Video: British Grand Prix history 1977-92

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Niki Lauda, McLaren-Mercedes, Silverstone, 1984, 470150

Journeyer continues his three-part look back at the history of the British Grand Prix. You can read the first part here.

1979: Just like Ferrari 28 years earlier, Williams achieved their first ever Grand Prix win that year at Silverstone. Clay Regazzoni was the winning driver. Teammate Alan Jones was also challenging for the win, until his car’s water pump broke on lap 38:

1981: Just like 1973, a McLaren benefited from a major incident that took out some of the leading contenders. This time, the incident was triggered by Gilles Villeneuve spinning out, taking out with him Alan Jones and Andrea de Cesaris. But it was a different driver (John Watson) driving for a different McLaren owner (Ron Dennis).

Watson also benefitted from early leader Rene Arnoux suffering a mechanical failure. This was McLaren’s first win under Dennis.

1985: F1 Racing ranked it as their number one British Grand Prix. Qualifying saw Keke Rosberg pull off what would be the fastest F1 lap for 17 years (until Monza 2002).

The second half of the race saw an amazing duel between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Despite a slower car, Senna persevered and stayed ahead until he just ran out of fuel. With Michele Alboreto’s now second-placed Ferrari a full lap behind, no one was left to challenge Prost for the win.

1987: This year saw the titanic duel between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. If there was any remaining doubt in the hearts and minds of the Brits about Mansell, his final charge and ballsy move on Piquet to take the win extinguished that for good. Mansell-mania was on the up and up and the crowd mobbed the track after the race.

1990: Mansell-mania was still on the rise as F1 entered the ’90s. When Nigel moved to Ferrari, the home fans became British Tifosi, if only for two years. While they supported Mansell, many of them seemed to despise Senna. Thus, when Mansell passed Senna for the lead early on, the crowd went nuts.

But both drivers encountered trouble, Mansell suffering a gearbox problem and Ayrton suffering a lack of grip. Mansell eventually had to give up the lead to teammate Alain Prost just before his gearbox gave up altogether. “Our Nige” was depressed, and he decided he’d had enough. After the race, he announced his retirement at the end of the season. But it turned out not to be the case.

1991: And true enough, Mansell was still in F1 the following year, making a return to Williams. And he was back to his fantastic form on home turf, winning again at Silverstone. Ayrton Senna, meanwhile, had less than fantastic luck, running out of fuel on the last lap.

But at the end of the race Mansell decided to give Ayrton a lift back to the pits! One of the classic moments in F1 history. Story goes that when Ayrton returned to the McLaren motorhome for the debrief, he told his engineers all about Mansell’s steering wheel…

1992: This was arguably the peak of Mansell-mania. Mansell had dominated the season up to this point, and at home, he simply became untouchable. Teammate Riccardo Patrese led at Copse, but Mansell got back ahead at Maggotts, one corner later.

As you’ll see in the video, it was Damon Hill’s first race too in the pink Brabham. This video shows the post-race celebrations and what I think was the last real Silverstone track invasion. As one of the banners in front of the podium said, “Red 5 is on fire!”

The final part of Journeyer’s guide to British F1 history will be here tomorrow.

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  • 6 comments on “Video: British Grand Prix history 1977-92”

    1. Just for debate: Nigel fans are particularly proud of his performance in the British GP of 1987. What few seem to remember, however, is that he was running close to 2 secs faster per lap than Nelson Piquet in the last 20 laps or so. It does not matter if you think Nigel or Nelson was the better driver, the fact is that 2 secs per lap (with the same equipment) is too much to put down to driver’s performance – if Mansel had been so much better than Piquet, he would have won that year’s Championship. He didn’t. So, would it be possible that they did not have similar equipment that day, or that Nelson had a problem in his Williams? If it is so, there is nothing to be so proud about, is there?

    2. Anti-FIA (is that what your name means?), you bring up a very interesting question. Something the oldtimers can debate perhaps?

      But I think the reason Nigel was 2secs a lap quicker was due to his tyres. He made 1 (forced) stop for tyres, whereas Nelson didn’t. So Piquet’s tyres were gone by the end, while Mansell’s were still relatively fresh.

      But as we know in F1, it’s one thing to catch a driver, but to overtake him? That’s something completely different.

    3. You got that right, Journeyer – I took this nom-de-plume since Jean Marie Ballestre decided it was a good idea to desqualify Senna after the Japanese GP of 1989. Prost tried to end the championship by throwing his car on Senna’s in the approaches to the Cassio Triangle. It didn’t work, but the FIA supremo finished the job for him. Subsequent FIA less-than-fair decisions like Adelaide 94 and Silverstone 98 (among many, many others) cemented the feeling. Concerning the British 1987 GP, this tyre thing indeed rings a bell (Mansel had a sort of slow puncture in the middle of the race, didn’t he?). I would disagree with the overtake problem, however. In Silverstone, if you are running 2secs faster than the car in front of you, there is no way that he will be able to keep you behind.

    4. Interesting name… I like it! :)

      Yep, Nige did have a slow puncture, ergo the forced stop. But yes, you do bring up a good point – if you’re 2 seconds faster, you will find one way or another to get past. :)

    5. Since we are talking about Silverstone, I have a question for anybody who could tell me the answer: In 1998, Schumacher won the race even tough he had received a stop-and-go penalty that he only paid after he crossed the finish line (!!!). Do you know if nowadays something like that would still fly?

    6. Mansell didn’t have a slow puncture – he lost a wheel balance weight early in the race. The subsequent vibration caused him to drop around 7 seconds behind Piquet by lap 36. With a safe gap back to Senna in 3rd they made the call to make a change. He rejoined 28 seconds with 29 laps to go. Even with the fresh tyre advantage it still remains a staggering drive, and the passing manouevre was a wonderful piece of improvisation.

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