Entering the Formula 1 record books sounds like a dream come true. After all, winning a place alongside Michael Schumacher (most titles, most races wins) and Sebastian Vettel (youngest world champion, youngest race winner) can only mean a driver has risen above the competition to earn a place among the sport’s greats.
Because these are a few F1 records that can only be earned through bad luck, missed opportunities, and sometimes a total lack of talent behind the wheel. While not all are the mark of failure, they do suggest that something was missing. They are the Dubious F1 Records.
Most Races Without A Win: Andrea de Cesaris (208 starts, 1 pole, 5 podiums, 0 wins)
Known to some as Andrea de ‘Crasheris’ for his seemingly insatiable appetite for shunts, the Italian wracked up a monster 208 starts (from 214 attempts) without ever winning a race. In a career that spanned 14 years and took in spells at Alfa Romeo, McLaren, Jordan and Tyrrell, De Cesaris developed a reputation as a somewhat erratic journeyman who kept popping up in F1 seats, despite his sometimes-wayward driving.
However he came close to winning on a few occasions: at Monaco ’82, he led the notorious race in which several potential victors broke down on the final lap; at Spa a year later he led again before an engine failure put paid to his chances; and he ran second at the Belgian circuit in 1991, only for his Jordan’s Ford engine to expire. Ultimately he would end his career in 1994, driving for Sauber, having accrued five podium finishes but not a single win.
Most Poles Without A Win: Chris Amon (96 starts, 5 poles, 11 podiums, 0 wins)
With pole position won the rest of the job does itself, right? Just keep it pointing the right way at the start and control the pace on your way to victory.
Not so for Chris Amon, who holds the record for most pole positions without a race win. The Kiwi’s first pole came at the 1968 Spanish Grand Prix where a fuel pump problem ended his day early; he was P1 again two races later at Spa only for a radiator to sideline his Ferrari, then again at the very next event at Zandvoort where he’d finish five laps down in heavy rain.
His next wouldn’t come until 1971 when he took pole at Monza, only to end the day sixth – half a minute behind the closest finish in F1 history. Amon’s fifth and final pole position came at Clermont-Ferrand a year later when he gave French squad Matra a home qualifying to remember. He would go on to finish third, the only time he’d convert pole into a podium. Indeed, Amon would never win a Formula 1 race, often through bad luck, and is to this day regarded as one of the most talented drivers not to climb the top step.
Most Podiums Without A Win: Nick Heidfeld (183 starts, 1 pole, 13 podiums, 0 wins)
When Nick Heidfeld claimed third spot at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix he became the sole proprietor of a dubious F1 record: Most Podiums Without A Win. It was his 13th in the sport, eclipsing Stefan Johansson, who racked up 12 without ever making the top step.
In Heidfeld’s defence, he drove a number of good cars but never a pure-bred race winner. Perhaps the only exception was the 2008 BMW in which Robert Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix, though even that was somewhat fortuitous.
This record encapsulates Quick Nick’s F1 persona: very fast, ultra reliable, but not quite of star quality. That said, less talented drivers have stood on the top step than Heidfeld.
Most Races Without A Podium: Pierluigi Martini (119 starts, 0 poles, 0 podiums, 0 wins)
Though his record of 119 starts without a podium looks set to fall to Adrian Sutil this year*, Pierluigi Martini will forever be remembered as the little Minardi team’s longest-serving driver. The Italian made 103 grand prix starts for the Faenza squad, scoring their first F1 point in the 1988 Detroit Grand Prix and their only front-row start at the 1990 US Grand Prix.
He also recorded their best result in the sport, finishing fourth at Imola in 1991 (a record later equalled by Christian Fittipaldi) and remains indelibly linked with the outfit. Neither Martini nor Minardi ever reached the podium in F1, but if they were ever to do so it could only have been as a team.
Most Wins Without A Title: Stirling Moss (66 starts, 16 poles, 24 podiums, 16 wins – but no world title)
Certainly the most honourable of these records is Stirling Moss’ total of 16 race wins without a world championship. The Briton did come close on a number of occasions: he was four times a runner-up, and missed out on the 1958 title by a single point to countryman Mike Hawthorn.
However Moss would spend a sizeable chunk of his career supporting team-mate Juan-Manuel Fangio, and was forced to quit racing at just 32 after a massive accident at Goodwood left him in a coma. Were it not for that Moss may have gone on to finally claim the title, but his total of 16 wins from just 66 starts remains hugely impressive, even if it does earn his an unwanted record.
Most Entries Without A Start: Claudio Langes (14 DNPQs)
Perhaps the most unwanted of dubious F1 honours, ‘Most Entries Without A Start’ could also be titled ‘Most Failures To Qualify’ – but that would be excessively cruel.
The record is held by Italian Claudio Langes, who tried and failed to make the grid 14 times during the 1990 season. Driving an ill-handling and under-funded Judd-powered EuroBrun, it’s fair to say that the odds were stacked against the Brescia-born pilot. However, given that team-mate Roberto Moreno was routinely several seconds faster in the sister car**, you must lay much of the blame for this record at Langes’ door.
The team withdrew from F1 with two races to spare. Had they not his record would almost certainly have been extended to 16 DNPQs but, perhaps mercifully, Langes’ F1 career was over.
* Sutil begins the 2014 season with 109 starts to his name. As such, should he fail to score a podium up to and including the German Grand Prix he equal Martini’s record, before overhauling it a week later in Hungary.
** Moreno was 5.107s faster than Langes at the season-opening US Grand Prix, though the Brazilian still failed to qualify. Even by the end of the campaign, Moreno was still up to two seconds faster than the hapless Italian.