12 – 1985 Portuguese GP


In time the unexpected would become the expected, but this was only Ayrton Senna’s 17th Championship Grand Prix – and the first for which he’d taken pole. Sunday dawned dry, but by late morning it was tipping down and the air was too still to shift the clouds. 

Nowadays you’d have a safety car start, but this was 1985. Senna took off at the green light, settled into a consistent rhythm and left adversaries trailing by an ever-growing margin.

While he looked in total control, rivals were anything but. Jacques Laffite gave up because his Ligier was beyond gripless and he saw no point persevering until he crashed. The team later withdrew team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, because if Laffite couldn’t cope… Meanwhile, championship leader Alain Prost was caught out by deep standing water on the pit straight and spun off to the left.

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“The lack of visibility was hideous,” says Martin Brundle. “The thing I recall most vividly is Keke Rosberg’s Williams. He crashed at the final turn and the car sat in the middle of the track for several laps. Every time you approached you’d think, ‘They must have shifted it by now’, but there it would be, inviting you to pass either side. It was incredibly dangerous.”

Unfazed by the surrounding bedlam, Senna pressed on to such effect that only Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari – more than a minute in arrears – was unlapped by the end. The Brazilian had one or two moments, but far fewer than most. It was an imperious display at a time when the only form of traction control was governed by one’s right foot. SA

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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