Below is a copy of Ayrton Senna’s super license, dated January 8th 1990, signed by the then FISA president, Jean-Marie Balestre (Left) and Ayrton Senna (right).
The fractious relationship between Senna and Prost didn’t take long to bubble over at the start of the 1989 season. Senna ran into an early lead in the championship, winning three out of the first four races. Prost felt Senna had gone back on a pre-race agreement at the restart of the San Marino Grand Prix when he passed the Frenchman to take the lead and go on to win. His early season dominance was halted by a series of technical problems with his car. He failed to finish the races in the USA, Canada, France, Britain and Italy due to car failure plus collisions at the Brazilian and Portuguese races put Prost in the driving seat for the championship. As in 1988, the Suzuka circuit in Japan would see the title decided. With Senna needing a victory to keep his chances alive for the final round in Australia, he trailed Prost in the early stages of the race as the two pulled clear of the field. After both pitted for new tyres, Senna set about closing the gap on the race leader. By lap 40, he was just a second behind and looking much faster at this stage of the race. Senna shadowed Prost’s every move until on lap 46, he got a good run out of 130R and pulled alongside into the breaking zone for the chicane. Seeing Senna in his mirrors, Prost moved right towards Senna, the pair collided and with the cars locked together Prost jumped out of the car. Senna was gesticulating to the marshals to help him bump start his car after it was freed and managed to fire up the Honda engine down the slip road. Having to do a full lap with a damaged nose cone to get back to the pits, the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini roared into the lead as Senna made his way out of the pits. Senna had five laps to catch and pass Nannini, with the extra grip of the fresh rubber from the pit stop, he was quickly on the back of him and passed to retake the lead at the chicane where he and Prost had tangled. Senna crossed the line to take what looked like a victory to take the championship down to the wire. However, after a lengthy meeting with the stewards that saw the podium presentation delayed by half an hour. Senna was disqualified for missing out the chicane when he was bump started, meaning that Prost was controversially crowned Champion. A large fine and temporary suspension of his Super License followed in the winter of 1989 and an irate Senna engaged in a bitter war of words with the FIA and its then President Jean-Marie Balestre. Senna finished the season second with six wins and one second place.
A more harmonious atmosphere was found in the McLaren garage for the 1990 campaign with Gerhard Berger joining from Ferrari. The season got off to a spectacular start for Senna with a hard fought win in Phoenix, battling wheel to wheel with rookie Frenchman, Jean Alesi’s Tyrrell. By the midpoint of the season, Senna had five wins to his name with Prost again his closest rival for the title. As was the tradition between the two, the title was decided around the figure of eight, Suzuka track. Senna had taken pole for the race but was incensed when the stewards moved pole position to the dirty side of the grid, handing second placed Prost the clean side of the track. At the start of the race, Prost took full advantage of the extra grip on the racing line to edge into the lead. Senna was in his slipstream and dived for the inside as they turned into the first corner. Like the year before, the pair collided and both were instant retirements, handing the drivers title to Senna.
The defending champion got off to a flying start in 1991, winning the first four races to again build an early advantage. Williams, with their Renault engines looked like the team to worry Senna. After overcoming teething problems with their semi-automatic gearbox, by mid season Nigel Mansell’s run of three straight win had put him within striking distance of Senna. The Brazilian went into the penultimate round at Suzuka knowing that Mansell need to win the race to keep the championship alive. Senna made a good start, leading Mansell in the early stages. Mansell’s chase ended prematurely when his went wide in turn 1, spinning off into the gravel on lap 10. Senna went on to finish second to win his third title in four years, becoming the youngest triple world champion at 33 years of age.
In 1992, it was clear from the offset that the McLaren was no match for the Williams FW14B with its active suspension. Senna endured a frustrating year with only three wins coming his way. The pick of which came at Monaco. Senna trailed Mansell from the start after jumping Patrese into second. Mansell looked set for his sixth straight victory of the year until a loose wheel nut forced him to pit, giving the lead to Senna. With eight laps to go, Mansell cruised up the back of Senna’s car. With his tyres at the end of their life, Senna produced a masterclass in defensive driving to hold of Mansell for the last three laps to take another famous victory at Monaco. Senna finished the year in fourth place with 50 points.
