F1 at 70: the greatest grand prix

F1

The Formula 1 World Championship has delivered 70 years-worth of brilliant driving, dramatic competition and challenging circuits. You have voted for the greatest grand prix held so far

Ronnie Peterson's March leads Francois Cevert's Tyrrell and Mike Hailwood's Surtees in the 1971 F1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza

Peterson leads Cevert and Hailwood at Monza in 1971

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It was the final Grand Prix at Monza before chicanes were installed; where the first five drivers crossed the finish line within 0.61sec of each other, and where the average speed reached a furious 150mph.

The 1971 Italian Grand Prix is unquestionably a classic and Motor Sport readers have voted it the greatest race in 70 years of the Formula 1 championship, in a close-run poll.

Peter Gethin’s only Grand Prix win — by 0.1sec over Ronnie Peterson — was voted first by an appropriately narrow margin over the dramatic 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, which was ranked second.

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Third was another rain-dominated race: the European GP at Donington in 1993, scene of Ayrton Senna’s famous victory.

Thousands of voters had their say across social media and the Motor Sport website to pick the Monza spectacular.

Early retirements for both Ferraris would normally have seen crowds head for the exits early but, as Nigel Roebuck recounts, “so mesmeric was the lead battle that the locals stayed put”.

“At Monza that day there were 25 lead changes, among eight drivers, but maybe the most numbing fact of all is that on only eight of the 55 laps was the order as it had been the previous time around,” he wrote.

At one point, Mike Hailwood, on his return to Formula 1 with Surtees, took the lead having started 17th, and the front-runners were locked in a high-speed slipstreaming battle, separated by tenths of a second.

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It was clear that the winner would be decided in the final corner, with a cycling-style sprint that required perfect positioning, timing and momentum.

“At the end of lap 54 it was Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood, Gethin. Any one of them could win and if they all made a nonsense on the last lap then Ganley could win, and none of them had ever won a Grand Prix before,” wrote Denis Jenkinson, in Motor Sport’s original race report. “It was truly the “dice of the debutants.”

“Down the back straight on the last lap Cevert led, under braking for the last corner Peterson went into the lead, and out of the corner Gethin was leading and it was all over, the BRM led up the finishing straight, the four of them closely bunched and lapping Bonnier yet again. The BRM got to the line first by mere inches from Peterson’s March, with Cevert’s Tyrrell and Hailwood’s Surtees only a few feet behind.”

Click below to read the full race report

1971 Italian GP report

It’s a fitting race to carry the title of Formula 1’s greatest Grand Prix, but the close vote suggests that the debate will continue.

Scroll down for our original shortlist of races that were voted on.

F1 at 70: read more

F1 at 70, the Greatest Grand Prix: shortlist

In the 70 years since the first Formula 1 championship race, there have been 1,018 points-scoring grands prix, 108 different winners, and countless brilliant displays of racecraft. This is our shortlist of the best, with words from Simon Arron

 

1950s


France, Reims-Gueux, July 5, 1953

Mike Hawthorn passes Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1953 French Grand Prix

Hawthorn passes with two laps remaining in Reims

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Included not for reasons of jingoism – Mike Hawthorn’s victory for Ferrari was the first for a British driver since the world championship’s inception three years earlier – but for its outrageous competitive intensity. Hawthorn and Juan Manuel Fangio (Maserati) swapped the lead constantly throughout the 60 laps – a race distance of slightly more than 500 kilometres. They remained but 1.0sec apart at the end, with José Froilán González (Maserati) only another 0.4sec in arrears. This was the championship’s second year under F2 regulations; the period’s dominant force Alberto Ascari came home fourth, finally vanquished after nine straight GP victories.

Full race report

 

Britain, Aintree, July 16, 1955

The sport remained numb in the slipstream of the Le Mans disaster, which had claimed more than 80 lives the previous month, and grands prix in France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland were subsequently cancelled. This would be the penultimate round of the season – and second place would be enough to secure Fangio’s third title, though that wasn’t clear at the time. The talking point? A duel between the Argentine maestro and his emerging Mercedes team-mate Stirling Moss. The latter has often suspected his mentor allowed him to win on home soil, but Fangio denied as much. The full truth will never be known.

