One of the most bizarre episodes in Formula One history occurred on this day in 1977 at the Hockenheimring.
Thirty cars were entered for the German Grand Prix, the 11th round of the championship. Among them was a local driver called Hans Heyer driving a Penske PC4 – the same type which the American team had scored their only grand prix victory courtesy of John Watson the year before.
With 24 places available on the grid six drivers faced elimination before the race began and the competition to make the cut was fierce. Mexican Hector Rebaque claimed the final place in his Hesketh 308E, lapping in 1’57.18.
A dismayed Heyer was just four hundredths of a second of Rebaque’s mark – and there were two other drivers quicker than him who also fell short of qualifying. But Heyer was not to be deterred from making his grand prix debut by the inconvenient fact of having failed to qualify for it.
Shortly after the race began sharp-eyed observers noticed the number 35 ATS Penske, which was supposed to have been parked in the paddock, appear on their lap chart.
It’s not clear exactly how Heyer made his covert return to the track. It’s possible he did so amid confusion over a problem with the starting light gantry. He only made it nine laps before a gear linkage failure ended his only grand prix appearance.
It’s hard to conceive of anyone getting away with a similar escapade in the ultra-professional world of modern Formula One.
The footage below is of Heyer taking his ATS on the track earlier in the weekend:
Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.
Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.
When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.
The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.
“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.
“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.
“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.
“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”
Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.
“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”