Senna was in talks with Sir Frank about the possibility of driving for the team in 1993. Williams had signed Prost, who took a sabbatical year in ’92 after being fired by Ferrari. Prost stipulated in his contract that Senna could not be his team-mate, scuppering the chance of any deal. Despite Prost’s advantage in the superior Williams, Senna took two wins and a second in the first three races, including his famous victory in the European Grand Prix at Donington Park. Senna started fourth on the grid and dropped behind the Sauber of Karl Wendlinger before putting in what is widely regarded as his finest racing lap. He was quickly up to third into the Old Hairpin, passing Schumacher and Wendlinger and closing on the Williams of Hill. He passed Hill into Mclean’s to put him up to second before diving up the inside of Prost at the Melbourne Hairpin to take the lead. Senna went on to lap the entire field apart from Hill, who finished the best part of a minute and a half behind. Senna won five races in 1993, including his record breaking 6th victory at Monaco, a record that still stands today. His final win of the year, and of his career, came at the season’s finale at Adelaide to finish runner up to Prost with 73 points.
With Prost retiring at the end of the year, Senna finally made his move from McLaren to Williams. With the banning of several driver aids, including active suspension. Williams no longer had the speed advantage that they’d enjoyed for the previous two years. Senna wasn’t happy with the balance of the car from the offset, which was compounded by the pace of Schumacher in the Benetton Ford. Senna failed to finish the first three races, spinning out of second at his home race in Brazil while lying in second. At the Pacific Grand Prix he was punted out at the first corner by Mika Hakkinen and collected by Nicola Larini’s Ferrari. With both races being won by Schumacher, Senna was 20 points behind after two races. The San Marino Grand Prix weekend got off to a terrible start when Rubens Barrichello left the circuit at high speed after hitting the curb at Variante Bassa, sustaining a broken nose and arm. Twenty minutes into qualifying, Austrian, Roland Ratzenberger became the first driver to lose his life in a race weekend for 12 years after hitting the wall at the fast Villeneuve Curva. The whole paddock was shocked by these events, Frank Williams was unsure if Senna would take to the grid for the race the following day.
On Sunday 1st May, Senna took his position at the head of the grid for the start of the race, when the race got underway, the Benetton of JJ Lehto stalled and was hit by the Lotus of Pedro Lamy causing the safety car to be deployed. When the safety car returned to the pits, Senna led Schumacher, trying to build a gap. Two laps later, Senna’s car left the circuit at 190MPH at the Tamburello corner, hitting the concrete wall on the outside. The race was red flagged as medical personnel rushed to help the unconscious Senna. He was lifted from the wrecked Williams and airlifted to Maggiore Hospital in nearby Bologna. Medical teams continued to treat him during the flight. At 6.40 local time, the doctor who had worked on Senna announced the he had died from his injuries. He gave the time of death as 2.17 local time meaning he died instantly. The post mortem revealed that part of the cars suspension has pierced through his helmet and into his skull.
In the wake of Senna’s death, the Brazilian government declared three days of mourning. An estimated three million people lined the streets for the funeral, among them were Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill, Rubens Barrichello, Johnny Herbert, and Emerson Fittipaldi who were among the pallbearers. Ayrton Senna’s body was laid to rest at the Morumbi Cemetery in his home town of Sau Paulo.
After testing for Williams, McLaren, Brabham and Toleman over the winter, 24 year old, Ayrton Senna, lined up for his first season in F1 with the fledgling Toleman team for the start of the 1984 season. No one expected anything great from the Toleman team, formed for the start of the 1981 season, they struggled to make the grid for the majority of the first two campaigns and suffering from poor reliability when they did. Senna made people sit up and take note early on in the season, taking two sixth place finishes in South Africa and Belgium. As the season unfolded it was a case of, if the car stayed in one piece, Senna would score points. Enough points to finish 9th in the driver’s standings and help the Toleman team to their highest ever finish in the constructors championship, ending the season in 7th. Senna made three visits to the podium in his debut season, twice finishing third in Britain and Portugal but the standout memory for most is his performance in the rain at Monaco. Starting the race thirteenth on the grid, Senna was quick to show off his ability in the wet, making his way through the field around the tight streets of Monaco. Prost inherited the lead on lap 15 after Mansell had an altercation with the barrier and Senna was soon up to second, Catching the Frenchman at a vast rate of knots. On lap 29, Prost signalled that he wanted the race to be stopped, and again on the following lap. At the end of lap 32, the red flag was shown, along with the chequered flag. Prost pulled up short of the finishing line allowing Senna to cross the line first. Prost was awarded the victory on count back to the previous lap.
