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Your classic grand prix

Andrew Benson | 06:00 UK time, Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, the scene of Nigel Mansell's maiden Formula 1 victory and the first of Alain Prost's four world championship wins, is our highlighted race for the latest edition of our classic grand prix series.

You can watch the full highlights programme for that race below, as well as edited highlights of all the choices - the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix, the 1982 US Grand Prix West, the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix and last year's Turkish Grand Prix, plus the full hour-long highlights programme of the latter broadcast on BBC Three last year.

The classic races will also be available in the UK on satellite and cable from 1500 BST on Wednesday 26 May until 1000 on Thursday 27 May and from 1830 BST on Thursday 27 May until 1000 on Friday 28 May. Unfortunately, because of a lack of bandwidth due to the French Open, there is no availability to show the races on Freeview.

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If you are wondering why we have such an eclectic mix of races in the run-up to this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, the reason is that the Istanbul race has only been on the calendar since 2005, and we used all the previous races there in this feature last year.

That being the case, we decided to feature some great races from tracks that no longer appear on the F1 calendar, and there are some corkers here.

As regular readers will know, we use your views from last week's blog to inform our choice as to which race to feature to whet appetites for more F1 in the run-up to the weekend's action.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Mansell's popular win, which came after five years of trying, was comfortably the most popular choice among respondents.

That race was not just about Mansell though. It featured some thrilling action from the 1980s heavyweights, Ayrton Senna, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet among others, and in the background was the issue of Prost's first title, which was even longer overdue than Mansell's first win.

The Frenchman could have already been a three-time world champion even before the start of the 1985 season, but fate decreed otherwise, and he had to wait until this distinctly autumnal day to seal the deal.

Even then it was not easy. The McLaren dropped down to 14th on the first lap, and Prost had to fight his way back up through the field while avoiding risks.

Prost was aware that he needed only a minor points finish to end the hopes of his rival, Ferrari driver Michele Alboreto, but he also wanted to get the title out of the way with two races still to go.

It was a great, fascinating race. But the other choices here also fit that description.

Easily the next most popular choice was San Marino 1981, a race won by Piquet for the now defunct Brabham team - which was then owned by F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone - against the backdrop of a stunning drive by Ferrari's Gilles Villeneuve.

Starting from pole position, Villeneuve led the early stages at the superb Imola track but suffered for taking a brave decision to come in early for dry-weather tyres when the track began to dry out after a wet start.

The rain started again as he accelerated out of the pits, and the Canadian had to come straight back in again to fit wets, ending his hopes of a win but his fightback up to seventh place was certainly worth watching.

The other two races provide landmark moments from one of the most dramatic, topsy-turvy and tragic seasons in F1 history.

The 1982 US GP West was the third race of the great Niki Lauda's comeback with McLaren after two years in retirement.

He won it with a typically smooth and canny drive through the streets of Long Beach in California, pressuring the inexperienced Andrea de Cesaris into a mistake - a missed gear while lapping a back-marker - to take the lead and then cruising into the distance.

Villeneuve has another starring role in this race. He held back Keke Rosberg's faster Williams for a significant portion of the race and when he ran wide after reluctantly ceding position, he produced one of the greatest spin-turn recoveries you will ever see.

Take a look, too, at the double-width rear wing on Villeneuve's Ferrari. This was the Italian team's response to the British team's exploitation of the water-tanks rule.

But just as Piquet and Rosberg were excluded from first and second at the season-opening Brazilian GP for illegally running their cars light and topping up their essential fluids after the race, so Villeneuve was disqualified from his third place finish at Long Beach.

Two races later, Villeneuve was killed in a crash at the Belgian Grand Prix, and he was replaced in Ferrari number 27 by his close friend, the Frenchman Patrick Tambay.

But Tambay did not take part in our next selection, the Swiss race later that year, because he was suffering from a trapped nerve in his back and was in too much pain to drive at a time when F1 cars were renowned for their almost non-existent suspension.

swissgp1982_595.jpgKeke Rosberg overtakes Alain Prost in the 1982 Swiss GP

Indeed, there were no Ferraris in the race at all as Tambay was the team's sole entrant following the horrific career-ending crash suffered by Didier Pironi in Germany the previous month.

But that was not the only reason why this race was one of F1's great one-offs. Another was that it was not in fact held in Switzerland, where motor racing was then banned, but at the fabulous, sweeping Dijon-Prenois track in France. It was also the only win taken by Rosberg in what turned out to be his world championship year.

