Many Formula One fans will be recalling the accidental feat of Jean-Louis Schlesser this weekend as Max Verstappen leads Red Bull’s assault on one of the sport’s oldest records at the British Grand Prix.
As the defending double world champion bids to add to his own sequence of five straight wins to boost his runaway lead en route to a third drivers’ world title, his team bid for an 11th straight win.
If they succeed, they will equal the record set by McLaren in 1988, when the British team boasted a line-up of Alain Prost, who became a four-time champion, and Ayrton Senna, a three-time champion.
Many fancied McLaren to complete the 1988 season unbeaten—as Red Bull bid to be this year—but their ambitions were undone when Senna tangled with a back-marker at the Italian Grand Prix.
In his only F1 race start, Frenchman Schlesser, deputising for the unwell Nigel Mansell with Williams on the eve of his 40th birthday, collided with the race-leading Brazilian with three laps remaining and gifted Ferrari an emotional one-two win just weeks after the death of team founder Enzo Ferrari.
It ended McLaren’s dream of invincibility.
Such a scenario may be the only hope of preventing Red Bull claiming another win, probably through Verstappen, and gifting another team a taste of the victor’s champagne on Sunday.
The Dutchman’s dominant display last weekend hoisted him 81 points clear of team-mate Sergio Perez in the title race, making a third title appear inevitable, but others believe fate may yet intervene.
‘Going to be epic’
“It’s going to be epic,” said Red Bull team chief Christian Horner, as if sensing the power of the occasion ahead at Silverstone.
“But who knows what obstacles there could be? We saw what happened there last year and it’s a race we haven’t won since, I think, Mark Webber in 2012. So, it’s a big race for us on this calendar.”
After winning 16 of the last 20 races, Verstappen will be brimming with confidence while Ferrari, revived by Charles Leclerc’s second-placed finish last Sunday, will hope they can triumph again, one year after their last victory and on a track where Carlos Sainz was successful a year ago.
Despite a dismal display last Sunday, Mercedes’ seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton will hope to impress, at least, if not to add to his record eight British victories.
Team boss Toto Wolff confirmed the team will have another raft of upgrades on their car this weekend. “We have reasons for optimism,” he said.
Hamilton himself hopes one of his fellow-British drivers — team-mate George Russell or McLaren’s Lando Norris — will rise and shine in what promises to be a momentous contest.
“George and Lando are both incredibly talented and have a bright future in front of them,” said Hamilton, after declaring he had no intention of passing over the baton as top British contender yet.
“It is crazy to think that they are as young as they are. Lando is 23 but (it) feels like he has been here for ages, so I am excited to watch their journey and where they get to.”
The Silverstone-based Aston Martin team’s two-time champion Fernando Alonso should not be discounted either, while the race organisers have tightened security following last year’s track invasion protest by ‘Just Stop Oil’ activists.
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