As the F1 circus reaches Australia and the scene of Lewis Hamilton's red-faced 'Lie-gate' moment in 2009, we take a look at some of the finest events to have made F1 – and us – wince in pain.
After returning from the USA, Nigel Mansell soon teamed up with McLaren for the 1995 season. He and Ron Dennis were hardly soulmates but the team's sponsors, Marlboro, wanted a world champion and Michael Schumacher was otherwise engaged. It all started badly for Our Nige when he couldn't squeeze into the McLaren's cockpit. Things didn't get much better and he left after only a few races. However, the story has a happy ending as Dennis soon turned his attention to a young kart driver and the rest, as they say, is history.
Because he's worth it
Without denying the man's brilliance, even Michael Schumacher has been prone to some red-faced moments, usually of his own making. Take the 2006 Monaco GP when he crashed into the barriers at the end of qualifying just to make sure chief rival Fernando Alonso couldn't claim pole or his barging into Damon Hill at Suzuka in 1994 and Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. Determined yes, ruthless maybe, but just not the done thing. But all those pale into insignificance when you see his 2002 ad for L'Oreal. Was he worth it? Who cares, it's hilarious.
High and dry at Spa
Laughable as it seems now, when Ralf Schumacher joined the ranks of F1, some commentators were suggesting he was actually faster than his big brother. So, the 2001 Belgian GP at Spa illustrates perfectly the gulf that separated them. While Michael picked up his 52nd victory to become the most successful F1 driver, Ralf was left stranded for the formation lap because he was still attached to the pit jack. That he had qualified second alongside team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya for an all-Williams front row only exacerbated the embarrassment as he was forced to start at the back of the grid.
Lewis mounts Kimi
2008 was Lewis Hamilton's year and what a thriller it was but not without some scandal and a faux pas from the McLaren driver that would make a novice kart racer blush. At the Canadian GP, Lewis ran in to the rear of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari in the pitlane as the Finn waited at a red light. Hamilton's embarrassment was compounded by Raikkonen's reaction as he calmly gets out of the Ferrari and walks back to his team's garage but not before he'd pointed to the big red light that meant 'Stop!'
Max Mosley has always divided opinion in F1 circles, none more so than in 2008 when he was caught with his pants firmly down and his rear end getting close attention from a Mayfair flat full of prostitutes. The FIA president was the unfortunate victim of a tabloid sting and he managed to successfully sue the newspaper involved but by then his reputation – and quite possibly his backside – was in tatters. He didn't stand for re-election – cue numerous conspiracy theories.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Stepney
As a case study in espionage, the Stepney-gate scandal of 2007 doesn't make the grade. Indeed, disgruntled Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney and McLaren designer Mike Coughlan may have got away with it if it hadn't been for those pesky kids, in this case a photocopier shop employee in who got a tad suspicious when he copied pages of Ferrari technical information for Coughlan's wife and tipped off the Scuderia. After much shenanigans and accusations, McLaren was eventually fined a whopping $100million and thrown out of the Constructors' Championship, a penalty that still did not placateFerrari boss, Jean Todt. "Soft," he called it.
No wheels on my wagon
F1 and the USA have always had a fraught relationship – the failure of the USF1 team to secure enough greenbacks to get them to the grid this year is a case in point – but the fiasco of the 2005 GP left the partnership in dire need of counselling. During qualifying, Michelin found that cars running their tyres couldn't cope with the banked corner unique to the Indianapolis circuit but FIA boss Max Mosley refused to let the track be changed. Just six cars started the race to catcalls and flying missiles from the fans. The relationship never really recovered.
Ferrari's racing spirit bypass
The F2002 was one of Ferrari's most successful F1 cars, dominating the 2002 season and ultimately handing Michael Schumacher his third successive title with the team. However, in spite of the brilliance of the Scuderia that year, the team came in for serious criticism when team orders at only the sixth race of the season in Austria meant Rubens Barrichello had to hand over the win to his team-mate. The crowd's (and Rubens') anger were unmistakeable and the embarrassment only worsened a few weeks later at the US GP when Schumacher 'returned the favour'.
Down in the dumps
Bernie Ecclestone finally ran out of patience with Silverstone's running of the British GP and announced on the eve of the 2008 event that the race was moving to Donington from 2010 – as long as £100 million of developments were completed, of course. And there was the snag; even without the global financial meltdown that was around the corner, raising that kind of cash was always going to be an uphill struggle. After many promises and assurance, circuit owner Simon Gillett had to accept defeat. While Silverstone limped back into favour a legendary race circuit was left in ruins.
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