Editorial, January 2002

A dozen of Stirling’s drives were nominated. Yet no-one thought to mention his stunning performance at Aintree in 1957 — a typical recovery from early dramas — that opened the British floodgates in grand prix racing.

Experts, what do they know?

I mean to say, not a single Ronnie Peterson drive made it into our Top 100. One of the jury stuck Superswede’s 1974 victory in Monaco towards the tail-end of his personal Top 10. Another had the wit to vote for ‘Ronnie hammering through Woodcote, in anything’. Bah!

But that, actually, is the joy of such lists. Wins, points, places and titles are objective. The bulk of everything else that makes motorsport so fascinating is subjective: histories and memories, and the opinions that spring therefrom.

I mean to say, who, for instance, would rate Ayrton Senna’s drive at Donington in 1993 as the best ever? All he had to do was beat Main Prost, never that keen on the wet, Damon Hill, in only his third start for Williams, and a traction control-less Michael Schumacher.

Okay, so that first lap was sensational. But Rubens Barrichello’s Jordan went from 12th to fourth at the same time. And very few remember that.

Some of those who do will point out that he benefited from JJ Lehto’s warm-up lap crisis and the collision between Karl Wendlinger and Michael Andretti. They’ll also note that his car was fitted with traction control, whereas two of those he passed — Johnny Herbert’s Lotus and Riccardo Patrese’s Benetton — were not.

Others who remember will point out that the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger andlean Alesi did — and that Rubens passed them on that lap, too. They will also stress that the Brazilian was not yet 21 and in only his third grand prix.

There are always plenty of objective facts with which to pepper such arguments. Yet these debates will rage ceaselessly. For there is no right answer. A fact you might agree with once you have perused this month’s offering. I look forward to the resultant mailbag.

I might, however, be able to take some sting out of your poised pens.

Of course Roger Clark’s 1972 RAC Rally win was mentioned in dispatches. As was Eugenio Castellotti’s epic 1956 Mille Miglia victory. As was Luigi Fagioli working wonders with a standard Lancia Aurelia in the 1952 event. As was Elisabeth Junek’s temporary lead of the 1928 Targa Florio. As was Pedro Rodriguez’s mind-bending win in the 1971 Osterreichring 1000Km. Nor was Johnny Claes forgotten. Nor was Andrea de Cesaris. Nor David Kennedy.

Nor Hap Sharp. Not even Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray.

That was the subjective bit. What followed was a scrupulous tallying and collation of the ratings you can mull over on pages 23-51. All totally objective.

All subject to debate.

Ayrton Senna heads for victory in the 1993 European GP at Donington Park.