I thought I’d write up something a bit different to a standard blog post. This being a Top 5 list, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good list to get ourselves thinking?! I’ve been watching Formula 1 for about 16 years now (Started in 2001/02) and in this time, F1 has served out some crazily good races. But what do I think are my favourites? On with the list!
5) 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix
I’ll be honest with you guys now: I am a massive Jenson Button fan, so this is partly the reason why this race is named in this list. But aside from Championship drama, this turned out into a surprisingly entertaining race. Jenson Button went into this race knowing that a 5th place finish would secure his maiden (and what would be, only) World Championship with a race to spare, something he was determined to do before a possible title finale in Abu Dhabi. But the sky unfortunately had other ideas in qualifying, with heavy rain mixing the grid up and leaving Button 14th on the grid, although fortunately his main title rival Sebastian Vettel was behind him in 16th after struggling as well.
The race started and already there was drama. Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli had a coming together on Lap 1 and both retired, something Trulli wasn’t prepared to let Sutil get away with.As well as them two, Fernando Alonso also retired after having a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ moment when Sutil collected his car with him.
Jenson Button had a tremendous start in pursuit of the Championship, going from 14th to 8th by the end of Lap 1. Risky overtakes on Sebastian Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi pushed him ever closer to that elusive title, which was gifted to him so unfortunately by his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello was in what seemed like a millionth attempt to win his home Grand Prix, but a struggling Barrichello failed to capitalise on his pole position before a puncture after an accidental collision with Lewis Hamilton put him behind Button.
This was enough for Button to claim the 5th place he needed to win the championship after 10 seasons in Formula 1. A remarkable achievement given he was without a drive 12 months prior after Honda’s withdrawal from the sport (I bet they wish they stayed away forever!). Somewhat under the radar, the race was won by Mark Webber, dominant after the first round of pit stops to cruise home over 7 seconds clear and take his 2nd career win. Also, Felipe Massa returned in the public spotlight to wave the chequered flag at the end of the race, 4 months after his life-threatening crash in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
4) 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
We’re back in Brazil for another title showdown, this time between Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, both aiming for their 3rd world title. It was very much advantage Vettel going into the race, with a 13-point lead meaning Alonso needed at least a podium finish to have any chance of winning the title.
The race began under light rain although all cars chose to start on dry tyres. Like in 2009 there was drama from the off, only this time it involved the main title challenger. Sebastian Vettel was tagged by Bruno Senna going into Turn 3, causing him to spin and leaving him stone-dead last and with a damaged sidepod, although this was not sufficient reason for him to retire. Going into Lap 2, Alonso made a sensational double overtake on Mark Webber and his team-mate Felipe Massa, even more impressive given the increasingly heavier rain on track and the dry tyres fitted on the cars.
All the cars came in to switch to intermediate tyres apart from two. Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg decided to take a chance on dry’s and hope the rain eased off, which proved to be an inspired choice. Both cars lead by nearly a minute at one stage, before debris forced a safety car to come out and bunch the field once more. Once the race resumed, Lewis Hamilton overhauled his team-mate Button into 2nd and challenge Hulkenberg for the race, taking the lead from Hulkenberg a few laps later after a mistake by the Force India driver. However, it ended disastrously for the pair. An ‘opportunistic’ lunge at the McLaren driver into Turn 1 damaged the suspension on Hamilton’s car, leaving Hamilton to retire in his final race for McLaren while Hulkenberg served a drive through. The return of the rain, as well as the retirement of Paul Di Resta, meant for a pedestrian end to the race ultimately won by Jenson Button.
Amid all the drama at the front, Vettel performed superbly to recover to 7th place. A poignant moment in his race was with the overtake of Michael Schumacher in the 7-time world champion’s final ever race, a ‘passing the baton’ moment if ever the F1 world saw one.
This race was captivating right from the off. While the championship fight was dwindling once Alonso struggled to keep up with the leaders, it remained a thrilling dry-wet race with a fairytale ending for a certain Red Bull driver.
3) 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix
Formula One went into this weekend in a sombre mood after the news of the death of Jules Bianchi, who died from injuries relating to a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Everyone was keen to put on a spectacle in honour of Jules, and boy did they not disappoint.
As the lights went off, the Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen made fantastic starts compared to the Mercedes’ pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in front, both overtaking the pair to lead into Turn 1. Later on in the lap, Hamilton ran wide and came back to the circuit in 10th, an age away from his pole position the day previous.
As the race wore on, Vettel was cruising at the front and setting fastest lap after fastest lap in true-Vettel fashion. Raikkonen followed his team-mate behind, while the Red Bull pair of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were ahead of the Mercedes of Rosberg, in a complete reversal of the form book that developed over the last 18 months. Midway into the race, Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing fell off due to damage from the kerbs and the Safety Car was deployed, with Ricciardo challenging Hamilton, who benefited hugely from the preceding Virtual Safety Car, for position after the Safety Car came in. A collision occurred between the two and Hamilton was handed a drive-through penalty, essentially ending any hopes for a win despite his resurgence throughout the race.
With 7 laps to go, a thrilling finish was set up front with Vettel, Rosberg and Ricciardo all being within 1 and a half seconds between one another. As Ricciardo unsuccessfully attempted to pass Rosberg into Turn 1, Rosberg tried to defend going into Turn 2 but caused himself to get a puncture after clipping RIcciardo’s front wing, condemning both of them to the pits and leaving Sebastian Vettel to claim his 41st career F1 win, his 2nd for Ferrari and level with Ayrton Senna for Career F1 wins. Ricciardo recovered to earn himself 3rd place, with the pair split on the podium by Daniil Kvyat, who celebrated his maiden podium finish despite a time penalty.