Senna’s debut season’s performances earned him a contract with Team Lotus for the next three years. Toleman had given him his first podium and he wouldn’t have to wait long for his first victory with Lotus. In only his second race for his new team, Senna again showed his supreme talent in the wet at the Portuguese Grand Prix. He took pole position and recorded the fastest lap on his way to a crushing victory, lapping the entire field apart from second place, Michele Alboreto. Senna went on to score a further five podiums in his first season with Lotus, the pick being another win in the wet in Belgium. The Brazilian took full advantage of the wet part of the race to lead home Nigel Mansell by 28 seconds. He finished the year in 4th place with 38 points.
1986 was dominated by Prost and the Williams Duo of Mansell and Piquet battling it out for the title. Senna for a long time was in with a shout of the championship thanks to two victories in Spain and the USA, backed up with six more visits to the podium. His Spanish victory is one for the record books as the third closest finish in history. Senna has a race long battle with Mansell and Prost with the lead changing hand several times. Towards the end of the race, Mansell pitted for fresh rubber and charged back up to the leaders, making up 19 seconds in just ten laps. The scene was set for a titanic finish, Senna and Mansell were nose to tail coming out of the final corner in a drag race to the line. They finished side by side with Senna taking the victory by just 0.014 seconds.
1987 again saw Senna taking two victories, including his first at Monaco, a place he would make his own, winning a record six times around the famous street circuit. He trailed Mansell off the grid and inherited the lead when the Englishman retired with turbo problems. ‘Mr. Monaco’ built an unassailable lead over his compatriot, Nelson Piquet, enjoying the luxury of pitting for tyres and rejoining still in the lead, eventually winning by over half a second. Senna finished the year in third place, behind the all conquering Williams Honda’s of Piquet and Mansell.
McLaren was the destination for Senna in 1988 and the start of a career defining battle with his new team-mate, Alain Prost. With the McLaren MP4/4 at their disposal, the pair quickly racked up victory after victory. Senna’s supreme skill was on show again around Monaco. In qualifying, Senna was a second and a half quicker than his team-mate and from the start of the race, he quickly built a commanding lead with Prost stuck behind the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger. When Prost cleared the Ferrari, the gap was 46 seconds with 30 laps to go, Prost quickly took 6 seconds out of the lead. In hearing this news, Senna put in two fastest laps of the race even though he had such a big lead. On lap 67, he pushed a little too hard, hitting the barrier at Portier and retiring from the race, handing an unlikely victory to Prost. Senna famously disappeared back to his apartment for three hours, so upset with mistake he had made.
The championship battle went down to the second to last race in Japan, where Senna could clinch the title with a win. Starting from pole, Senna was favourite for the race but he uncharacteristically stalled at the start, using the tracks downward slope to bump start the car. This dropped him down to 14th and passed six of them back by the end of the first lap. On lap 14, rain started fall around parts of the circuit, enabling Senna to exploit the changeable conditions to close in on Prost and pass his title rival. This time it was Senna calling for the race to be stopped as the weather worsened but the race went full distance. Senna won with Prost in second, crowning Senna as world champion for the first time.
Wednesday 19th of October marks the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s third and final world drivers title. To celebrate this, I have a full week dedicated to the tree times champion who lost his life at Imola in 1994. In a timely reminder of how dangerous motor racing is, we are mourning the loss of Indycar champion, Dan Wheldon, who tragically lost his life while competing in the Las Vegas 300 on Sunday in the most of horrific of accidents, involving 15 cars. My thoughs are with his family at this difficult time.
