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.
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.
(I wasn’t able to find a video for this – if you have a link to one please post it below).
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…
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.
Ferrari’s 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.