Crash.Net F1 News
Six of the Best: Home Victories
3 July 2014
Lewis Hamilton heads into his home Grand Prix at Silverstone in desperate need of a victory in front of the adoring British public to get his championship challenge back on track.
For all drivers, there's a special affinity with their home race – an extra slice of significance attached to a victory celebrated and shared by a tribal patriotic fervour that adds an extra dimension to the notion of support in F1.
Of course, Lewis has triumphed on home soil before, his spectacular demolition of the field at a sodden Silverstone in 2008 one of 20 British home victories in Formula One history. If Lewis needs any extra motivation beyond his own past achievements, he can certainly find favourable parables in Crash.net's look at six classic home victories from F1's past.
NIGEL MANSELL – 1992 BRITISH GP
At the height of Mansell-mania, Birmingham's most famous moustache took an almost embarrassingly rapturous victory at the 1992 British Grand Prix. It was Nige's fourth and final British GP win on his last appearance at Silverstone, and it was undoubtedly the most acclaimed.
To contextualise somewhat, Mansell had a uniquely special relationship with Silverstone. Not only did the fast-paced contours of the circuit suit his all-out attacking style to the tune of four wins between 1986 and 1992, but Mansell captivated his public like no British driver before or since.
In 1992, the nearly man came around, enjoying a crushing tour de force of a campaign as the stars aligned for one of F1's most notorious hard luck heroes. The Williams-Renault FW14B was the dominant class of the field, and seemingly tailor made for Mansell's driving style. By Silverstone, with six wins from eight races, Il Leone was cruising to the title, and his home GP was the centrepoint of celebration as the underdog had his day.
Needless to say, Mansell swatted aside the opposition; finishing 40 seconds clear of Riccardo Patrese after a supreme pole, fastest lap and victory hat-trick. It's the manner of the celebration that sticks in the memory though, from the closing track invasion dangerously halting Mansell's progress on the slowing-down lap to the doting home crowd being conducted from the podium by their hero – soundtracked to UK viewers by an uncharacteristically fawning and partisan commentary from Murray Walker.
Looking back now, it's an almost embarrassingly cringeworthy window into a collective past of bizarre hero worship. But something in Mansell inspired the British fans to cast off their stiff upper lips and celebrate like a wild horde of Tifosi. Whatever the recipe that made Mansell such a rousing home hero, the British public were only too keen to lap it up.
JUAN-MANUEL FANGIO – 1955 ARGENTINE GP
There have been many occasions in F1 history where the success of a particular driver has led to a clamouring for a Grand Prix in that country. Few times though, can the doctrine have been passed down directly from a nation's President, and never has the beneficiary been a more legendary figure than Juan-Manuel Fangio.
After Fangio sealed the 1951 title, Argentine President Juan Perón actively encouraged the idea of a Grand Prix in Buenos Aires. By 1953, Fangio had a hometown race, and although the first Argentine GP was won by Alberto Ascari for Ferrari, Fangio would prove victorious in every other home race he entered across a four-year winning streak from 1954 to 1957.
Perhaps the most renowned of these victories was secured in insufferably searing heat at the opening round of the 1955 championship. With the temperature over 36ºC on race day, and a scheduled running time of over three hours to complete the 96 laps of the Buenos Aires circuit, the race was set fair to be a gruelling war of attrition.
One element in the drivers' favour was the fact that the rules allowed cars to be shared – but the notion of swapping was a potentially costly one, both in terms of time lost and points halved.
The race was held in a time before regulated pit stops, but the pit lane was uncharacteristically busy with drivers ducking out of the scorching heat to hand over to their team-mates. In fact, the Ferrari no.12 changed hands four times, with José Frolián González handing over to Nino Farina, who in turn passed the baton to Maurice Trintignant, who handed it back to González before ultimately giving the car back to Farina – who finished in second place.
Untroubled by such antics was Fangio, who alongside fellow Argentine Robert Mieres was one of only two drivers to complete the full race distance without handing their car over. Fangio though did make one concession to the elements – stopping for a drink halfway through his charge to a sweltering success.
