Five biggest controversies in Formula 1 history
Formula 1 is no stranger to controversy. Ranging from team orders, to last race crashes, and off-track incidents, let us take a look back at five of the major storylines.
5. Spy-Gate (2007)
‘Spy-gate’ was a case involving both the Ferrari and McLaren teams during the 2007 season. The case saw Nigel Stepney, Ferrari’s Head of Team Performance Development, dismissed, after an internal investigation by the Italian team. On the same day as they dismissed Stepney, Ferrari also took action against Mike Coughlan, an engineer from McLaren. 780 pages of Ferrari documents were found in Coughlan’s home, and he was dismissed by the McLaren team soon after. McLaren launched their own internal investigation, but found that no other employees knew about the documents until the case had become public knowledge. The FIA found the team guilty of the allegations, and disqualified McLaren from the 2007 Constructors’ Championship, and a record fine of $100million.
4. Renault’s Crashgate (Singapore 2008)
The two-time World Champion, Fernando Alonso had not won a race on his return to Renault, until the first ever Formula 1 night race, held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. Alonso qualified badly, and started 15th on the grid. Just three laps later, teammate Nelson Piquet crashed at Turn 17, which led to a Safety Car, as there was no crane nearby to get the car off the track quickly. With the new regulations closing the pit lane until the Safety Car had picked up the leading drivers, Alonso was able to close up to the pack, and take the lead of the race after the leaders had all pitted for fuel and tyres. When Nelson Piquet left Renault halfway through the 2009 season, he alleged that the team had asked him to deliberately crash to give Alonso the advantage. Renault accepted the charges, which saw Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds suspended, and both left the team.
3. Lie-Gate (Australia 2009)
Lewis Hamilton came to Australia as the newly-crowned World Champion, but the victory would go to the brand new Brawn team, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello finishing 1-2 and Button going on to win the World Championship in 2009. With Jarno Trulli running off the track behind the SC, which saw Lewis Hamilton overtake him for 3rd spot, Hamilton let Trulli back through, but it was after the race when everything changed. Trulli was given a time penalty for illegally passing another car under the Safety Car, moving Hamilton up onto the podium. Hamilton had told the stewards that he did not receive any instruction to let the Italian back past him, but he did so anyway. However, the stewards were able to find audio messages from the team which told him to let Trulli back in front. Hamilton was then disqualified from the race for misleading officials, and Trulli was reinstated into third place.
2. Michelin Issues (2003/2005)
In 2005, the United States Grand Prix saw only six cars eventually taking to the grid for the race on Sunday. This was because the teams running Michelin tyres had been told that if they were to go full throttle round the high-speed Turn 13 at Indianapolis, the tyres would only last 10 laps. Come the Sunday morning, and with Michelin having informed the teams that they could not race safely, the team principals got together with Max Mosley from the FIA. Ideas including adding a chicane to Turn 13, or it even becoming a non-Championship race were thrown out, as not all parties would agree. So when the formation lap was coming to its end, the Michelin runners, all 14 of them, pulled off into the pit lane, leaving just six cars out on the grid. After the race, Michelin, and the seven Michelin-shod teams were charged with violating several parts of the International Sporting Code.
1. Senna/Prost (1989/1990)
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost had one of the biggest rivalries ever to be seen on track. Coming into the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, Senna knew he had to win both in Japan, and Australia in the final race, to win the World Drivers’ Championship. The pair qualified on the front row for the race and went off into the distance due to their significantly superior McLarens. Prost had a comfortable lead going into the final stint of the race, but Senna started to catch the Frenchman, as he looked to claim his second title in a row. The incident occurred at the final chicane, as the Brazilian driver tried to pass Prost down the inside. However, Prost turned in early, causing a collision between the two McLaren cars. The Frenchman proceeded to get out of his car (both had ground to a halt and stalled), while Senna remained seated, asking for marshals to give his car a push. Senna was able to restart his car, and took the chequered flag, but was immediately disqualified for missing the chicane on Lap 46. He believed it was because the President of FISA, Jean-Marie Balestre, was French, and wanted his compatriot to lift the title.