Overview: Biggest racing shocks of 2016

Overview: Biggest racing shocks of 2016

29 December 2016 – Motorsport is often accused of being predictable, but 2016 still delivered its fair share of shocks over various categories. GPUpdate.net runs through some of the biggest surprises from this year's action.

Alonso's huge accident

Every viewer receives the same Formula 1 feed and, having tracked Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas through Turn 5 at Albert Park, the director suddenly switched to Esteban Gutiérrez coming to a halt in a gravel trap. It appeared a mundane incident which signalled the end to his Haas debut. An aerial view followed, showing Gutiérrez's car, at which point something at the top of the screen became visible. It turned out to be a crumpled heap of a mess, from which Fernando Alonso emerged. Replays showed the brutal, and visually spectacular, nature of the accident, in which the Spaniard sustained a force of 46G.

Verstappen's debut triumph

Hindsight can make certain decisions seem blasé, but at the time, Red Bull's call to promote Max Verstappen for the Spanish Grand Prix was a seismic move. That he went and won on his debut was even more of a surprise, even if circumstance played in his favour. Verstappen smoothly adapted to the RB12, qualified strongly, and inherited second when the Mercedes drivers crashed, moving into the lead when his two-stop strategy proved to be preferable. Seeing '33 M. Verstappen' atop the timing screens now is not unusual, but back in May it was a genuine chills-down-the-spine occasion, and no-one could quite believe it.

Alexander Rossi's Indy victory

Rossi had climbed onto the Formula 1 grid towards the end of 2015 but could not compete with Rio Haryanto's financial package for 2016, and returned home to IndyCar, with the Bryan Herta/Andretti collaboration. A steady opening to the year preceded 11th on the grid for the Indianapolis 500, and, along with many others, he stopped during what turned out to be the final caution period. Rossi, guided by Herta, entered fuel-saving mode, and as rivals pitted, he inherited the lead. Rossi was on fumes for the last lap but carried enough speed to secure a famous victory at the 100th running of the race. It was just rewards for a tenacious racer and hard worker.

Giovinazzi doubles up in Baku

GP2 rookie Antonio Giovinazzi surprised the field by taking pole position at the new Baku City Circuit, and went on to claim a superb Feature Race win, with a four-way fight for the lead on the final lap. Recreating the achievement in the Sprint Race appeared a tall order, when he tumbled from eighth to 20th during the early stages. However, he vaulted up the field, aided when Nobuharu Matsushita triggered chaos at the restart. Giovinazzi then pressured Pierre Gasly into an error on the final lap and bagged the win, the first double in the category since 2012. He had not previously scored a point!

Toyota's late Le Mans failure

Toyota had long awaited a victory at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours but during a dramatic 2016 race, it was cruelly denied once more. The #5 Toyota had taken control of the race and held a lead of a minute over the #2 Porsche, when with just five minutes remaining the TS050 Hybrid began to lose power. Kazuki Nakajima kept going but the car crawled to a halt on the pit straight, handing the lead to the #2 Porsche, which went on to claim victory. The #5 got going again, but completed the final lap at too slow a pace, and was not classified. Defeats rarely come in such a brutal fashion.

Miller's Assen win

MotoGP races for the last few years had typically been won by either the Repsol Honda or Yamaha riders, but at a wet Assen, Marc VDS youngster Jack Miller broke the hegemony. Miller, who jumped straight from Moto3 to MotoGP for 2015, finished only 19th in the standings, and endured an injury-ravaged start to 2016. Miller, whose previous result was 10th, started from 18th at the Dutch TT but worked his way up to eighth when worsening rain caused a red flag. He surged to fourth at the second start, profited when Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso fell, and passed Marc Márquez for the lead. It was sensational.

Hamilton/Rossi engine failures

In motor racing, reliability is so strong nowadays that the rare failures are felt more acutely – none more so than among the title contenders, who lose huge points when something goes. For Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi, they know the feeling. The TV cameras cutting to a dominant Hamilton with smoke billowing from his W07 Hybrid in Malaysia was a shock moment – and had huge ramifications in the title race. Rossi, meanwhile, was only 12 points behind Jorge Lorenzo prior to his home race at Mugello. Rossi, who took pole, battled with Lorenzo before his engine expired on lap nine. Mugello was silenced.

Rosberg's retirement

The narrative for the 2017 season was already beginning to form, as Rosberg's promotional duties as World Champion took him to Kuala Lumpur, his native Germany, Britain and Vienna, for the FIA's annual Prize-Giving ceremony. Rosberg took to the stage during the usual formulaic press conference in the Hofburg Palace and emotionally dropped a bombshell: he was retiring. Word quickly spread, and shock set in once it was apparent that it was no joke. Nobody saw such a situation coming, not least Mercedes, whose attention soon turned to finding a replacement.

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