1965 French Grand Prix
For the first time, the French GP was held at the wild Clermont-Ferrand circuit in France. Winding its way around the base of an extinct volcano like some sort of bonus track in a video game, the circuit was so twisty and undulating that it actually made some drivers sick. Jim Clark had no trouble this time, however, pulling off another grand chelem as he dominated the event. Jackie Stewart finished second, making it three podiums from the first four races of his career, with John Surtees third.
1999 French Grand Prix
A wet qualifying session had given us the unusual grid of Rubens Barrichello’s Stewart on pole ahead of Jean Alesi’s Sauber and Olivier Panis’s Prost – and the race result wasn’t much more ‘normal’. Barrichello dominated much of the race – which started dry and began to rain on lap 21 – while Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher made their way through through the order.
Hakkinen spun attempting to take the lead from Barrichello, while Schumacher was able to lead for a while before a steering wheel issue cost him time on the track and in the pits. That left Hakkinen leading from Barrichello as the race entered its closing stages and seemingly heading for the finish but, with six laps to go, both had to pit for fuel. This allowed Heinz-Harald Frentzen – whose Jordan team had cleverly brimmed him with fuel when he made his only stop for wet tyres – to come through to win, with Hakkinen second and Barrichello third. Ralf Schumacher had gone from 16th to fourth for Williams, ahead of brother Michael and his Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine, who rounded out the points.
2010 European Grand Prix
As Sebastian Vettel led home Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in a largely uneventful race, the story was all about a spectacular accident between Mark Webber and the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen.
Webber was recovering from an early pit stop when he came up to pass Kovalainen for 17th place. However, as one of the ‘new teams’ in F1, the Lotus was much slower and braked quite a bit sooner than Webber was anticipating. Following the contact, the Red Bull dramatically backflipped, hit an advertising board, and landed upside-down before sliding into the barriers at a vast rate of knots. Incredibly, both drivers were fine, with Webber only suffering a few cuts and bruises – and probably some flashbacks to the times he backflipped a Mercedes at Le Mans.
The safety car was inevitably deployed and as it was coming out of the pit lane, Hamilton overtook it. It took nearly 20 laps for stewards to issue him a drive-through penalty, by which time he’d benefited enough to not lose a position thanks to Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber holding up the rest of the field. The delay in making the penalty decision led Ferrari and Fernando Alonso (who was running just behind Hamilton before the safety car but ended up eighth) to accuse the FIA of “fixing” the result.
Carlo Facetti (born 1935) entered the 1974 Italian GP in a Brabham, but failed to qualify for the race by seven-tenths of a second.
Chris Irwin (born 1942) impressed in his 10 races across 1966 and 1967, but the unreliability of the BRM with its complex and overweight H16 engine meant that the results didn’t reflect his talent. However, during the 1967 French GP, he outqualified teammate Jackie Stewart and was on course to finish fourth – despite driving the whole race with a broken clutch – when his engine failed on the last lap (though he was still classified fifth). His promising career ended when he suffered terrible injuries while testing a Ford P68 sportscar at the Nordschleife the following year.
Nico Rosberg (born 1985) set the fastest lap on his debut in 2006 (at the time the youngest to do so) and had a series of solid, if unremarkable performances for Williams from then until 2009. The following year he joined Mercedes, where he generally had the edge over Michael Schumacher and was able to win his first race at Shanghai in 2012.
When Mercedes got the hybrid regulations bang-on in 2014, he found himself in a one-on-one duel with teammate Lewis Hamilton for the title, which he lost in the final race. In 2015 Hamilton steamrollered him, but a determined Rosberg fought back in 2016 and pushed the limits on and off track – occasionally stepping over them – to finally win the title. At that point, his goal achieved and unwilling to dedicate that level of effort to racing again, he retired as a champion to spend more time with his young family.