What Happened On This Day June 21 In F1 History?

From Alberto Ascari's win at the 1953 Belgian Grand Prix to one of the closest finishes at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix.

Lee Parker

By Lee Parker
Updated on June 28, 2024

Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 1981 Spanish Grand Prix
Gilles Villeneuve wins the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix for Ferrari.

What happened on this day, June 21 in Formula 1 history? Find out interesting facts and stories about Formula 1 on this day.


Alberto Ascari clinched victory at the 1953 Belgian Grand Prix after an exciting race. Juan Manuel Fangio started on pole and initially pulled away with his teammate Froilan Gonzales, followed by Ascari. However, engine troubles for the two leading Maseratis allowed Ascari to overtake and secure the win, followed by Luigi Villoresi and Onofre Marimon.


Piers Courage, a promising Formula 1 driver, tragically died at age 28 during the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. As the lead driver for Frank Williams Racing Cars, which entered Formula One in 1969, Courage drove the team’s Brabham BT26, securing podium finishes in Monaco and the US. In 1970, the team switched to a lighter De Tomaso chassis made partly from magnesium. During the race, Courage’s car veered off the track, rolled over an embankment, and caught fire, leading to a fatal accident. The investigation suggested that he died instantly upon impact. Courage had competed in 29 Grand Prix races, achieving two podiums and scoring 20 championship points.


At the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Jarama circuit, spectators witnessed one of Formula One’s tightest finishes. Gilles Villeneuve, driving for Ferrari, advanced from seventh to first by the 14th lap, closely pursued by a pack led by Jacques Laffite. While Villeneuve showed more speed on the straights, he had to fiercely defend his position in the corners. In the final 18 laps, the top cars trailed him in a tight line, but Villeneuve managed to keep them at bay, securing a win with the first five cars finishing within just 1.24 seconds of each other — marking it as the second-closest finish in the sport’s history at that time.


After securing pole position for the 1986 Detroit Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna left the circuit to watch the World Cup quarter-final match between France and Brazil. He recorded a commentary on his qualifying lap for the media. Brazil was defeated on penalties, but Senna returned to win the Grand Prix the following day.


Sebastian Vettel triumphed for Red Bull Racing at the 2009 British Grand Prix, leading from start to finish ahead of his teammate Mark Webber and Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello. Vettel’s commanding performance was complemented by Webber, who overtook Barrichello during the pit stops. Championship leader Jenson Button struggled in the sister Brawn GP car, finishing sixth after losing three places at the start.

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About The Author

Senior Editor

Lee Parker
Lee Parker

Lee is our staff writer specialising in anything technical within Formula 1 from aerodynamics to engines. Lee writes most of our F1 guides for beginners and experienced fans having followed the sports since 1991, researching and understanding how teams build the ultimate machines. Like everyone else on the team he listens to podcasts about F1 and enjoys reading biographies of former drivers.

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