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.
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.
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
|Race||Track||Pole Margin||Win Margin|
|1950 Swiss Grand Prix||Bremgarten||0.7||0.4|
|1954 French Grand Prix||Reims||1.0||0.1|
|1955 Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort||0.4||0.3|
|1956 French Grand Prix||Reims||1.3||0.3|
|1959 US Grand Prix||Sebring||3.0||0.6|
|1961 Belgian Grand Prix||Spa Francorchamps||0.8||0.7|
|1961 French Grand Prix||Reims||1.5||0.1|
|1962 German Grand Prix||Nurburgring||3.0||2.5|
|1967 Italian Grand Prix||Monza||0.3||0.2|
|1969 Italian Grand Prix||Monza||0.21||0.08|
|1970 Belgian Grand Prix||Spa Francorchamps||2.1||1.1|
|1971 Italian Grand Prix||Monza||0.42||0.01|
|1974 Belgian Grand Prix||Nivelles||1.04||0.35|
|1978 Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort||0.61||0.32|
|1981 Spanish Grand Prix||Jamara||0.27||0.22|
|1982 San Marino Grand Prix||Imola||0.484||0.366|
|1982 Austrian Grand Prix||Österreichring||0.359||0.05|
|1985 Dutch Grand Prix||Zandvoort||0.573||0.232|
|1986 Spanish Grand Prix||Jerez||0.826||0.014|
|1992 Monaco Grand Prix||Circuit de Monaco||0.873||0.215|
|1996 European Grand Prix||Nurburgring||0.780||0.762|
|1998 German Grand Prix||Hockenheim||0.509||0.426|
|2002 Austrian Grand Prix||A1 Ring||0.282||0.182|
|2002 Italian Grand Prix||Monza||0.257||0.255|
|2002 United States Grand Prix||Indianapolis Motor Speedway||0.268||0.011|
|2005 San Marino Grand Prix||Imola||0.561||0.215|
|2016 Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay Circuit||0.531||0.488|
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.