first two Grands Prix of the season in an unfancied Shadow Ford.  However, a mechanical fault saw him unable to take the start in the Argentine race, whilst in Brazil he led until the car again let him down.  Finally given a chance in top line equipment at the championship-winning Lotus team in 1978 following the death of Ronnie Peterson in Italy, Jarier repeated the trick, dominating the Canadian Grand Prix until his car failed.  His best finish was third place, achieved three times in a career of crazily fluctuating fortunes and a lot of smoke.

Stuart Lewis-Evans (GB) 2 pole postions (1957 Italy; 1958 Netherlands)

Lewis-Evans, a driver managed by Bernie Ecclestone, is now largely forgotten, superceded by a welter of successful British racing drivers.  This is a shame, as Lewis-Evans demonstrated in his 14 Grands Prix a great deal of skill and promise – enough, indeed, to suggest that his name could have easily joined that of Mike Hawthorn, Graham Hill or John Surtees in the pantheon of English World Champions of the era.  Driving for Vanwall in 1958, Lewis-Evans achieved two podium finishes in third place – helping his team to the inaugural Constructor’s Cup – which would represent his best results.  His engine siezed up in the season-closing Moroccan Grand Prix, causing him to crash heavily.  He died from the burns he sustained six days later.

Eugenio Castellotti (I) one pole position (1955 Belgium)

The archetype flamboyant young Italian racing driver, Castellotti’s bravado endeared him to a generation of impressionable motor racing fans.  He had the talent to back up his bluster, though, finishing second in his second World Championship Grand Prix and taking pole for his third.  A further second place finish followed in France the following season.  He was killed when he was thrown clear of the Ferrari sports car he was testing at Monza early in 1957, aged just 26.

Andrea de Cesaris (I) one pole position (1982 Long Beach)

A countercultural legend of Formula 1 motor racing, de Cesaris achieved the majority of his notoriety thanks to his relentless crashing.  However, it must also be remembered that he was occasionally very, very quick.  Only bad luck prevented him from potentially winning in Belgium in 1983 and 1991, whilst he planted his Alfa Romeo on the front of the grid in California’s premier motor sport even at the beginning of the 1982 season.  In the race, however, he got held up by Raul Boesel’s lapped car whilst dicing for the lead with Niki Lauda’s McLaren.  Deciding to shake his gearchanging fist at the recalcitrant Boesel, Lauda easily slipped by on the straight.  His best result – 2 second places in the 1983 season – was not enough to save him from the ignimony of establishing the record for most Grand Prix starts without a race win: 208.

Nick Heidfeld (D) one pole position (2005 Europe)

Arriving in Formula 1 in 2000, a multiple champion in lower formulae and with backing from McLaren and Mercedes, much was expected of Heidfeld.  A dismal first season at the uncompetitive Prost team, though, saw much of the heat dissipate.  Settling into drives with Sauber, Jordan and Williams, Heidfeld has proven himself solid, quick and dependable without ever really showing the spark which might entice a top-line team to take a punt on running him.  Now back at Sauber in their new guise as BMW, Heidfeld has found himself in the most competitive machinery of his career and really must deliver quickly, as Andrea de Cesaris’ rather undesirable record is looming ever closer.  Heidfeld is already the proud owner of his own little piece of statistical history: his eight second places are the most runner-up spots ever achieved by a non-winning driver.

Mike Parkes (GB) one pole position (1966 Italy)

A talented engineer as well as a gifted driver, Parkes spent the majority of his short (7 Grands Prix) career at Ferrari.  However, his gifts as a spannerman were more richly prized than his driving by Enzo Ferrari and, in a time of unspeakable risk and danger, he was frequently passed over in favour of other drivers.  Nevertheless, he suffered a terrifying crash in the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix, from which he was fortunate to escape with just two broken legs, which ended his top line motor sport career.  He died in a road accident ten years later.

Tom Pryce (GB) one pole position (1975 Britain)

Pryce is often rightly cited as the one that got away.  A driver of enormous talent, his best of two third place finishes is more a reflection of his meagre equipment – Pryce spent his entire career save for one race with the midfield Shadow team – than his skill.  Still, despite the shortcomings of his cars, he was still able to exhibit enough of his huge natural ability to suggest he had the makings of a future Grand Prix great.  Sadly, it was not to be, as Pryce was killed in a brutal, freak accident at the 1977 South African Grand Prix, hitting a fire marshall who carelessly ran across Kyalami’s undulating pit straight in order to help Pryce’s stranded teammate Renzo Zorzi.

