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Top 5 | The most surprising pole positions in the history of Formula 1

Top 5 | The most surprising pole positions in the history of Formula 1

11-12-2022 12:37


In the battle for pole position, it is usually the 'usual suspects' who make off with the top starting position, but every now and then another driver manages to surprise the Formula 1 paddock by doing everything right in unpredictable conditions. Here are some of the most surprising polesitters in F1 history.

5. Pastor Maldonado - 2012 Spanish GP

The 2012 Spanish Grand Prix would end in a dream weekend for the much-discussed Pastor Maldonado. Everything fell into place for the then Williams driver, who achieved the first and only pole position of his F1 career at the Barcelona circuit.

After impressively clocking the fastest time in Q3, he lost his provisional pole to Lewis Hamilton, but the Briton was disqualified for having too little fuel in his McLaren' s tank. As a result, the first starting position still went to Maldonado.

This was not where the dream would end for Maldonado. During the race, the Venezuelan driver was in a class of his own and managed to keep Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen behind him. He converted his pole position into his first and last F1 win, which, for now, counts as Williams' last victory.

4. Rubens Barrichello - 1994 Belgian GP

As we have come to expect from Spa-Francorchamps, the 1994 Grand Prix weekend took place in unpredictable conditions. Friday qualifying was held on a drying track, where Jordan's team was the first to dare to go out on slicks. Rubens Barrichello set the fastest time, but had to wait for Saturday's qualifying.

However, more rain fell during Saturday qualifying, causing most drivers to drive a few seconds slower than the day before, with only Christian Fittipaldi improving his time. No one came close to the time of Barrichello, who secured the first pole position of his career.

3. Nico Hulkenberg - 2010 Brazilian GP

Qualifying for the 2010 Brazil GP started on a wet track. During the session, however, the tarmac dried up and the question was who would have the guts to go out on slicks. The answer: Nico Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg, then driving for Williams in his first year in F1, took a chance and went out on slicks in Q3. That decision paid off, as the driver secured his first pole position by setting a time a second faster than the rest of the field.

2. Sebastian Vettel - 2008 Italian GP

In a rainy qualifying session at Monza in 2009, it was Sebastian Vettel who made a big impression by capturing his very first pole position. In his Toro Rosso car he would not normally be able to clock the fastest time, but on a wet track he outclassed the rest of the field and took pole in stunning fashion.

The track was also wet on Sunday. Vettel managed to turn those conditions to his advantage in excellent fashion by retaining the lead during the race and never relinquishing it. The young German was inimitable and turned his first pole into a very impressive first win.

1. Giancarlo Fisichella - 2009 Belgian GP

Giancarlo Fisichella spent the final phase of his F1 career at Force India, before being allowed to fill in at Ferrari for the last five races of his final season. Force India had yet to score any points in 2009, until Fisichella's impressive performance at the Belgium GP.

Whereas most unexpected polesitters set the fastest time in wet conditions, Fisichella caused a stir by performing it on a completely dry track. Moreover, the Italian driver almost managed to turn his fourth and final pole into a victory, finishing less than a second behind race winner Kimi Raikkonen.

Honourable mentions

Outside these top five, there are a number of notable F1 drivers who secured pole positions completely unexpectedly. Most recently, Kevin Magnussen surprised everyone by taking pole position during a rained-out qualifying session in Brazil, causing a stir among the entire Haas team.

Lance Stroll should not be forgotten either: the Canadian often shows his best side in rainy conditions, with pole for the 2020 Turkish GP being one of the highlights. Another driver who usually performs strongly in the rain is Lando Norris. He surprised by putting his McLaren on P1 in wet conditions for the 2021 GP of Russia.

Further back in history, there were also some very noteworthy performances. At the 1998 Austrian GP, Fisichella took his first pole by driving his Benetton to the fastest time during a wet qualifying session. In 1985, it was Teo Fabi who surprised in Friday qualifying at the Nürburgring. Due to a rainy Saturday, nobody could improve his time and so the Toleman driver took his first pole position.