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  • Published: Feb 17th, 2012
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Three of the Best Formula 1 Races of All Time

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English: at San Marino/Imola Grand Prix in 1989.

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The recent passing away of British racing hero Peter Gethin brought back memories for Formula 1 fans of his victory in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, the closest race in F1 history.

The famous bout in Monza saw him crossing the line just 0.01 seconds ahead of second-placed Ronnie Peterson, with just 0.61 seconds separating the top five drivers in one of the most exciting ends to a race ever seen.

Over the years, Formula 1 has been the place to experience days of racing excitement like know other. We look back at three more classic F1 races which will live long in the memory and have been firmly cemented in the sport’s history.

Japanese Grand Prix, 1989

One of many classic battles between McLaren teammates and fierce rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost as both went head-to-head for the drivers’ championship going into the penultimate race of the season. Despite sitting on pole, Senna saw Prost race ahead for a five-second lead right at the start but he clawed it back to just one second with seven laps to go in this potentially title-deciding race. Senna took a brave inside line but Prost refused to budge, with both cars sliding into the gravel. With Prost’s car forced into retirement, the determined Senna refused to give up on the title, crawling back to the pits to have his damaged car repaired before eventually storming past new leader Alessandro Nannini on the same chicane on the final lap. He appeared to have rescued his chances of pipping Prost to the championship by crossing the line first, before he was disqualified for failing to properly complete the chicane after his earlier clash with his French rival.

Spanish Grand Prix, 1991

On this occasion, the rain in Spain fell mainly on the track, contributing significantly to a thrilling battle between racing legends Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. Gerhard Berger Jean Alesi and a young Michael Schumacher made things interesting in the early laps too, with Berger storming into the lead. After a thrilling tussle, Mansell emerged ahead of Senna and the rest of the chasing pack after the pair’s wheels touched and the Brit soon slipped ahead of Berger, while Brazilian Senna spun in the watery conditions, condemning him to a fifth-placed finish as Championship rival Mansell held his nerve for the win.

Brazilian Grand Prix, 2008

In just his second year in Formula 1, British hopeful Lewis Hamilton took his place on the grid for the Brazilian Grand Prix knowing he needed just a fifth place finish to secure the championship title on which he had narrowly missed out the previous season. Lining up fourth with closest rival Felipe Massa on pole ensured a nervous start for the young Briton, while the arrival of rain 63 laps in threatened his title dream further. After changing tyres, Hamilton watched in vain as first Timo Glock and then Sebastian Vettel slipped past him to leave him in a title-crushing sixth place. Massa crossed the line for the win with his Ferrari team celebrating what they thought was also championship victory. But Hamilton persevered and as Timo Glock’s dry tyres struggled in the torrential rain, the 23-year-old snuck past him on the final corner for that all-important fifth place and with it became the youngest ever Formula 1 Champion.

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High Profile Sponsorships Gone Wrong

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Tiger Woods in 2007

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As we all know too well, the world of sport, motorsport and celebrity is one that revolves completely around money. People, CEOs and famous athletes will do anything to succeed in their respective position – and do even more to secure lucrative sponsorship deals. The aforementioned agreements are usually worth millions to the figure and can boost the popularity of a brand overnight. But what happens when it all goes wrong? When the sponsorship deals goes sour? Let’s have a gander.

Tiger Woods

Mr Tiger Woods – that’s not his real name either, Google that! – is, or was, one of the most respected athletes of our time. He completely revolutionised the game of golf when he came on the scene in 1997 and, for well over a decade, dominated the sport with his incredible shot-making and will to win. One problem, though, the guy liked his women, and a that love of the opposite sex came back to haunt him when a series of unfortunate events lead to the media finding out Woods had been cheating on his wife for years with quite a lot of women.

The news shook the world, disappointed millions of fans and surprised even Woods’ closest friends, but one thing that Woods lost more than his dignity was his appeal to the big sponsors. Tiger was signed up to everything: Nike, Gillette, AT&T, Gatorade, the Moon, Jesus, you get the idea. But when the news broke, his multi-million dollar partnerships looked very rocky. He single-handedly tarnished the reputation of the aforementioned companies – and, rather surprisingly, the companies weren’t very happy. Especially AT&T, who are a bit like O2 in Britain, as they invested hugely in utilising Woods’ high-profile image to sell their mobile phones.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant isn’t really that well-known to us Brits, but in America he’s one of the most famous basketball players ever – think Michael Jordan but not as good. So when charges of sexual assault were thrust upon Kobe back in 2003, the Yanks gasped and the basketball-playing children of America instantly lost a hero. Kobe managed to get the charges dismissed, but his big-time endorsement partners were about as interested as the general public is with a political speech.

His contracts with McDonalds, Sprite and Nutella all vanished, losing Kobe $6 million a year just like that. He has since kept his public figure quite low-key and continued to play ball for the L.A. Lakers, but his trail in 2003 was enough to tarnish his image forever.

The F1-cigarette deal

For decades Formula One cars were lavished with the branding of major cigarette companies. Ferrari had one of the most successful deals with Marlboro, as they have been in agreement with each other since 1984. But when the EU banned cigarette companies from advertising on the actual cars in 2007, there was up-roar, as they felt like why should they change the habit of a lifestyle?

But while the advertising on the cars may be banned, the sponsorship deals aren’t. Marlboro still sponsors Ferrari and has recently just extended their partnership until 2015. So while this deal may have gone a little sour for the entire F1 community in 2007, the money is still there burning away like the embers of a cigarette.

McLaren and Libya

Can a sponsorship deal really fail before it’s even begun? Well, with the McLaren/Libya deal, there is certainly a case for it. McLaren were in talks with the Libyan Tourist Board – before all the uprising began – to place a ‘Visit Libya’ livery on McLaren’s F1 cars.

Obviously, we all know what’s happening to Libya in recent times and McLaren has since insisted no deal will ever be done, but what makes the story more interesting is that the man who was instrumental in the deal has been accused of dealing with Saif Gaddafi – aka, the son of Colonel Gaddafi.

Alex Waters, the aforementioned, has since denied the allegations, but as Saif Gaddafi has been killed in a Nato airstrike, it seems that will be the end of this story. Just imagine, though, if the deal had been agreed and then the whole Libya uprising began. McLaren would have looked mightily embarrassed.

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