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER – 1995 GERMAN GP
It's hard to imagine now, but in the land before a time known as 'The Schumacher Era', German successes in Formula One were exceedingly few and far between.
After three race wins and no world titles in 41 years before Michael Schumacher came along, German drivers have won 146 Grands Prix since Schumi's first win at Spa in 1992, and claimed 11 of the last 20 World Championships. Drivers such as Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Ralf Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, not to mention Sebastian Vettel, have followed Schumacher in raising the black, red and gold above the podium since he started blazing a trail through Formula One in the early 1990s.
Schumacher though was the man who led the German charge, and appropriately enough he had a triumphant homecoming party to consecrate his hero status at Hockenheim in 1995.
After finishing third, second, and blowing his underpowered Ford V8 in vain pursuit of Gerhard Berger in his first three home Grands Prix, Schumacher arrived at Hockenheim in 1995 under pressure to deliver victory in front of his adoring public. Schumacher may have been the reigning World Champion, and well on his way to claiming his second title, but for a man steeped in Teutonic domination the lack of home success was a significant blot on the career copybook.
His fifth win of what would be a then record-equalling nine-race victory season was ultimately comfortable - aided enormously by bitter rival Damon Hill spinning into the gravel having bolted out of the blocks into a handsome lead by the end of lap one. Schumacher was never headed from thereon out, and the old Hockenheim stadium section rocked to a patriotic thrum as the home hero's Benetton Renault cruised to victory from David Coulthard.
It's the context more than the race itself that retains significance though. Like Fernando Alonso's victory in front of a delirious crowd at Barcelona a decade later, Schumacher's win also marked a watershed moment in his country's relationship with Formula One, and ushered in a wave of German providence that continues to this day.
GILLES VILLENEUVE – 1978 CANADIAN GP
If some countries inherit their heroes by proxy, finding a natural home for their patriotic support by attaching it to the nearest or most prominent available figure, others are blessed with idols of enduring charm and charisma, whose legacy becomes a collective construct of the national identity.
Gilles Villeneuve was certainly the latter. A man of singularly spectacular and uniquely alluring style behind the wheel, and one of the few drivers in F1 history whose anthropomorphic style could be identified by a mere silhouette, outline or engine note, he captivated both the Canadian and global audiences with equal fervour.
Villeneuve was also Canada's first F1 hero, and unlike a Mansell or Senna he carried with him the weighty burden of a nation's fledgling hope and expectation.
The emergence of Villeneuve coincided with the Canadian Grand Prix moving to Montreal. A Quebecois French-Canadian by birth, the narrow snaking ribbon of the Circuit Ile-Notre Dame was a natural fit for Villeneuve.
The first race in Montreal, in 1978, took place in October as the closing round of the season, and as such remains on record as one of the coldest grands prix of all time. Villeneuve was able to turn this to his advantage, much to the chagrin of rivals including Mario Andretti, who felt that circumstances had been engineered in Villeneuve's favour.
Fighting his way through from fourth in the early running, Villeneuve was giving chase in a distant second place when the leading Lotus of Jean-Pierre Jarier expired with a loss of oil pressure. Villeneuve came through to take his maiden win in front of a tumultuously adoring crowd of 70,000, crossing the line as snowflakes fell and Canada rose as one to acclaim their new hero.
AYRTON SENNA – 1991 BRAZILIAN GP
No driver has ever captivated the rapturous affections of his countrymen like Ayrton Senna. Nigel Mansell may have been idolised in the UK, but Senna's was a global appeal that was distilled into a patriotically pure and primal semi-deification in his native Brazil.
Sao Paulo born and bred, Senna's first six Brazilian Grands Prix were contested around the Jacarepaguá home circuit of the 'other' Brazilian triple-World Champion, Nelson Piquet. Through a combination of circumstances, Senna had failed to win any of these Rio races, but was confident of rectifying the situation after the Grand Prix moved to the revised Interlagos circuit in his home city in 1990.
