Last-lap losers (p1/2)

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Felipe Massa led 60 laps of the 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix - but not the last one

Poor Felipe Massa. Had his Ferrari engine gone three laps further he’d be sitting on top of the drivers’ championship now.

Formula 1 cars may be extremely reliable nowadays but they do break down occasionally. But it’s one thing to drop out of the race in the early stages – it’s quite another when you’re set to win. Of course, it’s not always the car that’s at fault…

Here are some of the racers who – unlike Massa – made it as far as the last lap before losing the lead.

1964 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps

Jim Clark scored his third consecutive win at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit (in its original, eight-mile configuration) in 1964 – but there was more than a little luck involved.

Dan Gurney had dominated the weekend in his Brabham, taking pole position by 1.8s and leading the race, looking set to give Brabham their first win. But when an unmistakeably hollow sound came from his fuel tank he pulled into his pit – to find they had no fuel. He soldiered on with no more than the dregs in the tank but only made it as far as Stavelot on his last lap.

Graham Hill inherited the lead but his fuel pump broke on the last lap. That left Bruce McLaren leading for Cooper but as he neared the finishing line (which in those days was after the La Source hairpin instead of before it) he too ran out of fuel. He came out of the last hairpin and rolled down the hill – as Clark blasted past him to win.

But Clark didn’t even know he’d won to begin with. The bizarre sequence of events completely flummoxed the organisers and they failed to show the chequered flag to Clark, waving it instead when Richie Ginther, fourth, crossed the line. And then Clark also ran out of fuel on the slowing down lap?���?�

See the Spa-Francorchamps track configuration of 1964

1967 Italian Grand Prix, Monza

Clark was on the opposite end of the same kind of luck at Monza three years later.

He led early on in his Lotus 49 but had to pit after suffering a puncture. Undaunted, Clark hammered through the field and despite having gone a lap down surged through to take the lead.

It would have been one of the most incredible wins of all time – but it wasn’t to be. Lotus boss Colin Chapman’s preference for running his car as light on fuel as possible – for maximum speed – had its inevitable consequence. Clark’s Cosworth DFV spluttered on the final lap, and John Surtees and Jack Brabham passed him just as Clark had gone by McLaren at Spa.

There was a final twist: Brabham tried a desperate move to pass Surtees for the win at the final corner, but slithered wide on cement dust left from an earlier incident. Surtees got a better sling-shot out of the corner and re-passed Brabham on the way to the flag. An epic finish.

Video of the 1967 Italian Grand Prix
Read more about the 1967 Italian Grand Prix

1970 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo

Jack Brabham features in this story too, only this time he takes the unhappy leading role.

Brabham had the race in the palm of his hand, leading comfortable, even as Jochen Rindt began a charge from second place.

But as Rindt carved whole seconds per lap out of Brabham’s advantage, the Australian became increasingly frustrated by lapped cars.

It was decided at the final corner when a moment’s misjudgement by Brabham sent him skidding off at the Gasworks hairpin (the old final corner). Rindt came through to take an astonishing victory.

Video of the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix

1982 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo

Always a candidate for one of the most memorable Grand Prix finishes ever. Turbo engines were coming into fashion, but teams were struggling to cope with their enormous appetite for fuel which often led to several cars running out on the last lap.

Didier Pironi went into the final lap in the lead but his car came to a halt in the tunnel. Andrea de Cesaris, who would have taken the lead, stopped on the way up Massenet.

Riccardo Patrese had already thrown away the lead once by spinning at the Loews hairpin. But he got the Brabham re-started and crawled to the finishing line to score his first ever win.

This is part one of a two-part series: join us tomorrow for part two. To make sure you don’t miss it you can subscribe to F1 Fanatic by RSS or email.

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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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8 comments on “Last-lap losers (p1/2)”

  1. Very nice article Keith! Hope to get much many like this from you

  2. I think that Massa’s talents are not as strong as his car but,I feel for the guy this time around.He drove a superb race and didn’t get his prize (or anything else) for his efforts.His attack off the line and the fact that he held the pack at bay was deserving of something.But,I suppose that is racing.

  3. I can just imagine all the “fanatic” **** don’t share any sympathy for Massa!

    None the less I want to pose the question, did Massa blow up the engine all by himself? By no means am I a mechanic or engineer but one thing I did notice was that during the closing stages Heikki was taking a second-plus out of Massa, each lap, which clearly shows that Massa had stopped pushing at around the 55 laps mark. The reason I find this interesting is the degree to which he had dropped his pace. I have mates who have drag cars which are road registered. However when they take them on the road they run like dog$#!7. Much like a drag car a F1 car is purpose built… go full throttle. So after say 55 laps of full throttle, could it be that Massa’s big drop in pace contributed to a “shock to the system”?

    I hope someone can understand where I’m coming from……..because I sure as hell don’t!

  4. wonderful article, thanks much! (can’t wait for part II)

  5. Fanatic **** won’t be sharing any sympathy with Massa.

    Daniel my dear Australian friend, I certainly feel for Felipe Massa’s mishap on Sunday. Infact, I was down right cheering him on at the start!
    The last thing I wanted to see, and any fan wanted to see, who wants to see a great championship, was Lewis Hamilton scampering off into the distance for his third straight victory.
    I know that the British tabloid press like to make out that every British race fan is backing Hamilton, just as they did Hill and Mansell beforehand, but that is strictly not the case.
    I had great sympathy for Massa last year at his home race in Brazil. He was leading the race comfortably, infront of 150,000 of his countrymen, in his home city. Only for the good of the championship, so that it would favour Raikkonen, was Massa denied that victory.
    How badly must that have hurt Massa, to know that knowledge. Following his disastrous start to the season, and persistant accusations and speculation concerning Massa’s situation at Ferrari, he managed to pull out a magnificent victory in Bahrain and then Turkey.
    He was there to ‘luck’ his way to victory in France, when just four months earlier the pundits were declaring his Ferrari career finished!
    He has had, up until now, a much more superior season to his team mate, who I happen to be a ‘fan’ of. He has done this, constantly under the spectre of Fernando Alonso’s alleged union with Ferrari for 2009.
    Not bad, not bad at all!

    Don’t forget Daniel, that I was a Formula One fan long before Hamilton was even born, and I’ll be one long after he has retired!

  6. Re: Riccardo Patrese “throwing away” the lead at the 1982 Monaco GP…It is generally assumed that Riccardo just made an error on the damp circuit, but this is not the case. He in fact spun on oil laid down by Derek Daly’s cracked gearbox.

  7. I feel for Massa, he has the worst luck!

  8. It just occured to me that Brabham lost two races to Rindt on the last lap in 1970 – the second was when he ran our of fuel in the British Grand Prix…

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