Top ten… Ways to finish an F1 race

Flame-belching Button crawls to the flag at Melbourne in 2006

Flame-belching Button crawls to the flag at Melbourne in 2006

As we saw yesterday Christian Fittipaldi really raised the bar when it comes to crossing the finishing line in style.

But drivers who want to make it home with a little flair have plenty of options. Here’s ten of the more unusual ways to finish an F1 race featuring memorable moments from Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Nigel Mansell and more.

Pushing for victory

Jack Brabham, 1959 United States Grand Prix

Jack Brabham’s hopes of winning the world championship in the last race of 1959 at Sebring got an early boost when rivals Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss hit trouble in the opening laps.

Brooks’ Ferrari was struck by that of team mate Wolfgang von Trips on the first lap, forcing a pit stop for repairs. And Moss went out on lap five with gearbox failure.

Nearing the end of the race Brabham looked secure. But on the last lap his car spluttered to a halt, out of fuel. Brabham climbed out of the car and pushed it to the line, two minutes behind Brooks’ third-placed car. Fortunately for Brabham, he still had enough of a lead to win the championship by four points.

Pushing for sixth place, then falling over

Nigel Mansell, 1984 Dallas Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell’s similar efforts in the same country 25 years later were more theatrical and less successful. He’d led the first half of the inaugural USA Dallas Grand Prix in ferocious heat, but a pit stop for fresh tyres relegated him to fifth in the closing stages.

On the last lap the gearbox on his Lotus 95T finally succumbed to the strain of the point-and squirt street course and died. The car rolled to a halt within sight of the finishing line.

Like Brabham, Mansell got out and pushed but – most unlike Brabham – he collapsed to the floor in exhaustion in the pounding Dallas heat.

Piercarlo Ghinzani’s Osella came around to steal fifth place off him, but fortunately for Mansell there was no-one left on the same lap, so he was credited with a point for sixth.

In a pile-up

Carlos Pace, Jody Scheckter and 11 others, 1975 British Grand Prix

A downpour of the sort you might expect to hit Sepang fell on Silverstone in the late stages of the 1975 British Grand Prix.

While a handful of drivers, like winner Emerson Fittipaldi, made it to the pits for wet weather tyres, most of them didn’t. Many were caught out by deep water at Club corner, and as the red flags came out only a handful of the 19 cars which had been running returned to the start/finish straight.

In all 13 of the classified finishers crashed in the downpour, including the occupants of second, third, fourth and fifth places: Pace, Scheckter, James Hunt and Mark Donohue.

In flames

Jenson Button, 2006 Australian Grand Prix

Fisichella's eyebrows grew back eventually

Fisichella's eyebrows grew back eventually

Jenson Button might have been grateful for such a downpour in the closing stages of the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.

His Honda engine grenaded itself as he came around the final corner, spewing flames in the face of the chasing Giancarlo Fisichella.

While Button struggled to control a car that was skidding on its own oil, the team urged him to pull; up short of the line so they would avoid an engine change penalty at the next round. This he did, falling from fifth to finish out of the points.

Thanks to Ripping Silk who sent in the fantastic shot of Button’s engine exploding.

Read more: 2006 Australian Grand Prix Review

In the pits, taking a penalty

Michael Schumacher, 1998 British Grand Prix

This ridiculous incident did a lot to further the view that the FIA gave Schumacher an easy time. How on earth could a driver be allowed to serve a stop-go penalty after having already crossed the line to win the race?

Schumacher was handed the penalty for passing a car under yellow flags during the drenched race. But because it was served near to the end of the race Ferrari gambled they would get away with taking it on the last lap – after Schumacher had crossed the finishing line in the pits.

At Silverstone on that day I was part of the drenched crowd at Copse corner where quite a few people were convinced second-placed man Mika Hakkinen had won.

The rules have since been changed so that drivers who incur penalties late in the race get time delays – as Lewis Hamilton did at Spa in 2008.


