- September 28 down the years
The 'miracle' that became Crashgate
Fernando Alonso's victory for Renault at the Singapore Grand Prix was described as a miracle after he had started the first grand prix under lights back in 15th position. Only later did another word become associated with the race - Crashgate. On the 14th lap Alonso's team-mate Nelson Piquet Jnr crashed heavily, causing the safety car to come out and, so the Daily Mail presciently noted, "played right into his hands". Only some ten months later did the world start to understand the true nature of Piquet's crash. "The first safety car helped me a lot and I was able to win the race," grinned Alonso, unaware of the skulduggery which had gone on behind the scenes. As it was, the headlines the next day were dominated by a shambolic pit stop for the then race leader Felipe Massa in a Ferrari. "As the last of the fuel went into Massa's car, the lights showed green and Massa, watching those alone, pulled away, skittering down pitlane with the fuel hose attached to his car and crew members scattered like skittles," the Daily Mail reported. "In doing so he also pulled out in front of Adrian Sutil, just as he had done in Valencia. This time, as well as the time lost while the crew removed the hose, he was hit with a drive-through penalty which dropped him to last."
Alan Jones won a accident-strewn Canadian Grand Prix and with it secured his only world championship. Nelson Piquet, who had arrived in Montreal at the top of the standings, was leading the race when his engine blew on the 23rd lap. "It's what I've been dreaming of and working for," Jones said. "I still don't believe it … when I'm back in the hotel and having a shower then I might start jumping up and down." A seven-car crash at the first turn halted the race for almost an hour, with the most serious casualty Jean-Pierre Jabouille who broke both his legs when he piled his Renault into a wall.
Martin Donnelly's short and promising career was ended when he crashed his Lotus in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, hitting a guard rail at 140mph with such force that his car disintegrated and he was hurled onto the track still strapped into his seat. One witness said everyone assumed he had been killed. It took three minutes for medical aid to reach him and an hour before he was stable enough to be helicoptered to hospital with serious head injuries and broken legs. During a long recovery he suffered kidney failure and was on dialysis for weeks and for a while it looked as though his right leg might have to be amputated. But he recovered, although he never raced seriously again.
Double world champion Mika Hakkinen was born on this day in Vantaa, Finland. Possessed of immense natural speed and an almost freakishly cool demeanour, he suffered serious head injuries in a crash at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix but bounced back in 1996 and 1997, and then in 1998 he pipped Michael Schumacher in the last race to take the title with eights wins. Although he only won five times in 1999 he retained his crown, but then came the Ferrari-Schumacher era and after a season dogged by mechanical problems in 2001 he announced he was taking a sabbatical. He never returned.
There was no brotherly love between the Schumachers at the Luxembourg Grand Prix, but there was a brotherly shove as less than 200 metres after the start Ralf's Jordan piled into Michael's Ferrari and smashed the latter's front suspension. Two laps later Michael retired, and in so doing severely dented his hopes of a third championship as Jacques Villeneuve in a Williams won the race and took a nine-point lead in the title race with two races (and a maximum of 20 points) remaining. "After Ralf hit me, my car was handling strangely," Schumacher said. "In the pits we could see the suspension arm was bent. It was a shame that the incident happened with my brother but I don't think anyone was to blame for what happened as it was not a deliberate move. That's motor racing."