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Classic Spanish F1 - the verdict

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Andrew Benson | 09:04 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

We have chosen to show extended highlights for two races for the Spain entry in our classic Formula 1 races series.

Of the five events we picked - 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996 and 1997 - two grands prix stood out in your responses to this blog - and they were 1981 and '86.

This is no surprise. The 1981 event was one of the greatest performances by one of the greatest drivers F1 has ever seen, and 1986 saw a classic duel to the flag between two more.

In 1981, the late Gilles Villeneuve drove a race of cool precision to keep his truck-like, but powerful Ferrari ahead of four faster cars for virtually the entire afternoon.

In 1986, Ayrton Senna held off a late charge by Nigel Mansell, eventually winning by just 0.014secs.

I make it a dead heat between the two in terms of your responses to my blog last week asking for the race you would choose.

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As it happens, I would give the deciding vote to 1981 because it was such a brilliant defensive drive by a man who, popular legend has it, allowed too many mistakes to get in the way of a talent that made him arguably the fastest man ever to get behind the wheel of an F1 car.

As it happens, I don't agree with the popular view of Villeneuve - I agree with a more revisionist view espoused by my friend and colleague Mark Hughes.

I go into this a little bit in a piece I wrote on the 25th anniversary of Villeneuve's death - and Mark's own brilliant article is available if you search on the Autosport website (although you have to subscribe to the magazine to find it).

For now, though, you can just enjoy the highlights to this brilliant race.

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For the 1981 and 1986 races, the full Grand Prix programme broadcast at the time is available both on this website (embedded in this blog, as well as video choices on the F1 page) and on Satellite and Cable from 0900 on Wednesday. Unfortunately, there is no room for them on Freeview.

Shorter edits of these races, and the other three, are also available - because of rights restrictions, these videos are only available to UK users.

Watch short highlights of the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix.

Watch short highlights of the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix.

Watch short highlights of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix - remembered chiefly for the breathtaking TV pictures of the great rivals inches apart as Mansell overtakes Senna into the first corner before going on to win.

Watch short highlights of the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix - when Michael Schumacher put in one of the all-time great wet-weather drives to win for Ferrari.

Watch short highlights of the 1997 Spanish Grand Prix - when Jacques Villeneuve intelligently managed his tyres to hold off a rapidly closing Olivier Panis's Ligier.


  • Comment number 1.

    No room on Freeview? Why, because you're doing that 'exciting' and 'fascinating' Cricket again? Very poor treatment for us Freeview users, we're now confined to watching it in a small box on our computer screens.

    Thanks, BBC! You're the best!

  • Comment number 2.

    The extended highlights of 1981 and 1986 will be shown on Freeview on Sunday morning from 0915 until the start of the Spanish Grand Prix show on BBC1.

    We can understand your frustration about not being able to see these on Freeview until then, but please understand that space on it is limited and we have to serve all our audience.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks for the response Andrew, I will look forward to that at least :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    its your own fault for being cheap and using freeview. use a little button called the 'expand' button and that little screen will not be so little anymore

  • Comment number 5.

    Andrew. 1997 highlights gets a 404 page.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks Andrew for again allowing us a showing of two full Grand Prix highlights programmes.

    I didn't quite understand why Villeneuve was so upset with Tambay for Imola 82. The battle seemed to be fair, it was a brilliant duel. None-the-less he had some outstanding racecraft and was extremely fast. I cannot believe his repass on Arnoux at France 79 into turn one. It was a huge lockup and seemed a brilliant outbraking effort, not to mention he repeated the repass later into the lap into that narrow uphill braking zone before the right-hander.

    Ok, if I could suggest some Monaco classics for your team to consider. Please consider these:
    1982 - Unpredictable race with some incidents and mistakesn, followed by those incredible final laps.
    1984 - Sentimental for some fans. Senna's first great showing, Mansell's first time up at the front, some of Bellof's passes were great to watch also.
    1985 - Enjoyed the battle here between Prost and Alboreto. Just for extra's sake, there's that fiery shunt between Patrese and Piquet.
    1992 - Obviously for the Senna/Mansell duel at the end.
    1996 - Unpredictable race in damp conditions, and Panis' win.
    Or else if one from the ITV era is necessary then possibly 1997, 2002, or 2004.

  • Comment number 7.

    "fishybells99 wrote:
    its your own fault for being cheap and using freeview. use a little button called the 'expand' button and that little screen will not be so little anymore"

    My own fault, wow. I'm glad you have money to spend on unnecessary TV privileges but some of us don't.

    Secondly, yes, I have tried 'expand' - so don't patronise me - it only causes further pixellation and it's pretty wretched to watch.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry FreddyOfGreggs, didn't mean to offend you. Just sell a few more of those Steak Bakes and hopefully you will be able to afford Sky :)

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for showing extended highlights for 2 races.
    Hope to see Spain 1987 on your shortlist next year.

