Who recorded the first retirement in every Formula 1 season? We’ve done the research to find which teams and drivers have recorded the first retirement of the year on the most occasions!
Leslie Johnson has the unwanted honour of being the first ever retirement in a Formula 1 race as he retired on the third lap at the 1950 British Grand Prix. Since then, another 59 drivers have gone on to take the first retirement of the season.
There have been 23 occasions where the first retirement of a season has happened on the first lap of the first Grand Prix of the year. The longest before the first retirement of a season was at the 1957 Argentine Grand Prix, where Peter Collins raced for 26 laps before clutch problems saw him record the first DNF of the year. The full list of first DNFs of every Formula 1 season can be found at the end of the article.
The most first retirements of the year
Only eight drivers have recorded the first retirement of a season on more than one occasion in their careers. The drivers who have done it most frequently are Jean-Pierre Jarier, Johnny Herbert, Christijan Albers and Pastor Maldonado. Albers is the only driver to have been the first retirement of the year in three successive seasons. He was first out with mechanical issues for Minardi in 2005 and with Midland in 2006, then he recorded a retirement for Spyker, crashing out on the eleventh lap in 2007.
Herbert had a particularly unlucky time in the late 1990s, as for four of the five seasons between 1996 and 2000, he can be classified as the first driver to retire in one way or another. He was the first DNF of the year in both 1996 and 1997, both times through collisions; he failed to start in 1999; and was out with clutch problems on the second lap in 2000, becoming the first retirement of the new millennium. Like Herbert, Jarier – who was the first driver to record three first retirements in a season – also recorded the first DNS of the season in 1975.
Both Peter Collins and Alex Soler-Roig recorded the first retirement of the year in successive seasons, Collins doing so in 1957 and 1958 and Soler-Roig doing so in 1971 and 1972.
In terms of teams, McLaren became the first team to record a sixth first retirement of a season in 2019, with Carlos Sainz out with power unit issues. It was the second time in four years that the time have been first to record a retirement, with Fernando Alonso also out first in 2016. BRM and Ferrari have each recorded the first DNF of a year on five occasions.
DRIVERS WITH MOST FIRST DNFs OF A SEASON
3 Jean-Pierre Jarier
3 Johnny Herbert
3 Christijan Albers
3 Pastor Maldonado
2 Peter Collins
2 Alex Soler-Roig
2 Andrea de Cesaris
2 Rubens Barrichello
TEAMS WITH MOST FIRST DNFs OF A SEASON
2 Force India
World Champions who were the first retirement of the year
There have been only eight occasions in Formula 1 history that a World Champion has recorded the first retirement of the season. Juan Manuel Fangio (1956), Nelson Piquet (1985) and Fernando Alonso (2016) are the only World Champions to have done so having already been crowned World Champion, while Fangio is the only driver to have recorded the first retirement of a season who has gone on to win that year’s title.
Causes of the first retirement of the year
In Formula 1 history, mechanical failures have caused more first retirements of the season than driver errors. 44 retirements have been as a result of mechanical issues, while 28 have been due to driver error or collisions. Nikita Mazepin’s crash on the first lap of the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix was the first time that the first retirement of the year had not been caused by mechanical gremlins since 2016. In the ten years prior to 2017, Pastor Maldonado’s transmission issues in 2011 were the only time that a driver error or collision was not to blame for the first DNF of the year.
Occasions where two drivers were out at the same time
Of course, in collisions there have been occasions where multiple drivers have had their races ended at the same point. For those occasions, we’ve taken the driver classified at the bottom of the order to be the first DNF of the season. Times where this has happened were in 1955, 1959, 1981, 1989, 1997, 2002, 2008 and most recently in 2016, when Fernando Alonso crashed into the back of Esteban Gutierrez. Further details of these occasions are in the table below.
Did Not Starts at the first race of the season
There have also been a number of occasions where drivers have not even started the first race of a season. In the table below, there are details of drivers who recorded a DNS (Did Not Start) at the opening race of the season.
Both Chris Amon and Brian Redman were forced into DNSs in similar circumstances at the first race of the season in 1963 and 1970. In 1963, Maurice Trintignant raced Amon’s car and in 1970, Graham Hill raced Redman’s car.
There have been two occasions where three drivers recorded a DNS at the first race of the season, Those were in 1960, when three Maserati drivers all failed to start, and in 2015 when Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat all failed to line up on the final grid.
Bottas is one of two drivers to not start the first race of a season due to injury. The other driver to do so is Innes Ireland, who broke his leg during practice for the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix and then was injured in practice again at the 1964 Monaco Grand Prix.
|Year||Drivers who recorded DNS at the first race of the season|
|1954||Carlos Menditeguy, Luigi Musso|
|1960||Oscar Cabalén, Pedro Llano and Julio Pola|
|1974||Rikky von Opel|
|2015||Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat|
Disqualifications at the first race of the season
There have been a number of occasions where drivers have been disqualified at the first race of the season. While in recent years these disqualifications – for example Lewis Hamilton in 2009, the Sauber drivers in 2011 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 – have happened after the race has been completed, there have been a couple of occasions where drivers have been disqualified before any drivers have retired from the race. Those instances were at the 1975 Argentine Grand Prix, when John Watson was disqualified on the sixth lap, and at the 1987 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Adrian Campos was disqualified after three laps.
THE FIRST DNF OF EVERY SEASON
The table below shows a full list of every first DNF of the season plus the reason for the DNF and the lap on which the driver retired. The list excludes any Did Not Starts, Did Not Qualifys and Disqualifications.
|Year||Driver||Team||Reason for DNF||On Lap|
|1951||Peter Hirt||Veritas||Fuel System||1|
|1952||Max de Terra||Gordini||Magneto||2|
|1953||Adolfo Schwelm Cruz||Cooper||Wheel||21|
|1955||Carlos Menditeguy||Maserati||Accident (Pablo Birger was out on the same lap)||2|
|1956||Juan Manuel Fangio||Ferrari||Fuel Pump||23|
|1959||Bruce Halford||Lotus||Collision (Cliff Allison and Wolfgang von Trips were out on the same lap)||2|
|1961||Graham Hill||BRM||Fuel Pump||12|
|1962||Ben Pon||Porsche||Spun Off||3|
|1964||Trevor Taylor||BRM||Fuel leak||9|
|1968||Ludovico Scarfiotti||Cooper||Water Pipe||3|
|1969||Basil van Rooyen||McLaren||Brakes||13|
|1976||Ian Ashley||BRM||Oil Pump||3|
|1981||Andrea de Cesaris||McLaren||Collision (Alain Prost was out on the same lap)||2|
|1986||Nigel Mansell||Williams||Spun Off||1|
|1989||Luis Perez-Sala||Minardi||Collision (Gerhard Berger was out on the same lap)||1|
|1993||Andrea de Cesaris||Tyrrell||Transmission||1|
|1997||Johnny Herbert||Sauber||Collision (Jacques Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine were also out on the same lap)||1|
|1999||Jean Alesi||Sauber||Gearbox (Damon Hill was also out on the same lap)||1|
|2002||Allan McNish||Toyota||Collision (Multiple other drivers were also out on the same lap)||1|
|2008||Giancarlo Fisichella||Force India||Collision (Four other drivers were also out on the same lap)||1|
|2010||Karun Chandhok||HRT||Spun Off||2|
|2012||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Collision||1|
|2013||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||Spun Off||25|
|2016||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||Collision (Esteban Gutierrez was also out on the same lap)||17|
|2017||Romain Grosjean||Haas||Water leak||14|
|2019||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||Power unit, fire||10|
|2020||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Electronics||12|
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.