59 – 1996 Spanish GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

When Michael Schumacher signed for Ferrari for ’96 it looked like his ego had got the better of him. Moving from Benetton, where he was about to win his second title, to a chaotic team that had won two races in five seasons seemed like insanity.

Indeed, events leading up to the Spanish round were hit and miss. Three podiums were followed by a lap-one crash at Monaco after starting from pole, and at Catalunya he started third, a second slower than polesitter Hill in the Williams.

Then, on race day, it poured. Villeneuve sped off into the lead as Hill and Schumacher floundered in the wet, but by lap 12 the German had caught and passed the Canadian. As Hill spun into the pitwall and out of the race, Schumacher set about building an insurmountable lead. He was in a class of his own, lapping up to three seconds faster than his rivals and finishing with a 45-second advantage.

View the race on the Database 

On the podium the driver many fans saw as a robot jumped for joy and embraced team boss Jean Todt. With all that came afterwards it is easy to forget that Schumacher’s early days with Ferrari helped rehabilitate his public image. No longer the dominant force in F1, he became the willing underdog, dragging a weary team back into contention.

Stirling Moss, who was never a fan of Schumacher’s, remarked: “That was not a race. It was a demonstration of brilliance.” ACH

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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