Top 5 Italian Grands Prix
Updated: Sep 12
As an F1 fan it’s time for one of the most exciting weekends of the year as we head to the historic Monza circuit for the Italian Grand Prix.
Bias aside as Ferrari fan, Monza always delivers an amazing race, with high-speed action mixed with passionate and loud crowds for an annual highlight on the F1 calendar.
Alongside that, the history of the Italian Grand Prix is second to none.
It is the most held Grand Prix in the history of the sport if you count pre-World Championship editions (2023 will be the 93rd total edition) and alongside the British Grand Prix, it is the only race to be held every single year since the first official World Championship season in 1950. And with the exception of the 1980 edition which was held at Imola, every race has taken place at Monza.
Australian success however has been limited in Italy, with Daniel Ricciardo’s memorable 2021 win for McLaren the only time an Aussie driver has tasted the top step of champagne in Italy.
And with all that in mind, now comes the very difficult task of selecting the five best Italian Grands Prix of all time.
Before I begin with that, a quick note. I will be purely selecting from the races dubbed the “Italian Grand Prix”, eliminating other races held in the country such as the “San Marino Grand Prix”, “Tuscan Grand Prix” or the “Emilia Romagna Grand Prix”.
So with that out of the way, let’s get to it!
5. 1995 – Winner: Johnny Herbert (Benetton)
A chaotic race that nobody seemingly wanted to win, it was the Benetton of Johnny Herbert who eventually took the chequered flag to win his second career race.
David Coulthard started on pole for Williams but spun on the formation lap and retired from the race, but sensationally would start it after a multi-car crash on the opening lap allowed him to get back into it.
On the restart the battle was between title rivals Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher, a battle that would end in disaster for both as Hill ran into the back of Schumacher, taking both out of the race.
This then led to a dream result for home fans with a Ferrari 1-2 of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger on the cards. However, both would retire with technical issues, handing the win to a jubilant Herbert.
4. 1988 – Winner: Gerhard Berger (Ferrari)
1988 remains the most dominant F1 season in history by one team, with McLaren winning 15 of the 16 races across the season.
The one race they didn’t win? The Italian Grand Prix.
At the start of the race, it looked like the trend of McLaren dominance would continue, with Ayrton Senna leading teammate Alain Prost by two seconds after the first lap.
On lap 34, Prost retired with an engine problem, promoting Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger to second to the delight of the Tifosi. However, Senna at the front still was as dominant as ever and waltzing to another win.
But then with only two laps remaining, disaster struck for the Brazilian. While attempting to lap the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser (who was on debut filling in for a sick Nigel Mansell), the pair collided, and Senna was out. Berger then inherited the win and lead home a famous 1-2 for Ferrari with Michele Alboreto in second.
What made the win even more emotional for the Scuderia was the fact that their beloved founder Enzo Ferrari had passed away a couple of weeks beforehand, leading many to believe there had been some divine intervention at play.
No matter what you believe, it was an incredible result in an incredible season of Formula 1.
3. 2020 – Winner: Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
Part one of the ‘I never saw that win’ coming double header, both also coming from the same team.
Pierre Gasly inherited a famous win in 2020 after a well-timed safety car saw him benefit from a well-timed pit stop and a well-timed red flag that vaulted him up from 10th to third.
He soon found himself in the lead of the race at the restart and held off a fast finishing Carlos Sainz in his McLaren to take one of the most famous wins in modern F1.
The win was made even more special given the tumultuous ride Gasly had been on over the previous couple of seasons, having been dumped from Red Bull and barely salvaging his career at the junior team of the Austrian drinks giant.
The sight of Gasly sitting alone on the podium after the race reflecting on what he had achieved remains a defining image of the sport to this day.
2. 2008 – Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso)
Part two of the ‘I never saw that win’ coming double header, this win arguably set the tone for the legend that is Sebastian Vettel.
In a rain-soaked weekend (when cars were allowed to race in the rain), Vettel stunned everyone by taking pole position on the Saturday in a car that only three years prior was a Minardi.
Everyone soon thought he would be run down on the Sunday and fall back in the pack, but everyone was wrong.
Vettel led 49 of the 53 laps in an incredibly mature drive that showed pace and skill on the shoulders of a then 21-year-old, beating the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen by 12.5 seconds.
In winning the race, he become the youngest ever race winner at the time and cemented himself as a driver of the future.
1. 1971 – Winner: Peter Gethin (BRM)
Can you imagine a race where the top five cars cross the line all within a second of each other?
In 1971, that’s exactly what happened.
Before chicanes were included in the Monza layout, the circuit used to be run as an oval, only adding to the high-speed nature of the track.
For the entire 1971 race this was on display, with slipstreaming galore over the 55-lap race.
And after all the high-speed battles that took place, five cars entered the last lap with a chance of victory.
In the end it was the BRM of Peter Gethin who took the win, 0.01 seconds ahead of the March of Ronnie Peterson. Behind them, Tyrell’s Francois Cevert, Surtees’ Mike Hailwood and the second BRM of Howden Ganley finished within 0.61 seconds of Gethin.
It remains the closest F1 finish in history and an incredible result that will probably never be matched.
Do you agree with this list? Which Italian Grand Prix is your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here