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Moments in Time - the Spanish Grand Prix

07 May 2014

In our series exploring the history of Grands Prix through a selection of iconic images, we focus the lens on Spain. This trip down memory lane takes in all five venues to have hosted the Spanish race and includes a heroic drive by Gilles Villeneuve, an emotional win for Damon Hill, heartbreak for Mika Hakkinen, and more…

Spain’s title-deciding world championship debut, Pedralbes, 1951

Spain’s inaugural appearance on the world championship calendar came at the end of the 1951 season when Alfa Romeo’s Juan Manuel Fangio and Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari were scrapping it out for the world title. Both men needed to win at the suburban Pedralbes street circuit in Barcelona to be sure of taking the crown, but though Ascari (car number 2) started the race on pole he would suffer tyre woes in the race and so it was Fangio (pictured here in fourth, car number 22) who would go on to take both victory and the title.

(© LAT Photographic)

Hill wins to aid Lotus healing, Jarama, 1968

The Lotus team was still in mourning as it arrived at Jarama for round two of the 1968 world championship - it was only a matter of days since Mike Spence had been killed driving a Lotus at Indianapolis and just over a month since they’d lost star driver Jim Clark to a crash in a low-key Formula Two race at Hockenheim. It was therefore left to Graham Hill - Lotus’s only runner in Spain - to carry the torch for Colin Chapman’s grieving squad. With a mix of stoicism and good fortune Hill (leading in this picture) worked his way into the lead from sixth on the grid, eventually beating McLaren’s Denny Hulme (orange car) across the line by 16 seconds. It was just the tonic Lotus needed.

(© Sutton Images)

On a wing and a prayer, Montjuic Park, 1969

High-mounted rear wings were very much de rigueur at the beginning of the 1969 season, as this photo from round two at Barcelona’s picturesque Montjuic Park attests. The rather ugly aero devices certainly provided drivers with more downforce, but the technology was still in its infancy and Lotus drivers Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt were both lucky to escape serious injury after rear wing support failures pitched them into the barriers. The incident-packed race was eventually won by Jackie Stewart, whose Cosworth-powered Matra MS80 is pictured here running behind Jack Brabham’s eponymous BT26A.

(© Sutton Images)

Villeneuve puts on a driving masterclass, Jarama, 1981

The term ‘defensive driving’ often carries with it negative connotations, but ask any driver and they’ll tell you that there’s a real skill to keeping ahead of a quicker rival - and none of it involves intentional blocking or weaving. The 1981 race at Jarama was a case in point as Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve (front) withstood tremendous pressure from Ligier’s Jacques Laffite (pictured in second), McLaren’s John Watson (pictured third), Williams’ Carlos Reutemann (pictured fourth) and Lotus’s Elio de Angelis (pictured fifth) to claim an unlikely win. The French-Canadian’s rivals enjoyed a substantial handling advantage around the Spanish track’s twists and turns, but a combination of Villeneuve’s perfect car positioning and his 126CK’s turbo grunt proved enough to keep them at bay. At the flag the first five cars home were separated by just 1.24s, which at the time was the second-closest finish in F1 history.

(© LAT Photographic)

Alesi spins out of contention, Jerez de la Frontera, 1990

Jean Alesi caught the eye on several occasions during the 1990 season, but sadly for him the Spanish Grand Prix wasn’t one of them. The French-Sicilian (car number 4) didn’t make it past the first corner after his Tyrrell was tagged by Gerhard Berger’s red and white McLaren and picked up a left-rear puncture. With his car beached in the gravel, Alesi was forced to watch from the sidelines as his future team, Ferrari, completed a one-two with Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell.

(© LAT Photographic)

Hill claims emotional victory, Barcelona, 1994

Just as father Graham had lifted the spirits of the grieving Lotus team by winning in Spain back in 1968, so Damon Hill raised morale at Williams by winning at Barcelona in 1994. Less than a month on from Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at the wheel of an FW16 in Imola, Hill benefited from a gear selection problem on Michael Schumacher’s Benetton to take victory. As you can see in this picture, the British racer’s emotions were running high on the podium.

(© Sutton Images)

Schumacher walks on water for first Ferrari win, Barcelona, 1996

There were several races in Michael Schumacher’s glittering career when he stood head and shoulders above the opposition, and the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix was one such occasion. In dry qualifying his Ferrari was no match for the dominant Williams-Renaults, but in the treacherously wet conditions of race day, Schumacher’s inherent car control more than made up for the deficit. The German utterly dominated, winning by 45 seconds and setting a fastest lap an amazing 2.2s faster than anyone else could manage. This picture shows the Ferrari team saluting Schumacher at the finish. They’d go on to do it a further 71 times over the next 11 seasons.

(© Sutton Images)

Hakkinen’s last lap heartache, Barcelona, 2001

Having outfoxed Michael Schumacher and Ferrari on strategy, McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen looked set to take a well-deserved victory in the 2001 race. But no sooner had the flying Finn started his final lap than the Mercedes engine in his MP4/16 gave up the ghost. As Hakkinen coasted to a standstill at Turn 3, Schumacher swept past to claim the most fortuitous of wins. Still, at least Hakkinen was able to grab a lift back to the pits on the side of team mate David Coulthard’s car…

(© Sutton Images)

Trulli inadvertently triggers first lap carnage, Barcelona, 2009

The opening sequence of corners at Barcelona have been known to induce a fair bit of wheel banging, but in 2009 they were the scene of a full-on pile up. The mayhem was sparked when Williams’ Nico Rosberg ran off track battling Renault’s Fernando Alonso and returned to the asphalt right in front of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli. With nowhere to go, the Italian took to the grass, lost control and spun into the path of the oncoming pack. Force India’s Adrian Sutil (pictured in the background) collected Trulli’s car, while Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais (middle) was launched over team mate Sebastien Buemi’s car (left) as the Swiss driver tried to take avoiding action. Somehow Renault’s Nelson Piquet (far right) managed to avoid the carnage.

(© Sutton Images)

Maldonado holds off Alonso for famous win, Barcelona, 2012

The opening four races of the 2012 season produced four different winners and while many expected the unpredictability to continue in Barcelona, few expected to see Williams challenging for victory. But on an extraordinary weekend, that’s just what happened. With his car and tyres working in perfect harmony, Pastor Maldonado qualified second on the grid, only to see that become P1 when polesitter Lewis Hamilton was excluded for a fuel issue. In spite of high expectations, the Venezuelan led from the front on race day, withstanding enormous pressure from the Ferrari of home favourite Fernando Alonso to record his maiden Grand Prix victory and Williams’ first win in over seven years.

(© LAT Photographic)