Formula 1 is regarded as the pinnacle of not just open-wheel racing, but Motorsport in general. Since 1950, the sport has entertained billions worldwide, and continues to put on an amazing show to this very day. But like with every other sport, there are some rather bizarre facts about the pinnacle of motorsport. There are unusual rules in the rulebook, strange statistics in the sport's history. Ever thought drivers couldn't share cars? Well, actually...sorry, no spoilers in the introduction! There are even very bizarre ways in which a race has finished.
Some of these facts may not be totally bizarre, for example we have never seen a dog drive a Ferrari to victory at Monza, or Lewis Hamilton winning a race driving backwards. Nothing so crazy. But these are very interesting and curious little details about one the most popular sporting series in the world. And, judging by what has already happened in the sport's checkered history, many more unusual things will probably happen in the next several years as well.
As the saying goes, anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does! But enough of this introduction. You probably all want to find out what these facts are don't you? Well, you're in luck. Without further ado, here are 20 rather unusual facts about Formula 1, that you may not know about.
20 Hans Heyer illegally started an F1 Race
Despite being no slouch, Hans Heyer had a rather dismal foray into Formula 1. Driving for Germany's team ATS, he entered the 1977 Grand Prix at Hockenheim. But his speed was in touring cars, and wasn’t fully up to speed yet in open wheelers. So when qualifying was done, Heyer didn’t make the cut for the race. That didn’t stop him though. He decided to start the race anyway, retired after nine laps and was subsequently disqualified. He is the only man in F1 to hold a DNS, DNF and DSQ. Perhaps, a slightly unwanted achievement, but still noteworthy.
19 Expensive Diamonds were destroyed in an F1 accident
Yes, this really did happen. The 2004 Monaco Grand Prix saw the Jaguar Racing team partner up with the film Ocean’s 12, to promote the film at the race. The cars of Mark Webber and Christian Klien sported special liveries, but that’s not all they had.
The noses of the cars were each fitted with £150,000 diamonds.
Yes, that is a crazy idea and it does sound as ridiculous as it is. And it backfired big time. On lap one of the race, Klien was crashed out and yep, you guessed it, the Diamond was never seen again, clearly destroyed in the accident.
18 Three drivers "shared" the pole time in 1997
The final round of the 1997 season was held in Jerez, and the battle for the title came between Williams driver Jaques Villeneuve and Ferrari megastar Michael Schumacher. But what happened in qualifying was something else. During Saturday’s session, Villeneuve, Schumacher and Villeneuve's teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen all set exactly the same time in qualifying, a 1m21.072s. Damon Hill almost joined them, qualifying fourth just 0.058s behind the trio. As Villeneuve set the time first, he started on pole, alongside Schumacher with Frentzen in third. Such a scenario has not happened since, but it would still be incredibly exciting to see!
17 Only one driver has finished a race in 24th place
Despite several seasons seeing 24 cars on the grid, and at times more, only once has a driver actually finished in 24th place, making it the lowest finishing position of any driver in the sport. Narain Karthikeyan was driving for HRT in 2011, and that year saw 24 cars on the grid. In Valencia, all 24 starters managed to finish the race, with not one car retiring from the Grand Prix. This gave Karthikeyan the unwanted title of lowest ever finisher in a Grand Prix. With only 20 cars in F1 now, that record may stand for a while.
16 Michael Schumacher won a race in the pitlane
It sounds incredibly odd, but a race was won whilst the driver was in the pitlane! More often than not, the finish line in a Grand Prix is several meters back from the start line, and some teams pass that line to enter their pit box.
In the 1998 British Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher was given a stop/go penalty for passing another driver behind the safety car.
Because this penalty came just two laps from the end of the race, Ferrari served it at the end of the final lap. Schumacher passed the finish line before serving the penalty, so he remarkably kept the victory.