  • Comment number 10.

    The 1997 problem should be fixed now.

    flukielukas - you ask why was Villeneuve so upset by Tambay's actions at Imola in '82. Well, first of all it was Didier Pironi who upset him - Patrick Tambay replaced Villeneuve as Pironi's team-mate at Ferrari after his death. Why was he upset? It was anything but a "brilliant duel" and "fair".

    Villeneuve was much faster than Pironi - not just that weekend, but nearly all the time. He had qualified 1.3 seconds ahead of him, and the race was not a race, it was a show.

    Most of the British teams were not there because of the political fighting that was going on in F1 at the time, and Renault and Ferrari agreed to put on some entertainment for the fans.

    Once the leading Renault of Rene Arnoux retired, Villeneuve was left in the lead from Pironi. The standard team orders at Ferrari back then were that once they were running one-two, the guy who was in the lead stayed there. Not only that, but Ferrari's fuel consumption was a problem at Imola, and they would both have run out if they had continued at that speed, so Villeneuve slowed the pace down to ensure they would finish.

    When he did, Pironi passed him. So Villeneuve speeded up and went past him again. He then slowed down - and Pironi passed him again. And so it went on until Villeneuve re-took the lead with a couple of laps to go, whereupon he thought that was it. But Pironi had other ideas. He passed him into Tosa - the last overtaking space on the track - on the last lap.

    In other words, he stole the win.

    Some context, too. In testing early in the season, Pironi had a massive crash at Paul Ricard, where he flew into the spectator area at the 180mph Signes corner. He was unhurt, but badly affected psychologically. At the subsequent Brazilian GP, Pironi was more than a second slower in qualifying but Villeneuve took a couple of journalists to one side and asked them not to be too hard on him, saying that Pironi was still struggling with the after-effects of the Richard shunt.

    Two races later, Pironi behaved like he did at Imola.

    That's why Villeneuve was so upset.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to say that it is disappointing to not have the races on freeview. In the evenings all I ever see on the red button channels is a sports news loop and nothing on the other one. Surely you could put them on in the evenings. As to the cricket, what is different on the red button than you get on the radio version? All I can see is a scorecard (which wasnt available during the tour to the west indies) so I see that as a waste of a channel. Yes I am a fan of cricket but I don't feel that it is necessary to just show a scorecard for 7 hours.

  • Comment number 12.

    Also, I have to waste valuable bandwidth just to be able to watch them

  • Comment number 13.

    The scorecard is one of our most popular offerings on the red button - and please remember my earlier remark about us having to serve all our audience as best we can.

    We make all our decisions based on what we hope and think is the best for our audience. Inevitably, not everyone will be happy all the time, but we do the best we can.

    In this instance, the races will be available on Sunday morning before the Spanish Grand Prix programme, so you can always watch them then. Not only that, but they are available on the web and I have to say I think the quality of the video is excellent.

  • Comment number 14.

    Interesting, thanks for the piece.

    I guess I'm naturally sceptical of the ruling on Pironi's intentions in that battle because, like every racing driver, he was there to race. If the situation was as you say, and I don't doubt that's the way Villeneuve saw it, then Ferrari really should have been on the radio insisting Didier cool it because the 'race' still counted for world championship points. Having said that, the Wikipedia article on Pironi, firmly attributes a widespread view that he duped Villeneuve. I'll have to assume there is some credibility to that view - not that whatever Wiki says goes - but I have heard from many others that the Imola 82 battle was allegedly tainted.
    Whilst Spain 81 was a demonstration of Villeneuve being difficult to pass, I also appreciated his efforts at Brazil 82. I love seeing a driver who really doesn't want to be passed. Many of the present drivers don't defend the line or simply concede to easily. Gilles didn't want to be passed so bad that he eventually speared off the track trying to repass, but he might have been out of the points anyway if he'd let the train behind him come past.

    One thing I've wanted to know is whether Senna truly reneged on his agreement with Prost at Imola 1989. I've read different things, but it has been said that Senna initiated the agreement about no passing after the first corner. Even if that's the case, I'd consider Tosa to be the first corner if I were party to that agreement. It really should have been spelt out by the two. I find it hard to believe that, even being the ruthless competitor he was, Senna would feel the need to cheat an advantage over Prost. As Brundle said, I too believe he was just the right-side of being overbalanced most of the time. Then again, everyone's human and prone to overstepping good competitive limits.

  • Comment number 15.

    Many thanks for the races really looking forward to watching them when i get home tonight - this classic races part of the BBC coverage is simply superb. I am especially looking forward to Monaco in a fortnight that will be a really tough decision!

  • Comment number 16.

