Not only was this year’s Monaco Grand Prix plagued with controversial tyre headlines, but it also brought about the return of Romain Grosjean’s ludicrous on-track behaviour.
He literally mounted Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo on race day and over the weekend he managed to tear off the left hand side of his car on two occasions: crashing Sainte Devote in FP1 on Friday and doing the same in FP3 on Saturday morning, as well as narrowly missing Lewis Hamilton as he was exiting pit lane.
Now these were not caused by silly mistakes, they were caused by his overlly aggressive, ‘anything goes’ attitude that we see all too often in F1’s feeder series, GP2.
This got us thinking: where does he get his inspiration from? So in the spirit of all things topical, we shortlist ten of Formula 1’s naughtiest drivers who have perhaps passed the torch onto the Frenchman…
10. Yuji Ide
In 2006, this highly inexperienced racer landed himself a seat with the all-Japanese team Super Aguri and he didn’t need long to show us all what he was made of.
On his debut in Australia, he was widely criticised for blocking Rubens Barrichello in qualifying, but it was at the San Marino Grand Prix when everyone sat up and paid attention to him.
On the first lap he ran into Christijan Albers at the Villeneuve chicane and sent the Dutchman flying off the track. Some people claim that he tried to murder Albers; while this was clearly not the case it was nonetheless an awful crash with Albers’ Midland F1 car barreling-rolling into the gravel before finally coming to a stop upside-down. Subsequently the FIA revoked his Superlicense for reckless driving and he was never seen at a Grand Prix again.
9. Mika Hakkinen
Even before he was crowned a two-time Formula 1 World Champion, Mika Hakkinen showed great promise. He had a good couple of seasons with Lotus and in 1993 he joined McLaren, becoming their leading driver for 1994 after Ayrton Senna moved to Williams.
But the new ‘Flying Finn’ was still a little rough around the edges. He tangled with his old teammate Senna on the first lap of the Pacific Grand Prix, and at the British Grand Prix, he and Rubens Barrichello came together on the final lap as they disputed fourth place.
One race later and he was at it again, although on a much grander scale: he triggered a massive 14 car pile up at the German Grand Prix. He tagged David Couthard at the first corner and from there a domino effect took place taking cars out left, right and centre. For causing the crash Hakkinen was given a one-race ban.
One thing was now becoming clear, yes he did have tremendous talent, but he needed the temperament to balance it. Over the years his driving style improved immensely and he won two World Championship crowns with McLaren in 1998 and 1999.
8. Jody Scheckter
In his first Formula One season, Jody Scheckter was quickly making a name for himself as the ‘wild man of F1’.
The 1973 British Grand Prix at Silverstone seem to confirm this when we saw Scheckter lose control of his McLaren and take out half the field at the end of the first lap:
Scheckter came out of the last corner, Woodcote, in fourth place when his car spun into the middle of the track. and no less than eleven cars lost control, either spearing into him, in each other, or into the barriers.
It was one of the biggest pile ups in Formula One history. However, Scheckter soon changed his erratic driving style after witnessing Francois Cervert’s fatal crash later that season at Watkins Glen, and turned into a more mature, less reckless driver who would ultimately go on to win the 1979 World Championship title.
7. Riccardo Patrese
The 1978 season was the Italian’s second in Formula 1 – his first with the all new Arrows team – and it was jam-packed full of misdemeanours.
In Brazil he banged wheels with John Watson. In South Africa many drivers complained of his excessive blocking and weaving. In Belgium he had a prang with James Hunt at the start of the race. In Sweden he made it impossible for Watson to overtake him, causing the Englishman to spin out and later on in that race he made Alan Jones suffer the same fate, at the same corner. Again many drivers accused him of blocking. In Austria he tangled with Harald Ertl but this time it was Patrese who was to spin off track. And in Holland Didier Pironi was his victim.
At the Italian Grand Prix, it all came to a head. Patrese was deemed a figurehead in the opening-lap pile-up that would ultimately claim Ronnie Peterson’s life two days’ later. The rest of the drivers were sick of his antics, and after a disgraceful kangaroo court, he was barred from competing next time out. Ultimately, it would be revealed that Patrese was completely blameless in the affair, but it took a long time for the ‘bad boy’ reputation would be shaken.
