- October 7 down the years
Hamilton's hopes hit the gravel
The day Lewis Hamilton was expected to put the drivers' title almost out of reach in his debut season … but it wasn't to be. He started on pole on intermediate tyres, but as the track dried McLaren elected to keep him out and stick to the original pitting strategy, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to take the lead. As Hamilton headed into the pits with his tyres completely worn he failed to negotiate a sharp left-hand turn and his car slid into the gravel and his race was over. "You cannot go through life without making mistakes," he shrugged. "The tyres were finished, it was like driving on ice." Raikkonen went on to win the race and set up the finale in Brazil where he clinched the championship.
Alain Prost's win at the European Grand Prix set up a season finale between him and Niki Lauda, who came fourth after a mixed day - Prost also had his share of drama as he spun off during the warm-up and drove to victory in the same slightly damaged vehicle. Michele Alboreto came second as Nelson Piquet ran out of fuel and spluttered over the finishing line, but Alboreto too finished on fumes. The engine on Nigel Mansell's Renault blew up and he spun off with the rear of his car on fire.
Gilles Villeneuve won the final race of the season, the US Grand Prix, in the wet at Watkins Glen. Although he finished 48 seconds ahead of Rene Arnoux, he said he had been nursing his car home for 25 laps. "I had falling oil pressure and did not want to damage the engine," he said. There was drama for Carlos Reutemann who crashed early on while in third when his fire extinguisher sensing unit came loose and interfered with his pedals.
Ronnie Peterson fought off James Hunt to win the US Grand Prix by half a second, the gap between the pair never more than two-and-a-half seconds from the off. Peterson said he had been going flat out throughout. "I just couldn't shake Hunt," he told reporters. "Any further effort for greater speed would have been appreciated, but the car just couldn't go any faster." The race was overshadowed by the death of Francois Cevert a day earlier, and world champion Jackie Stewart and his Tyrrell team withdrew as a mark of respect, bringing down the curtain on Stewart's marvellous career.
Jim Clark and Graham Hill completed a British 1-2 at the US Grand Prix, a result which left Clark needing to win the final race of the season in South Africa to tie with Hill on points and take the title on most wins - as it happened, Hill won the finale and clinched the first of his two world championships. Clark led for all but seven laps and broke the unofficial circuit record several times. Post-race Stirling Moss, still recovering from his massive crash in April, was stopped for speeding by New York police and fined $10.
Peter Walker, who was born in this day in Leeds, took part in four grands prix between 1951 and 1955, finishing seventh at the British GP in 1951 despite being burnt by a broken exhaust in the cockpit. In that year he won the Le Mans 24 Hour with Peter Whitehead, but he retired after a crash on the same circuit in 1956.