When it came to mesmerising opposition defences, few players can match Pele’s magnificent legacy.
But the Brazilian’s impact during his short Formula One career was less impressive – although, in many ways, equally memorable.
When Pele was asked to wave the chequered flag at the climax of the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix it seemed a perfect PR opportunity; the country’s, if not the world’s, greatest footballer at one of its biggest sporting events.
But, it seemed the organisers appeared to fail to explain the intricacies of Formula One to the great man, so when Michael Schumacher crossed the line to take the victory, followed home by brother Ralf, Pele was busy chatting with officials and forgot to show them the flag.
One man not laughing at the time was the victorious Schumacher, who confessed: “I was going like this (punching the air with his fist) and then, I thought, where’s the chequered flag?”
Alerted to his mistake, he enthusiastically waved the flag at the next driver past, which happened to be Takuma Sato who was some two laps behind the winner, meaning technically he had won the race.
“I so much wanted to wave the flag for a Brazilian driver. Shame it was not to be this time,” Pele told Universal Online. The real shame was that all the Brazilian drivers in that race – Felipe Massa, Enrique Benoldi and Rubens Barrichello – had all retired by lap 41, so Pele could have snuck out early.