Despite the odd wild moment in the 1980s, however, Patrese transformed his unruly ways and turned out to be one of the most sensible and respected drivers in the paddock, starting a record 256 Grands Prix by his retirement in 1993.
6. Pastor Maldonado
It was Maldonado who was F1’s pantomime villain before handing over the mantle to Grosjean. In his debut F1 season, he had a string of crashes with Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Pedro de la Rosa and was certainly very wild behind the wheel, having earned a similar reputation in GP2 when he once ran over a track marshal.
But it is his antics with Lewis Hamilton that warrant a place on our countdown. The Belgian Grand Prix of 2011 saw an already crash-prone Maldonado take matters into his own hands when Hamilton forced him to go wide in Qualifying whilst on his flying lap.
After the session had finished, Maldonado came out of La Source in full race mode, and showing no disregard to his or Hamilton’s safety, passed Hamilton on the run into Eau Rouge and cut him up, causing damage to the front of Hamilton’s McLaren. Maldonado received a five-place grid penalty for the race start, but he was lucky not to escape a more serious sanction.
5. Andrea de Cesaris
The prolific offender of the 1980s, de Cesaris was never far from controversy. Simply put, he was type of driver who refused to yield when being passed, either for track position or when getting lapped. This often resulted in him unnecessarily crashing and earning him the nickname ‘Andrea de Crasheris’.
Often unrepentant, it was this spoilt brat attitude which left him unpopular in the paddock, with fellow drivers regularly criticising his sometimes absurd behaviour.
Keke Rosberg expressed his anger at the young Italian when he held him up for a number of laps at the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix, explaining after how he had wanted to punch de Cesaris in the face.
Another low came at the 1985 Austrian Grand Prix when he had an enormous accident, rolling his Ligier end over end and miraculously walking away from the wreck without a scratch. Upon seeing a replay of the accident, team boss Guy Ligier sacked him on the spot, no longer able to stump up more repair bills for this crash-prone driver.
It was his Marlboro connections which continued to keep him in the sport, and while he clocked up plenty of starts, he continued to frustrate the field with his wild driving. He came together with Nelson Piquet at the Monaco Grand Prix; two races later, he took out teammate Alex Caffi while he was being lapped.
He was still attracting criticism into the 1990s, being called “an idiot” by James Hunt after nearly cleaning up Nigel Mansell at the San Marino Grand Prix (above).
4. Romain Grosjean
The start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix could have easily been mistaken for a GP2 race instead of an elite Formula One Grand Prix.
After a multitude of early-race crashes earlier in the season, Grosjean had quickly made a name for himself for failing to leave his schoolboy attitude behind when he decided to play with the big boys of F1, and his actions here cemented people’s opinions on him that he is in fact a liability to this this sport.
As the lights went out, he moved across on Lewis Hamilton, forcing the McLaren into the pit wall, only to then rebound back into Grosjean’s Lotus. Grosjean then went into the back of Sergio Perez, who then touched Pastor Maldonado causing him to spin. As a result of hitting Perez, Grosjean was sent flying into the air and literally tumbled over Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, narrowly missing his head. Alonso then got hit from the side as Hamilton crashed into him and Kamui Kobayashi. Grosjean was given a hefty fine and a one race ban for causing the crash.
3. Ayrton Senna
Topping most ‘All Time Greats’ lists all over the world, the legend of Ayrton Senna can still bring tears to the eyes of fans old and new many years on from his tragic death. But this is not your typical fairy tale. Nobody can deny his skill, his passion and his generosity. But with Senna there also existed intense rivalries, arrogance, intimidation and his win-at-all-costs mentality, all of which essentially made him the driver that everyone aspires to be.
When people think back to Senna’s bouts the first name that springs to mind is quite rightly, Alain Prost. It stemmed from their constant inter-team battles, which continued when Prost moved to Ferrari and came to a climax at the Japanese Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the 1990 season.
