Unquestionably the biggest story in world sport right now is Leicester City’s championship victory in the English Premier League – a result that was almost unthinkable at the beginning of the season. It is being billed as the greatest David and Goliath story in the history of British football.
The new champions were given odds of 5,000-1 to win the title in August 2015, so we thought (with a little encouragement from a JA on F1 reader) we’d take a look back at the most unlikely Formula 1 race wins and championship victories from the history of the category to seek parallels.
So, in no particular order, here are six of F1’s best surprise stories:
Brawn GP’s 2009 triumphs
We start with the only one where a championship was won by a minnow.
The obvious caveat here is that Honda, which had owned the Brackley-based squad in 2008 before pulling out at the end of that year, had invested heavily in the development of this car, even sacrificed most of the 2007 season to produce what would become the BGP 001, but the Japanese manufacturer’s exit rocked F1 and the team was run on a shoestring with only two chassis built.
Ross Brawn himself travelled on Easyjet to European GPs (albeit with Speedy Boarding the only luxury).
Brawn had stepped into rescue the team at the final hour and despite only taking part in the final one of the pre-season tests, the team turned up in Australia and duly delivered a one-two win, with Jenson Button the victor over Rubens Barrichello.
Button won six from the first seven races and the British driver and his team survived a heavily funded Red Bull development fight back to win both world titles, despite Brawn being forced to cut back severely in headcount over the course of the season.
Renault may have rather unceremoniously dumped Pastor Maldonado out F1 at the start of this season (the irony of his many crashes is not lost on us here), but his win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix will live long in the memory.
Maldonado inherited pole position due to Lewis Hamilton’s disqualification from qualifying, but the Venezuelan was forced to chase Fernando Alonso hard as he lost out to the Ferrari driver off the line.
After passing Alonso at the second round of pitstops, Maldonado held on for a famous win and gave Williams it’s first win since the end of 2004.
Again, bear with us here as a driver who would finish second in the championship with arguably the quickest car of the year winning a race would not ordinarily be a fairy-tale story, but the sheer unlikeness of Kimi Raikkonen’s win at Suzuka means it merits its inclusion on this list.
Raikkonen, Alonso and Michael Schumacher were all forced to start towards the back of the grid because of rain in qualifying, but they came through the pack in probably the greatest demonstration of reverse grid races as we’re ever going to get – although this is not the time or place for that argument…
The 2007 world champion, then driving for McLaren, caught and passed Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap of the race to steal a sensational victory, which the former Renault driver will still be wondering how he lost.
James Hunt vs Niki Lauda 1976
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) May 2, 2016
The Rush movie has immortalised the James Hunt and Niki Lauda’s titanic tussle for the 1976 crown, which ended with the Briton’s first, and only F1 world title.
Hunt had sealed a move to McLaren after spending the early part of his career at Hesketh and won in his fourth race for the British team. But the stewards took away that victory, which came in Spain, as they deemed the McLaren to be too wide.
Lauda was clear at the top of the standings before a shocking crash in the German Grand Prix, which Hunt won, nearly killed him. The Austrian driver miraculously recovered and only missed two races before returning to action.
Hunt’s Spain win was reinstated and his wins in the Netherlands, Canada and the USA meant the championship went down to the wire in Fuji, a race that took place in atrocious weather. Lauda ultimately stopped his Ferrari due to the conditions and Hunt did just enough to seal the crown with third place.
Lauda would go on to win the 1984 title for McLaren and in doing so he claimed his third F1 championship and succeeded in a career comeback after he had briefly retired in 1980.
Jordan GP – Spa 1998
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 30, 2016
Was this the F1 race that had it all? The first lap featured a 13-car pile up and lengthy red flag, and then Mika Hakkinen was eliminated at the first corner of the restart.
His title rival Michael Schumacher raced through to the front and looked to be heading to a dominant win when he slammed into the back of Hakkinen’s McLaren teammate, David Coulthard.
As Schumacher sought retribution from the Scot in the pitlane, Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher were busy sealing a one-two win for Jordan – the team’s first ever race win.
Toro Rosso – Monza 2008
To date, Sebastian Vettel’s win in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix remains Toro Rosso’s only visit to the F1 podium.
The German driver, who had scored points on his debut for BMW-Sauber as a 19-year-old in 2007, seized pole and won in soaking conditions across the Monza weekend.
That season’s championship challengers’ were forced to race through from lowly grid spots but Vettel, by then 21, was peerless in taking the first F1 win of his own career and the first ever for the former Minardi team.
As there were plenty of splendid races and championships that didn’t make the cut, what do you think we have missed? Would you have picked any other F1 races for this list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.