Craziest Moments in F1 – Part One: The Legends, The Mistakes
Formula One has undeniably changed over the years. Technical regulations and design changes, in-team policies and safety rules have all been the center of attention in a sport that has arguably lost its excitement-factor somewhat. It’s difficult to compare two eras of motor racing due to the massive changes but it’s easy to see that some of the personality has disappeared from the sport, with post-race hearings and decisions, “team orders”; a once-contentious issue now commonplace and the constant need for drivers to “behave” in order to keep the sponsors happy. That passion though was what enticed people to the sport in the first place. Senna and Prost, Hill and Schumacher, Schumacher and Hakkinen; all great rivalries because of that little extra spice in press conferences and in between race weekends.
This isn’t to say the current stock of drivers doesn’t have what it takes, far from it. These cars are mechanical wonders for sure but they still need to be wrestled over the finish line and with the dominance of Red Bull fading and other contenders including Mercedes and Ferrari amongst others progressing in the right direction, it could be one of the closest seasons for a long time.
But what is it about F1 that excites us? It still maintains an impressive array of speed, that has never changed and there are regular crashes and incidents which keep people on the edge of their seats. It’s the crazy, unpredictable nature of the sport combined with those things that make it a fascinating watch, regardless of the lack of overtaking at times. So let’s take a look at the first 5 of our top ten craziest and unpredictable moments of Formula One.
The Japanese Grand Prix was the title decider for 1989, between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Often referred to as the “Mclaren years” (between 1988-1993) Ayrton Senna was a fierce rival of Prost and there was plenty of controversy. Japan played a huge part in that controversy, twice. Senna needed to win the penultimate race of the year at Suzuka and despite Prost running away from him at the start, Senna was able to catch his teammate and try a daring move down the outside of Prost at the final chicane. Unfortunately, the two collided and as would happen many times during their rivalry, one would not give an inch to the other. Prost kept his line as promised and the rest is history.
*Image Source: Sportskeeda.com
But not quite. Senna continued the race thanks to a little push by the stewards to get back onto the circuit and went on to win the race, only to be disqualified by the FIA for not completing the chicane after continuing after the incident. This crazy turn of events caused uproar amongst fans and drivers alike as some claimed it was ridiculous to expect a car to reverse towards oncoming cars just to complete the chicane. The time had been lost and should have been considered punishment enough. It wasn’t and the race win was taken from Senna. He was fined $100,000 for appealing and given a six month suspended ban.
Yes. It’s Suzuka again and yes, it’s Senna and Prost, again. This time though, Prost had moved to Ferrari. These two yet again dominated the headlines when they collided on the first corner of the first lap of the race. It was again the penultimate round of the Championship and controversy began on the Saturday when Senna complained that the pole position (which he earned during qualifying) was on the dirty side of the track, which is uncommon on F1 circuits. The concern was originally considered and a move to relocate pole position was on the cards, until Jean Marie Balestre, the FIA President at the time rejected the suggestion. Balestre and Senna had a tumultuous relationship with some claiming there was a conspiracy against Senna.
*Image source: Richardsf1.com
The pole position issue was further escalated when Senna claimed that if Prost had the advantage into the corner, he vowed to lead regardless of what would happen. Obviously, as with Prost the year before, he kept to his word. It won him the World Championship but it was well-documented that he wasn’t proud of how he won it but it was another end to what was a fantastic season of Formula One.
1997 was a transformative year for Formula One. Williams had Jacques Villeneuve filling the number one seat left by Damon Hill, who went to the Arrows team and the Ferrari was in a position to challenge for the title. With Michael Schumacher behind the wheel he took what was a pretty awful car the previous year (although he won 3 races with it) and turned it into a contender. Having only been with the team for one season, coming off the back of two World Championships with Benetton, he was the man everyone thought would bring Ferrari their first Driver’s Championship since 1979.
The last race of the season was held at the test circuit Jerez in Spain and it would prove to be another title decider shaped by a silly mistake. Schumacher was one point ahead of Villeneuve and led into the first corner but 20 laps from the end something plagued the Ferrari, something that hadn’t been the case all year and he began to slow, allowing Villeneuve to overtake him (or undertake?) in Dry Sac corner which was technically a hairpin bend. Schumacher instinctively turned in, not willing to relinquish the lead and the Championship and it resulted in his right front suspension buckling against the Williams and his car running off into the gravel. He could only look on as the rest of the field drove by. Villeneuve struggled to finish the race but was able to nurse the car to the finish line, crowning him the World Champion.
**Image Source: Grandprix247.com
There was no doubt Schumacher could see Villeneuve in his mirrors and ultimately he decided exactly what he was going to do, regardless of the consequences. This was forever to be known as Jerez-gate and Schumacher was reviled in the media, despite claiming he hadn’t seen the Williams coming from so far back and that he was on the driving line. It was recognised that he was trying to pull the same questionable move which saw him crowned World Champion in 1994 when he collided with Damon Hill, but Hill’s Williams in that instance was unable to continue due to the suspension damage inflicted. This time it didn’t fall Schumacher’s way and despite his talents and incredible pace and strategic mind, 1997 was remembered for that split-second mistake. It was definitely a year to forget for the German. See for yourself…was it on purpose?