Markus Winkelhock, 2007 European GP

One-time Grand Prix racer Markus Winkelhock – who will surely go down as one of F1’s ultimate one-race wonders – is today celebrating his 34th birthday!

The son of the late F1 racer Manfred Winkelhock and nephew of former Grand Prix Joachim Winkelhock – both of whom raced in the 1980s – Markus is famous for his one and only Grand Prix race, which he led!

Initial success in the junior motorsport categories in his German homeland, Winkelhock joined the German Formula 3 championship in 2001, and remained in the series until it was rebranded as the F3 EuroSeries in 2003. He earned six win in his three seasons there, peaking with fourth overall in his third and final year.

He switched to touring car racing in 2004, joining Mercedes-Benz in its Persson Motorsport line-up in the DTM Championship, but he didn’t claim a points’ finish.

A switch back to single-seater racing saw him move into the World Series by Renault championship. He earned three wins that year, but was also involved in a few crashes as well.

Markus Winkelhock, 2006 Australian GPIn 2006, he was confirmed as a test driver with the Midland F1 team – taking part in three Friday practice sessions that year – and remained with the team when it was rebranded as Spyker in 2007, also dovetailing in the DTM series, competing in three races for Audi.

His one moment of F1 glory came at the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, in which he stepped up to the race seat as the replacement for the sacked Christijan Albers.

Markus Winkelhocks leads on debutWith his limited experience, it was little surprise that he qualified the car bog last. As rain fell on the formation lap, his team made the last-minute decision to call him in for wet-weather tyres. The rain meant that the rest of the field piled into the pits at the end of the first lap, giving Winkelhock an unexpected lead.

By the end of the second lap, his lead was 19 seconds. By the end of the fourth lap, it was up to 33 seconds! The rain wouldn’t ease, and the race stewards ordered the safety car onto the circuit, before suspending the race when several runners aquaplaned off at Turn 1.

The race restarted when the rain eased and – having switched to full rain tyres in the hope of more showers – Winkelhock quickly fell down the field as he was swamped by faster cars, retiring after 15 laps when an hydraulics problem set in.

Markus Winkelhock, 2012He remains the only F1 driver to start last and lead the race in his first Grand Prix, as well as being the only driver to start from last and first on the grid at the same event.

Replaced by the better-funded Sakon Yamamoto for the rest of the season, Winkelhock returned to the DTM championship again, competing for the next three seasons with the Team Rosberg Audi outfit.

[Images via LAT, Reuters, Sutton Images, XPB]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.