From Niki Lauda at Monza to Mark Webber at Silverstone and Sebastian Vettel at the 2008 Grand Prix, these are the best underdog racing stories of all time.
Let’s get stuck in.
1. Niki Lauda
It seems only right that we start this list with quite possibly the most famous comeback story of all.
After failing to organise a boycott of the Nürburgring Grand Prix in 1976 on safety grounds, Lauda had to race.
Unfortunately, his concerns about safety came true when he himself crashed badly, suffering catastrophic burns.
But something minor like that wasn’t going to keep Niki down, especially with his main title rival still out on the track.
Just six weeks and two races later, sporting reconstructed eyelids, Niki finished in an impressive fourth place at Monza.
While not a win, it probably felt like one. He then go on to win two more F1 World Championships in 1977 and 1984.
2. Pastor Maldonado
Back in 2012, we had a truly legendary start to the Formula 1 Season.
Seven different drivers won the first seven races – and this man was one of them.
Pastor Maldonado was never thought of as one of the best F1 drivers.
But the sport can be very unpredictable sometimes and the Spanish Grand Prix demonstrated this perfectly.
By winning the race, he quietened the doubters and gave the Williams team something to celebrate.
It was also the last time to date that Williams won a Grand Prix in an F1 season.
Hopefully that will change in 2022.
3. Mark Webber
Mark Webber has two very notable comebacks so we’ll sandwich them both into this list.
Back during practice at Le Mans in 1999, Webber flipped his Mercedes CLR.
It was quite the spectacle and something that Webber goes into detail about in his autobiography. He then did it again during the race warm-up.
But he came back from this relatively unscathed and forged his career in Formula 1.
That’s when his second noteworthy shunt happened back in 2010.
This time it was during the Valencia Grand Prix. But again, he came back in time for the next race at Silverstone – which he won!
4. Alex Zanardi
Former F1 driver Zanardi lost both legs in a terrible CART accident that should have killed him.
However, through sheer grit and determination, he has since gotten back into and driven an F1 car and competed in the WTCC.
Alex then swapped sports altogether and went on to win handcycling gold at the Olympics in London 2012.
5. Danica Patrick
Back to an underdog story now. Danica Patrick made history when she became the first (and currently only) woman to win a race in IndyCar.
The odds were stacked against her from the start but she kept proving everyone wrong time and time again.
Then this win proved to be the icing on top of a very delicious cake. It’s no wonder she’s become a role model for so many women across the globe.
6. Martin Brundle
In 1996 at the Australian Grand Prix, Martin Brundle launched his Jordan into a spectacular first-lap barrel roll. The crash snapped the chassis in two and looked set to put him firmly out of the race.
He got checked out by F1 medic supremo Sid Watkins and was given the all clear to go racing again….in the same race.
Brundle was able to sprint back to the pits and grab the spare car. He re-joined the race and then promptly collided with Pedro Diniz.
While that wasn’t the result he was probably hoping for, it’s an impressive comeback nonetheless.
7. Johnny Herbert
During a potential championship-winning year in F3000, Johnny Herbert had a horrific crash.
It chopped off the front of his car and caused Johnny to suffer from severe ankle and foot injuries that still plague him to this day.
The following year, Johnny was racing in F1 though, not letting his injuries get the better of him.
He almost nabbed a podium on his debut and went on to win three Grand Prix.
8. Jenson Button
Following Honda’s departure from F1 at the end of 2008, everyone was just impressed to see that the re-branded Brawn GP team made it testing.
Nobody expected this small tight knit team to knock it out of the park on their debut – but that’s exactly what they did.
Not only did Jenson Button claim pole position but he went on to win the opening race of the year in Melbourne. What was better was that his teammate Rubens Barrichello finished the race in second.
This was just to be the start of an absolute fairy-tale F1 story.
9. Romain Grosjean
Following his horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix, many believed that Grosjean wouldn’t race again.
His Haas car became a literal fireball and he was lucky to get out of it with as few injuries as he had. While that did spell his end for racing in F1, Romain returned to racing by joining IndyCar in 2021.
Since joining, he’s thrived in the new environment and has become a Championship contender for 2022.
10. Sebastian Vettel
This last entry might baffle you slightly. But bare with me. I’m not talking about the four-time World Champion Vettel that we all know now.
I’m taking things back to 2008 before we knew all of this.
Back then Vettel raced for Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso.
A solid mid field team, nobody really expects them to win races.
However, it would appear that Vettel didn’t get that memo.
He won the Italian Grand Prix that year (the first win for the team) and created a brilliant underdog story in the process.
Little did we know what he would go on to do.