Full race report

 

Argentina, Buenos Aires, January 19, 1958

Stirling Moss crosses the finish line to win the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix

Moss’s tyres hold out and he takes victory in Buenos Aires

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With Vanwall not ready for the start of the new campaign, Stirling Moss drove instead for Rob Walker’s private team, his Cooper T43 the lone mid-engined entry against a slim field of Ferraris and Maseratis. The Italian factory cars were faster, but Moss paced himself, looked after his tyres – and in the second half of the race his team manager Alf Francis waved a wheel over the pit wall, to remind him of the need to stop – a simple con trick. By the time rivals realised he had no intention of doing any such thing, it was too late. The Cooper finished with its tyres through to the canvas, but GP racing had its first victory by a car with its engine behind the driver.

Full race report

 

United States, Sebring, December 12, 1959

From day one, America had been represented on the world championship calendar by the Indy 500 – a token gesture, and an anomaly. Not until the final month of the decade did it host its first conventional grand prix. Tony Brooks’s hopes of taking the title were dented in the early stages, when he was hit by Ferrari team-mate Wolfgang von Trips and made a precautionary pit stop – unnecessarily so, as it transpired. He recovered to third, but that wasn’t enough to wrest the crown from Brabham… who ran dry on the final lap and had to push his Cooper to the line to secure fourth place – almost five minutes after team-mate Bruce McLaren had taken victory.

Full race report

 

1960s


Mexico, Mexico City, October 25, 1964

Britain would have another champion to succeed Graham Hill and Jim Clark, but it was a three-way tussle: a second crown for Clark or Hill… or a first for John Surtees, the seven-time motorcycle world champion who had raced a car for the first time in 1960? Clark led away from pole and Surtees, fifth, appeared out of contention. Hill, meanwhile, was tipped off the road by Surtees’s Ferrari team-mate Lorenzo Bandini, but continued with a damaged BRM. Clark’s serene progress was interrupted by an oil leak and his engine seized as he began what should have been his final lap. Advantage Hill… until Bandini let Surtees through into second to take the title by a point.

Full race report

 

Italy, Monza, September 10, 1967

John Surtees beats Jack Brabham to the line in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix

Surtees wins by 0.2sec

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On paper this was a close victory for John Surtees, beating defending champion Jack Brabham by 0.2sec in what would be the final F1 grand prix success for a factory Honda until Hungary 2006. That prosaic truth omits a key detail: Jim Clark. The Scot won 25 of his 72 world championship GPs, but this was possibly his finest drive. Robbed of the lead by a puncture, he dropped a full lap in arrears before carving his way back through the field to take charge again. And then, on the final lap, his Lotus began to misfire. A dry tank? Not at all; his fuel pump had failed to deliver the final three gallons and he coasted home a magnificent third.

Full race report

 

Germany, Nürburgring, August 4, 1968

Summer is never a barrier to foul conditions in the Eifel region – and this was an afternoon when they could hardly have been worse. Teeming rain, dense mist, fog… in the current climate the FIA would have mandated a safety car start, had they allowed the race to take place at all. Such things weren’t a consideration more than 50 years ago, and so it was that Jackie Stewart drove through a blinding ball of spray to work his way into the lead on the opening lap… and then pull away to win by more than four minutes. Dunlop produced very fine wets, but this was still a masterclass – the whole thing executed with his left wrist in a cast following an F2 shunt earlier in the campaign.

Full race report

 

Britain, Silverstone, July 19, 1969

Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart lead in the 1969 British Grand Prix

Rindt and Stewart jostle for the lead at Silverstone

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They were rivals, yes, but also firm friends – on and off the track. That showed in the way Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart conducted themselves for the first 60 or so of 84 laps, the pair trading places in a constant ebb and flow – and giving each other signals, so that both knew what the other intended. Eventually, the Scot was obliged to give Rindt a warning: a loose rear wing endplate was cutting into his Lotus 49’s tyre, obliging him to make a reparatory stop. Stewart was clear to score his fifth win of the year for the Tyrrell Matra team, but as Denis Jenkinson reported in Motor Sport: “Only after one the hardest battles he has ever had.”

