Not including the nine Americans who won the Indy 500 when it counted towards the World Championship, 23 drivers have won just a single Grand Prix. These are some of the most memorable.
Watkins Glen — 3 Oct. 1971
Surely there was never a more handsome GP driver than Francois Cevert? The tall Frenchman joined the Tyrrell March team in 1970 but with a driver of Jackie Stewart’s remarkable brilliance as his teammate, Cevert could never hope be anything other than a number two. Yet he knew that one day his time would come and Jackie was there to guide him through his apprenticeship. Francois proved to be a very good pupil. Already, in his first full season as a GP driver, he had followed Jackie across the line to score Tyrrell 1-2s in both the French and German GPs. By the time the F1 circus arrived at Watkins Glen for the finale to the ’71 season, Stewart had wrapped up his second World Championship title. As the race settled down, the Tyrrell cars held their customary positions in front, only Denny Hulme’s McLaren seeming able to mount a challenge. But then both Stewart and Hulme encountered handling problems and Jackie waved Francois through into the lead. At first it looked like a walk in the park for the young pupil to score his first victory, but soon he came under pressure from a hard charging Jacky Ickx in the Ferrari. Cevert held onto the lead while Ickx’s car broke under the strain and crossed the line 40s ahead of Jo Siffert’s BRM at the checkered flag. A mere two years later at the same venue, Francois was tragically killed when his car smashed into a barrier. The Tyrrell team withdrew from the race, Stewart ended his career with 99 GP starts and a broken heart and the world lost not only a future champion, but the best looking young man who ever sat in a Formula One racing car. Classifications.
Alesi Wins For Ferrari
Montréal — 11 June 1995
The 1995 Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was remarkable in several respects. The winner, Jean Alesi, had waited more than five seasons for a victory and was driving the red number 27 Ferrari, as famously piloted by Canadian legend Villeneuve himself. Adding to the altogether satisfying outcome was the fact that the race occurred on Alesi’s 31st birthday and marked the last time that a Grand Prix was won by a car with a full-throated, V12 engine. Alesi had burst onto the Formula One scene at the opening 1990 U.S. Grand Prix, battling wheel-to-wheel with Ayrton Senna on the streets of Phoenix. Second place in the Monaco Grand Prix followed the second place gained in Phoenix, and by mid-season, top teams were clamouring for Alesi’s services in 1991. Alesi’s choice of Ferrari over Williams seemed the most logical at the time, but turned out to be very unfortunate. Having a dismal ’91 season, Alesi’s teammate Alain Prost was sacked after he publicly described the car as a “truck” and thence took a year-long “sabbatical” from racing.
In five years at the Italian marque, Alesi gained little except the passionate devotion of the Tifosi, who loved his aggressive style. Alesi and Gerhard Berger won only one race each during that bleak interlude for the Scuderia. But Alesi’s moment would come in 1995. In Canada, Michael Schumacher led most the GP until an electrical problem with his Benetton-Renault forced him into the pits and allowed Alesi, second at the time, to take the lead. After Alesi took the checkered flag, race fans broke through the fences and charged the pit area. Race officials put out the black flag, effectively requiring all drivers to immediately stop on the track. However, Alesi was now entering the hairpin at the far end of the circuit on his victory lap. Running out of fuel, he removed his steering wheel, stood on top of the car and “surfed” it to a stop. Schumacher, approaching from behind, stopped and famously gave Alesi a lift back to the pits on top of his car. By 2001, Alesi had became only the fifth driver to start 200 Grand Prix races, and he achieved 32 podiums, yet it is fair to say that Alesi’s potential remained largely unfulfilled – spending his peak years during the uncompetitive period at Ferrari – retiring while in the lead or in 2nd place in no less than nine races. Following his single victory, Alesi’s Ferrari seat was unceremoniously taken over by Schumacher himself, with the Frenchman’s remaining F1 seasons contested for a series of backmarkers — Renault, Sauber, Prost and Jordan. Still, the memories of Alesi’s emotional podium appearance on the top of the rostrum that spring Sunday in Montréal are the stuff of which F1 is made. Classifications.
Kubica Takes Canada
Montréal — 8 June 2008
The first Polish driver to compete in Formula One, Robert Kubica may have been snake-bit by the racing gods. His devastating 2007 crash at the Canadian Grand Prix is already legendary, as unfortunately is his subsequent 2011 rally accident that left the driver with an almost-severed arm from which he sadly may never recover. But in 2008, driving for BWM Sauber, Kubica achieved the F1 ultimate. He started second on the grid and passed race leader Lewis Hamilton in the first round of pitstops after the Sauber pit crew completed a faster stop. On leaving the pits, Kubica and Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari halted at the pit lane exit, waiting for the red exit light to change. Hamilton, running immediately behind them, missed the light and just slammed into the back of Räikkönen’s Ferrari, eliminating both cars from the race. Kubica rejoined the race well-positioned and captured the moment, driving in superb fashion as the deteriorating track surface claimed a string of drivers. He passed teammate Heidfeld’s Sauber, running one refuelling stop to Kubica’s two-stop strategy, and with a brilliant in-lap gained the necessary 24 seconds over Heidfeld to ensure that he maintained the lead after his second stop 22 laps later. The Saubers remained first and second to the end of the race. Every new win in F1 is popular, but this was a big one for it was not just Robert but BMW Sauber’s first as well. Kubica made history with a magnificent and only slightly fortuitous win at a circuit where he’d suffered a horrific crash only 12 months previously. Robert later joked that he should thank Hamilton for electing to shunt into Räikkönen instead of him. The win gave Kubica the lead in the drivers’ championship, but it was not to last, as Sauber faded in the second half of the season, a year in which Hamilton secured his first — and as yet only — World Championship. Classifications.