The early part of the race was dominated by the Renault turbo cars with the Brabhams, which had been one of the talking points of the summer after the team reintroduced refuelling to F1, unusually off the pace.

Renault looked set for a one-two, with Prost ahead of Rene Arnoux, a result which would have made Prost the favourite for the title. But as so often that summer, the yellow cars hit reliability problems in the closing laps.

First Arnoux retired with injection problems, then Prost hit trouble with a split skirt on his car and Rosberg was able to close him down and take the win.

The points he earned moved him ahead of Pironi, who had led the championship for a couple of months, and he held on to be crowned in Las Vegas at the end of the season.


  • Comment number 1.

    WOW! Can't believe I'm the first in!

    Shame 1981 didn't make it to the top spot, but I suppose Mansell's first victory was always going to prove extremely popular.

    Also a great shame that the selections are not on Freeview this time around. I guess I'll just have to wrestle the cable TV remote away from the missus for an hour.

    Looking forward to some exciting racing from your Canadian GP selections.

  • Comment number 2.

    What on earth is that ambulance playing at in the Imola highlights? Going all the way from Tamburello to piratella on the outside of the circuit is mad. Good selection though, Dijon looked like a good race finish again. Can we have Osterreichring 1987 for next time this happens please? It was the last race there, and there was something like 3 attempts at a race start due to crashes. Anything else from Estoril/old Kyalami/Mexico City/Imola/France would be great too.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks for the highlights Andrew. Looking forward to seeing Brands and Imola.

    I wouldn't let them fob you off with that Freeview Argument. The Program Guide Currently says:

    Thursday 4am - 5.10am - Red Button
    Thursday 5.10am - 5.50am - Classic F1

    This is repeated on Friday morning also.

    2 seperate nights of 1 hour and 50 minutes of nothing going on...

    Still loving this feature mindst you.


  • Comment number 4.

    Ref, comment three, I'm afraid that is a mistake in the EPG - classic races should not - and will not - be there at that time, not least because there is not enough time for them. We are, however, still trying to find space for this feature on Freeview at some point over the weekend and I will keep you all posted on that.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for the reply Andrew and continued efforts. Appreciated.

  • Comment number 6.

    14:00 and only 5 comments? wow...nornmally this board is full by the end of lunch!

    Thanks again for the selections Andy & I have to agree with comment 2,
    The old Estoril, Jerez, Magny Cours tracks were great & would love to see those races make the selections in the future (I'm thinking Frentzen '99 French GP) & I'm sure there are other tracks that I don't even know about!

    Good to see the US get a GP again, Austin should be the right audience, heartland of America's oil country...bang on the money for an F1 race, especially if it's during the era of F1 'hybrid' KERS powered cars!

  • Comment number 7.


    Even watching marshalls push a car off the race track, let alone the gravel trap looks like utter madness. Watch the wet races at Adelaide!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hey Andrew not sure if it's just me or what but none of the video streams appear when i click on one of the highlights links. The 1985 video imbeded in this page works but there's no player or anything on the other links.

  • Comment number 9.

    lol watching the start of the 1985 race almost every car was crawling before the green light i swear it's not just my eye's!

  • Comment number 10.

    Great races this time, I'm glad 1985 won but I would have been happy for any of them to have been chosen. I'm sure I'm not the only one who actually prefers these newer events where there are not enough recent races so we have choices from a wider selection of circuits. I hope you manage to find some time on Freeview, thanks for your continued efforts.

  • Comment number 11.

    Post #4 - Lord Benson of classic-formula-one-land,

    Even if there is Freeview bandwidth at 4 a.m. in the morning I would still (and no doubt many others) would set our alarms to see these races.

    Its surely not that impossible to find a slot.

    I feel denied when I can blog about the races and then when it comes to viewing cruely told - not available.

    I love what your doing but come on please sort it out.

    Pretty please with sparkly bits.

  • Comment number 12.

    No Freeview: No interest.

    I'm glad the race I didn't want won I suppose.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have to say, I know people want to record them on Freeview, but anyone would think that them not being on Freeview means you're unable to watch them at all. Does always seem to be a bit of an over-reaction, it's not like you're unable to see the races, it's just unfortunate that you can't record them because of them not being on Freeview. Certainly no reason for people to say things such as 'No Freeview: No interest' and such like.

  • Comment number 14.

    Are we actullay voting because all of the 2009 races have been shown already!
    No need to show all 2009 races, the 2009 Turkish race was boring.
    I know the Beeb have the rights but thats silly.
    Can some 2009 races be omitted?
    I know only 2 Races wont have 2009 Highlights (Canada and South Korea)

  • Comment number 15.