Full race report

 

1970s


Italy, Monza, September 5, 1971

Peter Gethin Ronnie Peterson Chris Amon and Tim Schenken driving in a slipstreaming pack at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix

It was the final grand prix to take place within the Parco di Monza before the circuit’s flow was interrupted by chicanes – and there could scarcely have been a finer epitaph. In his first world championship GP start since Monaco 1965, Mike Hailwood was in the leading bunch with François Cevert, Howden Ganley, Peter Gethin and Howden Ganley. It was a classic slipstreamer of the old school and, as they fanned from the Parabolica for the final time, Gethin had his nose ahead to take his only GP win by 0.01sec, from Peterson. They didn’t time races in thousandths back then. Ganley, a ‘distant’ fifth, fell 0.61sec short of victory…

Full race report

 

Holland, Zandvoort, June 22, 1975

James Hunt at the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix

Hunt on his way to his first GP win

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It was the height of Niki Lauda’s first title summer – and Ferrari’s powerful flat-12s were expected to have an edge on the Cosworth V8 opposition at Zandvoort. Lauda and team-mate Clay Regazzonui duly qualified at the front, ahead of James Hunt’s unsponsored Hesketh, but the race began in damp conditions – and Hunt was one of the first to stop for slicks, a tactic that propelled him into the lead once rivals had done likewise. Few anticipated that he’d be able resist a barrage of pressure from Lauda during the race’s second half, but he repelled the Austrian’s every move to take his first GP victory – a one-off for the small-scale constructor from Easton Neston.

Full race report

 

Japan, Fuji Speedway, October 24, 1976

A script so compelling that Hollywood embraced it as its own almost 40 years later. Niki Lauda had returned to action just six weeks after being read the last rites following a fiery accident in Germany, but quit two laps into the Japanese GP because he felt conditions were too dangerous. James Hunt still needed to finish third to take the title – and did, despite a late, puncture-induced delay, so it took a while for him to realise he’d succeeded. Lauda never regretted his decision, F1 would soon be catapulted into the TV mainstream… and the fact Mario Andretti had actually won the race was all but overlooked.

Full race report

 

Austria, Österreichring, August 14, 1977

Surprise results had become almost a habit in Austria: Vittorio Brambilla won for March in 1975, crashing after he’d taken the chequered flag, then John Watson triumphed for Penske in ’76. The following year looked poised to be more conventional, with points leader Niki Lauda lining up on pole ahead of James Hunt. Alan Jones? He was back in 14th in the unfancied Shadow. The race began wet, but the track eventually dried and Hunt appeared in control, well ahead of the flying Jones. But then his DFV dropped a couple of valves to allow Jones to complete a quirky hat-trick; it was Shadow’s only GP success.

Full race report

1980s


Monaco, Monte Carlo, May 23, 1982

For most of the afternoon a Renault victory had seemed assured. Alain Prost led after team-mate René Arnoux crashed, only to be caught out by a late rain shower that caused him to clobber the barriers on lap 74 of 76. Advantage Riccardo Patrese… until he spun and stalled his Brabham at the hairpin. Over to Didier Pironi, who promptly ran out of fuel… as did Andrea de Cesaris, before he’d so much as passed the stricken Pironi. Derek Daly might have profited, had he not also gone off. Having managed to bump-start, Patrese eventually took the spoils after all.

Full race report

 

Monaco, Monte Carlo, June 3, 1984

Stefan Bellof at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix

Stefan Bellof: the deserving winner of Monaco in 1984?

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Teeming rain, turbo lag, absence of run-off… You could understand why leader Alain Prost felt the race should be red-flagged well short of its full distance. With hindsight, had it run its course – and had he held on to at least second – a full helping of points would have enabled him to outscore McLaren team-mate Niki Lauda at the year’s end, rather than losing out by a sliver. Prost’s pace had been expected. Less so was the brio of Ayrton Senna (Toleman-Hart) or Stefan Bellof, in the tractable Tyrrell-Cosworth. Senna probably wouldn’t have lasted the full distance, because of suspension damage, but Bellof?

Full race report

 

Portugal, Estoril, April 21,1985

Lotus’s fortunes had dipped after founder Colin Chapman’s death, but it was still the first team to offer Ayrton Senna a properly quick car. Having taken pole in the dry, he waltzed off into the distance on a sodden Sunday and lapped all bar Michele Alboreto. Talking that evening to late, great F1 writer Alan Henry, Senna said, “Everyone claimed I made no mistakes, but that’s not true. On one occasion I had four wheels on the grass, but the car came back onto the circuit. Everyone thought that was fantastic car control. No way! It was just luck.” Some luck, perhaps, but mostly it had been genius.