15 Rolling safety car restarts were almost abolished
As we all know, when a race is restarted following a safety/pace car period, the race resumes with a rolling restart as the safety car peels off into the pits. In 2014 however, a rule was passed that would see safety car restarts take place on the grid, with another standing start sequence. This angered fans hugely, the majority claiming it as a gimmick and teams wondered if, with Clutch’s wearing and tires also being in various states, if it was really a good idea. Thankfully, the idea was quietly and happily dropped. Rolling restarts now remain after a safety car period.
14 Only one team has a 100% strike rate
By a 100% strike rate, we mean this team has won every season they have competed in. Yes, scratch your heads, it’s an odd one. And this team only competed in one season.
That of course, was the Brawn GP team.
Born out of the ashes of the Honda project, former Ferrari genius Ross Brawn took over the team, renamed it after himself, and carried the team and Jenson Button to the 2009 world championships, the now iconic Brawn BGP-001 car becoming one of the sports most beloved machines. It was a real fairytale story, and without Brawn’s input, Button may never have won a world title.
13 McLaren used the spice girls to launch the 1997 F1 car
Maybe not unusual, just funny. In 1997, McLaren were looking to get back to winning ways having not won a race since 1993, and had partnered with Cigarette company West to produce a sleek, silver and black car for that year. When car launches used to be huge events, McLaren brought in the spice girls to give the launch some jazz and I guess sexiness? It was certainly different, but rather fun. Ironically, Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell is now Geri Horner, having since married Red Bull Formula 1 boss Christian Horner. Once you’re in F1, you seem to stay in F1. I think.
12 Every F1 driver with the Hill surname is an F1 champion
Quite a quirky one this. Three drivers have entered the sport with the Hill surname. American driver Phil Hill, and father and son duo Graham and Damon Hill. Phil Hill became world champion in 1961, whilst Graham Hill won the title twice in 1962 and 1968.
Funnily enough, those titles in 1961 and ’62 saw two consecutive Hill titles, just not from the same bloke.
Damon Hill of course won his title in 1996 to become the first world champion son of another world champion. It wouldn’t be until 2016 that we saw that again, with Nico Rosberg becoming champion just like father Keke in 1982.
11 Monaco has to weld down manhole covers before the race
Monaco is perhaps the most famous race on the calendar, and if you were to propose such a crazy idea to race there now it may not happen. With all the downforce these cars produce, Monaco has to take some crazy precautions.
Manhole covers are welded down because the downforce from the cars is enough that it can suck them out of the ground.
This was seen in 2016, when Nico Rosberg went over one at turn one, the cover punctured his left rear tire and as it flew out, it ended up in the front wing of Jenson Button’s car, shattering it into pieces.
10 Drivers used to share cars
F1 was very different in the 1950s. Safety for the cars and circuits didn’t really exist, The car’s had very little in the way of downforce, and incredibly, drivers could share cars. If the lead driver in a team retired, the team could call in the other guy, hand the car over to the lead man and off he went again. This bizarre practice saw the win shared three times, most notably between Sterling Moss and Tony Brooks at the British Grand Prix in Aintree in 1957, driving for Vanwall. With skewed results, this practice is now thankfully not allowed.
9 Only one team still exists from 1950
Formula 1’s inaugural season as a world championship was in 1950, with the sport of course being in a very different place back then. But of the teams that raced that year, ERA, Maserati and Talbot, only one exists today: Ferrari.
Not even Mercedes were on the grid in 1950. Ferrari is unquestionably the longest standing team in the sport's history.
Small wonder then that they get a huge bucket of money these days just for existing, even if F1 owners Liberty Media want to eradicate it. If F1 lost Ferrari, it would be like a human losing their heart
8 The Indy 500 used to be on the F1 calendar
The Indianapolis 500 is hailed as "the greatest spectacle in racing" and a part of the Motorsport triple crown that also includes the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Le Mans 24 Hours. But one fact that’s often forgotten is that the ‘500 used to be an F1 round. From 1950 to 1960, it featured on the F1 calendar. It was a bizarre site, especially with most drivers and teams being the regulars from IndyCar. It is no doubt for the best that this is no longer a problem. And it can still entice F1 drivers, ala Fernando Alonso in 2017.
