A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).
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From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
Welcome to this 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.
Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…
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.
So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.
1990 Mexican GP
June 24, Mexico City
A race of several distinct phases, this one, although its signature moment was a late passing manoeuvre that continues to tickle neck hairs more than 20 years on.
Riccardo Patrese led the opening lap for Williams, but was soon demoted by the McLaren-Hondas of Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger – although the Austrian provided a foretaste of things to come when he pitted for fresh tyres on lap 13.
Alain Prost had not made much of an impact during qualifying, lining up 13th after opting to concentrate on getting both chassis and Goodyears right for the race: his cerebral approach paid dividends, but it would take the Frenchman until the 60th lap (of 69) to catch and pass Senna. The Brazilian pressed on, in a bid to make the finish without a stop, but three laps later a rear tyre exploded and he damaged his suspension trying to make it back to the pits.
Nigel Mansell should have been second at this point, but a quick spin dropped him behind the recovering Berger. As Prost went on to become only the second F1 driver to win more than once in Mexico – Jim Clark beat him to it – Mansell aimed high and wide around the fast, banked Peraltada sweep on the penultimate lap and carved an overtaking opportunity that really shouldn’t have existed. True, it was only Gerhard Berger… but had it been Senna you just knew he’d still have tried it.
It was a Ferrari one-two born of both calculation and courage. SA