More Malaysian preamble

April 1, 2009

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first Malaysian Grand Prix.  It increasingly looks like a marker post for the future of Formula 1, the first stage in the expansion of the sport into the East.  More importantly, though, it has usually provided some good, interesting racing, which is all that really matters.  As is my wont, I’ve decided to crunch some hard stats about the Malaysian Grand Prix.


Date: 21.3.2004.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m33.047.  Fastest race lap: Juan Pablo Montoya 1m34.223  Race winner: Michael Schumacher, from Juan Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button (BAR Honda).

Notes: The second round of a World Championship completely dominated by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.  The German won the first 5 races of the year and thirteen in total to win his 7th World Championship.  As you might expect from such a season, the race win here was very much a foregone conclusion, although there was some extra spice for British fans as Jenson Button scored his first ever podium finish in a Grand Prix.


Date: 20.3.2005.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Fernando Alonso (Renault) 3m07.672 (2 lap aggregate).  Fastest race lap: Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes) 1m35.483  Race winner: Fernando Alonso, from Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Nick Heidfeld (Williams BMW).

Notes: All change, with Michael Schumacher a distant 13th on the grid after practice problems in a largely uncompetitive Ferrari.  The 2005 rules, with no mid-race tyre stops allowed, also played havoc on the field as cars demolished their rear tyres in the heat, making for some exciting and unpredictable on-track dices.  One such battle saw a waning Giancarlo Fisichella passed by Nick Heidfeld for the final podium spot, only to tangle his Renault into a scrap heap with Heidfeld’s teammate Mark Webber at the next corner.  At the front, Alonso was serene.  Behind him, Toyota scored their first podium finish.


Date: 19.3.2006.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) 1m33.840.  Fastest race lap: Fernando Alonso (Renault) 1m33.803 Race winner: Giancarlo Fisichella, from Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button (Honda).

Notes: With Ferrari again slow to start the season, Renault again dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix, this time with Fisichella in control of the race, for once having the measure of Fernando Alonso, who qualified only 7th but came through quickly.  Jenson Button scored the reformed Honda team an early podium finish, but was never realistically on terms.


Date: 8.4.2007.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m35.043  Fastest race lap:Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1m36.701 Race winner: Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), from Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari).

Notes: An engrossing McLaren versus Ferrari showdown.  The red cars had the best of the practice, lining up 1st and 3rd.  However, on the run down to the first corner, the McLarens got amongst them.  As Alonso scampered off to his first win for McLaren – the team’s first, too, since Japan 2005 – Lewis Hamilton, in his second Grand Prix, served notice that he was going to cause the major players all kinds of trouble.  His determined and ultimately successful dice with the Ferrari pair, coupled to a fastest lap, made certain Formula 1 had a new star driver.


Date: 23.3.2008.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m35.748  Fastest race lap:Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) 1m35.366 Race winner: Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari), from Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) and Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren Mercedes).

Notes: The bad blood between McLaren and Ferrari was still flowing under the surface from the fractious 2007 season.  Last year, the McLaren duo of Hamilton and Kovalainen were penalised for blocking other cars during qualifying, losing five grid places each.  Making hay, the Ferrari team had a largely untroubled run to race victory, although a one-two finish was lost after Felipe Massa lost control and spun into retirement at the fast double right-hander round the back of the circuit.


As I said yesterday, it’s hard to see any real changes in the order of the cars from Melbourne.  However, the field are so closely matched that subtle areas where one car is better than another or one driver is a particular Sepang enthusiast could realistically pay dividends.  KERS will no doubt be important on race day, with the two long straights joined together by the tight final corner.  Expect, too, the extravagant front wings to be flying into the first corner on the first lap.  Seeing as it’s not rained properly since 2001 during the race, that’s long overdue.  It’s perhaps made more likely by the start time, moved back to the early evening to better suit European TV schedules, as it was last weekend in Australia.  It’s also a traditional time for a decent-sized tropical evening downpour.  I think we could be in for another exciting Grand Prix race.

