10 Brits You Might Have Forgotten Were in F1

Scott Mitchell@scottmitchell89Contributor IOctober 1, 2013

10 Brits You Might Have Forgotten Were in F1

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    It happens to all of us, there's no shame in admitting it. Sometimes a little memory blank can erase the Formula One career of a driver who was actually rather good.

    Perhaps that's more excusable for Brits, given that 157 Grand Prix drivers in the sport's 53-year history have raced under the Great British nationality.

    That's tied with the United States at the top of the "Nations That Produce F1 Drivers" list, the only two to break the 100-driver barrier.

    And let's also not forget that Britain has produced more world championship winners than any other nation: 10. So surely some will slip under the radar from time to time.

    We at Bleacher Report believe that's not an excuse.

    So here are 10 Brits who deserve recognition for their time in the sport, however brief. Maybe they didn't reach the peak of their powers in F1, but that does not mean we should draw a blank whenever someone mentions what they achieved (or didn't).

10: The Lost Generation

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    Pryce was beginning to establish himself as a potential F1 star
    Pryce was beginning to establish himself as a potential F1 star

    The stories of Roger Williamson, Tony Brise and Tom Pryce are tragic indeed. The talented trio came to be known as the Lost Generation, so highly were they rated, though for this reason their F1 careers become better known than most in this list.

    On merit, they'd be at the top. But this is, after all, a compilation of drivers you may have forgotten raced in F1.

    They still count, of course, because the sad nature of the way their careers ended means they are not immediately remembered as the quality racing drivers they would likely have become.

    Roger Williamson: Williamson arrived in F1 as a back-to-back British Formula 3 champion. He made his debut in the 1973 British Grand Prix, driving for March, but tragically died in only his second meeting. A suspected tyre failure caused his car to flip and land upside down, catching fire. Williamson, trapped in the burning wreckage, died of asphyxiation, despite the best efforts of fellow driver and friend David Purley.

    Tony Brise: Brice started Grand Prix racing in 1975 with Williams but switched to the Graham Hill-run Embassy team after competing in just one race. He scored his first and only world championship point in his second start, in Sweden, but died alongside Hill and four other team members when the plane they were travelling in, piloted by Hill, later that year crashed in heavy fog.

    Tom Pryce: Pryce's F1 career spanned a more significant period of time than the other two, but he hadn't had the machinery to show what he was capable of. Despite this, he had scored three second-placed finishes and finished 10th in the '75 season. Tragically, in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, Pryce struck and killed a marshal who was crossing the track. The fire extinguisher the marshal was carrying hit Pryce in the helmet at 170mph, partially decapitating him and killed him almost certainly instantly.

9: Martin Donnelly

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    Horrific crash ended Donnelly's career early
    Horrific crash ended Donnelly's career early

    Martin Donnelly's junior record was solid rather than spectacular, though he was a Formula 3000 race winner and did have a Macau F3 success on his CV by the time he made it to F1 in 1989.

    His career would only include 13 Grands Prix with Arrows and Lotus—and a best finish of seventh—before it was ended by a violent crash in practice at Jerez in 1990. Should you seek out the pictures, you'll be astounded to see he survived.

    Donnelly turned to club racing thereafter but drove a car similar to his 1990 Lotus at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2011. He has also been called upon as one of the FIA's F1 driver stewards.

8: Justin Wilson

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    Wilson's made a career in America
    Wilson's made a career in AmericaChris Graythen/Getty Images

    In 2003, Justin Wilson was racing for Minardi in Formula One. As the 2001 European Formula 3000 champion, he carried strong pedigree.

    Racing for the F1 minnows was never going to produce outstanding results, but he did get a switch to Jaguar mid-season and managed to score a point in the final few Grands Prix. That was deemed inadequate and after just 16 F1 races, Wilson's F1 career was over.

    If his junior record was not enough reason to warrant an extended stay in F1, what he has done since has proven his worth as a single-seater driver. Twice a runner-up in the American Champ Car series, Wilson has won several races at the top level of American open-wheeled racing.

    He has been unable to replicate that sort of championship-challenging form since it folded and IndyCar became his proving ground.

    Nonetheless, Wilson's ability is often underrated. His time in F1 was definitely short-lived.

7: Jonathan Palmer

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    Jonathan Palmer is a leading figure in British motorsport
    Jonathan Palmer is a leading figure in British motorsport

    Jonathan Palmer might not be the most unheard-of person in motorsport, but that's largely down to what he has done in Britain in the two decades since his time in F1 finished.

    A multiple circuit owner himself, Palmer has also been the driving force behind several race series domestically and internationally, such as the now-defunct Formula Palmer Audi and Formula Two championships. 

    The latter was a relative of the series Palmer had won before he arrived in Formula 1, the European Formula Two championship. The most experienced in this list in terms of F1 races, Palmer contested 82 Grands Prix with a best result of fourth.

    He finished 11th in the 1987 season, his best points finish, having driven briefly for Williams but mostly for Tyrrell and Zakspeed.

6: Mike Spence

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    Spence's record at Lotus was not good enough alongside world champion Jim Clark
    Spence's record at Lotus was not good enough alongside world champion Jim Clark

    Mike Spence's peak in F1 was massively overshadowed by his teammate. You might have heard of him—Jim Clark?

    Very unspectacular seasons with Lotus in 1963 and 1964 preceded what would be Spence's best season. He scored his maiden podium in the final race of the year in Mexico, but two retirements and several mediocre performances meant it was not enough to save his seat.

