‘Big downforce’ is coming back in 2017: Fat wings, bargeboards, chunky diffusers.
That means no more overtaking and no more exciting races, right? A season of 20 predictable processions? Not necessarily.
Here are ten races which were great because an overtake didn’t happen. Ten tense nail-biters which had us wondering whether the leader would let their chance for victory slip.
Would DRS have improved any of them? No chance.
1961 Monaco Grand Prix
Moss puts one over Ferrari
Enzo Ferrari had spotted the nascent talent of Stirling Moss from an early stage in his career. However his attempt to court the young ace went badly awry: after Ferrary offered him a drive in a race at Bari, Moss travelled all the way to southern Italy only to discover his car was not ready.
From then on Moss took particular delight in putting one over the red cars. At Monaco in 1961 he gave Ferrari fresh cause to rue his mistake. Driving a privately-entered Lotus which gave away around 30bhp to the Ferraris, Moss nonetheless took pole position around the winding Monaco course.
He arrived on the grid having removed the side-panels from his car to aid cooling. More seriously a cracked chassis tube necessitated a quick weld-job – despite the car being full of fuel.
Richie Ginther led the way at first. But after 13 laps Moss moved ahead and there he remained until the chequered flag dropped at the end of the one hundredth tour. In the intervening period a pair of shark-nosed Tipo F1/61s snapped at his tail, seldom more than a few seconds behind.
Moss parried his pursuers at every turn. Phil Hill took up the chase 27 laps but it was to no avail. Over the final 20 laps the Ferraris mounted their strongest attack, Wolfgang von Trips reducing Moss’s lead to less than three seconds. But his Ferrari engine died on the penultimate tour, leaving Moss to seal victory in one of the best races seen at the Principality.
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1962 German Grand Prix
Hill hangs on at wet Nurburgring
Wins don’t come easily around the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschelife. But Graham Hill’s 1962 victory stood out as he kept a pair of top rivals at bay on a track made even more treacherous by rain.
Having moved into the lead on lap three, Hill’s BRM was tracked by John Surtees (Lola) and Dan Gurney (Porsche) the rest of the way. His pursuers filled his mirrors, Surtees edging ever closer as the race passed the half-distance mark.
The slightest error from Hill could have cost him the lead. As the final lap began Surtees was within range of an attack on the long straight, but Hill bought himself precious time by putting a backmarker between himseld and the Lola. Hill, Surtees and Gurney crossed the line covered by less than five seconds after a nerve-shredding race of more than two-and-a-half hours.
1965 British Grand Prix
Clark survives late scare at home
With 15 laps to go it seemed inevitable Jim Clark was going to take a fourth consecutive victory in his home race. His Lotus was over 35 seconds ahead of its closest pursuer, Hill’s BRM.
But then Clark’s Coventry-Climax engine began to run out of oil. Realising the problem, Clark flicked the engine off in the corners, preserving what little lubrication was left.
Fortunately for him that year’s British Grand Prix was being held at Silverstone, with its many long straights, instead of the twistier Brands Hatch. But though his tactics were effective they were costing him a huge amount of time. Hill cut entire seconds out of the Lotus’s lead, despite having to cope with problems of his own: the BRM’s brakes were fading badly.
Beginning the final lap Clark was still five seconds ahead but Hill had just taken three out of him. If the Lotus coughed badly the win would be Hill’s. But it didn’t: Clark clung on, claiming victory by 3.2 seconds.
1975 Dutch Grand Prix
Hunt springs a surprise
For a driver as outrageous as James Hunt, his first victory was suitably unconventional. Not least because it became at the wheel of a Hesketh, the cheeky upstarts who no one took seriously until it was too late.
A pre-race downpour at Zandvoort prompted the entire field to start on wet weather tyres. Ferrari’s Niki Lauda, already comfortably ahead in the championship, led away, followed by Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell), Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Hunt.
