There’s something incredibly special about watching Formula 1 drivers chuck their cars around at high speed in wet conditions.
It pushes their skills and talents to the limit, with some faltering and others putting on driving displays that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Max Verstappen put in one of the most memorable wet weather performances in recent history at last weekend’s dramatic Brazilian GP, recovering from a late pit stop to finish third.
That got us thinking about other great drives in extremely challenging conditions, here are some of the best:
Ayrton Senna – 1993 European Grand Prix
This was an obvious one, right? Ayrton Senna was always on form in the wet and at the 1993 European GP he looked like he was driving in a completely different category to the rest of the field.
The McLaren MP4/8 wasn’t the quickest car on the grid and Senna qualified in fourth place, but lost ground at the start. However, once the cars were up to speed, Senna weaved his way up the field to take the lead in what remains one of the best laps in F1 history.
Changing conditions caused a flurry of pit stops to switch from wets to dry tyres throughout the race, with Senna risking it for longer on slicks to take a clear victory at Donington Park.
Lewis Hamilton – 2008 British Grand Prix
Another wet weather race that involved a dramatic first lap, Heikki Kovalainen started from pole, with Lewis Hamilton lining up fourth. The British driver had a great start to move up to second place, with Mark Webber falling back and then spinning on the Hangar Straight.
Hamilton stormed ahead of Kovalainen on lap five and scampered off into the distance, on a completely different league to the rest. But as the track dried, he came under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton pitted for new intermediates but Raikkonen was stopped without changing tyres.
It proved to be a strong move from McLaren as the rain returned, giving Hamilton the advantage. There was a brief off-track excursion but by his second stop for new intermediates, Hamilton was 30 seconds ahead out front.
He continued to stretch his lead and ended up finishing 68 seconds clear of Nick Heidfeld, the biggest winning margin in 13 years.
James Hunt – 1976 Japanese Grand Prix
The 1976 Japanese GP not only proved to be a dramatic race in terrible conditions, but it also proved to be the decider in one of the most hotly contested title battles in F1. Niki Lauda entered the race three points clear of James Hunt.
The McLaren driver lined up second, ahead of Lauda, as organisers debated whether the race at Fuji should go ahead. It did, but in terrible conditions. Hunt took the lead but Lauda found himself in the midfield, barely able to see through the spray.
Having almost lost his life earlier in the season after his huge Nurburgring shunt, Lauda decided he couldn’t race in the conditions and pulled into the pits to retire. Hunt was clear out front but dropped back as the track dried, before falling to fifth with a puncture. He recovered supremely well to finish third in what is one of F1’s most famous ever races.
Michael Schumacher – 1996 Spanish Grand Prix
Known for his wet weather driving, Michael Schumacher’s best display was arguably at the 1996 Spanish GP. Driving a car that was quite a bit slower than the front-runners Williams, Schumacher lost ground at the start and found himself down in seventh.
But in terrible conditions, he steadily rose up the order and snatched the lead from Gerhard Berger on lap 12. From there, he proved to be an unstoppable force, ending the race 45 seconds clear of the next driver. Quite a drive.
Jenson Button – 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
Probably one of the craziest races in recent history, the 2011 Canadian GP went on for over four hours due to red flags and safety cars – for the numerous crashes, incidents and the atrocious weather conditions.
Jenson Button started seventh but suffered a difficult first part of the race, including contact with his team-mate, a puncture, drive-through penalty and an incident with Fernando Alonso. At one point, he found himself in last place, but quickly made up ground on the restart.
He picked off cars like they were in a different racing class and soared up into podium contention, closing in on race leader Sebastian Vettel. But on slick tyres, the Red Bull driver strayed off line onto the wet track on the final lap and ran wide, with Button storming ahead to win.
Jim Clark – 1963 Belgian Grand Prix
A gearbox problem meant Jim Clark lined up at Spa-Francorchamps in eighth place, but he was in his element in the tricky race conditions as heavy rain fell. He made up seven places after an incredible start to lead on the first lap.
Graham Hill caught him in what was a great battle between the two, before Hill retired with a gearbox issue. That gave Clark a clear run to the flag and he stormed to victory by just under five minutes, with Bruce McLaren in second place. It was a masterclass in wet weather driving.
Jackie Stewart – 1968 German Grand Prix
Jackie Stewart’s 1968 German GP victory is often regarded as one of the greatest drives in F1, made even more impressive by the fact it was in terrible conditions, at the notorious Nurburgring and with Stewart nursing a broken wrist.
Stewart started sixth but found himself leading by the end of the first lap, having survived the spray and poor visibility. He was on another level that day and stormed into the mist, never to be seen by his rivals until the chequered flag. Stewart ended up winning by over four minutes.
Sebastian Vettel – 2008 Italian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel had shown impressive flashes of speed in the early part of his career but the 2008 Italian GP properly cemented him as a true star of the future, which – as we all know – has proved to be the case.
Driving for midfield outfit Toro Rosso, everything came together for Vettel in Italy. His drive was stunning, with the German never putting a foot wrong from start to finish after lining up on pole position.
It was a stunningly mature drive from such a young racer and certainly made the paddock sit up and take notice, as he became F1’s youngest race winner at the time.