Coming up this week, I have a classic race report from Ewan Marshall, an analysis of the Senna versus Prost battle from Gregory Haines, I induct Senna into the Hall of Fame, a full record of Senna’s #F1 career, what Senna means to the fans plus Senna – a life in quotes.
In today’s F1 world, young aspiring drivers are coached and mentored from an early age. Newly crowned double World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, has enjoyed backing from Red Bull from an early age and Lewis Hamilton has been part of the McLaren family from his karting days. Talent and dedication are still needed in abundance but Mansell’s path to F1 (as was the norm back then) was a little different.
If you collate all the CVs from the drivers past and present, I doubt you’ll find many who worked as a part-time window cleaner to help fund his racing or remortgage his family home to cover a sponsorship shortfall.
It was legendary Team Lotus boss, Colin Chapman who saw potential in the moustached brummie and gave him a seat mid way through the 1980 season. Mansell was given three races that year, retiring in Austria and the Netherlands and failing to qualify in Italy. Chapman however gave Mansell a full time drive for the 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984 campaigns. The retirements racked up faster than the points for the Mansell and Lotus. Mansell managed only three podiums in his three years with the Norfolk based team. In his time at Lotus, he is best remembered for leading the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix in the wet before famously losing control just before Casino Square, damaging his rear wing and retiring from the race.
1985 saw Mansell move to the more competitive Williams Honda team, partnering Keke Rosberg and for the first time, adorning the iconic ‘Red 5’ on the nose of his car. Williams made a slow start to the season as they overcame teething problems in their new partnership with Honda. At the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch that year, Mansell finally stepped foot on the top step of the podium at the 72nd attempt, following it up immediately with another win in South Africa to finish the season in 6th place with 31 points.
1986 was a turning point in ‘Our Nige’s’ career. Spurred on by his two victories in the previous year and a stern test in the shape new team-mate, Nelson Piquet, ’86 was to be an epic year. In a pulsating race in Spain, at Jerez, Mansell lost out to Ayrton Senna by 0.014 seconds in one of the closest finishes in history. Red 5 went on to win five races in ’86, the most notable coming at Brands Hatch, the scene of his first win the year before. The championship went down to the wire, with Mansell, Piquet and McLaren’s Alain Prost were all in with a chance of winning. Mansell only needed to finish in 3rd to be certain of the title. Sitting in a title winning position with only 19 laps to go, his left rear exploded in spectacular fashion, leaving him as a spectator, powerless to influence the outcome of the title. Prost came out on top to reclaim the title he’d won the year before leaving Mansell as Runner Up.
Williams Renault once again dominated in 1987, but Bitter rival Piquet had the upper hand and tied up the title after Mansell missed the Japanese Grand Prix after injuring his back in a practice accident. As the year before, the season highlight came in his home Grand Prix, this time at Silverstone, where the world saw ‘Mansell Mania’ for the first time. From the start of the race, Piquet looked in control as Mansell suffered from a vibration from a missing wheel weight. Neither Williams were due to make a pit stop during the race but on lap 36 he decided he couldn’t continue on that set of tyres. He came out of the pits 30 seconds behind with only 28 laps remaining. Lap after lap Mansell broke the lap record as the gap between the two came tumbling down until with only three laps to go he was staring at his gearbox. On lap 63 out of 65 Mansell was in Piquet’s slipstream going down the Hanger straight, Piquet started to take a defensive line as Mansell moved to the outside. As the Brazilian moved back to cover, Mansell dived down the outside in one of the most memorable overtaking moves in F1 to take the win. On the warm down lap, the patriotic crowd broke rank in sheer delight of what they had just witnessed, surrounding the car as it made its way back to the pits.
William lost its Honda engine supply in 1988 and with the underpowered Judd unit, Williams couldn’t match the pace of the dominating McLarens.
This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix marks Jenson Buttons 200th Grand Prix. To mark this milestone I’ll be taking a look at his F1 career to date, today 2006 – 2011
Honda completed the buyout of the remaining shares from BAR during the winter, rebranding the outfit, Honda Racing F1. Jenson was quoted at the time saying ”Honda buying the team is amazing news and really shows their commitment to winning the world championship”
Jenson got his new employers off to a good start with a fourth and third place finishes at the first two rounds before putting his Honda on pole for the third round in Australia. He was on for another decent points finish before his engine let go on the last corner of the last lap. The early season promise tailed off going into the European races; a string of low to no points finishes and DNFs.
