Top Ten: Backmarker moments – WTF1

Top Ten: Backmarker moments

This latest Top Ten is a guest post as part of the Viva F1 Summer Swap Shop, a chance for bloggers to share ideas and write for a site other than their own. This time it was Ryan who drew wtf1 out the hat*.

We all love a great underdog moment and he’s look back at when the sport’s tail-enders shocked the F1 world. Take it away, Ryan…

*hat may not really exist

When I’m not screaming at the television over the fact that Sauber have decided to leave the wrong set of tyres on the car for too long, I look closely at the three teams at the back of the grid. I’m one of a few who care for them, watch them, and don’t laugh at them when they are painfully slow, make unrealistic promises and use the totally wrong technique to design their cars.

But so far they’ve failed to threaten the teams in the midfield, there has been occasions where they’ve beaten some of the cars, but this is usually down to penalties that the midfield teams can get. An example of this can be found at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix, where Heikki Kovalainen finished ahead of Vitaly Petrov, who suffered two mid-race penalties.

But I’m rambling on at the moment. In the end all this got me thinking, in what occasions have the backmarkers come up against all the odds, got themselves in the spotlight for once race only, before disappearing back into obscurity. And most importantly, could I get a top ten out of it?

Turns out I could.

10. Markus Winkelhock – 2007 German Grand Prix

Skip to 3:12 to see Winkelhock take the lead from Raikkonen

Although Winkelhock didn’t finish, he created one of the most memorable moments of the 2007 German Grand Prix at a very wet Nurburgring. Brought in to replace the hapless Christijan Albers, he had qualified 22nd and last, a full second behind his team mate Adrian Sutil.

On race day though the conditions were overcast, enough for the German to pull into the pitlane at the end of the formation lap and put on wet tyres. Half a lap into the race the rain was coming down, and cars began spinning all over the place. The infamous turn 1 swimming pool claimed those who were on the wrong tyres, including Winkelhock’s team mate Sutil.

The chaos with the rain and all the pitstops meant that Winkelhock, from starting in the pits, was leading, and well ahead of the chasing pack. Unfortunately it wouldn’t last, after a Safety Car and red flag period, he was mobbed by the chasing pack after six laps in the lead.

In the end, Winkelhock would retire on lap 13 with hydraulics problems. The German would be somewhat of a one-race wonder, with Sakon Yamamoto coming in for the rest of the season. Spyker would score points, coming in the worse rain that Fuji had to offer.

9. Mark Webber – 2002 Australian Grand Prix

The 2002 season opener was nothing short of chaotic. Cars were spinning, crashing and retiring all over the place, most notably Ralf Schumacher flying over the top of Rubens Barrichello.

Among the survivors was the debutant racing at his home race, Mark Webber and the new team with the big budget, Mika Salo in the Toyota. Driving hard, without top gear and a quicker Toyota behind him, Webber hung on in a stylish fashion.

When Salo spun on the final lap he could enjoy the rest of the race, coming home in 5th, the only points Minardi would score that season. He capped it off sharing the podium with team boss Paul Stoddart after the race, to the delight of the home fans.

8. Luca Badoer/Marc Gene – 1999 European Grand Prix

Luca Badoer will no doubt be forever remembered for his two races at Ferrari, where he languished slowly at the back of the grid, drove too fast in the pits and became the laughing stock of Formula 1. Generally, he wasn’t much better in his first few stints at the weaker teams, but in the 1999 European Grand Prix, cruel luck denied him of a fantastic result.

Starting 19th, he had made his way up to 4th, all of this in a Minardi, he was nearing the end of the race when the car pulled up to a stop with gearbox issues. Badoer left the car in tears, although it promoted his team mate Marc Gene up into 6th, allowing him to score some points.

Badoer though, failed to ever repeat this performance before signing up as a Ferrari test driver in 2000.

7. Takuma Sato – 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

Skip to 1:32 for the pass including Japanese commentary

Everyone’s favourite backmarkers Super Aguri were having a decent 2007 season. Points in Spain as well as some surprising performances in qualifying. But what happened in Canada no one could expect.

