97 – 2005 San Marino GP



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

Click here to buy the lead image.

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.

2005 San Marino GP
April 24, Imola

It was staring us in the face, yet we couldn’t quite believe our eyes: such had been the lulling effect of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s five consecutive seasons of supremacy.

Although Renault and Michelin had won the first three races of the year – one victory for the patchy Giancarlo Fisichella and two for Fernando Alonso – it was unthinkable that the seven-time world champion and Bridgestone, for so long his ace card, would not soon get to grips with the new regulation banning tyre swaps during races.

And, yep, here he came, right on cue, looming threateningly in leader Alonso’s mirrors after a charging drive – from a disappointing 13th on the grid – that included 20 maddening laps spent as the lead carriage in Toyota’sTrulli train’.

The young Spaniard, who had assumed the lead when Kimi Räikkönen’s pole-sitting McLaren broke a driveshaft after nine runaway laps, was acutely aware of the connotations of this challenge: crumble like so many had, or resist like only ‘the few’ could. He calmly but resolutely fended off the jinking German for the last 12 laps and crossed the finish line two-tenths ahead.

From the Archive: “A fighter with a Lion’s heart” Nigel Roebuck interviews Fernando Alonso (December 2010).

That blink of an eye was an age for Schumacher. Not even he could hold back time – though he had come closer than most to achieving it. A new generation had arrived. He knew it. Alonso, confirmed as being of (patch-free) world champion material, knew it. (So, too, did Räikkönen – he just didn’t say.) The silenced tifosi knew it. And now, finally, we knew it. PF

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