Badoer: the fastest-ever slowest driver?

Allow me to explain. Despite all the jibes about Luca Badoer struggling, it occurred to me that he may now have another unusual record to add to his list.

Here is the official lap chart for this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, as published by the FIA. Do you spot anything unusual about it?

2009 Belgian Grand Prix lap chart

Despite the fact that he was last of the classified runners, Badoer was only 102.1 seconds behind the race winner, Kimi Räikkönen. “Only?”, I hear you say. But he was still on the lead lap. In fact, the lap chart reveals that there was no lapped traffic for the entire race.

I wonder if this is a first. There are a few things that lead me to believe this is the case. First of all, it is commonly believed that Formula 1 cars have never been as close in terms of performance. Surely the amazing speed of the Force India in Belgium is testament to the idea that there are no longer backmarkers in F1 like there used to be.

Luca Badoer, the slowest man in qualifying, was around 2.5 seconds off the quickest time. Although in F1-2009 style this invites derision, even five years ago this would have been a creditable performance. Read a grid from the 1990s, and it is routine to see cars a dozen seconds or more off the pace.

Furthermore, Spa-Francorchamps also has the longest laptime of any circuit currently in use in F1, which in itself makes it less likely that cars will be lapped during the race. I have checked some previous Belgian Grands Prix to check, but all have had lapped cars, apart from this year’s. For this reason, it is also possible that some races at longer circuits used in history (notably the Nordschleife) may not have seen any lapped traffic, but with more reliability problems and poorer driving standards back then, I wouldn’t count on it.

(Update: I have checked all Formula 1 Grands Prix to have been held at the Nordschleife, and each race had classified runners not on the lead lap according to Wikipedia.)

Against that argument is the fact that since 2007, lapped cars have been able to join the lead lap behind the Safety Car. This makes it much less likely that there will be lapped cars at the end of the race — but there will still have been lapped cars during the race.

I asked on Twitter if this was the first time none of the classified runners had been lapped. Amazingly, Alianora La Canta set to work and used her awesome research skills to find out that the last time all the classified runners finished on the lead lap was at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.

However, this was one instance where a Safety Car allowed lapped cars to join the lead lap. The official lap chart (PDF) reminds us that there was indeed lapped traffic during the race.

So it looks like I may be right in my hunch that Badoer is the only person ever to finish in last place, yet not have been lapped during the race. So does anyone know if Badoer’s achievement truly is a first? I would love to know.

As ever, Keith at F1 Fanatic provides us with a list of interesting facts about the race. I wonder if Badoer’s fast last place is one to add to that list.


  1. If you want to know the last time someone finished last without being lapped at any point, I’d have a problem (F1 Magazine’s early-2003-spec race reports are the only ones I’ve seem with mid-race lapped cars indicated). My guess would be that Australia 1991 featured no lapping whatsoever because it lasted all of 14 laps, but I couldn’t tell you if there were any since, or even confirm that Australia 1991 had no lapping.

  2. Thanks for the comment Alianora.

    According to Wikipedia, the 1991 Australian GP had several lapped runners, including some who were two laps behind.

    This might be difficult to get to the bottom of. Such detailed data on races that happened several years ago can be very difficult to come by, while we almost take for granted things like lists of each driver’s lap times for more recent races. I am sure there must be a professional motorsport statistician who will know if this is a first. I’m surprised not to have seen it mentioned by anyone else though.

  3. […] Duncan Stephen asks on his blog whether Luca Badoer achieved a record by being the first driver to finish last yet still be on the lead lap. At Singapore last year Fisichella matched his feat of finishing 14th and last of the runners while still being on the lead lap. However Raikkonen was officially classified 15th in that race after crashing out four laps from the end. Has any other driver finished last, lower in the standings, while also being on the lead lap? […]

  4. You’re probably right! But we shouldn’t be too surprised, since last-place finishers usually have uncompetitive cars, whereas Badoer is a very rare case of a bad driver in a competitive car.

    Are there any other occasions when the team-mate of the race winner has come last without suffering any mishaps or technical difficulties?

  5. Thanks Jonathan. Your point is another interesting one. I can’t think when that might have last happened (my one idea, Japan 2008, was wrong — even Nelsinho Piquet finished 4th then).

  6. The one that comes to the top of my head is Italy 2008, but anything that results in Sebastién Bourdais a lap and a half behind the field before he even gets to move can probably be classed as “a mishap”.

  7. Good work Alianora. I think you’re right that it can count as a mishap, or even a technical difficult. Also, I have just looked up the result and Sutil still finished behind Bourdais despite the mishap!