Things were looking to be going from bad to worse by the time the teams arrived in Hungary. An engine change had cost Jenson a ten place grid penalty, dropping him down to fourteenth on the grid. In a race affected by heavy rain in the early stages, the track bagan to dry out and Jenson began to move his way through the traffic. His cause was helped by the retirements of Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso but Jenson took the lead and went on to win by over half a minute. It had taken him 113 races but Jenson was finally a race winner. He followed this up with more strong points finishes in the final races for the year finishing a credible 6th in the championship with 56 points.
Due to a karting accident during the winter, Jenson was unable to take part in pre-season testing, putting him on the back foot going into the opening round. The car however would prove to more of a handicap than his pre-season injuries. A poor aero package left the car with chronic understeer. The result was three points finishes, 6 points and a lowly fifteenth in the Championship.
2008 was ever worse for the Frome Flyer! Sixth place at the Spanish GP was the only points paying outing of the year.
Honda announced on 5th December that they were pulling out of Formula 1 due to the global economic crisis.
With the whole team’s future hanging in the balance, Ross Brawn and Nick Fry lead a management buyout of the team from the Japanese manufacturer and duly turned up at the final test of the winter with an untried car, fitted with a Mercedes engine. After his first run, he returned to the pits to report that the car didn’t feel that bad! His engineers then informed him that he had just gone seven tenths faster than anyone else. This turned out to be no fluke, Jenson put his Brawn on pole for the first race in Australia and converted it into a lights to flag victory. He went on to win six out of the first seven races giving him a commanding lead going into his home race at Silverstone. By this time the likes of McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari were hot on their heels who all now had their own version of the ‘double diffuser’.
Jenson seemed to be feeling the pressure of leading the championship by this point, his performances, especially in qualifying were significantly suffering. Martin Brundle commented “He has tightened up in the car and his natural instincts behind the wheel are being restricted.” Although he was still consistently finishing in the points (his only DNF coming at Spa), his team-mate Barrichello and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel were closing in on his lead and with only three races to go, his lead over Barichello was down to just 15 points with thirty up for grabs. Japan was a race to forget for both Brawns with Barrichello heading Button home in a 7/8 finish.
With two rounds to go Jenson’s weekend got off to a very poor start in Brazil when a wrong tyre choice in qualifying left him starting down in fourteenth. To make matters worse, team-mate and closest championship rival was on pole.
Jenson went on to produce a performance worthy of a world champion making his way up to fifth and went on to wrap up the driver’s championship with a round to spare after Rubens finished down in eighth after picking up a puncture following contact with Hamilton.
With Brawn GP being bought out by Mercedes, thing were looking up for the Brackley based team and most thought Jenson would sign a new deal with the team that had given him world championship winning machinery. Jenson surprised many by joining McLaren instead, joining Lewis Hamilton in ‘his team’. Jenson said he wanted to test himself against the best and to give himself a new challenge.
After a low key start in Bahrain, Jenson once again showed his brilliance in changeable conditions to win his first race for his new team. This was followed up two races later with another win in the wet in China. Jenson was in the hunt again for the title right up to three races to go but a twelfth place finish in the inaugural Korean GP saw him give up the defence of his title, eventually finishing fifth with 214 points.
Jenson has had a consistent start to this season, albeit being in the shadow of the Red Bulls. Never finishing outside the top six in the first eight races including three trips to the lowers steps of the podium and one to the top step. In Canada, starting seventh on a wet track, Jenson’s race didn’t get off to the best start, colliding with team-mate Hamilton forcing him out of the race. Incurring a drive through penalty for speeding under the safety car didn’t do much for his chances as did picking up a puncture after colliding with Alonso left him dead last. Jenson had made a total of twenty-six on-track passes to put himself on Leaders Vettel’s gear box going into the last lap. A rare mistake by the German gifted the lead to Button with half a lap to go to elevate him to the top spot. Jenson goes into his 200th Grand Prix weekend off of the back of two DNF’s in Germany and Britain. Hungary has only seen one wet race in the 26 years of the event. That was Buttons first win, the weather in the region looks unsettled again this weekend so wouldn’t it be nice to see him on the top step at Hungary once again.
