The modern rules that govern blue flag etiquette didn’t exist prior to the mid-1990s, and for a front-running driver overtaking a backmarker placed a much great emphasis on skill. In many instances, it could often determine the outcome of an actual race.
However, some midfield and lower-order drivers pay scant regard to the speed (or talent) differential between the front-running car attempting to get by them, and have developed quite the reputation as being difficult to lap due to their complete lack of manners when being passed.
In the spirit of all things subjective, here is our countdown of Formula 1’s Top-10 ‘Mobile Chicanes’…
10. Eddie Irvine
Eddie Irvine’s reputation for a bit of on-track bravado was known in his debut F1 race, where he famously un-lapped himself from Ayrton Senna in the changeable conditions of the 1993 Japanese Grand Prix (left).
So incensed was the three-time champion that he sought out the Ulsterman after the race and punched him in the face!
9. Noberto Fontana
Conspiracy theorists, stand up! Was there anything a little unusual at the 1997 European Grand Prix, when race leader Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari seemingly sauntered past the young Argentine’s Sauber, but when the chasing Jacques Villeneuve stumbled upon him moments later, he was held up?
Not when Sauber is a customer of Ferrari for its engine supply…
Years later, Fontana raised allegations that he was been asked by Ferrari management to impede Villeneuve as he and Schumacher brought the title fight down to the wire at Jerez:
“Two or three hours before the race started [Ferrari Team Principal] Jean Todt entered [the motor home] and went straight to the point: ‘By strict order of Ferrari, Villeneuve must be held up if you come across him on the track. To whoever this applies.'”
Then Sauber team boss Peter Sauber has refuted these allegations.
The diminutive Italian is better known for some giant-killing performances in a lengthy career with F1 cellar-dwellers Minardi, including being its only driver to lead a race (1989 Portuguese Grand Prix) and start from the front row of the grid (1990 United States Grand Prix).
But Martini also fashioned a reputation for being rather unhelpful when being lapped.
At the 1991 Monaco Grand Prix he was several laps down after a lengthy pit stop to cure a problem with his car. Later in the race when second-placed Alain Prost came up to lap him in his Ferrari, Martini repeatedly blocked the French driver to the point that Nigel Mansell was able to close up in his Williams and overtake the then three-time World Champion.
Race officials were incensed and handed Martini an unprecedented 10-second stop/go penalty for his intransigence.
7. Luca Badoer
Ferrari’s very loyal test driver has certainly been known to exhibit the ‘What mirrors?’ syndrome during his 50-odd Grand Prix career that intermittently spanned 1993-2009 – he holds the unfortunate record of the most Grand Prix starts without ever finishing in the points.
As early as 1995, Luca was earning himself a reputation as a ‘mobile chicane’, demonstrating some shocking manners for a backmarker at the 1995 San Marino Grand Prix in particular.
One of the greatest embarrassments in his F1 career came at the wet 1996 Monaco Grand Prix (below). Driving miles off the pace for the hopeless Forti team, Badoer chopped across the nose of Jacques Villeneuve as the Canadian came up to lap the Italian at Mirabeau, putting both out of the race in an incident that ultimately allowed Ligier’s Olivier Panis to claim his one and only Grand Prix victory. For failing to use his mirrors, Luca earned himself a suspended one-race ban.
Even in 1999 – his last full-time F1 season – he was penalised at the Canadian Grand Prix for holding up the leaders when they cam to lap him.
6. Mark Blundell
After several seasons of midfield struggle, Mark Blundell finally found himself as an eleventh-hour call-up in place of Nigel Mansell at McLaren for 1995, when his compatriot was too fat couldn’t fit in the car. Sadly, the 1995 Mercedes-powered MP4/10 was not one of Woking’s finest, and Mark found himself scrapping for the occasional point.
Perhaps it was this frustration that bore fruit in the form of some dreadful manners when the frontrunners came up to lap him.
