Famous Five… F1 manufacturer bridesmaids

09th August 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Today (August 10th) marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix, won by the Renault V10-powered Williams FW19 of Jacques Villeneuve. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might argue, but the French-Canadian’s fifth victory of the year came only after late-race heartache for his former team-mate Damon Hill.


The Englishman had been controversially dropped by Williams for ’97, taking the World Champion’s #1 plate to Arrows. Yes, Arrows – the British team that for nearly 20 years had failed to win a single race. Damon had been wooed by Tom Walkinshaw – then boss of the team that had raced under different ownership for six years – and an all-new 3-litre V10 engine from Japanese giant Yamaha.

And, after nine races that had yielded a best finish of sixth in Silverstone’s British GP, the Hill-Arrows-Yamaha combination so nearly came good on that Sunday afternoon at the Hungaroring. 

But for a penultimate-lap hydraulic glitch, Arrows would have become Grand Prix winners for the first time. Instead, Hill nursed the A18 home nine seconds behind Villeneuve to score what was the team’s eighth and final podium finish.

Arrows was destined never to join the F1 winners’ club and, surprisingly perhaps, is one of 18 teams to have registered at least one podium finish without winning in the World Championship since its inauguration in 1950.

These, then, are F1’s most prolific bridesmaids. 

1st: British American Racing – 15 podiums

The team set up by Villeneuve and his manager Craig Pollock for 1998, using the assets of the legendary Tyrrell squad, raced in F1 for eight seasons, before being taken over by Honda for 2006. In that time, its cars, all powered by the 3-litre V10 Japanese engine, scored a second or a third on 15 occasions. The team’s best season came in 2004 when Jenson Button stood on the podium 10 times and Takuma Sato once, helping the team to second behind Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. 

2001 – Spain, Germany (Jacques Villeneuve)

2004 – Malaysia, Bahrain, San Marino, Monaco, Europe, Canada, Germany, Italy, China, Japan (Jenson Button); USA (Takuma Sato)

2005 – Germany, Belgium (Button)

2nd: Toyota – 13 podiums

The Japanese firm entered Formula 1 in 2002 with massive expectations, and a budget to match. Debut points for sixth-placed Mika Salo in Australia flattered to deceive; he and Allan McNish didn’t better that result during the rest of the year. In fact, the team’s first podium didn’t come until the early part of year four, with technical director, chief engineer and driver shuffles galore as the main board sought to save face. Eventually, Toyota pulled the plug at the end of 2009 with an underwhelming three poles positions, three fastest laps, 13 podium finishes and a best of fourth in the Constructors’ Championship (in 2005) to show for its efforts over 139 races.

2005 – Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain (Jarno Trulli); Hungary, China (Ralf Schumacher)

2006 – Australia (Schumacher)

2008 – France (Trulli); Hungary (Timo Glock)

2009 – Australia, Bahrain, Japan (Trulli); Malaysia, Singapore (Glock)


3rd: Arrows – 8 podiums

Despite a 1978 intellectual property court case that it would lose when its first car, the FA1, was deemed too similar to the rival Shadow design, Arrows (formed, of course, by a group of breakaway Shadow employees) got its head down and began to score some good results. Riccardo Patrese led second time out in South Africa in the FA1, which would soon legally become the A1, and took a brace of sixths in Long Beach and Monaco. The debut podium came in Sweden when Patrese finished behind Niki Lauda’s controversial Brabham ‘fan car’. That was as good as it would get for the Italian who, despite spending three more years at Arrows, would rack up just three more podium finishes. Over the next 15 seasons, Arrows only occasionally carried one of its drivers to a second or third-place finish, courtesy of Thierry Boutsen and, during a competitive spell in 1988-’89, Eddie Cheever. And then came that famous near-miss in Hungary 20 years ago.

