1982 San Marino Grand Prix
The ongoing war between FISA, the governing body and manufacturers, and Bernie Ecclestone’s FOCA, an alliance of the smaller independent teams, led to many of the FOCA teams boycotting the race, leaving the race with a measly 14-car grid. Despite the reduced field, it was actually quite an entertaining race between René Arnoux and the two Ferraris. Once Arnoux’s Renault broke down, the race turned into a duel between Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve.
With a one-two looking almost certain, Ferrari gave the order to slow down. Villeneuve, who at the time of the order was leading, believed this also meant to hold station, while Pironi believed it meant they could continue racing, just at a slower pace. They continued battling – which Villeneuve said he thought was just his teammate putting on a show for the crowd – but when Pironi snatched the lead on the final lap and claimed the win, it became clear that he’d really been racing. A furious Villeneuve felt betrayed and vowed never to speak to Pironi again. It’s likely his anger contributed to the accident in qualifying for the Belgian GP which killed him two weeks later.
1993 San Marino Grand Prix
Despite dropping to third at the start, Alain Prost won at a canter after making a lovely double pass on Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill shortly after the first round of pit stops. Senna and Hill later retired, promoting Michael Schumacher to second and Martin Brundle’s Ligier to third, a lap behind. To give you an idea of how spread out the racing could be in that era, JJ Lehto’s engine failed in the closing stages but was still classified fourth because the fifth and sixth-placed drivers of Philippe Alliot and Fabrizio Barbazza (both scoring the last points of their career) were two laps down on the lead, with Luca Badoer in seventh (his career-best result) yet another lap behind.
2004 San Marino Grand Prix
Jenson Button led away from his first career pole as Juan Pablo Montoya found himself involved in opening lap incidents with both Schumacher brothers. First, he tried to go around the outside of Michael at the Tosa hairpin, only to be shoved onto the grass, and then on the run up the hill he aggressively chopped Ralf, putting his teammate off the track. Schumacher grabbed the lead from Button at the first round of stops and went on to win with the Brit second and Montoya third.
Jean Lucas (born 1917) was the manager of the Gordini team in the 1950s and when regular driver Robert Manzon was unable to take part in the 1955 Italian GP, Lucas thought ‘you know what, I’ll have a go’. He qualified a distant last and retired early on with engine failure.
Felipe Massa (born 1981) was fast but ragged in his debut season with Sauber in 2002, so ended up without a seat the following year and spent his time testing with Ferrari. When he returned in 2004 he’d lost none of his speed but was much calmer, leading to his promotion to Ferrari in 2006. Podiums and wins soon followed and by 2008 he was consistently faster than teammate Kimi Raikkonen and found himself battling for the championship with Lewis Hamilton. But for a mixture of driving errors and some very ill-timed bad reliability he would have been champion – or indeed, if the season-ending Brazilian GP had been one lap shorter.
In 2009 he was seriously injured when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn hit his visor at high-speed in qualifying for the Hungarian GP, causing him to miss the second half of the season. When he returned to Ferrari the following year he had a new challenge in Fernando Alonso and found himself relegated to a number two driver, leading to four underwhelming seasons with the Scuderia. In 2014 he joined Williams and enjoyed regular visits to the podium and even a pole position at the Red Bull Ring. He also got to retire from the sport twice – once in 2016, and again in 2017 having been coaxed back to replace Valtteri Bottas, who’d gone to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s retirement. A well-liked member of the paddock, he’s since gone on to head-up the FIA’s karting commission as well as racing in Formula E.
Giedo van der Garde (born 1985) had been on the fringes of F1 for years when he finally got his chance with Caterham in 2013. In 2014 he was signed as Sauber’s reserve driver with a view to making the step up to a race seat for 2015, only to be famously left out in a driver dispute where it turned out the team had signed four drivers for its two race seats. After going to the courts, van der Garde reached a settlement with the team but never raced in F1 again.
Jean-Eric Vergne (born 1990) joined Toro Rosso in 2012 along with Daniel Ricciardo. Though he had some strong results he lost out on a Red Bull seat to Ricciardo in 2014, and then again to Daniil Kvyat for 2015, at which point he was out of an F1 drive. Two years as a Ferrari sim driver didn’t lead back to an F1 seat, but he’s since forged a successful career in sportscars and Formula E.