Swindlers, liars, and fraudsters: F1’s most curious characters

Formula One has drawn its fair share of eccentric and/or shady people over the years, some more influential than others. Whether they were megalomaniacs, quacks, crooks, or just gentle dreamers, here is a nice collection of some of the most intriguing characters that waded through the paddock before their fall from grace. 

©DR

©DR

David Thieme, 1981

Sporting his trademark black fedora, square glasses, and goatee, David Thieme (pictured above next to Lotus legend Colin Chapman and well known journalist Jabby Crombac) clearly stood out from the F1 crowd at the turn of the 1980s. Having made his fortune with Essex Overseas Petroleum Corporation, the American started sponsoring Team Lotus in 1979, his free-spending ways also extending to throwing grandiose and glamorous parties.

The dream stopped in April 1981 when he was arrested in Zurich on allegations of fraud amounting to $7.6m from Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse. Although Thieme was released on bail after spending a fortnight in prison – Mansour Ojjeh’s father Akram reportedly paid for it – Essex would not survive the blow and Thieme would vanish into thin air shortly after.