The 1979 US Grand Prix West in Long Beach proved to be a chaotic affair. Gilles Villeneuve, the polesitter, forgot to stop at his grid spot and drove past, preoccupied with getting heat into his Ferrari’s tires. This caused confusion behind him, with fourth-placed Patrick Depailler pulling up alongside the Ferrari, gesturing to Villeneuve. Lafitte’s Ligier car also ground to a halt when the rear seized. Ultimately, all the drivers decided to head back to the pits and await a restart. Second-placed Carlos Reutemann, who did not make the original grid, and Lafitte started the race from the pitlane. After heated conversations, Villeneuve was allowed to keep his pole. The Canadian took victory just under two hours later in a grueling race, with only nine cars seeing the chequered flag.
The 1981 Belgian Grand Prix weekend in Zolder was marred by tragedy when an Osella mechanic, Giovanni Amadeo, was critically injured during practice after stumbling and being hit by Reutemann in the pitlane. He would pass away the Monday after the race. This incident triggered protests from mechanics from all teams about the pitlane’s lack of safety measures. Several drivers joined the protest and vacated their cars on the starting grid, which caused problems when the organizers decided to start the formation lap anyway at the scheduled time. Second-placed Nelson Piquet added to the delay when he repeated Villeneuve’s mistake at Long Beach, missing his grid spot. The Brazilian was sent around again and had to weave his way past his colleagues on the cramped grid. Several cars struggled with overheating engines due to the long wait. On the grid, Arrows driver Riccardo Patrese wildly gestured for assistance from his mechanic Dave Luckett, who assumed that the field would be sent on another formation lap. The organizers then started the race as soon as Piquet had taken his proper grid spot, with Luckett still tending to the Arrows. Despite several cars managing to take avoiding action, the unfortunate mechanic was struck by the second Arrows of Siegfried Stohr. Luckett suffered multiple fractures but made a full recovery. This prompted safety improvements to the starting procedure with mechanics no longer allowed on the grid 15 seconds before the race’s start.
The 1982 US Grand Prix West in Long Beach also provided its share of drama. Lotus driver Elio de Angelis parked in the wrong spot and, realizing his mistake, put his car in reverse gear and backed into his teammate Nigel Mansell. Mansell also reversed to avoid further damage, which meant he had the dubious honor of starting a motor race in reverse when the green light came on. The Lotus pair fell a long way behind as a result. Despite the high attrition rate in Long Beach, de Angelis still managed to salvage two points in fifth place—albeit a lap behind. Mansell missed out by finishing seventh, two laps behind winner Niki Lauda.
The 1984 Austrian Grand Prix had Lauda taking an important step towards his third world title after winning his home Grand Prix. However, the 400th F1 Grand Prix got off to a chaotic start due to a problem with the start lights, which went from red to green and back to red. Third-placed de Angelis hesitated to get going, holding up Patrick Tambay and Teo Fabi behind him. There was no hesitation on the other side of the grid, with Ayrton Senna vaulting up the order from tenth to fourth in his Toleman. The race was red-flagged, and it was decided to restart the race from scratch after another formation lap. This time, polesitter Piquet held off Alain Prost. The race – and the championship – had a significant change when Prost crashed out on an oil patch, and Lauda overtook Piquet for the lead. In the closing stages, Lauda was about to retire with a gearbox problem. The Austrian ultimately decided to keep going and skip fourth gear, scoring a dramatic home win.
The 1987 Austrian Grand Prix took three attempts to get going, with the first attempt seeing a crash by Martin Brundle’s Zakspeed causing a multi-car pile-up on the original start line and bringing out the red flag. The second start was arguably even worse. Nigel Mansell got off the line slowly in his Williams, which suffered clutch problems, and triggered mayhem behind him. As many as 12 cars were involved in the ensuing melee, including the likes of Patrese, Eddie Cheever, Stefan Johansson, and Ivan Capelli. Teams were given a chance to repair damage or prepare spare cars for a third start, which ran two hours later. Philippe Streiff was missing as Tyrrell had run out of cars. Several other drivers started from the pitlane. Brundle, who was involved in both pile-ups, was rushed out with improvised bodywork on his Zakspeed and was ultimately disqualified for it. Mansell, who was lucky not to be collected at the second start, ended up winning the race by nearly a minute over Williams teammate Piquet.
The 1988 Portuguese Grand Prix saw another chaotic start when Andrea de Cesaris stalled his Rial at the first attempt, prompting a recall, ahead of everyone missing Derek Warwick stop on the second start; he was hit by de Cesaris, Luis Perez-Sala, and Satoru Nakajima. The third restart was the right one, and Ayrton Senna, driving for McLaren, swept past his teammate and rival Prost to take the lead into Turn 1. Prost overtook Senna as they came around to start the second lap. Senna famously pushed Prost towards the pit wall, sparking their feud, but could not prevent the Frenchman from regaining the lead. Capelli played a starring role in the March, passing Senna for second place as the Brazilian was struggling with an erroneous fuel indicator. In the 13th grand prix of the season, it was the first time that a dominant McLaren–Honda was passed on track. Capelli secured second behind Prost and was well ahead of Thierry Boutsen’s Benetton.
The 1994 German Grand Prix aroused memories for many reasons. It’s known for Max Verstappen‘s father, Jos, catching fire in a pitstop for Benetton, which resulted in many memes. However, the mind forgets that 11 cars failed to finish the opening lap, with drivers such as de Cesaris and Pierluigi Martini tangling off the start line, causing Martini to hit the pit wall with Alex Zanardi alongside. In addition, Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren headed straight into the tyre wall at the first corner after touching David Coulthard’s Williams, resulting in multiple other cars such as Mark Blundell, the Jordans of Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello, Johnny Herbert, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen suffering damage as a chain reaction crash occurred behind them. Damon Hill was also affected but managed to continue racing.