Spanish Grand Prix: memorable races

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The response to my invitation for guest writers was fantastic and I’m very happy to share the first of these new articles today. Journeyer, a long-time contributor to the comments and Live Blogs on F1Fanatic, covers the history of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Formula 1 has been around for 58 years now. With it goes a very rich and colourful history. I’ve always been a keen student of Formula 1 history, so I tend to go out of my way to know more about races that took place in the past, especially those before I started watching the sport in 1996.

So when Keith floated the chance for us to write guest articles, I took the chance. This is the first (and hopefully not last) of a series that will cover the rest of this season. This article will look at the most dramatic moments in previous Spanish Grands Prix.

1951: The second ever F1 season was a tight one. It went down to the final round at Pedralbes with a straight duel between Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari for the title. But Ascari’s tyres went off too quickly, and the Italian was forced to take multiple pit stops to get them changed. Fangio was able to take care of his tyres better. That allowed him to win the race, and with it, his 1st of 5 drivers titles.

1975: This race, held at Montjuich Park, was one of the most controversial race weekends in F1 history. It started with a strike from the GPDA who were demanding for higher safety standards. They were threatening to boycott the Grand Prix, but after legal threats from the organizers, they decided to go ahead. However, on lap 26 of the race, race leader Rolf Stommelen (driving for Graham Hill’s Embassy team) suffered a rear wing breakage on his car. Stommelen lost control of the car, seeing it fly over the barrier. Stommelen himself suffered multiple injuries, while four spectators were killed. They would never race at Montjuich Park again. As for the race, it was called off at half-distance, with Jochen Mass the winner in a McLaren. Lella Lombardi took sixth, which makes her the only woman to ever score points in an F1 race.

1980: This was one of the key battles of the FISA-FOCA war. Alan Jones and Williams won this race at Jarama, but it was later removed from the championship records. FISA (the FIA’s predecessor) declared the race illegal. Because of that, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Renault decided to skip the race.

1981: Gilles Villeneuve scored one of his most memorable wins this year in the Ferrari, holding off 4 very quick cars behind him. The top 5 were only separated by 1.24 seconds.

1986: After a four-year hiatus, the Spanish Grand Prix returned to the calendar, this time at Jerez. Ayrton Senna beat out the recovering Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 seconds. Had the start line not been moved back a hundred yards for the race, Mansell would have won. This would be remembered as the closest-ever F1 finish until 2002.

1991: Not only was this the first race at the Circuit de Catalunya, this was also the first race of Max Mosley as the new FIA president. Many will remember Mansell’s overtaking pass on Senna, with the two cars just inches apart, with sparks flying all over! Mansell would go on to win the race.

1994: This was the d?�?�but race of David Coulthard (pictured above with Frank Williams). But this will go down as the race Michael Schumacher ran with only 5th gear. In spite of that, he managed to finish second to Damon Hill. Those six points would be handy at the end of the season…

Read more about the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix

1996: Schumacher took his first Ferrari win here, in the pouring rain. Jacques Villeneuve took third behind Jean Alesi, while Damon spun out on lap 12. In the words of Martin Brundle, “Michael didn’t have the best car by a mile, but he won it by a mile.”

2001: Mika Hakkinen was on course to take his 4th consecutive Spanish GP win. He was leading Schumacher by almost a minute entering the final lap, but then his hydraulics gave up. This race would also see the first podiums of Juan Pablo Montoya and the BAR team (thanks to Jacques Villeneuve).

2006: Fernando Alonso won that year in the Renault, making him the first ever Spaniard to win his home race.

Read more about the 2006 Spanish Grand Prix

2007: Alonso was not so lucky this year. He tried to pass Felipe Massa’s Ferrari at the start, but he ran out of room and went off the track. Massa would go on to win the race, while Alonso was lucky to finish third behind team mate Lewis Hamilton after Kimi Raikkonen retired.

Read more about the 2007 Spanish Grand Prix

The Spanish Grand Prix (especially the races held in Barcelona) may be notoriously boring, but who would have thought it had so many dramatic moments in its history?

This article was written by Journeyer. If you’re interested in writing for F1Fanatic have a look at the guest posts section of the website.

Have you been to the Spanish Grand Prix? Read about other people’s experiences and share your own stories about visiting the Circuit de Catalunya.

19 comments on “Spanish Grand Prix: memorable races”

  1. I just want to add something:  the first ever F1 race I watched was the 1996 Spanish GP.  That race showed me just how brilliant Michael was.  After that, I was pretty much a Schumi fan all the way to his final drive at Interlagos 2006.

