Motorsport News

5 Times a Lame-Duck Driver Won in Formula 1

Perez Sakhir Gp 2020

Carlos Sainz’s victory following Max Verstappen’s surprise retirement from the Australian Grand Prix this past weekend might have been a bit awkward.

After all, the Spaniard is on his way out of Ferrari following the season, with the Prancing Horse having signed Lewis Hamilton before the 2024 season officially began for 2025 and beyond.

Sainz thus became the first driver since 2021 to win a race even though it was publicly known they would be leaving at the end of the season. It’s not unusual for this to happen in modern Formula 1, but it is unusual for it to have happened so early in the final season.

Once it becomes known a driver is leaving an F1 team, attitudes change around it. The team is going to naturally start focusing more on developing the car around the other driver, while slowly cutting off information and data to the outgoing driver.

Usually, this is a short process, as the summer break is around the time most of the big silly season moves are resolved. Which is what makes Sainz and Hamilton both fascinating to watch this season, as both have been ahead of their teammates for the last year or so. When will their falloff happen?

It’s impossible to answer, but for now, let’s look back at five other times a driver won on the way out of a team in the last 20 years.

Michael Schumacher from Ferrari (2006)

Let’s start with maybe the most interesting situation — one where we will likely never get the full story on due to Michael Schumacher’s major ski accident in 2013 retiring him from public life.

In 2006, Schumacher had shown plenty of speed, but Ferrari had an issue on its hands. It had signed Kimi Raikkonen to a seat in 2007 and had Felipe Massa as well.

After Schumacher’s win in the Italian Grand Prix, as the German was walking onto the podium, Ferrari sent a press release out saying that Schumacher would be retiring at the end of the season. If you watch the ITV broadcast on F1TV, pit lane reporter Ted Cravitz actually reads the PR on-air right before the national anthems start.

Schumacher confirmed this after the podium in the press conference, but it’s interesting that the team did not allow Schumacher to make the announcement on his own terms.

Schumacher’s final F1 victory came in the next race, in Shanghai, putting him equal on points with Fernando Alonso entering the last two races of the season. Schumacher then went to Japan and had an engine failure…

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