But within seven laps, with a dry line emerging, Hunt was ready to gamble. Pit stops were a rarity at the time and Hesketh hadn’t done a good job of his last one in Monaco. This one went according to plan – though at around half a minute it was incomparably slower than a modern stop – and got him out in 19th ahead of the only other car on slicks.
As Hunt picked up the pace his rivals gradually followed suit. Lauda didn’t make it in until lap 13 and rejoined the track just in time for Hunt to come zipping by. But surely Hunt, with his reputation for throwing the car off while leading, couldn’t keep the Ferrari behind for the remaining 62 laps?
Indeed he could. Despite having to take risks in the traffic as Lauda loomed ever closer, ‘Hunt the Shunt’ prevailed. He made it to the finish line one second ahead, and the party started at Hesketh.
1981 Spanish Grand Prix
Villeneuve’s improbable victory
Gilles Villeneuve had already taken advantage of an off-day for the championship contenders to win the 1981 Monaco Grand Prix in his Ferrari. This shouldn’t have happened: the unwieldy 126CK lolloped around corners and communicated its vast power to the track only after significant turbo lag.
It was little better suited to the Spanish Grand Prix venue of Jarama than it was to Monte-Carlo. But no one appeared to have told Villeneuve, who was on a mission from seventh on the grid.
A scorching start put him third. All well and good, but the far nimbler Williamses lay ahead. Yet on the second lap he fumbled his way past Carlos Reutemann, so that when Alan Jones binned the team’s other car on the 14th tour Villeneuve took up the lead of the race.
What followed verged on the comical as a succession of faster cars queued up behind the Ferrari and failed to navigate a way past. The unflappable Villeneuve had four rivals within 1.2 seconds of him at the end of the race – a train comprising Jacques Laffite, John Watson, Carlos Reutemann and Elio de Angelis.
1982 Austrian Grand Prix
Rosberg denied again
With its long straights and fast corners the Osterreichring was a playground for turbocharged F1 cars in the eighties. But the problems of containing all that energy hadn’t quite been mastered by 1982, and the turbo cars dropped like flies, leaving their naturally aspirated rivals to battle for victory.
First among them on this occasion was Elio de Angelis in his Ford Cosworth powered Lotus. He went from ‘class leader’ to outright leader with five laps to go when the last of the Renaults failed.
But Keke Rosberg was bearing down on him quickly. Having been ten seconds behind de Angelis earlier he now had the gap down to four and it was still falling.
On the penultiamte lap the V8 in the Lotus hesitated momentarily and now Rosberg had him in the crosshairs. The gloves came off: de Angelis squatted on the inside line as they screamed into the final corner, and Rosberg swept out behind as they powered to the line side-by-side. De Angelis made it first, by a mere five hundredths of a second.
1985 Dutch Grand Prix
Payback for Lauda
Lewis Hamilton may have been unfortunate when it came to reliability last year but it pales in comparison with what Mercedes boss Lauda went through in 1985. He may as well not have turned up for much of his swansong season as his McLaren MP4/2 failed over and over again.
The upshot was the reigning world champion arrived at the 11th round of the 1985 season only twelfth in the standings with five points. Team mate Alain Prost was tied for the lead with Michele Alobreto on 50.
Having started tenth, seven places behind Prost, Lauda made an early pit stop on lap 21. Prost, having inherited the lead, didn’t come in for another dozen laps. But when he did the service was agonisingly slow: an 18-second stop dropping him behind Lauda and Ayrton Senna. But his victory chances weren’t over.
After dispensing with Senna, Prost set about carving into his team mate’s seven-second lead. With ten laps to go they were nose-to-tail and the McLaren pit wall was in agony.
Putting more than a decade of grand prix experience to great use, Lauda kept Prost at bay. He carefully picked his way past traffic and protected the line when he needed to. Prost, on the verge of his first title, was wary of taking too great a risk – much as he would be in a similar encounter with Michael Schumacher at Estoril eight years later when wrapping up his final championship.
