Column | Max Verstappen joined exclusive club with this result in Russia

Column | Max Verstappen joined exclusive club with this result in Russia

03-10-2021 12:00

During last week’s Russian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen pulled off an impressive feat that puts him in an exclusive club. On the current grid, just one other driver started from 20th on the grid and finished second. 

Red Bull Racing opted to put a new Honda engine in the back of Verstappen’s RB16B. After the Silverstone crash, it became clear he was going to need a fourth engine and therefore at some point, he had to take a penalty. Red Bull waited and waited as potential options in Belgium and Italy passed by. But rain in the closing stages of the Russian Grand Prix helped Verstappen to luck into a second-place finish and virtually limit the damage as much as possible on a circuit dominated by Mercedes. 

Yes, Verstappen and Red Bull still had to get the call right regarding the time at which to pit for intermediates. He could’ve joined the long list including his teammate Sergio Perez and race leader Lando Norris who misjudged the conditions. But it can still be called a lucky result. As a result, Hamilton only has a two-point lead in the World Championship. 

P20 to P2 

Verstappen joins only Sebastian Vettel who started from 20th on the grid, to reach second place on the podium. Vettel did this in, ironically, a race that Verstappen won. The 2019 German Grand Prix also saw rain play a part. In his home race, Vettel failed to set a time in Q1 but the stewards granted him permission to start the race. He added a third Control Electronics and therefore also picked up a 10-place grid penalty. 

By the end of the first lap, Vettel already made huge gains. The then Ferrari driver sat in 14th place, and then 12th on the second and fourth lap. Under a safety car, Vettel took the chance to pit as the track started to dry. The four-time World Champion made his way up to seventh at the time of the next pitstop, before advancing again to third for his final pit stop. 

In the final couple of laps, Vettel overtook Daniil Kvyat to claim second place. 

Similar feats have been recorded by members of the current grid. Vettel himself started from the pit lane in the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He worked his way through a field of 24 to claim third place at the chequered flag. Lewis Hamilton started from 20th in the 2014 German Grand Prix and also claimed third place. In the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz started from 20th. A choatic race followed, and after penalties, Sainz ended up in third. 

Last to first

It’s also worth mentioning Sergio Perez’s impressive performance in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. He was running last during the first safety car period after a spin. Perez, then driving for Racing Point worked his way through the field to claim his first victory in Formula 1. He benefited from the George Russell pit stop drama. 

This has only happened five other times. David Coulthard ran last for two laps in the 2003 Australian Grand Prix but ended up winning after perfect calls for tyre changes on a damp circuit by the McLaren team. 

Also in 2003, Giancarlo Fisichella recorded the feat in Brazil. Again, wet conditions played their part. He fell to the back almost 20 laps into the race. Fisichella’s wet racing skills came in handy as he kept it on the tarmac whilst others struggled. The race was eventually red-flagged and the result was counted back to the 54th lap. This is the lap that Fisichella took the lead from Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen was given the win, but six days later it was overturned and given to the Jordan driver instead. 

Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso ran last in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. But of course, his Renault teammate Nelson Piquet Jr spun into the wall which helped Alonso move up the grid with a perfectly timed pit stop. Subsequent investigations proved that the team called for this crash. 

And finally, Jenson Button managed the feat in Australia 2010 and Canada 2011. Sticking with the theme, damp and wet conditions played their part in those two races.