Two GPs, one pole, one win – who in F1 has done it?

I’m all here for Formula One facts and stats. The more obscure they are, the better. So when Max Verstappen carved his name onto the walls of the sport’s history with his first career pole position – the 100th driver ever to achieve the feat – last Saturday at the Hungaroring, the cogs began to twirl in my brain and Literally Some Wikipedia pages were opened. 

One thing led to another, and before long on a dreary Thursday evening I pondered this (get ready, this is an obscure one with a capital O): who in F1 history has ever taken one World Championship pole position, and one win under similar rules, but without both being at the same Grand Prix weekend? As it turns out, only five drivers have done it. Here’s who they are.

1.  Robert Kubica – 2008 Bahrain GP pole, 2008 Canadian GP victory

I’ll start the list with the only driver currently on the F1 grid, and the only one still currently able to escape it. Serial comeback king, serial public denouncements at the hands of a controversial Canadian, it’s a shock to the system to think back on the titan Robert Kubica once was and realise those ‘serials’ don’t extend to his win tally – just a fateful encounter with that same Canadian’s homeland event in June 2008 prevents him from being in the winless zone.

And it’s a crying tragedy. It’s so easy to forget for most when George Russell is batting him around the park most weekends (oddly though, not in the actual Drivers’ standings – 1 point to 0 there), but Robert’s 2008 season with BMW Sauber was chilling to the bone; one of the best individual seasons there’s been in the 21st century. Keeping the title alive until the penultimate race in an F1.08 chassis that had its development cut short for that dismal ‘09 season, it could’ve been so much more than a single pole in Bahrain and that victory.

A career kicked into life by dislodging, of course, Jacques Villeneuve in the summer of 2006 looked set to hit new heights after a season spent racing at an even higher level than ‘08 with Renault, and a pre-contract with Ferrari agreed for 2012. But, in distressing circumstances, it was all cut short. A participation in the Ronda di Andora rally ended in a severe crash, with the barrier entering the cockpit of his Skoda Fabia. After many years spent regaining his fitness in the rallying scene, 2017 saw Robert finally grace the world of F1 again with a mid-season test under his old team, Renault. Then after a 2018 season spent testing with Williams, he capped off a remarkable comeback with a 2019 race seat.

Mark McArdle / Wikimedia Commons

 

2. Vittorio Brambilla – 1975 Swedish GP pole, 1975 Austrian GP win

The Monza Gorilla. That was the nickname Vittorio Brambilla went by, but rather saddeningly neither his pole nor his win was taken at the temple of speed, and his home city. South Africa would be the first event Vittorio would lay claim to being the fastest in – for the Saturday, at least. He’d hold onto the lead of the race until Lap 16, before first Carlos Reutemann sailed by and Vittorio was forced into a Lap 36 retirement when his transmission gave way.

Austria would be his chance, though after qualifying 8th it looked unlikely. Luckily for him, the race was storming – like literally, the weather was torrid. Vittorio blasted his way into 3rd through the spray, and by the time the GPDA called an end to the drenched event on Lap 29, he’d landed himself top spot. The oldest driver on the grid at age 37, his and March’s first win was a reality, and in typical Brambilla fashion he damaged the car after crossing the line. After his retirement from both Alfa Romeo and racing in 1980, he occasionally drove the Safety Car at Italian GP events, before dying of a heart attack at age 63 in 2001.

 

3. Heikki Kovalainen – 2008 British GP pole, 2008 Hungarian GP win

The poster boy for rapid rises and drastic falls, Heikki Kovalainen was on for a breakthrough season for the top in 2008 after a fine debut season with Renault the year before. That… didn’t happen, although McLaren deemed his input towards a second place in the Constructors’ Championship enough to stay, and he finds himself on this list of mine. Oh what joy that’ll bring to him.

Heikki’s solitary pole was taken on his teammate Lewis Hamilton’s home turf, and who could blame him for anticipating his first time on the top step? Again… didn’t happen. Lewis was in inspired form on Sunday, and took his first home win over a minute ahead of the next car. Heikki? He had a spin and finished 5th. It’d only be two races later until he was on that top step though, with the Hungaroring gifting him fortune at the expense of his teammate’s title rival Felipe Massa, who cruelly retired three laps from the end with an engine failure.

Heikki’s F1 career was in freefall from there on. One more podium at Monza – a race he was widely expected to win – preceded a tough sophomore season at Woking before he was cast to the scrapheap, where Team Lotus (later named Caterham) rescued him. In his three seasons there, not even a point was scored, although his efforts suggested he was still a handy driver on his day. After a two-race cameo in place of Kimi Raikkonen back at Enstone for the other Lotus in 2013, again scoreless, Heikki found success in Japan’s GT500 series – still competing, he won the 2016 title there for Lexus Team SARD. 