Watch the infamous crash, as shown on the ‘SENNA’ documentary
If Senna won he’d take the championship and Prost needed the win to keep his title hopes alive. At the first corner Prost was slightly ahead when Senna decided to run into him, taking them both out of the race to guarantee himself a second World Championship crown, and gain revenge for losing out on the 1989 title to Prost after the pair had collided at the same event.
But it was not only Prost’s nerves that Senna got on. His aggressive driving style didn’t win him many friends in the paddock. Between 1984 and 1992 there were countless on-track battles between the Brazilian and fellow frontrunner Nigel Mansell. It was at the 1987 Belgian Grand Prix when the two very nearly came to blows in the pit lane after the came together on the opening lap; their respective mechanics needed to separate them before an all-out brawl ensued.
2. Nelson Piquet Jr
The Singapore Grand Prix in 2008 gave us one of the most notorious crashes in F1 history. At the first ever Formula 1 night race, Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr both struggled in qualifying, with both cars starting in 15th and 16th. In the race Alonso was the first driver to pit, stopping early on lap 12 and only refuelling with a low fuel load in the hope of landing a bonus with a Safety Car interruption.
Three laps later and his wish was granted: Piquet Jr crashes into the wall at Turn 17. The all-important safety car was needed so marshals could clear the track, meaning most cars took their opportunity to pit. But as Alonso had already made his stop, he managed to jump the frontrunners and found himself right at the front, ultimately going on to take his first win of the season.
Initially the FIA had paid no attention to the crash as Piquet Jr claimed the crash was a silly mistake made as a result of pushing too hard.
A year later a flagging Piquet Jr was dropped from the team. This resulted in Piquet Jr publicly criticising the team and within weeks he was to admit that the team Managing Director Flavio Briatore and Executive Director Pat Symonds had ordered him to crash so Alonso could gain an advantage from the safety car. After publicly denying the allegations and bitching about Piquet, Renault conceded that in fact Piquet Jr was telling the truth. Never before had a team been so disgraced.
Briatore and Symonds both resigned from Renault and issued with lengthy bans for their part in one of the sport’s greatest cheating scandals, while Piquet Jr was never seen again in the sport, and has spent the subsequent years desperately trying to convince anyone silly enough to listen that he was the ultimate victim in the entire affair.
1. Michael Schumacher
He’s one of the greatest drivers in Formula One history, but he does not come without a long list of controversies, and with over 20 years in the sport there are plenty of memories to choose from.
His first memorable incident happened in Adelaide in 1994. It was the last race of the season and both Schumacher and Damon Hill were locked in a ferocious battle for the title, separated by a single point. Schumacher was leading Hill until lap 36 when Hill pressured the German into making a mistake, which allowed him to take the inside line and he began to pass his rival. As he did so, Schumacher turned in on him, they collided and Schumacher instantly retired from the race. Hill tried to persevere but to no avail, as he had to retire also. Schumacher won his first World Championship that day, with many speculating that his collision with Hill was deliberate.
Eerily reminiscent of Adelaide was the final race of the 1997 season, another championship decider held at Jerez. Schumacher led Jacques Villeneuve in the Drivers’ Championship by one point. But the nail-biting finale took a sinister turn when, on lap 48, Villeneuve out-braked Schumacher at the Curva Dry Sac, had the inside line and was slightly ahead. Desperate to take his third World Championship, Schumacher turned in on Villeneuve in a reckless attempt to eliminate him from the race. However, karma was quick to react leaving Schumacher to retire on the spot and Villeneuve to cruise home, taking thirrd place and the Championship. Schumacher was stripped of all points earned that season.
And it wasn’t just on race days where we saw his ruthless streak come through, as the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 proved. In qualifying, title contender Fernando Alonso was on his flying lap and at the end of the second sector he was two-tenths of a second faster than Schumacher. Knowing that Alonso would claim pole position, Schumacher tactlessly stopped his car at La Rascasse corner, blocking the track and ensuring that pole would be his. The stewards took umbrage to this and sent him to the back of the grid. Alonso started on pole.
Schumacher’s legacy will always be overshadowed with one argument or another but regardless if you love him or hate him, statistically he is the greatest driver of all time and my number one bad boy.