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What is Formula 1’s Biggest Controversy?

Written by Jess Hayden, Edited by Sean McKean

If you have watched Formula 1 for a while, you may have heard about the F1 Iceberg, which includes a tiered list of some of the biggest conspiracies and controversies of the past 73 years. We will look into three of the biggest controversies and conspiracies of F1 which left us with many questions.

The Monaco Curse

Charles Leclerc has seen many successes in Formula 1 within the last five years, starting with Sauber and now with Scuderia Ferrari. Hailing from Monaco, his home race is one that should bring joy into Leclerc, but his history with this track is not the best.

In 2018 and 2019, he didn’t finish the race, each due to crashes in the race. Though he took pole position in 2021, he didn’t start the race, as a crash in the later stages of qualifying put him out.

In 2022, things started looking up for the Monegasque driver, as he led the race for 19 laps, when - suddenly - his luck was cut short. A mess up in the Ferrari garage, where both Ferrari drivers were told to pit but Leclerc had already dedicated the car to the pit lane when he was told to stay out, caused Leclerc to fall back into fourth.

Many fans have labelled this bad saga between Leclerc and his home city as ‘The Monaco Curse.’ However, Leclerc himself has said, ‘I don’t believe in that. I think you are winning when you are doing the perfect job.’

Credit: Getty Images


Arguably the biggest controversy within motorsport is the incident dubbed as ‘Crashgate.’This event involved Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr.

On the 14th lap of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, Piquet crashed into the circuit wall, initiating a safety car deployment. This helped Alonso gain positions, as many of the other cars began pitting during the safety car while Alonso had made an early pitstop. Alonso would go on to win the race, but the incident had many more implications, as the ensuing safety car pit stop period resulted in title rival Felipe Massa losing a heap of points.

At the time of the accident, Piquet and Renault explained it was a small mistake made during the race. However, after being dropped by Renault in 2009, Piquet came forward stating he had been asked to deliberately crash to improve the circumstances for Alonso, which sparked a conspiracy and were to respond to the charges two weeks after the end of the FIA’s investigation.

During this time, Renault announced their managing director, Flavio Briatore, and their executive director, Pat Symonds, had left the team. It was then announced Renault were to be disqualified from Formula One for a period of two years, pending any further violations.

Credit: Getty Images

The US Grand Prix Debacle

Last, we have potentially the most controversial event to happen in Formula One, the 2005 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, which had the lowest number of cars to finish a race in all of its history.

Only six out of the original twenty that had entered were able to compete. The six cars that were able to compete in the race were from the teams Ferrari, Jordan, and Minardi. These cars all used bridgestone tyres, with the other fourteen using Michelin tyres. All 20 cars finished the formation lap, however, 14 of those cars retired to the pitlane before the race started.

These drivers didn’t withdraw from the race for no reason though, as there were several tyre failures before the race, one during FP2 for the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher, causing a major crash, and then his replacement Ricardo Zonta also experiencing tyre failures. Michelin had advised the seven teams they supplied to that, without a reduction in speed at turn 13 of the track, the tyres would only be safe for ten laps. Michelin had provided working tyres for these seven teams since 2001, which emphasised the scandal this event caused.

The situation was intensified by the FIA’s 2005 rules, which stated they were not allowed to change tyres during the race. The repavement of part of the track also worsened the situation. The FIA refused the proposal for a compromise from Michelin to add a chicane onto the track at turn 13, as they felt this was unfair for Bridgestone-supplied teams who had come prepared for the weekend. On top of this, some of them felt adding a last minute change to the track may be dangerous for all cars.

Michelin-supplied teams decided not to participate in the race, leaving Michael Schumacher to go on to win the race, his only victory of the season.

The infamous six-car starting grid at Indianapolis; Credit: Getty Images


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