Top ten: Jobs for a retired Formula One driver

Top Ten

Mark Webber is on his way out of Formula One at the end of the year. But he already has his next career move lined up with a switch to Porsche’s World Endurance Championship team.

However some ex-drivers have had rather more unconventional post-F1 career choices. Here are a few more unusual ideas for when the current crop of drivers hang up their helmets.

Sell cars

Juan Manuel Fangio

Juan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes, Reims, 1954Juan Manuel Fangio’s relationship with Mercedes-Benz, who he won two of his five world championships with, continued long after his racing career.

Fangio opened a Mercedes dealership in his home town of Balcarce, and in 1974 he was appointed the President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina.

He wasn’t the only driver to sell cars for a living after F1. Tony Brooks, a rival of Fangio’s who won six Grands Prix, bought and ran his own Ford garage next to the former Brooklands circuit near London.

Sell planes

Thierry Boutsen

Three-times Grand Prix winner Thierry Boutsen?óÔé¼Ôäós association with expensive machinery did not end when he retired from Formula One in 1993. The wealthy Belgian driver had owned and sold airplanes throughout his racing career, and in 1997 he and his wife formed their own company, Boutsen Aviation.

The Monaco-based group has since sold more than 250 planes – including helicopters to corporate jets – with total sales now exceeding $1 billion .

Of course, having extensive contacts in the moneyed F1 paddock did Boutsen?óÔé¼Ôäós business no harm. The company?óÔé¼Ôäós clientele includes the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Keke Rosberg and Heinz Harald Frentzen.

Another famous example of a driver getting involved in aviation after his F1 career is Niki Lauda, who ran his own airline Lauda Air which has recently been rebranded as Austrian myHoliday.

Sell pasta

Paolo Barilla

Former Minardi driver Paolo Barilla had the perfect safety net when his racing career faltered. He became the vice president of his family’s lucrative pasta company Barilla Group, one of the world’s biggest.

It was largely because of his family’s pasta money that Barilla had been able to make it to F1 in he first place. He made his debut for Minardi at Suzuka in 1989, and was appointed full-time driver for the following season.

But after failing to qualify for several races in 1990, and being completely outshone by his teammate Pierluigi Martini, Barilla was dropped for the final two races of the campaign, and retreated to the familiar world of pasta.

Yet he was more than just a pay driver – Barilla had enjoyed much greater success in sports cars, with victory in the 1985 Le Mans 24 Hours the highlight of his racing career. The Barilla company later sponsored Alessandro Zanardi.

Run a sat nav company

Nelson Piquet

Nelson Piquet, Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2013Three-times world champion Nelson Piquet may be a divisive figure but he certainly has the Midas touch, enjoying business success to match his on-track achievements.

Since retiring from F1 in 1991 (and recovering from a major IndyCar crash in 1992) Piquet’s biggest success has been Autotrac, a company which produces sat nav and monitoring systems for Brazilian freight trucks. Founded in 1994, it has expanded hugely over the years, and Piquet retains a shareholding in the company.

In addition to this and other business interests, Piquet has managed the racing career of his son, for whom he formed the racing team Piquet Sports. More recently, he starred alongside his former nemesis Nigel Mansell in Ford adverts in Brazil.

Preach the gospel

Alex Ribeiro

Alex Dias Ribeiro’s F1 career was something of a damp squib. He only qualified for half of the 20 races he entered in the late seventies and failed to score a point. A deeply religious man, Ribeiro raced with the slogan “Salva Cristo” (Jesus Saves) daubed across his overalls and sometimes his car.

His evangalising mission moved up a gear after his racing career ended. An encounter with an albino frog while digging a well on his farm (I’m not making this up!) prompted Ribeiro to join the Athletes of Christ, a Brazilian organisation dedicated to promoting Christianity amongst athletes.

Drive the Medical Car

Alex Ribeiro (again)

Spreading the word of God alone was clearly not enough to keep Ribeiro busy, and he returned to F1 in 1999 for an eventful stint as the Medical Car driver.

It didn’t start well: During the Saturday morning safety exercise before practice at Monaco in 2000 Ribeiro smashed the Mercedes C55 AMG estate into the barriers at Tabac. He was unhurt, but FIA medical delegate Sid Watkins suffered three broken ribs. The car was written off.

