The banner of the European Grand Prix has encompassed many tracks over many years, and the Badgerometer scours the vaults for five of the most entertaining.
You always remember your first time, and for Nigel Mansell in 1985, he was lucky enough to share it with several other thousand Brits when he broke his Grand Prix duck at Brands Hatch. The race was focused around whether or not Alain Prost could get the 4th place he needed to clinch his first World Title after many years of coming so close, so when he fell to 14th in the early stages, many thought his chance had gone. With Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg duking it out at the front – with Piquet elminated in tussle with Rosberg – the diminutive Frenchman picked off car after car until he clawed his way to the position he needed. Rosberg would have an eventual affect on the result though, blocking Senna to allow Mansell to pass and hold on for the victory, whilst also unlapping himself to finish a very respectable third.
Many fans see the season finale of Suzuka as the turning point of the 1999 championship, but the crux of Eddie Irvine’s failure can be traced back a few rounds before at the Nurburgring. A wet qualifying session that dried out towards the end mixed the grid up nicely for a classic. After a delayed start thanks to Pedro Diniz’s upturned Sauber, the race began in earnest with Jordan pole man Heinz-Harold Frentzen leading title rival Mika Hakkinen, with Irvine further back in 6th. The onset of rain brought several runners in for wets – including Hakkinen – but it quickly passed and the Finn fell further down the field changing back to wets. Then the rain came down with some vengeance, and the race quickly turned into one no-one wanted to win. Frentzen went first with an electrical failure, David Coulthard next after spinning out on dry tyres. Giancarlo Fisichella then did the same, with Ralf Schumacher inheriting the cursed lead.
This crazy turn of events promoted Johnny Herbert to the front, followed by Prost’s Jarno Trulli. Stewart team-mate Rubens Barrichello tried hard to pass, but had to settle for third. Behind them – unbelievably – the Minardi of Marc Gene held off Irvine to take the last championship point, one which would have been so valuable two races later.
Following on from last week’s Soggiest Sagas, the wettest race in European GP history has to be 2007 at the ‘Ring. With the threat of rain hanging over the start, only one car started on wets; the lowly Spyker-Ferrari of Marcus Winklehock. It turned out to be an inspired decision, for when the heavens opened, he ended up in the lead by a massive 33 seconds! But, the very rain that had brought him to that position plotted to take it away from him. With the rain now coming down hard, a river began to form at the hairpin, which caught out several drivers in quick succession.
The race, rightly so, was red flagged, eradicating Winklehock’s lead and also allowing time for the track to dry, which the pack used to claw him back before he dropped out after 15 laps. The race was eventually won by Fernando Alonso, but not before he clashed with future team-mate Felipe Massa, and their post race verbal scuffle caught on camera for the world to see!
Another list, and another snippet from the highlight reel that is Ayrton Senna. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the opening lap of the 1993 European race at Donington, then you are in for a real treat.
[youtube width=”580″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA3Hy0pTjNk
The great Brazilian eclipsed the field to win by over a minute to Damon Hill in second place, and had lapped everyone else. Simply breathtaking.
The 1997 title decider at Jerez was meant to be a closely fought scrap for a World Title, between two fierce rivals Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villenueve. The Saturday qualifying showed just how close it would be, with not only those two setting the same time – up to one thousandth of a second – but with Heinz-Harold Frentzen joining in the fun, but Villenueve claimed the pole spot thanks to playground rules of that he set the time first. Race day would be all about Michael and Jacques though, with the German taking the lead and the Canadian catching, until lap 48…
The resulting impact removed Schumacher from the running but Villenueve managed to keep his damaged car running. With the laps running down, and the McLarens catching rapidly, the Williams moved aside for Mika Hakkinen to finally reach the top step of the podium. The FIA didn’t like what they saw and struck Schumacher from the record books for that season.