Michele Alboreto and Nelson Piquet, 1984 European Grand Prix

In 1984 championship drivers had to cope with a ban on refuelling – just as they will this year.

But 26 years ago they faced the added problem of having to manage the unpredictably thirsty fuel consumption of 1.5-litre turbos using engine management technology that was pretty crude compared to what we have today. Cars juddering to a halt a lap or two short of the chequered flag became a common sight.

That very problem struck both Nelson Piquet and Michele Alboreto as the pair were battling for second place in the dying stages of the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Piquet suffered first, allowing Alboreto to blast by on the run towards the chicane. But Alboreto’s Ferrari stuttered as they came out of the last corner, and Piquet’s desperate shimmying succeeded in getting another trickle of fuel out of the tank. His Brabham lurched forward and took him back ahead of Alboreto – but unfortunately the finishing line was already behind them.

The pair pulled up at the pit exit, shrugged at each other, and began their walk to the podium.


Stefan Johansson, 1987 German Grand Prix

It looked like McLaren had the German Grand Prix in the bag. Alain Prost was leading comfortably until, just four laps from the end, a broken alternator drive belt robbed him of victory. Nelson Piquet inherited the lead but at least Prost’s number two Stefan Johansson was on hand to salvage second place.

He made it – just. Heading into the stadium on the final lap his right-front tyre disintegrated, leaving him to nurse his three-wheeled wagon through the most twisty part of the Hockenheim track. Fortunately Ayrton Senna’s third-placed Lotus was a lap down, allowing Johansson to take his time.

On a stretcher

Fernando Alonso, 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix

Alonso crashed in the rain at Brazil

Alonso crashed in the rain at Brazil

The Brazilian Grand Prix podium in 2003 was an odd affair. There were only two people on it, and it later turned out they were standing in the wrong places (the stewards later decided second-place finisher Giancarlo Fisichella had actually won and not Kimi Raikkonen).

Fernando Alonso should have been the third man on the podium but he was on a stretcher heading towards the circuit’s medical centre after a huge crash which brought an early halt to the race – and created the confusion over who had won it.

The chain of events began with Mark Webber crashing, littering the main straight with debris. The yellow flags came out but Alonso failed to back off sufficiently, hit a stray tyre and smashed into a tyre wall. Throwing so much wreckage across the track the race had to be stopped.

Fortunately Alonso escaped without serious injury. He clearly didn’t plan to bring the race to an early end and, in doing so, guarantee himself a podium finish. But I bet someone, someday, will try crashing on purpose to stop a race.

Doing a somersault (while still in the car)

Chrstian Fittipaldi, 1993 Italian Grand Prix

We talked about this one yesterday – Fittipaldi was lucky just to survive it, never mind actually make it across the line.

Read more: Incredible amateur video of Christian Fittipaldi?σΤιΌΤδσs 1993 Monza somersault

Neck and neck

Peter Gethin, Ronnie Peterson and others, 1971 Italian Grand Prix

There have been some great side-by-side finishes to F1 races in the past: like Ayrton Senna holding back Nigel Mansell at Jerez in 1986, or Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg crossing the line side-by-side at the Osterreichring in 1982.

But this vintage race trumps them all. Peter Gethin’s BRM scampered across the line at Monza with Ronnie Peterson alongside him and another three cars within six tenths of a second:

1. Peter Gethin, BRM
2. Ronnie Peterson, March-Ford +0.01s
3. Francois Cevert, Tyrrell-Ford +0.09s
4. Mike Hailwood, Surtees-Ford +0.18s
5. Howden Ganley, BRM +0.61s

Knowing that Monza races were usually decided in the final sprint to the chequered flag, Gethin shrewdly set up his car to get the perfect run from the Parabolica to the finish line. Here’s how he did it:

Read more: The greatest wins: Gethin

Over to you

Can you extend the top ten? Got a great F1 finish I’ve overlooked? Or do you know of a dramatic finish to a race in a different series? Share your favourites in the comments.

