Among the many highlights of the Chinese Grand Prix, the 1000th race in Formula 1, was a car that itself made history – displayed in the F1 Pirelli Hot Laps garage on Friday.
We’re talking about the iconic Cosworth-powered Lotus 49, which made its debut in 1967 yet actually raced on until 1970. It won its first grand prix in the hands of Jim Clark, but the car that visited the Pirelli Hot Laps garage in China was actually Graham Hill’s 1968 title-winning example.
This was the last championship that Hill won, thanks to three victories that year (Spain, Monaco and Mexico) as well as two second places. It also made history for a different reason: in its distinctive Gold Leaf livery, the Lotus 49 was the first car that benefitted from a major corporate sponsor. Gold Leaf, owned by Imperial Tobacco, came on board for the Monaco Grand Prix 51 years ago and changed the face of how Formula 1 teams fund themselves ever since.
Also introduced on the Lotus 49 at Monaco were aerodynamic wings – which would equally go on to alter the whole look and engineering philosophy of the sport. In so many ways, the Lotus 49 was a pioneer.
Driving this landmark car for a special two-lap display in China was Damon Hill, Graham’s son, who became world champion himself in 1996 and is now a commentator for Sky TV. At the end of those two laps, Damon ended up in the hot laps garage for a special ceremony in which a commemorative poster was revealed to celebrate 1000 races.