Two years later Ribeiro’s Medical Car was involved in another crash at Interlagos, but this time he was blameless. He had parked his car at the Senna S after Enrique Bernoldi crashed during the pre-race warm-up. But no sooner had he opened the door than it was torn from its hinges by Nick Heidfeld’s out-of-control Sauber:

Fortunately Ribeiro escaped unscathed. You can probably guess who he thanked for this miraculous deliverance.

Become a politician

Carlos Reutemann

One of the most talented drivers never to win the world championship, Carlos Reutemann is sadly best remembered for his ignominious defeat in the 1981 title decider at Las Vegas. Two races into the following season he abruptly called time on his F1 career.

Regardless of his rather undignified exit, Reutemann’s racing exploits had made him a popular figure in his native Argentina, and he used this recognition to forge a career in Argentinian politics.

Reutemann was appointed governor of Santa Fe, Argentina’s third most populous province, for two four year terms in 1991 and 1999. There was even speculation that he might make a bid for the national presidency, though this never materialised.

Run a farm

Jody Scheckter

Having won the world championship in 1979, Jody Scheckter quit Grand Prix racing the following year, aged just 30.

But he has kept himself busy since then. His first venture was a weapons training system, which he bought shortly after his racing retirement and sold at a huge profit 12 years later.

He is now engaged in a more peaceful but no less successful pursuit. Scheckter bought and invested millions of pounds in Laverstoke Park Farm in southern England, from where he sells his own range of multi-award-winning organic produce.

Scheckter hasn’t completely cut all ties with his former career, though. An on-site garage contains several of the cars he drove during his F1 career, including his title-winning Ferrari 312T4.

Buy an energy drink company

Bertrand Gachot

Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Williams, Melbourne, 1997Energy drink sponsorship is currently in vogue in Formula One so perhaps it won’t be long before another driver takes a leaf from Bertrand Gachot’s book and creates a brand of his own.

The Luxembourger, best known for his assault on a taxi driver in 1991 which opened up a place on the grid for Michael Schumacher, enjoyed little success in his F1 career. Gachot failed to qualify for almost half of the races he entered, and only managed to score five points.

After a two year stint in Japanese GT racing, Gachot began to focus on his business interests. One of his investments was in Hype, an energy drinks producer whose logos appeared on Williams’ cars in the late nineties. Gachot struck a deal to distribute Hype drinks in France, and it was such a success he bought the company outright in 2000.

Take over F1

Bernie Ecclestone

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Bernie Ecclestone, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Korea, 2010Stretching the definition of ‘F1 driver’ a little, Formula One overlord Bernie Ecclestone made an appearance at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix.

At the time Ecclestone was in possession of a pair of Connaught B-series cars, one of which he drove during practice for the race. This may have just been a ruse to collect the start money for the entry, which Ecclestone later said he lost in one of Monaco’s casinos. He appeared on the track again at Silverstone later that year.

But his skills were clearly better employed as a team and driver manager. In 1974 he formed the Formula One Constructors Association and eventually took control of the sport’s lucrative television rights. Today he occupies a position of unparalled importance in the sport, and though recent events have put it in jeopardy it remains hard to imagine the sport without Ecclestone at its apex.

Over to you

Which drivers on the current grid do you think would be best suited to these jobs? And which other drivers do you recall having unusual post-F1 careers? Have your say in the comments.

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132 comments on Top ten: Jobs for a retired Formula One driver

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  1. tomccoll said on 7th August 2013, 12:58

    Niki Lauda’s two relatively successful airline ventures are surely worth a mention too…

    • Mike Dee said on 7th August 2013, 13:06

      One of them is mentioned, but not quite correctly.

      Lauda Air was sold to Austrian Airlines in 2000 and later used as a charter airline. It then became part of the Lufthansa Group when LH acquired Austrian 2009. Lauda Air seized to exist in 2013 when it was rebranded as “Austrian myHoliday”.

      Niki Lauda also founded a second airline in 2003: FlyNiki. This is a relatively successful Low Cost Airline based in Vienna. Since 2011, FlyNiki has been part of the Air Berlin group.

      I think Niki Lauda sometimes piloted planes of both Lauda Air and FlyNiki.

