Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2003

Top ten… Curious F1 coincidences

Top tenPosted on | Author Greg Morland

From conspiratorial crashes to spooky circumstances: F1 has seem some curious coincidences over the years.

Guest writer Greg Morland picks ten – plus a bonus one – and invites you to share your most memorable F1 coincidences.

Barrichello wins lunatic-affected races

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2003
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2003

Only twice in modern Grand Prix racing has a Grand Prix been intentionally disrupted by track invaders. And on both occasions the same driver went on to win: Rubens Barrichello.

At the 2000 German Grand Prix, an irate former Mercedes employee took to the circuit midway through the race to protest his dismissal. The safety car was summoned while he was apprehended.

This, bunching the field and cost the Mercedes-powered McLarens what looked set to be a comfortable one-two finish. It was Barrichello who claimed an unlikely debut win from 18th on the grid after an inspired drive in damp conditions late in the race.

Bizarrely, similar circumstances unfolded three years later at the British Grand Prix. This time the culprit was a kilt-wearing Irish priest, who appeared on Silverstone?óÔé¼Ôäós Hangar straight.

Cars weaved around him at 150mph – Mark Webber having a particularly close call – before a marshal bravely knocked him to the floor and dragged him out of harm’s way.

The madness did not deter Barrichello, who went on to fight his way through the field to take what is widely considered to be the greatest of his 11 Grand Prix victories.

Lucky number 22 for Hamilton and Button

Jenson Button, Brawn, Interlagos, 2009
Jenson Button, Brawn, Interlagos, 2009

The last two British drivers to win the world championship had a few unusual things in common.

In both the 2008 and 2009 Brazilian Grands Prix, a British driver in a Mercedes-engined car bearing the number 22, became world champion for the first time with a fifth-place finish.

The duo, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, are now team mates at McLaren – clearly they were destined to be together.

Three-way tie for pole position

The 1997 European Grand Prix is usually remembered for the notorious clash between Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, or the strange circumstances that led to Mika Hakkinen scoring his first F1 win.

But these weren’t the only unusual happenings in an extraordinary weekend. Saturday saw an unprecedented three-way tie tie for pole position between Schumacher, Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Having set identical qualifying times of 1’21.072, the trio had effectively lapped the 2.7 mile circuit within 5cm of each other. In equivalent terms, the gap between first and last on the grid that day was 176 metres.

Fortunately, the F1 rulebook is comprehensive enough to cover such eventualities, and it was simply decided that the earlier each driver had set his time, the higher he would start. This left Villeneuve on pole from Schumacher and Frentzen.

It made little difference at the start: Schumacher took the lead into the first corner, while Frentzen moved into second and Villeneuve dropped back to third.

The tragic Ascaris

Alberto Ascari, Ferrari, 1952
Alberto Ascari, Ferrari, 1952

Antonio and Alberto Ascari, father and son, lost their lives in crashes separated by 30 years – which had some uncanny parallels.

The younger Ascari lost his father when he was seven years old. As a Grand Prix driver, he was famously superstitious: preferring his ‘lucky’ pale blue helmet when he took to the track.

In 1955, approaching the same age his father was when he lost his life, Ascari became preoccupied with the anniversary. At Monaco he crashed into the harbour, but emerged relatively unscathed, one day younger than his father had been at his death.

Four days later Ascari was at Monza, where Eugenio Castelloti invited him to try the latest Ferrari 750 Monza sports car. Ascari accepted, and unusually took to the track in Castelloti’s helmet.

He crashed inexplicably at Vialone and was killed. Aged 36, as his father had been, he left behind a wife and two children, as well as the same number of Grand Prix victories: 13.

Fisichella?óÔé¼Ôäós Malaysian grid woes

Pulling up on the grid may seem like one of the less challenging parts of a driver’s job. But Giancarlo Fisichella has made surprisingly hard work of it.

At the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, the Benetton driver inexplicably managed to line up on the wrong side of the grid. Realising his mistake, Fisichella attempted to coax his car into the right spot, but eventually ground to a halt between the two columns of cars, facing in entirely the wrong direction. Cue embarrassment.

Two years later, and Fisichella was back at Sepang for the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix, this time driving for Jordan. Sadly, he hadn?óÔé¼Ôäót brought his satnav again, and once again lined up on the wrong side of the track.

This time, he expertly managed to manoeuvre his car into the correct grid slot. Where he promptly stalled the engine, and retired from the race.

Happily, Fisichella banished his Malaysian demons by taking his third and final Formula 1 victory at the circuit in 2006.

