• June 19 down the years

Tragedy and farce

The day common sense was thrown out of the window ... the start of the 2005 US Grand Prix © Sutton Images

The blackest single day in the history of Formula One came at Spa in 1960 where two British drivers were killed within minutes of each other during the Belgian Grand Prix. Conditions were poor - Stirling Moss had crashed the day before - and on the 20th lap in almost exactly the same place 22-year-old Chris Bristow was thrown from his Cooper and was almost decapitated on a wire. Two laps later 26-year-old Alan Stacey crashed and burned to death in his Lotus - some spectators, as well as his own mechanics, believed he was struck by a bird, knocking him unconscious seconds before the accident. There were few witnesses to either accident as spectators had been barred from that area of the track on safety grounds. Jack Brabham won the race.

The Belgian Grand Prix was a tragedy; the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis was a farce which caused the sport massive harm, especially in the United States. Of the 20 cars due to start, only six did, as the 14 using Michelin tyres withdrew after the parade lap because of safety concerns. Rule changes had banned tyre changes during races and Michelin stated its tyres were not built to last the entire distance on a resurfaced track which was expected to be tougher of tyre wear. The 100,000 crowd who had paid an average of $100 each were left bemused and furious as Michael Schumacher ambled to a hollow victory. His Ferrari team had blocked attempts to compromise and 'raced' along with the Jordans and Minardis, the latter pointing out they were contractually obliged by the terms of the deal with Bridgestone to do so. "This was a farce," said Minardi boss Paul Stoddart," This is clearly not in the interests of the sport, the American public, or F1 fans around the world. I have complete sympathy with the Michelin teams, and can take neither satisfaction from, nor interest in, this race, if you can call it that."

Ayrton Senna cruised to a third win in the blazing heat of the Detriot Grand Prix, needing all his skill as the track disintegrated and became increasingly slippery. His McLaren team-mate Alain Prost was the only driver not to be lapped. It was the last grand prix in the city. "I hate this track," Prost said at the end. "Detriot is the capital of the automobile industry and should have a better circuit than this." Michele Alboreto was no less impressed. When asked about alternatives he said he didn't have to see them "to know they would be better than this".

A maiden win for Jacques Laffite at the Swedish Grand Prix owed a lot to Mario Andretti's Lotus having to stop for fuel two laps from the end and in so doing dropping from first to sixth. "I noticed I was running short of gas," Andretti said. "After about 60 laps I told the crew in the pits I was in trouble. They wanted me in earlier in order to improve my chances of catching up but I decided to stay on and hope for the best."

A one-two for Mercedes' team-mates Juan-Manual Fangio and Stirling Moss on a slippery track at the Dutch Grand Prix, although they were pushed hard by the Maserati of Luigi Musso, who finished third despite a spin near the end, and Moss limped to the finish with smoke coming from his engine. The victory was scant consolation for a Mercedes team still in shock after the Le Mans tragedy a week earlier.