PF1’s eight-race calendar, and the memories why

Date published: March 19 2020

Monza

Formula 1 only needs eight races for the season to be a World Championship.

There is talk of slotting 18 races into 182 days, a bit of madness that will involve triple-headers and potentially two-day race weekends.

However, with no sign whatsoever of the coronavirus pandemic being brought to a halt, Formula 1 may not have 182 days.

That’s OK, well except for the lack of racing, it only needs eight races to make up a championship and to crown a World Champion.

PlanetF1 sets out the eight-race calendar it would love to see and the memories that light up the senses.

Montreal

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve knows how to deliver heartbreak and elation, just ask Sebastian Vettel who crossed the line first last season but finished second.

The 4.3km circuit on the man-made Notre Dame Island hosted its inaugural F1 grand prix in 1978, the race won by none other than Canada’s only Gilles Villeneuve.

The low-downforce circuit is one of the faster on the calendar and is a drivers’ favourite, and its no wonder given the races it has produced.

Back in 1991 Nigel Mansell raced his way to the victory, or so he thought.

Celebrating on his final lap instead of concentrating on reaching the chequered flag, he waved to the crowd, sure this one was in the bag.

His Williams stalled as the revs dropped and ground to a halt two corners from the finish line. Nelson Piquet took the win.

One driver who understands better than most the highs and lows of Montreal is Robert Kubica.

In 2007, he suffered relatively minor injuries in a monumental crash in which his BMW-Sauber was totalled.

With his front wing knocked off after clipping Jarno Trulli’s Toyota, Kubica goes straight on at the entrance to the hairpin and hit the wall hard.

He bounced off the inside wall, bounced across the grass and flipped, slid and eventually came to a halt.

A year later he returned to Canada to win the grand prix ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld. It remains Kubica’s sole F1 victory.

Then there was Jenson Button’s record-breaking four hour saga in 2011, 1999 and the rise of the Wall of Champions and of course last year’s duel between Vettel and Lewis Hamilton that ended with a penalty for the Ferrari driver.

Silverstone

Home of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone is sold out every year. It may not always deliver humdingers but when it comes to atmosphere, perhaps the only race on that the calendar that challenges this track is Monza – but we’ll get to that later.

Brits have done well at their home track from the emotion of Johnny Herbert’s 1994 victory, thanks in part to Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher tangling, to Mansell cancelling Nelson Piquet’s 29-second lead to win in 1987.

But one of the best races in recent times wasn’t won by a Brit but rather a Finn. And one racing for the British F1 teams’ main rival, Ferrari.

In 2007 it was all about Ferrari versus McLaren, while McLaren had its own internal battle of newcomer Hamilton versus double World Champion Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton took pole position at his home track much to the delight of the faithful. He led up until he had to pit on lap 16, handing track position over to Raikkonen.

Raikkonen laid down fast laps to leapfrog Hamilton when he came in for his stop with Alonso handed the lead. However, traffic for the Spaniard meant he also came out behind the Finn after his stop and, yet more traffic, prevented him from attacking despite being on fresher tyres.

Raikkonen would go onto win the race by two seconds ahead of Alonso. He would also beat the McLaren team-mates to the World title by a single point.

Spa-Francorchamps

44 laps of pure driving pleasure, beautiful scenery and intense action. This is one track that tests the drivers’ mettle, although not as much today as it did in yesteryear.

In 1966, at a time when safety was almost an after thought, John Surtees raced through the rain to claim the Belgian Grand Prix win.

Surtees started the race from pole position and took the early lead while a torrential downpour led to chaos behind him.

Drivers crashed throughout the opening lap, which for some baffling reason took place under green flags, including a horrific one for Jackie Stewart.

He hit a telephone pole with his BRM P261 and landed upside down in a ditch. With fuel pouring over him, Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant, who had also gone off, rescued the Brit.

Stewart suffered a broken shoulder and a cracked rib in the crash.

Back on track, Surtees briefly lost the lead to Jochen Rindt but fought back to lead. As the track dried out, he raced to a 42-second victory over Rindt with Lorenzo Bandini in third place.

Bandini was a lap down on the race winner and one of only five other drivers to finish the grand prix.

Wet Belgian GPs also saw a victory for Alberto Ascari in 1952, the rise of Ayrton Senna in 1985 and Michael Schumacher racing from 16th on the grid to first to win his second of six Belgian GPs in 1995s.

Monza

The Cathedral of Speed is not only a driver favourite but also fan favourite, especially if those fans call themselves ‘tifosi’.

As atmosphere goes there are few venues that produce the sort of emotion that this historic track brings.

It no longer includes the steep bankings of yesteryear but watching drivers sweep through corners designed for the perfect line or reach speeds of 360kph, Monza has produced moments of history.

At least five of those were courtesy of Schumacher in a Ferrari.

One of his most popular wins was in 1998 when, helping Ferrari rebound after years of being championship-less, Schumacher took on McLaren.

Claiming pole position ahead of Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen, the latter made a blinding start while Schumacher fell to fifth.

Instead of controlling from lights to flag, Schumacher was forced to do some overtaking including passing Villeneuve for fourth and then Eddie Irvine for third.

Chasing down the McLarens of David Coulthard and Hakkinen, Coulthard was handed the lead by his team-mate only for his engine blow.

Schumacher pounced on Hakkinen as the Finn dealt with his team-mate’s smoke, passing the Finn and the stricken Coulthard to lead the race.

