While it certainly helps to have a car which is faster than most of the competition, fortune can play a pivotal role in the position that a driver finishes a Formula 1 race. Over the years some truly sub-par machinery has taken F1 pilots to the top step of the podium; let’s have a look at a few of them!
Perhaps not the outright slowest car on this list, the Stewart SF3 was the short-lived white liveried outfit’s final season in Formula 1 where they finished in 4th place in the Constructors’ Championship.
However the circumstances of the team’s only win deserves a spot in this article. Rubens Barrichello took home most of the points for Stewart over the season, but it was their other driver, Johnny Herbert who crossed the finish line first in an exciting race at the Nürburgring for the 1999 European Grand Prix.
In a topsy-turvy contest with ever changing track conditions, a chain of retirements from the lead of the race took place. First was Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who mistakenly left his anti-stall system on after the leaving the pitlane which cut out his engine and left him stranded on the track.
David Coulthard in the McLaren inherited the lead from the unlucky German but spun out himself when the rain started falling again with the Scot making the wrong decision to stay out on dry tyres. Giancarlo Fisichella of Benetton held the lead for 10 more laps before spinning out as well.
Then Ralf Schumacher’s new-found top spot was eliminated when he suffered a puncture. This handed the lead to Johnny Herbert and he held onto the position for the rest of the event, with teammate Barrichello also on the podium in 3rd.
Even the head designer of the EJ13 admitted that his effort for the 2003 season was “trash”, in his own words. The team fronted by Irishman Eddie Jordan only beat usual minnows Minardi in the standings at the end of the year, sinking to 9th in the championship.
However they did manage a single victory that year at the Brazilian Grand Prix. As with several of the other examples on this page, bad weather played a significant role in handing the win to Giancarlo Fisichella’s Jordan.
Only 8 cars were running when the race was red-flagged following a 60G impact with the concrete barriers by Renault’s Fernando Alonso. The race could not be restarted due to the sheer amount of debris on the track, so the final race results were determined from lap 54.
Fisichella had managed to avoid the carnage taking place all around him and had just overtaken Kimi Raikkonen on the sopping wet racetrack, beating the Finn by less than a second.
But race organisers thought that Fisichella was a lap down (which he usually was), so the winning trophy was handed to Raikkonen instead of the Italian. The organisers eventually came to realise their mistake and at a quasi-ceremony at the next round at Imola, Raikkonen handed the trophy to Giancarlo in person at the latter’s home race!
Ligier Mugen-Honda managed only 15 points in the 1996 season, with 10 of those coming in a single race at the Monaco Grand Prix. This particular event still holds the record for the fewest finishers, as only three cars took the chequered flag!
Many were caught out by the tricky meteorological conditions, but as the track dried, Olivier Panis in his JS43 made an immaculately-timed pitstop for fresh slicks which gave him an upper hand in the latter half of the race.
2 leaders in the shape of Damon Hill and Jean Alesi retired with an engine and suspension failure respectively, which allowed the French driver up into first place. He held off the charging McLaren of David Coulthard for the remaining laps to claim Ligier’s first victory in 15 years. It ended up being the team’s final season in the sport.
Giancarlo Fisichella could have recorded yet another underdog win in the Force India VJM02, but Raikkonen in Ferrari’s equally disappointing package for 2009 snatched victory away from Fisi at the Belgian GP.
The Force India claimed pole position but in a race devoid of action at the front, Raikkonen passed Fisichella on lap 5 and held off the Italian for the entire race, Kimi unable to shake him off as the two drivers finished within a second of each other.
Although Raikkonen had an amazing run of 4 consecutive podiums from Hungary to Italy (including his win at Spa), the F60 was woefully slow compared to the likes of Brawn GP, McLaren and Red Bull as the Modena outfit slumped to 4th in the constructors’ in the 2009 season.
The lack of pace of the F60 was made all the more evident when Luca Badoer and even Fisichella stood in for the critically injured Felipe Massa for the final seven rounds of the year. They couldn’t even muster a single point between them!
Williams did see a marked improvement in 2012 compared to their disastrous 2011 campaign, but were still quite a ways off their championship contending abilities of years past. They managed 76 points over the course of the season, giving them 6th in the Constructors’ Championship.
25 points were on the table for Pastor Maldonado and the team at the Spanish Grand Prix after taking pole position. Top spot on the grid was given to him after Lewis Hamilton was awarded with a penalty for a fuel anomaly in his McLaren.
The Venezuelan duly delivered with victory on the next day, duelling with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso under the Catalonian sun from lights to flag but ultimately reaching the finish line first.
Toro Rosso STR3
The STR3 was introduced part of the way through the 2008 season, at the Monaco Grand Prix. It was basically the same chassis and aerodynamic design as the parent Red Bull team but with an inferior Ferrari motor bolted in.
Nevertheless the vehicle was driven to victory by the wonderkid Sebastian Vettel at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. His pace was absolutely flawless all weekend, taking pole position in the rain and provisionally leading the entire race, winning by more than 12 seconds.
It was the only event that the STR3 ended up on the podium let alone in first position, and despite regular points finishes for Vettel his teammate Sebastien Bourdais struggled in the car with only 2 points in the STR3 all season long. This culminated with Toro Rosso coming 6th out of 11 teams in terms of points that year.
Shadow’s DN8 chassis competed in 3 successive seasons in F1 from 1976 to 1978, but was not in the least competitive in any of them.
The car nonetheless scraped home a race win in the hands of Alan Jones at the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix, held at the old Osterreichring. Jones drove superbly as the track began to dry, performing marvellous overtakes on multiple cars and moving up from his grid slot in 14th to 2nd place.
James Hunt ahead of him was marred by an engine failure 10 laps from the end, giving the lead to the Australian driver. This ended up being the only victory for Shadow F1 from their conception in 1973 to their eventual demise at the end of the 1980 season.
This specific design by Tyrrell actually won 2 races in its 3-year long career, notwithstanding its relative pace deficit to the other cars competing in its era.
At the 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix which concluded the season, the tight and twisty nature of the track allowed the naturally aspirated teams to be competitive compared to the turbo teams, and Michele Alboreto qualified his 011 in 3rd. On Sunday, Renault’s Alain Prost ahead was no match for the Tyrrell, which blasted past on lap 52 and cruised the rest of the way to victory.
Maximum points were achieved once again a year later at the 1983 Detroit Grand Prix. The street circuit was once again suited to the less powerful but otherwise nimble Tyrrell, and Alboreto qualified the updated 011B in 6th place. The Italian driver stayed out of trouble while the rest of the field appeared to drop like flies. He took it easy on the final few laps to claim another win for the British marque.
The constructor came in 6th and 7th in the standings in ’82 and ’83 respectively, showing how the team were usually further down the order for most of the season.
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