In honour of Nico Rosberg finally becoming a Grand Prix winner, the Badgerometer has dusted off the history books to look into other first-timers who took an age to get there!
“It is hard to express what I am feeling right now.”
If you’re only ever going to win one race it may as well be Monaco, right? That’s exactly what recently deposed Caterham racer Jarno Trulli did in 2004, the Italian scoring his first (and it would turn out only) race victory at the 119th attempt. Having taken his maiden pole in Saturday’s qualifying the Pescara-born racer duly went on to conquer the race, fending off another man absolutely desperate to score his first F1 win – BAR’s Jenson Button – in what was a faster car. Jenson harried the Renault through the latter stages but Trulli held on to win by a shade under half a second.
“The more I realise what has happened today, the happier I feel.”
The importance of a driver’s first win has never been more amply demonstrated than by Mika Hakkinen. Following his arrival at McLaren in 1993 Mika was always the nearly man, seemingly able to to get his car into race winning positions only to be robbed by cruel twists of fate. Yet when he finally got one in the bag the floodgates well and truly opened – the Finn going on to take the 1998 and 1999 Drivers’ Championships.
Mika’s first win came at Jerez in 1997. Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher were, at the time, contesting the World Championship and the pair came together on lap 48, with Schumacher retiring and Villeneuve only needing to finish to bag the title.
Unfortunately for the Canadian his Williams car was damaged and, with both McLarens chasing him down, things didn’t look good. Indeed, Hakkinen wasn’t exaclty having a ball – his team mate Couthard was ahead of him. However, thanks to some team orders, the Finn moved ahead and, with Villeneuve’s Williams ailing, he took the lead on the very last lap.
(The Finnish commentary makes that video.)
Allegations of collusion and race-fixing were thrown around for a few months afterwards, but Hakkinen had hit the big time. His sharp sense of humour was on show as he made his way to the top step – the Finn shined the “winner” plaque with his suit sleeve before taking his place on the podium.
“I want to thank Dietrich Mateschitz and everyone at Red Bull Racing for what they did for me over the winter, everyone in Australia who has supported me on the way through my career – and there are a few people that doubted me too, so hello to them as well.”
No-one in the history of Formula One has taken as long as Mark Webber to become a race-winner. The Aussie was contesting his 130th grand prix when he finally took the chequered flag first, a feat he achieved at the German Grand Prix of 2009 and has since repeated on six occasions.
Not that he’d ever really been in a position to win prior to that season. Impressive at Minardi and Jaguar, his move to Williams in 2005 was a disaster and he subsequently joined Red Bull – who were then midfield plodders at best – for the 2007 campaign.
But by ’09 it had all come good (in no small part due to the addition of Adrian Newey) and, when Sebastian Vettel took the team’s first win in that year’s Chinese GP, Webber had no excuses. Germany was no picnic though: he started from pole and had to overcome a drive-through penalty to take the win, which pretty much sums up Mark’s F1 career. You get the feeling that if he was docked 30 seconds at the start of every grand prix he’d probably win the lot. [ed. to be fair, I’ve never had that feeling]
“I had been told that when you are leading a race the last lap was the longest and it really felt like it.”
You don’t forget your first win, especially if you came through from the back of the field to take it. Rubens Barrichello had come close so many times for Jordan and Stewart, but once he was signed to partner Michael Schumacher at Ferrari many thought he would ease to his first win. Alas, it would take a chaotic race at the old Hockenheim for the Brazilian to break his duck.
Lining up a lowly 18th, Rubens cut his way through the field thanks to his alternate two-stop strategy. Then, a disgruntled Mercedes employee made his way onto the track in protest at losing his job, bringing the safety car out so he could be removed safely. The incident brought many drivers in to pit.
Rubens was now third but inherited the lead when the rain began to fall. Braving it on slicks while everyone else around him pitted for wets, his wet-weather prowess coupled with that gamble secured him a maiden victory.
The emotion was clear for all to see. It was the first Brazilian victory in Formula One since the passing of Ayrton Senna and the joy overcame Rubens on the podium with his national anthem playing.
“This is such an amazing moment for me and one that I have worked my whole motor racing career for.”
Only one driver has taken his maiden win with over 100 grands prix under his belt and gone on to win the world title:
Button’s maiden win seemed to be coming in 2004, his BAR-Honda proving the only car near the all-conquering Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello. However, though Button would take 10 podiums that year not one of them saw him climb the top step, and a troubled ’05 campaign was followed by what seemed an equally mediocre ’06.
That all changed in Hungary. After qualifying fourth Button lost 10 spots on the grid to an engine change, but a rain-hit race saw him to climb towards the front. When a loose wheel-nut threw leader Fernando Alonso into the scenery Jenson inherited the lead and duly went on to win for the first time at the 113th attempt.
It was a day of firsts as Pedro de la Rosa scored his maiden podium and Nick Heidfeld achieved the same for the BMW-Sauber squad. However, only Button would use the result as a springboard to world domination.