There are records in F1 that no one would want, like being among the unluckiest drivers in the history of this sport. Unfortunately, there is a statistic for those who, due to a series of truly incredible events, have not had a good season in Formula 1. Or worse, they have made choices during their careers that often turned out to be a flop.
“Why am I so unlucky?” were the words Charles Leclerc uttered after being forced to retire during the formation lap in Brazil. If you think the Monegasque is the only one facing all the misfortunes, take a look at this list.
He was called “the unluckiest driver ever”: Chris Amon, a New Zealander born in 1943, competed in Formula 1 in the 1960s and 1970s. Skilled and fast, he could have even won a World Championship if not for his incredible misfortune. He holds a record: the driver with the most kilometers in the lead (851.4) who has never won a Grand Prix.
He was also a skilled test driver, and his fame grew after a curious incident in 1965 during a test session with McLaren. Returning to the pits, the mechanics asked him to try a set of softer tires, which they actually never replaced since they were the same as before. It is said that Amon returned to the pits and addressed them, saying, “These tires may be different, but they behave like the ones before. Either it’s an inexplicable fact, or you guys are bastards.” During his career, he also raced for Scuderia Ferrari from 1967 to 1969. In 1968, he came close to winning a Championship, but a series of unfortunate events (often mechanical failures) prevented him from clinching that title.
Jean Alesi is also considered by everyone (especially Ferrari fans) as one of the unluckiest Formula 1 drivers ever. Aware of this, the Frenchman used to bring a Willy the Coyote figurine as a mascot. His years with the Maranello team (he spent five from 1991 to 1995 before passing the torch to a phenomenon named Michael Schumacher) were the most memorable.
A driver with a big heart, strong talent, and a fighting spirit, to the point that some compared his driving style to another fan-favorite, Gilles Villeneuve. Despite these qualities, Jean Alesi never had the chance to fulfill his dream due to bad luck. During his years with the Scuderia, retirements due to reliability issues increased, while podium finishes were scarce. He won his first and only race in Canada in 1995 at the circuit named after Villeneuve.
Robert Kubica could have contributed much more to Formula 1 if misfortune hadn’t struck him. He raced in the category from 2006 to 2010, then returned on multiple occasions. In 2021, he even competed twice as a regular driver with Alfa Romeo. A serious rally accident in 2011 put his career in serious doubt. Before misfortune hit him, Kubica had already signed an agreement to join Fernando Alonso at Ferrari in 2012.
Now the Polish driver is actively involved in the WEC, where he has achieved excellent results. In 2021, he finished first in the European Le Mans Series; this year, he topped the endurance world championship with the Belgian team WRT.
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Winning a world championship doesn’t immediately endear you to Lady Luck. Kimi Raikkonen knows this well, as he has experienced misfortune both in the past and in more recent times in Formula 1. The early years at McLaren were marked by some retirements, especially in 2004 and then in 2006, also due to an uncompetitive car. After winning his first and only championship with Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen turned to rally, then returned to Formula 1 and the Italian team.
A bittersweet return, fatal due to the misfortune that struck him. Perhaps the worst years were from 2014 to 2015, when the Ferrari was an undriveable car that didn’t suit his style. In 2018, he left the Maranello team to join Alfa Romeo, with whom he ended his career.
If being unlucky also means making bad decisions, then we must include Fernando Alonso in this list. The two-time world champion found himself in 2009 having to choose between Ferrari and Red Bull. The Asturian opted for the historic Maranello team. Already in 2010, he could have secured the championship if not for a terrible strategy mistake that relegated him to sixth place, literally handing the title to Sebastian Vettel‘s Red Bull.
Fernando Alonso tried again in the following years, but 2012 marked the beginning of the end of his love story with Ferrari. It is impossible to forget Fernando Alonso’s expression of pure discomfort at the end of the Interlagos race: Sebastian Vettel is the world champion, beating him by just three points. In 2014, the Ferrari was undriveable, and Alonso decided to break ties sharply, announcing the sensational return to McLaren. This time too, it was a terrible choice. The rest is history: Fernando Alonso, now an Aston Martin driver, is still waiting for his 33rd victory, which has not come even with a team that started with great promises but slowly descended into the abyss, dragged only by the roar of the good old Fernando Alonso.