More than perhaps any other racing series in the world, Formula 1 captures the attention of its fans like no other. Throughout its sixty-year plus history, it has gripped us with some incredible moments every year, both on and off the track.
On the track, of course, you have amazing battles, clashes and drama like no other. Moreover, the controversy that the sport can provide is unrivaled. Where else would you get an entire race being fixed by one of the world’s top car manufacturers?
Off-track, the politics are something on their own. Did you know that there was very nearly a breakaway just ten years ago? Well, there was!
This list contains twenty incredible moments from the history of the sport that sent fans reeling, for good and bad reasons alike. Proof that Formula 1 can captivate its fans like nothing else on this planet. It isn’t called Formula 1 for anything!
20 Ferrari shock the world - Malaysia 2015
Mercedes started 2015 as the form team, but it only took until race two for an upset to be caused. After a difficult 2014 for the team and new driver Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari took a shock win with a car that was kinder on its tires, and a driver who was back on form. It sent the F1 world into raptures.
19 Mercedes drivers crash dramatically - Spain 2016
2016 was the last year that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went head-to-head together, and Spain saw the biggest flashpoint between the pair. Rosberg got ahead at the start, defended aggressively into turn four and the pair collided, ending both their races. It took them both out and opened the door for Max Verstappen to take his first win.
18 Schumacher takes out Hill! - Adelaide 1994
The 1994 season came down to Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher in Adelaide. The pair jumped pole-sitter Nigel Mansell at the start, and Hill hounded Schumacher. The German went off and hit the wall, Hill lunged down his inside at the next corner, but Schumacher turned in. Both were out, and Schumacher took his first world title.
17 Lauda’s horrifying accident - 1976
The 1976 German Grand Prix saw the crash that would change Niki Lauda’s life. After a pit stop, his car skidded off the road at the infamous Nurburgring and burst into flames. The ensuing fire-scarred Niki for life. But he returned just a few races later and added two more world titles to his first from 1975. A superhuman, if such beings exist.
16 Team split threat controversy - 2009
2009 saw teams embroiled in a war over the future of the sport and against the Formula One Teams Association. It all came to a head around the summer. The majority of the teams looked set to form a breakaway series, and potentially leave F1 with just a couple of teams. Thankfully, this didn’t happen, and the sport carried on.
15 Ferrari’s Singapore smash - Singapore 2017
Singapore 2017 saw Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes effectively end in a start line pile up. On a wet track. Vettel bogged down and Verstappen and Raikkonen pulled closer. Vettel moved across, and Raikkonen and Verstappen touched. Raikkonen clipped Vettel, the former two hit Alonso and Vettel then spun on his own oil. All four were out. Barely one corner into the race.
14 Hamilton slows the field - Abu Dhabi 2016
Lewis Hamilton needed a miracle to beat Nico Rosberg to the 2016 title. So he slowed the pace near races end, putting Rosberg under unbelievable pressure from Max Verstappen, and then a charging Vettel. He held his own though and finished second to record his first title. Just a few days later, he announced his retirement from F1.
13 Chaos in the rain - Brazil 2003
Brazil 2003 saw chaos in the rain, with leaders such as Rubens Barrichello suffering all sorts of issues. Multiple drivers crashed, and in the end, it was the unfancied Jordan of Giancarlo Fisichella that took that team's last victory and his first. After a post-race protest which saw the win incorrectly handed to Kimi Raikkonen after a red flag.
12 Goodbye, V8’s, hello hybrids
2013 saw the venerable V8 engine bow out of F1, and in its place came the V6 turbo hybrids that power F1 to this day. Quieter yes, but marvels of technology and with a sound totally unique to themselves. They are now pushing 1000 bhp, something that is incredible from a relatively small power unit.
