Fernando Alonso’s last gasp, sticky-tyred bit of fastest lap glory-hunting at Monza – Honda’s first in nearly a quarter of a century – finally put Mclaren in the headlines for all the right reasons, but given Nico Hulkenburg did the same thing only this year in China, William Swerve thought he’d scour the F1 annals of history for some examples of drivers whose fastest time on the most important day of a Grand Prix weekend was just as eye-popping.
Satoru Nakajima – Australia, 1989
Two weeks after F1 reached maximum apoplexy after *that* Japanese Grand Prix featuring Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and the world’s opinion, the Australian weather did its best to dampen the melodrama with a tropical deluge for the season finale.
In a race he could finally, legitimately, have given the excuse his driving into the back of somebody was thanks to being blinded by spray, Knacker-San (as he wasn’t, but should have been called), somehow turned an event only marginally less dangerous and damp than if it had been held underwater without oxygen tanks into his finest hour; not only coming home a career best, Nelson Piquet-busting 4th place but setting fastest lap to boot – probably in wellingtons, if you’re wondering.
Teo Fabi – Italy, 1986
The fastest follicly-challenged driver in all of Italy added a preposterous fastest lap to his already bewildering Monza portfolio, having just taken his second pole position in a row that season.
Whatever hopes he might have had for the race, however, evaporated after a fluffed start sent him to the back of the grid; the sort of arrow of misfortune many drivers have historically used both to their advantage and disadvantage, and which, in Fabi’s case, was thoroughly mined for both, with the fastest tour occurring just before the Italian tried to better it, but instead he only found the biggest sand trap this side of the Gobi Desert, and permanently parked his Benetton in it.
Masahiro Hasemi/Jaques Laffite – Japan, 1976
The only fastest lap officially held by two people at once, or rather, one person if you’re the FIA, and a completely different one if your motorsport reference manual of choice is held by JAF (the Japanese Automobile Federation).
You might be forgiven for thinking Hasemi’s is the name proudly listed in the latter’s sporting almanac of ’76 but not so; their initial mistake was swiftly rectified with the Frenchman being given an honour the otherwise bullishly Gallic Federation Internationale de l’Automobile failed to correct.
Thus did Hasemi became F1’s Schroedinger’s Cat: a man both fastest and not fastest depending on which (reference) box you looked in.
Jonathan Palmer – Canada, 1989
Jolyon’s old man managed to set his only ever fastest lap just before the heavens opened and the spectators were left to contemplate the philosophical conundrum of where the St Lawrence Seaway stopped and the Circuit de Notre Dame started.
Back then, everyone was left to get on with it; “it” on this occasion largely consisting of skating off the track to pulverise the trackside advertising hoardings. Thankfully, neither drivers nor advertisers were hurt; the former from sheer luck, the latter because nothing was visible in the murk anyway, although Palmer Senior was spotted hopping out of what looked like the Graf Spee after the battle of River Plate, but was probably just his sodden Tyrrell after it hit the wall at Turn 12.
Nico Rosberg – Bahrain, 2006
10 years earlier, Jacques Villeneuve had set the fastest lap on his Williams debut, but he had a season at the top level in Indycar under his belt, not to mention that season’s dominant FW18 under his right foot.
Whatever Sir Frank had given young Nico the keys to in 2006, a championship winning car wasn’t one of them. As Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher locked horns at the front – in what would become the precursor to their season-long battle for the world title – the 20 year old quietly hurtled into the Formula 1 consciousness with a 7th place finish, following an opening lap accident that left him last, but more conspicuously the record (still) of being the youngest ever driver to set a fastest lap.
Bertrand Gachot/Roberto Moreno – Hungary/Belgium, 1991
Why these two together? Because they share the ignominious fate of directly, or indirectly, having their greatest F1 moment sullied by their immediate replacement by Michael Schumacher, and it happened in back to back races.
In the case of Gachot, if you thought Schuey’s electrifying Spa debut was the mark of how good the Jordan was, consider instead that the man he replaced set the fastest lap with it the race before in Hungary.
One conviction for assault later, however, and Bertrand’s Jordan career was finished just before his home event. Sadly for Moreno, this random bout of Belgian road rage also did for the Brazilian’s Benetton tenure despite this being his pinnacle performance; setting his only F1 fastest lap during a season’s equalling best 4th place finish at the venue Gachot’s misdemeanour had excluded himself from.
Roberto’s cosmic bad luck – or the temporary malignance Michael seemed to be emanating – was to be occupying what turned out to be Schumacher’s ultimate destination when the Italian team out-hustled the hustler’s hustler and whisked F1’s hottest property right from under Eddie Jordan’s nose; Moreno was on his bike – or Andrea Moda, technologically, it turned out, a remarkably similar mount.