Milestones are never too distant from Formula 1 and the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix will be no different this weekend.
However, this milestone is not related to the any of the drivers, teams, circuits or historic events, it’s the sport’s turn to celebrate.
In the series’ 70th season of competition, the Shanghai International Circuit plays host to the 1000th F1 grand prix.
Yes, 1000. It’s hard to believe the sport has reached this incredible landmark, and also hard to believed how much it has evolved from its humble beginnings.
13 May 1950, the date of the first ever world championship grand prix held at Silverstone, the start of an incredible journey that would be the blueprint for elite level motor racing.
And as the grids grew, the calendar expanded, the competition became more fierce and sport elevated into a global phenomenon.
To celebrate F1 reaching 1000 races, Read Motorsport delves into the archives and takes a trip down memory lane to revisit everyone milestone grand prix that has been held since the inaugural race in 1950.
Race One - 1950 British Grand Prix
Rewinding back to where it all began, Formula 1 was christened in May 1950 with the first ever world championship event. The chosen venue: Silverstone. A world away from the current layout, but a fitting circuit to host the British Grand Prix and first round of the championship. The weekend was dominated by Alfa Romeo and driver Giuseppe Farina, who stormed to pole position by two-tenths over team-mate Luigi Fagioli. 21 drivers qualified for the event from nine different countries, including the sport’s first real great: Juan Manuel Fangio.
Fangio wouldn’t fair too well in the first grand prix, retiring with an oil leak two laps from the end. Instead it was his Alfa team-mate Farina who took the plaudits and the glory, triumphing by two seconds. Fagioli and Reg Parnell completed the podium on a historic day for motor racing. Back then, the top five were classified in the points. Farina picked up the maximum nine points that would go towards his title-winning campaign, all the way down to two points for fifth-placed Louis Rosier. F1 was up and running, with its foot firmly planted on the accelerator.
Race 100 - 1961 German Grand Prix
It would be 10 years before Formula 1 would reach the 100th grand prix milestone. The German Grand Prix in 1961 was given that honour, the sixth round of the eight-race world championship. The year up until then had very much been about Ferrari. The Italian outfit’s two drivers Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips were both in a tense duel for the title, just two points separated them heading into the event.
The circuit was the fearsome Nurburgring. 182 corners of unrivalled terror, nicknamed the green hell. Hill claimed pole with a laptime just under nine minutes, beating reining champion Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss in the process. However, Moss was crowned the victor on race day with a stellar performance, winning by 20 seconds from Von Trips, who worked his way up from fifth on the grid and pole-sitter Hill finished third. In front of his home crowd, Von Trips extended his slender lead in the drivers’ standings to four points in what would tragically be his last finish in a grand prix.
Race 200 - 1971 Monaco Grand Prix
Fast forward another 10 years and the 200th grand prix would be held in the glitz and glamour of Monaco in 1971. Off the back of a difficult start to the decade, where the sport had lost its reigning world champion Jochen Rindt at Monza the previous year, Jackie Stewart was the leading figure in the sport at that time. Paralytically concerned over the poor safety standards in the sport, it was around this time he started to make his feelings abundantly clear.
On the track in the meantime, the Scot trounced the opposition in qualifying, posting a time 1.2 seconds quicker than nearest rival Jacky Ickx. In the eighty-lap race, Stewart would face no competition as he eased to a second win on the Monte Carlo streets, followed home by Swede Ronnie Peterson 25 seconds after he took his chequered flag and Ickx in third position. Although it had looked an easy victory from the outside, Stewart had in fact been battling through sheer pain as fumes had leaked into his cockpit. Admirable determination from the man who would clinch his second title later that season.
Race 300 - 1978 South African Grand Prix
Sooner rather than later, the sport would celebrate the 300th grand prix at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa. At the third round of the season, the crowd were expectant of a thrilling race, plus overjoyed at the sight of local driver Jody Scheckter carrying the hopes of his nation. The race also saw the debut of future world champion Keke Rosberg in the Theodore, but Lotus’ ground-breaking design by genius designer Colin Chapman – in the era of ground effect – was favourite after a strong showing in the opening two grand prix’s, carrying on from its promise the previous year.
However, it was the Brabham of reigning champion Niki Lauda who secured pole position, with Andretti alongside on the front row. 14 drivers would fail to finish the race in a high attrition grand prix. Pole-sitter Lauda was one of those unfortunate bunch, forced to park up with a blown engine 25 laps from the end. Instead it was Andretti’s team-mate Ronnie Peterson who took the spoils with Lotus’ second win of the campaign, pushed all the way to the line by Patrick Depailler for the penultimate win of his career before his death at Monza later that year. The result certainly tightened up the standings as Peterson closed to within a point of Andretti and Depailler joined Lauda on 10 points, just a point further back.
