Motorsport: Five More F1 Driver/Team Combinations You Probably Forgot

Five More F1 Driver/Team Combinations You Probably Forgot

By James Gent
October 15, 2019

Last time, we dug up Mario Andretti’s one-race run with Williams in 1982, a solo outing for 1980 World Champion Alan Jones with Arrows, and even a lesser known collaboration between Nelson Piquet and McLaren. Since then, we’ve dug a little deeper.

Honourable mentions

  • Gilles Villeneuve and McLaren (1977)
  • James Hunt and Wolf (1979)
  • Jacques Villeneuve and Renault (2004)
  • Haas F1 and Esteban Gutiérrez (2016)

I mean, pretty much everyone remembers that Gilles Villeneuve began his F1 career with McLaren, right? And that James Hunt walked away from F1 after a piss-poor part-season with Wolf Racing? Do we really need to flesh these ones out?

1. Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber (2013)

  • Notable teams: Force India (2011-2012, 2014-2016); Renault (2017-2019)

The German star looks set to miss out on an F1 driver for next year, with Mercedes’ former protégé Esteban Ocon taking his place at Renault for 2020 and Antonio Giovanazzi looking comfortable at Alfa Romeo with Ferrari’s parental hand resting on the Italian’s shoulder. So if anything, this entry feels timely.

Should voodoo turn out to be real though, and Hulkenberg ends up benching Giovanazzi at Alfa Romeo, this would mark the 2015 Le Mans winner’s second season with the Hinwil-based outfit, following a solid if fruitless run in 2013.

An unofficial Ferrari ‘b-team’ at the time given its use of Maranello V8s, talk had been rife that Hulkenberg would join the Scuderia in 2013 to replace a vacating Felipe Massa, only for the Brazilian to re-sign a one-year deal at the last minute. Ah well, no harm done. A race seat at Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso surely awaited ‘the Hulk’ for 2014, especially with a year at prancing horse-powered Sauber under his racing belt. Right?

Unfortunately, the resurgent form of former Ferrari World Champion Kimi Raikkonen meant it was the Finn that was Maranello-bound for 2014, firmly slamming the door in Hulkenberg’s face in the process. Instead, the German was on his way back to Force India for 2014, keen to sweep the missed Ferrari opportunity and his single year with Sauber under the rug.

2. Keke Rosberg and Fittipaldi (1980 and 1981)

  • Notable teams: Williams (1982-1985); McLaren (1986)

One combo we could have put on this list but felt deserved better was Emerson Fittipaldi’s catastrophic decision to leave McLaren in 1975 and join the family F1 team founded by elder brother, Wilson. His seasons driving for ‘Fittipaldi’ / Copersucar produced just two podium finishes and 37 points in total, eight less than the Brazilian great scored in ’75 alone! Mercifully, though he’d dropkicked his credibility to death during those five seasons, Emerson Fittipaldi rejuvenated most of it with two Indy 500 wins and an ’89 IndyCar championship.

What people tend to forget about the Copersucar debacle is that, for his final season in 1980, Fittipaldi was teamed with moustachioed Marlboro enthusiast, Keke Rosberg. The future World Champion, who’d already replaced an outgoing James Hunt at Wolf the year before, made a quick impression, finishing 3rd on his Fittipaldi debut in Argentina. The Finn scored only two more points thereafter, but his pace was enough to catch the eye of Williams, with which he’d forge his F1 legacy.

In 1982, Rosberg took his first win, and thanks to the FISA-FOCA fallout and a tragically bad year for Ferrari, won the world title in his maiden year with Williams. In 1985, he set an average lap speed record – 160.9mph / 258.9 kph – that stood untouched for 17 years, and signed off his Williams career in style with one final Grand Prix win. A swansong year with McLaren awaited, the ’82 champion signing off in Australian with his Fittipaldi days firmly in the rearview mirror.

3. Daniel Ricciardo and HRT (2011)

  • Notable teams: Red Bull Racing (2014-2018); Renault (2019)

So entrenched is Toro Rosso as the F1 starting point for Red Bull Racing’s young driver program these days, many forget that one of the Austrian conglomerate’s most successful chargers actually made his F1 debut with another team. To put that into perspective, of the 14 drivers to have raced for Toro Rosso, only three debuted in F1 with a different team. You’ll find one of those two HERE.