    I really enjoyed reading that, this is defenately my favourite blog.

    I haven't seen much of Gilles Villeneuve but what I have seen has been amazing, gonna watch the vids now : )

  • Comment number 17.

    Channel 301 in freeview is empty

  • Comment number 18.

    I can back up what lightmas has said, 301 was not in use when I checked around the same time. However, as someone who likes other sports (Cricket and Snooker, included) I understand why this is the way it is. However, it is frustrating that there is an 'empty' channel when we can have this! Plus, I sincerely hope that the Classic GP's can be on Freeview as and when possible.

    Also, on the matter of Imola 82, I remember hearing that, Villeneuve accused Pironi of duplicity. Plus, that Villeneuve would never speak to Pironi again. On 89, I felt that, according to Prost, the agreement was reneged on, as mentioned. It certainly brought about, in my opinion, one of the bitterest, most fierce feuds, in the sports history.

  • Comment number 19.

    Since the start of the new season I have been a daily visitor to the BBC F1 website and have enjoyed the ability to watch footage, commentary etc in my own time.

    It's fantastic to have the opportunity to watch these races, more of this will be very welcome!

    Are there any plans make this (or subsequent) historic race footage available on BBC iPlayer? I don't think I'd get away with watching this at work, with 3 kids I KNOW I won't get time at home but if I could download then my train journey home would be enjoyable for once.


  • Comment number 20.

    Jeez, what's with all the whining about the bbc not showing this on freeview? For starters, the bbc have now made it available on freeview on Sunday. I don't follow cricket, but lets face it - I'm sure there are plenty of cricket fans who don't enjoy F1 as much as us.

    Is it not better to have the content available online than nothing at all?

    The F1 coverage is far superior to anything we've had before and I personally think we're lucky to get all the practice sessions and web content covered in as much detail as it is.

    Keep up the good work and I'm glad to see the extended highlights are back.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi, many thanks Andrew for putting these classic races up - it's great to see brilliant races of by-gone era's. I was just wondering if it would be possible to release a DVD at the end of the year including all the 30 min extended highlights. I'm sure that many people here would agree that this would be fantastic and I would certainly buy it! I know it's a longshot but I guess you can never be sure unless you ask. Is there a chance that this could happen?

    Again many thanks for such fantastic coverage.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Andrew, why are the classic races not on red button on Virgin Media right now?

  • Comment number 23.

    Many thanks for getting us these highlights. keep it up!
    It is frustrating that the Senna documentary wasn't on Freeview on Friday, as Channel 302 had the Sports News Loop on FOR THE WHOLE DAY - hardly the best use of the airtime.
    Anyhow just wondered if us freeview viewers are going to get the shorter cuts of 91, 96, and 97 on sunday morning as well as the longer highlights you promise

  • Comment number 24.

    Maybe fishybells99 should wash his 99 bells and his mouth out with soap and water and contribute more mature comments on the F1 blog, as oppossed to having a swipe at viewer application "have" and "have nots".

    I am relishing the prospect of watching the FREEVIEW highlights of the Spanish GP races on Sunday morning.


  • Comment number 25.

    Superb choice's, as a collector I have these races and can confirm both are edge of the seat stuff, well done BBC.
    I cant wait to see what Monaco will offer up.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ James JPS
    Regarding DVDs. You may note there's generally not a great volume of F1 DVDs (on the legal market anyway!). It's because of things like the price of rights from FOM being very high and that the demand for F1 DVDs and classic F1, whilst fair, is not exceptionally high.
    I don't think the BBC's deal with FOM includes production of DVDs for F1 archive material. I would also guess that the BBC wouldn't see it as a profitable exercise.

    I would suggest you purchase a DVB-T or DVB-S PC digital tuner and record the highlights if you'd like a permenant copy for yourself if that's legal in Britain. Or else a DVD recorder, something like that.

  • Comment number 27.

    Why wasn't 1994 one of the choices of Spanish GP classics? Schumacher stuck in 5th gear for most of the race and still finishes 2nd, including making a pitstop and getting away again while still stuck in 5th!

  • Comment number 28.

    Well.. good as the performance may have been, there weren't many drivers behind him left in the race. I believe a Tyrell finished 3rd on that day.
    I'm sure it would have been a worthy choice none-the-less, but I don't think it would have received more votes than 1996, 1991, 1986, or 1981.

  • Comment number 29.

    Why is the red button called the red button? Why not just call it BBC Sport 1 and BBC sport 2. Would make things a whole lot simpler.

  • Comment number 30.

    "I'm sure it would have been a worthy choice none-the-less, but I don't think it would have received more votes than 1996, 1991, 1986, or 1981."

    Probably not, but at least I could have got to see the highlights!

  • Comment number 31.