Blundell already had something of a reputation as quite the defensive driver, but a few instances in 1995 stand out. Trying to fend off Gerhard Berger for 11th at the French Grand Prix, Blundell viciously forced Jean Alesi (Berger’s teammate) onto the kerbs at the Adelaide Hairpin when the Frenchman lapped Berger – click here to see the video. Perhaps Blundell didn’t realise it was the other Ferrari coming up to lap him.
An even more disgraceful piece of driving occurred at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix – click here to see the video – where Blundell, in seventh, repeatedly blocked Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Sauber for two laps, allowing Johnny Herbert to close right up to the German. Frentzen eventually forced his way past Blundell, but not without a choice one-fingered gesture along the way!
5. Jean-Pierre Jarier
Jarier was often an easy target for James Hunt’s commentary, with the 1976 Champion describing the the Frenchman as “an idiot” with “the mental age of [a] ten[-year-old]”.
Jarier had a long-standing reputation for being truly unhelpful when being lapped. He earned his first major tongue-lashing from Hunt at the 1979 British Grand Prix when he repeatedly race leader Alan Jones’ Williams when the Australian came up to lap him – click here to see the video. In an unrelated postscript, Jones would later retire from the race and teammate Clay Regazzoni would claim the Williams team’s first Grand Prix victory.
Undoubtedly Jarier’s most shocking antics as a backmarker came four years later at the Austrian Grand Prix. As race leader Patrick Tambay came up to lap him, he badly blocked the Ferrari driver and allowed his teammate René Arnoux into the lead.
He let Arnoux by with little difficulty and blocked Tambay again through the Texaco Schikane left-handers, which allowed Brabham’s Nelson Piquet to dive up the inside of Tambay and steal second place. Tambay was so incensed that he shook his fist at Jarier when he got by, while Jarier rightly earned another spray from Hunt and Murray Walker – click here to see the video.
“Jarier really is completely out of order, he really shouldn’t be allowed to drive in Grand Prix racing. He’s got a mental age of 10 in the first place, and that was an absolutely disgraceful bit of driving for a driver of his experience… the authorities have to crack down on driving like that. He should certainly receive a short suspension, and for being himself, he should receive a permanent suspension.” – James Hunt on Jarier’s blocking antics during the 1983 Austrian Grand Prix
Jarier’s fall from grace – from being a front-runner with the likes of Shadow and Tyrrell in the 1970s – saw him out of favour with many top teams and his Grand Prix career came to a close at the end of the 1983 season. Certainly his fellow drivers were happy to see the back of him.
4. Philippe Alliot
Despite his charming demeanour, Philippe Alliot was a royal pain in the backside when it came to trying to lap him. He had established an early reputation as a blocker, and like Jarier, was regularly a target for criticism from Murray Walker and particularly James Hunt who described him as “one of the worst Grand Prix drivers ever to drive a Grand Prix car”.
Driving for the appropriately-named RAM team, Alliot squeezed fourth-placed Martin Brundle ‘s Tyrrell into the barriers (pictured below) having completely failed to see the Englishman was alongside him and trying to lap him. Both retired on the spot – click here to see the video.
At the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, Alliot’s Larrousse was shoved into the barriers at high speed by Riccardo Patrese’s Williams when the Frenchman inexplicably veered across the circuit on the approach to Mirabeau, in spite of Patrese making it perfectly clear he was going for the inside line. Into the barriers for Philippe – click here to see the video.
The 1989 Spanish Grand Prix saw more fist-shaking at Philippe, this time from Ayrton Senna when he blatantly carved up the faster McLaren when the reigning champion tried to overtake him while on a flying lap – click here to see the video.
Alliot finally got his come-uppance at the 1990 Portuguese Grand Prix, now driving for Ligier. He tried the same thing to Nigel Mansell’s Ferrari as he had done to Senna, but this time Nigel tipped him into a spin at high speed into the barriers. Many thought Alliot had deserved it – click here to see the video.
3. Olivier Grouillard
The slick-haired man from Toulouse’s skills at being an on-track obstacle was nothing short of legendary. His reputation as a ‘mobile chicane’ spanned the entireity of his F1 career which saw him race for backmarker outfits such as Ligier (1989) and Osella / Fondmetal (1990-91).
