- April 28 down the years
Lauda off the markWhat happened on April 28 in Formula One history?
Niki Lauda took his maiden win at the Spanish Grand Prix, winning in his Ferrari by 35 seconds from team-mate Clay Regazzoni. Ronnie Peterson had led in the early stages on a wet track but retired on lap 23 when his engine overheated. A nasty accident on lap 38 saw Arturo Merzario Iso-Marlboro fly over the barriers and land among a group of spectators and photographers. Fortunately no one was hurt but the race was stopped six laps early as it reached its two-hour time limit. It was also Ferrari's 50th grand prix victory.
Nick Heidfeld drove a contemporary Formula One car on the Nurburgring Nordschleife for the first time in 31 years. He drove a 2006 BMW Sauber but slowed down on several occasions for photo opportunities, meaning his lap time of 8:34 was not representative of what the car could have achieved. "This drive was simply incredible," said Heidfeld. "I thought it would be great to drive on the Nordschleife before I started out. But it was even better than I had expected. This racing track is the best in the world. I'd really like to have emptied the tank. It was a very special moment when I left the grand prix circuit in the direction of the Nordschleife. I was really shaken up at the Bergwerk section and on the Dottinger Hohe. I'll never forget today as long as I live. Another particularly special experience has now joined the many fantastic childhood memories and racing successes."
Jacques Villeneuve won the first race of his career at the European Grand Prix. He nearly won his debut three rounds earlier but an oil leak forced him to concede position to team-mate Damon Hill. Nevertheless, he took victory in fantastic style at the Nurburgring, beating Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari by just 0.762 seconds. The Williams had the speed advantage but Schumacher was able to brake later and to the joy of his home crowd he reeled Villeneuve in over the closing laps. It was a remarkably close finish but Villeneuve was confident he had the match of his opponent. "The rear end was a little bit light mostly in the second stint," Villeneuve said after the race. "It got good again for the third stint which was good because Michael was going really strongly. I could keep an eye on him."
The McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger dominated the San Marino Grand Prix, finishing the race having lapped the rest of the field at least once. Williams' Riccardo Patrese led in the early stages but had to pit from first place with a misfire and returned to the track several laps down. In the other Williams Nigel Mansell had the car to put up a fight, but retired on the first lap after colliding with Martin Brundle in the Brabham. The high level of attrition allowed JJ Lehto to take the final podium place from 16th on the grid in his Scuderia Italia Dallara-Judd.
Michael Schumacher took a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix to take his fourth win in five races at the start of the season. Schumacher won by 35 seconds form Juan Pablo Montoya in what was a typically dull race for the 2002 season. One of the more exciting moments of the grand prix came when Montoya ran over the foot of one of his mechanics, losing him a couple of seconds, but nothing that was likely to alter the course of the race. A slightly more concerning incident was Kimi Raikkonen's rear wing coming off the McLaren at high speed heading into turn one. The Finn managed to keep the car under control but the accident could have been very nasty. Schumacher went on to win another seven races that year and the title with ease.
Damon Hill was confirmed as the British Racing Drivers' Club president, replacing Sir Jackie Stewart who had been in the position since 2000. His most high-profile work in the role has been in keeping the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. In 2009 it looked as though the historic circuit would lose the race but when its replacement Donington Park fell through, Hill and Silverstone salvaged a deal to hold the race through to 2026.