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.
The writing was on the wall, and even Lotus boss Colin Chapman, joint-founder of the Cosworth DFV dynasty in 1967, had been forced down the forced-induction route: he announced his team’s 1983 deal with Renault at this race.
This was music to the cultured ears of his Italian number one Elio de Angelis, who promptly re-signed. In the short term the atmo car delighted him in practice; only the Williams of Keke Rosberg was faster – sixth – in the ‘best of the rest’ battle.
But the turbos fluffed their lines on race day. The Ferrari of Patrick Tambay picked up an early puncture. The pace-setting Brabhams of Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese suffered engine failures, the latter’s BMW locking solid and sending him spinning out after 26 laps in the lead that included the first scheduled pitstop of the modern era. And the Renault of Alain Prost retired five laps from victory because of fuel injection bothers.
This left the composed de Angelis in the lead, albeit hounded by Rosberg, who was increasingly happy with his car’s behaviour on a lightening fuel load. Both men were seeking their maiden GP win.
The Lotus’s DFV hesitated on the final lap and Rosberg drew alongside. The Finn would have won, too, given another couple of yards. Instead he missed out by five-hundredths. De Angelis threw an arm up in triumph – in the manner of a hopeful Peter Gethin at Monza in 1971 – while Chapman hurled a celebratory cap into the air for the first time since the 1978 Dutch GP.
Tragically, the DFV’s 150th victory would also be Chapman’s last before he suffered a fatal heart attack in December. PF