Happy 200th race weekend Jenson.
This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix marks Jenson Buttons 200th Grand Prix. To mark this milestone I’ll be taking a look at his F1 career to date. Jenson’s first taste of F1 machinery came in 1999 in a McLaren, his prize for winning the coveted McLaren Aurosport BRDC young driver of the year award at the end of 1998. He also tested for the Prost team before Sir Frank Williams decided to pit him against Bruno Junqueira in a ‘shootout’ and winning the battle to replace the axed Alex Zanardi as Ralf Schumacher’s team-mate for the 2000 season.
Jenson made history becoming the youngest British driver to compete in F1 when he took his place on the grid for the first race in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. Despite qualifying second to last for his first race, Jenson drove an excellent race to and was looking good to pick up a point for a sixth place finish until his BMW V10 blew up with only 11 laps to go. He didn’t have to wait long to score his first point however. At the next race in Brazil, at Interlagos, Jenson picked up the point that was robbed from him in Australia, finishing Sixth. Five more points finishes were knocked up in his debut season, the highpoint coming in Germany where he finished fourth. Although Jenson had signed a three year deal with Williams. The team were eager to put 2000’s indy 500 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya in the car for 2001, buying the Columbian out of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing. After a dip in form towards the end of his debut season, Williams opted to loan out their young driver to Benetton to give him more time to develop while pairing Montoya with Ralf Schumacher.
Joining the Benetton team, newly bought out by Renault, Jenson was partnered by Italian Giancarlo Fisichella in the uncompetitive B201. Button was regularly outperformed by his more experienced team-mate and questions were starting to be asked about his commitment to the sport due to his over exuberant ‘play boy’ life style. Team boss Flavio Briatore issued him with this ultimatum “Either he shows he’s super-good or he leaves the top echelon of drivers” His season highlight, again coming at Germany with his only points finish of the season, picking up two points for fifth.
Despite his poor season the year before, Jenson retained his seat at the now re-named Renault team. Jarnu Trulli was drafted in as his new team-mate and the team made good progress over the winter and headed into the season with a renewed confidence. A DNF in the first race didn’t deter the Frome Flyer and at the second round at Sepang looked odds on to take his first podium before a suspension problem in the closing stages dropped him from third to fourth. Trulli is well renowned for his qualifying exploits so it was little surprise to see Jenson starting regularly behind the Italian on the grid. Trulli couldn’t translate his qualifying pace into consistent finishes with Button picking up seven points finishes to finish the season in seventh place in the championship, five points and one place ahead of his team-mate.
Jenson’s desire to stay with the French team had little effect on Briatore who decided to replace Button with the teams test driver, Fernando Alonso for the following season. Briatore once again calling him a “Lazy Playboy”.
British American Racing was Button’s destination for 2003 where he was welcomed by team boss Dave Richards, but not so much by his new team-mate, 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve who claimed the team “had only hired him for marketing purposes.” The driver’s relations were strained further at the first race in Australia when Villeneuve stayed out a lap too long for his pit stop for fuel, forcing Button queue up behind him in the pit lane costing him vital second in the race. Villeneuve blamed a faulty radio, Button disagreed! During practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, Jenson suffered a massive crash into the chicane after exiting the tunnel, losing control at around 180MPH, rendering him unconscious for a short time. He was held overnight in hospital for observation and missed the race, returning for the next round in Canada.
Jenson was to make Jacques eat his pre season words by consistently outperforming the ex World Champion, again with a season best finish of fourth coming in Austria and Japan.
Joined in the BAR 006 by Japanese rookie Takuma Sato, becoming a teams lead driver for the first time. He was in confident mood ahead of the season opener after an impressive winter testing programme “This year I could be a front-runner. We want to run alongside the top teams. I want to be consistently in the points and on the podium.”Jenson was to go on to have by far his best season to date, scoring his first career podium at the second round in Malaysia and followed it up two weeks later in Bahrain to bank back to back third place finishes. In a season dominated by the Ferrari’s of Schumacher and Barrichello, Jenson went on to score points in every race he finished, only failing to see the chequered flag on 3 occasions to finish 3rd in the driver’s championship with 85 points and helping BAR finish second in the constructors championship.
