Simon Taylor's notebook

Author

Simon Taylor

View profile
Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Non-championship F1 races have been largely forgotten. But they played their own part in the history of the sport

I’ve just invested in the latest weighty edition of the Grand Prix Data Book. It’s a 744-page statistical labour of love by David Hayhoe and David Holland: clearly laid out, easy to use, and guaranteed to answer just about any F1 question from 1950 to 2005. Race by race and car by car, driver by driver and circuit by circuit, it’s all there, together with absorbing lists of oddities and trivia (shared drives, moved startlines, anniversaries, races where the winner led only on the final lap). If you need this sort of information in totally comprehensive form, it’s a godsend — and cheap at £40.

Reference works like this are most fun when it comes to the obscurities. Every driver who turned up for a World Championship grand prix is listed — and nowadays this has to cover Friday test drivers too. If you want to check the GP starts of Tommy Bridger (Morocco, 1958), Xavier Perrot (Anderstorp, 1975) or Theo Fitzau (Nürburgring 1953) it’s all here. So are details of every marque that ever started a championship GP, from Connew to ENB, Shannon to Stebro.

Of course, once Bernie got things running his way, F1 was the World Championship. There weren’t any other F1 races except the title rounds, which by 2005 had risen to 19. But since F1 began in the 1940s there have been scores of them, from Goodwood to Chimay, from Pau to Snetterton. Some were a bit low-key: did you know that a Vanwall won a race at Castle Combe? But some of these, particularly in the early days, attracted strong entries.

Time was when the real start of the European season would be the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Ferrari wasn’t always tempted to make the trip, but in its better years the field was pretty representative. Traditionally, it was followed by Silverstone’s International Trophy. Across Europe lots of races were called ‘Grand Prix’ which weren’t always for F1 but, when they were, they often produced fine racing from top drivers and teams.

Yet, because it’s hard to summarise them statistically, these races have been almost ignored by the historians. Chris Ellard’s book Forgotten Races does a fine job for the 1966-1983 period, and he hopes to cover the 1.5-litre formula in a future volume. But back in 1950 only six races (plus the inappropriate Indy 500) counted towards the championship: yet, just like 2005, there were actually 19 proper international F1 dates on the calendar that year. As well as the Dutch and Spanish grands prix, there were races at Pau, Montlhéry and Albi in France, Pescara, San Remo and Bari in Italy, Geneva in Switzerland, and the Isle of Man and Dundrod — plus the International Trophy. Of course, not all the cars and drivers went to all the races, so comparisons are difficult. But if all 19 had earned points, Fangio would have been champion, not Farina.

As recently as 1971 there were eight non-championship F1 races: the Argentinian GP, the Questor GP at the Californian Ontario Motor Speedway, at Brands the Race of Champions and the October Victory Race (which cost the life of Jo Siffert), plus the usual International Trophy, two events at Oulton and one at Hockenheim.

At the final Race of Champions in 1983, 11 F1 teams were represented, most with single cars: Rosberg’s Williams, Jones’s Arrows, Arnoux’s Ferrari, Mansell’s Lotus, and Watson’s McLaren. Rosberg won over a 104-mile distance, but Danny Sullivan drove a brilliant race for Tyrrell, looking after his rubber and closing to within half a second of Keke as the Williams’s tyres wore out. The reference books show Sullivan’s F1 best as fifth place at Monaco that same year. But Danny won’t forget that day at Brands when the reigning World Champion only beat him by a matter of yards.

In every season over the long life of F1, there are similar forgotten stories of drama and fine racing in non-championship events. We all know about the 1955 Syracuse GP, when a Connaught driven by a young dental student called Tony Brooks beat the works Maseratis to score the first all-British win in a grand prix. But who remembers that the 1955 British GP at Aintree wasn’t the only time that Moss beat Fangio in a Mercedes W196 single-seater? In only his second outing for the German team, in the second half of the two-part Buenos Aires Grand Prix — actually a formule libre race, so the W196s were running 3-litre sportscar engines — Stirling led his mentor home by 3sec, although the canny Fangio won on aggregate.

The annual battle for the title of champion is what now interests the world, even if it sometimes distorts the actual racing. There are too many occasions these days when, late in the season, a title challenger will settle for a place when the man in front is not threatening him in the points table. (Some of us think it was better when you got four more points for winning a race than for finishing second, and that the change to 10 for a win and eight for second place was merely a quick fix to keep the championship unresolved for longer.) But when no points were at stake it was only the race that mattered. If you want some fresh insights into F1’s history, take a look at those non-championship races. There are some fascinating tales hidden in there.

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore