From Prost to Badoer: Five mid-season F1 driver changes
We’ve had a bit of musical chairs going on in F1 this season. Carlos Sainz leaving Toro Rosso for Renault, Daniil Kvyat in out and in again, like a Russian version of the Hokey-Cokey and Jolyon Palmer just, well, out.
Of course, over the years, some of the lesser funded F1 teams changed race drivers in-season more often than their underpants, as when as soon as the sponsor money stopped coming in, the pedaller concerned would be given his marching orders and the next sucker with a cheque-book would turn up. Others would be sacked, swapped or substituted.
Here then, in no particular order, are a just a small selection of mid-season driver changes for you. Some great, some Badoer.
2016 - Max Verstappen promoted, Daniil Kvyat relegated
Cast your mind back to early last season and you will no doubt remember poor old Daniil Kvyat’s enthusiasm getting him into a spot of bother. Some of the complaining was due to certain senior drivers not happy at him taking them on, while some of it was just plain clumsiness.
So, come the Spanish Grand Prix, Helmut Marko makes the call. Max takes Kvyat’s Red Bull seat and promptly wins the race, while Daniil gets bumped back to Toro Rosso.
An all rather too convenient way of getting Verstappen where they wanted him and having a handy scapegoat. Still, it worked out rather well for them didn’t it?
1991 – Bertrand Gachot inside, Michael Schumacher in
The most important driver change of all time? Bertrand, who had been doing a pretty good job for the new Jordan team, had a bit of an argument with a London cabbie and sprayed him with CS gas.
As irritating as some taxi drivers can be, this was considered not really on, so Gachot was put in the clink for a couple of months.
Cue Willi Weber, manager of young Michael, turning up on Eddie Jordan’s doorstep with $150,000 in a briefcase and the deal for the German to take the newly vacated seat for the Belgian Grand Prix was done.
The rest as they say, is history.
2009 – Not-so- super sub Luca Badoer in for Felipe Massa
Not quite as inspired a move as the one above and one in difficult circumstances, as it was forced on the team by the terrible injury sustained by Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ferrari, unlike these days, did not really have anybody they could call on, an odd situation for a top of the grid team but there you go.
Having been their test driver for donkeys years, Italian plodder Luca Badoer was drafted in for the European and Belgian Grand Prix, despite him not having entered an F1 race since his spell with Minardi ten years earlier.
He was, it is sad to say, awful, with placings of 17th and 14th and so far off the pace they used an abacus to record his lap times. Poor old Luca was sent back to test duty while the team poached Giancarlo Fisichella from Force India, who frankly, didn’t do much better.
2007 – Scott Speed gets replaced by some bloke called Sebastian Vettel
Scott Speed, remember him? No, thought not.
Following on from his 2006 debut season with Toro Rosso, which garnered precisely nil points (to be fair, his very highly rated team-mate could only manage to score one in a team that was still Minardi in all but name), Speed’s 2007 season was not going much better.
Awful car reliability, several shunts and a public falling out with the team, saw his brief foray into F1 come to an end at the European Grand Prix, when he and the team parted ways.
In for Hungary, Sebastian Vettel. At the time, Red Bull top man, Dietrich Mateschitz said Vettel had ‘extraordinary potential’.
He wasn’t wrong was he?
1991 – Ferrari fire Alain Prost. (Not their most sensible move)
Ferrari have a bit of history when it comes to knee-jerk reactions, especially when things are going badly.
After a pretty impressive 1990 things went into decline for the 1991 season, with lead driver Prost and No 2, Jean Alesi struggling with a rather dreadful car.
Alain only made the podium five times all year and after the Japanese Grand Prix, memorably described the 643 as being like ‘A horrible truck to drive. No pleasure at all’.
Now, the sensible thing to do would have been for Ferrari to work with the great man to sort it out, he was at the time undoubtedly their greatest asset.
Instead they sacked him, giving his seat for the next race in Australia to Gianni Morbidelli.
With no Prost-like genius to help them, there followed seasons of direness, until Michael Schumacher pitched up to sort things out in 1996.
Can you think of any other mid-season driver changes, for better or worse?
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