Grosjean crashes at ‘Piquet corner’

Romain Grosjean, Renault, Singapore, 2009
Romain Grosjean, Renault, Singapore, 2009

The Renault F1 team arrived for the 2009 Singaporean Grand Prix following the most turbulent week in its history.

The team had just been found guilty by the FIA of fixing the previous year?óÔé¼Ôäós race in Singapore when Nelson Piquet Jnr had deliberately crashed, bringing out the safety car to aid team mate Fernando Alonso.

Renault’s two most influential team members – Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds – had left in disgrace, and sponsors ING and Mutua Madrilena cut their ties with the team.

But Piquet’s replacement Romain Grosjean did his best to raise a smile during Friday Practice. He somehow managed to crash in exactly the same place that Piquet had his notorious prang 12 months earlier.

Ferrari’s troubles at Rascasse

In a similar vein, Ferrari had an unwelcome flashback during qualifying for the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix.

It began when Kimi Raikkonen clipped the barrier at La Piscine during Q2, breaking his front right suspension.

He attempted to limp back to the pits but the tight Rascasse corner proved too tight for his deranged Ferrari to negotiate. He came to a halt in exactly the same position Michael Schumacher had infamously parked his Ferrari a year earlier.

Adding to the hilarity, the only driver impeded by the stranded Raikkonen was his team mate Felipe Massa, causing a brief Ferrari logjam, before Raikkonen managed to nose his car into the pit lane entrance a few metres away.

Berger bookends career with Benetton wins

Gerhard Berger, Benetton, Mexico City, 1986
Gerhard Berger, Benetton, Mexico City, 1986

Gerhard Berger took only two victories for Benetton. But they proved to be the first and last for both team and driver.

In his first stint at the team in 1986, a 27-year-old Berger took a debut win for both himself and his team at the Mexican Grand Prix. It would prove to be the first of many for both parties.

A decade later later, Berger and the Benetton team were reunited. However, the post Schumacher Benetton was a team in decline, whilst Berger was edging towards retirement. However, the Austrian rediscovered his old form with a surprise victory at the 1997 German Grand Prix.

While Berger retired on a relative high at the end of the season, Benetton struggled on for a further four seasons before being bought out by Renault, never adding to their tally of victories.

Deja vu: Ferrari team orders at the A1-Ring

Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, A1 Ring, 2002
Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, A1 Ring, 2002

Michael Schumacher’s domination of Formula 1 in 2002 was so great that when the teams arrived at the A1-Ring it was the only circuit on the calendar at which he had yet to win a race.

Unusually, Schumacher’s team mate Barrichello out-qualified and out-raced Schumacher, and was leading the race in the closing stages. It seemed Schumacher’s winless run in Austria was set to continue.

But as the cars emerged from the final corner of the last lap, Barrichello eased off the throttle, allowing Schumacher to take a thoroughly undeserved victory. Fans both at the circuit and watching on television were suitably disgusted, and the FIA responded by issuing the team with a $1 million fine, ostensibly for disobeying podium protocol.

The imposition of team orders by Ferrari team principal Jean Todt was anything but a surprise: one year earlier, the same two drivers had pulled the same trick at the same corner on the same lap – the only difference being that Barrichello was giving up second position rather than the win. On that occasions, Barrichello denied the team would ever ask him to give up a win in that fashion.

Following the outrage over the 2002 race-fixing, the FIA introduced a new rule banning the use of team orders. At the end of last year the ban was lifted – by new FIA president Jean Todt.

Imola: The hunter becomes the hunted

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Imola, 2006
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Imola, 2006

The 2005 San Marino Grand Prix is a rare example of a race that has gone down as a classic despite the near impossibility of overtaking at the front.

A mistake in qualifying left Michael Schumacher in 13th position. This was an unfortunate setback on a rare weekend when the F2005 was fast enough to compete for victory.

Schumacher rose through the field on race day and arrived on the tail of race leader Alonso. Now his progress came to a halt – but not for a lack of trying.

Schumacher tested Alonso’s defences at every opportunity, but crossed the line a mere two-tenths of a second behind the Renault.

The following year Schumacher found himself the lead from an attacking Alonso in a quicker car.

For most of the second half of the race Alonso hounded the Ferrari, but Imola’s many chicanes frustrated his attempts at overtaking just as they had done for Schumacher 12 months earlier.

Bonus: Coincidence or madness?

What first looked like a pair of extremely unfortunate crashes suffered by both BAR drivers at Belgium in 1999 turned out to be something else.

It transpired Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta had made a pact to attempt the daunting Eau Rouge flat-out.

