When An F1 Driver Started A Race Both Last And First

It is quite rare for a rookie driver to lead the first race they are entered in, with one of the most notable examples being when a young Lewis Hamilton led the Australian Grand Prix in 2007.

However, later that very same year, an incredibly gutsy decision made by a team seemingly constantly on the verge of collapse led to the impossible situation where a rookie Formula 1 driver led his first and only race after also starting last.

Here is the story of Marcus Winkelhock and his impossible start.

A Judgement Call

Marcus Winkelhock, now much better known as a GT and touring car driver, was a rookie on a one-race deal for Spyker (Originally Jordan, formerly Midland and would go on to become Force India/Racing Point/Aston Martin F1) after the departure of Christijan Albers.

That race was at the Nurburgring GP course for the Grand Prix of Europe and Mr Winkelhock was not expected to do very well. The bright orange Spyker cars were awful despite having Ferrari engines and Ferrari motorsport gears, and he qualified in 22nd and last on the grid.

However, just before the race was set to start, live weather forecasting suggested that heavy rain was just about to pour.

Having absolutely nothing to lose, Mr Winkelhock and Spyker decided to bring him into the pits and change to full wet tyres, which would be useless on a dry track but ideal if the rain started pouring.

The track was soon soaked and by the end of the first lap Winkelhock had made up 21 positions as all the other cars were caught out and tiptoed to the pits.

He was leading the pack by 33 seconds by lap 4 but by lap 6 the race had been stopped after cars kept spinning behind the safety car.

After their gamble had paid off big time, the team let it ride, keeping full-wets on Mr Winkelhock’s car, but it didn’t pay off. The weather soothed and he was soon overtaken by nearly everyone, eventually retiring on lap 15 with hydraulic issues.

This still leaves Marcus Winkelhock as one of a very small number of F1 racers to lead a lap on their debut race, and the only driver in history to start both last and first in the same race.

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