1978 – Sweden (Riccardo Patrese)

1980 – Long Beach (Patrese)

1981 – Brazil, San Marino (Patrese)

1985 – San Marino (Thierry Boutsen)

1988 – Italy (Eddie Cheever)

1989 – USA (Cheever)

1997 – Hungary (Damon Hill)

4th: Force India – 5 podiums

Current F1 team Force India can trace its roots back to Jordan, which in 2005 sold out to Midland, then becoming Spyker in mid-2006. At the end of 2007 Indian Vijay Mallya took over the Dutch squad, renaming it Force India, but leaving the team in its Silverstone base. The breakthrough came at Spa for the 2009 Belgian GP when Giancarlo Fisichella took the team’s maiden pole position in the Mercedes-powered VJM02. He was pipped in the race by Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and that remains the closest the team has come to a maiden win. The squad, still benefitting from Mercedes power but operating on a budget way smaller than the big teams, has been consistently competitive in recent seasons, with prized asset Sergio Perez taking two top-three finishes last season and the team lying in fourth in the makes’ race at the 2017 mid-season interval.

2009 – Belgium (Giancarlo Fisichella)

2014 – Bahrain (Sergio Perez)

2015 – Russia (Perez)

2016 – Monaco, Europe (Perez)


5th: Fittipaldi, Lola, Prost, Toleman – 3 podiums


1978 – Brazil (Emerson Fittipaldi)

1980 – Argentina (Keke Rosberg); Long Beach (E Fittipaldi) 

Four teams share a three-podium haul without a win to their name. Double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi joined his elder brother’s eponymous team in 1976, replacing the retiring Wilson, and found the going tough after victories with Lotus and McLaren. The Brazilian managed a second at home in the F5A in year three and a third at Long Beach aboard the F7 in 1980, his final season of F1, to add to the third scored by Finnish star of the future Keke Rosberg on his debut with the team in Argentina. The team continued in 1981 with Rosberg and Chico Serra, although neither driver scored a point. Rosberg went off to Williams for 1982, while Serra stayed put for one more year – the team’s last in F1.


1962 – Britain, Germany (John Surtees)

1990 – Japan (Aguri Suzuki) 

British multi-class chassis manufacturer Lola had a complex and, arguably, misunderstood F1 vocation. The factory ran the 1.5-litre Climax V8 4 model in 1962, with John Surtees claiming pole first time out at Zandvoort and finishing second at Silverstone and the Nürburgring. Thereafter, via privateer teams, including those run by Reg Parnell, Graham Hill, Carl Haas and Gérard Larrousse, things were less successful. The third and final podium came after a long drought, at Suzuka in 1990, when Japanese racer Aguri Suzuki took a heroic third in the Larrousse-run, Lamborghini V12-powered Lola 90 in his home race.


1997 – Brazil, Spain (Olivier Panis)

1999 – Europe (Jarno Trulli)

Four-time World Champion Alain Prost’s dream to run his own team came true at the end of 1996 when he purchased the Ligier outfit and rebranded it Prost for ’97. Ligier’s Monaco GP winner Olivier Panis was retained and the Frenchman took an encouraging third in the Mugen-Honda-powered JS45 in Brazil and Spain. Things were far less rewarding for both Prost and Panis in ’98 after a move to Peugeot power, but in year two with the French V10, Jarno Trulli led in Austria and finished second in the Nürburgring’s European GP. The team battled on through 2000 and 2001 with a succession of good pedallers, including Jean Alesi, Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, but after five seasons Prost himself had had enough.  


1984 – Monaco, Britain, Portugal (Ayrton Senna)

Toleman, run by transport magnate Ted Toleman, graduated to F1 from F2 in 1981 and struggled to get its Hart turbo-powered TG181 to qualify, despite the talents of Brian Henton and Derek Warwick. It managed just once, at Monza, with Henton. Things improved for 1982 with the TG181C, driven by Warwick and Teo Fabi, and ’83, with Bruno Giacomelli joining Warwick in the TG183Bs. People finally took serious notice in ’84 when young F3 king Ayrton Senna joined the team for his maiden F1 season. The Brazilian dragged the TG183B and its replacement, the TG184, up the grid, famously chasing down McLaren’s Alain Prost at Monaco for second place, adding third at Brands Hatch and Estoril to his rookie CV. At the end of the year, unsurprisingly, Senna was gone, joining Lotus to become a GP winner. Toleman endured one more pointless season, although Fabi did get pole in Germany, before Benetton took over and rebranded the team for 1986.

Photography courtesy of LAT Images

  • Prost

  • BAR

  • Toyota

  • arrows

  • Force India

  • Fittipaldi

  • Lola

  • Toleman

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