Formula 1's Greatest Underdogs

Marussia Monaco

The Marussia team finally scored their first Formula 1 points in Monaco after four seasons of hard graft at the rear of the grid.

And to celebrate their breakthrough, we're taking a look back at some of the other iconic underdog teams who have earned a place in F1 folklore.

Minardi (1985-2005)

The undisputed champion of Formula 1 backmarkers, Italian outfit Mianrdi lasted 20 years in the sport, picking up a number of impressive results and fielding some very talented young drivers along the way.

They first entered F1 in 1985 with Pierluigi Martini, a journeyman Italian who would prove a loyal servant. After two years away in which the team failed to impress, Martini returned in 1988 and recorded their first F1 point with sixth in Detroit. He then scored their only front-row start at the 1990 United States Grand Prix, going on to take their best result of fourth on race day. Martini continued to drive for the team sporadically until 1995, taking a total of seven top-six finishes.

Despite the ever-escalating budgets of their rivals, Minardi continued to fight on throughout the nineties, occasionally grabbing a strong result in the face of significant opposition.

And by the early 2000s the team had become famed for handing talented youngsters their first shot in F1, with future stars Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli (below) all making their debuts for the team.

In 2001 the Minardi family sold up to businessman and racing enthusiast Paul Stoddart. To his credit the Australian retained much of its character, regularly giving youth a chance, but by 2005 financial pressures had become too great and the team was sold to Red Bull. For 2006 it was re-named Toro Rosso as a nod to its Italian heritage, and continues to race under the name today. Appropriately enough they field Red Bull-backed junior drivers, and in 2007 handed Sebastian Vettel his first full-time F1 drive. The Minardi legacy lives on.

Leyton House/March (1987-1992)

The March team had been race winners and podium regulars in the 1970s, but their original F1 run ended in 1982. Five years later they were back, this time as underdogs rather than victory contenders. But their car was designed by a young Adrian Newey and sponsored by the Japanese real estate company Leyton House, and with its aqua-blue and green livery looked superb.

Backmarkers during '87, Newey's 1988 car was a giantkiller on its day, with Italian driver Ivan Capelli grabbing podiums in Belgium and Portugal.

But the team was in money trouble, and mid-way through 1989 they were purchased by Leyton House owner Akira Akagi, who re-named it after his company for the 1990 season.

That should have been the basis for bigger and better things, but Akagi-san wasn't on the firm financial footing he'd claimed. Once again the car looked great, but on-track results were difficult to come by.

It gets worse. In September 1991 Akagi was arrested on fraud charges; the team was sold to a consortium and re-re-named March. The impressive rookie Karl Wendlinger scored a single fourth place finish in 1992, but it was an otherwise barren year. Yet another sale followed that winter, this time to a Swiss investment company, but the team had folded before the 1993 season begun.

Super Aguri (2006-2008)

With Honda upping their F1 involvement for 2006 by buying out the BAR squad the Japanese manufacturer elected to help finance a b-team. Having dropped Takuma Sato in favour of Rubens Barrichello, they may also have been attempting to avoid a PR disaster.

The result was Super Aguri, a team led by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki. The deal for 2006 was done very late, meaning the team would run a re-worked version of the 2002 Arrows car. It was no rocket, but with its pretty livery and the handy Sato (below) behind the wheel the team remained respectable.

And in 2007 things really clicked. Sato was retained, while Anthony Davidson finally got his long-deserved F1 break alongside him..

The car itself was much faster. Though essentially just a re-jigged 2006 Honda, it was able to regularly beat the factory cars of Barrichello and Jenson Button.

Most famous was Sato's brilliant run to sixth in Canada, which included a giantkilling pass on Fernando Alonso's McLaren. Sato also scored points in Spain, and had Button not grabbed fifth at the Chinese Grand Prix Super Aguri would have beaten the senior Honda squad.

Unfortunately 2007 would be the high-watermark for the team. Money troubles were clearly hampering them in the opening few races of 2008, and they withdrew following round four in Spain.

It wasn’t the end, however. The team continued to race domestically in Japan, and this year they’ll make their international return in the new Formula E championship. Sato is heavily rumoured to be one of their drivers.

Arrows (1978-2002)

24 years in Formula 1 didn't yield a single victory, but few can forget Arrows' near miss with Damon Hill (below) at the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Debuting in 1978, the combination of Arrows and a young Riccardo Patrese enjoyed good results in their early years, with the Italian taking four podiums in as many seasons. They'd enjoy a few other strong results in the 80s thanks to Thierry Boutson and Eddie Cheever, but by the early 90s they'd fallen on hard times and become unquestioned backmarkers. So much so that the hapless Taki Inoue drove for them throughout 1995, with the only slightly less inept Ricardo Rosset replacing him in '96.

Which is why most were perplexed by reigning world champion Damon Hill's switch to the team for 1997. It wasn't so much a question of why Damon went there as how on earth they could afford him.

For the most part the decision looked catastrophic, but Hill bagged his first points at Silverstone with a fine sixth place.

Then came Hungary. The team's Bridgestone tyres suited the track perfectly, and Hill seemed to have victory in the bag until hydraulic problems slowed him in the closing laps. He was passed by former team-mate Jacques Villeneuve just a few miles from home and forced to settle for second. 

The team continued for another five years, fielding the odd quick driver and often sporting great liveries, but few were surprised when the money ran out and they finally folded in 2002.

Andrea Moda (1992)

Andrea Moda make this list thanks to their deluded persistence in attempting to run an F1 team.

It was a disaster from the start. Owned by Italian shoe designer Andrea Sassetti, they arrived for the 1992 season with an old Coloni chassis which had failed to pre-qualify for every race it entered in '91. Perhaps they felt it might mature over the winter, or perhaps they were just clueless.

After a shambolic opening two races they took on veteran Roberto Moreno and British hopeful Perry McCarthy (below). Moreno was the stronger of the pair, but his time in the first pre-qualifying session in Brazil was 16 seconds too slow to get him into qualifying proper, and almost 23 seconds down on Nigel Mansell's eventual pole time. Both cars then failed to qualify in San Marino and Spain.

But in Monaco a miracle occurred. Moreno somehow dragged the Andrea Moda to third in the pre-qualifying group, meaning he'd participate in the main qualifying session - and the race itself.

He started dead last and managed just 11 laps before the car expired with engine problems, but it was something to build upon.

Or it might have been if the team had any idea what they were doing. McCarthy barely ran for the remainder of the season - though he did take to a dry track on wet tyres at Silverstone - and in Belgium Sassetti was arrested for allegedly forging invoices. That was their final qualifying attempt, and the team mercifully vanished shortly after.