Top ten… Curious F1 coincidences

Top ten

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

  1. robk23 said on 14th August 2011, 14:16

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

  2. gillymuse said on 14th August 2011, 14:17

    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.

    • bananarama said on 14th August 2011, 20:40

      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).

  3. AJ Ball said on 14th August 2011, 14:26

    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.

    • David A said on 15th August 2011, 18:48

      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.

  4. Bullfrog said on 14th August 2011, 14:29

    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.

    • Icthyes said on 14th August 2011, 15:42

      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!

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

        • Bullfrog said on 15th August 2011, 20:24

          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…

          • 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!”.

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

      • debaser91 said on 14th August 2011, 21:39

        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.

  5. AJ Ball said on 14th August 2011, 14:38

    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.

    • Ned Flanders said on 14th August 2011, 16:45

      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

  6. Woah, he Ascari one is the spookiest. The Fisi one the funniest, I only knew about the second time he did it and thought that was funny in itself but to know that he did it twice is pretty cazy. Great article!

  7. Lewis hamilton doesn’t finish and wins every alternate race at canada.

    07 – Win
    08 – DNF
    09 – No race
    10 – Win
    11 – DNF

  8. Love the article Greg! Was fun discussing it all those months ago too.

    Another interesting one is that both Graham and Damon Hill drove for Brabham, and both finished in 11th their final race for them.

  9. jsmith944 said on 14th August 2011, 16:07

    I don’t know whether there’s any truth in rumors I’ve heard about the three way tie for pole but many people think that it was a fix to make things even more interesting. Given the FIAs record I personally think its likely to be true.

    • The Science of Discworld discussed this (Chapter 31 “Nine Times Out of Ten”) and reckoned this was unlikely as the estimated probability of the top 3 drivers matching pole times is around 1 in 1000. Having had it happen only once is quite reasonable, since probability doesn’t care about coincidences. Nonetheless, having the one time involve the championship protagonists (plus a team-mate to one protagonist) in a deciding race is spooky.

  10. David B said on 14th August 2011, 16:27

    5 mechanical failures at the same spot. Dallas 84 (
    Something similar at Interlagos 2003 (curva do sol), but it was because of weather. At nurburgring at the end of the straight 2007 also.

    • In the 1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix, both McLarens retired with blown engines within a lap of one another. Both pulled off in the same place.

      Arrows repeated the trick less than a year later in Barcelona.

  11. Remco H. said on 14th August 2011, 17:18

    The Button/Hamilton story has to be one of the greatest……well, in my view anyway!

  12. Canadian GP starts in 1998 and 1999, Alexander Wurz, Jarno Trulli and Jean Alesi.

    1998: Alexander Wurz hits Jean Alesi, does a series of barrel-rolls. Jarno Trulli has to avoid the crash and gets stuck in gravel. Red flag.

    1998 restart: In the first corner, Mika Salo hits Wurz who in turn hits Trulli and puts him on top of Alesi’s car.

    1999: Trulli spins through the grass, hits Alesi and both are out of the race. Wurz is not involved in crash but retires due to broken driveshaft (?) on the first lap.

    One of the interesting things is also that Ayrton Senna retired British GPs in 1991, 1992 and 1993 in the same spot.

  13. Also came to my mind:

    Sebastian Vettel won the first race for Toro Rosso and Red Bull, starting from pole, in a wet race which started behind SC.

    I also found it very interesting that four of the six most recent new winning teams took 1-2 in that race: Jordan, BMW, Brawn and Red Bull. Stewart got 1-3 while Toro Rosso had another driver a way back due to problem in the grid.

  14. Whenever I’ve gone to the British Grand Prix, the British number 22 thingy occurs…

    Loved the Grosjean thing also!

    Anyone noticed that the top 4 for race wins all end in a 1?
    1. Schumacher: 91
    2. Prost: 51
    3. Senna: 41
    4. Mansell: 31

    And each have an odd number of Championships too! And they were all racing in 1991.

  15. And another!!!!

    2008: Kovalainen smashes into a wall after a blowout at Catalunya

    2010: Hamilton goes into a wall after a blowout at Catalunya.

    McLaren have had some bad luck at that track too if I remember, didn’t Hakkinen’s engine blow up??

    What about Barrichello’s lack of luck at Interlagos too?

    • Daniel said on 15th August 2011, 0:01

      Rubens at Interlagos: three poles (2003, 2004 and 2009) without a win and ELEVEN (!) retirements, nine of them in sequence (’95-’96-’97-’98-’99-’00-’01-’02-’03). I don’t remember anyone with such an unlucky record anywhere, let alone in his home Grand Prix…

      He only got two finishes worth mentioning: a 4th in 1994 with Jordan and a 3rd in 2004 with Ferrari… Oh, I just realized that both years have ended with 4! If Rubens can stay long enough, probably he’ll be 1st or 2nd in the 2014 race, the year Brazil will host the World Cup… :)

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