Most surprisingly of all, Lauda’s car held to the end. It was his final victory, and the final time he saw the chequered flag in F1.
1990 Hungarian Grand Prix
Boutsen leads the parade
Senna’s skillful way with pole position laps let him down for once at the Hungaroring in 1990 and Thierry Boutsen took advantage, leading an all-Williams front row. The McLaren pair occupied the second row but a lap 23 pit stop left Senna down in tenth.
Having kept his lead Boutsen appreciated the best way to hold onto it was to stay out of the pits. Nursing his Goodyears, while also suffering comfortable vibrations in the car after over-revving his Renault V10, he kept an eye on his mirrors while potential rivals fell by the wayside.
First to drop back was Gerhard Berger, who had to pit like his team mate. The second Williams of Riccardo Patrese also succumbed to the need for fresh rubber, letting Alessandro Nannini’s Benetton by.
The John Baranard-designed B190 was famously easy on its tyres and could have been a serious threat to Boutsen in the closing stages. But an even bigger threat was Senna, who stormed down the inside of Nannini at the chicane and almost flipped the Benetton over as he captured second place.
Yet remarkably, he couldn’t do anything to dislodge Boutsen. The Williams completed its 77th consecutive lap in the lead and won the race with Senna just two-tenths of a second adrift.
1992 Monaco Grand Prix
Another Monaco win gets away from Mansell
Even the genius that was Senna at Monaco was no match for the formidable Williams-Renault FW14B in the hands of Nigel Mansell in 1992. The Williams cars occupied the front row, Senna was 1.1 seconds behind in third, and it seemed inevitable Mansell would finally get his first Monaco win.
Senna split the Williams pair at the start but Mansell disappeared off up the road as was customary. After 70 laps Mansell was 28 seconds ahead and the final minutes of the race were ticking down. Then came drama.
Exiting the tunnel on lap 71 Mansell’s car slewed sidways. A wheelnut had worked loose. In the Williams garage the team had already begun packing up their equipment (Benetton’s Martin Brundle had been the only other visitor to the pits all race long), so when Mansell arrived at short notice the change took an agonising amount of time.
He rejoined the track five seconds behind the McLaren and the impossible chase began. After hacking almost two-and-a-half seconds out of his rival in a single lap Mansell was soon clambering around the MP4-7A. Around the narrow confines of Monaco it was hardly necessary for Senna to defend to keep his position, but he was leaving nothing to chance. “With the regulations the way they are now Ayrton would have had six stop-and-go penalties” rued Mansell in a recent interview for Autosport.
Finally he had to accept defeat, and by two-tenths of a second Senna took his fifth Monaco Grand Prix victory.
2005 and 2006 San Marino Grands Prix
Alonso vs Schumacher parts one and two
A furious Kimi Raikkonen threw his steering wheel across the McLaren garage. A driveshaft failure had put him out of the San Marino Grand Prix after eight laps in the lead. But his departure from the race set up the first of two epic final encounters at the Imola track.
Fernando Alonso took over the lead ahead of Jenson Button. Michael Schumacher, who had started 13th after going off at Rivazza during qualifying earlier in the day, had only made up two places and seemed to be out of contention.
But the Ferrari was heavily fuelled for the first stint and jumped up to third after coming in on lap 27. His next pit stop almost jumped him into the lead, and as he returned to the track on lap 51 Alonso was well within range.
Alonso played it coolly, backing off by around three seconds to stay clear of traffic and contain Schumacher’s pace. It worked beautifully, though it took nerves of steel. The Renault driver prevailed by just two-tenths.
Twelve months later the roles were reversed. This time Alonso applied the pressure but he was no more able to find a way past than Schumacher had been. A few laps from home he ran wide on a kerb and his challenge was over – Schumacher had his revenge.
Over to you
Which other F1 races were exciting despite a lack of overtaking between the race leaders? And what memorably tense races have you enjoyed in other championships?
Have your say in the comments.
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