The events of the end of the 2022 F1 World Championship were pretty strange. But it was not the only race in the history of Formula 1 that could be classified as pretty odd. Over the years races have finished under protest, drivers have been crowned later and races have ended on the wrong lap. But here are eight that we reckon are weirder than the rest.
The 8 strangest F1 races
8. Japanese Grand Prix 2022
Starting off with the reason we’re writing this list. The bizzare circumstances in which Max Verstappen was handed his second F1 crown (cost cap enforcement permitting) at the Japanese Grand Prix would have been hard to follow even if we hadn’t just spent over three hours paying attention to nothing.
The fact that a single lap happened before Carlos Sainz crashed, brought out the safety car and then a red flag, and a tractor was sent onto a live track, or that there was then over two hours before the race restarted, weren’t even the weirdest moments of the weekend.
That was just a warm up to the frankly weird end to the event.
After Charles Leclerc crossed the line in second, he was almost instantaneously (rightly) handed a five-second penalty that knocked him back to third. That pushed Verstappen closer to the title, but as it had been shorter wet race, only half points were to be awarded.
Or so we all thought. Until that is, the slightly helpless Jonny Herbert, doing the post-race interviews, obviously had something whispered in his ear to say things had changed. He informed Verstappen that he was, in fact, the champion, with no context. What followed included: Verstappen celebrating with his team, Verstappen stopping celebrating, Verstappen insisting in the post-race room that he wasn’t champion, Verstappen being told he was, and Verstappen being made to sit, alone, in a massive armchair in front of a giant screen showing himself.
7. 1960 Italian Grand Prix
We could have chosen any one of four different races at Monza for this one, but the 1960 Italian Grand Prix stands out on its own for the weirdness. Monza was redesigned in the early 1950s. The circuit we know today remained, but it’s internal high-speed oval was expanded, and the banking made larger – ready for some super-fast motorsport.
This track, which was combined with the road course for a super long 6.2-mile circuit, was the circuit used for the Italian Grands Prix in 1955 and 1956, after which it was abandoned in favour of the normal Monza layout.
But, four years later, Ferrari was having what could be described as a bad season. Its 246 Dino was now completely out of date, outpaced by the lighter rear-engined cars, and was heading for a completely winless season. Until that is, the organisers of Ferrari’s home race stepped in. What Ferrari lacked in competitiveness, it more than made up for in power and straight-line speed. So Monza elected to use the full circuit, including the power-mad banking.
As a result, the British teams all pulled out. BRM, Lotus and Cooper all stayed at home leaving Ferrari and Porsche to fight with a bunch of privately entered cars. The race itself was a procession. Phil Hill beat team-mate Richie Ginther by a couple of seconds and they lapped the entire field. The entire rest of the grid is made up of racing names which we bet you’ve never heard of.
6. 1959 US Grand Prix
The fact that one single Formula 1 race has ever been held at Sebring – then an even bigger airfield – isn’t why the 1959 United States Grand Prix was odd.
Controversy started before the race even began. Stirling Moss qualified on pole, with Jack Brabham second. But the shock appearance of Harry Schell in third raised eyebrows. His time of a 3:05.2 was a full six seconds faster than any of his other laps. Teams continued to argue right up until the start of the race, but the organisers kept Schell in position. Later it transpired that Schell had spotted a shortcut in the track, which cut out an entire six seconds of the circuit, hence his faster time.
The nature of Sebring, filled with proper bumps, means that any race on it is attritional. When the race finally began it was initially led by Moss, but his car gave up on lap five, by which point he was already the race’s third retirement.
Brabham took the lead in his Cooper, with team-mate Bruce McLaren behind. Their lead was so large that, at half way, with nine cars already out of the race (in a field of 19), Brabham could slow his pace, allow his team-mate to catch up, and nurse the two cars to the end.
Behind Maurice Trintignant began to catch in his Rob Walker-run Cooper and at the start of the last lap the gap was down to four seconds. Two corners from the finish Brabham’s Climax engine began to splutter and ran out of fuel. McLaren was surprised and slowed down too, only to see Brabham frantically waving him past.
McLaren got the hint, and just about managed to keep the flying Trintignant behind him as they crossed the line less than a second apart. Behind them Tony Brooks crossed the line third in his Ferrari.
Despite the issues, if Brabham finished fourth, he would be world champion. He was several laps ahead of those behind, but rules meant he had to cross the line under his own power to be classified. And so the crowd was treated to the sight of Brabham quite literally pushing his car round the rest of the lap and across the line to become F1 champion. Possibly the strangest way anyone has ever won the title.
5. 1998 British Grand Prix
Another wet race. Changeable conditions meant that when the race started cars began to spin off. We’d lost both Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert by lap 16 and David Coulthard followed them on lap 38.
But out front Mika Häkkinen was supreme. He pulled a monster 49 second advantage over Michael Schumacher by lap 44 when, abruptly, he joined the rest of the field in making for the scenery. The Finn, fortunately, rejoined, and had only lost 10 seconds, but as the rain began to get harder most of the field also elected for a 360 rotation, and the safety car came out. That eliminated Häkkinen’s lead, and shortly after it went in the McLaren driver removed it entirely by running wide and letting the German through.
So far, so just standard wet race. Until, that is, two laps from the finish, Schumacher was given a ten-second stop-go penalty, for overtaking Alex Wurz under the safety car. With just a few laps left to take this penalty, Ferrari left all watching utterly stunned by apparently ignoring it. Until, just as he was about to cross the line to win, Schumacher made for the pits.