Got an idea for a top ten? Why not write a guest post. Find more information here.

F1 top tens

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77 comments on Top ten… Ways to finish an F1 race

  1. Simon said on 19th January 2010, 12:31

    I still can’t believe Button (or team orders) sacrificed points to avoid an engine penalty in the next race. Very frustrating and IMHO still a bad decision.

    • David A said on 19th January 2010, 14:40

      Indeed. He would have finished sixth at Melbourne, but sacrificed that to finish seventh at the next race.

  2. Nice post Keith,

    This is an incredbile finish. Can’t believe you can get finishes like this on race tracks and not just ovals

  3. GeeMac said on 19th January 2010, 12:59

    Does anyone remember that Paul Stewart spun across the line in an F3] race? Pretty cool way to finish if you ask me, even if he didn’t do it on purpose!

    • I do that on racing games, nothing beats a handbrake turn across the finish :D

    • Yes, i do i worked for Paul Stewart Racing.
      You mentioning it here is the first time I have ever read or heard it apart from in the motoring press at the time.
      No one believes me when i’ve told the story, unique way to try to pass a back marker is to ignore the drivers hand up to pass and pass him on the other side where theres no room other than to take the grass ???????
      It was a fun year, i learnt loads about repairing race cars……

  4. Macca said on 19th January 2010, 14:03

    The Bathurst 1000 in the Australian V8 Supercar series is a great race for close finishes.

  5. wasiF1 said on 19th January 2010, 14:46

    Nice job,still fell sad for Button & Alonso.

  6. Atticus said on 19th January 2010, 14:55

    If I’m not mistaken Schumacher did took his penalty BEFORE he crossed the line. Remember, it was that year, 1998, when they moved the S/F line closer to Copse in Silverstone thus about half of the pit garages were placed before the line – including the second team in the order, Ferrari.

    • They moved the startline but not the finish line. Finish line has to be always BEFORE or AFTER entire pit lane. Otherwise you could have situation like this (based on 2009 teams)

      Hamilton leads by five seconds over Button. They both pit on the same lap, Hamilton first to his pit box and Button goes past him, before stopping by Brawn’s garage, and Hamilton goes ahead again. One lap after that the race is red-flagged and not continued (like in Malaysia) Now, if the finish line would be between these two garages, Button would win the race.

  7. Btw is Mika Hailwood meant to be Mike Hailwood?

  8. Hallard said on 19th January 2010, 17:36

    “But I bet someone, someday, will try crashing on purpose to stop a race.”

    Well…Schumacher is coming back this season :)

  9. MattB said on 19th January 2010, 19:00

    Just noticed this silly finish on youtube…

    • Oh that is classic… and to think he throws his helmet at the car… it’s hardly the car’s fault you can’t drive in a straight line with only one hand on the wheel…

  10. SoLiD said on 19th January 2010, 19:15

    While we are at it, check this epic battle between Montoya and Andretti in the Michigan 500. Great great racing!

  11. David A said on 19th January 2010, 19:39

    Are there any videos of that Moto GP rider who celebrated one lap early and ended up fourth?

  12. This article has just reminded me of a kid back at school. It was our sports day, and it was time for the year 8’s boys hurdles. Everyone not competing at that time sat alongside the finishing straight of the running track.

    This one kid was way out in front, lept over all the hurdles perfectly. He lept the last hurdle, stopped, turned to us in the crowd and started bowing. Meanwhile everyone else ran past him, leaving him last.

    No-one had told him that to win the hurdles race, you had to still cross the finish line having cleared all the hurdles…

  13. Michael Schumacher finishing in the pits really did take the p**s…

  14. Keith great pic of Button’s Honda exploding in Fisi’s face – do you have a link to a higher res version of this I want one on my wall !! :)

  15. MinusTwo said on 19th January 2010, 20:54

    Great Article, Keith. Since you have started to do this full-time, you are coming up with some great stuff.

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