At the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc became the first polesitter to fail to start a Grand Prix in almost 16 years. We take a look at the Formula 1 races in which the polesitter has failed to start the race.
1975 Argentine Grand Prix
Jean-Pierre Jarier became the first polesitter who failed to start at the 1975 Argentine Grand Prix. The Shadow driver secured pole by just under half a second from Carlos Pace. On Sunday, the drivers set off on the warm up lap – and Jarier ground to a halt. For the first time, the pole slot was left empty. Reigning World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi would go on to take victory from fifth on the grid.
1982 German Grand Prix
Under gloomy skies, Didier Pironi claimed pole position for the 1982 German Grand Prix in the qualifying hour on Friday afternoon. The weather worsened at the wet Hockenheim track before Saturday’s qualifying session and lap time improvements were unlikely.
That didn’t stop Pironi from trying though, and the Ferrari driver suffered a huge accident, slamming into the rear of Alain Prost’s unsighted Renault. The Ferrari launched into the air and somersaulted to a stop down the main straight. Pironi suffered severe leg injuries and would never return to Formula 1, leaving the pole position grid slot for the 1982 German Grand Prix empty.
1996 French Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher took pole position for the 1996 French Grand Prix, setting a lap 0.069 seconds faster than title rival Damon Hill. After the previous race, Schumacher trailed Hill in the standings by 27 points – so things were set up perfectly at Magny Cours for the Ferrari driver to close in on the Williams driver.
Schumacher led the field away on the formation lap but, just after making his way through the hairpin, smoke began to pour from his car. The engine issue meant that he was unable to start the race. Hill became the de facto polesitter and went on to win the race, extending his championship lead.
2005 United States Grand Prix
Jarno Trulli secured Toyota’s first ever pole position in Formula 1 at the 2005 United States Grand Prix. The race weekend – held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – was overshadowed by tyre issues. Trulli’s team-mate Ralf Schumacher was the first to suffer a tyre failure in practice. Schumacher sat out the rest of the race weekend and was replaced by Ricardo Zonta, who also crashed at the same corner.
Michelin announced that they were to send replacement tyres for the seven teams using their tyres, but these tyres suffered the same issues. Michelin said that they could not guarantee their tyres would not fail in the race and a long debate ensued over how the race could take place as planned.
Despite suggestions of adding a new chicane in the area of concern, nothing was done and the teams with Michelin tyres -including polesitter Trulli – all pulled into the pit lane at the end of the formation lap. Just six cars started the race.
2021 Monaco Grand Prix
Charles Leclerc has never had much luck in Monaco. On every appearance at the circuit prior to 2021, in both Formula 2 and Formula 1, the Monegasque driver had never reached the chequered flag at his home race.
His luck seemed set to improve at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. With his car on the pace throughout practice, Leclerc took provisional pole. But, on another fast lap, he crashed into the barriers just moments before the chequered flag fell at the end of qualifying.
While the crash secured him pole position, there were concerns over the state of the gearbox in his car. Ferrari opted not to change it, so Leclerc kept his pole position instead of incurring a grid penalty. On race day, Leclerc left the Ferrari garage to head to the grid – but problems with the car were immediately obvious. An issue with the driveshaft could not be fixed in time for the start, and so Leclerc was left unable to start his home Grand Prix.
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.