Malaysian preamble

March 31, 2009

More of the same is to be expected from this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.  With only a week between the first and second races and the teams thousands of miles away from their European bases, it’s hard to see any of them making any fundamental progress up or down the grid.  Expect to see a strong performance from Brawn, then, but I have a feeling that it may prove to be Toyota, rather than Red Bull or BMW, who provide their sternest opposition for the laurels on race day.  Expect, too, to see a race which is at the very least as entertaining as last weekend’s, the Sepang track being custom-designed for modern F1 cars.  This could prove to be doubly so if the notoriously unpredictable and wild weather adds some rain into the mix.  Watch for Lewis Hamilton doing a rain dance in the pit lane.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the first Malaysian Grand Prix.  It increasingly looks like a marker post for the future of Formula 1, the first stage in the expansion of the sport into the East.  More importantly, though, it has usually provided some good, interesting racing, which is all that really matters.  As is my wont, I’ve decided to crunch some hard stats about the Malaysian Grand Prix.


Date: 17.10.1999.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m39.688.  Fastest race lap: Michael Schumacher 1m40.267.  Race winner: Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), from Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen (McLaren Mercedes)

Notes: This was Michael Schumacher’s return from the broken leg which sidelined him for much of the second half of the 1999 season.  He dominated the race meeting – the penultimate event of that year’s World Championship – holding up Mika Häkkinen’s McLaren and then allowing his teammate through to win, putting him in the driving seat in the title standings.  Ferrari were disqualified after the race for a technical infringement on their barge boards, temporarily handing Häkkinen the world crown until the decision was reversed on appeal.


Date: 22.10.2000.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m37.397.  Fastest race lap: Mika Häkkinen (McLaren Mercedes) 1m38.542.  Race winner: Michael Schumacher, from David Coulthard (McLaren Mercedes) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)

Notes: The final round of the 2000 World Championship, with the title decided already in Michael Schumacher’s favour.  A promising battle between him and Mika Häkkinen, his title rival, evapourated early after the Finn was penalised for jumping the start.  Schumacher cruised to victory at a track where he was always a class apart, although he was chased hard in the latter stages by David Coulthard.


Date: 18.3.2001.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny, becoming very wet due to a rainstorm, then drying.  Pole position: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m35.220.  Fastest race lap: Mika Häkkinen (McLaren Mercedes) 1m40.962.  Race winner: Michael Schumacher, from Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) and David Coulthard (McLaren Mercedes).

Notes: The first Malaysian Grand Prix in its traditional early-season date, this was the 2nd round of the 2001 championship.  The race was action packed.  An early race monsoon made conditions impossible, so impossible that 6 of the first 10 laps were behind the safety car and both Ferraris spun off the track.  The pace of the Ferrari F2001, though, was simply too much for the rest of the field to contain.


Date: 17.3.2002.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m35.266.  Fastest race lap: Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams BMW) 1m38.049  Race winner: Ralf Schumacher (Williams BMW), from Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher.

Notes: An aberration in a season of crushing domination by Ferrari, the second round of the 2002 World Championship at the time gave us the ultimately false hope that Williams might be able to stop Schumacher from breezng to a 5th title.  As it was, Ferrari still dominated the early stages of the race, through Rubens Barrichello, until his car let him down mid-way.  Michael Schumacher, delayed by a penalty for colliding with Montoya turn 1 on the opening lap, could do no better than 3rd behind the Williams pair.  However, he went on to win the next four Grands Prix, and had the title wrapped up by July.


Date: 23.3.2003.  Weather: Hot, dry and sunny.  Pole position: Fernando Alonso (Renault) 1m37.044.  Fastest race lap: Michael Schumacher 1m36.412.  Race winner: Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes), from Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) and Fernando Alonso.

Notes: After Schumacher, M.’s crushing domination of the 2002 season, a raft of measures were made to even the playing field.  And they worked, as you can see from this result.  Michael Schumacher, normally a class apart at Sepang, could do no better than 6th after another first corner tangle, this time with Renault’s Jarno Trulli.  Alonso – at the time the youngest ever F1 polesitter – became the youngest ever leader of a Grand Prix (both records since have been eclipsed by Sebastian Vettel) before Kimi Räikkönen assumed a comfortable lead.  A race of firsts, it was Fernando Alonso’s first ever pole position and first podium finish in a Grand Prix, whilst Kimi Räikkönen scored his first Grand Prix win.

Join us again later this week when I cover 2004-2008’s events, in florid prose.

