When Leaders and Backmarkers Collide: F1 Edition (Part 2)

Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar: Germany 1982

This particular accident has been covered on this site before. The Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet’s title defence was not going particularly well in 1982, with his car struggling massively on reliability. He did manage to net a good haul of points whenever he finished a race however as his Brabham was very quick, so it was imperative for Nelson to capitalise on potentially race-winning situations.

He was winning the 1982 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim from lap 2 onwards, and by lap 18 had come up behind Eliseo Salazar’s ATS. As both tried to negotiate the notoriously tricky Ostkurve chicane (only introduced in that year), the two drivers hit each other and both South Americans retired on the spot.

Piquet’s anger was visible immediately from the moment he yanked himself out of his stricken Brabham and he stomped over towards the Chilean pilot. In a truly rare moment in F1, the Brazilian defending champion threw several punches and kicks towards Eliseo, some of them making contact with the ATS driver’s helmet. Salazar refused to retaliate on the ground that Piquet had helped him up the motorsport ladder in his early days as a racer.

Ferrari’s Patrick Tambay snatched victory away from Brabham that day; it was an emotional win as Tambay took the race seat from Didier Pironi, who suffered a career-ending crash during qualifying on the previous day. Nelson Piquet failed to defend his Drivers’ Championship in 1982, finishing in 11th in the standings with a dismal 20 points to his name.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Antonio Pizzonia: Belgium 2005

The 2005 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps was affected by changeable weather conditions. McLaren’s Montoya stuck his car on pole position and held it for around three-quarters of the race until teammate Raikkonen overtook him.

Subsequent disaster struck. While the Colombian was on wet tyres on a drying track, Antonio Pizzonia of Williams had changed to slick tyres and was bearing down on Juan Pablo despite having been lapped earlier in the race. As Montoya went to brake for the upcoming corner, he did so very early due to his alarmingly low levels of grip on the wrong set of tyres. Pizzonia believed that he was letting him past, so the Brazilian driver pulled up alongside. Juan Pablo did not see the Williams car beside him and virtually turned into the corner as if he wasn’t there. Antonio’s front left tyre clipped the rear-right of the McLaren and both were out of the race. Nevertheless they were both classified as they had completed over 90% of the total race distance.

Pizzonia was fined 8000 dollars for the incident.

Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard: Belgium 1998

This particular race is regarded by many fans as one of the most chaotic in the history of the sport. It was an absolute shambles from the beginning, with David Coulthard totalling his McLaren on the first lap after losing control in the difficult wet conditions. This started off a chain of spins and accidents behind him which caused the race to be red-flagged.

Upon restart a whole hour later, four of the teams didn’t have enough spare cars available and only 18 drivers got to the lights. The unfortunate Coulthard had yet more contact with Alexander Wurz which dropped him to the back of the field by the end of the first lap.

On the other hand, Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher had managed to avoid the carnage and overtook Damon Hill on the seventh lap before building up a sizeable advantage at the top of timing sheets. By the mid-point of the race, Michael had caught up to the gearbox of Coulthard who was almost a whole lap down. Due to the hefty spray coming out of the back of the McLaren, Schumacher couldn’t see beyond a few metres tucked directly behind the Scotsman.

Coulthard had been instructed to slow down by his team, and he did so but crucially remained on the racing line, expecting the Ferrari to go up his inside into the next corner. However, Michael could not react to the slowing vehicle in time and the two collided, his front right wheel smashing into David’s rear wing with sickening force.

With half of his front suspension shattered to smithereens, Schumacher had no option but to retire, with Coulthard momentarily coming to a stop in the pits before finishing just outside the points in seventh place.

Michael was understandably livid and made no effort to restrain his anger, storming into the McLaren garage while Coulthard was waiting for his MP4/13 to be repaired. Apparently the German accused Coulthard of trying to kill him, and retorted by launching similar death threats towards the McLaren driver.

Straight after this argument the Ferrari driver filed a protest against Coulthard but it yielded nothing. Some attribute this mishap with Schumacher’s failure to clinch the 1998 Drivers’ Championship, which instead went to Coulthard’s teammate Mika Hakkinen.

Ayrton Senna and Eddie Irvine: Japan 1993

Skip to 0:30 and 3:40 for the Irvine’s overtake and Senna’s overtake respectively. Also watch out for Brundle missing a wheel in the Ligier!

Eddie Irvine was making his debut in Formula 1 at Suzuka, a track he knew well from his time in the lower formulae. He was determined to make a good first impression on the Jordan team that had hired him.

Fighting Damon Hill for 4th position, the Irishman was caught by Ayrton Senna who was leading the race for McLaren. On a rapidly drying track, both Irvine and Senna were squirming about on sub-optimal wet tyres. Senna drove past Irvine but when the former was unable to get pas the Williams of Hill, Eddie scooted back past at 130R. Therefore Senna was forced to try and lap the Jordan car for a second successive time, but this was made very hard by Eddie and Damon battling it out directly in front of him.

Ayrton eventually muscled his way past Irvine and Hill let him through. While still able to achieve victory, Senna was incensed that Irvine had held him up so much, expressing his displeasure at the press conference after the race.

He wasn’t going to do or say anything beyond this, but when he came across Gerhard Berger at the paddock, Senna’s dear friend pushed enough buttons to persuade him to go over to the Jordan office and confront Eddie Irvine face-to-face. The 2 got into an argument and after a barrage of expletives, Senna rounded it all off with a punch which saw Irvine get knocked to the floor. The Jordan team filed a complained and Senna was handed a 2-race suspended ban.

I realise that this final example doesn’t involve any vehicular collision, but in my opinion fits all the other criteria and a collision did occur, except it was Ayrton’s fist to Eddie’s head!

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