    Ousted by Lotus, he raced with both Reg Parnell Racing and the Owen Racing Organisation, and contested 37 Grands Prix before his death in 1968. Having retired from the season-opening South African Grand Prix, Spence was invited back to Lotus for the Indianapolis 500 following the death of Clark.

    Spence crashed heavily at Turn 1, breaking the front right wheel. It flew back into the cockpit, striking Spence, who died in hospital with head injuries. 

5: Johnny Dumfries

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    Dumfries' aristocratic background was irrelevant on the track
    Dumfries' aristocratic background was irrelevant on the track

    Johnny Dumfries had a raw deal. As a Scottish peer, he was seen to be little more than a rich boy who liked to play racing driver.

    But it was much more serious than that as he had foresaken a private education to pursue a career in motorsport.

    In 1984, a 26-year-old Dumfries dominated the British F3 championship, winning 14 races on his way to the title. This was the performance of a driver with more about him than just family money and in the same year, he finished runner-up in the European championship.

    A disappointing campaign in Formula 3000 followed, but in 1986 he stepped up to F1 regardless, partnering Ayrton Senna at Lotus. A best finish of fifth would be his top result from 15 Grands Prix before he was axed in favour of engine supplier Honda's favoured choice Satoru Nakajima for 1988.

    Having been unceremoniously booted out of F1, that season he proved why there was definitely a lot of talent amid the Scottish aristocracy for which, in racing circles, he was denounced: He won the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

4: Peter Gethin

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    Gethin's final fling with F1 with Embassy was short-lived
    Gethin's final fling with F1 with Embassy was short-lived

    Peter Gethin was an F1 race winner, but would you know that if somebody asked you? Would you also know that he raced with Bruce McLaren's fledgling outfit and also teamed up with Graham Hill?

    Gethin's F1 career was solid, competing in 30 Grands Prix and fitting in a stint with BRM between his time at McLaren and his one-off with Embassy.

    However, his 1971 Italian Grand Prix victory was his only podium and ninth that year was the best he could manage in the points after retiring from nearly half of the season's 11 races.

    He was a race winner in European Formula Two the following year but only finished ninth in the points. That year was his first with BRM and he retired from all but two of his races.

    He competed in just one race in 1973, retiring from the Canadian Grand Prix, and thereafter his time with the team was over. A one-off with Hill at Embassy followed in 1974, but he did not start after qualifying 21st.

3: Innes Ireland

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    Ireland was a true F1 character
    Ireland was a true F1 character

    This Scot was regarded as a serious racing talent during the 1960s and it's a massive shame his F1 CV only has a solitary Grand Prix win on it.

    Innes Ireland racked up 50 Grands Prix throughout his career, taking in drives with Lotus, UDT Laystall, the British Racing Partnership and Reg Parnell Racing.

    He had a serious reputation as a playboy, with plenty of stories circulating since about his antics. It is this which has been considered as the reason he never added to his victory tally.

    Four podiums and a best world championship position of fourth in 1960 (only his second season) show that Ireland was a very capable racing driver. He also raced Fords, Ferraris, an Aston Martin, Jaguar and a Lotus at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

2: Jackie Oliver

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    Oliver failed to win in F1 but made up for it elsewhere
    Oliver failed to win in F1 but made up for it elsewhere

    Jackie Oliver fell just short of racking up half a century of Grands Prix starts during a career that really spanned 1968-73 but ended with a one-off appearance in a Shadow in 1977.

    Before moving to F1, Oliver was a race winner in the British Touring Car Championship, finishing fourth in 1967.

    His F1 debut the following year was solid, scoring a podium with Team Lotus, and he dovetailed his maiden season with a European Formula Two campaign, where he finished fifth.

    It wouldn't get much better for Oliver in F1 circles, with just another third-placed finish to add to his tally in the next five years during stints with the Owen Racing Organisation, McLaren, BRM and Shadow.

    However, while this was unspectacular, what is substantially more impressive is his sportscar record.

    Oliver won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1969 at the wheel of a Ford GT40 and raced the legendary Porsche 917 two years later, qualifying on pole and setting the fastest lap. Though he retired from the race, he did win in the 917 in that year's Daytona equivalent. 

1: Mike Hailwood

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    Hailwood was a multiple motorcycle world champion
    Hailwood was a multiple motorcycle world champion

    It might not be immediately obvious, but Mike Hailwood is not revered for his time in Formula One.

    With two podiums to his name and a best finish of eighth in the world championship (once, in 1972), it stands to reason that he would not be among the first 10, 20 or 30 drivers you'd think of when asked to name British F1 drivers. 

    But Hailwood balanced his formative F1 years with a continuation of the sheer dominance he displayed as the world's greatest motorcycle rider.

    Hailwood won world titles in motorcycling six years in a row from 1961-67, in 250cc, 350cc and 500cc racing. A brief mid-'60s fling with Reg Parnell Racing whet his beak in F1, though, and after spending the latter half of the decade concentrating on bikes, he switched to four wheels for the 1970s.

    He won the 1972 European Formula Two crown with Team Surtees alongside a strong year with the team in the main championship, in which he scored his first of two rostrum finishes.

    The following year was less fruitful and he bowed out of F1 in '74 after netting just one more podium following a switch to McLaren. 

    Hailwood's time in F1 did not set the world alight but very rarely does a driver/rider show such a remarkable talent for such varied disciplines.