    Anyway, let me know what you guys think about the article: comments and suggestions.  I’ll take them into consideration when I write my next article.  :)

  2. great article. it brings back many fond memories of incredible battles on the track by senna, mansell, prost and schumacher. which reminds me, what ever happened to gp masters?

  3. Thanks, Chas!  GP Masters went bankrupt.  As a matter of fact, someone is suing the organizers for unpaid debt.  Or something like that.

  4. Great article. Was 1994 Spanish Grand Prix straight after the tragic weekend of Imola then?

    I remember seeing Schumacher win in 1996, was one of the best drives I’ve ever seen. Didn’t he stall on the grid too?

    I was at the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix I remember being so gutted when Mika retired right near the end :(

  5. Thanks TommyB and bloggersmosaic.  To answer your question, TommyB, this was the 2nd race after Imola.  Monaco was the race right after Imola, but Williams decided to run only 1 car there.

  6. Oops, missed the other parts.  Well, Schumi didn’t stall in 1996, he just had a slow getaway.  Of course, that really didn’t matter in the end, did it?  I remember this vividly after rewatching the race in YouTube last week.  Sadly, it’s been taken down since then.

  7. theRoswellite
    25th April 2008, 17:22

    Excellent article, and nice to have it just before the GP weekend, please keep up the good work.

  8. Great read, and a great picture of David…. Can you imagine the day when some of the baby faces of today look like he does now?

    Can you even picture Vettel with facial hair?

  9. "But this will go down as the race Michael Schumacher ran with only 5th gear. In spite of that, he managed to finish second to Damon Hill. " 

    Footnotes like this are fond memories but ………..
    In 1959 Roger Ward drove a direct drive USAC midget against
    the world’s finest sports cars Aston-Martin DBS, Ferrari Testa Rosa, etc and WON !  Ward was an oval track driver and the race was run at Lime Rock Park , a road course, against all odds!  Makes one wonder if these multispeed gearboxes really have that much advantage. Perhaps the advantage (in both cases) was the DRIVER ! 

  10. 2001 was unreal

  11. Thanks for the praise, guys!  I’ll write one up again for Turkey.  But that will be a bit more of a challenge.  :)

    Just some thoughts…

    "I was at the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix I remember being so gutted when Mika retired right near the end"

    He wasn’t THAT gutted, to be honest.  As Martin Brundle said then, he could have been a lot worse, as in Monza 1999.

    "a great picture of David…. Can you imagine the day when some of the baby faces of today look like he does now?  Can you even picture Vettel with facial hair?"

    Ewww… I just don’t want to think that far.  Hahaha!

  12. Good work Journeyer.

    I am one of those people that is into past history ,it is not just about where you are going but,where you have been and what has made you what you are.

    I enjoyed,Thank You.

    and on the facial hair issue,just you wait till’ Hamilton trades in his pencil thin sideburns for a pencil thin mustache…Ha!

  13. An excellent article Journeyer; a perfect aperitif to a race weekend.  I would love to see this continue for future race weekends – keep up the great work, and I look forward to reading all about the history of the next race (please post it up Keith!)

  14. I would have to put the 1986 race as the best Spanish Grand Prix I have seen, due in large part to the awesome finish between Aryton Senna and Nigel Mansell.
    I am assuming that the 2002 race that you mentioned Keith was the one in Austria between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barichello? Another memorable race but for all the wrong reasons.
    In many ways the 1986 race, or its climax, was oh so simular to the finish of the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix. You expected Mansell to vault past Senna at any moment, at every turn almost, but it didn’t happen. Mansell would have been champion that year in 1986 if he had won that race.
    Second, as many others have suggested, was Michael Schumacher’s brilliant drive in the pouring rain in 1996. I have to say, that has to be equal to Senna’s performance at Donnington for its genius and precision. Schumacher made them all look stupid that day!

  15. Thank you, monkzie!  :)  As I mentioned upthread, I’ll continue doing this for the rest of the season as long as I have Keith’s blessing to do so.  :D  Turkey will be a bit trickier though because there’s only been 3 races in the past, so I’ll probably add a bonus segment to help add some content to it.  :)

  16. The Limit – Journeyer wrote this article mate, not me! The 2002 race he’s referring to is the United States Grand Prix where, as you say, Ferrari were messing about at the finish.

  17. Actually, after the 2002 US GP and 1986 Spanish GP, the 2002 Austrian GP is the 3rd closest finish ever.

  18. good read  before the week end – only hope the race is a good one and not a procession if the ferrari’s are faster than the rest

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