On This Day In F1 - The Lead Changed Four Times In The Last Two Laps

On This Day In F1 - The Lead Changed Four Times In The Last Two Laps

A look back at what happened on 14 June in Formula 1 history

1964 Belgian Grand Prix
Dan Gurney had led most of the race for Brabham and looked set to give the team its first win. Behind him there was right old ding-dong between Graham Hill and Jim Clark for second place as they frequently swapped positions around Spa’s 8.7-mile lap, with Bruce McLaren occasionally joining the fray.

Unfortunately for Clark, the frantic battle was taking its toll on the Climax engine in his Lotus 25. It was overheating, so at the end of lap 28 he pitted to have his radiator topped up with water, dropping him to a distant fourth. That left Gurney leading comfortably from Hill and McLaren.

However, Gurney was having fuel problems and slowed down so much that Hill took the lead with just over two laps to go. Gurney pitted and asked for more fuel - but the team didn’t have any! Well, not to hand, anyway. They figured he probably had enough to get to the end, though, and sent him back out. Now running third, he was back up to pace and halfway around the final lap was in the process of passing McLaren when - predictably - his Brabham ran out of fuel.

Gurney would have to wait a couple of weeks to deliver Brabham's first win. (c) Creative Commons
Gurney would have to wait a couple of weeks to deliver Brabham's first win. (c) Creative Commons

McLaren himself was nursing his car around the final lap because his battery was running out of power and the fuel pumps were struggling to do their job, though he had plenty in the tanks.

With Gurney out, McLaren rounded the next corner at Stavelot - only to see leader Hill out of fuel and pushing his car! Like Bruce, he too had the fuel, but his fuel pumps had packed in. Despite his own issues, that left McLaren with a comfortable lead over Clark and he looked set to take the win.

Up at the finish line, officials were wondering where the winner was. The flagman mistakenly waved the flag at two different backmarkers expecting one of them to be the leader, who was apparently nowhere to be seen. Eventually, McLaren rounded the final corner at La Source and rolled towards the finish line. Literally.

Going into the last corner his engine had finally given up and he only had his momentum to carry him to the line. He could see the flag, but unfortunately, he also saw Clark’s Lotus roar past to snatch victory. Jack Brabham was a distant third.

On This Day In F1 - The Lead Changed Four Times In The Last Two Laps - Formula 1

But the drama wasn’t done with there. Clark hadn’t realised he’d won and carried on to do a lengthy slowing down lap, only to run out of fuel himself at Stavelot - right at the opposite end of the track. Teammate Pete Arundell had to drive off and find him so that he could celebrate the third of what would become four consecutive Spa wins.

A crestfallen Gurney quickly disappeared from the circuit having dominated so much of the race. He wouldn’t have to wait too much longer to remedy the situation, though - two weeks later in the French Grand Prix he secured the first grand prix victory for Brabham.

1992 Canadian Grand Prix
Gerhard Berger won for McLaren after Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna had a bit of a scuffle at the final chicane. Mansell tried to get ahead of Senna for the lead at the final chicane, realised he wasn’t going to make it, and jumped back on the throttle. He bounced across the gravel, ripping his nose off of the car and retiring. Senna continued to lead until his car broke down, leaving Berger to win ahead of Michael Schumacher, Jean Alesi, and Karl Wendlinger, whose fourth place would be the last points the March team ever scored. Martin Brundle also came close to winning - he’d made his way up to second and was catching Berger when his gearbox failed.

This was the only race of the season where Mansell didn't either win, start from pole, or set the fastest lap
This was the only race of the season where Mansell didn't either win, start from pole, or set the fastest lap

Birthdays
John Miles (born 1943) entered 15 races with Lotus across 1969 and 1970, largely thanks to his prowess as a test driver, which involved driving the ill-fated four-wheel drive Lotus 63 in 1969. He stayed on as a race driver the following year but, apart from a fifth place in the season-opening South African GP, he was well off the pace of teammate Jochen Rindt. Miles was also concerned with the safety of Lotus’s cars and when Rindt died during qualifying for the Italian GP, he decided to quit the team.