Terrible defending

March 11, 2009

As I have no doubt mentioned here before, British Formula 1 World Champions are the most numerous in the 59-year history of the competition.  Nine English or Scottish drivers have taken the biggest prize in motor racing home with them in a little bindle slung over their shoulders, miles ahead of competitors from anywhere else (Brazil and Finland are the closest rival, with three drivers apiece).  However, despite this, not one of them has ever successfully managed to defend their crown.  Trying to break this hoodoo is Lewis Hamilton’s Mission For The Year Ahead.

Whilst it would be patently false to say that anyone can win ONE championship, scoring back-to-back world crowns is as sure a method as any to guarantee legendary status in any sport.  Alberto Ascari (1952-53, Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-57), Sir Jack Brabham (1959-60), Alain Prost (1985-86), Ayrton Senna (1990-91), Michael Schumacher (1994-95 and 2000-04), Mika Häkkinen (1998-99) and Fernando Alonso (2005-06) are the only eight men to have achieved the feat.  In the good old British spirit of wallowing in fatalistic inevitibility, then, I thought I’d recap the catalogue of near-misses, catastrophies and downright failures which have prevented any of the British world title holders from joining their ranks.

1959 – Mike Hawthorn (did not defend)

Hawthorn’s 1958 championship came at a huge personal cost following the loss of his close friend and Ferrari teammate Peter Collins at the 1958 German Grand Prix.  Immediately after the season-ending Moroccan Grand Prix, in which a second place finish guaranteed him the crown by 1 point over Vanwall’s Stirling Moss, Hawthorn announced his retirement from Grand Prix motor racing.  He was killed just 3 months later after crashing his Jaguar on the A3 Guildford bypass.

1963 – Graham Hill (2 wins, 29 points, 2nd place in the championship)

There was an element of good fortune to Graham Hill’s 1962 title, as the crown looked set for Jim Clark and Lotus midway through the title-deciding South African Grand Prix.  However, as was so often the way, Clark’s Lotus car let him down.  In 1963, however, things went much more Clark’s way.  Out of 10 races, he won 7, finishing on the podium in two others.  Until the Schumacher-Ferrari era, it was perhaps the most comprehensive rout in a single season the sport had ever seen.

1964 – Jim Clark (3 wins, 32 points, 3rd place)

Clark’s Lotus trouble was again in evidence for his first attempt at a title defence.  He won more races than any of his rivals, but John Surtees in his Ferrari and, to a slightly lesser extent, Graham Hill’s BRM achieved far greater consistency.  Surtees two wins were backed up by four other podium finishes, in an era where only the best 6 results from the ten races counted towards the championship.  Even so, Clark again saw his title go up in smoke at the last race, when his engine blew on the last lap.  In the lead – as he so often was – he was on course to be World Champion.

1965 – John Surtees (3 podium finishes, 17 points, 5th place)

As it had been for Graham Hill in 1963, so it was for John Surtees in 1965.  The Lotus team put all the nuts on the right bolts and Jim Clark did the rest.   He won six of the first seven races, putting the championship to bed early.  Surtees, beset by Ferrari’s occasional wobbles, struggled to match his form of the previous year.  His second place in the season-opening South African race was his best finish of the season, and political pressures saw him and his team not even enter the final two American rounds of the championship at all.

1966 – Jim Clark (1 win, 16 points, 6th place)

1966 saw the reintroduction of 3 litre engines into F1, as opposed to 1.5 litre units.  Jack Brabham’s eponymous team pulled a fast one, securing rock solid reliability from Australian-made Repco units.  Brabham won four on the spin in mid-season, rendering the rest of the championship year a tussle for second place.  Clark’s Lotus – fitted with a Climax H16 unit which may possibly have been last used to power the Ark Royal – was hopelessly heavy and unreliable all year.  Typically his one win – at Watkins Glen for the US Grand Prix – was crushingly dominant.  However, in his other eight races, he retired 5 times, four of them car or engine related.

1970 – Jackie Stewart (1 win, 25 points, 5th place)

The field for Jackie Stewart’s first title in 1969 was very small – with only 13 cars regularly competing.  For a driver of Stewart’s skill, such a field plus a good car and a well-run team was always going to end well.  In 1970, his Matra chassis was replaced by a March which was starting to look hopelessly out of date, especially after Lotus introduced the revolutionary 72.  With it, Stewart’s great friend and rival Jochen Rindt racked up four consecutive wins in mid-season, doing enough to secure the title in spite of being killed in practice for the Italian Grand Prix and missing the final four events.  Stewart’s sole consolation in a sparse, retirement-filled and ultimately tragic year was a win at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama.

