F1 has always been competitive, with the teams doing all they can to improve the performance of their cars within the rules, even if the letter of the law and the spirit might be interpreted as being poles apart…
The on-track scandals tend to involve ingenious technical modifications and inventive driving techniques. Off-track naughtiness is either spying or shagging.
Here is the our guide to 7 of the most outrageous scandals in Formula One, both on and off the track.
Lotus has a (probably unfair) reputation for sailing close to the wind and several of their cars have been banned. One of the most famous was the Lotus 88 unveiled in 1981. This car had a twin-chassis set up to try and get around the ban on active aerodynamic aids introduced the previous year. The softly-sprung inner chassis cushioned the driver while the outer chassis was more firmly sprung to make the most of the aerodynamic effects of the bodywork, wings and skirts. It was a bonkers idea and enraged the other teams, who protested. The car was banned before it had even raced in anger and Colin Chapman threatened to withdraw from F1 in protest.
Chapman also played fast-‘n’-loose with the FIA’s rules on the minimum weight for F1 cars too. In 1982 many teams were out-gunned by the turbo cars, whose only disadvantage was the need to carry more fuel thanks to their voracious thirst. Chapman decided that he could fit a water cooling system for the brakes on his cars to replace the ballast that they would otherwise be forced to carry. The water could be “applied” in the early stages of the race leaving the tank empty for the rest of it, allowing the cars to run light. The tanks could be “topped” up afterwards, bringing the cars back to the minimum mandated weight. It worked like a dream and was adopted by all of the non-turbo teams. The FISA (now FIA) threw a hissy fit and banned it.
Prost and Senna hated each other. So bitter was their feud that Prost calmly drove into Senna’s car in 1989 during the Japanese GP at Suzuka. Senna managed to carry on racing and won, only to be disqualified making Prost the world champion.
Senna was extraordinarily pissed off, as you can imagine, and returned the favour at the same circuit one year later. This time he became world champion.
They finally buried the hatchet in 1993, shortly before Senna was killed.
Mosley isn’t only known for the sado-masochistic orgy of 2008, a frenzy of violence that left him bleeding and bandaged. He is also known as being a bit of a twat who refuses to acknowledge that he is wrong. Even Uncle Bernie is reputed to have said: “Everybody’s wrong except him.”
New rules introduced in 2005 insisted that a car’s tyres must last for the whole race. The problem was that the newly-resurfaced Indianapolis circuit, which was the venue for the American Grand Prix, was so abrasive on the final turn that it was causing the sidewalls of the Michelin tyres to collapse. The seven teams that relied on the French firms rubber would be unable to compete, leaving the race in turmoil.
Mosley was approached by Michelin who explained what the problem was and suggested a solution. They wanted a chicane to be installed as a temporary measure prior to the problem corner, slowing the cars down and allowing them to save their tyres and race – Michelin even agreed that their cars would start from the back of the grid and forfeit any championship points that they won. Mosley, who wasn’t even at the circuit, refused and said that the cars would have to brake to a dangerously slow speed instead.
In the end the Michelin-shod teams withdrew leaving only three teams to compete, all of which were fitted with Bridgestone tyres.
If you think that Max Mosley is an idiot – and many do – you can even sign up to a Facebook page that agrees with you. We actually quite like old Max; he makes our job so much easier and provides cheap fodder for us to snigger at.
Briatore, the bloated David Dickinson lookalike who sends his chauffeur to buy his Big Macs, was forced to resign from his post as managing director and executive director of engineering for the Renault F1 team in 2009. He did so following accusations that he arranged for one of his drivers, Nelson Piquet Jnr., to crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix triggering the deployment of the safety car helping their other driver Fernando Alonso. Renault have not disputed the charges following his departure along with that of Pat Symonds, the former director of engineering.
The dodgy billionaire has dated Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum, been named checked by U2 in two of their songs and wears a silver bracelet given to him by the wealthy shopkeeper Mohammed al-Fayed; two of those things make him an even bigger twat than we previously thought while the other doesn’t even begin to redeem him in our eyes.
Described as “flamboyant” only by pre-pubescent boys, Briatore feels so inadequate that he owns one of the largest yachts in the world. He’s also friends with Bernie E, together they once owned Queens Park Rangers. Need we say more?
The Ferrari/McLaren spying scandal of 2007 is a wonderful example of stupidity and serendipity coming together in one beautiful moment. And that moment was when the wife of the chief designer of the McLaren F1 team went into a sleepy little photocopying shop with a 780-sheaf dossier and asked for the whole lot to be photocopied onto CD. The shop clerk was an F1 fan and realised that the folder contained Ferrari team secrets and emailed them to tell them that McLaren were a bunch of dirty – and incompetent – cheats.
McLaren ended up with a £50,000,000 fine and an image that is only just starting to recover.
Never before has one man been so controversial on the track (off the track no-one knows what Schummy does; we suspect that the battery is unplugged and he is stored in the transit packaging until it’s time to reboot him again).
The first sign of his competitive win-at-any-cost nature was in 1994 when he rammed his Benetton into Damon Hill’s Williams, ensuring that the German became world champion. As well as being shamefully un-British this appalling behaviour wouldn’t have been necessary if he hadn’t ignored a black flag at the British GP earlier that year, receiving a two-race ban as punishment, meaning that he was desperate for the points.
The cheating dog did the same thing three years later to Jacques Villeneuve, a move that was overshadowed by an even greater act of selfishness and cynicism at Monaco in 2006 when he made a ‘mistake’ on the slowest corner of the circuit. Schumacher parked his car across the circuit to prevent his rivals from posting a decent lap time during qualifying, an act that Keke Rosberg described as: “… the worst thing I have seen in Formula One.”
Oh, and there was the disputed traction control that Benetton fitted to their 1994 cars but didn’t use. Apparently.
James Hunt proved that if you were shamelessly open about your private life then you could get away with murder. Like his brother-from-another-mother the MP Alan Clark, Hunt was a serial shagger on a scale that mere mortals couldn’t understand. His mechanics got used to keeping F1-fanatic husbands talking while old Jim was squiring their wives in his motorhome or behind a pile of tyres. Hunt even went so far as to say that he never took any exercise other than press-ups and only then if there was a woman underneath him.
He took part in sex, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol binges with his mate the legendary swordsman Barry Sheene, and even shared girlfriends with him. Oh, and he liked a smoke too.
In his lifetime he slept with over 5,000 women and was even accused of selling his wife, Suzy Miller, to the actor Richard Burton for $1,000,000, yet seemed to attract only admiration; in the words of Stirling Moss: ‘If you looked like James Hunt, what would you have done?’