After Jenson Button’s last ditch pass on Sebastian Vettel in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix we were inspired to take a look at some other final lap lead changes from F1’s days gone by. Here are five of the best.
Schumacher passes Hakkinen, Spain 2001
This writer has a clear memory of Spain 2001. I had been racing myself that day, and watched it on tape (there was no Sky+ in those days, younger readers: VHS).
Before the start my dear old mum – who’d already seen the race – reminded me of an old adage: to finish first, first you must finish. Wise words, but they essentially ruined the grand prix, as I now knew something was going to happen at the very end to change the result.
And it did, with Mika Hakkinen losing his substantial race-long lead to Michael Schumacher on the final lap, the hydraulics on his McLaren failing him under three miles from the flag. On future occasions I refused to speak to my mum before watching a taped race, but I am pleased to report that ten years on I’ve almost over this incident. Almost.
Fernando Alonso passes Kimi Raikkonen, Europe 2005
After five years of Michael Schumacher dominance the 2005 world championship was a breath of fresh air, with young chargers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen doing battle for the title. Their season can be summed up pretty well by the European Grand Prix, held at the Nurbugring, where the Finn was the faster of the pair but Fernando’s ability to get to the chequered flag made him the overall winner.
On this occasion Kimi’s tyre exploded as he headed to turn 1 for the final time, handing victory to a very grateful Alonso. A number of similar moments – albeit a tad less dramatic – would help the Spaniard take his maiden world championship crown.
Jacques Villeneuve passes Damon Hill, Hungary 1997
Damon Hill drove many a fine grand prix, but it could be argued that his best was one which he did not win. We speak of course of Hungary 1997, when Damon dragged the largely hopeless Arrows-Yamaha in to the lead of the race only to surrender the victory on the 77th and final lap when hydraulic problems kicked in.
The man to benefit was former team-mate and 1996 title rival Jacques Villeneuve, who made heavy work of passing Damon by diving on to the grass on the run up the hill. This one isn’t remembered too fondly by Damon or his fans, but it was nothing if not memorable.
John Surtees & Jack Brabham pass Jim Clark, Italy 1967
From one great drive that so nearly ended in victory for a Brit to another. At the Italian Grand Prix of 1967 poleman Jim Clark lost the lead to Jack Brabham at the start, but by lap three the Scot was back at the head of the field. Jim was then forced in to the pits with a flat tyre, dropping him a whole lap behind the leaders. Game over, surely?
For most maybe, but this was Jim Clark, and the fact that he destroyed the gap to the leaders should come as little surprise. He eventually re-passed Brabham and began the final lap where he belonged: P1.
But Clark’s heard work was to be in vain, as a fuel pump failure on the fragile Lotus 49 allowed John Surtees – who has passed Brabham shortly after Clark – to steam in to the lead. Brabham also got past, though Jim was able to salvage something by taking the final podium spot. From first to a lap down back to first and then relegated to third on the final tour. It was one of Clark’s standout drives, despite the fact he didn’t win it, and unquestionably one of the finest by a British driver.
Chaos on the Cote d’Azur, 1982
The closing laps of the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix were the stuff of madness. After Alain Prost had crashed out of the lead and in to the armco on lap 74 and Riccardo Patrese spun off at Loews next time around Ferrari’s Didier Pironi was the man at the head of the field as the final tour began. The Frenchman made it all the way to the tunnel before spluttering out of fuel, handing Andrea de Cesaris the chance to assume lead. The Italian had never tasted grand prix victory, and indeed he never would, as he too ran out of fuel before he’d even passed Pironi, and surrendered his shot at the win. Derek Daly would have led next, but he hadn’t even started the final lap when his gearbox failed.
And so it was Patrese, who managed to get his car going again as he rolled down the hill, who finally came round to score the win following a ridiculous final lap at Monaco. The podium was completed by Pironi and de Cesaris, neither of whom even made it to the flag. Compared with this the final lap of Sunday’s grand prix was positively dull.