Top ten closest F1 race finishes

Top TenPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

John Surtees beats Jack Brabham by a fifth of a second at Monza in 1967
John Surtees beats Jack Brabham by a fifth of a second at Monza in 1967

I happened across a list of the ten closest Indy Racing League finishes on the official website recently and it got me wondering what the closest finishes in F1 history are.

Here’s the ten closest finishes to a proper F1 race, including Grands Prix as long ago as 1954, and as recent as 2002.

1981 Spanish Grand Prix

Gilles Villeneuve – 0.211s – Jacques Laffite

Vintage Villeneuve. A blinding start had leapt him up the order and he inherited the lead when Alan Jones retired early on. Thereafter he kept a train of faster cars at arm’s length around the sinuous Jarama track. At the end he, Jacques Laffite, Johjn Watson, Carlos Reutemann and Elio de Angelis crossed the line covered by 1.24s.

Of course, as Steven Roy pointed out here recently: “Had there been tyres and fuel stops [as there are today] he would have been fifth at best after the first stop and would have been lucky to be in the top ten at the end.”

1967 Italian Grand Prix

John Surtees – 0.2s – Jack Brabham

Before chicanes were added at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, and before F1 cars sprouted wings to generate diwnforce, the Monza race could be relied upon to produce excitement. Usually a leading pack of several drivers would exchange the lead during the race as the followed in each other’s slipstreams, culminating in an exciting sprint to the flag.

In 1967 John Surtees led into Parabolica and Jack Brabham dived down the inside to try to snatched the lead. But the inside line was covered in cement dust and Brabham slithered past, allowing Surtees to re-pass him within sight of the flag.

Read more about the 1967 Italian Grand Prix

1955 British Grand Prix

Stirling Moss – 0.2s – Juan Manuel Fangio

After a close, race-long fight between the two Mercedes Stirling Moss wasn’t sure if Fangio had lifted his foot on the dash to the line to let him win. Fangio insisted Moss had won the day fair and square. It was Moss’s first victory in the world championship.

2000 Canadian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher – 0.182s – Rubens Barrichello

Michael Schumacher won a wet Canadian Grand Prix but only after Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello not to overtake him. The tiny gap at the end shows how closer Barrichello came to winning his first Grand Prix. It wasn’t the last we saw of Ferrari’s desire to manipulate race results.

1954 French Grand Prix

Juan Manuel Fangio – 0.1s – Karl Kling

A formation finish for the Mercedes of Fangio and Kling in France (footage between 0:40 and 1:11).

1961 French Grand Prix

Giancarlo Baghetti – 0.1s – Dan Gurney

A surprise maiden win for Giancarlo Baghetti – in his first world championship Grand Prix! The Italian driver slipstreamed past Dan Gurney within sight of the line. It seems hard to believe that, in those days, drivers rarely tried to defend their position by moving off thr racing line as it was considered unsporting. F1 was rather different in 1961…

Read more about the 1961 Italian Grand Prix

1969 Italian Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart – 0.08s – Jochen Rindt

Another Monza slipstreamer. On this occasions Jackie Stewart had the guile to install a longer-than-usual fourth gear ratio in his Matra so he could accelerate from the Parabolica to the finishing line on the final lap without making an extra, momentum-sapping gear change. It worked like a dream, and he beat Jochen Rindt to the line.

1982 Austrian Grand Prix

Elio de Angelis – 0.05s – Keke Rosberg

Both Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg had never won a Grand Prix before, but late in the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix they found themselves disputing the lead after the leading turbo-powered cars all retired.

De Angelis kept Rosberg back by five hundredths of a second to win, but Rosberg finally scored his maiden victory in the following race at Dijon, before claiming the title.

1986 Spanish Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna – 0.014s – Nigel Mansell

late in the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix Mansell hauled in second-placed Alain Prost and, after a brief delay, took the place and set off after leader Senna. He caught Senna at the final bend and jinxed out to pass him as they crossed the line.

Unfortunately for Mansell the line had been moved closer to the final corner for timing reasons, so Senna would by 14 thousandths of a second. Had the line been in its original position further down the road Mansell would have won the race and, for that matter, the ’86 championship as well…

1971 Italian Grand Prix

Peter Gethin – 0.1s – Francois Cevert

A last hurrah for the pre-chicane Monza layout before the first slow corenrs were added in 1972. Peter Gethin scored his only win with Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert, Mike Hailwood and Howden Ganley within 0.61s.

