On This Day In F1 - Alonso Drove One Of The Greatest Opening Laps In F1 History

On This Day In F1 - Alonso Drove One Of The Greatest Opening Laps In F1 History

A look back at what happened on 6 August in Formula 1 history

1961 German Grand Prix
Stirling Moss’s 16th and final F1 win came courtesy of yet another superb drive in his underpowered Lotus. He built up a lead on a wet circuit but, as the Nordschleife began to dry out, the powerful Ferraris of Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill began to reel him in. However, with three laps to go the track was doused in a fresh batch of rain, allowing Moss to ease away and take the victory. Von Trips finished second to slightly extend his championship lead with two races remaining with Hill in third.

1967 German Grand Prix
With the Nordschleife being such a colossal circuit, it was common for Formula 2 cars to bulk out the grid at the German GP. In the 1967 race, one of those F2 cars - A Matra driven by a young Belgian called Jacky Ickx - almost caused a massive upset.

Ickx knew the Nordschleife inside-out and was known to be a very talented young racer, something he demonstrated almost immediately. In qualifying, he hurled his underpowered car around the almost 23km circuit in a time of 8:14.0 to go top of the timesheets, where he stayed for much of practice.

As the F1 drivers found their speed, Ickx’s time was eventually outclassed - but only by two drivers. Jim Clark had smashed everyone to take pole with a lap of 8:04.1, and Denny Hulme had just managed to sneak ahead of Ickx. Yup, an F2 car was third fastest, which would have been good enough for a front-row start - if the organisers hadn’t demoted all the F2 cars to the back, anyway. Still, his time was almost 21 seconds quicker than the next fastest F2 car of Jackie Oliver.

It would have been good to see how Ickx would have got on from the front row
It would have been good to see how Ickx would have got on from the front row

It wasn’t a flash in the pan, either, as in the 15-lap race Ickx showed that he was more than capable of running at the pace of the top F1 drivers. From his eventual starting position of 18th, he rocketed through the field and in the early stages of the race was the fastest car on the track.

By lap four Ickx was up to fifth, which became fourth on the following lap when Jackie Stewart retired. He then set about Jack Brabham and was all over the back of him as he tried to break into the top three. Could an F2 car really finish on the podium in an F1 race?!

Sadly, it was not to be. Chris Amon repassed him and on lap 12 the suspension on Ickx’s Matra cried enough and he had to retire. Denny Hulme won ahead of teammate Jack Brabham to extend his championship lead, with Amon - who was ‘only’ 39 seconds behind the winner, to give you an idea of Ickx’s mega performance - third. Ickx’s performance certainly grabbed people’s attention - two races later he was racing a Cooper F1 car, and in 1968 he drove for Ferrari and instantly became a front-runner.

The Nordschleife was a real test of a car's suspension - Ickx, Clark, and Graham Hill all retired after failures
The Nordschleife was a real test of a car's suspension - Ickx, Clark, and Graham Hill all retired after failures

2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
Title rivals Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher were both starting way down the grid after getting penalties for incidents during practice - Alonso in 15th after brake testing Robert Doornbos, and Schumacher 11th after overtaking under red flag conditions.

The Hungaroring saw its first wet race in 20 years of it being on the calendar and Alonso was in his element. He went from 15th to 12th by the first corner, and over the course of the rest of the first lap appeared to be racing in an entirely different category as he passed six more cars in places that would never be considered overtaking spots - including two drivers around the outside of Turn 5. Schumacher also made a great start to get up to fourth - though almost all of his places were gained by Turn 1 - but was struggling with his Bridgestone tyres, which weren’t working as well as the Michelins on the Renault. On on the third lap, Alonso passed him around the outside of Turn 5.

By lap 18 he was in the lead (courtesy of running heavy with fuel) and extending his lead by several seconds a lap. On lap 25 he was 40 seconds ahead of second-placed Kimi Raikkonen and 49 seconds ahead of eventual winner Button. In other words, he could almost afford to pit twice and still remain in front.

However, there had been a problem with a wheel nut during his final pit stop on lap 50: Alonso’s wheel wasn’t properly secured and he spun out at Turn 2. It denied him the chance to pull off a legendary victory, but still remains one of F1’s greatest drives.

On This Day In F1 - Alonso Drove One Of The Greatest Opening Laps In F1 History - Formula 1

Jenson Button, who’d made his way up from 14th to second and was pretty much the only driver able to match Alonso’s pace, was now left in a commanding lead, which he never lost as he won his first race for Honda at his 113th attempt.

Pedro de la Rosa had been brought in at McLaren to replace the departed Juan Pablo Montoya and scored his first (and only) career podium in second, with Nick Heidfeld third for BMW-Sauber. Schumacher had made a bad gamble on staying out on intermediate tyres on a drying track and late in the race engaged in some questionable driving to defend his position. He then collided with Heidfeld, broke his suspension and was only classified eighth.

Birthdays
An absolute ace in a go-kart, Vitantonio Liuzzi (born 1980) never quite managed to translate that talent to F1. He made his debut in 2005 in a bizarre seat-sharing scheme at Red Bull with fellow Red Bull junior driver Christian Klien but as it was, Liuzzi only started four races, scoring a point on debut at Imola as Klien occupied the seat for most of the year.

Liuzzi returned in 2006 with Toro Rosso where he drove for two seasons. In 2009 he got another chance and joined Force India near the end of the season as Giancarlo Fisichella went to Ferrari. Liuzzi stayed with the team in 2010, equalling his career-best of sixth in Korea, and then spent a year at the back with HRT before dropping out of the sport.