It will be small comfort to him that plenty of other drivers have had wins taken off them in the past. Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and others have lost race wins after the chequered flag. More encouragingly for Hamilton, a small number of them got their wins back
However by my reckoning only one driver has lost a win because of a racing incident, rather than a technical infringement or stewards’ mistake: Ayrton Senna. Here’s a look at some of these controversial races:
1976: James Hunt, McLaren, Spanish Grand Prix, Jarama
In 1976 F1’s governing body began setting limits on the dimensions of the cars. They used the McLaren M23 as the reference for the maximum width, because it was the widest car in F1 at the time. But when the team used a new construction of tyre at Jarama it failed to notice it made the car 1.8cm wider than the regulations allowed, and Hunt was disqualified after winning.
However his win was reinstated on appeal.
1976: James Hunt, McLaren, British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch
Later that same year Hunt was caught up in a crash on the first lap of the British Grand Prix. Ironically, it was triggered by the two Ferraris. Hunt was originally going to be barred from taking part in the re-start in his spare car, but after noisy objections from the crowd the race organisers relented and let him start.
He won the race, but was disqualified afterwards for using his spare car, handing the win to Ferrari’s Niki Lauda.
1980: Didier Pironi, Ligier, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal
Didier Pironi crossed the finishing line at Montreal in 1980 about 40 seconds before Alan Jones’s Williams. But Pironi had been given a 60 second penalty for jumping the start which dropped him to third behind Jones and Carlos Reutemann in the other Williams.
1982: Nelson Piquet, Brabham, and Keke Rosberg, Williams, Brazilian Grand Prix, Jacarepagua
FIA rule enforcement at its most bonkers. After an especially hot and gruelling Brazilian Grand Prix (Piquet collapsed on the podium) Piquet and Rosberg were disqualified because their teams had been using ‘water-cooled brakes’ as a means of getting around the minimum weight regulations.
Their disqualification promoted Alain Prost’s Renault into first place. Behind him were John Watson (McLaren) and Nigel Mansell (Lotus), both of whom were also using ‘water cooled brakes’ but were not disqualified. Given how close Watson came to beating Rosberg to the championship, a major embarrassment was only narrowly avoided.
1985: Alain Prost, McLaren, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola
In 1985 refuelling was not allowed, turbo engines were thirsty, fuel tank size was restricted, and the technology used to monitor fuel levels was crude. At races where the rate of fuel consumption was high cars would often run out of petrol in the final laps.
Prost’s McLaren just made it across the line on dregs of fuel at Imola in 1985. But he had so little fuel left in the car it fell underweight, he was disqualified, and victory went to Elio de Angelis in the Lotus. The disqualification rankled with Prost, and he has said he feels he has won 52 races instead of 51. Including, of course, that controversial Brazil ’82 win.
1989: Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
One of F1’s great controversies. Senna was trying to pass team mate Alain Prost on lap 47 when Prost turned in on him. The pair interlocked wheels and slithered off the road (perhaps this is what would have happened if Hamilton had not driven off the track at Spa last weekend?)
Prost got out of his car and retired – he knew that with Senna out of the race he would be champion. Undeterred, Senna re-gained the circuit via an escape road, pitted for a new front wing, caught new leader Allessandro Nannini, and won the race.
Or so we thought. But the stewards chose to disqualify Senna for missing out part of the track. McLaren appealed the decision but found themselves asked to answer a series of additional charges when they confronted the FIA. Senna’s disqualification stood, and Prost became champion.
1990: Gerhard Berger, McLaren, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal
In a bizarre repeat of circumstances at the same track a decade earlier, Berger was the winner ‘on the road’ but a 60s penalty for jumping the start left him fourth. Team mate Senna collected the win.
1994: Michael Schumacher, Benetton, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
Having led all but one lap of the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix it was particularly galling for Schumacher to be disqualified for excessive wear on the plank on the underside of his car. The planks had been introduced by the FIA earlier in the year to force the teams to run higher ride heights for safety reasons.
Benetton argued the wear had been caused by Schumacher’s spin across the kerbs on the exit of Fagnes. But their appeal against the exclusion failed and Damon Hill inherited the win. Others suggested that the changing conditions throughout the weekend and lack of data on running with the planks caused Benetton to set Schumacher’s ride height too low.
1995: Michael Schumacher, Benetton, and David Coulthard, Williams, Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos
The Renault-powered duo of Schumacher and Coulthard were originally excluded because of fuel irregularities. But on appeal the FIA chose to give the drivers their points back, but not the teams. The rationale was that a technical breach had been committed but no advantage had been gained by the drivers.
This unusual decision was not seen again until last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, when McLaren were stripped of their constructors’ points following the infamous qualifying incident.
1999: Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang
Another famous controversy. Ferrari had finished one-two in the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix but after the race both drivers were disqualified because their barge boards were deemed to be 1cm outside the tolerances allowed by the regulations. This meant Mika Hakkinen was the winner not only of the race but also the world championship.
On appeal Ferrari convinced the FIA that the barge boards had not been accurately measured by the Malaysian Grand Prix stewards and were in fact legal. The FIA accepted this claim, reinstated the Ferraris, leaving the final round to decide the championship.
McLaren’s Ron Dennis felt the stewards had allowed Ferrari to get away with a deliberate misinterpretation of the rules in order to guarantee an exciting championship finale:
I believe, along with probably every technical director in Formula One, that the manufacturing tolerance referred to under article 3.12.6 of the Technical Regulations has no bearing on any other aspect of the car other than the vertical flatness of the horizontal surfaces that form the underside of the vehicle. We think the push for our sport has inevitably become quite commercial. Everybody wants to have an exciting race in Japan, but I think that the price we have paid for that one race is too great.
Read more about the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix
2003: Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos
The final example concerns a driver and team who hadn’t actually broken any rules at all – instead the FIA stewards were at fault in failing to follow the rules correctly.
The 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix was red-flagged to an early halt following a severe crash for Fernando Alonso. This came shortly after Giancarlo Fisichella had passed Kimi Raikkonen for the lead. However the rules for stopping the race meant that the final positions would be those on the lap before the race was halted. This, they felt, meant Raikkonen was the winner.
However it was only when they studied replays of the race and timing data afterwards that they accepted Fisichella had complete one more lap than they initially realised. Therefore he was in fact the winner, and Raikkonen handed over the winner’s trophy to him at the following round at Imola. It was Fisichella’s first and Jordan’s last Grand Prix win.
Can you remember any other instances where drivers lost F1 wins after the race? Which of these did you think was particularly fair or foul? have your say in the comments.
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