Two Formula One drivers have been reunited with their former teams this year: Kimi Raikkonen is back in Ferrari red and Nico Hulkenberg has returned to Force India after a year away.
When a team and driver rejoin forces, they know what to expect under these circumstances. Many of those who did reunite went on to win races and championships together. Here are ten of the best.
Juan Manuel Fangio
Maserati, 1953-54 and 1957-58
Juan Manuel Fangio first joined Maserati as the reigning world champion in 1952. But he crashed heavily in an early season non-championship race at Monza, leaving him with neck and spine injuries which ruled him out of the season.
He made a triumphant return the following year, winning at home in Argentina which began a string of six wins in seven races which delivered his second title. The following year Maserati’s famed 250F replaced the A6GCM and Fangio won with it at home and at Spa-Francorchamps – before jumping ship to join Mercedes and wrap up another title.
Mercedes’ withdrawal from motor sport in 1955 following the Le Mans fatalities led Fangio to a one-year marriage of convenience with Ferrari. Following that he returned to Maserati in the 250F. This produced his fifth world championship in 1957 and great, final championship victory at the Nurburgring, vanquishing two of his previous employer’s best drivers in magnificent style.
Ferrari, 1968 and 1970-73
Jacky Ickx’s first full season of competition with Ferrari in 1968 was a revelation – he was on the podium in his third start at Spa and scored a superb win two races later at Rouen in France. Despite the team’s decision to skip that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, Ickx remained in contention for the championship with three races to go. A broken leg sustained in a practice crash in Canada caused by a sticking throttle ended his title bid.
Ickx switched to Brabham the following year for sponsorship reasons, but the season after that he was back in a Ferrari. By now the Scuderia had ditched V12 power for Mauro Forghieri’s flat-12 unit in the effective new 312B chassis, and three wins in the last five races gave Ickx second in the championship. But under the circumstances – champion Jochen Rindt having died three races before the end of the season – it would have been a hollow triumph had Ickx won it.
That proved the high-point of Ickx’s Ferrari return, though he won again in the next two seasons, the latter one of his many celebrated performances at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Ferrari stayed away from the race the following year, so Ickx made a one-off start for McLaren. He returned to Ferrari for a final start at Monza, where he limped home a lapped eighth.
McLaren, 1980 and 1984-89
Alain Prost’s debut season at McLaren was not a productive one. They failed to score a podium finish all season (for the last time until 2013) and Prost suffered a series of suspension failures, one of which left him with a fractured wrist. Small wonder he jumped ship to Renault at the end of the season.
After narrowly losing the 1983 title to Nelson Piquet, Prost returned to the now TAG Porsche-powered McLaren in 1984. He stunned Niki Lauda with his speed but his wily team mate clung on to take the championship by the smallest-ever margin of half a point. Prost turned the tables the following year however, finally sealing the title, and impressively retained it in 1986 against the might of Williams-Honda.
The arrival of Ayrton Senna at the team in 1988 put Prost’s relationship with McLaren under strain. He took a third title in 1989 after cynically colliding with his team mate at Suzuka, then left for Ferrari. But despite that acrimonious parting he came close to returning for the team once more in 1994, testing the team’s Peugeot-powered car, before deciding to remain in retirement.
Williams, 1985-88, 1991-92 and 1994
While Prost nearly made a second comeback for the same team in 1994, Nigel Mansell did – with Williams.
Mansell was championship runner-up in 1986 and 1987 in the team’s Honda-powered cars, but during a tough 1988 with Judd engines he signed for Ferrari. An unhappy 1990 led Mansell to announce his retirement, before deciding on a return to Williams. It was a smart move for although unreliability compromised his 1991 season Mansell dominated the following year with the FW14B.
But with Prost lined up to arrive the following year Mansell high-tailed it to IndyCar and won the title at the first time of asking. Struggling in 1994 he jumped at a Renault-initiated invitation to make a few guest appearances for his old F1 team, culminating in a final victory at Adelaide.
Lotus, 1968-69 and 1976-80
Lotus handed Mario Andretti his F1 break but he only made a handful of starts for the team initially – and sometimes had to wield the technological dead-end that was their four-wheel drive car.
His return in 1976 came as team principal Colin Chapman was attempting to lift the team out of a slump. The 77 slowly came good during the year – particularly when Chapman hit on the idea of attached aerodynamic ‘skirts’ to it, introducing the revolutionary ground effect to Formula One.