This was a race that F1 needed BADLY. The passing of Jules Bianchi was devastating for all areas of F1. The dominance of Mercedes over the previous 18 months was turning casual fans away from the sport because of among other reasons, boredom at seeing the same two drivers win every race. Formula One needed a race to spark all that is good about the sport. The drama, the entertainment, the thrills. This race had it all. Every driver had to earn their position despite their advantage. The leader in Vettel was seemingly comfortable at the front, but come the end of the race risked losing all his hard work in the blink of an eye. The coming’s together between drivers was example that tight margins determine the difference between becoming a hero and losing everything. This was to put it simply, a remarkable event to witness.
2) 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
The 2003 season saw regulation change in an effort to cut costs in the sport. One of these changes was limiting teams to one wet compound tyre for a race weekend, these being either the intermediate or full wet tyre. When the 3rd race of the season came around, it was a rainy weekend in Brazil as we have grown accustomed to. Unfortunately for the teams who used Bridgestone tyres, they decided to bring the intermediate tyres to the race, which became more and more unsuitable as the weekend progressed.
The race began under the safety car and showed us one of the worst restarts in living memory for Rubens Barrichello, leaving his restart WAY too late and allowing David Coulthard to take the lead into Turn One. On Lap 18, Ralph Firman’s Jordan had a front suspension failure, sliding halfway down the main straight into retirement, taking Toyota’s Olivier Panis and nearly his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella with him in the process.
Turn 3 proved to be a nightmare for a number of drivers, with the lack of drainage leaving the corner more like a swimming pool rather than part of a motor racing circuit. Drivers including Antonio Pizzonia, Juan Pablo Montoya and even reigning world champion Michael Schumacher were caught out by the treacherous conditions, effectively turning Turn 3 into a very expensive car park!
On lap 53, Mark Webber lost control of his car going up the hill onto the main straight, crashing heavily into the tyre barrier with half the barrier scattered over the track. This was unfortunate for Fernando Alonso, who hit a lone tyre on the race track and had an enormous shunt into another tyre barrier, being enough for a red flag to be shown and proved to be the end of the race. Thankfully for Alonso, any injury he suffered wasn’t serious, but brought an end to a truly bonkers race…
But that’s not the end of the chaos! When the race was declared, Kimi Raikkonen was considered the winner of the race with Giancarlo Fisichella in 2nd place and the stricken Fernando Alonso in 3rd. The result was eventually confirmed days later by the FIA with Fisichella winning instead, meaning nobody on the original podium was in their original positions. Kimi was on the top step when he finished 2nd, Fisichella vice-versa and Alonso wasn’t even on the podium as he was in the medical centre. Fisichella’s car ended up catching fire in parc ferme, and this ridiculous Grand Prix was brought to an end with a very awkward photo at the next race at Imola of Ron Dennis giving the winner’s trophy to Eddie Jordan. It’s fair to say F1 hasn’t had that many days like that and frankly ever will. However…
1) 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
For me personally, this race had literally everything you can ask for in a Grand Prix. It had my favourite driver having to go through the pit lane six times and STILL ended up winning the race, team-mates and championship rivals colliding throughout, tense drama right to the last lap, the legendary Michael Schumacher pushing so hard for his first podium finish since he returned from retirement. All of this was under the presence of torrential rain, which eventually cleared and left a grandstand finish. We even had a bird watch on Live TV while the red flag was out! (I’m convinced it was an American Robin).
The race began under the Safety Car as a result of heavy rain, with pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel keeping the lead on the restart. Cars behind were dicing for position throughout as they set about finding traction in the treacherous conditions. Drama number one occurred on lap 7. Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were fighting for position when Button tried an *cough* ambitious overtake on Hamilton. This left Hamilton with a damaged rear-wheel and subsequent retirement, Button with a drive-through penalty after he sped in the pit lane when pitting for repairs, a Safety Car to come out and a number of teams with carbon fibre stuck in their pit boards.
Lap 20 came around and so apparently did the wrath of the weather Gods. A ferocious weather front arrived at the circuit, so much so that the race was suspended and didn’t restart for two hours. Cue the various TV crews desperately searching for some form of filler in their coverage while the cars sat on the grid, whether it be bird-spotting as was the BBC’s case, making a fuss over Rihanna being at the Grand Prix, or even giving over-the-top media coverage to the backmarkers of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Anything for TV ratings, eh?
Onwards to Lap 47, Fernando Alonso and Button were fighting for position when disaster struck for the Ferrari man. Another *cough* ambitious manoeuvre by the McLaren spun Alonso and left the Ferrari stricken, leaving Button with another visit to the pits for his troubles and yet another Safety Car. But the troubles for Button didn’t put him off despite being 21st and last place at one point. Another safety car after the expert parking job from Nick Heidfeld after colliding with Paul Di Resta (Seriously, check it out. It’s impressive.) bunched the field once more and a pack of three emerged for 2nd place. Button, Schumacher and Mark Webber all squabbled for the next-best prize in Grand Prix racing but it was Button who came out on top, something he had seemed to be a master of in changeable conditions.
Constantly eating away into Vettel’s lead, the pressure paid off when Vettel touched the wet part of the track on the final lap and went wide (Good save for what it’s worth), leaving Button to overcome every adversity thrown at him in that race to sensationally win the Canadian Grand Prix!
To recap, Jenson Button won the longest race in Formula One history at 4 hours, 4 minutes and 39 seconds. He won it at the lowest average speed ever recorded at 46.5 mph and with the most pit-stops by a race winner at 6. I don’t think words can truly do this race justice. It had everything a racing fan wants from a Grand Prix, even had rain for extra measure. It had the plot that only Hollywood could ever think about producing, a marvel of sport that would require something biblical to ever surpass. If there was ever a race that was anything close to matching this in terms of a spectacle, then sign me up!