The problem for all watching was that the finish line was before Ferrari’s pit garage, so he crossed the line to win without having served his penalty. Diplomatic chaos ensued. McLaren was incensed, issued appeals and arguments. Ferrari countered with legal loopholes over timing of the penalty, and, somehow, Schumacher kept the win.
4. 1964 Belgian Grand Prix
There are two instances in history when apparently no one wanted to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The 1964 Belgian Grand Prix took place at Spa, on the fearsome old circuit, and was led for much of it by Goodwood hero Dan Gurney.
Behind Gurney Graham Hill and Jim Clark had a race-long battle, until the pace caused Clark’s Lotus to overheat with five laps to go. The Scot came into the pits, had it topped up, and returned to the race, miles out of the way in fourth position.
Gurney led, but suddenly began to hit trouble too. He slowed enough that Hill overtook, pitting to ask for fuel, where his team told him he had enough and he toddled back into the race in third.
With less than two laps to go, Hill lead McLaren. Gurney’s pace saw him catch the latter quickly before... he did finally run out of fuel. McLaren had been caught partly due to problems of his own, which manifested into fuel pump issues. Having seen Gurney fall aside McLaren was attempting to nurse his car home in second when he spotted a stationary Graham Hill, whose car had also suffered fuel pump issues and was out.
So confusing was the situation that no one at the line could understand where the leaders were to win the race. They even allegedly flagged two random backmarkers thinking they were the leaders.
An even bigger surprise was incoming, as McLaren trundled around La Source, his engine having finally given up. He, quite literally, rolled toward the line, attempting to use the hill toward Eau Rouge to his advantage. Just as he was about to get there... Clark’s fixed car roared past to take the win. (He too ran out of fuel on a slowing down lap and had to catch a lift back)
3. 1994 Japanese Grand Prix
Wet races at Suzuka are nothing new. Organisers insist on continuing to hold the Japanese Grand Prix right at the tail end of Japan’s fearsome typhoon season, so races keep getting disrupted by heavy rain.
In 1994 it got so heavy that on lap 13 the race was red flagged, with cars littering the side of the track and a marshal having suffered a broken leg. The race was restarted when the rain eased and a final 37 laps were run.
Seems pretty standard right? Well, rather than just restarting the race with everyone in the positions they stopped in, the powers that be decided to run the race on an aggregate system. Meaning that times from part one would be added to the times from part two to work out the positions. That meant constant recalculations about who was where in the race as it went on. Michael Schumacher had “won” part one by 6.8 seconds, but in part two Damon Hill got a jump and proceeded to put in one of the finest performances of his career. Pulling 10.1 seconds clear of his German rival by the end of the race.
That meant that he had won by 3.3 seconds, but crossed the line 10.1 seconds clear. It’s fortunate that he did, as watching Hill win and then not win would have been very unsatisfying. For obvious reasons this was the final time they determined the results of an F1 race on aggregate.
2. 1982 Monaco Grand Prix
This one makes the list because, while winning a Formula 1 race is the pinnacle of many a driver’s career, nobody seemed to want this particular win on their resume either.
The 1982 Monaco Grand Prix was led by Rene Arnoux, Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Didier Pironi, (not quite) Andrea de Chesaris and (also not quite) Derek Daly. And the most extraordinary thing is that all but one of the five changes in lead came during the final two laps of the race.
Arnoux led from pole, before spinning out at the Swimming Pool on lap 15. Then Prost took over and, in his consummate style, led without peer until it began to rain and he binned his Renault coming out of the chicane. Patrese then lead for less than a lap before spinning at Loews and stalling his Brabham. Didier Pironi was the next to take to the head of the field, but his Ferrari’s battery had not been charged pre-race and his engine began to misfire, leaving him stranded in the tunnel on the 76th and final lap.
The oft-unfortunate Andrea de Cesaris was the next presumptive leader, but he failed to get to Pironi’s stricken car, as his own Alfa Romeo ran out of fuel. Derek Daly’s Williams was now at the head of the field but, having been significantly behind de Cesaris, his gearbox seized before he could even begin the final lap. At this point there were two cars on the final lap, but stationary and one stuck trying to make it onto that last tour.
James Hunt, in commentary, summed up the strangeness of the situation as he and Murray Walker waited at the line with the immortal line: "Well, we've got this ridiculous situation where we're all sitting by the start-finish line waiting for a winner to come past, and we don't seem to be getting one!"
Finally, a leader did cross the line... Patrese, who had managed to bump start his car from Loews and re-join the race. So disjointed was the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix that Pironi, de Cesaris and Daly were actually classified as finishing second, third and sixth. Only one driver actually crossed the line to complete lap 76.
1. 2005 United States Grand Prix
If the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix was weird for extremely exciting and fun reasons, the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis was the polar opposite. Very few cars crossed the finish line, but that was because very few cars crossed the start line.
After a series of incredibly complex legal wranglings that aren’t worth going into but were caused by an exploding Michelin tyre, every single car that was shod with the French tyres pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap. Leaving the utterly bonkers sight of six cars sat on the grid. The two Ferraris at the front, and the Minardis and Jordans right at the back.
Despite many expecting a solution to the issue (the Michelin runners were not entirely certain their tyres were safe), none appeared. And as the lights turned on the rest of the cars were packed away into their garages.
The following race was a procession for Ferrari, but did lead to the first, and only, F1 podium for future touring car star Tiago Monteiro. One he celebrated wildly, as the embarrassed Ferrari drivers slunk away, amid a torrent of boos and thrown items from the crowd that had started on pretty much lap one.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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