F1's one-hit wonders: from Panis to Pastor – pt1


Formula 1 has seen more than its fair share of one-time winners – here's part 1 of our rundown

Olivier Panis drives the #9 Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes Ligier JS43 Mugen-Honda 3.0 V10 to victory at the Grand Prix of Monaco on 19th May 1996 on the streets of the Principality of Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco.(Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Panis scored Ligier's final victory – and his only ever F1 win – with a brilliant wet-weather drive at Monaco

Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

111 drivers over Formula 1’s 72-year-long history have stood on the top step of the podium. While many have gone on to win multiple grands prix and even championships, not everyone has been so successful. Bested by their team-mates, being shackled by lacklustre machinery, affected by life threatening injuries and sometimes simply not good enough some have never been able to repeat their greatest day in racing.

Excluding the Indy 500 winners (which was included in the championship from 1950-60), the list of F1’s single-time winners runs to 24 drivers.

Here’s part 1 of our rundown on grand prix racing’s one-hit wonders.


Olivier Panis – 1996 Monaco GP

Olivier Panis, Grand Prix of Monaco, Circuit de Monaco, 19 May 1996. Olivier Panis celebrating his victory in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

Panis with pure elation after famous Monaco win

Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images

Frenchman Olivier Panis drove in F1 for ten seasons but won only one race – at the most difficult track and under the strangest of circumstances. It was in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, when only four cars took the chequered flag.

Rain began to fall on Sunday, so a fifteen minute session was added to the session for drivers to get used to the soaked track.

In a race which went to the two-hour maximum for a grand prix, pole-sitter Michael Schumacher crashed into the wall, as did Jos Verstappen. The two Minardis collided, whilst Jordan team-mates Rubens Barrichello and Martin Brundle both spun. A Sunday afternoon battle of attrition, only four cars remained at the end.

Panis started 14th on the grid, but after a series of brave passing moves, timing his only pitstop to perfection, and switching to dry tyres at just the right moment meant he inherited the lead when Jean Alesi retired late on. A Frenchman winning in a French car at Monaco sent the home crowd wild. This would also be the last victory by a driver under the Tricolore until Pierre Gasly’s win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.


Luigi Fagioli – 1951 French GP

Luigi Fagioli dans son 'Alfa Romeo 159' et Luigi Villoresi dans sa 'Ferrari 375 F1' lors du Grand Prix automobile de France, le 1er juillet 1951, sur le circuit de Reims-Gueux. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Fagioli stood on the podium every time he finished in F1, but only won once

Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

At 53 years of age, Luigi Fagioli is F1’s oldest ever championship race winner – a record which will likely never be broken.

Fagioli was part of Alfa Romeo’s debut world championship campaign in 1950, then aged 52. Though plagued with health problems and crippling rheumatism, the Italian still put in some a fantastic performances during his short time in the series. He had five podium finishes in the first six races, and despite not having won a race that season, he still finished third in the championship.

The only race he won was his last. In a shared drive with Juan-Manuel Fangio, Fagioli took victory at the 1951 French Grand Prix in Reims, simultaneously becoming the oldest driver and the only driver born in the 19th century to win a grand prix.

Having left F1 to drive sports cars in 1952, Fagioli was involved in what appeared to be a minor crash while practising for the then sports car-based Monaco Grand Prix. However, he later succumbed to his internal injuries, but his name was immortalised.


Carlos Pace – Brazil 1975

Carlos Pace, Brabham-Ford BT44B, Grand Prix of Brazil, Interlagos, 26 January 1975. Carlos Paceon his way to victory in the 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Pace took victory at the circuit which would eventually be named after him

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

Not many sportsmen receive the honour of having a stadium or circuit named after them, but Carlos Pace was special. The Brazilian had a short-lived F1 career, having raced in only five seasons until his tragic death in an aircraft accident in 1977. Having participated in 73 grands prix, he stood on the podium six times, started from pole once, and won the race that matters the most to a driver – his home race at Interlagos.

Pace qualified sixth on the grid and was trailing behind for the majority of the race. However with eight laps remaining, long-time leader Jean-Pierre Jarier’s Shadow suffered mechanical issues and had to retire, victory falling into Pace’s hands. It was also a local 1-2 as Brazilian team-mate Emerson Fittipaldi finished second.

Almost a decade after Pace’s death, the circuit was renamed from ‘Autódromo de Interlagos’ to ‘Autódromo José Carlos Pace’ in 1985.


Pastor Maldonado – Spain 2012


Incident-prone Maldonado held his nerve at Spain 2012


With sometimes reckless behaviour on the track that earned him his own Twitter page and website called ‘Has Maldonado crashed today’, Pastor Maldonado’s reputation is often chalked down to being a state-sponsored pay driver. But the Venezuelan has accolades at every level of motorsport.

In 2004, he won Italian Formula Renault 2.0, and finished third in the 2006 Formula Renault 3.5 championship. He also won the 2010 GP2 championship, beating Sergio Perez, Jules Bianchi and other future F1 stars.

