5 F1 drivers who won a race after being last on the grid

Jenson Button celebrates after his victory at the 2011 F1 Canadian GP
Jenson Button celebrates after his victory at the 2011 F1 Canadian GP
Dese Gowda

Winning an F1 race is hard. Only a handful of drivers who have raced in the sport have been able to take the top spot on the podium. An even lesser number of drivers have managed to clinch more than a dozen victories throughout their careers. Hence, winning a race from the very back of the grid is such a rare feat that it has been achieved only six times in F1’s seven-decade-long history.

In this piece, we look at five F1 drivers who have managed to win the race from the last place.

#1 Sergio Perez, 2020 F1 Sakhir GP

Sergio Perez’s stunning victory at the 2020 F1 Sakhir GP came at a time when the Mexican’s time in the sport seemed to be over. Despite his loyalty to the Silverstone outfit, Perez was unceremoniously dumped by Racing Point in favor of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. The Mexican looked all set to never race in the sport again – until he took a surprise maiden victory that convinced Red Bull to hire him for the following season.

Perez’s win is even more commendable due to the fact that he was dead last at the end of Lap 1 after being spun around by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Starting in P5, Perez managed to overtake three cars to get himself up into P2 within the first two corners. At Turn 4, however, Leclerc locked up while fighting with Max Verstappen and tagged Perez into a spin. He then beached himself into the gravel with Verstappen joining him.

Forced to pit for a change of front wing and a new set of tires, Perez trailed the field by almost a lap, but the nearly six-lap safety car period brought in to clear up the first lap incident allowed him time to catch up to the rest of the grid.

It was at this moment that Sergio Perez knew he bagged the Sakhir Grand Prix . #XmasMomentsWithDStv

What followed was a masterclass in overtaking and tire management, as the Mexican swiftly dispatched slower cars to vault himself into the top 10. Making good use of his one-stop strategy, he then overtook those doing two stops. With Mercedes having a meltdown up front, ruling out George Russell and Valtteri Bottas from victory, Sergio Perez cruised to a comfortable victory.

#2 Jenson Button, 2011 F1 Canadian GP

Jenson Button is the only driver in the sport’s history to have won not just one, but two races— one in Australia and Canada each — after being dead last at some point during both races.

His dramatic victory in Montreal was arguably one of the greatest F1 races of the last decade. It was a showcase of the Briton’s grit, perseverance, and supreme car skills in changeable conditions.

The race was anything but straightforward for Button. As rain wreaked havoc on the race, McLaren took multiple gambles on him, with little success. After four pitstops for tires and a drive-through penalty for making contact with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, he was trailing the field by 20 seconds.

It's exactly 10 years since the longest F1 race of all time 🗓Canada was off-the-scale crazy in 2011 🤯Race winner @JensonButton and @LewisHamilton were team mates back then... 😮💥#F1 #OnThisDay

While he managed to catch the field, thanks to the safety car brought on by Alonso’s incident, McLaren once again took a gamble and pitted him for slick tires. This time, however, the gamble worked as a timely safety car brought on by Nick Heidfeld’s crash allowed Button to overtake most of the field, as they pitted for tires.

By the time the race restarted; he was sitting in P4. He then reeled in Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and comfortably passed them both. With just a few laps to go, race leader Sebastian Vettel seemed to be out of reach for Button. On the very last lap, however, Vettel made a mistake and ran wide, allowing Button to snatch the lead and take a well-deserved victory.

#3 Fernando Alonso, 2008 F1 Singapore GP

Fernando Alonso’s only F1 victory for the 2008 season came at the Singapore GP. Unlike other drivers on this list, however, Alonso’s win came amid controversial circumstances.

Since dominating the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Renault’s form slumped in 2007 and worsened even more in 2008. After returning from his brief but tumultuous stint with McLaren, Alonso set his sights on winning once again. The Renault R28, however, lacked the outright pace to challenge for podiums and race victories.

By the time the F1 circus arrived in Singapore for round 15 of the championship, it looked increasingly likely that Alonso wouldn’t have a win to his name for the first time in four seasons.

After a fuel pump issue ruled him out of the second part of qualifying, Alonso was forced to start the race from P15. He, however, made a surprising early stop for fuel, which meant that he was running in P20 on Lap 13.

He made history in 2008 by winning the world's first #F1nightrace. We will miss seeing you in Singapore, @alo_oficial!

A convenient safety car brought by teammate Nelson Piquet Jr’s heavy shunt a few laps later, however, meant that Alonso moved into P5 as others around him pitted.

Finally, on Lap 34, he took over the lead in the race as the rest of the cars ahead of him made their pitstops. Despite lacking the pace of the front runners, Alonso’s substantial lead helped him take his first victory of the 2008 season.

#4 Giancarlo Fisichella, 2003 F1 Brazilian GP

Jordan F1’s last victory to date came at the 2003 Brazilian GP when the team gambled on an “all or nothing” strategy that allowed Giancarlo Fisichella to take his maiden victory.

Starting in P8, Fisichella and teammate Ralph Firman pitted earlier than the rest of the grid on laps 7 and 8 respectively for a change of fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, taking advantage of a safety car period.

Amid the torrential conditions, Jordan had banked on the race being stopped at the 75 percent mark, given that the weather was predicted to worsen even more.

After their pitstops, Fisichella and Firman were P16 and P17 respectively, but a suspension failure soon after caused Firman to slide off the track and crash into Toyota’s Olivier Panis behind. This meant that on Lap 18, Fisichella was the last of the runners.

Giancarlo Fisichella receives his winner's trophy for 2003 Brazil. A timing error originally awarded victory to Kimi Raikkonen, but a re-review showed the Italian had started lap 56, having led from lap 54. A red flag counts a race back to 2 laps prior, giving Fisi the win #F1

The Italian, however, didn’t stay in that position for long, as he set about carving his way through the field to finally overtake the McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen on Lap 54. On the very next lap, Mark Webber’s heavy shunt brought out the red flag and the race was never restarted.

Initially, Raikkonen was classified in P1, but the mistake was later rectified with the Finn officially handing over the trophy to Fisichella a week later.

#5 David Coulthard, 2003 F1 Australian GP

David Coulthard became the first driver to ever win an F1 race from the very back of the grid at the 2004 Australian GP. Forced to start the race in P15 after a messy qualifying session, Coulthard took an early plunge to switch to slick tires along with teammate Kimi Raikkonen, while the rest of the grid was running on intermediate tires after a wet start to the race.

At the end of Lap 2, Coulthard was dead last but made good use of his fresh tires to make quick progress on a rapidly improving track. By the time the safety car was brought in on Lap 11 following an incident involving Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello and Jordan’s Ralph Firman, Coulthard was already up to P7.

While Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher battled it out ahead, Coulthard kept calm and made steady progress. After Raikkonen was handed down a penalty for speeding in the pitlane while Schumacher pitted with bargeboard damage from his battles with Raikkonen, Coulthard only had Juan Pablo Montoya to deal with.

2003 AUSTRALIASchumacher and Raikkonen looked mostly likely to win, but damaged bargeboards for the Ferrari and a drive through pen for the McLaren costed them.Montoya (Williams) resumed the lead, but a spin late on handed McLaren's David Coulthard his final #F1 victory

Lap after lap, Coulthard harried Montoya until the latter spun out with just 11 laps to go, handing the race lead to the Scotsman, who then went on to take his final race victory in F1.

What's your favorite race of the 2022 season so far? Tell us in the comments below..

Edited by Anurag C


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