11 Jordan shines amid the chaos - France 1999
France 1999 was a chaotic race, that saw Mika Hakkinen spin, David Coulthard retire and Jackie Stewarts, Stewart team take pole. In the end, Jordan’s Heinz-Harold Frentzen took a remarkable win, with Hakkinen storming back to second and Barichello taking a magical third place. If you can find a place to watch this race, do it. I can’t do it justice.
10 Senna vs Prost
Senna and Prost is perhaps the sport's most famous rivalry. It heated up from 1988 – 1993, with the pair teammates at McLaren for the first two years. There were many flashpoints, including Suzuka in 1989 and 1990, but the pair had reconciled considerably come Prost’s retirement in 1993. Senna’s untimely death cut short the beginnings of a friendship between the two legends.
9 Vettel penalty angers the world - Canada 2019
Sebastian Vettel went off the track at this year's Canadian Grand Prix and re-joined just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The pair had been dueling all race, and the stewards decided a five-second time penalty was fair for Vettel who they felt ‘re-joined the track in an unsafe manner’. 99% of the F1 world disagreed, and Vettel lost his win.
8 Hockenheim becomes an ice rink - Germany 2019
This year’s German Grand Prix was in wet conditions, and it saw the tracks drag strip turn into an ice rink. It claimed Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenburg, and caught out Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz. The race was ultimately won by Max Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel finished second from last, and Daniil Kvyat took a remarkable podium for Toro Rosso.
7 McLaren ‘Spygate’ scandal – 2007
One of McLaren’s employees it turned out had been in possession of documents from Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney, and secrets had been passed between the two teams. It was an embarrassment to McLaren and Stepney, and the former was excluded from that year's constructors championship. It cost them perhaps their first team's title since 1998.
6 Renault ‘Crashgate’ scandal – 2008
After an issue in qualifying for Fernando Alonso, Renault hatched a plan that would see teammate Nelson Piquet Jr crash on purpose and cause a safety car. This happened just after Alonso made a pitstop, and this resulted in Alonso winning the race. It came out in 2009, with Alonso exonerated but the team embarrassed. Renault pulled out of the team in 2010 but returned in 2016.
5 New and Faster cars, but less overtaking? - 2017
New rules for 2017 saw the fastest cars the sport had seen take center stage. But the added aero and downforce meant that the cars would struggle to follow each other, and perhaps reduce the amount of overtakes. In the end, that did happen, but we were treated to an incredible title battle between Hamilton and Vettel. Even if it did end a bit early.
4 Raikkonen’s last lap stunner - Japan 2005
Japan 2005 must be Kimi Raikkonen’s best ever race. Qualifying took place a day later due to storm, and the big teams got it wrong. But form the back of the grid, Raikkonen charged to the front and passed long-time leader Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap of the race in a daring move at turn one.
3 Verstappen shoves Ocon…literally!
2018 saw Verstappen leading the Brazilian Grand Prix, but as Esteban Ocon tried to un-lap him at turn one, the pair collided in a controversial and dramatic incident. Verstappen finished second but had lost a sure-fire win, and he was furious. He sought out Ocon after the race and shoved the Frenchman around. Not something you usually see in F1!
2 Alonso skips Monaco for Indy – 2017
Alonso was frustrated at how uncompetitive McLaren was in 2017 thanks to their Honda engines. So to keep him happy, they entered the Indy 500 with Andretti, and he skipped the Monaco Grand Prix. Alonso impressed massively, leading the race and looking like a contender for victory before an ironic Honda engine failure ended his race early. But, he had made his mark.
1 Mercedes suffer a disaster - Hungary 2015
After locking out the front row, Mercedes suffered a nightmare in Hungary. They bogged down at the start and both Ferrari’s launched past them, with Hamilton making his own mistake and dropping down the order. Later, he made contact with Daniel Ricciardo and took a drive-through penalty. Rosberg suffered a puncture after contact, again with Ricciardo, and Vettel took an amazing victory.
Sources: Formula 1, Motor Authority, The Judge 13, YouTube, Motorsport Notes, Red Bull