Top ten… One-hit wonders

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Two drivers on the grid today have just a single win to their names – Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button.

That puts them among the 29 drivers to have only ever won one race.

Here are ten of the best.

Olivier Panis
1996 Monaco Grand Prix

A fine (if somewhat fortunate) win at a damp Monte-Carlo in 1996 was Panis’s only triumph, and the last for the Ligier team.

He broke his legs in an accident at Montreal the following year, and after his return never looked like winning again as he switched from Prost to BAR and finally Toyota.

Lorenzo Bandini
1964 Austrian Grand Prix

Pressure was heaped on Bandini to became the first Italian to win the championship in a Ferrari since Alberto Ascari.

He won the Austrian Grand Prix in 1964, the year team mate John Surtees became champion. But three years later no further wins had come his way. He died in a terrible fire after crashing in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Peter Gethin
1971 Italian Grand Prix

Gethin won one of the closest Grands Prix of all time – at Monza in 1971, with four cars within 0.61s of his BRM.

He stayed with BRM for 1972 but it was an unsuccessful year, and he soon drifted back into F5000 and Can-Am racing.

Jean-Pierre Beltoise
1972 Monaco Grand Prix

You’d think a man who could master Monaco in the streaming rain could triumph anywhere. But that moment of brilliance was Beltoise’s only victory in F1.

It came after his switch from Matra to BRM, but two more years with BRM yielded no more wins.

Giancarlo Baghetti
1961 French Grand Prix

Baghetti’s triumph in his first Grand Prix – the only driver ever to do so (except for Giuseppi Farina, who won the first world championship Grand Prix) owed something to preparation and fortune.

He had already won two non-championship Grands Prix, and his victory at Reims was aided by the retirements of team mates Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill, plus rival Stirling Moss. Baghetti slipstreamed past Dan Gurney to take the win.

But the Italian only started another 20 races after that and by the end of his career in 1967 had scored a total of just 14 points. He never even completed a full Grand Prix season.

Jean Alesi
1995 Canadian Grand Prix

When Alesi exploded onto the F1 scene in 1989, scoring points on his debut at Paul Ricard, everyone thought he was a new great in the making. But it took him six years to finally win a race, at Montreal in 1995, thanks to years spent in unreliable and uncompetitive Ferraris.

The following year he switched the Benetton and his career slipped into decline. He retired in 2001 having driven for Sauber, Prost and Jordan since leaving Benetton.

Alessandro Nannini
1989 Japanese Grand Prix

Talented Italian Nannini deserved to be remembered for more than just winning the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix after Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna collided, and Senna was controversially disqualified.

More would surely have come his way but for a helicopter crash in 1990 that severed one of his arms.

Vittorio Brambilla
1975 Austrian Grand Prix

The ‘Monza Gorilla’ broke his F1 duck at the 25th attempt in the pouring rain at Osterreichring. He raised his arms into the air in celebration, lost control and crashed into the barriers.

His March brought him no further wins in 1976, and after switching to Surtees and then Alfa Romeo he retired.

Carlos Pace
1975 Brazilian Grand Prix

Pace scored his only Grand Prix victory in his home race at Interlagos in 1975, driving for Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team.

But he was killed in a plane crash two years later, and today the Interlagos circuit is named after him.

Francois Cevert
1971 United States Grand Prix

Victory at Watkins Glen in 1971 proved that Frenchman Cevert was ready to move from the shadow of team mate Jackie Stewart.

Cevert chased Stewart much harder in 1973 than he had before, but his team mate won the championship for a third time. At Watkins Glen that year Cevert was killed in an accident in practice, and Stewart withdrew from his final Grand Prix weekend.


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Top ten… One-hit wonders”

  1. There are also some not so F1 names on that list – Troy Ruttman for example has 1 win next to his name… for winning Indy500 race. Funny enough this used to be part of F1 championship in the early days, even if most of the F1 regulars did not travel to Indy and basically none of the Indy500 drivers took part in any of the European races …

  2. It’s funny reading some onf those names and realising their career never hit the heights it should have. A single win for Alesi was fairly criminal. And in 1997, pre-Montreal Panis was really starting to look the business.

    Some of the other names are well before my time following F1, but I still recognise them. I wonder if one day we’ll be looking back at Trulli and Button on the same list.

  3. It’s absolutely horrendous to see the fatal fate of many of these drivers, let’s hope that Trulli and Button don’t go down the same road in that sense.

  4. I agree with Robert McKay. Before the Montreal crash, Panis was looking like a real threat to Williams. And not much for it was luck, it was just exemplary driving. He was never the same after that crash, shame really. He really looked like he could blossom into one of the greats.

  5. About Beltoise, I read that following an early accident, one of his arms couldn’t move and races became physically difficult for him after the first half.

  6. Before his crash in the 1997 season, Panis was third in the championship with 15 points to Villneuve’s 30. So Panis was looking quite good for the championship let alone more wins.

  7. James, I would say Panis was set to be a constant points-scorer, just like Button was in 2004 with BAR, maybe finishing 3rd or 4th on the Championship, getting a podium once in a while, but not a winner, his Prost-Mugen-Honda wasn’t fast enough, unless if something similar to Monaco ’96 happened again..

  8. I was at Watkins Glen in October 1973 when Cervert crashed. It was a very quiet and LONG afternoon.
    The Public Address system went silent and the air lift helicopter was never started…..we knew it was bad, just didn’t know who.

  9. Some more…

    Yorkshireman Innes Ireland won the final race of the 1961 season at Watkins Glen in a Lotus 21, only to be fired by Colin Chapman straight after; he later became president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

    Californian Richie Ginther took the first win for Honda and Goodyear tyres at 1965’s final race in Mexico, but otherwise was a perennial number-two driver, particularly at BRM alongside Graham Hill.

    Germany’s Jochen Mass won the hugely controversial 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park in Barcelona (the same race at which Lella Lombardi became the only lady to score a World Championship point), but is probably best known in F1 for his unfortunate collision with Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder in 1982 that resulted in the French-Canadian’s death.

    Swede Gunnar Nilsson drove a Lotus 78 to victory in the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix, also at Zolder, before his career was tragically cut short by cancer. His death, incidentally, came only a few weeks after that of fellow countryman Ronnie Peterson at Monza.

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