Predictability in sports is never a good thing.
Well, unless it’s working in favour of whoever you support that is. But for the rest of us neutrals, no-one wants to see a contest trudge on towards an expected conclusion. And one of the biggest criticisms of F1 is that it can be all too predictable sometimes.
People cite that races in F1 can be boring, especially in recent years when Mercedes has been so dominant. A pole-position and an early lead for a car that’s seconds ahead of the rest of the pack, can result in nothing more than a processional race.
A joy for the manufacturers, drivers and race-planners of the winning team; they would’ve meticulously calculated a race victory to the nth degree. But for us fans, we want the incalculable and we crave the unexpected. Be careful what you wish for though, as sometimes F1 does deliver on this front, and not always in a good way.
At last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, it all appeared to be business as usual. The fairly entertaining race played out with a victory for birthday boy Max Verstappen. But it was after the race when things got really weird.
Championship contender Sebastian Vettel was weaving around the track to pick up some rubber for added weight. The only problem was, the Williams of Lance Stroll was doing the same. And Stroll wanted Vettel’s rubber…
— Front Foot F1 (@FrontFootF1) October 1, 2017
— M. (@Mbx_1) October 1, 2017
No-one saw this one coming, least of all Vettel. To happen after a race has finished is nothing short of extraordinary, but this isn’t the first time something has surprised everyone in F1.
There have been some bizarre moments in the past which continue to bemuse everyone in the sport to this day.
Mansell Retires In Canada On The Last Lap
For 99% of the Canadian Grand Prix in 1991, everything was going to plan for Nigel Mansell and his Williams car. He had stolen first place from pole-position sitter (and Williams teammate) Riccardo Patrese, and Mansell would lead for every lap after until the very last one. Because then, as he was strolling to victory, his race unexpectedly went out the window at the final hurdle.
Few could have imagined such an unfortunate, and dramatic, end to the race. This was supposed to be the easy part; the relaxing parade lap after a long exhausting slog. But for Mansell it was a crushing and disappointing failure, as he had to sit on the side of the track whilst Nelson Piquet stole the champagne from under his moustache.
Initially, it appeared that his car had run out of fuel. But this was proved not the case, as the official line from Williams was that the car had suffered an electrical failure.
Some though suggested the issue could’ve been caused by Mansell missing a gear when taking a hairpin turn – possibly distracted whilst he prematurely celebrated his win by waving to the crowd – causing him to stall the car. Either way, he waved goodbye to the race. And these cost points meant he would also wave goodbye to the 1991 championship at the end of the season.
Crashgate at Renault
17 years after the Canadian Grand Prix, Nelson Piquet Jr. would join his father in playing a part in an unexpected F1 incident. Only in his case, he foresaw what had appeared to be unforeseeable.
During the Singapore Grand Prix of 2008, Piquet Jr. would crash out on lap 14. As a direct consequence of this incident his Renault teammate, Fernando Alonso, would go on to take the lead and eventually win the race. Fairly surprising, yes. But nothing that we haven’t seen before in F1.
Except it later transpired that this was something we hadn’t seen in F1 before, because Renault had created the crash themselves. Controversial team principal Flavio Briatore, and director of engineering Pat Symonds, had asked Piquet Jr. to take one for the team to help Alonso win the race.
Team orders are nothing new in F1 and are fairly standard practice in the sport. But to engineer a crash, putting drivers, fans, and marshals at potential risk, was a shocking revelation. All three men would leave the sport following punishments handed down by the FIA, although Symonds would return years after. F1 and its fans though, have never forgotten the “crashgate” saga.
Incredibly, one year later, Piquet’s replacement Romain Grosjean would (genuinely) crash his Renault car at exactly the same corner. You couldn’t make it up… well, you could’ve if you were Renault the first time round.
The American Six
The United States Grand Prix of 2005 was going to be just like any other Grand Prix. 20 cars had qualified for the race, and all were expected by fans at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway track to line-up as per usual on raceday. But behind the scenes, there were problems. Wheely big problems.
Unrest had been growing in the paddock. This followed a serious incident at a banked turn in a practice session, when the Michelin tyres on Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota had failed causing him to crash.
Michelin and F1 chiefs could not reach a compromise to ensure that the teams using Michelin tyres, would be able to guarantee the safety of their drivers in the race. And so, under team orders, 14 drivers pulled off the track before the race had even started.
The resulting start was met by an understandable chorus of boos from angry fans at the circuit. Beer cans were thrown on to the track in protest, as everyone was treated to the dullest, yet most inexplicable, F1 race in the history of the sport.
Medic for Taka Inoue
This isn’t funny. You shouldn’t laugh at this whatsoever. Even when you learn that hapless Taka Inoue wasn’t seriously injured in this bizarre incident, you still shouldn’t be chuckling to yourself.
No sir, because the absurdity of him getting run over by a medical car, after racing in one of the most dangerous sports in the world, isn’t the slightest bit amusing. Nope. Not at all.