    For Christ's sake will people stop whinging and complaining (no Freeview, boohoo, why didn't my favourite race win the vote, it's soo unfair...) Watch what you want to watch, don't watch anything else and comment on the excellent footage the Beeb are putting up here.
    I've been an F1 nut since the late 70's and I can't believe how graet it is too see various highlights (from any year) every couple of weeks. Mental ground effect cars, big fat tyres, and best of all oversteer that didn't ruin your lap time. Hurah!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hello Andrew hello everyone. Nice to see footage of the 1985 European grand prix. Ayrton Senna fending of Keke Rosberg Williams Honda. Alain Prost certainly wasn't called the professor for nothing. He calculated that race very well after awkward start to clinch his first world title. Nigel Mansell had a very strong car with the supply of powerful Turbo Honda engine at the time.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    I seem to remember a couple of races ago being told that the 2009 races are not shown on the Red Button... yet to date as far as I recall the only '09 race to NOT be shown was China. I'm watching Turkey '09 as I type.
    Now, anyone care to spot the difference with that China race compared to the other 6?
    UK bias... what's that?

  • Comment number 19.

    #18 that's rubbish, none of the first 4 classic GP showed the 2009 races on the red button. The spanish races weren't on Freeview so I'm not sure about them but the Monaco race was the first 2009 race I saw on the red button in any form, short highlights or long.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 I can only assume the output on Freeview is different to that via the Sky box as I can tell you Spanish highlights were shown, while China was not.

  • Comment number 21.

    Post #15
    Here here,
    Free veiw, the clue is in the first word, when it's free you don't get to moan, when you pay you do, not showing off it's simply a fact of life sorry.
    Cheers Andrew sweet set of races, having gone without for so many years i am over the moon at the in depth coveradge we get nowdays, practice, old races and the forum and all that i can watch on line whenever i want online ;)
    perhaps it's my age but i can remember when TV turned off at midnight and that scarey girl test card was all that haunted my night bordom :)

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 I may have been critical about one particular issue but the Red Button coverage, for Free Practice, the Forum and these Classic races is fantastic.
    I've not missed a FP session yet and like you remember when F1 coverage was minimal to say the least.
    Thanks Beeb, please keep it going.

  • Comment number 23.

    How utterly glorious are the races from '81 and '82? I bet Bernie watches them, wishes he rediscover that magic and weeps into his golden chalice of a nighttime. :)

  • Comment number 24.

    Every time I read the blog - which is tops. It says that video clips will be available on cable tv in the uk. I have never managed to be able to watch these.

    Could anyone help?

  • Comment number 25.

    Ok let's look at the Freeview Classic F1 service.

    Yes it's free, except of course it isn't. It's paid for by the TV Licence, and viewers have as much right to complain about the Freeview RB service as they do for any other BBC output.

    For some people, Freeview is their only access to digital TV. Not everyone has a PC at home. Not everyone has automatic access to PCs at home. Not everyone wants to watch TV on their PCs, which (unless it's an i-Player repeat not being transmitted) is a bit sad anyway, and prefer to view on on proper TV with family, friends, or simply for the added comfort of the sofa.

    I consider myself fortunate that I have Sky as well, but prefer Freeview for the lack of distracting 'screen furniture'. Freeview has no permanent "Menu" box, and no periodic 'Loading' beads pulsing across the screen at random intervals.

    The issue of bandwidth would be a reasonable argument for cutting the Classic F1 coverage on Freeview IF the bandwidth was being used effectively. Before the new season of Doctor Who, hour upon hour was taken up, over several days, to transmit a trailer for the series which itself lasted less than a minute; that was over 60 runnings of that trailer in one hour alone. After that, a considerable amount of time was taken up by an EastEnders feature, and last week there was a children's sing-along, which had about three or four songs endlessly looped, again for several hours over several days. Now we have the frippery of a Eurovision quiz which is also sucking up Tx time, for an event whose popularity has been on the wane for some time. What was advertised as the F1 Classic today turned out to be about that much under-represented sport, football - of which we are on the verge of being suffocated by for weeks. It hasn't helped that ch302 was cut, supposedly for HD, but in fact has lain seemingly dormant ever since.

    Seems to me that those F1 fans who only have Freeview to access a service they're paying for through the licence fee have several damn good reasons to get pretty miffed.

    What are the odds the Free Practice coverage will get sidelined to make way for "BBC Sports' World Cup Top 100 Players Falling Over on Purpose" once things get underway in South Africa?