David Hunt / Wikimedia Commons

 

4. Jose Carlos Pace – 1975 South African GP pole, 1975 Brazilian GP win

The only driver on this list to have a Grand Prix circuit named after him, and oddly the second to achieve this two GP, one win, one pole feat solely during 1975 – much like Robert and Heikki in 2008 – Jose Carlos Pace instilled pride into the nation of Brazil with his racing exploits, alongside their biggest hope Emerson Fittipaldi. His peak was that fateful day in Interlagos, and he’s the first on this list to achieve his win before his pole.

The Interlagos circuit had only been on the calendar for two years heading into 1975, but both wins were taken by a Brazilian – Fittipaldi taking the chequered flag each time. Not this year, though. That honour was all Carlos’, with his compatriot instead finishing behind him to make it a Brazilian 1-2 on a wonderful day for the nation’s pride. The pole would instead come in the next race in South Africa, where braking problems consigned him to 4th in the race. Nonetheless, a star was born over those two events, and were it not for a fatal airplane accident in 1977 there’s every chance we could’ve been remembering him now as a World Champion.

 

5. Lorenzo Bandini – 1966 French GP pole, 1964 Austrian GP win

The list ends here, with the only driver to take his one pole and win over two different seasons. Lorenzo Bandini spent the first three years of his F1 career drifting between race seats and events on the sidelines, beginning with Ferrari in 1961 right until his Cooper and BRM adventures led to a full time drive with the Scuderia in 1964. That year was the first in which he’d achieve any great success, with 4th place in the Drivers’ standings secured and his first win taken in Austria, sandwiched between two 3rd place finishes in Germany and his home country.

He’d have to wait another two years before he ever led a grid away, but that time eventually came around. Leading the standings coming into the third race of 1966, Lorenzo planted his Ferrari on grid slot numero uno at the French GP, and this would be the peak of his F1 career. Forced to retire from the race, only two points would follow in his career before a horrific crash on the 82nd lap of the following year’s Monaco GP led to his death three days after due to the burns he’d suffered. Much like Carlos, Lorenzo had great potential and was robbed of the time to fulfil it with. 

Lothar Spurzem / Wikimedia Commons

 

[Featured image – Williams Racing]

Will it be the end for Williams Racing?

When it seemed like nothing else could go wrong for Williams after missing the first two days of pre-season testing, the team has just been beaten twice a week before the season kicks off in Australia. Despite the big effort they are putting in to find solutions, the end of what has been one of the most successful teams in Formula One history appears to be nearer than the turnaround they need to be fighting at the top again. After a terrible 2018 in which they was completely off the pace, the team claimed that they had identified the problem and it would be solved in the upcoming year. The truth is that we are already in 2019 and they have the slowest car on the grid and showing no signs of recovery in the near future.

The first troubles showed up quite early this year as the filming day planned at Silverstone got cancelled in order to ‘make the most of the time left before heading to Barcelona’, an inconvenience given that teams are only allowed 100km of running with special tyres, so the main purpose is to check every system to be ready to hit the track once the light goes green at Montmeló.

It was at this point that we realised they had suffered major setbacks. The car wasn’t ready, it wasn’t even in the circuit and their first laps wouldn’t take place until Wednesday afternoon. This was a complete disaster considering that private testing is forbidden nowadays. In addition to this, the legality of the mirrors and the front suspension has been questioned in the last few days. Some experts explain that the front suspension isn’t easy to redesign, so it may cause a new headache before Australia. Furthermore, Williams’ technical chief Paddy Lowe is taking a leave of absence which could lead into his departure after being pointed out as responsible for the team issues.

CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 26: George Russell, Williams FW42 during the Barcelona February testing II at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 26, 2019 in Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain. (Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images)

For some, the two main reasons that have placed Williams on the edge are money and the team’s attitude, both discussed in the following lines. Despite the team denying that the delay was related to issues with external suppliers or a lack of financial resources, it is hard to believe what they stated because of their well-known struggles to keep going through the last few years. Even if they got ROKiT (a telecommunications company) as new title sponsor and Orlen (an oil refiner company and Kubica’s personal sponsor), these brands aren’t expected to match the vast amount of money brought by Lawrence Stroll (Lance’s father) and Martini which left the team at the end of last season.

Having said that, the horizon doesn’t look really promising due to the fact that when you have the slowest car, you want is to develop it as quickly as possible and you need a lot of money to do so. We may have a look back at the beginning of the hybrid era, when the Mercedes engine brought some success to Grove. At that moment, they even managed to afford a big upgrade of their wind tunnel aiming to fight on top again, but their work didn’t pay off and not much more has been said about what was described as a massive step forward in terms of development capability. Since then, they are in freefall praying for the budget cap to come in on time to save the team. Examples like this one make us realise how difficult it is to reach the top and how easy it is to go back to the midfield when you don’t spend the budget correctly or simply don’t have it.