1972 – Jackie Stewart (4 wins, 45 points, 2nd place)

Stewart’s fortunes changed in 1971 with his Tyrrell team’s move into building their own car and the brilliant 001 and 003 cars which resulted.  In 1972, he faced a fierce duel with Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 72.   Despite winning the first race, though, Stewart’s early season was patchy and this was followed up by the Scot being sidelined with a stomach ulcer.  Missing the Belgian race, won by Fittipaldi, left Stewart playing catch-up.  A subsequent run of bad races and retirements in Germany – where he was eliminated by Clay Regazzoni on the final lap – Austria and Italy – where his car never even got off the grid – put paid to his chances.

1974 – Jackie Stewart (did not defend)

Stewart became Britain’s most successful ever World Champion in 1973 with his third triumph.  It was a case of enough is enough, in a sport where – despite Stewart’s tireless safety campaigning – friends were lost on a yearly basis.  Stewart stood down at the end of the 1973 season, finishing a race early due to the death of his teammate François Cevert in practice for the final Grand Prix of the year.

1977 – James Hunt (3 wins, 40 points, 5th place)

Hunt’s 1976 triumph at the final race made him an unlikely, swashbuckling, national hero.  In 1977, however, his McLaren M23 car started to show its age badly.  Not until the introduction of the M26 mid-season did he manage to win a race, but even then he either won or retired, as the car succumbed to teething troubles.  Meanwhile, the man he beat to the 76 crown, Niki Lauda, completed his remarkable recovery from his accident at the Nürburgring by consistently picking up results – six second places as well as three wins – allowing him to walk out of Ferrari politics two races early as a two-time world champion.

1993 – Nigel Mansell (did not defend)

Mansell found himself in an enviable position in 1991, as undisputed number 1 driver at a Williams team who were on the cusp of producing the most sophisticated car ever seen in Formula 1.  The first season was beset with problems, but in 1992 he was untouchable, winning the first 5 races on the trot and then 4 more before the championship was three-quarters done.  However, Williams baulked at his salary demands for a third season, especially since they had Alain Prost under contract for 1993.  Mansell instead cut a deal with Paul Newman and Carl Haas, taking his frustrations out in America and becoming the first ever driver to win the IndyCar championship at his first attempt.

1997 – Damon Hill (1 podium finish, 7 points, 12th place)

Hill – whose inconsistent 1995 performance saw Williams see fit to not renew his contract for 1997, even in spite his 1996 heroics – shocked F1 by turning up at the unfashionable Arrows team, recently bought by Tom Walkinshaw Racing.  It did not start well, Hill only just scraping his car through qualifying into the race in Australia and then it failing him before the green light.  Of the other 16 rounds, Hill retired in 6 and in the majority of the others simply did not have a competitive enough car to make a mark.  He did not trouble the scorers at all until the British Grand Prix that summer, whilst his legendary, inspired, drive in Hungary – where he came within half a lap of the biggest shock victory Formula 1 would have ever seen before a hydraulic problem dropped him to second – was the only other points-scoring contribution of a miserable season.  In the meantime, his 1996 Williams teammate Jacques Villeneuve took the laurels, as well as Hill’s  mantle as Michael Schumacher’s great rival.

2009 – Lewis Hamilton (?)

Hamilton’s defence begins on March 29th in Melbourne.  A season preview should appear here between now and then.

Here’s a little fact that you might not know, unless you’ve been following Formula 1 for over twenty years or like to read the FIA rule book at bedtime. The maximum number of cars permitted to start a World Championship Grand Prix race is 26.  Qualifying sessions would weed out the slowest runners, and, where necessary, Pre-qualifying sessions were held on Friday mornings to decide who had sufficient speed to be allowed to attempt to qualify.

This little nugget of information is likely to only serve any useful purpose in pub quizzes for the forseeable future, because the risk of there being a 26-car field in Formula 1 is very much on the wane.  The big news is that Honda are now all but certain to pull out of Grand Prix racing effective immediately, their team and assets offered on the market to anyone wishing to throw £100 million per annum at a very below-par F1 outfit.  Failing that, there will be just 18 cars on the grid in Melbourne next spring, the lowest entry in 12 years and just two above the magic 16 mark, at which stage the front-running teams are obliged – under the sport’s commercial and sporting agreement – to run a third car.