In the days of more powerful V10 engines, Spa-Francorchamps’ famed Eau Rouge was a major test of driver skill, and regularly caught out those who tried to tackle it without backing off.

Villeneuve had form in this area: he had tried to tackle it flat-out while at Williams the year before, ending up in the barriers.

He had a similar result when he tried it during qualifying in 1999. Once the debris had been cleared, the session was restarted – and Villeneuve?óÔé¼Ôäós young team mate Ricardo Zonta copied him by destroying his car at the same corner.

Zonta’s effort was even more spectacular, rolling his car into the barriers before pirouetting to a halt in the gravel as team boss Craig Pollock tore clumps of his hair out on the pit wall.

The result was two wrecked BAR 001s. They may have been slow and unreliable, but at least they proved strong.

Over to you

There are many more strange F1 coincidences in the annals of history.

Do you know of any? Share them in the comments.

This is a guest article by Greg Morland. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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136 comments on “Top ten… Curious F1 coincidences”

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys
    14th August 2011, 12:09

    Once the debris had been cleared, the session was restarted – and Villeneuve’s young team mate Ricardo Zonta copied him by destroying his car at the same corner.

    Which led to the joke that, just before he left the pits, Ricardo Zonta was told by Craig Pollock to “Go out there and do exactly what Jacques does!”

  2. That Zonta and Villenueve pact story is hilarious, that took some serious balls to even consider! Pity Eau Rouge is easy flat nowadays.

    1. They certainly had balls. Just after the crash, Villenueve said in an interview that the crash was super exciting and probably his favourite of his career thus far.
      I love it!

      1. To quote Jock Clear – ‘He was a little bit disappointed because he was outdone by Zonta’ :P

        1. Not to be pedantic, but wasn’t it Craig Pollock? :P

    2. That’s some proper Hollywood stuff that kind of bet!

  3. To add to the Hamilton and Button one, on both occasions a Brazilian was on pole and the reigning champion finished 3rd. 2nd place also went to a driver who had struggled for most of the year in an uncompetitive car (though Alonso had a better late season than Kubica, winning two races)

    1. There’s more too (all the best thinking comes in the shower, right?):

      – In both instances, in the next race they were classified third (until Trulli’s penalty was over-turned after the daftest scheme to con the stewards in recent times)
      – The team that won the previous year’s WDC didn’t win the championship
      – Neither their current or future team (in Button’s case) would win the WDC the next year
      – They drove for a team that hadn’t won either WDC or WCC in that decade (longer in ex-Tyrrell’s case!)
      – The previous champion for that team came from a country with a blue and white flag (okay that one’s a bit of a cheat, concerning Scotland/UK)
      – Both finished 5th in the WDC the next year
      – Both only won two races the following year

      I’m sure there are more obscure ones too!

      1. The Brazilian in each case was a championship rival and a former teammate of Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. Both were Paulistas as well.

        Both drivers won six races on the way to the title (Lewis did win in Spa).

        1. no he didnt, he got penalised fair and square

          1. Okay then, both drivers were the first to pass the chequered flag on six occasions on the way to the title :p

            (although technically Button never actually passed the chequered flag at Malaysia 2009… damn this is complicated!)

          2. I’ve got it – both stood on the top step of the podium six times.

          3. That penalty was anything but fair and square.

    2. Also, both of the drivers’ surnames end in ‘-ton’.

      Stretching it now, I know :)

      1. Both cars had Mercedes engines!

        1. They also both finished 5th to win the championship.

          1. And overtook to finish 5th going round the last corner if I remember?

        2. Spookier still, both drivers had cars with round, black tyres and a steering wheel.

          1. Next your going to tell me, both were open wheel, open cockpit one seaters with big front and rear wings as well :-)

  4. To me the one with Ascari Dad and Son is the biggest and most scary one. And the Berger/Bennetton one is very nice, never realised it before.

    Love that info on the BAR guys trying, it is one of the things I liked about JV, going it full out (shame he let down more and more in years to come).

    Thanks for another very nice top ten Greg, nice work.

    1. Agree with everything. The Ascari one seems the most serious being the only one that had bad consequences.
      I’d try to invade the track to help Barrichello, but I’m not sure I’d want to risk my life. Maybe some Williams fan/employee can take such risk to allow his team to win? :P

  5. Very interesting stories!

    1. Indeed, the best way to fill in the gap between two races.

  6. cool article! i was laughing most of the way through it..

    some parts were a little scary though.. especially the ascari bit!