Hakkinen tried to fight back later in the race and closed up on Schumacher only for his rear brakes to fail, pitching him into a spin at the Roggia chicane.

Schumacher held on for the win, Hakkkinen dropped to P5.

Suzuka

Formula 1 has been visiting Suzuka and the land of the Samurai since 1987.

Suzuka is a track known for its iconic corners such as 130R or the ‘S’ Curves. It is fast, it is flowing and it is the venue for many of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s fiercest battles.

Senna and Prost lined up first and second on the Japanese GP grid in 1990, the two feuding rivals fighting for the ultimate prize, the World title.

Prior to the grand prix, Senna approached the stewards to request that pole position be moved to the cleaner side of the track.

They said yes only for FISA president Jean Marie Balestre to intervene and halt the change.

Senna was livid.

Starting from pole, but on the dirty side, Prost gained an advantage and Senna tried to take it back through the first corner. The two made contact and retired from the grand prix.

The crash meant Senna clinched the Drivers’ title as, with just one race remaining, Prost could not close the points gap.

The question many still want to know is was it deliberate from the Brazilian.

The race went the way of Benetton-Ford’s Nelson Piquet.

And let’s not forget Senna in 1989 when he would be disqualified by race stewards for missing the chicane following a collision with, you guessed it, Prost.

There was, however, also Suzuka celebrations for the Brazilian who in 1988 produced one of his greatest drives to beat Prost to the victory, and again in 1993 in what would prove to his penultimate grand prix win.

Austin

Think United States GP and one invariably goes to 2005 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a race in which only six cars took the start.

Formula 1 did return to the Brickyard a year later but the damage was done.

Indy said farewell to the sport and it wasn’t until the Circuit of the Americas entered the mix in 2012 that Formula 1 returned to America.

And so began Lewis Hamilton’s love affair with Austin.

He has five victories at the Texan track, none more controversial than 2015 and the famous hat throwing incident courtesy of Nico Rosberg.

A very, very wet weekend with torrential rain saw Rosberg take pole position after topping Q2 while his title rival Hamilton, 66 points ahead in the standings, started P2.

Rosberg needed the win and looked on track for it at least until he made a mistake on lap 48.

He slid off the track due to wheel spin and Hamilton shot through to lead. He, naturally, turned that into a victory while Rosberg had to settle for second.

And second in the championship as well as that Austin win handed Hamilton his third Drivers’ Championship title.

Rosberg wasn’t happy and in the cool down room threw a cap that Hamilton had tossed at him back at the British racer.

The German called it “just our typical games”. The rest of the world saw it as the final nail in the coffin of civility between the Mercedes team-mates.

Mexico City

After two decades in the dark, Formula 1 returned to Mexico City in 2015, racing at the revamped Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

It wasn’t a thriller. Hell it was borderline boring.

The following year, thanks to input from the stewards, it was chaos – but after the chequered flag.

The drivers lined with Hamilton on pole ahead of Rosberg, Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo. They finished with Hamilton in P1 ahead of Rosberg, Ricciardo and Verstappen.

But what went on between the first and final lap? In general a whole lot of nothing at least until the very last lap of the grand prix.

Hamilton and Rosberg were comfortably cruising to the 1-2 in their Mercedes.

Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo were fighting for the final podium place on the final lap with the Dutchman doing everything he could to keep Vettel at bay.

However, everything took it a bit too far according to the stewards. They hit Verstappen with a five-second penalty for cutting a corner to stay ahead of Vettel. He dropped from third to fifth.

Vettel was up on the podium. But he didn’t hold onto P3 for very long.

Shortly after the champagne was sprayed he was slapped with a 10-second penalty for moving under braking to block Ricciardo as the Aussie tried to take a position off him on lap 69 of the 71 lap race.

Ricciardo moved up to third, Verstappen to fourth and Vettel fell to fifth.

But with more excitement in the stewards’ room than on the race track why did we choose Mexico…

Have you seen those fans? That’s reason enough to want to head to Mexico City!

Interlagos

The Autódromo José Carlos Pace, also known as Interlagos, is home to the Brazilian GP. Home to legends such as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Emmerson Fittipaldi.

Today Brazil doesn’t have a single driver on the F1 grid but that doesn’t mean Formula 1 isn’t thrilled to visit South America as the track often delivers thrillers, especially in the rain.

Ever wondered what the world’s most expensive parking lot would look like? Well look no further than the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Rain has always upped the ante at the Interlagos circuit and 2003 was no exception.

It rained from the very first lap with Turn 3 proving to be a hot spot for trouble with no fewer than six cars spinning out.

They included Juan Pablo Montoya, his Williams tagged by Antonio Pizzonia as he went off at the same corner just moments later, Schumacher and Jenson Button.

As the chaos played out pole sitter Rubens Barrichello looked to be on course for the victory only to be denied when his Ferrari suffered a fuel system.

That put Kimi Raikkonen into the lead ahead of the Jordan of Giancarlo Fisichella. On lap 54 Raikkonen ran wide and Fisichella passed him for the lead only for Mark Webber to crash heavily into the concrete barriers on each side of the circuit – and Fernando Alonso to compound the situation as he did not notice the waved flags and ploughed straight into Webber’s debris.

The race was called and counted back one lap but due to a timing issue it was Raikkonen who was handed the victory with Fisichella P2 and his Jordan on fire after overheating behind the Safety Car.

Days later Fisichella was finally declared the winner.

By Michelle Foster

Do you agree with the selection or have we left out your favourite? Drop us a message and let us know your eight-race calendar.

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