Sunday, July 3, 2011

Nico Rosberg - classic F1 2011

Nico Rosberg is the latest grand prix driver to select his five favourite all-time races for our classic Formula 1 series.

As regular readers will know, BBC Sport is serialising the F1 drivers' choices before every race this season to whet your appetites for the action to come. Highlights will be shown on this website and the red button on BBC television in the UK.

Rosberg, who is for the second season in a row putting F1 legend Michael Schumacher firmly in the shade at Mercedes, is the first driver so far this season to choose races only because of their status as all-time classics, with not one of his own making the list. Although the German took part in one of his selected events, he has chosen it for reasons that have nothing to do with himself.

In chronological order, Rosberg's choices are as follows:

The 1985 South African Grand Prix, which featured a memorable performance from Rosberg's father Keke. He finished second to Williams team-mate Nigel Mansell, but was at least as impressive as the Englishman on the day.

The 1987 British Grand Prix and Mansell's famous fightback to win, when he made up 30 seconds on team-mate Nelson Piquet and pulled off one of the great passing moves to overtake the Brazilian and win the race.

The 1997 European Grand Prix, when Schumacher notoriously - and unsuccessfully - tried to take out Jacques Villeneuve's Williams as they were battling for the world title at the final race of the season.

The 2000 Belgian Grand Prix, featuring the famous all-time classic overtaking move by McLaren's Mika Hakkinen on Schumacher.

The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton, a former team-mate of Rosberg in the lower categories, snatched the world title with an overtaking move on the final corner of the final lap.

Regular readers of this feature will know that we pick one of the driver's choices to offer special treatment, and in this case we have plumped for the 1985 South African Grand Prix.

This choice was made partly because it an excellent race that has been somewhat overlooked, and also because the tape we were given of the 1997 European Grand Prix, which was covered by ITV, has a significant proportion of the race missing, so we are unable to provide highlights of that event.

I was intrigued as to why Rosberg chose the 1985 race at the brilliant original Kyalami circuit. After all, his father had many career highlights and this was a race he did not win - whereas he took stunning victories in Monaco 1983 and Dallas 1984 and starred in many other superb grands prix.

Clearly Nico was not old enough to have watched any of his dad's races live and remember them - he was just coming up for four months old at the time Keke was racing in Kyalami, and the elder Rosberg retired from F1 for good at the end of the following season, when Nico was a year and a half old.

So I asked Nico why he had plumped for that race above all.

"Because it was fun to see my dad beyond all limits," he said, pointing out that he had watched it on a video.

Keke in extremis, you mean, I said.

"Yeah. Fun, eh?"

Indeed it was. And Nico is right - it was one of Keke Rosberg's greatest drives.

Fresh from being beaten by Mansell at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, Rosberg qualified third in South Africa behind the Englishman and Piquet's Brabham-BMW, paying generous tribute to his team-mate's lap afterwards.

"I wonder if McLaren are beginning to think they've signed the wrong Williams driver," he joked.

Rosberg dropped to sixth at the end of the first lap, but quickly climbed through the field and took the lead from Mansell heading into lap nine, after the Englishman waved him through on the pit straight because the Finn was at that stage of the race using more turbo boost pressure than his team-mate.

Unfortunately for Rosberg, he had chosen the wrong moment to lead the race. It meant that on the very next lap he was the first to come across an oil slick dropped by the Toleman of Piercarlo Ghinzani. With no warning from the marshals that the track was slippery, Rosberg spun into the sandy outfield.

Mansell, not far behind his team-mate, had just enough warning to slow down and he managed to stay on the track. He survived his own scary moment and skated into the lead, leaving Rosberg to rejoin in sixth place in his sand-covered car.

As Mansell cruised off to a comfortable win, his second in succession following his breakthrough maiden victory at the previous race, Rosberg fought superbly back through the field to finish second.

You will find the full 'Grand Prix' highlights programme from the day of the race embedded below. Beneath it are links to long and short highlights of last year's European Grand Prix in Valencia, which featured Mark Webber's terrifying somersault, from which the Australian was fortunate to escape unscathed.

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On the subject of the BBC broadcast of the 1985 South African race, there is an interesting story to tell.

As usual, the commentary team was Murray Walker and James Hunt. They were calling the race from a studio in London - and although this was quite common back then at far-flung races, it was not communicated to the audience. Practices were very different 26 years ago.

Hunt had very strong views on apartheid, which was still nine years away from ending in South Africa, and during the live broadcast he suddenly launched into a withering attack on the evils of the system and the South African government.

As I'm sure you are aware, the BBC is very careful not to stray into political comment in a sports broadcast, however commonplace and justifiable the views expressed might be. So the producer Mark Wilkin - now the BBC's F1 editor - handed Hunt a note which read: "Talk about the race!"

At which point, Hunt said: "Anyway, thank goodness we are not actually there."

The arrangements for these races on the BBC red button in the UK are as follows:

Extended highlights of South Africa '85, short highlights of Britain '87, Belgium 2000 and Brazil 2008 and extended highlights of the 2010 European Grand Prix will be broadcast on satellite and cable from 2000 BST on Wednesday 22 June until 1145 BST on Thursday 23 June, and again from 2000 BST on Thursday 23 June until 0845 BST on Friday 24 June.

Unfortunately, a lack of bandwidth because of Wimbledon means we are unable to broadcast these highlights on Freeview.


We have managed to free up some space on Freeview to show classic F1. It will now be shown on the BBC red button between first and second practice on Friday 24 June, ie from 1035 to 1200 BST.


Nico Hulkenberg Denny Hulme James Hunt Jim Hurtubise Gus Hutchison Jacky Ickx Yuji Ide

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