Every sport has its own fair share of controversies. Some controversies are so big that they can even rock the foundation and existence of that sport. For instance, there are numerous F1 controversies that shook Formula One to its very core. Today, we list out the top 5 five controversies that have happened in this high speed motorsport.
One of the most scandalous F1 controversies of all-time. The 2007 Formula One espionage case, also known as Spygate or Stepneygate. Ferrari alleged that former employee, Nigel Stepney, passed on valuable information to a senior McLaren engineer, Mike Coughlan. This resulted in legal action in the court of Italy and an FIA investigation into the matter. Following a criminal investigation and several FIA hearings, McLaren were fined a record breaking $100 million. They were also excluded from the 2007 Constructors Championship. The driver’s championship was unaffected as the drivers were offered immunity in exchange of cooperation. Mike Coughlan, Paddy Lowe, Jonathan Neale and Rob Taylor were fined €180,000 for the legal proceedings against them to be dropped in the court of Italy.
After a disappointing qualifying session in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, the Renault cars were well down the grid. Fernando Alonso started fifteenth and Nelson Piquet Jr. sixteenth. As the race started, Alonso was the first one to make a routine pit stop on lap 12. He rejoined the race at the back of the field. Three laps later, Nelson Piquet crashed into the circuit wall at turn seventeen. The safety car was called bunch the field while the stricken Renault was recovered. Most of the cars pitted during the safety car period. Alonso stayed out to take the lead in the final third, and eventually win the race.
In the 2009 season, after failing to score points in the first ten races, The Renault team dropped Nelson Piquet. An angry Piquet revealed that he had been ordered to deliberately crash in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. The FIA stepped in and charged Renault with conspiracy. Renault stated that they would not contest the charges. Then, they announced that the team’s managing director, Flavio Briatore, and executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, had left the team. Briatore was indefinitely suspended from all F1 and FIA-sanctioned events. Symonds received a five-year ban for his role. Renault were also disqualified from F1, but the sentence was later suspended. It was one of the messiest controversies in F1 history. One driver’s reputation was ruined and a team boss could never step in the F1 paddock again
This incident is referred to as one of ”The Most Unsporting Moments” in Formula One history by BBC Sports. In the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, the sixteenth and final race of the season, both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship were at stake. Schumacher drove his Benetton into Damon Hill’s Williams’ front left suspension wishbone. Schumacher was out immediately whereas Hill had to retire due to irreparable damage. Since, neither of them scored any points, this secured the World Title for Schumacher. While, Schumacher maintained that it was a racing incident, Hill alleged that Schumacher ‘deliberately’ collided into his car to win the Championship.
Schumacher tried to do the same against Villeneuve in the 1997 European Grand Prix at Jerez to secure himself the World Title but was disqualified from the championship by the race stewards for causing an ‘avoidable’ accident. Talk about instant karma. What made this on of the biggest f1 controversies was thatSchumacher was willing to go to any lengths to win the title.
After the 2007 Formula One espionage controversy they found themselves in trouble again. The FIA officials and stewards deemed them to be in breach of the FIA’s International Sporting Code in the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. The controversy started when McLaren protested Jarno Trulli’s third place for Toyota. They said that the Italian had illegally overtaken Hamilton behind the safety car.
Behind closed doors however, Hamilton told the stewards that he had received no instruction to allow Trulli past, and had not consciously done so. But radio recordings later revealed that McLaren had told Hamilton to move over for Trulli. The Italian’s podium was later restored. The stewards decided that Hamilton and McLaren had misled them, having contradicted the available evidence. Hamilton was disqualified and McLaren stripped of their constructors’ points. McLaren also sacked sporting director Dave Ryan as well. The British team was also banned for three races. A punishment that would only be applied if a similar offence occurred within the next twelve months. McLaren had a fairly long history of F1 controversies and this was the latest blot on their reputation.
An incident which prompted Prost to label Senna as a “disgusting” and “a man without value”, the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season, highlighted Ayrton Senna’s lust to win by hook or by crook. After securing pole, Senna claimed that pole position had been shifted to the dirtier side of the track.
An agitated Senna vowed to take the lead in the first corner, if Prost(second on the grid) got the advantage in the first corner, which most certainly he would, regardless of the consequences. As a result, the drivers made contact in the first corner and crashed out from the race, thus handing Senna the World Championship for the second time. Many people saw this incident as Senna’s revenge for what Prost did to him in the same Grand Prix a year ago. A move that secured Prost the world title.
The 1989 and 1990 Japanese Grand Prix had serious championship repercussions. In the aftermath, both drivers accused each other for the incidents, respectively. This is arguably one of the biggest F1 controversies, if not the biggest. What made it so sensational was the fact that it involved 2 world champions at the top of their game, trying to ruin each other.