It has compelled, delighted and intrigued in equal measure, leaving us with defining moments etched indelibly in the minds of fans all over the world. Formula 1® racing is the ultimate test of man and machine - pushing car and driver to their absolute limits in pursuit of one simple goal: speed. You could argue in that respect the end goal in F1® has changed very little in 65 years.
F1® is about evolution and striving for perfection, because 1000ths of a second really do make the difference. After 900 Grand Prix races in more than 30 countries, competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2015 is a very different prospect to when the Championship launched in 1950, in the days of open cockpits, no seatbelts and goggle visors.
Then and Now
Enzo Ferrari famously commented that “aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines” and it’s true to say that in the early days of Formula 1® racing the cars were designed purely for speed - with front engines and drum brakes, their aerodynamics received little attention. To succeed in the modern F1® era, however, where each Formula 1® team is responsible for designing and constructing their own car in order to contest the Constructors’ Championship, designers must work to combine aerodynamics with their cars’ complex power units and braking systems. Today's Formula 1® drivers can expect to race at over 300km/h experiencing cornering forces in excess of 4g, but they do so in a much safer environment than their predecessors - the first safety measures in Formula 1® racing were not adopted until 1960.
Innovation, glamour, excitement, speed and excellence - the F1® brand is a powerful symbol and has long denoted a fine and distinctive partnership between sporting and technological excellence, embracing its historical roots whilst looking forward to the challenges of the future to maintain its position as the very pinnacle of motor racing. We take a look back at some of the defining moments which have set Formula 1® racing apart from all other brands of motor racing.
Iconic Moments in F1®
When winning margins can be just 1000ths of a second, victory can sometimes seem unachievable - as Jim Clark found out in possibly his best-ever drive at the 1967 Grand Prix of Italy at Monza. Recovering from 15th after a tyre change which saw him lose an entire lap on his rivals (how times have changed), Clark recovered to take the lead only to agonizingly lose out on the last lap thanks to a fuel pump issue, finishing 3rd to John Surtees and Jack Brabham as his Lotus crawled across the finishing line. The battle to be first has always been intense in F1® and at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix at Monza just 0.18 seconds separated the first 4 cars, demonstrating the competitiveness of Formula 1® racing. F1® has, of course, always been about competition but unpredictability has often played its part too, and the end to the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix was about as unpredictable as it gets. Eventually won by Riccardo Patrese, a mixture of rain, spilt oil and fuel issues turned a run-of the-mill race into pure theatre, giving Patrese his first victory in F1® and commentators a headache in the process as the lead swapped hands again and again.
The quest to be the best fuels rivalries in any sporting discipline, but few have been more intense than that between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. When the two collided at Suzuka in 1989, the tumultuous relationship came to a head, and was unveiled to a global audience. Rivalries between the world’s elite drivers were commonplace: the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix will long be remembered for the duel between Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna as they raced wheel-to-wheel with sparks flying, giving fans an epic spectacle and the cameras some stunning pictures. At Silverstone later the same year, Mansell memorably gave Senna a lift back to the pits, after the Brazilian was forced to retire, creating an iconic image of the rivals united.
The drama that F1® offers plays out year after year and it is hard to forget Mansell’s infamous tyre blowout in Adelaide in 1986 which put a dramatic end to his title hopes and provided another extraordinary moment in the history of the Championship. Likewise the end to the 2008 season, with Hamilton grasping 5th place on the final corner of a rain-soaked race in Brazil, thus snatching the Drivers’ Championship from Felipe Massa. Many a championship has gone down to the wire, but few have seen two drivers cross the line as world champions.
With so many iconic moments from its illustrious lifetime to call upon, it is not exactly an easy task to sum up a favourite moment in F1® racing over the past 65 years. Whether it’s the first night race, your favourite driver’s first or last race, epic wheel-to-wheel racing on the track, Niki Lauda returning to race action just 6 weeks after a life-threatening crash, or James Hunt saluting the crowd and enjoying a beer after winning the 1977 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, iconic moments come thick and fast in F1®. With each race throughout the season we will be bringing you the thoughts of F1® superstars past and present about their early memories of F1® and what their iconic moments from the past 65 years would be. Kicking us off, though, is Formula One group CEO, Bernie Ecclestone.
What do you think is the most iconic moment in the history of F1®?
Bernie Ecclestone: “There are really so many to choose from but if you push me for one that stands out from recent memory it would be the end to the Championship in Brazil 2008. I remember the celebrations in the Ferrari garage when they thought Felipe Massa had won the Championship. Hamilton was stuck behind Sebastian and Massa was set to win but Hamilton somehow got a place back overtaking Timo Glock in the rain, right at the end, and won the title. It was tough for Felipe but just shows you the drama of F1 racing.”
Lewis Hamilton: "It’s really difficult to say. But, for me, the most iconic moment was caught in a photo I saw once with four of the World Champions sitting on a pit wall. There was Senna, Prost, Mansell and Piquet – all sitting there together in almost a kind of friendship group. Normally, with how competitive F1 is, that wouldn’t happen – so for me that was a really iconic moment."
Valtteri Bottas: "1997 Jerez, Mika Hakkinen’s first win. He had tried to get the first win for years and years. In ‘95 he had a really bad accident and was close to dying, so coming back from that and winning the title in the next two years. That was mega."
Nico Hulkenberg: “For me it's the battle between Senna and Prost in the late 1980s. Those races at Suzuka, especially the coming together at the chicane in 1989, are so recognisable. It was such a dramatic moment and something every F1 fan remembers.”
Fernando Alonso: "I think the most iconic moment of F1 was when Prost and Senna collided at the chicane in Suzuka, ending up both getting stuck - with Prost then winning the championship. That moment sums up the essence of F1.”
Nico Rosberg: "Michael Schumacher winning his first World Championship for Ferrari in 2000."
Marcus Ericsson: "My personal iconic moment in the history of F1 was when Ronnie Peterson won the Monaco Grand Prix. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most iconic races in F1 and Ronnie Peterson is obviously the biggest Swedish star we have ever had in F1."
Daniel Ricciardo: “There are plenty, but one that stands out was when Senna could hardly lift his trophy in Brazil. It was pure exhaustion and he was just emotionally distraught. That was a pretty strong moment.”
Jenson Button: "For me, it's probably the clashes between Prost and Senna at Suzuka in 1989 and 1990. Two very different crashes, but two moments that people still remember with utter clarity. Those were unbelievable times."
Romain Grosjean: "Pictures from the mid '90s, there were sparks, the cars were wide and had big tyres. That’s probably when I started watching F1 and I thought that it looked super cool!"
Max Verstappen: "For me I think that was the fight between Prost and Senna over those years."
Sebastian Vettel: "It is difficult to mention only one iconic moment, as I think every era in F1 had special or iconic moments."
Felipe Massa: "I think when Ayrton won his first race in Brazil. He stayed in the car, people were on the track, it was amazing!"
Daniil Kvyat: "I think it was the fight between Senna and Prost and particularly the fight in Japan when they crashed. That was one of the most iconic moments in F1 for me."
Pastor Maldonado: "My victory in 2012, for me personally it was the greatest moment in Formula One! An iconic moment was Senna-Prost in Japan [in 1989], with Senna going on to win and then being disqualified."