Marcus Simmons - Off the line

Poll positions

Thanks to all of you for a very interesting response to our ‘Greatest Grand Prix’ poll. Before the voting started we had no idea which race would come out on top — there were around 10 that we would have regarded as possibles — but pretty soon it became clear that Fangio’s epic drive at the Nürburgring in 1957 was going to get the verdict.

What was interesting is that, the further back in history we look, the more the votes are polarised towards a few events. We did a count of the total number of points for each decade, and in this the 1970s came out on top — although the votes for this decade and the ’80s were scattered over a far higher number of races than those that had preceded them. For starters, that’s probably indicative of the beginning of the regular televising of Formula One races — as well as the fact that so many of them are more recently wedged in our memories!

I think there’s another issue involved here too. It’s particularly noticeable that from the mid-1990s on the votes fell away sharply. Of course, this is partly because this magazine’s very remit is to focus on history, but equally valid, I believe, is that it’s easier to hero-worship drivers from the earlier eras. No-one wants to see anyone get hurt, but part of the essence of motorsport is that this very possibility looms in the background, and admiring the bravery of the participants is one of the key elements of its appeal. Alonso’s move on Schumacher at Suzuka last year — around the outside of a 200mph corner — was compelling because of that.

Technology, too, makes it harder to appreciate the latter-day brilliance of such as Alonso, Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen. It’s difficult now to appreciate the virtuosity of an artist (in the same way as Fangio at the ‘Ring) unless it’s raining.

There are circuits — Spa, Monaco, Suzuka, Brands Hatch GP, Macau, Pau, Goodwood — that still get my pulse racing, allow me to revere the drivers out there on track, but the increasing homogenisation means any future poll like this is still almost certain never to feature a race from Magny-Cours or the Hungaroring, even when the 1990s are looked back upon through rose-tinted glasses. The old Hockenheim forest-blast, while not the most challenging layout, at least offered something different. And now the circuit owners are facing financial ruin because they’re struggling to pay for the desecration of the track in ’02, when it was turned into what looks more like a car park than a GP circuit. Where’s the sense in that?