  2. Max Jacobson said on 7th August 2013, 13:04

    An encounter with an albino frog while digging a well on his farm (I’m not making this up!) prompted Ribeiro to join the Athletes of Christ, a Brazilian organisation dedicated to promoting Christianity amongst athletes.

    That’s absolutely bizarre!

    Although on a side note (and I’m certainly not trying to promote prejudice here) what would actually be the point in trying to promote Christianity amongst athletes? I may be blind to an obvious benefit but I cannot possibly see how that would help somebody’s sporting career.

    • tattsbrah said on 8th August 2013, 7:29

      I would personally say that the benefit lies much higher than just a sporting career, I’m personally a Christian, and I’d say that Ribeiro’s mission would be similar to any other mission, to share Jesus with people, because sporting stars need Jesus just as much as anyone else does, when viewed through a Christian’s perspective.

      • Dan Brown said on 8th August 2013, 13:26

        Although not necessarily the place, I’m pretty sure no amount of praying can make you a winner. Hard work maybe.

    • Benjamin Tinker said on 8th August 2013, 8:54

      I don’t think this is about their sporting careers. Being an ex-athlete myself, you cannot focus your mind and energy on anything else. It consumes you completely. To inject some spirituality into their lives cannot be a harmful thing at all. Especially when they do not have chance to study for themselves.

    • dragoll said on 8th August 2013, 9:28

      @vettel1 You should watch the Senna documentary with that question in mind. If you have the extended version on the blue ray disc, you actually get a great insight into, not necessarily how much he put faith into god, but more around how he placed his entire fate at the hands of whatever god’s will was… In essence he pushed boundaries because he felt that he had a certain connection with god and because of that he could push beyond the limits.

    • Max Jacobson said on 8th August 2013, 12:00

      So really it is essentially an alternative method of “mental coaching” as I see it? Hence giving drivers and sportsmen an innate new confidence in their own ability @dragoll @xbarrettmatex?

      The concept is quite alien to me is all as an atheist myself! I have an inclination as to why it may aid a Christian now though.

      • tattsbrah said on 8th August 2013, 22:45

        @vettel1 To a degree, yes, I would say it does bring a newfound confidence in their abilities, as @dragoll noted, it let Senna push the boundaries because he had faith that God would let everything happen the way it would according to His will. I also think that they see it as an excellent chance to put the gospel on display to an extremely large amount of people, and part of Ribeiro’s mission would’ve been trying to ensure these athletes were out in the world showing the gospel for what it is.

        • Max Jacobson said on 8th August 2013, 23:02

          Ah, so a clever advertising campaign for the gospel!

          I only questioned it because I would personally think driver coaching would be a more successful means is all!

  3. DuncF1 said on 7th August 2013, 13:11

    Become the Stig.
    (although no one really believed it was Michael Schumacher?)

    • Max Jacobson said on 7th August 2013, 13:13

      Especially because it became known that the Stig was Ben Collins @duncf1! ;)

    • Traverse said on 7th August 2013, 14:34

      I’m the Stig. You heard it here first!

    • JackySteeg said on 7th August 2013, 17:05

      Ah, you say that, but I reckon the current (real) Stig is a former F1 driver! You see, I’ve been working on a theory in my laboratory…

      Last year, Top Gear had an unusually long absence, almost an entire year between series. Perhaps someone, specifically The Stig, was recovering from some sort of injury that he sustained after flipping his Toyota at Le Mans?

      I think I’ve cracked it :) haha…

      • Blackmamba said on 7th August 2013, 18:18

        Anthony Davidson should still be in F1. He is way better than some of the young pretenders buying their way into F1. No disrespect to Chilton, but ***?

      • @jackysteeg I thought that too. Current Stig laps look a lot faster and precise. Ben Collins used to be a bit more out of shape everywhere, but this one keeps it planted and has produced some weirdly surprising laptimes (though it might be the car).

        Also, another theory, is that they still run Ben Collins… that’d be a great cover. “We fired him, but we didn’t” :P

        • Jay Menon said on 8th August 2013, 0:56

          Ben Collins is a Hollywood stunt driver now? No?

