The final ten of the greatest overtaking moves ever. And are any of these ten really all that much better than each other? Not by very much. By its very nature the history of Formula One is littered with exceptional racers doing exceptional things.
And although it’s true that, today, aerodynamics, refuelling, team orders and the like all get in the way of real racing, if Formula One became NASCAR overnight this kind of list wouldn’t be possible.
Overtaking mustn’t be impossible – it has to be a challenge. These ten drivers were all challenged and achieved the extraordinary, which is what sport is all about.
At number one, a famous battle for second place. But it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of…
10. Mika Hakkinen vs Michael Schumacher, Spa-Francorchamps, 2000
Ron Dennis called it “the greatest overtaking move ever”, and it’s definitely up there with the best.
When Mika Hakkinen first tried to pass Michael Schumacher on the run from Eau Rouge to Les Combes, the Ferrari driver swung across at him alarmingly late, forcing Hakkinen to back off the avoid an accident.
Undeterred, Hakkinen tried again, and this time used Ricardo Zonta’s BAR almost like a shield to break ahead of Schumacher and take a memorable win.
9. Nigel Mansell vs Ayrton Senna featuring Stefan Johansson, Hungaroring, 1989
Nigel Mansell’s pass on Ayrton Senna eleven years earlier was in a similar vein. As Senna swerved to avoid a slow Stefan Johansson, Mansell swung out and shot past the pair of them.
8. Jean Alesi vs Ayrton Senna, Pheonix, 1990
Rookie Jean Alesi found the Pirelli tyres of his Tyrrell unusually effective around the point-and-squirt confines of Pheonix, and used the combination to lead the race in 1990. But with a grinding sense of inevitability he was caught by Senna who put a straightforward move on him to take the lead.
Alesi wasn’t having any of it. He dived straight past the McLaren at the next corner and became the darling of the crowd in the process. Senna got him again next time round – and this time remembered to keep the door shut.
7. Juan Pablo Montoya vs Michael Schumacher, Interlagos, 2001
Juan Pablo Montoya was another rookie who made an immediate impression with a dramatic move on an established champion – only he made this one stick.
Using his substantial experience of rolling starts from his time in Champ Cars Montoya launched his heavily-fuelled Williams-BMW at Schumacher’s lighter Ferrari and hung his rival out to the edge of the track, seizing the lead.
He could well have won the race – only his third in F1 – had he not been taken out by Jos Verstappen later on.
6. Jacques Villeneuve vs Michael Schumacher, Estoril, 1996
Jacques Villeneuve also demonstrated some useful skills picked up in Indy Cars on Michael Schumacher.
At a test session at Estoril earlier in 1996 he had pondered the possibility of overtaking around the outside of the Parabolica corner. His engineers told him it wasn’t possible, which to Villeneuve meant that, of course, he had to do it.
But Schumacher was not too impressed with the move, telling Villeneuve afterwards, “I don’t think you should be doing that, it’s not really safe.” Villeneuve laughed.
5. Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet, Silverstone, 1987
The Murrayism tells us, “catching is one thing, passing is another.” Having spent 20 laps reeling in team mate Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell could ill afford to lose his momentum getting stuck behind the Brazilian. Nor could he afford a collision.
Blasting down the Hangar straight Mansell made his first attempt to pass Piquet, duxking right, then left, then shooting across to the inside with immaculated timing. Piquet squeezed him and squeezed him again, but Mansell was gone. Silverstone erupted.
4. Gilles Villeneuve vs Rene Arnoux, Dijon-Prenois, 1979
We picked this epic tussle for position as the greatest F1 moment ever last year (see below).
Trying to pick a single passing move in this astonishing battle is extremely difficult. But ot surely has to be Gilles Villeneuve first re-pass on Rene Arnoux, where he flings the Ferrari into the first corner with every single wheel locked hard and smoke billowing from the car. Unforgettable.
3. Kimi Raikkonen vs Giancarlo Fisichella, Suzuka, 2005
Giancarlo Fisichella was rattled. Kimi Raikkonen was cutting the gap between the two of them with every lap, every sector, every corner of the Suzuka circuit.
Panicking, Fisichella began defending his line way before Raikkonen was even within range. He compromised himself, losing yet more time.
As the final lap begun Raikkonen was in range and Fisichella was all over the inside line at the chicane, so much that Raikkonen’s front wing was almost nudging Fisichella’s rear wing as they crossed the start line. Fisichella moved to defend again and Raikkonen, unhesitatingly, flew around the outside and into the first corner ahead.
“Grand Prix racing at its absolute finest,” cried commentator James Allen. Damn right.
2. Nelson Piquet vs Ayrton Senna, Hungaroring, 1986
On their first visit to the Hungaroring the Grand Prix circus discovered the problem that has plagued the venue ever since – its tight bends and slow configuration made overtaking extremely difficult.
But when Nelson Piquet caught leader Ayrton Senna it emerged that there was at least one overtaking opportunity – the first turn. Piquet went barreling in the first time, ran wide, and lost the position.
Next time around he shot around the outside, turned in sharply on Senna, grabbed an armful of opposite lock as the car tried to slither away from him, but he kept it all together and won the race.
1. Nigel Mansell vs Gerhard Berger, Mexico City, 1990
The Aut?‚??dromo Hermanos Rodr?‚?°guez is not used for Grand Prix racing today. Its surface was always cracked, bumpy and perilously dangerous from being built on a lake bed in earthquake city.
The most fearsome corner of all was the Peraltada – a daunting 180-degree bend taken nearly, but not quite, flat out. With minimal run-off it looked more like it belonged on an oval rather than a road track.
Even today the races that are held there, such as the Champ Car World Series, place a chicane on the entry to the bend rather than attack it flat-out. But that wasn’t so in 1990.
Late in that year’s Mexican Grand Prix Gerhard Berger barged past his old team mate Nigel Mansell to take second place. Mansell, unimpressed, kept on after him.
As they approached the Peraltada to start the last lap Mansell caught the slipstream of Berger’s McLaren. He darted left to right behind the McLaren, as if working himself up to attempt the impossible – which he did.
Nigel Mansell hammered into the Peraltada on the outside of Gerhard Berger, skittering across its savage bumps and clinging desperately for grip on the dusty tarmac.
How many drivers would have attempted the same? Not many. How many drivers might have tried and gone off? Quite a few. It took a uniquely brave driver with Mansell’s affinity for overtaking to produce such a masterpiece.
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