    '81: Having not even been born in this year, this was the first time I'd really seen Giles Villeneurve in action. Held off a train of four drivers, none of whom were mugs while the reigning world champion and two future world champions fell off the track.

    Very impressive and smoother than I expected from Giles.

    However, what's up with the race timer registering John Watson as Irish? He's from Northern Ireland as was the UK's main man at the time. Particularly strange as there 'was' an ROI driver in that race, Derek Daly.

    '86: Mansell vs Prost vs Senna. Can't go far wrong there. Would have been gutted to see Mansell go from first to third pretty much instananeously but there was still some good action to come.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Andrew,
    You are certainly pro-active with your blog. It's a shame the other bloggers don't respond in the way you do.
    I want to know how you feel about the new Senna film that is being made.
    Documentaries are all very well and good because they are factual and follow the career of the protagonist with comment and debate from others.
    A film is totally different- actors will have to play their respective characters in their given role, so I ask - who is going to play Nigel Mansell's moustache and eyebrows? For the rest of him will get the cinema audiences sleeping in their seats.
    Who will play Prost's nose? For the rest of him was excruciatingly annoying to listen to.
    Alas, Charlton Heston is no longer available to play the biblical role of Senna, though Robert Powell could give it a shout, though he looks more like Prost.
    I think making this film is a bad idea - only because very few motor-racing films were ever any good. The excitement and performances obviously happen on the track. There is enough in the Senna/Prost/Mansell axis for a story for sure, but whether it can jump into celluloid is another matter.
    Michael Mann to direct.

  • Comment number 33.

    Sitting, watching the races, it's amazing how safety has improved in the last 20 years.... marshals in t-shirts, cars being left in tiny run off areas where they broke down, I guess it's one of those things you take for granted now, but if you take your life in your hands as an on track marshal now, it scares me to think about what it was like then.... maybe that's "proper" racing though ;) Thanks very much for selecting these, Andrew, it's been a great start to my Sunday (along with a nice bacon, mushroom and egg roll!)

  • Comment number 34.

    So, they switch Jenson from a 3 stop strategy to a 2 stop strategy and added a new dimension to the race.

    Pity that wont happen next year as there will be no refuelling during the race.

    Will tyre changes make such a difference?

    No more flying laps. Massa is apparently heavy on fuel use, he had to back off in this race. Does that mean he will have to have a bigger fuel tank than the rest of the field? Bet that will make him competitive.

    Refuelling is part of the mix of F1 racing. Without it, the race will be a procession after the first corner.

  • Comment number 35.

    To follow on from WhereInSussex #33
    It also shows a MASSIVE improvement in television coverage. Thank goodness we now have FOM producing the television pictures for races and qualifying. It wasn't that long ago that local televison directors were used who may not have had much F1 knowledge. Gone are the days when we had to endure 2 hours watching the leader storming around the circuit on their own.

  • Comment number 36.

    FAO F1JustGotBoring:

    Some opinions are that 'racing' now is more like high speed chess. With Ross Brawn winning races instead of Schumacher/Button et al.

    Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing racers race, instead of thinking "Oh, I can pass (this driver) in the pits...". Wouldn't it be better for a driver to think "Right, I have to pass (this driver) on the track..."?

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree that the spectacle is the overtaking on the track. Trouble is they will all be fuelled for the complete race so how will they have any advantage? They will all have kers or whatever comes from that.

    All teams copy each other so they will all be identical. The 1,2 or 3 stop strategy, the flying laps, choosing when to bring someone in to make the most of track position. It all makes for a more unpredictable result.

    If someone is lighter because of fuel strategy, there is more competitive overtaking. Apart from mistakes, if they all have the same fuel and all have the same rev limit, how will they compete? You saw Massa holding up Vettel. I know Massa had kers but in the end, apart from back markers, those at the front of the field will stay in the order they come out of the first bend.

    I really hope I am wrong, but pit stop strategy adds to the 2 hour spectacle, without it I cant see tyre changes making it that interesting short of people staying out too long and suffering punctures. Not my idea of a good race.

  • Comment number 38.

    Here's what I think will be good about the ban on refuelling.
    - Fuel strategy is gone, but tyre strategy can still allow the fast drivers to exploit their race pace.
    - Pitstops are potentially more exciting. Now all the time taken will be through tyre change, and there will be bigger pressure and possibly more mistakes with teams rushing to find those extra tenths. Hopefully well see true pitstop races and blunders with the lollipop man or the driver jumping the gun under the pressure.
    - Drivers will hopefully give it more to get the pole because it means more for the race to start up the grid. Sources say refuelling will be permitted in parc ferme so in fact we will see true low fuel qualifying also.
    - Drivers can manage their fuel consumption and development can be put here on the part of the team. Fuel/energy efficiency has real world application to motoring so I think this is positive.


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