5 Times An F1 Polesitter Failed to Start a Race
The 2021 Monaco GP saw the polesitter fail to start the race, but how many other times has that happened?
The prestige that comes from scoring a pole position in Formula 1 is something that every racing driver dreams of achieving in their careers. But sometimes in rare cases, the excitement of a pole position is quickly turned to utter disappointment as the polesitter fails to start the race the next day. The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix saw an example of this rare instance but it got us asking the question of how many other times has this happened in the history of our sport? Today we're going to take a look at 5 instances in which a polesitter failed to start a race in Formula 1.
1975 Argentine Grand Prix - Jean-Pierre Jarier
The 1975 Argentine Grand Prix was the first round of the championship that year and was only three months after the 1974 season finale race at Watkins Glen. As the teams turned up to Buenos Aires, contractual drama was unfolding as Lotus' Ronnie Peterson had become discontent with the team and up until practice wasn't sure whether he would be driving for them or for Shadow. Luckily for Shadow driver Jean-Pierre Jarier, the exchange didn't go through and the Frenchman put his Shadow DN5 on pole thanks to the fastest ever lap around the circuit averaging a speed of 122MPH. The Saturday celebrations of a first pole position turned to Sunday commiserations however as during the morning warmup session, Jarier's Shadow machine glided to a halt at the end of the pit exit due to a new crown wheel and pinion that was fitted to the car and his race was over before it even started. Jarier's misfortune led to Emerson Fittipaldi taking the race victory with Argentina's own Carlos Reutemann completing the podium in third.
1982 German Grand Prix - Didier Pironi
The Hockenheimring in Germany has seen some notorious wet weather conditions for F1 drivers in its history. These wet conditions proved to be costly in many different ways for Ferrari's Didier Pironi. After setting the fastest time during Friday's qualifying hour, grey skies and rain engulfed the Hockenheimring on Saturday and it looked very unlikely that any driver would set a faster lap time. However, amongst the spray and poor visibility, it was Pironi who was brave enough to actually be improving on his Friday time. As he came down to the stadium section, the massive spray in front of him hid two cars that were travelling slowly. One was the Renault of Alain Prost and the other was Derek Daly who was actually about to overtake Prost on the right. Pironi, not realizing Prost was on the left side, smashed into the right rear of the Renault which sent him flying up into the air and crashing down hard. The accident severely injured Pironi's feet and legs and he never raced in Formula 1 again after this incident. Because Ferrari had never withdrawn the injured Pironi, he still got the pole position to his name but the grid slot for the race was left empty. At least Ferrari's spirits were lifted on the following day when Pironi's teammate Patrick Tembay took his first victory in Formula 1.
1996 French Grand Prix - Michael Schumacher
Even the greats suffer some awful luck from time to time and that's exactly what happened to Michael Schumacher at the 1996 French Grand Prix. 9 races into his Ferrari career, Schumacher took a narrow pole position over Williams' Damon Hill by six one hundredths of a second. Schumacher's slim hopes of challenging for the 1996 title literally blew up on the parade lap at Magny Cours as he suffered a major engine failure. Schumacher failed to start the race and left the door wide open for Williams. Damon Hill went on to win the French Grand Prix and eventually take his first and only F1 Driver's Championship later that year.
2005 United States Grand Prix - Jarno Trulli
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The '05 US Grand Prix is so infamous for its controversy that this statistic is often overlooked. In early 2005, Trulli's speed was on full display as we bagged a couple early podiums and his pace was confirmed when F1 arrived at Indianapolis. It was a special Saturday for the team as Trulli's lap of a 1:10.625 was good enough for Toyota's first ever pole position in Formula 1. However, Trulli's pole position is often forgotten because of the tyre drama that plagued the entire weekend and eventually led to only 6 cars actually starting the race. Because Toyota was using Michelin tyres and also because Jarno's teammate Ralf Schumacher had a massive tyre failure during practice, Trulli pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap thus solidifying the most infamous case of a driver failing to start a race after getting pole position.
2021 Monaco Grand Prix - Charles Leclerc
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Finally, we have the inspiration for this video and the most recent case of a driver failing to start after taking pole. After missing FP1 due to gearbox issues, Monaco's Charles Leclerc was absolutely on it during qualifying for this home race. Ferrari's lighting pace surprised everyone and they were serious contenders for pole at a circuit in which track position is everything. Leclerc's first Q3 run put him in provisional pole with a 1:10.346, almost two tenths up on Max Verstappen in P2. As the drivers went out for their final runs, it was all or nothing in the quest for F1's most important prestigious starting position. As the likes of Verstappen and Bottas were improving through Sector's 1 and 2, the dreaded red flags brought an end to any improvements as Leclerc's SF21 was crunched against the barriers in the swimming pool section. Leclerc was pleased with his efforts but ultimately worried about the condition of his car for race day. Sadly, his Monaco curse continued as on his laps to the grid, a driveshaft issue on the left rear of the car ended his Monaco Grand Prix weekend. It added to Leclerc's 0% finishing record at Monaco and also became another driver who failed to start a race after claiming pole position.