Nikita Mazepin suffered embarrassment at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, becoming the first driver to retire on the first lap of their Formula 1 career in almost twenty years. Here are the last ten F1 drivers to take the unwanted honour of recording a retirement before completing the first racing lap of their career.
Miguel Angel Guerra, 1981 San Marino Grand Prix
Miguel Ángel Guerra had a painful start to his Formula 1 career – in every sense of the word. He drove for Osella at the start of the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix. He failed to qualify for any of the opening three races of the season. Guerra finally made the cut at the San Marino Grand Prix, qualifying in 22nd place. On the opening lap, the Argentine made contact with Eliseo Salazar at the Tosa hairpin. He crashed into the wall, breaking an arm and a leg in the process. Guerra was expected to return to the cockpit later in the season. However, Osella had signed Jean-Pierre Jarier in the interim and Guerra never made another F1 appearance.
Maurício Gugelmin, 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix
The 1988 Formula 1 season began with the 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix. The first start of the race was aborted after Ayrton Senna stalled on the grid. At the second start, the drivers made it away cleanly – but Mauricio Gugelmin’s car was one of two to suffer mechanical issues. Gugelmin was making his debut with the March team, but gearbox issues saw him stop before the end of the first lap.
Oscar Larrauri, 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix
The other driver to suffer mechanical issues on the opening lap of the 1988 Brazilian Grand Prix was Gugelmin’s fellow rookie Oscar Larrauri. Electrical issues prevented his EuroBrun from progressing very far at all in the race. The Argentine made twenty more entries into Formula 1 races, qualifying for seven of them and reaching the chequered flag on only two occasions.
Paolo Barilla, 1989 Japanese Grand Prix
Paolo Barilla stepped up to Formula 1 at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. Racing for Minardi, Barilla replaced Pierluigi Martini at the team. After qualifying nineteenth on the grid, the Italian was out on the first lap as his car suffered clutch issues. Barilla went on to make nine more starts in Formula 1, before going on to be the chairman of the world’s largest pasta producer. He has a net worth of over $1 billion.
Michael Schumacher, 1991 Belgian Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher showed plenty of promise on his Formula 1 debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, but failed to make it to the end of the first lap on race day. Making his first Grand Prix appearance with Jordan, Schumacher qualified an impressive seventh at Spa Francorchamps. The German gained two positions in the opening corners, but a clutch failure saw him retire before reaching the halfway point of Lap 1. Interestingly, at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, Mick Schumacher became the first Schumacher to complete more than two racing laps on his Formula 1 debut.
Marco Apicella, 1993 Italian Grand Prix
Marco Apicella suffered one of the shortest careers in Formula 1 history when he was eliminated just a few hundred metres into the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. Driving for Jordan, Apicella made his debut outing at Monza, qualifying in 23rd place. On the way into Turn 1, he collided along with four other drivers, breaking his steering arm and forcing him out of the race. The Jordan seat was taken by Emanuele Naspetti at the next race, and Apicella would never race in Formula 1 again.
Tarso Marques, 1996 Brazilian Grand Prix
The second race of the 1996 season saw Brazilian driver Tarso Marques make his Formula 1 debut on home soil. He stepped in at Minardi in place of Giancarlo Fisichella. Marques set the nineteenth fastest time in qualifying but was disqualified for receiving outside assistance. He was still allowed to start the race from the back – but would not reach the end of the first lap. Held in wet conditions, Marques spun out of the race before crossing the start/finish line for the first time.
Allan McNish, 2002 Australian Grand Prix
There was carnage at the start of the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. A chain reaction of crashes was caused by Ralf Schumacher flying over the top of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari on the run to Turn 1. Eight cars were eliminated in total, one of those being Toyota debutant Allan McNish. The drivers all ran back to the pits for the spare car – but the race was not stopped, so they were unable to rejoin.
Felipe Massa, 2002 Australian Grand Prix
Felipe Massa was another driver caught up in the melee at Turn 1 of his Formula 1 career at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. He made it ever so slightly further around the track than McNish.
Nikita Mazepin, 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
Nikita Mazepin completed only three corners on his debut at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix before crashing out of the race. The Haas driver struggled to control the car for most of the weekend, frequently spinning off the circuit in the practice and qualifying sessions. The Russian spun out of the race at Turn 3, claiming he was attempting to avoid team-mate Mick Schumacher – despite the sister Haas car being well up the road.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.