During the latter half of 2004, Jenson was embroiled in a contract dispute Between Williams and BAR, The dispute went to Formula One’s Contract Recognition Board, who ruled in favour of BAR ‘forcing’ Jenson to stay. During the winter Honda bought a 45% stake in the team, Dave Richards went as team principle as a result being replaced by Nick Fry. None of this seemed to have a positive effect on the resulting BAR 007. A lacklustre 11th followed by two retirement wasn’t anything like the team were expecting but things were going to get far worse for the team and Button at San Marino. After finishing third, the race stewards found the team’s cars to have a second fuel tank hidden within the main tank. As is the norm after the race, the cars are drained of fuel to make sure they meet the minimum weight requirements. After the second tank was drained, the cars were found to be over 5kg under weight. The FIA acted, stripping Button and Sato of their points from the race and banning the team for the following two races. Jenson and the team were again forced not to race in the US GP along with most of the grid after safety concerns from tyre supplier, Michelin. Jenson did manage to make the podium twice towards the end of the year at Germany and Belgium but 9th in the driver’s championship and only 37 point, it was a year to forget by enlarge.
I am an artist. The track is my canvas, and the car is my brush.
You would think that a double World Champion of Hill calibre would have been racing anything and anything from an early age. Graham however didn’t pass his driving test until he was 24!
Hill’s first taste of motor sport came in 1953 when he paid five shillings to drive some laps in a F3 cooper. Hill was bitten by the racing bug and was soon employed by Colin Chapman at Team Lotus working as a trainee mechanic, also earning himself the occasional drive for the team.
By 1958 Team Lotus and Hill made the step up to Formula 1, debuting at the Monaco Grand Prix, a race he would go on to win five times in his career. A drive shaft failure cut short his first race. Many more failures and an under performing car over the first two years left the ambitious Hill looking elsewhere for a drive.
The 1960 season saw hill switch to the Bourne based BRM team, unfortunately for Hill the first two years with his new team yielded as many retirements as he had with Team lotus. The one highlight came at the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix where he claimed his first Podium of his career. In 1962 things came together at BRM, their car wasn’t only reliable now but fast as well. Hill took four wins (Holland, Germany, Italy and South Africa) on his way to his first World Drivers Championship.
Hill’s performances on track had earned him the respect of his peers and his quick wit and charm also made him a huge hit with the Media, featuring regularly on the chat shows of the time. Hill was riding the crest of a wave but couldn’t quite replicate his title success finishing in the runners-up spot in the following three years.
1966 saw Hill first win less year since 1961 and after finishing a lowly fifth in the championship, Graham decided the only way forward was to go backwards, to Team Lotus. This was a brave move as he was joining Jim Clarke in ‘his team’ at the height of his powers. Although 1967 was a frustrating year for Hill on track. He and Clarke were busy developing the Lotus 49. After a one – two finish in its debut in South Africa the stage was set for a fascinating battle between the two Lotus team mates.
Two tragedies hit the team early in the season, first, Jim Clarke lost his life in a F2 race at Hockenheim, shortly followed by Mike Spence at Indianapolis. Colin Chapman was notorious for building cars on the edge of what was considered safe, always pushing for further developments to gain that crucial advantage over his rivals.
Hill showed his strength of character by leading the team through those dark days, going on to claim three wins on his way to his second World Drivers Title. Hill’s last win came in 1969 at the circuit that he made his own, Monaco. His record five wins earned him the nick name Mr. Monaco.
The beginning of the end of his career came at the ’69 USGP Hill spun off and Stalled the car, he jumped out to push start the car and rejoined the race, before he had chance to fasten his seatbelt, a puncture pitched the car into the banking, throwing him from the car breaking his right knee and dislocating his left knee. Although Hill recovered from the injuries, his F1 career didn’t Hill continued racing for six further years but couldn’t recapture his past glories.
Away from F1(even though at the same time) Graham was part of the British invasion at the Indy 500. Hill won the famous race in 1966 driving a Lola Ford. He started fifteenth and only lead ten laps out of the 200 lap race.