From the archive

At the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado inherited pole position when Lewis Hamilton failed to return an adequate fuel sample to the FIA and was ordered to start at the back of the grid. He drove excellently, holding off world champions Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso to take a famous win.

Alonso finished second, 3.1sec behind Maldonado after pressuring him for much of the race.

It was also Williams’ first race win since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.

However, the following season heMaldonado was regularly outqualified by rookie team-mate Valtteri Bottas. When he moved to Lotus in 2014, team-mate Romain Grosjean outshone the Venezuelan also. In F1, consistency is key, which Maldonado lacked.


Robert Kubica – Canada 2008


Kubica: a brilliant F1 talent with just a single win to his name

Grand Prix Photo

Robert Kubica became the first Polish driver in F1 when he signed for BMW Sauber in 2006. A fantastic driver who could have achieved more behind the wheel of a capable car, Kubica started 99 races and found the podium 12 times, with one pole position and fastest lap.

At the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, his car’s nose was lifted into the air by a broken front wing, and unable to brake or steer, it hit the concrete wall and ricocheted into the opposite barrier at a speed of 186.49mph. The car was destroyed, Kubica’s feet visible at the end of the broken car.

But a year later, the Pole was back at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and this time, in the most poetic of ways, he attained his only F1 race win.

Lewis Hamilton failed to heed a red light in the pit lane, the McLaren rear-ending Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari, with Nico Rosberg also crashing into the pair.

All this handed Kubica the lead, heading team-mate Nick Heidfeld home to score a BMW Sauber 1-2, the first time a German constructor had won a Grand Prix since 1962.

The Pole’s F1 career would ultimately peak on that day. He suffered a near-fatal crash at the 2011 Ronde di Andora Rally but returned to F1 in 2019, however he never reached the same heights as that famous race in Canada.


Alessandro Nannini – 1989 Japan GP


Nannini: just the sole win before the accident which ended his F1 career

Grand Prix Photo

Wins don’t always happen in a perfect scenario, and Alessandro Nannini was not entirely happy with how he won his only F1 race.

The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix is infamously remembered for the culmination point of the rivalry between McLaren team-mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, that clash ultimately bringing the Italian a debut win.

Nannini was sixth on the starting grid, whilst Senna was on pole but fell behind Prost at the start.

The Brazilian stayed behind until lap 40, diving up the inside at the final chicane. Prost turned in and the two collided.

It was the end of the Frenchman’s race but Senna restarted his car, overtook Nannini and eventually finished first. He was controversially disqualified for rejoining the race via an escape road though, handing Prost the championship and Nannini the race.

“I must say, I would prefer to win by actually crossing the line in first place,” commented Nannini afterwards.

A year after his victory, he was involved in a horrifying helicopter crash which severed his right forearm. Nannini never drove in an F1 race again.


Vittorio Brambilla – 1975 Austria GP


Brambilla mastering the Österreichring in ’75

Grand Prix Photo

It was at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix that Vittorio Brambilla, nicknamed ‘The Monza Gorilla’, took his sole victory.

Championship contenders Niki Lauda and James Hunt were on the front row, but the rainy conditions did not favour the former, who eventually fell down to sixth.

Hunt had no such issues initially though, leading from Patrick Depailler as Brambilla jumped to the third.

As the weather continued to worsen, so Brambilla moved to the front, snatching the lead form Hunt as he hesitated behind a back-marker.

Drivers struggled with conditions as Mario Andretti span off, and when Jochen Mass followed him on lap 29, the race was called off.

Brambilla saw the flag being waved on the start / finish straight and, taken aback by its premature arrival, lost control off his March went into the barriers before bouncing back across the track. Brambilla celebrated on his victory lap with a damaged car in an iconic moment F1 history.

‘The Monza Gorilla’ would never step on the podium again, but his lone F1 win will live long in the memory.


Jean Alesi – Canada 1995


Alesi: a mercurial talent with one F1 win to his name

Grand Prix Photo

Jean Alesi announced himself in F1 as soon he made his debut with Tyrrell in 1989, finishing fourth in his first race Paul Ricard before dicing for the US GP lead with Ayrton Senna in 1990. The Frenchman would never capitalise on his god-given talent though, driving for Ferrari in one of its fallow periods.

However, drivers with immense talent who are forced to drive cars that can never match their abilities usually win everyone’s hearts, and so goes the story Alesi. He achieved a total of 32 podiums, two pole positions, four fastest laps, and one grand prix win.

It was at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix though that his most famous day would come. Alesi drove the #27 Ferrari, a number shared by local legend Gilles Villeneuve. He was running close behind Michael Schumacher during the race, and it appeared that the dominant world champion would win.

But gearbox problems for his Benetton forced the German into the pits and Alesi seized the moment. This was also on his birthday, the French-Canadian crowd cheering on a driver they felt more than a little affinity with.

Alesi’s Ferrari ran out of fuel on the warm-down lap, but Schumacher pulled over and offered him a ride to the pits. Alesi would take more podiums for the Scuderia and Benetton, but would never again stand on the top step.