  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Andrew, F1 web team and all the Classic F1 bloggers. I like Kif - he talks sense :-) ...unlike a few contributors (oh, can I have a race not on the shortlist, my race wasnt picked - its SO unfair, etc.) But yes, EVERYONE pays the same TV licence rate so it would be *gratefully* appreciated if the Red Button schedulers crammed in the Classic races and even dropped the '09 race (its very recent and therefore not 'classic'), its just shame that the good work done by the classic F1 boys & girls isnt always seen on the most popular digital TV platform - Freeview (and to all you Sky fanboys, that is a fact).


  • Comment number 27.

    Thanks Red Five that's most kind.

    Just don't get me started on the 2009 GP highlights repeats or we'll be here all night...

    Marcus Kifstocke

  • Comment number 28.

    Andrew Benson - you have been very quiet lately regarding your post on the 26th May and the on-going heated debate with regard to classic F1 being shown (lack of) on Freeview.

    Come out and make your prescence felt and provide a much needed update. :)

  • Comment number 29.

    Let's see if we can get this thread back on the subject of F1 rather than TV schedules.

    How do we think that we can get the powers-that-be (or should that be power, i.e. Bernie) to understand that whilst it may well take the same incredible skill levels to drive a modern F1 car on the limit, and not let it slide, as it did to drive cars with less downforce at the limit, and control the slides, to the outside observer a car moving all over the place and trying to get away from it's driver looks ten times more impressive. Am I the only one that enjoys seeing a driver having to fight an ill handling car? Problem is of course that they are never at the front. We need regulations that mean that sliding the car is the fastest way to get it around the circuit. i.e. bugger all downforce, big fat tyres and more power than grip.

    How hard can it be?

  • Comment number 30.

    I would complain about the lack of freeview coverage but if, after all of the above posts, the BBC still has not got the message there seems little point.
    The reason for this blog is to select which Classic GPs we would like to see again.. however (for freeview viewers) it turns out that we are actually selecting the classic GPs which we would like to be denied the chance to enjoy once more.

    I find it strange that Freeview (the BBCs preferred digital service) serves the licence payers worse that the SKY digital platform... run by a commercial rival! does the BBC secretly want to encourage its viewers to move to SKY.

  • Comment number 31.

    My reasons for wanting this stuff on Freeview are simple.

    As more and more F1 footage gets deleted from YouTube and elsewhere on the net, there is less opportunity for us to see this stuff with the original Murray Walker commentary. True, Andrew posts this stuff on the website, but come the day when the BBC loses the F1 broadcasting rights, all these clips will be lost in the BBC archive for another 30 or 40 years, if infact they are ever shown in full again. (Andrew has already stated on a few occasions that the BBC archive has 'lost' a few races that he'd hoped were there)

    Therefore, i like this stuff to be shown on Freeview, not only because the casual viewer will chance upon it, or that its more comfortable watching this stuff on the big screen in your front room, but mainly because it means i can record it for my own viewing pleasure in 10 or 15 years time on a rainy winters sunday afternoon. Because i can bet you, this stuff won't be availbale anywhere else. So grab it while you can (or in this weeks case, don't)

    PS - It'll be a sad day when the BBC do lose F1, as the current coverage (and website) is the best in the sports history, by some distance.

  • Comment number 32.

    #31. sorry would dissagree with that. asides from the TV adverts (which were a pain inthe butt) The bbc's coverage is not as polished as ITV's coverage. there are no where near enough features with the bbc. wheres all the features like Brundles used to do?, such as the technincal features on the cars etc? You have a young recent driver DC, available now too, so no excuse. Lots of time yaking on the Red button forum, which is good, but you could use some of that time to do some interesting features, which are sadly lacking. Also as before with ITV far too much waffling from Jonothan in the races.(did he go to the same school of waffle as James Allan?) Please take a leaf out of martin and Murrays book, sometimes, just sometimes, sit back and shut up for 30 seconds, instead of filling the time, for the sake of filling it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Oh well. I tried....

  • Comment number 34.

    Turkey '09: THe Kovalainen-Barrichello battle was a good reminder of how effective KERS could be but otherwise, one of Jenson's easier wins.

  • Comment number 35.

    #19. The Spanish Classic F1 races, 2009 included, were shown on freeview, they just werent advertised.

  • Comment number 36.

    Europe '85: Certainly good to see this one and how easilly Mansell seemed to take Senna at the start. Was also impressed by Suer's performance.


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