In the 1990 Brazilian GP, Senna lost a potentially comfortable victory in his maiden race at Interlagos after a collision with backmarker Satoru Nakajima. More galling still, his bitter rival Alain Prost took the chequered flag in front of Senna's home crowd.
In 1991, Senna was determined to make amends and win the Brazilian GP for the first time. The omens were good, with a dominant McLaren-Honda MP4-6 the class of the field. However, despite a promising start from pole position, the race became a slow bicycle crawl as Senna and his chief pursuers, the Williams pair of Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, attempted to nurse various ailments to the end of the race.
After a slow pit stop and a puncture, Mansell was first to crack, his gearbox expiring on lap 60. This left Senna heading Patrese, but Senna's own gearbox was failing fast. Having lost fourth gear early on, he also lost third and fifth gears as the race neared its climax, driving on the limits of ingenuity and instinct to keep his car from stalling as he limped around in sixth gear.
Patrese was catching Senna rapidly, but remarkably also had gearbox trouble of his own. Incredibly, the weather was also deteriorating, but Senna held on against all the elements to take victory by 2.9 seconds.
After the race, the effort of trying to keep his car under control in sixth gear combined with the emotional overdrive of finally claiming victory in his home race caused Senna to suffer cramps and fever. Due to exhaustion, he could barely move and had to be driven to the podium in the medical car. Ever the hero though, Senna consecrated his legacy by clambering onto the podium to raise the trophy aloft, grimacing like an Olympic weightlifter as he absorbed the searing passion of the Sao Paulo crowd's enduring affections.
GERHARD BERGER – 1988 ITALIAN GP
Sometimes sport has the ability to communicate events as if they were driven by a sense of manifest destiny. Questions of the spiritual may be at odds with the calculated mechanical rationality of Formula One, but it would be hard to argue with the conclusion that the outcome of the 1988 Italian Grand Prix was in accordance with the pre-ordainment of the fates.
This particular grand prix's inclusion requires a re-evaluation of what a 'home' race is, but the motor racing Mecca of Monza has always reverberated to the primal roar of Ferrari. The Tifosi devoutly pledge allegiance to the Prancing Horse rather than the fortunes of any individual Italian driver. To drive for Ferrari is to drive for Italy, and to win for Ferrari at Monza is to win for Italy.
Never has this relationship been more emotionally pronounced than at the 1988 Italian GP, coming as it did mere weeks after team founder Enzo Ferrari passed away aged 90. A Ferrari win at the first Italian race since the death of the Commendatore would be a fitting tribute – but there was a significant barrier to the picturebook ending: McLaren.
This was the year of Prost vs. Senna, the legendary MP4-4, and the most crushing dominance ever seen in Formula One history. McLaren had won every round of the championship up to Monza, collecting eight 1-2s in 11 races. Both drivers and team were exploring the outer limits of performance, but there had been little evidence of errors or cracks up to now.
As expected, the weekend progressed as a demonstration for McLaren. Ferrari's Gerhard Berger qualified third, and was considered to have done well to qualify within six tenths of the all red and white front row. From the start, Prost suffered a misfire, but was still able to run a comfortable second to Senna. On lap 30, the misfire worsened, and five laps later Prost was out, suffering McLaren's only engine failure of the season.
Still Senna pressed on, but just two laps from the chequered flag he was punted off the track at the Rettifilo whilst lapping the Williams of hapless stand-in debutant Jean-Louis Schlesser. Suddenly, Berger led from Ferrari team-mate Alboreto, and the Tifosi were in raptures. The annual track invasion betrayed a unique degree of emotion, and the euphoric reception for the Ferrari drivers on the podium trumped anything seen before, or since, at Monza.
Whilst the win was an inheritance bestowed on Ferrari, was it a gift from Schlesser, McLaren, or somewhere up on high? Somehow, the circumstances seem a little too perfect to believe the result was solely a product of coincidence…