In the latest issue, we celebrate Silverstone’s 70th anniversary as Lewis Hamilton, Murray Walker, Nigel Mansell and Jackie Stewart reveal their favourite moments from the home of British racing. Pick up your copy or download yours here
They had since Jim Clark’s death fought a tacit battle to be the best: Jochen Rindt, perhaps the faster, attempting to put the fragility of his Lotus to the back of his mind, and Jackie Stewart, the more complete, revelling in his Matra’s strength and security.
The latter had been doing the winning: four victories and a retirement (when leading) from the first five GPs of the season to establish a huge championship lead. Rindt was in a very different place. The ‘King of Formula 2’ had yet to win in F1. He was also at daggers drawn with his team boss over wings – drastically lowered since his terrifying flight and crash-landing from the lead of the Spanish GP – and Lotus’s impassioned development of a four-wheel-drive F1 car. An unconvinced Rindt flatly refused to drive the thing. A convinced Colin Chapman dug his heels. And the team suffered.
Matra was also assessing a four-wheel-drive chassis, but Stewart and his boss/mate Ken Tyrrell viewed it as an interesting sideline rather than a battle plan. That’s why JYS was first out of the pits for practice and Lotus arrived late in the day.
It was Rindt, however, who grabbed pole, albeit by default. Stewart was two-tenths quicker when he clipped a dislodged piece of inside kerb, burst a rear tyre and spun backwards into the retaining bank at Woodcote. Forced to switch to team-mate Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s car and settings, he had to forfeit his best time and start over. Second fastest was a fine effort in the circumstances.
Rindt led Stewart into Copse – just – and it was obvious by the end of the first lap that this would be a two-horse race. Stewart replied under braking for Stowe on the seventh lap, only to be baulked nine laps later by, ironically, Beltoise, relegated to the unfamiliar 4WD because of Stewart’s accident.
Back in front, Rindt crossed the line first for the next 46 laps. Their dice, however, was never anything other than captivating and beautiful, both men scribing graceful arcs, trusting to their skill and mutual respect as they peered over the edge without blinking.
Stewart increased the pressure at two-thirds distance with a fastest lap just one-tenth slower than his qualifying mark. But Rindt didn’t falter. His car did. A rear wing endplate came adrift and the collapsing structure began to rub on a tyre. Stewart immediately pulled alongside his friend and rival to warn him, an action that suggested he had been holding something in reserve though he had been without a clutch since the start. Rindt knew only one way at this stage of his career: flat out. Stewart knew several ways.
Rindt returned to the fray after a 30-second stop to have the offending item ripped off, only to pit again when his DFV, low on fuel, stuttered eight laps from home.
Stewart’s Cosworth also fluffed towards the end – and the Scot switched calmly to his reserve tank. Tyrrell had decided not to swap engines despite the enforced car change and Stewart, therefore, had been 600rpm down with an older-spec engine. Consistency, from within himself and his team, is what made him the best since Clark. PF
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.