F1: Ten Race Wins lost through Mechanical Failures

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Damon Hill is applauded by the Arrows team for his second place finish in the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix, after coming agonisingly close to a famous underdog victory. Image sourced from pinterest.com

Mechanical issues have been and always will be a big part in the history of Motorsport and Formula 1.

Following Charles Leclerc’s devastating heartbreak in the recent  Bahrain Grand Prix, we look into ten other times drivers lost a win through mechanical failure.

10: Mika Hakkinen – 2001 Spanish Grand Prix

After a poor start to the 2001 season, McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen headed to the Spanish Grand Prix knowing he needed a win to kick start his title challenge.

Having won at the Circuit de Catalunya the previous three season, the Flying Finn took the lead and was in dominant form and held a commanding lead over his rival, Michael Schumacher, who was cruising around the track in a wounded Ferrari.

But as Hakkinen started the final lap of the race, his car suddenly slowed as a hydraulics failure occurred unexpectedly, before the McLaren conked out at Turn 7.

This gifted an unlikely victory to Schumacher, who conceded on the team radio after the race that he’d been ‘bloody lucky’ to win the race.

9: Rubens Barrichello – 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix

(Source: projetomotor.com/br)
A dejected Rubens Barrichello leaves his Ferrari retiring from the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. Image sourced from projetmotor.com/br

Rubens Barrichello never had any luck at his home race at Interlagos in Sao Paulo, Brazil; 2003 was no different.

After securing pole position, a slow start to the race saw the home favourite drop down the order.

However, as the race wore on, several drivers fell victim to the river that built up at Turn 3 and crashed out, whilst the track conditions changed in favour of the Bridgestone runners.

This helped Barrichello resurgence up the field and set consecutive fastest lap before re-passing McLaren’s David Coulthard for the lead into Turn 1, which resulted in euphoric cheers from his compatriots in the grandstands.

However, just a lap after taking control of the race, his Ferrari ground to a halt on Lap 47 with a fuel system fault and ‘Rubinho’ was out.

It was the eighth race in a row the Brazilian had retired from his home Grand Prix and pretty much summed up his home race luck.

8: Felipe Massa – 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix

Disconsolate Massa walks away from his Ferrari (Source: autoblog.com)
Felipe Massa walks back to the Ferrari garage after losing a well earned race win in the latter stages of the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix. Image sourced from autoblog.com

The 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix consisted of a duel battle between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

Hamilton had taken pole but was beaten to turn 1 by Massa around the outside.

The two battle on, before Hamilton suffered a puncture midway through the race, giving Massa a 20 second lead.

But three laps from the chequered flag, his Ferrari engine failed on the pit straight and was later discovered to be a connecting rod failure caused by impurity in the component material.

The failure passed to race lead onto Hamilton’s team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen, who went on to record his only Grand Prix win.

7: Sebastian Vettel – 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

The 2010 season opener saw the Formula 1 circus to travel to Bahrain.

The race was run for the first, and to date, only time, on the Endurance layout of the circuit.

In an ironic twist, it was the lack of endurance from the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel that cost him victory.

Vettel had started from pole position and was leading the race.

Then, on Lap 33 an issue with a spark plug caused a loss of engine power and would see the German dropped to fourth place.

As a result, Fernando Alonso inherited the win on his Ferrari debut, with team-mate Felipe Massa taking second for a memorable 1-2 finish.

6: Sebastian Vettel – 2010 Korean Grand Prix

(Source: racefans.net)
Sebastian Vettel extinguishes the flames from his Red Bull after it caught fire in the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. Image sourced from racefans.net

Later that same year, Formula 1 made its inaugural trip to the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam, for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel started from pole position and led early on after a 45 minute delay due to standing water on track, which saw his team-mate and title rival Mark Webber crashed out after a collision with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.

Vettel maintained the lead after two safety car periods, only for smoke to pour from the engine of his Red Bull on Lap 46.

Once again, Fernando Alonso benefited from Vettel’s reliability woes and claimed a famous win to take the lead of the Drivers’ Championship with rounds remaining.

However, it was Vettel who would have the last laugh, as he went on to win the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi respectively and overturned a 25 point deficit to win his first of four consecutive Drivers’ titles with Red Bull Racing.