Honda’s news is a shock, but it’s not a surprise.  I’ve written here before about the dangers of Formula 1 making the blasé assumptions that it will neither be harmed by the financial crisis, nor should it affect the prolonged involvement of largely-unsuccessful teams owned family car manufacturers, who are answerable only to their shareholders.  The 1995 Monaco Grand Prix was the last time the grid of a World Championship event was completely full up.  Six months previous to this, in Adelaide for the 1994 season finale, was the last time a driver or team failed to qualify on the basis of grid position alone – the hopeless Pacific Ilmors of Gachot and Belmondo, unable to even outpace Jean-Denis Deletraz.  These 1994 and 1995 seasons marked a major watershed in Formula 1.  It was the end of more than a decade of plenty, where one, two, three or more new teams would emerge for the start of every season.  The last new team to truly arrive in F1 – rather than buying out an existing outfit – were Toyota, six years ago.  Before them, it was Stewart Ford, another five years previous.  If the time of AGS, Larrousse, Simtek, Pacific and Forti Corse seems like it belongs to a different age, it’s most likely because it does.  Gaps which emerge in the paddock nowadays are simply not refilled.  And the worry in that, as any buff midshipman would tell you, is that it’s a sure sign that things are about to start sinking.

The reason for this, very simply, is money.  Running a Formula 1 team, never a cheap enterprise, is now prohibitively expensive.  It’s perhaps telling that the majority of the Russian energy billionaires or Arab oil oligarchs splashing the cash at the moment have chosen football instead of motorsport.  Whilst the extra global appeal of football is sure to have a major bearing on this, it also rather suggests that Formula 1 is neatly sidestepped as a money pit.  It is, apparently, a more financially-sound proposition to buy Manchester City or Queens Park Rangers and try and make them champions of England than it is to fund a Grand Prix team, against just 9 rivals – at least 7 of whom will spend next season with one eye on their points tally and the other on their rapidly-balding accountants.

To their credit, the FIA are aware of this and are looking at a number of cost-saving solutions for the short-to-medium term survival of the sport.  But to use the sinking boat analogy again, it looks to be one puffy middle aged man trying to bail out the Titanic with his bowler hat.  Indeed, the hat may well have a hole in it, as some of the solutions mooted – standard engines being the major sticking point – seem likely to see teams start to withdraw for sporting reasons rather than just financial ones.  The FIA’s problem here is incompatible with the teams’ wishes.  The FIA want to find a solution which will preserve the current field and entice new entrants.  The teams, whilst not wanting to be forced to run a third car, don’t want to make it easy on any Johnny-Come-Lately, ramshackle, oily Herberts to come into the paddock and have a chance of beating their pristine and shiny cars.  Something is going to have to give.

For all this tension with the entrants, it would be easy to overlook the other issue thrown up by the market wobbles.  Namely, we could end up with a healthy-looking field of cars but nowhere to race them.  The astronomical fees charged to Grand Prix organisers are starting to tell, especially in Grand Prix racing’s European motherland.  Next season sees the oldest Grand Prix of them all, in France, absent because the ACF simply can’t justify the expenditure.  Hockenheim, home of the German Grand Prix since 1977, looks set to be the next to go, organisers seemingly unwilling to have a repeat of this year’s event, which made a loss of five million Euros.  Canada, too, has fallen victim, leaving Formula 1 teams seeking American investment with only one showcase event on that continent next year, in Brazil.

It’s a bit like the beginning of the Great War, all this.  Everyone can see it coming.  Everyone can see the problem.  But everyone has dug themselves into such a rut they are simply not willing to take any action which may stop the inevitable.  The inevitable in this case being a 12-round, 4-car blast around a series of Middle Eastern circuits, some of which have corners demarcated by stray camels, depleted-uranium shell casings or war crimes.  Formula 1 is I think, in its current incarnation, too sick to survive.  The question surely is, considering all the bluster, backbiting and nonsense, is this such a bad thing?

Which country is the most successful in the 58-year history of the Formula 1 World Championship? The following list is a breakdown of race winners by their nationality. I’ve not worked out percentages, as the picture would be overly-complicated by the rules in the 1950s, which allowed shared drives.


The first era of the great manufacturer teams – Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz – was also the happiest hunting ground for Italian drivers. Three of the first four Championship titles were won by racers from Italy, with Alberto Ascari’s 1953 triumph still the most recent drivers’ champion from his country. Despite this, they can only muster 3rd place, thanks to the brilliance of Juan Manuel Fangio and the emerging talent from Great Britain.

