Top 10: Formula 1 Wet Performance

Driving a Formula 1 car in pristine conditions is hard enough, but it’s a whole other story when the weather turns nasty.

Rain is often seen as a great leveler in Formula 1, an opportunity for car performance to take a back seat and driver talent to shine through.

And over the years we’ve seen some really great riding in the wet.

So, here are PlanetF1’s top 10 wet performance…

10. Max Verstappen, Brazil 2016

The only driver on this list who didn’t actually win the race, but this wet-weather masterclass from Verstappen was meant to be included.

We already knew the Dutchman was special after winning on his debut for Red Bull earlier that year in Spain, but that performance in Brazil showed us he was incredibly fast in the wet.

Early moves on Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg showed that the teenager was serious, but Red Bull’s failed gamble to take him to the intermediates as the rain intensified, combined with the Safety Car to cover Felipe Massa’s crash, meant seen Verstappen abandon the order – surely that P2 or the podium in general was now out of reach?

Not exactly. In the last 16 laps Verstappen tamed the soaked Interlagos circuit, recovering 11 positions and finishing P3.

Certainly the fresher tires helped, but they can’t achieve overtaking like we saw for you that day.

9. Jenson Button, Canada 2011

From lights out to checkered flag, this race lasted four hours and four minutes, making it the longest in Formula 1 history, and Button took the honor of victory for McLaren in a superb wet drive.

Button qualified seventh, but dire conditions meant that the race started behind the Safety Car. Not long after coming into the pits, Button was involved in a collision with teammate Lewis Hamilton.

On lap 26 the race was suspended due to heavy rain and would only resume two hours later. On lap 27, Button was at war again: the Briton dropped to last place while Fernando Alonso was forced to retire.

But it was from here that Button provided sensational driving in the wet, moving from P21 to P1. On lap 65 he would catch Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher to move into P2, while his victory was secured on the final lap after forcing Sebastian Vettel to make a mistake.

That was Button’s first win of the season, and what a crazy way to earn it.

8. Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain 2008


Hamilton moved to McLaren in 2007 and nearly won the world championship at his first attempt, but even up until the 2008 British Grand Prix, there remained a pocket of fans who doubted his abilities.

All doubts vanished after this though. Hamilton’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen put McLaren on pole, but after following closely behind Hamilton would snatch the lead on lap five and hasn’t looked back since.

The weather changed constantly at Silverstone with drivers turning left, right and center as the downpours continued to pass, but Hamilton held on.

With Raikkonen less than a second behind Hamilton when they both pitted on lap 21, McLaren gambled by fitting new intermediate tires to Hamilton’s car, while Ferrari opted for a tire change for Raikkonen.

This proved to be a big mistake as the rain started to fall again and Hamilton went on to win his home race by one minute and eight seconds ahead of BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld.

7. Ayrton Senna, Europe 1993

Senna was truly the master of rain, and from the catalog of his masterpieces we choose first the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington.

The Brazilian icon was fifth in his McLaren after the start, but in completing that ‘lap of the gods’ he passed Alain Prost on the inside of the Old Hairpin for the lead on the opening lap.

From there it was complete domination as Senna lapped everyone but Damon Hill to win the wet race by one minute 23 seconds.

6. Damon Hill, Japan 1994

Senna’s tragic death that year had landed relatively newcomer Hill with all the pressure to deliver for Williams, and at Suzuka he did exactly that.

Hill’s performance at Suzuka became one of the classics as he overtook a advancing Schumacher in the pouring rain.

It was all the more impressive since he was riding on just three new tires after one stuck up with a wheel nut problem.

The victory saw Hill reduce the championship deficit to Schumacher to just one point going into the season finale in Adelaide. It was such a superhuman performance that Hill was somewhat scared of the mental place he had gone to.

“The last lap I don’t even remember having control of the car, it was almost like the throttle was wide open and I was just holding on and I was able to increase the gap to Michael,” he said in an interview with Auto Racing and sport.

“It actually scared me to be honest. I got out of the car and was really shocked because it was almost like I drove the car crazy to go so fast, and it’s quite scary.

5. Michael Schumacher, Spain 1996

There was a time when Schumacher and Ferrari weren’t the fastest pairing in Formula 1. Take most of 1996 for example, but the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a truly magnificent exception. .

Although qualifying was nearly a second slower than the Williams pairing of Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, once Schumacher took the lead in the wet race on lap 13, he never let go.

A catalog of fastest laps saw Schumacher take victory in dominant fashion with a 45-second margin of victory over Jean Alesi in the Benetton.

4. Ayrton Senna, Portugal 1985

Estoril in 1985 was the scene of Senna’s first pole position and win in Formula 1, and what a win it was.

The Brazilian conquered everyone in his Lotus 97T, winning by one minute and three seconds on the Ferrari of Michele Alboreto who was the only driver who didn’t lap that day.

By lap 10 he had built a lead of 13 seconds!

It was a race held in really terrible conditions. At one point while leading Senna signaled officials along the pit lane to stop the race, but they did nothing and the pace dropped noticeably from then on.

3. Sebastian Vettel, Italy 2008

What a failure that weekend at Monza, but Vettel’s performance was not a disaster.

At this point just one Toro Rosso driver and one Red Bull Academy prospect, this was the day the four-time world champion we now know so well really arrived.

The race started behind the Safety Car and Vettel subsequently built a solid lead in the pouring rain, but even as the track dried he didn’t stop, continuing to extend his lead in the Toro Rosso to cross the finish line with 12 .5 seconds ahead of Kovalainen in the McLaren.

It was a race Vettel had no right to win in a Toro Rosso and it remains the team’s only Formula 1 win, adding further glory to this remarkable history of underdogs.

2. Jim Clark, Belgium 1963

The Lotus 25 was at the top of its class, but that didn’t detract from what Clark achieved at the old Spa in 1963.

Clark started eighth, but after a fantastic breakaway which saw trackside staff and spectators taking evasive action, Clark was on his way to glory.

Clark pulled away in wet conditions and when he really started to slow on lap 24, his lead only grew further. Requests from Lotus founder Colin Chapman and BRM technical chief Tony Rudd to stop the race at this stage fell on deaf ears.

On this day Clark was truly in a league of his own, and in the end the winning margin was an impressive 4m 54s.

1. Jackie Stewart, Germany 1968

The old 14.2-mile Nurburgring was a daunting challenge at the best of times, so add in that torrential rain and fog and it only speaks better of Stewart’s result that day.

Stewart started on the third row but moved up to third off the line. He would take the concrete pit lane such was the extra grip it offered over the circuit tarmac, and after eliminating the Ferrari of Chris Amon at Adenau and then the Lotus of Graham Hill, Stewart built an eight second lead at the end of Round 1.

It was a ride beyond anything imaginable from Stewart, who set the fastest lap of 9m 36s on lap eight. For comparison, he was 15 seconds faster than anyone else.

Stewart in his Matra simply redefined dominance, and in the end his winning margin was 4m03! We’ll never see anything like it again, and it’s only too fair: no one should have had to race in that weather.

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