Last-lap losers (p1/2)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa led 60 laps of the 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix - but not the last one
Felipe Massa led 60 laps of the 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix - but not the last one

Poor Felipe Massa. Had his Ferrari engine gone three laps further he?d be sitting on top of the drivers? championship now.

Formula 1 cars may be extremely reliable nowadays but they do break down occasionally. But it’s one thing to drop out of the race in the early stages – it’s quite another when you’re set to win. Of course, it’s not always the car that’s at fault…

Here are some of the racers who ?ǣ unlike Massa ?ǣ made it as far as the last lap before losing the lead.

1964 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps

Jim Clark scored his third consecutive win at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit (in its original, eight-mile configuration) in 1964 ?ǣ but there was more than a little luck involved.

Dan Gurney had dominated the weekend in his Brabham, taking pole position by 1.8s and leading the race, looking set to give Brabham their first win. But when an unmistakeably hollow sound came from his fuel tank he pulled into his pit ?ǣ to find they had no fuel. He soldiered on with no more than the dregs in the tank but only made it as far as Stavelot on his last lap.

Graham Hill inherited the lead but his fuel pump broke on the last lap. That left Bruce McLaren leading for Cooper but as he neared the finishing line (which in those days was after the La Source hairpin instead of before it) he too ran out of fuel. He came out of the last hairpin and rolled down the hill ?ǣ as Clark blasted past him to win.

But Clark didn’t even know he’d won to begin with. The bizarre sequence of events completely flummoxed the organisers and they failed to show the chequered flag to Clark, waving it instead when Richie Ginther, fourth, crossed the line. And then Clark also ran out of fuel on the slowing down lap??

See the Spa-Francorchamps track configuration of 1964

1967 Italian Grand Prix, Monza

Clark was on the opposite end of the same kind of luck at Monza three years later.

He led early on in his Lotus 49 but had to pit after suffering a puncture. Undaunted, Clark hammered through the field and despite having gone a lap down surged through to take the lead.

It would have been one of the most incredible wins of all time ?ǣ but it wasn?t to be. Lotus boss Colin Chapman?s preference for running his car as light on fuel as possible ?ǣ for maximum speed ?ǣ had its inevitable consequence. Clark?s Cosworth DFV spluttered on the final lap, and John Surtees and Jack Brabham passed him just as Clark had gone by McLaren at Spa.

There was a final twist: Brabham tried a desperate move to pass Surtees for the win at the final corner, but slithered wide on cement dust left from an earlier incident. Surtees got a better sling-shot out of the corner and re-passed Brabham on the way to the flag. An epic finish.

Video of the 1967 Italian Grand Prix
Read more about the 1967 Italian Grand Prix

1970 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo

Jack Brabham features in this story too, only this time he takes the unhappy leading role.

Brabham had the race in the palm of his hand, leading comfortable, even as Jochen Rindt began a charge from second place.

But as Rindt carved whole seconds per lap out of Brabham?s advantage, the Australian became increasingly frustrated by lapped cars.

It was decided at the final corner when a moment?s misjudgement by Brabham sent him skidding off at the Gasworks hairpin (the old final corner). Rindt came through to take an astonishing victory.

Video of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix

1982 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo

Always a candidate for one of the most memorable Grand Prix finishes ever. Turbo engines were coming into fashion, but teams were struggling to cope with their enormous appetite for fuel which often led to several cars running out on the last lap.

Didier Pironi went into the final lap in the lead but his car came to a halt in the tunnel. Andrea de Cesaris, who would have taken the lead, stopped on the way up Massenet.

Riccardo Patrese had already thrown away the lead once by spinning at the Loews hairpin. But he got the Brabham re-started and crawled to the finishing line to score his first ever win.

This is part one of a two-part series: join us tomorrow for part two. To make sure you don?t miss it you can subscribe to F1 Fanatic by RSS or email.