Vettel, Clark, Hamilton: your best chases to catch up

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Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton drove from last place before the sprint to victory in the São Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil in 2021. We review some of the most fabulous comeback races in Formula 1.

What is the biggest race to catch up of all time? Lewis Hamilton was the last to go to the Interlagos sprint in 2021 after the rear wing of his Mercedes was classified as non-compliant and he was disqualified from qualifying. The Englishman then showed a masterful drive in 5th place.

After that, Hamilton had to go back five places due to an engine change. From starting position 10, the seven-time champion drove irresistibly to victory in the São Paulo Grand Prix.

Again and again the GP fans are amazed at the breathtaking performances of the best racing drivers in the world. Ferrari star Sebastian Vettel was the last to leave in Hockenheim in 2019. Usually all chances of a good result are gone. Fortunately, Formula 1 is not normal: Vettel came second in the chaotic German Grand Prix!

In Abu Dhabi 2012, Vettel, at that time still for Red Bull Racing, showed an amazing drive from almost back to almost front. The second to last (Pedro de la Rosa took up position behind him from the pit lane in Abu Dhabi) was World Championship leader Vettel, and in third place he was able to climb onto the podium!

We leave the Indy 500 outside of the following numbers. The spectacle in the USA was part of the Formula 1 World Championship in the 1950s, but it was never a veritable Grand Prix in the USA, and GP racers seldom got lost in Indiana noodle pots.

Therefore: At the Grand Prix of Great Britain in 1954, the Argentine Roberto Mieres started the race with his Maserati from starting position 32 and was sixth – won 26 places!

In the same race his compatriot Onofre Marimón drove from position 28 on the podium: 3rd place, 25 places won!

In Estoril 1993 Damon Hill stormed his Williams from 26th to 2, 24 places won. A few other notable achievements, without claiming to be exhaustive:

Gained 23 places
Nelson Piquet (BR) in Mexico 1987: From 25 to 2

Gained 22 places
Ronnie Peterson (S) in USA 1972: From 26 to 4
Nigel Mansell (GB) in France 1989: From 24 to 2
Christian Danner (D) in USA 1989: From 26 to 4
Michael Schumacher (D) in Italy 1992: From 25 to 3

Gained 21 places
Emerson Fittipaldi (BR) in USA 1980: From 24 to 4
Carlos Reutemann (RA) in Italy 1980: From 24 to 3
John Watson (GB) in USA 1983: From 22 to 1
Niki Lauda (A) in USA 1983: From 23 to 2

Gained 20 places
Keke Rosberg (FIN) in Europe 1985: From 23 to 3
Jenson Button (GB) in Canada 2011: From 21 to 1
Sebastian Vettel (D) in Abu Dhabi 2012: From 23 to 3

At the US Grand Prix in Long Beach 1983 McLaren driver John Watson managed the feat of winning from 22nd place on the grid! Nobody would have bet a cent on McLaren after qualifying. Watson’s stable mate Niki Lauda finished second from 23rd place …

Other winners from far behind:

Rubens Barrichello won in Hockenheim 2000 from 18th place on the grid. John Watson (he again!) In Detroit 1982 from 17th place, as did Kimi Raikkonen in Suzuka in 2005.

From 16th place on the grid, Jackie Stewart won in Kyalami 1973 and Michael Schumacher in 1995 in Spa-Francorchamps.

From 15th place Fernando Alonso triumphed in Singapore in 2008 (under dubious conditions, but that’s another story).

Victories from 14th place on the grid went to Alan Jones at the Österreichring in 1977, Olivier Panis in 1996 in Monte Carlo, Johnny Herbert in 1999 at the Nürburgring, Jenson Button in 2006 at the Hungaroring and Lewis Hamilton in 2018 – in Hockenheim.

Terrific, if not the winner: In 1967 Clark dashed off from pole position in Monza and led, then came to the pits because of a flat tire. The change took a lap. The Scot was back on the track as 16th. Clark burned one lap record after the other into the asphalt, did one lap well (!) And went into the last lap as leader. Then he ran out of fuel and came third with the engine stuttering.

The Tifosi celebrated him as if he had won in a Ferrari.

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