Secondly, the team is missing a captain who steers the project in order to get out of the hole in which they are in. With Sir Frank Williams out of the picture, it is his daughter Claire who actually leads the squad. She seems tired or at least that is the impression given every time she faces the media. Claire has mentioned many times that she doesn’t want to be the person who ends’ Williams long history, but when there is no passion there is nothing to do.

Moreover, Robert Kubica’s attitude towards the team isn’t helping, for sure. The Polish driver, who is coming back to the sport after a long period recovering from the injuries suffered in a rally crash in 2011, has criticised his team harshly over the last days as a consequence of the poor pre-season done. ‘The car was too tired to continue’ and ‘I only know 20% of the things I should know before Australia’ were some of the comments made by Kubica. Most likely, he expected too much from a team which is suffering the worst streak in their history. On the contrary, George Russell is doing exactly what Williams needs: he is always encouraging his guys on social media and making positive statements when he talks to the media. It might sound useless, but the atmosphere you create around you is very important get good results.

Taking all this into account, I have to confess that I fear Williams could not make it to the end of the season as I feel they are digging their own grave. The large number of issues they are facing, added to the lack of leadership and the fact that they remain adamant in their idea of building the whole car on their own and refusing to buy some parts to manufacturers, could mean the end for a team that has been competing in the championship since 1977.

Featured image courtesy of  Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images

Williams unveil new ROKiT-sponsored livery for 2019

Williams have revealed their all-new livery for their upcoming season and announced telecommunications company ROKiT as their new title sponsor, replacing previous sponsor Martini after their five-year partnership came to an end.

The livery, displayed on a 2018-spec car, features a white, blue and black colour scheme and sports the RoKit logo on the engine cover.

The announcement was made at an event at the team’s factory in Grove, Oxfordshire, ahead of the expected launch of the 2019 car before the start of pre-season testing on Monday.

Speaking at the event, deputy team principal Claire Williams said, “We are delighted to welcome ROKiT to our team as our title partner for the 2019 season and beyond. We share many similar values and aspirations with ROKiT; primarily putting engineering and innovation at the core of everything we do in our pursuit to be the best – the perfect platform from which to start a partnership.

ROKiT is on an exciting journey in their world of telecommunications, as we are at Williams as we build the team for a successful future. Taking that path together will make us both stronger in our endeavours and so I can’t wait to get started.”

Alongside the new livery, for 2019 Williams will also have an all-new driver line-up comprised of Robert Kubica and George Russell. The Australian Grand Prix will be something of a momentous occasion for both drivers – for Russell it will be his first ever start in F1, while for Kubica it will be his first race back in F1 since he suffered severe injuries in a rally crash back in 2011.

 

[Featured image – ROKiT Williams Racing]

Robert Kubica joins Williams for 2019 F1 season

Williams have announced that Robert Kubica will race for the team in the 2019 Formula One season.

The signing comes eight years after Kubica last appeared on the grid, with the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix being the Pole’s last outing in a stint in F1 that yielded one win, before a rally crash in February 2011 left him with severe injuries to his arm.

As his recovery progressed he made a return to rallying and competed in the World Rally-2 Championship, ultimately claiming the title with five wins to his name and dovetailing his campaign with sessions in Mercedes’ F1 simulator.

Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1
ref: Digital Image _31I9371

After stints in the ERC and various GT series, he then signed with the ByKolles LMP1 team to race in the World Endurance Championship in 2017, having tested alongside the team’s regular drivers at the end of 2016. However, after pre-season testing, Kubica announced that he would not be participating in the upcoming season.

Instead, he took part in tests with the works Renault F1 team and with Williams over the course of 2017, his first taste of F1 since his accident. He had long been in the frame for a full-time race seat at Williams for 2018, having participated in the 2017 post-season test for the team alongside Felipe Massa, Lance Stroll, and Sergey Sirotkin. He finished third in the group in terms of lap-times when fuel and tyres were accounted for and, with Massa retiring and Stroll already signed, Williams ultimately went for Sirotkin, who also brought with him a larger budget. The deal with Kubica, that many believed to be near completion, fell through, although he was still signed as test and reserve driver.

Over the course of 2018, Kubica participated in five test sessions as part of his role and a further two Friday practice sessions, alongside regular work in the team’s simulator.

Speaking of his signing for 2019, Kubica said, “Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me during what was a difficult period of my life over these last few years. It has been a challenging journey to make it back to the Formula One grid, but what seemed almost impossible is now beginning to feel possible, as I am excited to be able to say that I will be on the Formula One grid in 2019.

“Being back on the F1 grid next season will be one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I’m sure with hard work and commitment we will be able to help motivate the team to achieve good things together. Thank you again to everyone who has supported me and believed in me. I will finally be back on the grid behind the wheel of an F1 car, and I cannot wait to get back racing.”

Kubica will race alongside British rookie George Russell, with current Williams driver Lance Stroll expected to make the move to Force India and Sergey Sirotkin’s future uncertain.