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.
Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan 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.
Three-times Grand Prix winner Thierry Boutsen’s 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’s business no harm. The company’s 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.
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
Three-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 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
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
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
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
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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