Race 400 - 1984 Austrian Grand Prix
The 70s soon entered into the 80s, and in 1984 the Austrian Grand Prix played host to the 400th world championship race. In a year dominated by McLaren, local hero Niki Lauda, who had never won his home grand prix, saw this as his best opportunity to win on home soil. He would have to work for it amongst a grid of talented drivers. Team-mate Alain Prost had been the star of the season so far, reigning champion Nelson Piquet, Elio di Angelis, Rene Arnoux and Keke Rosberg to name but a few, were all amongst the group Lauda would have to beat in order to achieve his success.
Piquet pipped Prost to pole by just 0.030s, while Lauda could only manage fourth. However, potentially spurred on by the partisan crowd, Lauda drove like a man on a mission, even through a small scare where his gearbox jammed and he couldn’t select a gear. Through the temporary scare, he clinched his first win in Austria by more than 20 seconds. Piquet and Michele Alboreto joined him on the podium, but Prost suffered an uncharismatic retirement by spinning off through persistent gearbox issues. It duly handed Lauda the lead in the championship, fittingly he would remain there in the closest championship in Formula 1 history by just half a point.
Race 500 - 1990 Australian Grand Prix
The end of the 80s saw the emergence of the charismatic genius Ayrton Senna and his intense rivalry with Alain Prost, and the pair continued their heated on-track war in 1990. Just a round after Senna had caused a stir by taking both himself and Prost off at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, the two entered Adelaide’s street circuit for the 500th grand prix event. Prost was still seething from the incident, publicly shaming the Brazilian for his actions, but Senna was in denial he had crashed into him intentionally. Nevertheless, both had to put the previous events behind them and qualify for the season-ending Australian Grand Prix.
Senna continued his qualifying dominance by securing pole position in a McLaren front row lock-out. Prost lay three spots behind his bitter enemy, determined to end his campaign on a high note. And, sure enough, Prost got the last laugh in 1990. Although he didn’t win – finishing third behind winner Nelson Piquet and team-mate Nigel Mansel – Senna, in spite of setting blistering pace including a lap record, spun off due to an occurring gearbox problem and was denied a chance to end his title-winning year with victory. It marked a low key finish to an otherwise thrilling season.
Race 600 - 1997 Argentine Grand Prix
In a year that will go down as one of the most dramatic of seasons in Formula 1 history, the 1997 Argentine Grand Prix was just a small piece to the puzzle of that incredible season of racing. In the time from the previous milestone, the sport had gone through major changes – especially to safety following the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and, to everyone’s shock, Ayrton Senna in Imola 1994. Two-time champion Michael Schumacher was now undoubtedly the star of the field taking over Senna’s mantle, but son of the eloquently gifted Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques, was keen to show the German he was more than a match for his talent.
After all, he’d pushed Damon Hill all the way to the final round the previous year in his rookie camapaign, and was now firm favourite in the class leading Williams FW19. Dominating the qualifying session, the Canadian was eager to turn pole into victory. Leading the field into Turn 1, Villeneuve saw rival Schumacher get his Ferrari tangled with Rubens Barrichello’s Stewart, causing terminal damage. Team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen too succumbed to a clutch failure, giving Villeneuve breathing space at the front and a likely comfortable win. However, the second Ferrari of Eddie Irvine rapidly closed on him in the closing stages, piling immense pressure on Villeneuve’s shoulders as he tried to force him into a mistake.
Villeneuve though would triumph by just under a second, a second win in three races of the ’97 season. Irvine claimed his best-ever finish in second-place and Schumacher’s younger brother, Ralf, took his first podium in Formula 1, but had taken out team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella to secure it, receiving a slapped wrist post-race from a furious Eddie Jordan.
Race 700 - 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
We now fast track into the 21st century, by now the modern Formula 1 is transforming bit by bit, year by year, into a worldwide phenomenon. The third round of the 2003 season at the Brazilian Grand Prix was the 700th world championship race, and with rain pouring before the lights went out, it was all shaping into a potential classic. With Rubens Barrichello on pole, the Brazilian crowd were praying his Interlagos jinx would, for once, not affect his race chances and allow him to follow in the footsteps of famous Brazilian drivers to win their home race.
