10 Biggest Blunders of the F1 Season
Even in Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport, mistakes happen.
Usually, this is in the form of a botched pit stop, an error on track by the driver or a wrong strategic call. But sometimes blunders come in the form of something with much greater consequence than a lost position or dropped points.
The worst error we've witnessed throughout the 2013 F1 season is the grave mix-up that led to one of the Canadian Grand Prix marshals losing his life. Such an accident was horrendous to hear and naturally everyone's thoughts were and remain with the marshal's family and friends.
For that reason, that does not make this list. But that's not to say the blunders in this top 10 are devoid of severity. Some have garnered penalties, others have raised serious questions about the parties involved.
But there is one gaffe from 2013 that was particularly humorous—though you'll have to read on to find out what.
10: The BBC's Premature Revelation
In the grand scheme of things, this is rather small, but it was enough to anger more than 700 Wimbledon viewers who felt the need to call in and complain within hours of the blunder.
713 people complained on the Saturday of the German Grand Prix when, during the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon, presenters unwittingly revealed that Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole position for the race—before the qualifying programme had been aired.
You might not think that’s particularly atrocious, but the BBC has enjoyed a large section of fans who have been fiercely loyal in the wake of Sky Sports F1’s broadcasting of every single Grand Prix live while the Beeb feeds off scraps.
That means these people were waiting patiently, longer than required, to find out the qualifying result by devoting their time to the BBC. When you look at it like that, it becomes a bit more of a serious blunder.
9: Lotus' F1 Twitter Account
There are many reasons the operator(s) of the official Lotus F1 twitter account deserve credit, not least because of the lighter side of the sport they try to exemplify. That’s a rare treat for fans, and it’s nice to see.
However, it’s been guilty of rocking the boat a little bit too dangerously at times, not least when it posted a picture of two fornicating rabbits in riposte to the news of its driver, Kimi Raikkonen, leaving for Ferrari.
Though it was just a good-natured bit of fun, the FIA got involved—and that’s when you know they’ve crossed the line. It’s great to see something different from F1 teams, but this was probably a step too far. Funny though.
8: Webber's Costly Taxi Ride
Mark Webber’s taxi ride from Fernando Alonso after his recent Singapore Grand Prix retirement might have evoked the best and worst from F1 fans, but there’s no denying it was a huge mistake from the Australian.
That’s not because taxi rides should be outlawed, but because of the downright dangerous manner in which he did it. He maintains he did not ignore marshals—not the issue. His defence was that he did not speak to them—that’s the issue. No interaction; no permission. He broke the law, got a reprimand (his third of the season) and that tally is why he got a penalty.
It’s hurt his Korean GP chances and he’s lucky it’s not more severe. Look at the CCTV footage above and consider how lucky he is not be hit by either Mercedes as Alonso stops last minute.
7: Hamilton's Pit Stop Mix-Up
One of this season’s most humorous moments, and definitely one of the most obvious blunders.
For Lewis Hamilton, driving at Sepang in only his second race for Mercedes, the pit stop procedure had clearly not sunk in as second nature as he pulled in to say hello to his old McLaren team.
It’s a mistake made by several drivers in the past, including Hamilton’s old McLaren teammate Jenson Button, and it certainly will not be the last. It’s always pretty funny, if race-damaging, but spare a thought for how lucky he was there was nobody else coming in at that moment.
6: F1 Cameraman's Lucky Escape
Something nobody likes to see in any sport is injuries, and it’s especially tough to take when it’s a total mistake which leads to it.
That’s why Red Bull’s error in releasing Mark Webber with a rear wheel not properly attached during a German Grand Prix pit stop was so unfortunate.
Not only did it ruin Webber’s race (he lost a wheel!) it was incredibly lucky that FOM cameraman Paul Allen involved did not suffer more serious injuries than a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Red Bull was also fined for an unsafe release.
A good consequence was Red Bull committed afterwards to change its pit stop procedure. But the next mistake in this little saga came from the FIA, who proceeded to ban all media types from the pit lane mid-race. All rather messy and not one of the season’s peaks at all.