ARGENTINA 26 (by 2 drivers: Juan Manuel Fangio, José Frolián Gonzalez)
GREAT BRITAIN 24 (by 4 drivers: Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Tony Brooks)
ITALY 21 (by 5 drivers: Guiseppe Farina, Luigi Fagioli, Alberto Ascari, Piero Tauruffi, Luigi Musso)
AUSTRALIA 2 (both by Jack Brabham)
FRANCE 2 (both by Maurice Trintignant)
NEW ZEALAND 1 (by Bruce McLaren)
SWEDEN 1 (by Joakim Bonnier)


The manufacturer era was killed off by the revolutionary thinking of British constructor teams such as Cooper, Vanwall, Lotus and BRM. As such, the 1960s were completely dominated by British teams and drivers, with only the only other titles going to America (Phil Hill, 1961) and Britain’s great Antipodean rivals Australia (Jack Brabham, 1960, 1966) and New Zealand (Denny Hulme, 1967). In the mid-sixties, British dominance was such that English and Scottish drivers won eighteen consecutive races between 1962 and 1964, including all ten events in 1963. They were almost as dominant in 1965, only Richie Ginther’s victory in the last round preventing another clean sweep. Meanwhile, Jochen Rindt’s solitary win for Austria in 1969 heralded the beginnings of something big for the country in the 1970s.

GREAT BRITAIN 61 (by 6 drivers: Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart)
AUSTRALIA 11 (by Jack Brabham)
NEW ZEALAND 8 (by 2 drivers: Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme)
UNITED STATES 8 (by 3 drivers: Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther)
BELGIUM 3 (by Jacky Ickx)
ITALY 3 (by 3 drivers: Giancarlo Baghetti, Lorenzo Bandini, Ludovico Scarfiotti)
GERMANY 2 (by Wolfgang von Trips)
AUSTRIA 1 (by Jochen Rindt)
MEXICO 1 (by Pedro Rodriguez)
SWITZERLAND 1 (by Jo Siffert)


A much more balanced picture in the 1970s, with British drivers heading up the list again only due to a series of what-might-have-beens. What if Jochen Rindt had not died before he knew he was the 1970 World Champion, driving the revolutionary Lotus 72? What if François Cevert had lived to assume Jackie Stewart’s mantle as the Tyrrell team leader? What if Jacky Ickx’s cars hadn’t gradually declined in competitiveness? Nevertheless, Austria and Brazil arrive on the scene in a big way, although for one it would be as good as it got. France, too, are starting to be very much in evidence, a result of the huge glut of talented French drivers who came through the European Formula 2 championship in that decade, plus big investments in talent by Elf and Renault. Italy, however, had a dismal 10 years, Vittorio “The Monza Gorilla” Brambilla’s shock win in the rain-shortened 1975 Austrian Grand Prix their sole success.

GREAT BRITAIN 25 (by 4 drivers: Jackie Stewart, Peter Gethin, James Hunt, John Watson)
AUSTRIA 22 (by 2 drivers: Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda)
BRAZIL 15 (by 2 drivers: Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Pace)
UNITED STATES 14 (by 2 drivers: Mario Andretti, Peter Revson)
SWEDEN 11 (by 2 drivers: Ronnie Peterson, Gunnar Nilsson)
SOUTH AFRICA 10 (by Jody Scheckter)
ARGENTINA 9 (by Carlos Reutemann)
FRANCE 8 (by 5 drivers: François Cevert, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jacques Laffite, Patrick Depailler, Jean-Pierre Jabouille)

AUSTRALIA 6 (by 2 drivers: Jack Brabham, Alan Jones)
SWITZERLAND 6 (by 2 drivers: Jo Siffert, Clay Regazzoni)
BELGIUM 5 (by Jacky Ickx)
CANADA 4 (by Gilles Villeneuve)
NEW ZEALAND 3 (by Denny Hulme)
GERMANY 1 (by Jochen Mass)
ITALY 1 (by Vittorio Brambilla)
MEXICO 1 (by Pedro Rodriguez)


The turbo era boiled down to a battle between France and Brazil. France win mainly due to the exploits of Alain Prost, who won 21 races before finally securing his and his country’s first world crown. Prost’s 3 titles were eclipsed, however, by the Brazilian effort. Nelson Piquet secured 3 world titles in 1981, 1983 and 1987, whilst Ayrton Senna’s emergence in the 1984 season was the decade’s big story. Britain, meanwhile, went through an uncharacteristically lean spell. For the first time since the Championship began, no British driver won a World Title during the decade, and in 1980, 1984 and 1988 British drivers failed to win any races at all. Towards the bottom of the table, one can also spot the emergence of Finland, finally starting to reach their all-conquering motorsport tentacles into the single seat arena.

