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7 Times Drivers Won Despite a Penalty: Part 1
Lewis Hamilton wasn't the first driver to win in F1 despite being given a penalty mid-race. Laura Leslie takes you through the other 7 drivers who have done the same thing.
Jul 22, 2021 at 12:00 PM
by: Laura Leslie
Formula One

Brazil 1993 – Ayrton Senna

The 1993 Brazilian Grand Prix started off perfectly for Ayrton Senna. In front of his adoring home fans, he barged ahead of Damon Hill off the line to chase after leader Alain Prost. On lap 11 Senna was repassed by Hill and on lap 25 things went from bad to worse for the Brazilian. While overtaking a backmarker, Senna failed to notice the yellow flags being waved due to an incident. Senna was slapped with a stop/go penalty and dropped back behind 3rd placed Michael Schumacher in the running order.

A rain shower changed things after Prost opted not to pit for wet tyres, unlike Hill, Schumacher and Senna before a safety car, its 1st official appearance following trials at the French and British races the previous year, bunched up the field. Prost then spun on the main straight on lap 30 and crashed into the stricken Minardi of Christian Fittipaldi. Hill now led form Senna, who had jumped Schumacher during the pitstop phase.

Once the track began to dry later in the race Senna was in touching distance of Hill. When the change back to slick tyres occurred Senna would pass Hill for the lead and pulled away from the Brit with ease. Senna eventually won by 16.6s from Hill and claimed his 2nd ever home win.

Germany 1993 – Alain Prost

Williams started from a predictable 1-2 for the German Grand Prix. Alain Prost ahead of Damon Hill, both other them well over half a second ahead of Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. Prost got a dreadful getaway and was passed by Hill, Schumacher and Senna at the start. On the way down to the 1st chicane Prost repassed Senna, who would then spin and drop back to the rear of the field, then set off after Schumacher. Martin Brundle then had a spin which forced Prost to take evasive action across one of the chicanes. Prost eventually got by Schumacher on lap 6.

Prost was then handed a controversial stop/go penalty for cutting the chicane in the Brundle incident. After the race Prost would go on to call the decision “a scandal”. After dropping to 6th in the aftermath of his penalty, Prost then began to make his way back through the field in a superior car.

Prost made his way back up to 2nd behind team-mate Hill and in the closing laps reduced his lead to just 8s. On the penultimate lap disaster struck Hill and his left rear tyre suddenly deflated and he had to retire the car before making it back to the pits. This allowed Prost to slip by and take his 51st and final win in F1.

Canada 1998 – Michael Schumacher

The 1998 Canadian Grand Prix started off in a wild manner and would continue to be a race of controversy and confusion. There was an abandoned start, 2 opening corner pile-ups and 5 cars out on the opening lap including polesitter Mika Hakkinen. This left Hakkinen’s McLaren team-mate David Coulthard in the lead ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher quickly found his way by Fisichella and inherited the lead on lap 19 when Coulthard retired with transmission issues. It looked like Schumacher would romp away with the win with no real competition left in the field. Then he pitted. On his way out from the pits he failed to notice the faster car of Heinz-Harald Frentzen on the outside of T1. Frentzen was pushed off into the gravel and out of the race.

After his 1st stop, Schumacher came out in 3rd behind Fisichella and home favourite Jacques Villenueve. Villenueve wasn’t a problem for long after trying, and failing, to overtake Fisichella after a safety car period. Schumacher was then given a stop/go penalty for forcing another car off the track and dropped back behind Damon Hill after taking it. A controversial weaving incident with his old rival later and Schumacher was back into 2nd behind Fisichella. The Italian relinquished the lead to Schumacher after making his only pit stop, this left Schumacher with a window in which to build up a lead prior to his 2nd and final stop.

The then double world champion succeeded in his mission, leaving the pits ahead of Fisichella and kept a 16s cushion over the Benetton driver until the end of the race.

Britain 1998 – Michael Schumacher

In dry conditions Michael Schumacher probably didn’t stand much of a chance of winning the 1998 British Grand Prix. The then double world champion had qualified on the front-row, but was nearly 0.5s away from rival Mika Hakkinen. Then it rained. A lot.

The start took place in mixed conditions, however it didn’t take long for the weather to turn back for the worse and drivers began to peel into the pits for wets in their droves. By lap 38 conditions were beyond treacherous and several spins, including David Coulthard, meant the stewards had no choice but to deploy the safety car. Schumacher had been sitting behind Alexander Wurz just before the safety car period and confusingly emerged ahead of him before it would end.

While the stewards deliberated over the unusual incident Hakkinen, who had led all race, had a spin at the front of the field and allowed Schumacher through into the lead on lap 52. Just 2 laps from the end of the race the stewards finally handed Schumacher a 10-second penalty for overtaking under the safety car.

Confusion reigned since Ferrari were sure the stewards had missed their 25 minute time window to hand Schumacher his penalty by 6 minutes. The team were also unsure over the handwritten note which had been handed to them and didn’t clearly state if the penalty was to be applied post-race or had to be taken in-race. In a compromise Ferrari brought Schumacher into the pits on the final lap of the race and seemingly handed the win to Hakkinen.

However Schumacher had actually already crossed the finish line on his way into the pits, thanks to the finish line being before the starting line. Schumacher had already won the race before he had taken his penalty. The stewards couldn’t apply the penalty post-race either because to do so said penalty had to have taken place in the last 12 laps of the race, which Schumacher’s hadn’t.

The penalty was eventually rescinded and the matter investigated by the FIA World Council who confirmed the trio of errors from the stewarding team. Schumacher was a 31 time grand prix winner, had taken his 3rd win in a row in 1998 and had won 2 of the previous 3 races despite being handed mid-race penalties.