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The Greatest Underdogs

Everyone loves an underdog story and throughout the history of Grand Prix racing there have been many. Our 2023 Greatest Grand Prix Calendar focuses on 12 of the greatest stories.

From Sebastian Vettel winning in a Toro Rosso, to James Hunt beating Ferrari with Hesketh, to Damon Hill nearly winning in an Arrows and Jean Alesi taking a win for Ferrari – here are the 12 we have chosen.

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January

Sebastian Vettel

A modern legend of the sport, but back in 2008 when he was driving for the Toro Rosso team with whom podiums were deemed unrealistic, he went on to win the Italian GP on merit from pole position.

February

Damon Hill

After winning the Championship in 1996, Hill then found himself in a back marker Arrows car for 1997. This didn’t prevent him nearly winning a race though. It was only a minor mechanical failure that cruelly dropped him to 2nd place in Hungary.

March

Jenson Button

He won many races for McLaren, but in 2011, the eventful Canadian GP saw him running in a podium position before dropping to the back and then fighting and taking the win in the final laps.

April

Ayrton Senna

He is regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history. In 1993, whilst he was driving an underperforming McLaren, he beat everyone, achieving one of the most celebrated laps ever raced.

May

James Hunt

Hesketh – a team famous foremost for partying. At the Dutch GP though, Hunt took this small team to victory, beating the mighty combination of Lauda and Ferrari.

June

Nigel Mansell

He had booked an early flight home, before the race was scheduled to finish, because his Ferrari wasn’t expected to last the distance. Instead, miraculously, Nigel won. He subsequently booked a new flight home.

July

Ayrton Senna

Senna features again for his performance in Monaco 1984. In a Toleman, in the rain, he made himself known, and arguably, could and should have won the race before it was controversially ended prematurely.

August

Keke Rosberg

Rosberg is our underdog for August, as although he had many amazing races in 1982, he won the Championship despite only having taken victory once during the season.

September

Giancarlo Fisichella

This was Giancarlo’s first win at Jordan’s 200th race. He only received the trophy at the following race due to confusion over the finishing order after a crash forced the race to end 15 laps early.

October

Gilles Villeneuve

Gilles won the 1981 Spanish GP with a masterpiece of tactical racing giving him an unexpected but well-earned victory.

November

Sir Stirling Moss

Sir Stirling Moss is one of the most famous underdogs in the history of Grand Prix racing and is regarded as the greatest driver to never win a World Championship.

December

Jean Alesi

Jean Alesi was a hotly tipped young driver. He could have gone to Williams but instead chose Ferrari. Unfortunately, this turned out to be an unwise move. However, in Canada 1995, on his birthday, he took his one and only win.

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