What Happened On This Day May 4 In F1 History?

From Wolfgang von Trips birthday in 1928 to Jackie Stewart winning in 1969, and finishing two laps ahead of second place Bruce McLaren.


By Ben Bush
Updated on May 28, 2024

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2003-GA
Michael Schumacher's title winning Ferrari F2003-GA

What happened on this day, May 4 in Formula 1 history? Find out interesting facts and stories about Formula 1 on this day.


In 1928, an F1 driver was born who would most likely have become the 1961 World Champion had tragedy not struck at Monza. Wolfgang von Trips, Germany’s most successful F1 driver before the era of Michael Schumacher, met an untimely end when his car veered into the crowd, claiming the lives of 15 spectators and himself. Despite early career setbacks that earned him a reputation for crashing, von Trips redeemed himself upon rejoining Ferrari in 1960. He showcased his speed with several top-six finishes, setting the stage for a determined bid for the World Championship in 1961. With two wins and two-second places in six races, he seemed poised for victory at the Italian Grand Prix. However, a poor start and an attempt to defend his position on the first lap led to a collision with Jim Clark and the fateful crash that followed.


In 1946, Ulsterman John Watson was born, a driver who would go on a remarkable F1 journey spanning over a decade in the sport. His debut win came in Australia in 1976, where he subsequently participated in 152 races. Notable highlights include his triumph at the 1982 British Grand Prix, where he secured sixth place in the drivers’ championship. The following year, he achieved third place overall, propelled by wins in Belgium and Detroit. Despite a less impressive season in 1983, McLaren released him and signed Alain Prost. However, Watson’s resilience shone through in his final F1 win at Long Beach, where he charged from 22nd on the grid to victory. This remarkable feat echoed his win in Detroit the previous year, achieved from a 17th starting position. After retiring from racing, Watson remained active in the motorsport community, transitioning to TV commentary and operating a race school at Silverstone.


In 1969, a significant milestone in F1 history took place as the winner of a Grand Prix finished two laps ahead of second place. Jackie Stewart‘s Matra-Ford crossed the finish line well ahead of Bruce McLaren, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise trailing behind by an additional lap in third place. However, the race was marred by serious incidents involving the Team Lotus drivers. Both Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill crashed heavily due to failures of their rear wing supports at the same spot on the track. Tragically, Rindt collided with the wreckage of his teammate a few laps later.


In 1980, Didier Pironi dominated the Belgian Grand Prix, leading from the start to claim his inaugural F1 win. He lapped all but two drivers during the race. Alan Jones, who ultimately clinched the drivers’ title that season, settled for second place after being passed by Pironi on the first lap.


In 2003, Michael Schumacher showered praise on the new Ferrari, the F2003-GA, saying, “It’s something special, so beautiful, so fine” following his victory in the 2003 Spanish Grand Prix. Meanwhile, championship leader Kimi Raikkonen faced a setback as he collided with the stalled Jaguar of Antonio Pizzonia after lights out on the grid. From there, Schumacher maintained complete control of the race. However, stealing the headlines and the admiration of the 96,000-strong crowd was 22-year-old local talent Fernando Alonso, who clinched second place in his Renault. Reflecting on his achievement, Alonso remarked, “That was the fifth consecutive race in which I have finished in the points, which is all I could have dreamt of,” he said. “And I am still dreaming.”

Seen in:

About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

Latest Reads