Full race report

 

Australia, Adelaide, October 26, 1986

It might be one of the great clichés in terms of memorable grands prix, but that shouldn’t diminish its significance. Williams-Honda drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet had been closely matched for much of the season, scoring four wins apiece… and regularly taking points off each other. Mansell led the standings by six points ahead of the seasonal finale – and third place would be enough to complete the job. That’s where he was lying when his left-rear Goodyear exploded. Williams brought Piquet in for a precautionary tyre stop… and Prost swept through to his fourth win of the year and a second straight title.

Full race report

1990s


Europe, Donington Park, April 11, 1993

Ayrton Senna stretches his lead during the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington

Senna in a class of his own at Donington

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To the architect, this wasn’t as special as his maiden F1 victory in Portugal eight years earlier. Now he had traction control, a privilege not available to all… but then nor was it his exclusive preserve. After a modest getaway, Ayrton Senna had been squabbling for fifth place as he turned into Redgate for the first time – yet he was well ahead at the same point one lap later. What followed was a lesson in decisive racecraft through fluctuating conditions, the Brazilian making many peers look pedestrian in terms of both race pace and speed of thought. But then he’d long since made a habit of the extraordinary.

Full race report

 

Monaco, Monte Carlo, May 19, 1996

It might have been Michael Schumacher’s race, but having been beaten off the line by Damon Hill the pole-sitter subsequently crashed during the opening lap at Mirabeau Inférieur. It should have been Hill’s race, but his engine blew while he led by about a fortnight. Jean Alesi inherited first place, but there was a sense of inevitability when his suspension failed, simply because he was Jean Alesi. And there, from 14th on the grid, was Olivier Panis, who had proved that passing was possible – if a little forcibly at times. It was his first and only GP win, Ligier’s ninth and last.

Full race report

 

Belgium, Spa-Francorchamps, August 30, 1998

Damon Hill at the top of the podium with Ralf Schumacher and Jean Alesi after the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix

A Jordan 1-2 at Spa – but not everyone was pleased

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Quite an afternoon for David Coulthard, this. Firstly he was tipped into a spin that triggered a race-stopping pile-up beyond La Source on the opening lap. When the contest eventually restarted some time later, he was the immovable object concealed within the ball of spray Michael Schumacher had assumed to be clear. Having pitted to retire, Schuey promptly tried to throttle the Scot. Away from the raised tempers, Damon Hill plotted a serene course to earn Jordan its first GP victory – a 1-2, no less, ahead of the younger, slower Schumacher (who was quite cross about the late imposition of team orders).

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Europe, Nürburgring, September 26, 1999

Sacked by Williams for not being as fast as Jacques Villeneuve (to replace Damon Hill, axed despite being faster than Villeneuve), championship outsider Heinz-Harald Frentzen led for Jordan until sidelined by electrical failure. Fellow title contenders David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine also failed to score in a race punctuated by showers and shrewd (or myopic) tyre calls. Mika Häkkinen salvaged fifth as best of the “favourites” and the day ended with Prost driver Jarno Trulli in second place, sandwiched by Stewart team-mates Johnny Herbert and Rubens Barrichello. Most of the internet’s capacity would be required to relate the full tale…

Race results

 

2000s


Brazil, Interlagos, April 6, 2003

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari among the crashed cars at the trackside in the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari among the cars in Interlagos’s F1 scrapyard

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A sodden track triggered a safety car start and conditions gradually improved, save for a river running across the road at Turn Three. That caught out several drivers, including Michael Schumacher. Subsequent rain triggered more pandemonium. Mark Webber crashed coming onto the pit straight – and Fernando Alonso had an even bigger shunt after collecting some of the wreckage. Kimi Räikkönen was summoned to the podium’s top step after the red flag flew, but three days later the FIA identified a timekeeping error and awarded the race – correctly – to Giancarlo Fisichella. He received his trophy somewhat belatedly, at Imola…

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France, Magny-Cours, July 4, 2004

It wasn’t the most balanced of seasons – Ferrari winning 15 of 18 grands prix, and all but two of those victories failing to Michael Schumacher – but there was ample artistry to offset the lack of competitive tension. We’d seen Schumacher do this kind of thing before – notably at Budapest in ’98, when he’d driven a sequence of what were effectively qualifying laps to make a three-stop strategy work against the notionally faster McLarens – and here he served up a repeat. Beaten to pole by Fernando Alonso’s Renault, Ferrari devised a four-stop strategy and Schumacher promptly converted.

