When you think of great first laps in Formula 1 you inevitably bring Ayrton Senna’s at the 1993 European Grand Prix to mind.
But last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix saw a pair of scintillating starts – and I reckon one of them was better than Senna’s.
Let’s take a look at all three in detail.
Ayrton Senna – 4th to 1st at the 1993 European Grand Prix, Donington Park
Senna’s first lap at Donington Park in 1993 achieved instant near-legendary status. His intuitive feel for the levels of grip at a little-used British track on a cold, wet spring morning saw him outstrip rivals in far better machinery.
Redgate – Senna is squeezed by Michael Schumacher and falls to fifth behind Karl Wendlinger.
Craner Curves – Accelerating out of Redgate, Senna passes Schumacher.
Old Hairpin – Despite the rain Senna moves alongside Wendlinger on the outside of the Craner Curves and passes him into Old Hairpin.
McLean’s – Senna dives down the inside of Damon Hill’s Williams to take second.
The Esses – Alain Prost misses the apex at the first part of the chicane allowing Senna to close in.
Melbourne Hairpin – Although Prost squeezes him a little, Senna is cleanly past for the lead.
Goddards – With a clear track ahead of him, Senna begins to pull clear.
Michael Schumacher – 11th to 4th at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring
Turn 1 – Schumacher stays hard to the left of the track and picks up five places around the outside of the first corner.
Turn 3 – Felipe Massa appears to slow Giancarlo Fisichella so that Schumacher can pass him around the outside.
Turn 5 – Massa runs wide allowing Schumacher and Fisichella past.
Fernando Alonso – 15th* to 6th at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring
Turn 1 – Alonso, employing the exact same tactics as Schumacher ahead of him, tries to stay left. But his progress is impeded by David Coulthard’s Red Bull, which briefly forced Alonso onto the grass. He is 11th as the cars accelerate out of turn one.
Turn 3 – Alonso is sandwiched between Nick Heidfeld to his right and Mark Webber to his left. He passes Webber.
Turn 4 – Heidfeld ahead touches the rear of David Coulthard’s Red Bull and Alonso takes Heidfeld.
Turn 6 – Alonso drives around the outside of Coulthard. As he passes the Red Bull he has a look up the inside of Robert Kubica’s BMW into the chicane but can’t make it through.
Turn 10 – Alonso moves from the outside of turn nine to seize the inside for turn ten, displacing Kubica.
Turn 15 – Alonso employs a similar move to dart up the inside of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari to take sixth.
*Christian Klien qualified ahead of Alonso but started from the pits instead of his grid slot.
It’s fair to say that Schumacher didn’t do as much wheel-to-wheel passing, but from a standing start into the first corner in gain of five positions was astounding.
Senna’s first lap at Donington was amazing and, being a chapter in the Senna-Prost rivalry, it will always be remembered.
But Alonso’s breathtaking display on the first lap of the Hungaroring was, for me, even better.
Under critical championship pressures he put his car on the limit corner after corner. His final pass, on Massa, was closest of all, and all the more remarkable considering that Ferrari would probably have welcomed an ‘unfortunate collision’ between the two.
I hope when Formula One Administration compile the material for the 2006 season review they put both Schumacher and Alonso’s laps in. They provided more entertainment in 4.3km than some entire Grands Prix this year.