7 F1 cars produce more G-Force than a space shuttle
F1 cars produce an insane amount of downforce, and the current spec of cars that we have now are the fastest we have ever seen. They can pull g-forces not too far off what airforce fighter pilots go through in combat.
To put that into perspective, the largest g-forces that are produced by a NASA space shuttle is around 3.5g. And in F1? Hamilton’s pole lap from 2017 peaked at over 6g!
And that was in 2017. The cars this year produce probably the same, if not slightly higher g-forces. And people say that these guys aren’t athletes eh?
6 The amount of air F1 cars take in
Formula 1 cars take in air. A lot of air. Through the side pods, the airbox at the top, and through the brake ducts. This is all in aid of cooling, allowing the cars to breathe and prevent them from overheating. This is even more crucial these days with the amount of energy recovery and hybrid systems the cars bolster. With the amount of air Formula 1 cars take in, they could inflate an awful lot of balloons. In fact, over 6,000 a minute could be inflated by a Formula 1 car. Now who else wants to see that attempted then?
5 One F1 car won a race with a giant fan
The Brabham BT46B was a variant of the BT46, the 1978 Brabham race car. The BT46B was only ever raced once. In the quest for an advantage over the rest of the field, Brabham produced a car with basically, a huge fan stuck to the back of the car. It produced masses of grip and downforce, sucking the thing to the ground. Niki Lauda raced it in that year's Swedish Grand Prix and, to the surprise of no one, won. Brabham though didn’t pursue the concept, even though the FIA said they could race it for the rest of the year.
4 Australia once held the last and first races of a season
Australia for some years hosted the season finale in Adelaide, a hugely popular event and track that produced many a great race, and still does for other series. The final time that happened was in 1995, before the Australian Grand Prix moved to Melbourne, where it still is today. But it switched from season closer to season opener.
So in 1995 and 1996, Australia hosted two consecutive Grands Prix. And guess what? The same guy won both of those races. Eventual 1996 champion Damon Hill won the final race in Adelaide, and the first one in Melbourne. Two facts for one there!
3 Only one Pole has ever taken the pole (and the win)
There has only been on Polish driver in F1. He was the only Pole to take pole position, and the only Pole to win a race. His name? Robert Kubica. Robert Kubica took his first pole position at Bahrain in 2008, and finished that race in third.
After qualifying second on the grid in Canada later that year, he won the race after Lewis Hamilton rammed Kimi Raikkonen in the pits under the safety car.
With his near life-ending rally accident in 2011, these remain Kubica’s best results to date in F1, but he is now back in F1 as Williams reserve driver.
2 The 1997 championship rivals never shared the podium
This is certainly strange. Michael Schumacher and Jaques Villeneuve were title rivals in 1997, as documented earlier. But oddly, neither man shared a podium together that year. It does seem very strange but, that’s what happened. The pair won 12 races between them, Schumacher five and Villeneuve. The pair went wheel to wheel too, but somehow never stood on a podium together. This isn’t exactly something that happens a lot, and perhaps not something you want to have happen. It’s great to see rivals go at it on track and then be on the podium after. Unless they hate each other maybe.
1 The Renault team has had three previous incarnations
Whilst it is not unusual for a team to go through several names, the current Renault team has been through a fair few identity changes. Commonly known as "The Enstone Team" due to their base in Oxfordshire England, the team started out as Toleman, and introduced a certain Ayrton Senna to the F1 world.
They then became Benneton, before Renault took over in 2002, then becoming Lotus-Renault in 2011, Lotus F1 from 2012 – 2015 before being bought again by Renault for 2016.
It can get quite confusing, especially as the original Colin Chapman Lotus team vanished in the 1990’s whilst Enstone was Benneton!
Sources: Formula1.com, carthrottle.com