His particular favourite target seemed to be Nigel Mansell. During practice for the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix, Grouillard baulked the Englishman at the Acque Minerali chicane when he was on a flier in his Ferrari.
He did the same to Mansell at the 1990 Australian Grand Prix, causing him to gesticulate furiously via his onboard camera. The following season was no different, as Grouillard again held up Mansell during qualifying for the German Grand Prix, and again the Williams driver was furious.
His final season in F1 in 1992 in the vastly more competitive Tyrrell was more of history repeating itself. This time, Grouillard’s target was Johnny Herbert, where he appallingly held up the Lotus driver for lap after lap at the French Grand Prix. That he wasn’t offered a continuance of his F1 career beyond 1992 was of huge relief to the other drivers…
2. Andrea de Cesaris
De Cesaris forged such a reputation for being an obstructive driver that he would almost certainly be on anyone’s shortlist as one of the worst ‘mobile chicanes’ in F1 history. But to be fair, the latter stages of his 204-Grand Prix career saw a more polished, calmer and refined driver in the Italian veteran.
Sadly, most people’s memories of Andrea will be from the 1980s, where his red-misted driving was all-too-frequent, as was his mentality of needing to keep any chasing driver behind him at all costs – irrespective of whether this was for position, or if he was being lapped.
One of many examples that could be cited was the 1982 Swiss Grand Prix at Dijon. This was to finally look like Keke Rosberg’s first Grand Prix victory in what would be his title-winning season, but during the race he found himself stuck behind Andrea’s Alfa Romeo for several laps, losing a bundle of time to the chasing Renault of René Arnoux.
“His attitude is that if someone’s on his tail trying to get by, he should prevent it by any means. If it had been possible I would have got out of the car in the middle of the straight and hit him as hard as I could straight in the face, climbed back in the car and gone on.” – Keke Rosberg, after being held up by De Cesaris during the 1982 Swiss GP
Into the late 1980s and early 1990s, de Cesaris’ reputation showed little sign of improving. He famously took out his team-mate, Alex Caffi, at the 1989 United States GP at Phoenix when he was being lapped, costing his compatriot a certain podium finish.
Even as late as 1990, his reputation as one of F1’s greatest ‘mobile chicanes’ was undimmed – he almost succeeded in taking Nigel Mansell off at San Marino, prompting a few choice observations from the BBC’s James Hunt – click here to see the video.
1. René Arnoux
By the final stages of his F1 career, René Arnoux’s reputation as a race-winner and championship contender were long diminished by several seasons trundling around in the lower-midfield for the likes of Ligier.
Decidedly unpopular among his peers due to his completely lack of on-track manners, he was rarely described in complimentary terms by his fellow drivers.
“He is a pain on the backside on the race track,” said John Watson in 1984. “He is so very inconsiderate, particularly in qualifying. His driving etiquette is consistently poor and he seems to have this idea that he cannot allow himself to be overtaken.”
At the season-ending 1988 Australian Grand Prix, Arnoux wiped race leader Gerhard Berger out of the race when he chopped straight across the Ferrari driver at the Adelaide Hairpin – click here to see the video. It was an appalling piece of driving from the Frenchman, although Berger graciously admitted that his brakes were well and truly worn and he could not have avoided the errant Ligier.
By 1989, his final season in F1, Arnoux’s reputation as one of F1’s most notorious blockers was well and truly set in stone. His season was littered with a series of accidents, many of which stemmed from a complete inability to use his mirrors.
At that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, he held up his compatriot Alain Prost to the tune of almost 12 seconds over two laps, costing the Frenchman any hope of challenging Ayrton Senna for race victory. His blue LOTO-sponsored Ligier was a regular sight as the marshals furiously waved blue flags at him, prompting one of the most iconic outbursts in James Hunt’s career as a commentator for the BBC – click here to see the video.
Images via Deviant Art, Flickr, Pinterest
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