  7. 5 years in a row the champions was crowned in Brazil (05-09), being the final race of the season three times, the second last and the third last race of the season once each.

    Or how about the Kimi-esque way Vettel won his title? Last race, third in the championsip, winning while his rivals struggled in the race.

    1. *champion

    2. Hmmm… I suppose they were both races where Hamilton and Alonso lost the title. And Nico Rosberg finished 4th in both, too

    3. And four years in a row (06-09) the driver who won the first race won the championship.
      There are also some “cheaters never win” cases: In 2007 McLaren cheats – the championship goes to Ferrari in the most unbelievable scenario. In 2008 an undeserved victory is given to Massa – Hamilton gets the title in splendid fashion in the last corner. In 2010 Ferrari cheats – the WDC goes to Vettel also in strange circumstances.
      Really, there are so many coincidences in F1 that sometimes it makes you wonder weather this sport is for real or Bernie just writes the script.

      1. You might argue that Brawn cheated by using double diffusers, and in the end it won them the championship! Though they were more ingenious than devious I suppose

        1. Personally I don’t consider that Brawn cheated – they just used some loopholes in the rules and took advantage of them. If the FIA can’t write some rules clearly is not any team’s fault. By the way they weren’t the only team who used the DD that season (even from the first race) so cheating is out of the question.

        2. I heard that Brawn was on the panel that helped devise the regulations and saw the loophole and actually pointed it out and tried to close it. Of course, I might have just imagined that.

  8. Didn’t Senna and Schumacher win a race through the Pits? Was it on the same Gp?

    1. Michael Schumacher took the chequered flag at the 1998 British GP in the pitlane. It wasn’t exactly a coincidence, but it was pretty weird.

      Ayrton Senna took a fastest lap whilst driving through the pit lane at Donington 1993 I believe, perhaps that’s what you’re thinking of

      1. Yup thanks, my bad :)

      2. spanky the wonder monkey
        15th August 2011, 14:15

        and still holds the fastest ever lap at donington….

  9. Excellent article, the Fisichella and Ferrari Rascasse stories were hilarious.

  10. Great article Greg! Just goes to show that extraordinary things happen in F1 regularly! I’d never heard of the Ascari coincidence, strangely. I think my favourite’s are the crashing coincidences; Ferrari at Rascasse, Renault at Piquet corner and BAR at Eau Rouge! The British champions one is also very curious.

    But I seem to remember Berger’s final victory being made more apt by the fact he’d lost his father days before the race. I’m not sure if that’s true or I’m just imagining it.

    By the way, well done for remembering Fisichella’s grid woes! I’m sure that’d have escaped my memory if you’d not mentioned it in the article.

    1. Plus Berger lost a near-certain win in the 1996 German GP with a blown engine with just 2 laps to go.

    2. But I seem to remember Berger’s final victory being made more apt by the fact he’d lost his father days before the race. I’m not sure if that’s true or I’m just imagining it.

      That’s true.

    3. The Ascari one is just unnerving. Well remembered about Berger’s father.

      1. I don’t know how I know that, considering I would have been not quite 4 years old at the time! :P

        1. O.o

          That one I’ll give you…

  11. Good article, thanks.

  12. Nice article Ned! There are some very strange incidents there!

  13. Good article!

    Most of us will remember Massa getting team orders in Germany last year but it wasn’t the only time he got them at that track, this is from 2002 –

    1. Nice one! That’s a little harsh though. It’s like his dad telling him off! :?

      1. Felipe! Let, Nick pass, IMMEDIATELY!

        You could tell he really didn’t want to, he lifted off, stuck his foot in a bit more, then finally slowed right down.

  14. I remember both Fisi/Malaysia mistakes well, along with Martin Brundle essentially saying ‘What the hell are you doing son?!’.

    Also, I like the coincidence that the BAR project always vowed to win their first race. Personally I always respected BAR, especially since they created decent cars from ’04 onwards.

    Anyway, the coincidence is that after having been rebooted into Brawn (having been Honda), the team did indeed win their first grand prix, with Button at Melbourne.

    1. In fairness, I don’t think BAR seriously meant to claim they’d win their first race.

      The first BAR chassis was designed and produced by Reynard, who made customer race cars for everything from Formula Ford to CART. Part of the Reynard legend was that they won their debut race in every new series they entered – Formula Ford, Formula Ford 2000, Formula 3, Formula 3000 and CART. Johnny Herbert won in a Reynard on his and the company’s F3000 debut. Michael Andretti won Reynard’s first race in CART on his return from an unsuccessful stint in F1.