          Whoever the Stig is…he is a bloody good driver. Just because he is that good, doesnt mean he has to be an ex F1 driver. There are plenty of non-F1 drivers who as good or better.

          Just out of curiosity, I remember The Stig used to have a very different line into the first corner when compared to F1 drivers…is there a difference now?

      • grobe said on 7th August 2013, 21:12

        hmm.. nice theory.. did you see in one of the most recent episodes.. they hinted at a recently retired F1 driver again..

        Some Say………

        • Yappy said on 8th August 2013, 3:25

          My guess is it is David Coulthard. He has been on Top Gear a numerous amount of times but has never been interviewed or done a lap. He also does not need publicity.

      • Jack said on 8th August 2013, 11:35

        In the last TG episode when the Stig was driving a Range Rover around Donnington you could see he was shorter and a smaller build than Richard Hammond who was in the passenger seat. Two ex Super Aguri drivers spring to mind and he hasn’t crashed into anything yet so that would rule Sato out.

      • DominikWilde said on 9th August 2013, 1:25

        The reason for the long gap was because Top Gear was touring (and because of budget).

        The current Stig is Phil Keen.

  4. Max Jacobson said on 7th August 2013, 13:12

    Former Minardi driver Paolo Barilla had the perfect safety net when his racing career faltered. He became the vice president of his family’s lucrative pasta company Barilla Group, one of the world’s biggest.

    The obvious natural progression – F1 driver to Vice President of a company that produces pasta!

    Fantastic article @greg-morland!

  5. Madi Murphy said on 7th August 2013, 13:15

    I used to work on a horticulture magazine a few years ago, and we once ran a feature on Jody Scheckter’s farm. I was giddy with excitement about it, and absolutely gutted that I wasn’t the one who got to go and interview him. Particularly as no one else in my office seemed to know (or care) who he was. Heathens.

  6. Magnificent Geoffrey said on 7th August 2013, 13:15

    One of the best top tens yet! Great read, Greg!

    First other one I can think of is Eddie Irvine becoming a property tycoon.

    • HoHum said on 8th August 2013, 1:15

      If my memory serves me correctly, Jack Brabham had a Ford dealership and Nigel Mansell a Ferrari dealership.

  7. xivizmath said on 7th August 2013, 13:18

    How about Jacques Villeneuve becoming a singer? Or is it too terrifying to mention?

  8. Lucas Wilson said on 7th August 2013, 13:28

    A popular pursuit of F1 drivers after F1 is to ring the press and spout some drivel down the phone every day ;-D

  9. Nick Jarvis said on 7th August 2013, 13:36

    F1Fanatic really puts the official F1 website to shame.

  10. Notorius pay driver Pedro Diniz, was a playboy in Monaco, now runs a organic farm in Brazil.

  11. Nathan said on 7th August 2013, 13:42

    Technical og management consultant, in medium/small technology businesses, or anything in technology and management.. Even if it sounds boring it should be spot on for former F1 drivers.

  12. AmirAnuar said on 7th August 2013, 13:56

    how about tv commentator there a lot of them doing it…

    • Max Jacobson said on 7th August 2013, 14:06

      The article is about unconventional progressions in their careers – tv commentator on F1 is a very natural progression @amiranuar as is quite evident from the fact you’ve said “there’s a lot of them doing it”!

  13. michel said on 7th August 2013, 14:02

    Allessandro Nannini sells his own brand of roasted coffee beans and related pasticceria

    the coffee beans are excellent btw

    • It’s a shame he didn’t start his own brand of bread so he would have been able to call it Nannini’s Panini’s…

      • michel said on 7th August 2013, 14:44

        he didn’t start it himself his father and sister ran it when he was still racing, his sister is a pretty famous singer in Italy

        they are located in Sienna, a beautiful little city to visit and their patticceria store is just wonderful, if you like expresso coffee and great food italy is a wonderful place to be

        sienna is not too far from firenze and from the mugello circuit, also not to far from bologna (ducati and lamborghini) and maranello (ferrari). lost of motor sport related things to do and see there.

  14. xjr15jaaag said on 7th August 2013, 14:03

    Didn’t Trulli run a vineyard?

  15. andae23 said on 7th August 2013, 14:10

    An encounter with an albino frog while digging a well on his farm […]

    Say what?

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