Read more about the 1971 Italian Grand Prix

Fixed finishes

Two other Grands Prix should feature on this list as they both had very close finishes. But the 2002 Austrian and United States Grand Prix finished with the Ferrari drivers swapping places first because of team orders (Austria) and later in an attempt to engineer a dead heat (United States).

They hardly show F1 in its best light, but for the sake of completeness here they are. Of course, some may find them no less ‘illegitimate’ than Montreal 2000 or even Aintree 1955, but we can sort that out in the comments…

Austria Grand Prix 2002 – Michael Schumacher finishes 0.182s ahead of Rubens Barrichello

United States Grand Prix 2002 – Rubens Barrichello finishes 0.011s ahead of Michael Schumacher

NB. Due to differences in timing equipment used over the years it is impossible to compare how close modern F1 races wins were with some earlier races where differences were only measured to a tenth of a second.

F1 top tens

Read more top tens

23 comments on “Top ten closest F1 race finishes”

  1. Nice post keith! why not a post about ‘controversial finishes’ of F1?

  2. so 2002 usa gp is the closest in f1 history and not 1986 spanish gp..but i dont know why 1986 spanish gp is considered the closest ever.

  3. Shery – well, as I said in the article, Indy ’02 wasn’t a ral racing finish was it? It was just Schumacher mucking about. Whereas at Jerez in ’86 it was two fierce rivals, who’d collided in the last race, striving to outdo each other. Jerez ’86 was pure drama, Indy ’02 was pure farce.

  4. no doubt it was pure drama but in the end.both micheal and rubens battled to get the win…so the drama turned into the battle in the final seconds.

  5. It wasn’t a battle though Shery, Schumacher slowed down deliberately. There wasn’t a contest at all.


    isnt it ur article keith..
    “Peter Gethin’s 1971 victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza used to be a benchmark of speed and time – the fastest ever Grand Prix at 242.51 kph (150.75 mph), the closest ever finish with just 0.01s*”
    now is it 1986 spanish gp or 1971 gp or will it remain a mystery?
    i want to know officially which is the closest ever..

  7. ok keith i got it…….
    as u said in the article that there was no instrument which could measure more than upto 2 decimal places of a we can’t say which is the closest f1 winning margin…..

  8. Thanks for the 1971 video link – unfortunately it wasn’t embeddable, but I’ve found one elsewhere and added it.

  9. gr8 work, keith!

  10. Those Ferrari finishes still disgust me, and like you say, they should only be in this list for completeness, rather than actually anything to do with records or achievement.

    The Austrian race was the first instance of me using the F-word in front of my parents, I was that riled.

    So much so that even to this day, I tend to omit both the Ferraris from each race and therefore the championship standings. It makes for a far more interesting and even set of F1 results from over the past 8 years or so.

    The Senna-Mansell finish at Jerez was the most impressive, although the 1969 Italian finish was also good for the fact that there were 2 other cars finishing within a whisker of Stewart (assuming they were on the same lap)

  11. The Austrian race was the first instance of me using the F-word in front of my parents

    Is the F-word ‘Ferrari’? B)

  12. yeah Keith, controversial finishes is a must, after seeing the crap Ferrari pulled.

  13. …the F-word is “fixed” Keith.

  14. Brillian stuff…………..

  15. Keith’s male parental unit here, you are forgiven, an understandable response.

  16. Great stuff Keith. I am surprised there are so few close finishes involving team mates as before Max’s ban on team orders (except for Ferrari) it used to be quite common for team mates to run 1-2 when they had a car advantage and staged finishes to get good photos used to be common too.

  17. this is quality stuff.

  18. What about the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix? Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg finished really close together.

  19. Pingguest – I’ve made a bit of a boob here. When I wrote down the 1982 race I got the Austrian and San Marino rounds mixed up.

    I’ve added the Austrian race in and deleted the San Marino one as it wasn’t actually one of the ten closest (the gap was 0.366 seconds). Here’s the video of the San Marino race for those that want to see it:

    Thanks Pingguest!

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