Michael Schumacher got a shock at Interlagos. Not that Juan Montoya’s Williams jinked and juddered to take the lead of the Brazilian GP off him — everyone knew the confident Colombian star was going to grasp the first chance to put down his marker. Not that he looked so confident at the head of only his third GP — he’s well used to leading, and winning. But that his BMWpowered car was romping away despite carrying more fuel than the Ferrari. Of course, Montoya then got an even bigger shock courtesy ofJos Verstappen.
These are the moments that make motor racing so compelling. Much of it is predictable — Ferrari and McLaren have won every race since Johnny Herbert’s victory for Stewart in the 1999 Luxembourg GP. Think of all the laps that have flashed by you: thousands upon thousands. Now think of how many incidents have lodged firmly in your mind’s eye. Hundreds? Not a great ratio. But it’s more than enough. A lot of coal has to be gouged out to unearth a diamond.
Such stasis makes the inevitable twists and turns all the more memorable. Senna and Prost’s wins in the Marlboro McLaren-Hondas tend to blur, whereas Ayrton’s tripping-over of the substituting Jean-Louis Schlesser at Monza sticks out like a sore thumb.
On a more positive note, who could ever forget Keke Rosberg winning the International Trophy at Silverstone in a Theodore? A glorified Ralt F2 car. In the pouring rain. Gawd bless him.
Or Vittorio Brambilla winning the 1975 Austrian GP for March — and crashing as he took both hands off the wheel in celebration? Or John Watson’s McLaren winning from the back of the grid at Long Beach in ’83? Or Gunnar NiLsson’s Zolder success for Lotus in ’77?
Perversely, for me, the biggest F1 shock involved a Formula 5000 car, when Peter Gethin won the 1973 Race of Champions at Brands in one of Lancashire’s finest — for any Yorkshiremen who might be reading, that’s a stock-block Chevron B24. Had Colne-born Brian Redman been driving it, my biased cup for local people would, verily, have overflowed.
However, after a healthy debate with my esteemed colleague, David Malsher, it was decided not to include Gethin’s win in our cover story — mainly on the basis, I have to admit, that my F5000 leanings were being catered for by this month’s seven-page track test. This was ably conducted by 1974 champion Bob Evans, a thoroughly decent bloke and drivel— despite not having the good fortune to be born in Lancashire. But to show I’m aware of how vital editorial balance is — Chevron was notable by its absence from our three-car test, while the great Tony Brooks was born in Dukinfield, just over the border, in Cheshire. That I used to live in the town is pure coincidence.