• March 31 down the years

Pele's chequered grand prix

What happened on March 31 in Formula One history?
A confused Pele waves the chequered flag at the wrong driver © Sutton Images

When Pele was asked to wave the chequered flag at the Brazilian Grand Prix it seemed a perfect PR opportunity, the country's, if not the world's, greatest footballer at one of its biggest sporting events. And, to be fair, it is not exactly a task burdened by onerous or complex rules. But, it seemed the organisers appeared to fail to explain the intricacies of Formula One to the great man, so when Michael Schumacher crossed the line to take the victory, followed home by brother Ralf , Pele was busy chatting with officials and forgot to show them the flag. Alerted to his mistake, he enthusiastically waved the flag at the next driver past, which happened to be Takuma Sato who was some two laps behind the winner, meaning technically he had won the race. "Pele is very little," noted Schumacher. "I didn't see the flag though, that's the only thing I noticed."

A more conventional finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix six years earlier as Damon Hill wrapped up his 15th F1 win, surpassing his father's tally of 14 grand prix victories. Hill's pole position proved crucial as a downpour hit Interlagos shortly before the start, and that meant he was free from spray which dogged his rivals early on. "When I first went out a bolt of lightning hit the track in front of me," Hill said.

American driver Kevin Cogan was born in Culver City, California. He entered the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix, and the 1987 Long Beach race, but failed to qualify for either.