FRANCE 53 (by 6 drivers: René Arnoux, Didier Pironi, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jacques Lafitte, Alain Prost, Patrick Tambay)
BRAZIL 41 (by 2 drivers: Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna)
GREAT BRITAIN 19 (by 2 drivers: John Watson, Nigel Mansell)
AUSTRIA 13 (by 2 drivers: Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger)
ITALY 10 (by 4 drivers: Riccardo Patrese, Elio de Angelis, Michele Alboreto, Alessandro Nannini)
AUSTRALIA 7 (by Alan Jones)
FINLAND 5 (by Keke Rosberg)
ARGENTINA 3 (by Carlos Reutemann)
BELGIUM 2 (by Thierry Boutsen)
CANADA 2 (by Gilles Villeneuve)


Britain were back on top in the 1990s, a consequence of weight of numbers as well as Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill’s world titles. Germany, though, appear out of virtually nowhere. A country which had only scored three successes up to this point was suddenly awakened by Michael Schumacher’s exploits. The floodgates open, German drivers would come to dominate Grand Prix entry fields towards the end of this decade and the next. Brazil’s total, whilst respectable, would surely have been higher had it not been for Ayrton Senna’s death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

GREAT BRITAIN 51 (by 5 drivers: Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard, Eddie Irvine)
GERMANY 38 (by2 drivers: Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen)
BRAZIL 24 (by 2 drivers: Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet)
FINLAND 14 (by Mika Häkkinen)
FRANCE 14 (by 3 drivers: Alain Prost, Jean Alesi, Olivier Panis)
CANADA 11 (by Jacques Villeneuve)
AUSTRIA 5 (by Gerhard Berger)
ITALY 4 (by Riccardo Patrese)
BELGIUM 1 (by Thierry Boutsen)


The story of Formula 1 in the noughties is accurately summed up by the numbers here: Michael Schumacher blasting to win after win and a series of young challengers trying to usurp him. The most successful people at doing this have come from Finland and Spain. Brazil’s position is artificially inflated by Schumacher’s final seven seasons in the sport being accompanied by a Brazilian teammate to pick up his crumbs after the title was in the bag. The current decade is also notable for another British lean-spell, although Lewis Hamilton has started to undo a lot of the damage, and the appearance of a number of new countries on the list. Spain is the one which stands out thanks to Fernando Alonso’s two world titles, but Colombia and Poland also register for the first time.

GERMANY 64 (by 3 drivers: Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel)
FINLAND 24 (by 3 drivers: Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Räikkönen, Heikki Kovalainen)
SPAIN 21 (by Fernando Alonso)
BRAZIL 20 (by 2 drivers: Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa)
GREAT BRITAIN 17 (by 3 drivers: David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton)
COLOMBIA 7 (by Juan Pablo Montoya)
ITALY 4 (by 2 drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli)
POLAND 1 (by Robert Kubica)


GREAT BRITAIN 197 (19 drivers; 10.37 wins-per-driver)
GERMANY 105 (6 drivers; 17.50 )
BRAZIL 100 (6 drivers; 16.67)
FRANCE 77 (12 drivers; 6.42 )
FINLAND 43 (4 drivers; 10.75)
ITALY 43 (15 drivers; 2.87)
AUSTRIA 41 (3 drivers; 13.67)
ARGENTINA 38 (3 drivers; 12.67)
AUSTRALIA 26 (2 drivers; 13.00)
UNITED STATES 22 (5 drivers; 4.40)
SPAIN 21 (1 driver; 21.00)
CANADA 17 (2 drivers; 8.50)
SWEDEN 12 (3 drivers; 4.00)
NEW ZEALAND 12 (2 drivers; 6.00)
BELGIUM 11 (2 drivers; 5.50)
SOUTH AFRICA 10 (1 driver; 10.00)
COLOMBIA 7 (1 driver; 7.00)
SWITZERLAND 7 (2 drivers; 3.50)
MEXICO 2 (1 driver; 2.00)
POLAND 1 (1 driver; 1.00)