In Formula 1 history, there have been only 16 rounds of the World Championship in which no British drivers appeared on the grid. We take a look at when those races were!
1950-1960, The Indianapolis 500
The bulk of World Championship races which did not feature British drivers are the 11 Indianapolis 500 races which counted towards the Drivers’ Championship between 1950 and 1960. These are also the only 11 rounds of the World Championship which no British drivers entered.
Prior to 1950, there were only nine occasions that a British driver raced in the Indianapolis 500. Among those nine were 1916 winner Dario Resta and 1946 winner George Robson – who was born in Newcastle before his family emigrated to Canada. In the years that the Indianapolis 500 counted towards the Drivers’ Championship, no British driver raced at the event.
It would be 17 years after Robson’s win that another British driver competed in the Indianapolis 500, after it was dropped from the Drivers’ Championship. That driver was Jim Clark, who first appeared at the race in 1963 and won in 1965. In 1966, he was joined on the grid by Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart.
1950 Swiss Grand Prix
Both Peter Whitehead and Reg Parnell entered the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix, but neither arrived at the event making the event the first World Championship Grand Prix which featured no British drivers on the grid. Whitehead had entered his Ferrari 125, but he suffered serious mechanical problems at the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks previously which were still not fixed. Reg Parnell was due to enter the race with the Scuderia Ambrosiana team, but his entry was withdrawn prior to the event.
1951 Belgian Grand Prix
In a field of 16 drivers, Reg Parnell was the only British driver to enter the 1951 Belgian Grand Prix; but he failed to show at the event. He had been entered in a Ferrari 375 by Tony Vandervell – founder of the Vanwall team, and at the time a financial backer of BRM. Parnell withdrew his entry though, as he chose to compete in the Castletown Trophy event on the Isle of Man instead, three days to prior to the Belgian Grand Prix. Driving a Maserati, Parnell won the event.
1951 Spanish Grand Prix
Just like at the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix, Peter Whitehead and Reg Parnell were the only British entries at the 1951 Spanish Grand Prix and both withdrew prior to the practice session. The 1951 Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Pedralbes circuit was the final race of the season. Whitehead had planned to enter his Ferrari 125, as he had done at three other races that year, but he withdrew. Meanwhile, Reg Parnell was now driving for BRM, and the team had suffered reliability woes at the Italian Grand Prix leaving both of their drivers unable to start the race. The team decided to withdraw from the Spanish race.
1980 Monaco Grand Prix
Between 1960 and 2005, the 1980 Monaco Grand Prix was the only World Championship race which no British drivers raced in. However, three Brits did enter the race – John Watson, Geoff Lees and Tiff Needell. Watson failed to qualify for McLaren, Lees failed to qualify with Shadow and Needell failed to make the cut with Ensign.
2005 United States Grand Prix
The most recent race to not feature a British driver was once again at Indianapolis, this time in 2005. The 2005 United States Grand Prix is, of course, remembered for the tyre fiasco which saw only six drivers start the race. While British drivers Jenson Button and David Coulthard entered the race – and qualified in third and 16th respectively – neither of them took the start as they were due to race on the defective Michelin tyres.
This article was originally published in 2021 and has since been updated.