The One Hit Wonders of Formula One

When Jean Alesi won the 1995 Formula One Grand Prix at Canada, he joined an infamous group.

The F1 One Hit Wonders.

Throughout the history of the sport, many drivers have stood upon the top step of the podium just once, soaking up the atmosphere as their National Anthem plays – pride, success and joy tearing through their very being. Jean Alesi experienced this on that special day in Canada. He had waited over five years for a victory and it was made even more special for the fact that it was his 31st birthday – and that he won in a red number 27 Ferrari, as driven by Canadian Gilles Villeneuve (of whom the circuit is named after).  It’s interesting to note that Alesi’s win was also the last for a V12 engine.

It wasn’t expected to be a win for Alesi. Michael Schumacher had been commanding the race until a problem with his gearbox meant an overly long pitstop cost him dearly. Remarkably, several other regular front-runners had technical issues that day, allowing both Jordan cars to finish on the podium for the first time in their history.

As soon as Alesi crossed the finish line to take the chequered flag, race fans spewed through the safety fences and charged the pit lane and start/finish straight. The race officials put out the black flag immediately, a signal for every driver on track to stop and hold their position. By this stage, Jean Alesi was at the hairpin on his victory lap. Running out of fuel, Alesi unfastened his steering wheel, clambered on top of the car and “surfed” it to until it came to a stop. Schumacher appeared alongside Alesi and gave him a lift back to the pits on top of his car.

Alesi gets a taxi ride back to the pits on the back of Schumacher's Benneton.
Alesi gets a taxi ride back to the pits on the back of Schumacher’s Benneton.

So as Jean Alesi sprayed the champagne and celebrated his victory, no doubt he hoped it would be the first of many. As history shows, it was not to be so Alesi joined that infamous list, that of the F1 One Hit Wonders:

Luigi Fagioli – French Grand Prix – 1951

Piero Taruffi – Swiss Grand Prix – 1952

Luigi Musso – Argentinian Grand Prix – 1956

Joakim Bonnier – Dutch Grand Prix – 1959

Giancarlo Baghetti – French Grand Prix – 1961

Innes Ireland – US Grand Prix – 1961

Lorenzo Bandini – Austrian Grand Prix – 1964

Richie Ginther – Mexican Grand Prix – 1965

Ludovico Scarfiotti – Italian Grand Prix – 1966

Peter Gethin – Italian Grand Prix – 1971

Francois Cevert – US Grand Prix – 1971

Jean-Pierre Beltoise – Monaco Grand Prix – 1972

Carlos Pace – Brazilian Grand Prix – 1975

Jochen Mass – Spanish Grand Prix – 1975

Vittorio Brambilla – Austrian Grand Prix – 1975

Gunnar Nilsson – Belgian Grand Prix – 1977

Alessandro Nannini – Japanese Grand Prix – 1989

Jean Alesi – Canadian Grand Prix – 1995

Olivier Panis – Monaco Grand Prix – 1996

Jarno Trulli – Monaco Grand Prix 2004

Robert Kubica – Canadian Grand Prix – 2008

Heikki Kovalainen – Hungarian Grand Prix – 2008

Pastor Maldonado – Spanish Grand Prix – 2012

Max Verstappen – Spanish Grand Prix – 2016 *

Valtteri Bottas – Russian Grand Prix – 2017 *

(* denotes driver still competing in Formula One)


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