Rewind to 2011, and The Honey Badger, already a Toro Rosso third driver, was halfway through a challenge for that year’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship when the call came through. Ricciardo would replace the outgoing Narain Karthikeyan at HRT for that year’s British Grand Prix. Ironically, his new teammate was former Red Bull / Toro Rosso driver, Vintantonio Liuzzi (and that makes three).

Though he didn’t score any points, Ricciardo finished all but his debut ahead of Liuzzi, and having interlaced both campaigns, even managed to claim 4th in the Formula 3.5 standings, despite missing the final round. One year later, Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso career had begun, leading to a prolonged stint at Red Bull Racing in which the Aussie showed his formidable chops against four-time World Champion Sebastien Vettel and later against new wunderkind, Max Verstappen. Seven Grand Prix wins later and with a new life at Renault already underway, Ricciardo’s 11-race stint with the now defunct HRT is long forgotten.

4. Martin Brundle and Williams (1988)

  • Notable teams: Tyrrell (1984-1986); Benetton (1992); McLaren (1994); Jordan (1996)

Before he found renewed life behind the mike, Martin Brundle’s F1 career was very much a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’. The ‘88 World Sportscar Champion’s sole season with the multi-title winning McLaren in 1994 coincided with the team’s one-year use of the woefully unreliable Peugeot V10, and his two podiums to Mika Hakkinen’s six didn’t help.

Two years earlier, Brundle had his first season with a front-line Grand Prix winner in Benetton, only for his teammate to end up being future seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher. His giant-killing performances in his debut year with Tyrrell came to naught when the team was summarily disqualified from the 1984 season. Even his barrel roll in the ’96 Jordan in Melbourne is regularly brought up.

Hidden amidst those conspicuous years is a single ‘87 season with Zakspeed – who? – and a one-off run for Williams at Belgium in 1988. The Briton deputised for the reigning World Champions when team leader Nigel Mansell was side-lined with chicken pox. Naturally, given Brundle’s luck, this was also the year in which Williams used the pathetically underpowered Judd V8 before its almost sarcastically successful switch to Renault power, meaning Brundle could only manage 7th, one lap down.

Brutally, even the Briton’s one-off replacement – Jean-Loius Schlesser – wrote himself into the history books one race later when he punted Ayrton Senna out of an easy race win at Monza.

5. Philippe Alliot and McLaren (1994)

  • Notable teams: …er…

Yep, this one definitely stands out for Woking. Like Derek Bell, Gilles Villeneuve, and – good God! – even Jacky Ickx before him, Philippe Alliot’s McLaren run was a one-race deal. And, unfortunately, it went poorly.

Replacing a suspended Mika Hakkinen, the admittedly amiable Frenchman qualified almost a full second behind teammate Martin Brundle at the 1994 Hungarian Grand Prix, and retired after just 21 laps.

So how did this ‘guest’ appearance come about more than 10 years after Alliot’s F1 debut? Connections mainly, as, thanks to the Frenchman’s long-standing friendship with the boss of Peugeot – who just so happened to be powering McLaren that year – he was signed as Woking’s test driver for 1994. Before that, Alliot’s F1 career amounted to seven points scored across eight uncompetitive seasons with RAM, Ligier and Larrousse, the Frenchman’s penchant for crashing an increasingly livid Guy Ligier’s cars helping to ease the door open for a two-year F1 hiatus in 1992 and 1993. Ironically, Alliot finished 3rd at Le Mans both years.

Thoughts that the perennial journeyman might replace Brundle at McLaren were almost laughably discounted after Hungarian ‘94, and the Frenchman brought his F1 career to a close at the following round in Belgium, again with Larrousse. Though he’s one of only eight drivers to start a single F1 race with McLaren in the team’s 53-year history, Philippe Alliot’s 116 starts without a podium finish also puts him 4th on the all-time record’s list. Ouch!


Images courtesy of McLaren, HRT/Hispania, Williams and Sauber. If we’ve missed any, be sure to let us know in the comments.

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3 years ago

Keke Rosberg: “In 1986, he set an average lap speed record – 160.9mph / 258.9 kph”. That was actually in 1985 at Silverstone – and with a deflating rear tyre to boot!