The track was so wet from the rain the race began behind the safety car. Back then, the regulations permitted each team to bring one type of wet compound and the majority had brought the intermediate tyre. Maybe it’s no surprise that half the field struggled to cope with the conditions, as the wet surface caught several drivers out. Ironically, Turn 3 had developed a small river that was causing aquaplaning, meaning the drivers had no control. Justin Wilson, Jos Verstappen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Antonio Pizzonia, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button were all victims of the same corner. As the laps progressed, the remaining runners shrank. Despite keeping his Ferrari on the tarmac, a fuel system fault robbed Barrichello the home win he cherished while leading the grand prix.
Through the chaos, Giancarlo Fisichella in the Jordan had quietly made progress through the field and took the lead when McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen made a small error. Soon afterwards, a monumental crash involving Mark Webber’s Jaguar at the final corner covered the track in debris. Fernando Alonso ignored the yellow flags and careered into one of Webber’s prone tyres and was sent flying hard into the tyre barrier, causing more debris to almost completely block the circuit. This forced the red flags to be shown and end the race at 75% distance, but who had won? Fisichella had led the race as the red flags were waved, but Raikkonen was handed victory by the race stewards. However, two weeks later in Imola, the result was overturned and Fisichella was awarded the winners trophy, a long overdue first career win for the Italian.
Race 800 - 2008 Singapore Grand Prix
Race 800 in Formula 1 was something of a special occasion. Not just because of the milestone, but it marked the sport’s first-ever night race under the lights at the Singapore Grand Prix. For what should have been a momentous celebration of F1 welcoming a new country to the ever-growing calendar, the race would mark one of the worst cases of cheating in the sport. Fernando Alonso had endured a miserable qualifying at the Marina Bay Circuit, only qualifying his Renault in 15th for Sunday’s race. For a team that had only one podium finish that season, it looked a tall order to add to its tally.
Sure enough, Alonso struggled to make much progress in the early laps and was brought in to pit for fuel to go on a long second stint and avoid traffic. It seemed the gamble wouldn’t pay off, however, team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed heavily at Turn 17 deploying the safety car. This played neatly into Alonso’s hands, he’d been the only driver to pit up until that point, the race was falling into his hands. Race leader Felipe Massa was one of several drivers to pit, but the championship contender departed his pitbox too soon and dragged the fuel hose down the long pitlane. The Brazilian’s race had been severely compromised, victory was no out of the question.
Alonso was now out in front, the strategy and a bit of fortune had worked wonders, a first win of 2008 was well within reach. The double world champion crossed the line to claim the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, a victory that seemed no different to any of his previous 19. That’s how it was portrayed, but when Piquet was sacked a year later, he admitted he’d been instructed to deliberately crash. Alonso’s win stood, but for team boss Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds, it marked a premature end to their respective F1 careers, in the sport’s darkest of days.
Race 900 - 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix
Formula 1’s most recent milestone came at the beginning of a new era for the sport. Gone were the normally aspirated engines, in place came a 1.6 litre V6 hybrid power unit. It was certainly a different F1 to what we were used to but at the 900th grand prix in Bahrain, it proved it had no affect on the racing. In what was dubbed ‘the duel in the dessert’, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were revelling at their dominant W05, a genius design that was a league ahead of everyone its in path. A win apiece meant round three was all to play for. Rosberg won the battle in qualifying, taking pole by almost three-tenths, but heading into the race it was anyone’s guess who would prevail this time.
Off the line, Hamilton got the better start, leaving Rosberg to fend off an attack by the Williams’. The German got into a rhythm and hit back, on Lap 18 he made his move sending his Mercedes down Hamilton’s inside at Turn 1. However, his late braking meant he slightly overran the corner, allowing Hamilton to switch back, cut aggressively to the left to disable a further attack from Rosberg and regain the lead. Hamilton’s aggressive defence infuriated Rosberg, who acted revenge a lap later. It looked to have paid off as Hamilton had nothing to answer this time around, but he again performed the switch back at Turn 4 with a daring move that saw the Mercedes’ drivers just metres apart.
It was exhilarating to watch, but unbearable for the Mercedes pitwall. A late safety car period allowed the pair to change tyres to go to the chequered flag. It was immediately advantage Rosberg as he’d saved a set of the soft tyres, Hamilton was forced to use the mediums for the 10-lap sprint. But even so, Rosberg – try as he might – could not force a mistake from the Briton, trying everything in the racing handbook to unsettle his team-mate. Hamilton defended with a masterclass performance, despite being on a slower tyre he held off Rosberg’s charge to take the spoils. It would be just the beginning of a three-year duel between the two. The battle wouldn’t be as nice post-Bahrain, but in the Sakhir dessert they had put on one hell of a show.
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