Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, a high intensity world renowned for its demanding physical and emotional stresses. Highly respected F1 journalist Christopher Hilton noted in the 2001 documentary Going Critical, “Motor racing at its very highest level is the most extreme form of human endeavor, outside of war.” In the face of constant danger, the drivers corner in excess of 150mph and endure up to 3.5 G forces throughout each Grand Prix. They teach us we can aspire to anything, and with determination we can achieve our goals.
The sport’s technology also impacts on the global road car industry. The efforts of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has seen safety features developed within F1 taken to the cars we drive, saving thousands of lives daily. It’s a remarkable sport, and the exploits within have inspired hundreds of millions of fans. Here are 20 moments which can, hopefully, inspire you to great things this summer.
1. Ayrton Senna’s quest for perfection – Monaco 1988
During the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix Senna became so committed he entered a trancelike state – his brilliance was such he built a 55 second lead. He crashed when his team radioed him to slow down, and was so humbled by his mistake he hid in his Monaco apartment for days afterwards.
2. Senna’s emotional home win – Brazil 1991
Jammed in 5th gear whilst facing rain, Senna held it together for an emotional first home win. You can watch the award winning 2010 documentary Senna to learn more about his inspirational life; the Brazilian was as well known for his charity work as he was for his driving.
3. Nigel Mansell offers Senna a lift – Silverstone 1991
Having already lost the race to championship rival Mansell, Senna’s McLaren was forced to retire on the last lap. Mansell promptly stopped to offer the Brazilian a lift back to the pits, creating iconic imagery of the rivals united.
4. Gilles Villeneue’s legacy
This fitting tribute from Sky Sports to the legendary Gilles Villeneuve highlight’s the French Canadian’s humble genius and natural talent.
5. Gilles Villeneuve’s determination – Zandvoort 1979
A famous incident which showcases Villeneuve’s fighting spirit. After a puncture ruined his race, he refused to give up.
6. Niki Lauda overcomes a fiery crash – Nuburgring 1976
As depicted in the 2013 film Rush (which he officially sanctioned), Lauda suffered a horrendous fiery accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. He overcame his near death experience with lifelong scars, but was back in his Ferrari a mere six weeks after his crash.
7. Mika Hakkinen passes Michael Scumacher – Spa 2000
The world champions went head to head at Spa Francorchamps in 2000, with Hakkinen performing a heroic move to take the lead on one of F1’s most dangerous circuits.
8. Rubens Barrichello’s emotional first win – Hockenheim 2000
Following problems in qualifying, Barrichello started 18th in his Ferrari. During a dramatic race, he rose through the field to take the first Brazilian win since Ayrton Senna. A deeply personal moment, his reaction is wonderful to see.
9. Kimi Raikkonen wins from 17th – Suzuka 2005
2007 Finnish World Champion Raikkonen wasted no time in moving up the order. In the closing stages he was able to take the lead on the final lap for a historic win.
10. Michael Schumacher’s genius – Spain 1996
In a substandard Ferrari, Schumacher nonetheless dominated the rain soaked Spanish Grand Prix to take his first win for Ferrari. His genius is well documented here. Schumacher was another driver who contributed vast amounts to charity work. Currently overcoming a severe head injury, the world wishes him a strong recovery.
11. Jim Clark’s legacy
Clark was renowned for his clinical driving style and humble nature, as British commentator Murray Walker recalls here.
12. Jackie Stewart at the Nurburgring
The three times World Champion demonstrates, vividly, how terrifying the 14 mile Nurburgring circuit was in the 1970s. The circuit was nicknamed “The Green Hell”.
13. Francois Cevert – “The Most Exciting Man in France”
The dashing Cevert endeared himself to everyone, and over 40 years after his tragic fatal accident he is fondly remembered by the F1 community. Despite his brief life he achieved a great deal, living his life to the full and leaving behind a, frustratingly, unfulfilled legacy.
14. Lewis Hamilton wins his first World Championship – Brazil 2008
During an exceptionally tense race, Hamilton and Felipe Massa fought for the title. It all came down to the final few seconds, with Massa charmingly magnanimous in defeat.
15. Juan Manuel Fangio – Monaco 1950s
This remarkable footage shows the Argentinian legend onboard at the famous Monaco principality. Open cockpits, no seatbelts, and goggle visors. Extraordinarily dangerous, but a combination of incredible skill and bravery assisted the drivers of this era.
16. Alex Zanardi remarkable recovery
Zanardi was unsuccessful in F1, but won titles in American motorsport. He suffered a terrible crash in a CART race in late 2001 in which he lost his legs. Despite nearly dying, he has since overcome all obstacles and returned to racing. He even won a Gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympics. He wrote about his traumatic experience in his autobiography.
17. Professor Sid Watkins’ Services To Safety
The renowned neurosurgeon Sid Watkins was drafted into F1 in the 1970s to improve safety. His extensive work with the FIA has gone beyond F1 and impacted enormously on the road car industry, improving car safety the world over. His work continues to save many millions of lives each year. His book, Life on the Limit, details his inspirational work in F1.
18. Jenson Button wins – Montreal 2011
Having endured a nightmare of a race, in the closing stages McLaren star Button surged up the order and was able to take the lead on the final lap. This fitting montage from the BBC’s coverage highlights a classic Grand Prix; an example to all of us to never give up.
19. The bizarre 1982 Monaco GP
A chaotic final few laps defined the very best of Formula One at Monte Carlo. A light downpour of rain tested the world’s best drivers to the limit, with dramatic results.
20. F1 in London – 2004
England’s capital was closed off in 2004 for an F1 demonstration run (including a dash through Piccadilly Circus). 500,000 people lined the streets to see the exceptional technology in action, a vivid demonstration of F1’s ability to inspire.
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