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Rain presents a massive challenge for the drivers and often it is in those conditions that we witness masterclasses from some of the best. So, let’s take a look at the top wet weather performances in F1 history!
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Jim Clark, 1963 Belgian Grand Prix
- 1 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Jim Clark, 1963 Belgian Grand Prix
- 2 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Jackie Stewart, 1968 German Grand Prix
- 3 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Ayrton Senna, 1993 European Grand Prix
- 4 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Michael Schumacher, 1996 Spanish Grand Prix
- 5 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Lewis Hamilton, 2008 British Grand Prix
- 6 Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Sebastian Vettel, 2008 Italian Grand Prix
For some Formula 1 fans, Jim Clark is the greatest driver in the championship’s history and one of his finest displays came at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 1963. Both the weather conditions and the circuit were loathed by the great Scot, but it did not stop him from delivering a legendary performance.
He would start the third row from sixth, but a blinding start meant he would lead the rest of the field into the first corner. As Clark continued to push, he found out that his gear lever jumped out of position when he was in fifth gear, so he had to hold it into place for large portions of the lap. This meant that he drove a large part of the race with only one hand on the wheel, in treacherous conditions at the fast and dangerous track.
So bad was the weather that only five cars reached the chequered flag. The first was none other than an exhausted Clark. Only one other driver was not lapped, it was Bruce McLaren who had finished almost five minutes after the winner.
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Jackie Stewart, 1968 German Grand Prix
Jackie Stewart famously hated the Nordschleife because of how dangerous it was, but that did not stop him as he achieved one of the most impressive performances in F1 history. Not only was the weather atrocious, but he was still recovering from a broken arm that had sidelined him earlier in the season.
Stewart qualified sixth, still recovering from a broken arm sustained earlier in the season. A good start quickly put him up to fourth and by the end of the 23-kilometre lap, he was up to first. When the second lap was completed, the Matra was 34 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. Despite a deluge, as well as fog, Stewart put on a clinic at the Green Hell. At the end of the 14-lap race, he was an amazing four minutes ahead of second-placed Graham Hill, who had spun towards the end.
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Ayrton Senna, 1993 European Grand Prix
When it comes to Ayrton Senna, two wins come to mind when we talk about wet weather masterclass. The first is his maiden one, at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, and the other is the one we have chosen to talk about. It was the first -and only- race to be held at Donington Park and a remarkable one.
Senna started the race in fourth, but lost one position to Karl Wendlinger on the run to the first corner. After passing the Austrian at the exit, he also moved straight past Michael Schumacher. Halfway through the lap, Damon Hill was his next victim and only his big rival, Alain Prost, stood between him and the lead. He overtook him at the penultimate corner to complete one of the best opening laps in F1 history.
The rain was coming and going, but Senna was always on the right tyre at the right time. He pitted four times and beat the runner-up, Damon Hill, by a minute and 23 seconds. Prost, in his dominant Williams, finished third but he was one lap down on the Brazilian.
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Michael Schumacher, 1996 Spanish Grand Prix
🗓 June 2nd 1996
We can’t head to Barcelona without talking about the first of 72 glorious wins for @Schumacher and us 🏆
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) May 17, 2022
When Michael Schumacher left Benetton after two championships to join Ferrari ahead of 1996, the move was questioned by many. And over the first six races they were confirmed, as Ferrari produced a car that could not compete with Williams and the German began his stint in red underwhelmingly.
On Sunday at Barcelona, torrential rain greeted the drivers. Schumacher had qualified third, a second from pole, but a clutch problem dropped him to seventh before reaching the first corner. Schumacher started picking off his rivals one-by-one and he became the leader on lap 13, while many drivers -including championship leader- Damon Hill had spun and crashed in the rain.
The German, who was appropriately nicknamed “The Rainmaster”, proceeded to pull away, even driving three seconds faster than anybody else at certain points. Eventually, he took his first of 72 victories for Ferrari, by 45 seconds over Jean Alesi and Jacques Villeneuve, who were the only drivers not to be lapped, out of the six that finished.
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Lewis Hamilton, 2008 British Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton had already recorded a brilliant wet weather drive in 2008 by the time he arrived at his home race, as he had triumphed at the Monaco Grand Prix despite an early setback. At Silverstone, he qualified fourth, behind his teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen.
A fantastic start saw him gain two position immediately and even challenge for the lead. What he failed to achieve at the first corner, he achieved on the fifth lap, when he grabbed the lead and pulled away. He was the dominant force that day, on a treacherous race that saw plenty of his rivals falter – most infamously Felipe Massa, who spun five times.
Hamilton was unfazed though. He was dominant on home soil and took the chequered flag 68 seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld. Rubens Barrichello was third and the last car not to be lapped by Hamilton, who recorded what still stands as the largest winning margin of the 21st century in Formula 1.
Top F1 Wet Weather Performances: Sebastian Vettel, 2008 Italian Grand Prix
For the aforementioned performances, no matter how dominant they were, they were achieved by great drivers at the top of their game and in a contending car. Not the case for Sebastian Vettel though, who may have entered the race as a hot prospect, but neither he nor his team had ever stepped on the podium.
At Monza, Toro Rosso’s home race, he shocked the F1 paddock by claiming pole position in the rain. And in the wet race, no one that could stop him. The 21-year-old was impeccable. He was not pressurised at any point and he became the youngest winner in Formula 1 history at the time. It was one of the most improbable victories in Formula 1 history, on a day that championship contenders, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton, could do no better than sixth.
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