Formula 1 is a thrilling and glamorous sport, where the best drivers in the world compete for glory and fame but there have been many massive F1 Controversies.
Behind the scenes, there is a complex and strict set of rules and regulations that govern every aspect of the sport, from the design of the cars to the conduct of the drivers. And when these rules are broken, the consequences can be severe and costly.
In this article, we will reveal the top five f1 controversies in history, and how they affected the teams and drivers involved. From shocking scandals to controversial incidents, these are the moments that made headlines and shook the foundations of F1.
Prepare to be astonished by the staggering amounts of money that were paid or lost as a result of these controversies, and how they changed the course of F1 history.
1. Spygate: The Scandal That Rocked F1 To Its Core
McLaren were hit with a record-breaking $100 million fine. They were excluded from the 2007 constructors’ championship after being found guilty. The crime was possessing confidential information belonging to Ferrari.
The scandal, known as ‘Spygate’, erupted when Ferrari accused McLaren’s chief designer Mike Coughlan of having access to a 780-page dossier of Ferrari technical data. They had obtained this from Nigel Stepney, a disgruntled former Ferrari employee.
The FIA launched an investigation which also involved police raids. They found evidence that some McLaren drivers and engineers used the Ferrari information to their advantage.
The World Motor Sport Council ruled that McLaren had breached Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. This prohibits any fraudulent conduct or act prejudicial to the interests of any competition.
McLaren were fined $100 million, which was later reduced to $50 million after excluding the team’s share of TV revenue. The team was stripped of all their constructors’ points for 2007.
However, their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were allowed to keep their drivers’ points. They continued to fight for the title, which they both narrowly lost to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by one point.
2. Crashgate: The Scandal That Tarnished Renault’s Reputation
Renault were disqualified from the 2008 season and given a suspended permanent ban. This happened after they were found guilty of orchestrating a deliberate crash at the Singapore Grand Prix that year.
The incident involved Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr crashing his car on lap 14, which triggered a safety car. This benefited his team mate Fernando Alonso, who had pitted early and went on to win the race.
The FIA launched an investigation after Piquet Jr revealed that he had been ordered to crash. Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and engineering director Pat Symonds told him to crash on purpose.
The World Motor Sport Council ruled that Renault had conspired to cause an intentional accident. This had endangered the lives of spectators, officials, other competitors and Piquet Jr himself.
Renault were disqualified from the 2008 championship and given a permanent ban from F1. The ban was suspended for two years on condition that they committed no further breach.
Briatore was banned from any involvement in F1 for life, while Symonds was banned for five years.
Both bans were later overturned by a French court. Briatore agreed not to work in F1 until 2013, while Symonds joined Williams in 2013 as chief technical officer.
3. US Grand Prix 2005: The Race That Never Was
One of the biggest f1 controversies in history took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005.
All 14 teams using Michelin tires withdrew from the race after concerns over tire safety. It left just six cars on the grid.
Fans were outraged, and the FIA faced heavy criticism for allowing the situation to happen. The controversy began when several Michelin tires failed during practice and qualifying. These caused high-speed crashes and punctures.
Michelin advised their teams not to race unless they could use a different tire specification or reduce their speed at Turn 13. This was where most of the failures occurred.
However, neither option was approved by the FIA or the other teams, who used Bridgestone tires.
As a result, all Michelin teams pulled into the pits after the formation lap, leaving only Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi to compete in a farcical race that was won by Michael Schumacher.
The FIA later fined Michelin $2 million for bringing unsuitable tires to the event. They ordered them to refund the ticket holders and pay for future tickets. Michelin also agreed to withdraw from F1 at the end of 2006.
4. Multi-21: The Team Order That Was Ignored
The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix saw one of the f1 biggest controversies in recent F1 history.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel defied a team order and overtook his team mate Mark Webber to win the race. The incident sparked a bitter feud between the two drivers and exposed the tensions within Red Bull.
The controversy began when Vettel and Webber were running first and second respectively after the final pit stops. Webber was ahead by a small margin.
Red Bull issued a coded message to both drivers, “Multi-21”. This meant that they should hold their positions and not race each other. Vettel ignored the order and attacked Webber, passing him on lap 46 and taking the lead.
Webber tried to fight back, but Vettel held on to win the race, while Webber finished second. Webber expressed his anger and disappointment on the podium. Vettel initially apologized for his actions, but later said that he did not regret his decision and that he would do it again.
Webber, who had already announced his retirement from F1 at the end of the season, said that he had lost trust in Vettel and that their relationship was damaged beyond repair.
5. Abu Dhabi 2021: The Last Lap Drama
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw one of the most dramatic f1 controversies in F1 history. Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to win his first world championship.
The controversy stemmed from the decision of the race director, Michael Masi. He allowed only some of the lapped cars to unlap themselves before the final restart.
This gave Verstappen a clear, and unfair, shot at Hamilton. The controversy began when Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams on lap 53.
The safety car was brought out and erasing Hamilton’s 12-second lead over Verstappen. Verstappen pitted for fresh tires, while Hamilton stayed out on old ones.
With five laps to go, it seemed that the race would end under the safety car, giving Hamilton his eighth title.
On lap 57, Masi announced that only five of the nine lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen would be allowed to pass the safety car and rejoin the back of the pack. This created a gap for Verstappen to attack Hamilton.
The safety car came in on lap 58, leaving only one lap of racing. Verstappen used his tire advantage and slipstream to pass Hamilton on the main straight.
He took the lead and Hamilton tried to fight back, but Verstappen defended well and crossed the line first.
Hamilton congratulated Verstappen on his victory, while Mercedes protested Masi’s decision and appealed to the FIA’s International Court of Appeal.
Their appeal was rejected and Verstappen’s title was confirmed. The incident sparked a huge debate among fans, drivers, teams and experts. Masi’s handling of the situation was considered wrong and he lost his job as race director