Many strange and unforeseeable events have taken place in Formula One, both on and off the track. So much so that I think another listicle is warranted for this topic. For the first part, click here.
Ferrari’s Friendly Fire
At the 1995 Italian Grand Prix, the Ferrari pair of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger were running in the top two positions. Set to win in front of a fervent Italian crowd packed with Tifosi, a series of unfortunate events ended both of their races prematurely.
Berger was running close behind his French teammate when a TV camera on Alesi’s rear wing fell off. The camera struck the other Ferrari’s suspension arm, and Gerhard was forced to retire from the race with immediate effect.
Just a handful of laps later, Alesi also had to pull over from the lead when a wheel bearing came loose on his 412 T2. Jean would never get another clear chance at victory in F1 again.
So Who’s On Pole, Then?
Picture the occasion: a grandiose rivalry between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve has come to a nerve-wracking finale at the last race of the season.
It is the 1997 European GP at Jerez, and stakes are high. Levels of concentration and determination are at a maximum.
But the likes of Frank Williams and even Schumacher himself couldn’t help but crack a smile when they saw the timing sheets for qualifying.
Michael, Jacques and the latter’s teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen had all set identical lap times. To the thousandth of a second! “Amazing!”, as the legendary Murray Walker exclaimed as Frentzen set the third 1:21.072 in succession.
So who took pole then, I hear you ask? That went to Villeneuve, as he set the benchmark time first.
A Short View Back To The Past
It is a tranquil Thursday evening at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “Gentlemen, a short view back to the past”, starts Walter Koster, journalist for Saabrucker Zeitung. But his question to the drivers was anything but short!
“Thirty years ago, Niki Lauda told us ‘take a monkey, place him into the cockpit and he is able to drive the car.’ Thirty years later, Sebastian told us ‘I had to start my car like a computer, it’s very complicated.’ And Nico Rosberg said that during the race – I don’t remember what race – he pressed the wrong button on the wheel. Question for you both: is Formula One driving today too complicated with twenty and more buttons on the wheel, are you too much under effort, under pressure? What are your wishes for the future concerning the technical programme during the race? Less buttons, more? Or less and more communication with your engineers?”
Meanwhile, the drivers were chuckling to each other, unsure as to whom the question was to. Eventually, Sebastian Vettel brought the microphone closer to his mouth and requested, “Can you repeat the question?”.
Of course, this was all in jest, but brought a wonderful cap to one of the most hilarious moments in the history of press conferences.
What do you do when you retire from a race? Tell your team you’re sorry, and communicate with your engineers so such an unfortunate circumstance doesn’t occur again, right?
Kimi Raikkonen certainly thought better of this when he came to a grinding halt at the ’06 Monaco Grand Prix. Kimi was absolutely livid, as his McLaren’s reliability issues reared its ugly head yet again.
His car was fuming, and so was he. The Iceman put himself first and decided to cool off in the pool of his private yacht. Better face the team with a level head later, he must have thought.
Damon Hill at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix
The Drivers’ Championship was already claimed by Michael Schumacher, as the teams headed into the final round of the campaign at Adelaide.
The narrow streets proved difficult for many, as all the usual frontrunners bar Damon Hill either spun out, retired or collided with a rival to retire from the race.
As a result, Damon finished the race as winner, a whole two laps ahead of Ligier’s Olivier Panis (who’s car was on fire!) and Gianni Morbidelli’s Footwork. They were the other two pilots on the podium!
It was only the second time in F1 history that the winner had taken victory by 2 or more laps, the other time having been at the 1969 Spanish GP, where Jackie Stewart won.
Everyone Runs Out of Fuel
The 1985 season was dominated by the McLaren of Alain Prost, but the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix was a much more unpredictable affair.
New fuel usage limits were enforced for the race at Imola, which made the event more of a procession than a battle on track.
Even with the drivers being careful on the throttle, a whole host of them ran out of fuel before the end of the race. Ayrton Senna ran dry with just three laps to go whilst leading, handing the coveted position to the Ferrari of Stefan Johansson. The Swede then proceeded to run out of fuel as well, within a lap of inheriting 1st place.
In fact, Prost took the chequered flag in first but was subsequently disqualified as his car was underweight.
The eventual winner, Elio de Angelis, was one of few who actually had enough fuel to make it back to the pits. Both 2nd and 3rd-placed drivers, Thierry Boutsen and Patrick Tambay, emptied their fuel tanks mere metres from the finish line and had to puch their vehicles up to the line. Disastrous.
Ronaldo’s Son Doesn’t Like F1
One of the greatest legends of soccer graced the paddock at the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or R9 as he is often referred to, loves a bit of open-wheel action. He was co-owner of A1 Team Brazil alongside Emerson Fittipaldi at one point.
His son Ronald on the other hand wasn’t afraid to state his opinion about Formula 1, albeit indirectly. If a kid says they want to go home, it probably means they are bored. Ronald mate, you’re missing out!
Trying To Steer With No Wheels
During the first practice sessions for the Chinese GP in 2010, Sebastien Buemi was cruising along the long main straight at Shanghai.
He was focussed on procuring as much data for his Toro Rosso team as possible before qualifying the next day. But the only information he could gather was that, if he didn’t know already, you can’t steer a car when you don’t have any front wheels!
At around 190 miles per hour, both front suspension linkages on his STR4 failed as he jumped on the brakes. One of the tyres was sent over the barriers and almost hit a cameraman on the side of the circuit.
Out of pure instinct, Buemi tried to turn his Toro Rosso away from the metal barriers. But as one might expect, the vehicle did not respond to his inputs.
Acrobatics to the Chequered Flag
Christian Fittipaldi was enduring a frankly dismal campaign with Minardi for the ’93 season. Running in the lower-mid pack all year long was obviously very boring for the Brazilian.
He was looking to improve his credentials, and what better way to do this than to somersault over the finish line (?)!
While he did end up totalling both his car and that of his teammate Pierluigi Martini, at least the cameras were on him for a few extra moments!
Disqualified For Being Too Slow
British-Canadian pilot Victor “Al” Pease participated in 3 Grand Prix, all at his home race in Canada. A former illustrator, Pease picked up Motorsport in the 60s. He was well into his thirties by this point, late by any standards.
Al was wholly outclassed by the rest of the field. In his first outing (1967), he finished a mind-boggling 43 laps behind winner Jack Brabham!
Two years later, he tried his luck again at Mosport. He qualified 11 seconds off the pace, a signal of what was to come. In the race he continued to trundle at his usual speed, way slower than the rest of the grid.
Pease had completed 22 laps while the leaders were well into their 46th. He was soon deemed to be driving too slowly and holding others up on the racetrack, and was shown the black flag. This is the only time someone has been disqualified for being too slow. Not a moment to be proud of.
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