Watch The Chaotic Start Of The 1979 US GP West At Long Beach

Confusion reigned as the pole-sitter forgot to stop at the end of the formation lap

Every now and then we see drivers get confused and stop in the wrong grid slot at the start of a race. Giancarlo Fisichella was especially good at doing this at Sepang.

Usually it’s no big deal, as the field simply does another warm-up lap and the driver that messes up gets a penalty. But what happens when the guy on pole position misses his grid slot?

That’s exactly what happened at Long Beach in 1979, when Gilles Villeneuve - yes, the Gilles Villeneuve - not only missed his slot, he just plain forgot to stop. To make matters worse, many of the drivers behind him didn’t stop either, and carried on going as well!

Not knowing what was going on or what to do, before long the whole field was back in the pits, with James Hunt being particularly vocal about wanting Ferrari to get a penalty for messing up the race start.

After a short delay, the race finally got underway - properly, this time. Despite triggering the bizarre incident however, Gilles wasn’t given a penalty. Instead, he went on to completely dominate the race, leading every lap from pole and setting fastest lap to give him both the lead in the championship and the only grand slam of his career.