When has the F1 win margin been smaller than the pole margin?

There have been 27 Formula 1 races at which the win margin has been smaller than the pole margin. It last happened at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix.

The polesitter at Formula 1 races is commonly decided by hundredths, if not thousandths of a second – but it’s a rarity for races to be decided by under half a second, or even under a full second. Of the past 200 races up to the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, only 18 have been won by less than a second. However, occasionally there are races where the margin by which a driver wins is smaller than the margin by which a driver took pole on the previous day.

It’s an occurrence which has happened only five times so far this millennium. The last time it happened was at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix. That weekend, Nico Rosberg took pole by 0.531 seconds from Daniel Ricciardo with what was one of the largest pole margins of the 2016 season. The following day, Ricciardo chased Rosberg to the line with the Mercedes driver reaching the chequered flag only 0.488 seconds ahead of the Red Bull.

Image: formula1photos.tn38.net, CC BY-SA 2.5

You have to go back another 11 years before that to find the previous time that the win margin was smaller than the pole margin. That was at the memorable 2005 San Marino Grand Prix, when Fernando Alonso held off Michael Schumacher in the closing stages to win by just 0.215 seconds. Kimi Raikkonen had taken pole position for this race by 0.561 seconds – though it should be noted that aggregate qualifying was used at this event.

The win margin was smaller than the pole margin at three races in 2002, all thanks to Ferrari’s end of race antics. Rubens Barrichello took pole for the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix but controversially gave way to his team-mate on the run to the line. Michael Schumacher ended up winning the race by just 0.182 seconds – a tenth less than the margin by which Barrichello had taken pole. The team were the class of the field later in the year at Monza, with Barrichello leading Schumacher over the line by 0.255 seconds – just 0.002 seconds less than the previous day’s pole margin.

Image: Rick Dikeman, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ferrari attempted to stage a photo finish at the 2002 United States Grand Prix. Schumacher headed to the line first, but Barrichello was classified as the race winner having crossed the line 0.011 seconds ahead of the German. It’s believed that Schumacher purposefully let Barrichello by in an attempt to make up for the team orders at the A1-Ring earlier in the year. The 2002 United States Grand Prix may not officially be the closest-ever end to an F1 race, but the record-holding 1971 Italian Grand Prix – which was won by 0.01 seconds – was timed only to hundredths of a second, instead of thousandths which were used in 2002.

Unsurprisingly, the list of races where the win margin was smaller than the pole margin also features a number of F1’s other closest-ever finishes including the aforementioned 1971 Italian Grand Prix and the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix, which Elio de Angelis won for Lotus by just 0.05 seconds.

The 2002 Canadian Grand Prix holds the record for the closest finish to a race which had an even smaller pole margin. Michael Schumacher won by 0.174 seconds having taken pole the day before by 0.098 seconds.

HAVE THE POLE AND WIN MARGINS EVER BEEN IDENTICAL?

In addition to the 27 races, there has been a single Grand Prix at which the pole and win margins have been identical. It first happened at the British Grand Prix in 1955, when Stirling Moss out-qualified Mercedes team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio by 0.2 seconds then went on to win by the same margin.

FULL LIST OF F1 RACES AT WHICH THE WIN MARGIN WAS SMALLER THAN THE POLE MARGIN

RaceTrackPole MarginWin Margin
1950 Swiss Grand PrixBremgarten0.70.4
1954 French Grand PrixReims1.00.1
1955 Dutch Grand PrixZandvoort0.40.3
1956 French Grand PrixReims1.30.3
1959 US Grand PrixSebring3.00.6
1961 Belgian Grand PrixSpa Francorchamps0.80.7
1961 French Grand PrixReims1.50.1
1962 German Grand PrixNurburgring3.02.5
1967 Italian Grand PrixMonza0.30.2
1969 Italian Grand PrixMonza0.210.08
1970 Belgian Grand PrixSpa Francorchamps2.11.1
1971 Italian Grand PrixMonza0.420.01
1974 Belgian Grand PrixNivelles1.040.35
1978 Dutch Grand PrixZandvoort0.610.32
1981 Spanish Grand PrixJamara0.270.22
1982 San Marino Grand PrixImola0.4840.366
1982 Austrian Grand PrixÖsterreichring0.3590.05
1985 Dutch Grand PrixZandvoort0.5730.232
1986 Spanish Grand PrixJerez0.8260.014
1992 Monaco Grand PrixCircuit de Monaco0.8730.215
1996 European Grand PrixNurburgring0.7800.762
1998 German Grand PrixHockenheim0.5090.426
2002 Austrian Grand PrixA1 Ring0.2820.182
2002 Italian Grand PrixMonza0.2570.255
2002 United States Grand PrixIndianapolis Motor Speedway0.2680.011
2005 San Marino Grand PrixImola0.5610.215
2016 Singapore Grand PrixMarina Bay Circuit0.5310.488

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