After chaos (sense a trend here?) including the awful crash to Robert Kubica, Takuma Sato was suddenly on the back of Ralf Schumacher, coming down the back straight, he overtook the German going into the final chicane.

It wasn’t too long after that he found himself behind the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, the reigning two time World Champion, then promptly had the cheek of overtaking him as well. From seemingly nothing, Super Aguri had overtaken the best car on the grid and finishing sixth, Super Aguri’s best ever result.

6. Elio de Angelis – 1979 US East Grand Prix

The first season for Elio de Angelis would be at the struggling Shadow team. Although in previous years they had been able to gain respectable results, including one win, they were quickly on the decline. But the teams final moment in the sun would come at the final race of the 1979 season.

De Angelis would have a h3 drive, finishing 4th. It would however be a crossroads for both de Angelis and Shadow. Shadow only lasted half way into the 1980 season before folding, whereas the Brazilian went on to win two races at other teams, before his untimely death in 1986.

5. Carlos Pace – 1973 Austrian Grand Prix

Team Surtees, ran by the former World Champion John Surtees, had very much mixed results. In 1973 they were mainly negative, but following an impressive 4th at the proper Nurburgring, Carlos Pace went to the Österreichring in some form, and converted it into another impressive performance, this time going one better than before and coming in 3rd. The two results combined would be the only time the team scored points all season.

4. Giancarlo Fisichella – 2009 Belgian Grand Prix

I remember qualifying very well and I didn’t even see it. I was on holiday in Cyprus at the time and having come into the hotel room, I was shocked when turning on BBC News to discover that Giancarlo Fisichella was on pole for the Belgian race (and even more so that Heidfeld was 3rd and Kubica 5th).

The race itself was even more of a surprise, any belief it was a one lap pace was thrown in the shredder when Fisichella flew away perfectly from the start. Sadly any hope of victory was ruined after the Safety Car period, when Kimi Raikkonen pressed KERS and easily took the lead off him.

The Italian always stayed close, and eventually finishing less than a second behind the leader, taking a stunning second. In one weekend, Force India had managed to get their first pole position, points and podium, all in one go.

3. Stefan Johansson – 1989 Portugese Grand Prix

Johansson takes the podium place at 5:25

Onyx only lasted one and a half seasons in Formula 1, the first half of their first season saw the team struggle to deal with pre-qualifying, and when the negotiated that, failing to reach the 107% mark.

But they had someone with a little bit of talent, Swede Stefan Johansson, who managed to drag the car kicking and screaming into the top 10 whenever he managed to finish, which was only three times. One of these was towards the end of the season at Estoril, and considering a Minardi led the race at one point, sums up the conditions. Johansson somehow put the Onyx car into third, in what was his final visit to the podium.

2. Rubens Barrichello – 1997 Monaco Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart had just started his team up in 1997 and the first four races had been difficult, seven retirements out of a possible eight, and the other time Jan Magnussen had parked up within the 90% required to be classified.

Then came the Monaco Grand Prix, and inevitable rain. While Michael Schumacher stormed away at the front, Rubens Barrichello took full advantage of the conditions and the tyres, overtaking cars normally faster than his, as well as keeping hold of second place. It would be where he finished after the two hours were up, resulting in the only points Stewart would score all season.

1. Giancarlo Fisichella – 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix

Jordan out of nowhere were very quick from 1998 to 2000. Those three years saw pole positions, lots of points and even three race victories. But by 2003 everyone thought those days had long gone, no more chances of winning, just trying to stay in line with the rest of the backmarkers.

But the rain in Interlagos in 2003 made anyone a potential winner, whoever stayed on the track would go on to win. And that is what happened, while the likes of Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya aquaplaned off at turn three, while his team mate Ralph Firman suffered suspension damage and while everyone was struggling to deal with the weather, Giancarlo Fisichella rose through all of it, overtaking the leader Kimi Raikkonen on the 53rd lap.

His car finished ablaze after the chequered flag had dropped, and it went worse as Raikkonen was deemed the winner. But days later the rightful winner was called, allowing one last victory to be added to Jordan’s tally.

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