Montjuïc Park — 27 April 1975
Participating in 114 Grands Prix over nine seasons for teams the likes of Surtees, McLaren, ATS, Arrows and March, Jochen Mass scored eight podiums and a total of 71 World Championship points. While finishing an impressive 7th in his 1973 Formula One debut at the Nurbürgring, the German is ironically perhaps best known for his blameless part in the death of Gilles Villeneuve in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, where Villeneuve collided with Mass while attempting to overtake him and was flung from his car, landing heavily among the catch fencing at the opposite side of the track. Characteristic of the dangers inherent in F1 racing, Mass captured his solitary GP win in 1975 in a controversial and tragedy-filled race at Spain’s Montjuïc Park circuit — boycotted by the members of the Grand Prix Drivers Association and defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi due to safety concerns with improperly installed Armco barriers — after race-leader Rolf Stommelen’s Lola lost a rear wing and catapulted into the crowd, killing four spectators and injuring 12 more. The race continued for four laps, during which Mass passed Jacky Ickx for the lead. On lap 29, the race was called, with Mass declared the winner in his McLaren-Ford (receiving half points for the shortened contest). Retiring from F1 after the 1982 season, Mass continued in sports car racing, in 1989 winning the most prestigious endurance race of all, the 24 hours of Le Mans, with a Sauber-entered Mercedes-Benz. That Mass’ only Grand Prix win came in a race most drivers would rather forget seems appropriate for an F1 career that never quite achieved its promise. Classifications.
Monaco — 14 May 1972
In the late 1960s former motorcycle racer Jean Pierre Beltoise was seen as the next great hope of French motorsport. With Matra winning titles due to its links with Ken Tyrrell’s F1 team, there was a huge push to give France it’s first world champion driver. But by 1972 JPB’s star had started to fade. The only thing that seemed different when the F1 series descended upon Monte Carlo for the 1972 Monaco GP was the circuit layout. For this year only (as the Station Hairpin was abandoned during construction of the Loews Hotel), the pits were sited by the side of the harbor just after the chicane, with a new chicane installed further down the road before Tabac — a new section of track would appear the following year to incorporate the Piscine complex and La Rascasse. Now driving a barely competitive BRM, Beltoise made an incredible start in incessant rain to take the lead from 4th on the grid. As the only driver with a clear view, JPB started to pull away, but wait, who was behind him? Only the rain master himself, Jacky Ickx. Surely it was only a matter of time before the Ferrari overtook the BRM. But Beltoise held the lead for every single one of the race’s 80 laps. This was Jean Pierre’s day of days, the day he was firmly in the zone, the day that his BRM engine (less stressed by the wet race pace) didn’t blow up, the day that his injured arm (withered from a 1971 crash at the Buenos Aires 1000km) didn’t have to fight against the heavy steering as the front tires skimmed over the puddles, the day that Beltoise made everyone behind him (Ickx, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart) look decidedly average. On that Sunday in May, Jean Pierre Beltoise was easily the best driver in the world. It would never happen again. Beltoise continued with BRM for two more seasons through to almost the bitter end for that once-great team, but neither would capture another GP win. Classifications.
Bandini’s Eerie Laurels
Zeltweg — 23 Aug. 1964
Italian Lorenzo Bandini is best known in Formula One history for his unbelievably gruesome and widely televised death in a fuel-fired crash at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix. But Bandini was a racer, and a good one at that. He achieved eight podium finishes in just 42 races, most for Ferrari. In the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg, an airfield circuit — driving as number two to John Surtees for the season — Bandini won by 6.18s from Richie Ginther after qualifying 7th on the grid. At the flag Lorenzo was forced (unsuccessfully) to fight off Jim Clark as he tried to make up from a bad start, but he was still in 3rd position when Big John’s Ferrari’s rear suspension collapsed. Bandini was a patient man, however, and his patience would soon be rewarded. First a driveshaft in Clark’s Lotus cried enough and then Dan Gurney was forced to pit to have the front of his car checked after it began feeling odd. Gurney would only complete one more lap before the front suspension totally fell to bits. Now Lorenzo found himself in the lead of the GP from Ginther’s BRM, but there was still half of the race left to run. Despite mechanical carnage and yet another hay-bale shunt fire, Lorenzo came home in P1. Yet never again would the Zeltweg aerodrome be used for a World Championship GP. With the coming of Jochen Rindt (he made his GP debut at the ’64 race), the Austrians soon began work on a purpose-built circuit in the surrounding hills. The Osterriechring became one of the world’s premiere GP tracks and witnessed both Rindt and Niki Lauda become Austrian World Champions. During the making of the movie Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer, Bandini would presciently recommended a location at the harbor chicane for a crash scene filmed at the Monte Carlo circuit. According to actress Eva Marie Saint in “The Making of Grand Prix,” this location was ironically the site of his own demise in the race one year later. Classifications.