Race Results

 

Japan, Suzuka, October 9, 2005

Artificially mixed grids tend to stick in a purist’s craw, but it’s fine when when nature intervenes to subvert the natural hierarchy. These were the days of cars qualifying one at a time – and deteriorating conditions savaged the chances of the quicker guys running towards the end. Michael Schumacher started 14th, Fernando Alonso 16th and Kimi Räikkönen 17th. Alonso’s recovery included passing Schumacher at 206mph… around the outside of 130R. Räikkönen edged ever closer to leader Giancarlo Fisichella and swept ahead going into the first turn on the final lap. If only all motor races could be like this.

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Brazil, Interlagos, November 2, 2008

A year earlier Lewis Hamilton had been the Paulistas’ darling – a cavalier rookie fighting for the world title in their own back yard. And here he was again, same situation but now public enemy number one because he was up against one of their own: Felipe Massa. The home-spun hero drove impeccably, leading all the way from pole. When he crossed the line he was technically champion, as Hamilton was sixth – one place adrift of where he needed to be. On a wet track, however, he passed Timo Glock’s dry-shod Toyota at the campaign’s final corner to break local hearts. Massa’s subsequently dignified response was magnificent.

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2010s


Canada, Montréal, June 12, 2011

Jenson Button raises his hand in victory after winning the 2011 canadian grand prix

Button celebrates his unlikely win

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It might not sound an obvious winning strategy, but Jenson Button made six pit stops, suffered one puncture, survived a collision with McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, collected a drive-through penalty for lapping too briskly during one of several safety car periods… and pulled-off a last-lap pass to defeat Sebastian Vettel by 2.7sec. On an ordinary day he’d have been lucky to finish in the top 20, but this wasn’t an ordinary day. Between laps 40 and 64 he rose from 21st to second and, with a little assistance from safety cars, was 3.1sec in arrears with six laps to go. Not his most conventional victory, but perhaps his best.

Full race report

 

Europe, Valencia, June 24, 2012

A slightly forlorn track on the fringe of a wonderful city, Valencia had produced some tactically interesting races since its introduction in 2008 – but not much in the way of raw spectacle. By year five the facility was falling apart and the end was clearly nigh, but its final grand prix was a suitable send-off. At a venue where passing was thought to be almost impossible, crowd favourite Fernando Alonso won from 11th on the grid. He was aided by Renault alternator failures, but science remains powerless to explain how he squeezed around the outside of Romain Grosjean at Turn Two.

Full race report

 

Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina, November 27, 2016

Nico Rosberg celebrates winning the 2016 F1 championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Champion, and soon to-be retiree

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Built on vacant desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina has conjured some processional clunkers during its time as host for the seasonal finale. There wasn’t much overtaking in this one, either, but the psychological brutality was compelling: Lewis Hamilton in the lead, ignoring team instructions to up his pace when all he wanted to do was reverse team-mate Nico Rosberg into the pursuing pack, his last hope of salvaging a title that would elude him if the German finished on the podium. Both did everything that was required; title secured, Rosberg announced his retirement just a week later.

Full race report

 

Austria, Red Bull Ring, June 30, 2019

After a couple of close calls, Charles Leclerc finally appeared on course for a maiden grand prix victory. Ferrari, though, was governing his pace against the Mercedes W10 of Valtteri Bottas when the real threat was emerging a little farther back. Max Verstappen might have been significantly in arrears, but he had a tyre advantage – and permission to wrench every last drop of Honda horsepower for the afternoon’s balance. When it came, with two laps to go, his pitch for the lead was as uncompromising as it was effective – but after reviewing footage the stewards let it stand. Verstappen vs Leclerc; a snapshot of F1’s potentially thrilling future.

Full race report