      If I remember rightly, when BAR was launched Adrian Reynard was asked whether the win first time out record would be maintained and he said something like “why not?” – which was translated into the rather arrogant boast we all know and love.

      1. Still, for a first go, their first chassis was pretty good by relative standards.

    2. JamieFranklinF1
      14th August 2011, 17:40

      Really? Because I remember Jenson winning the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix in a Honda.

      1. By first Grand Prix he means they won the first GP they took part in as Brawn, not their first victory

        1. Speaking of BAR… Wasn’t the 2005 San Marino race the one where Schumacher was held up for several laps by Button’s BAR “supertanker” – the one with the illegal extended fuel tanks? I always thought that cheat by BAR cost Schumacher a win…

          1. Sure was. I always respected BAR’s attempt at a crafty mid-race cheat.

  15. Im fairly certain ive both been told of and read about a conversation between Aryton Senna & (i think) Gerhard Berger a couple of years before Sennas death. It was on saftey at Imola and when talking about the wall that lined Tamburello, Senna had said that “its going to kill someone”

    1. I don’t think Senna said that. I’ve seen Berger saying that they stood in the same spot where he crashed and saying “if you hit that wall, you’re dead”. They were there because they were concerned about the proximity of the wall, but it couldn’t be moved because of a river behind it.

      1. But it wasn’t the impact that killed Senna. Sure, the unfortunate piece of debris came about due to the impact, but it could have happened anywhere. It’s no more dangerous than the entire final sector of Valencia!

      2. No, it was Senna who said that, I think its covered in footage that the directors chose not to show in the Senna film, because it would be to much.

      3. one whole egg
        15th August 2011, 13:39

        i remember this it’s in a Senna biography if senna had asked for a tyre wall he would of got one no doubt. It would of probably saved his life and spookily Berger crashed at exactly the same spot and his Ferrari burst into flames a few years before Senna crashed there, and i think Nelson Piquet crashed there too

  16. I remember watching the Grosjean Singapore incident on TV at college and everyone there found it quite funny actually!

  17. The last three holidays I’ve been to where there have been races, the races have all been won by Lewis Hamilton. You can’t explain that! It could be made 4/4 at Spa when I’m down in Cornwall.

    1. Its definitely possible. The last remaining Spa specialist is Schumacher and he is very unlikely to win. But it would be awesome if he could win .. and then retire :-P (always leave on a high).

  18. Don’t know if it can be classified as a ‘coincidence’ but Dan Gurney made a habit of winning the first race for manufacturers; Porsche in 1962, Brabham in 1964 (in championship F1 races), and Eagle/AAR in 1967. And two of them were the only win for the marque.

    1. Sebastian Vettel is one short of that. The first win for Toro Rosso, and the first win for Red Bull, with his famous STR win being the only one so far.

  19. That three-way tie for pole was amazing, I remember Murray Walker nearly exploded.

    I think Prost became champion every year that he raced with number 2 on his car. As Mark Webber would say, not bad for a number 2.

    1. The mad thing is Damon Hill was on to beat all three times before being blocked by Katayama (he lost out by 0.058s). It seems it was meant to be!

      1. I loved that moment. I wish there was a clip of it somewhere but unfortunately it doesn’t exist.

        1. It was on BBC’s Classic F1 series recently, shown in the build-up to one of this year’s races. But you’re right, it’s not on line any more. ITV must own the footage or something. Gotta love TV politics…

          1. I have it on video, will try and upload it soon.

            Villeneuve’s lap at the time did not look spectacular. Schumacher looked set to beat it, Murray Walker says “…and Michael Schumacher goes up into… 2nd position, with a time exactly the same as Jacques Villeneuve’s to the nearest one thousandth of a second!”.

            Frentzen goes out (FW tells him to put his car between MS and JV, but it was not possible!) as he crosses the line Murray Walker pauses for a second and then says “I cann’t believe this!”.

    2. He won back-to-back in ’85 and ’86, so not quite!

      1. In 1986 he had the number one on his car because he was the defending champion, but the fact is still true. He wore No.2 only in 85, 89 and 93 and won the title each year.

  20. Off topic from F1 but the Barrichello one reminds me of Adrian Fernandez winning CART races in 1996 and 1999 when Jeff Krosnoff and Greg Moore died in each. And when Moore won Michigan in ’98 it was Fernandez’s flying front wheel that killed several fans in the grandstand. Creepy.

    1. Wow, that’s pretty grim.

      In a similar vein, Michael Schumacher has topped the podium the last 3 times there has been a fatality at an F1 race: Imola ’94, Monza 2000, Melbourne 2001

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