Golf and Tennis has the Major tournaments, the 3/4 championships that mean the most to the competitors. In the ’60s and 70′s drivers were looking to take the triple crown. Monaco GP, Indy 500 and Le Mans. With five Monaco victories under his belt and the 1966 Indy 500 win, only Le Mans remained.
In 1972 Hill teamed up with Henri Pescarolo in the Mantra sports team. They went on to win the race covering 344 laps of the circuit in the 24 hours. Graham Hill was the first and still to this day the only driver to win all three triple crown events. The only current driver who could join him is Juan Pablo Montoya (Indy 500, 2000 and Monaco GP 2003)
Graham was killed in 1975 when a plane he was piloting crashed in heavy fog returning from Paul Ricard in France, several members of Hill racing team were killed including his young driver Tony Brise.
Graham’s iconic London rowing club colours lived on through his son, Damon who went on to become the first second generation world Champion from the same family. It may not be to long before we once again see the Hill name back in Formula 1with Damon’s son, Josh climbing the single seater ladder.
Who better to tell us a little more into Kamui’s fledgling F1 career than his number one fan? Introducing MarshallGP’s first guest blogger Chris Allison AKA @kamuiwatch on twitter.
Kamui Kobayashi has gone from being one of the most calamitous souls on the grid to being everyone’s second (or first!) driver. After a spectacular start to his career attempting to derail Jenson’s title bid, he picked up his first points in only his second ever F1 race in an uncompetitive Toyota in F1’s first ever day to night race – and that’s just for starters!
Despite losing more front wings last season than Hamilton has had stewards enquiries this, he shone through as one to watch following some great drives, notably in Valencia (overtaking Alonso on the last lap to claim 7th in an uncompetitive Sauber) along with owning the hairpin turn 11 at Suzuka in his home race, overtaking on the inside and even the outside (of a hairpin!) of the corner, finishing up with a respectable 32 points for a rookie season in a car that should have been at the back of the midfield. He’s already had one of the strongest starts to the season on the grid – having scored points in every race bar Australia (where he was unfortunately disqualified from a points paying position!), in fine company with only championship leaders Vettel, Button and Webber having finished in the points at every race so far.
Whilst not quite having the same points-to-race ratio as the others, considering his car’s pace he’s certainly doing himself favours in establishing his reputation as a driver who isn’t afraid to have a go, can get the most out of his machinery and, importantly for this season, successfully managing the challenge of the Pirelli tyres. You could even say that he has the perfect blend of Hamilton’s aggression, showmanship and willingness to take on all comers combined with the Button-esque intelligence to deliver on both pre-determined and ad-hoc strategy calls, often from a lowly grid position.
With the hot blown diffuser being reduced to only 10% from the British GP onwards, expect nothing less than the Sauber being more competitive than it has been so far relative to the rest of the field and Kamui really taking the fight to the Renaults and Mercedes of this world, hopefully taking the scalps of a few of the big boys in the process! Oh, and back to the point – the wait for the elusive Japanese F1 race winner is over, his name is Kamui Kobayashi, and thanks to a cheeky bit of rain, Sauber’s imminent relative pace increase and Kamui’s evident love of performing in front of his home crowd, if it doesn’t happen sooner – it’ll be in Japan.
As much as I enjoy Peter Sauber and his team’s approach to racing, it can’t be long before his talents are required by one of the top teams (no offence intended at all to the Sauber guys – they’re doing a great job this year!). Where will he be in the future – going on to secure many more wins? We all hope Kubica is back and strong from his injury, so the Renault seats are probably (& hopefully) taken. Before Canada, it would have appeared that the obvious future vacancies are Massa and Schumacher’s seats – but I doubt I’m alone in thinking he’d be wasted as an understudy to Alonso, although he could slot in nicely next to Rosberg. Webber’s seat at RBR is surely up for grabs in the near future, but will they continue with their driver development strategy or even go Hamilton as has been recently speculated, leaving a vacant seat at McLaren? I tell you what – and you heard it here first – don’t be surprised to see Kamui driving a McLaren in 2013, and then this story really begins…