5: Lewis Hamilton – 2012 Singapore Grand Prix

Going into the race in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton was second in the Drivers’ Championship, 37 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, having won two of the last three races.

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton put his McLaren on pole and went on to lead the early stages of the race.

But on Lap 23, his Mercedes engine gave up the ghost and his car slowed down on the exit of Turn 3 with a gearbox failure.

After stepping out of his car to retire from the race, Hamilton famously walked back to the pit lane with his hands behind his back in what would prove to be a significant moment in his career.

Hamilton would eventually fall out of championship contention and opted for a new challenge to Mercedes for 2013.

4: Sebastian Vettel – 2013 British Grand Prix

(Source: formulapassion.it)
Sebastian Vettel leaves his Red Bull after a gearbox failure cost him the race win during the 2013 British Grand Prix. Image sourced from formulapassion.it

The 2013 British Grand Prix was a race surrounded by controversy through multiple punctures suffered during the race and led to questions about the suitability of the tyres provided by Pirelli.

However, it was not a puncture that ended Sebastian Vettel’s race.

Vettel had inherited the lead after pole sitter Lewis Hamilton who, on Lap 7, was the first of many drivers to suffered a tyre failure.

The German would comfortably lead the race until Lap 42, when he suffered a gearbox failure and stopped his Red Bull near the start-finish line.

This allowed Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to take control over the race and pick up the win.

3: Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – 2014 Canadian Grand Prix

The 2014 Canadian Grand Prix seemed to be another routine 1-2 finish for Mercedes 1-2, as the Silver Arrows’ of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battled for victory.

Rosberg started from pole and led the race early on, but was jumped by Hamilton during the first pit stop phase, only for the German to retake the lead on Lap 19.

However, on Lap 35, both cars suffered MGU-K failures, which caused a loss of electrical deployment down the straights and consequently slowed them down.

Hamilton was then forced to retire on Lap 47 after his rear brakes overheated.

Rosberg continued on, with Mercedes’ 100% under threat, as being chased by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, Force India’s Sergio Perez and the Williams of Felipe Massa.

With just over two laps left, Rosberg finally surrendered the lead to Ricciardo who would go on to secure a famous first win.

2: Lewis Hamilton – 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix

The 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix became a significant turning point in the title fight between the Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton started on pole, with Rosberg alongside him on the front row.

At the start, Hamilton got a good get away whilst Rosberg dropped to the back of the field after he was spun around by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The race progress and Rosberg managed to fight his way back into the top ten, as Hamilton comfortably led the Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen by over 20 seconds.

But on the beginning of Lap 40, Hamilton’s engine failed with flames pouring out of the Mercedes as it came to a halt at Turn 1 and forced the Brit into retire.

This subsequently caused some great racing between Ricciardo and Verstappen for the victory, with the Aussie coming out on top.

This left Hamilton 23 points behind Rosberg in the championship, who eventually finished the race third place. Rosberg would then go onto win the title in the season finale at Abu Dhabi by just five points, showcasing the impact of Hamilton’s retirement in Malaysia.

1: Damon Hill – 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix

Arguably the most (in)famous entry on the list, the ending to the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix left Formula 1 fans around the world inconsolable after defending champion Damon Hill was robbed of a famous win for Arrows.

Over the weekend, the heat on the Hungaroring’s track surface caused the Goodyear tyres to blister severely, whilst Bridgestone were able run longer stints.

After qualifying third in his Arrows, Hill made a good start and passed former Williams team-mate Jacques Villeneuve for second.

Shortly after, Hill got passed the Ferrari of his arch rival, Michael Schumacher and started to pull away.

At this stage of the season, Hill had only scored one point after experiences an array of reliability issues with his Arrows, but despite this, he’d built up a lead of over 30 seconds.

But the happiness was not to last, as with just three to go, a broken washer had caused a failure in the throttle linkage, which caused hesitations in acceleration and lost the Brit valuable time.

Hill’s comfortable lead had suddenly evaporated as he started the final lap, with Villeneuve was bearing down on him.

At Turn 4, Villeneuve squeezed his way past for the lead and snatch the win from Hill’s fingertips.

Hill managed to hold on and finish second, ahead of Sauber’s Johnny Herbert.

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