Andretti romped to 1978 title driving the 79, which exploited ground effects even more effectively. He was joined by another returning Lotus driver, Ronnie Peterson, who tragically died the day after Andretti won the title following injuries sustained in a start-line crash at Monza.
Ferrari, 1971-72 and 1982
A decade separated Andretti’s return to another of F1′s great teams – Ferrari – who his childhood hero Alberto Ascari won the championship with twice. Andretti had won first time out for Ferrari at Kyalami in 1971, but only did a partial campaign for them over two seasons due to other racing commitments in America.
Andretti left F1 after a disastrous 1981 campaign for Alfa Romeo, but made a one-off start for Williams at Long Beach the following year after Carlos Reutemann’s retirement. Later in the year Ferrari found themselves without either of their original drivers following Gilles Villeneuve’s tragic accident at Zolder and Didier Pironi’s career-ending shunt at Hockenheim.
Andretti made an heroic return, putting his car on pole position at Monza and finishing on the podium. He retired from the final race back in America but enough had been done for Ferrari to salvage the constructors’ championship from a heartbreaking season.
Benetton, 1986 and 1996-97
Berger drove for four different teams in as many years after arriving in F1. But with the third of those – Benetton – he became a race-winner, thanks to an astute gamble on his choice of tyres at the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix.
This was the team’s first victory as well. And following Berger’s return a decade later he also achieved his and Benetton’s final wins with a superb drive at Hockenheim in 1997.
Ferrari, 1987-89 and 1993-95
Berger’s stints for Benetton bookended two spells at Ferrari. He rounded off the 1987 season with back-to-back victories at Suzuka and Adelaide for the Scuderia and looked like a tip for the 1988 title – until McLaren turned up with the devastating MP4-4 and blew everyone away.
Nonetheless Berger was the only non-McLaren driver to win a race that year and it was the one that mattered – the home race at Monza, less than a month after the death of Enzo Ferrari. The following year he sustained burns in a horrifying crash during the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix, and though he was soon back in the car he later admitted he was never quite the same driver.
He left the team at the end of the year for a three-year stint at McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna. Ferrari lured him back in 1993 and the following year he ended their longest ever winless spell, one which had lasted almost four years.
Jordan 1997 and 2002-03
Giancarlo Fisichella impressed in his first full season with Jordan in 1997 with podium finishes at Montreal and a rain-lashed Spa, and a bid for victory in Germany that was thwarted by a puncture.
Manager Flavio Briatore moved him into his Benetton team the following year but the team were on the wane. By 2002 he was back at Jordan, but the promise of the Honda-engined car was never realised.
Surprisingly it was in his third year with Jordan using Cosworth engines that Fisichella finally took his first win – although it wasn’t awarded to him until several days after the race. He was originally classified second in Brazil after the rain-hit race was stopped early, but once the rules were correctly applied Fisichella was deemed the winner instead of Raikkonen. He subsequently made a return of sorts to Benetton, now rebranded as Renault, in 2005, and won twice more.
Renault 2003-06 and 2008-09
Fernando Alonso shook the F1 establishment with Renault in 2003 the way Sebastian Vettel would eight years later at Toro Rosso. Flavio Briatore’s latest find became the youngest pole sitter and youngest race winner that year, and two years later was also the youngest driver ever to win the world championship.
He then stunned his team during the off-season by announcing he would move to McLaren in 2007. Despite his impending departure, a switch from V10 to V8 engines and fierce pressure from Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, Alonso retained his crown the following year.
His spell at McLaren lasted just one, highly acrimonious season, after which he returned to Renault and Briatore. Unfortunately this period of his career is best remembered for that controversial win at Singapore in 2008 after team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr was ordered to crash to help him.
But Alonso also produced many excellent drives in generally uncompetitive machinery, including a brilliant second 2008 win at Fuji the same year and a third place at Singapore the following year which was far better than the dreadful R29 deserved.
Over to you
F1 top tens
- Top ten: Driver-team reunions
- Top ten: Worst rules ever seen in F1
- Mark Webber’s top ten F1 races
- Top Ten: Track masters
- Top Ten: Memorable qualifying sessions
Images © Maserati, Williams/LAT, Ford.com, Pirelli, Renault/LAT, Ferrari