5: Vettel Double-Crossing Webber
For every bit of good Sebastian Vettel’s brilliance behind the wheel of a racing car does to his reputation, he can tear down several years' worth of work in a matter of moments when he’s exposing his ruthless side.
Some argue that he only has himself to blame for the raw deal he is given on F1 podiums at present—the boos are the consequence of his actions in Malaysia, when he defied team orders to challenge and pass Mark Webber for the win at Sepang.
Not only did it cast a cloud over his team and probably led to Webber’s decision to quit F1, it’s also done serious damage to the reputation of a driver who should be revered for his success.
Hopefully he can rebuild the broken bridge between him and a large group of fans, because as the sport’s ambassador (he’s a world champion after all) it’s not a great sight to see him as a hated figure.
4: Mercedes' Secret Tyre Test
Helping Pirelli was not the issue with Mercedes’ "secret" tyre test, the issue was the underhand way in which it was carried out. Why were plain helmets used if they didn’t care to be identified?
The counter argument to that, of course, was how could people not notice they weren’t packing up and leaving the track after the Spanish Grand Prix?
Nonetheless, it could and should have been done with greater clarity, and it ended up costing the team valuable new-spec tyre data in the Young Driver Test.
Fortunately that was as far as the consequences went, and it did actually have a fairly positive outcome as teams committed to helping Pirelli more.
But it could have been a lot worse, and did shroud the team and sport in controversy for a while.
3: McLaren MP4-28 Gamble
McLaren’s gamble on going aggressive for its 2013 car has backfired spectacularly.
Having finished last season with the quickest car, winning the final two rounds in the US and Brazil, Jenson Button and Sergio Perez have failed to finish on the podium this year, let alone challenge for victories.
McLaren is in its first podium-less campaign since 1980 and it's difficult to see 2013 not taking that unwanted record.
Now, the Woking squad has turned its attentions to 2014, and the big regulation shake-up.
But at what cost comes the backfired 2013 gamble? Honda’s on board for 2015, a huge coup for team boss Martin Whitmarsh, but will the lack of success this year enable it to replace outgoing title sponsor Vodafone at the year’s end?
2: The Pirelli Saga
If the first half of 2013 is going to be characterised by anything, it’s by the Pirelli saga.
Blown tyres, swapping fronts and mated compounds, the Italian manufacturer has been through a lot this year.
It gamely took a heap of criticism on the chin, with Silverstone the peak of dissent about the 2013 constructions following a string of spectacular blowouts across the British Grand Prix weekend.
Of course, that turned out to be the product of a perfect storm (delicate tyres, strange conditions and raised kerbs) but nonetheless it was a dark day for Pirelli.
A blend of 2012/2013 tyre compounds has helped ease the problem, and helped it return to the originally intended position of spicing up tyre strategy without reducing the racing to a farce.
But the 2013 construction was a huge blunder on its part. Thankfully they acted quickly.
1: Hulkenberg Misses out Again
If you believe Mark Hughes (and the Autosport and Sky Sports F1 expert is rarely wrong), there's a good chance Nico Hulkenberg may not be on the 2014 grid next season.
That upsets me greatly. This man has fought for victory in a Force India and qualified third and finished fifth at Monza in a largely uncompetitive Sauber.
This writer was convinced Ferrari would be the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg’s destination in 2014, until they opted for 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
That was a blow to the German, who has all the qualities of a potential title winner, but there was (and still remains) a second chance in the form of the outgoing Finn’s seat at Lotus.
However, with Felipe Massa looking for a new drive as well, it seems as though Hulkenberg may be missed out again. That would be a travesty in F1 terms, because he needs to be in a top seat, or at least a seat which guarantees more success than Sauber.
But will he even have his 2013 mount next year? Sergey Sirotkin looks set to join and either Mexican financial clout or Ferrari might will likely see Esteban Gutierrez or Jules Bianchi at the Hinwii squad alongside him.
Hulkenberg was passed up for the McLaren drive last season, and you might think the Woking squad is regretting that now. If Lotus opt against him, might they be as regretful as McLaren in 12 months' time? And would the sport not be a worse place without him?
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