Driver moves that just didn't work

This topic contains 28 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by  Icthyes 6 years, 8 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)
  • Author
  • #128798

    Prisoner Monkeys

    This was originally going to be a Top Ten article that I wanted to write, but I couldn’t find enough information for ten entries. So I re-tooled it as a forum discussion.

    With the news that Nico Hulkenberg rejected a drive with Virgin in addition to the Hispania seat he was offered a while ago, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that he won’t be racing in 2011. This means that he won’t be getting race experience up, and it will be harder to impress bigger teams. Combined with his refusal to find sponsors, this is a very silly decision because it does his 2012 prospects no good.

    So it got me wondering: which other drivers made stupid mistakes in moving from one team to another?

    The first and most obvious is Damon Hill going to Arrows in 1997. By the time he was in contention for the 1996 title, he was already on the outer edge at Williams. It’s not entirely his fault; when 1997 came around, most of the race seats had been full, and Hill had a choice between Arrows or Jordan. I’ve heard he spoke to Ron Dennis about driving at McLaren, but there were concerns about his pay and the existing relationship between the team and Mika Hakkinen.

    Another stupid move was Jacques Villeneuve going from Williams to BAR in 1999 (between Hulkenberg, Hill and Villeneuve, Williams drivers going to poor teams will become a recurring theme here). He went from second in the championship to racking up eleven straight retirements. In fact, Villeneuve scored more points in the 1998 season than he did for the rest of his career.

    And then, of course, there’s Nick Heidfeld going to Mercedes in 2010. When Jenson Button left the team for McLaren, Heidfeld had his heart set on the Mercedes seat alongside Nico Rosberg – so much so that he didn’t start any discussions with other teams like Renault. But then Michael Schumacher was confirmed at Mercedes for 2010 just a day or two before Christmas, and then Europe shut down. When it re-started in January, Heidfeld had just a few weeks to find a team to get a drive when all of their other potential drivers were already several weeks into negotiations.

    So, who else totally dropped the ball and why?



    Alesi – had the option to go to Williams in the early 90’s but chose to go to Ferrari instead. Heart over head completely – and he ended up not performing to his potential.

    Montoya to McLaren was pretty disastrous too – if only because in terms of personality, the team and the driver massively clashed. Montoya was suited to Williams, he wasn’t suited to McLaren, which, along with Kimi beating him, ultimately lead to his exit from the sport. Perhaps there is a bit of gut instinct in this one, but I think Montoya would still be racing in F1 (or recently retired) had he not gone to McLaren.

    Villeneuve and Hill were the obvious ones – although Hill’s decision I don’t think was as ill conceived as you would think. A few people thought that with Walkinshaw being boss that the team was on the up – and of course, his famous nearly win in Hungary proved that the car had potential when the tyres worked. For the rest of the season though, it just wasn’t a great decision.

    Villeneuve’s decision was terrible, i’d agree – i’ve read somewhere that he had a McLaren option too which he didn’t take. I’m not sure quite how much say Nick Heidfeld has had in his career. The teams just don’t rate him the same way as many of the fans do.



    I don’t think Hulk’s has been that bad if he manages to get some Friday running it’ll do him some good and perhaps FI will drop Sutil for 2012.

    Heidfeld’s wasn’t so bad either; he’d spent forever in the middle of the pack so I can’t blame him for taking a gamble for a competitive drive. It just didn’t work out.

    Alesi is one. I love him and his loyalty to Ferrari but he could have achieved so much more.

    Jacques made the worst decision I feel though.

    Glock made a pretty bad one too when he chose to go to Virgin rather than Renault but I did see his logic at the time.

    Alonso to Renault in 08. He could have stuck it out at Mclaren but instead the best driver in the field spent two years in the middle of nowhere. His Japan 08 drive was magnificent though and he did wind up at Ferrari so it came good in the end :P.



    I remember reading about how Webber had the choice between Williams or Renault in 2005. Obviously it turned out that he chose wrong, and he even admitted that. I’m not sure if he could have fought for the championship though.

    I’ve also heard that Coulthard had the choice of staying at Williams or joining McLaren in 1996. From 1996 to 2004 Williams and McLaren were very close with Williams beating McLaren 5-4 in the constructor’s championships. Statistically, it was the wrong decision, though joining McLaren was by no means a bad thing.


    Lee Harrison

    Mansell joining McLaren was a bad decision really, would’ve been great for him if he’d just gone after winning Adelaide ’94.



    Kimi refusing to drive for a not-title-contending team in 2010 brought him from a sabbatical to a “definite” retirement like Hakkine had done.


    sbl on tour

    couple more

    fisi to ferrari

    emo to fittipaldi

    zanardi to williams

    jones to beatrice


    Ned Flanders

    Good topic, although as usual I’m not quite getting the Hulk hate.

    Jean Alesi seems like the obvious one, it’s a real travesty that he only won one race. That said, I have my doubts that he was ever quite top drawer: you make your own luck and all that…

    I’d nominate Nigel Mansell’s move to Indy Car’s in 1993 as a bad move. This may seem like a strange choice given what he went on to achieve over in America, but the fact that he fled from Alain Prost not once but twice in his career doesn’t do his reputation much good. If he really is as good as he seems to think he is, the world championship would’ve been there for the taking

    Ayrton Senna to Williams. A quite controversial choice, I know, but I don’t think this needs explaining

    Mark Webber to Williams- it seemed like a match made in heaven, but it was a bit of a disaster. He was fast on his day and unlucky with the car a few times, but he should’ve done so much better. I never thought his reputation would have survived that so well, but we all know what happened next…

    Jenson Button to Benetton- OK, so the car was terrible, but that doesn’t explain how he got his butt so comprehensively kicked by his team mate, especially since said team mate was a bit of a journeyman. That said, he was on the pace again in 2002… strange


    sbl on tour

    @NED, red nigel in the good old us of a , that move was just class, he needed b… to do that, and he certainly had them!!!!

    mansell v prost

    cant really think think of anything really memorable that he did of hand, whereas red nigel, the list is endless….




    @ Ned

    Some interesting choices. You’re right about Alesi, he’s very difficult to rate. Certainly should have been a multiple race winner though rather than one, lucky, victory.

    I would take issue with the Senna to Williams point because it wasn’t a bad decision on the face of it – he was in the fastest car after all. What happened was unfortunate, but it was less to do with the move to Williams than lots of other contributing factors on the day and at the track.

    Mansell running away from Prost is also interesting. I wasn’t old enough at the time to know the politics surrounding F1, but Mansell was a confidence driver, who needed the confidence in his car and team to deliver. Wikipedia mentions an inferiority complex, which, if true, goes some way as to why he didnt feel comfortable with Prost as his team mate. I was always under the impression though that Mansell left partly because of Prost but also because of money – which is also the reason Hill left after 96. Still, your points are valid – did he run away from Prost? I don’t know the answer, and i’d be interested on the more experienced (read = older :P) members who might know more about the circumstances.

    Button was a bit of a mystery in his early years. Given that the Benetton became Renault which then gave him his first podiums, i’m not sure i’d rate that as a bad decision though. Also, from memory I don’t recall it being a decision really – Button was kicked out for Montoya. I’d say that the decisions in Buttons career that have been the worst were to do with the contract recognition board and him signing with both Williams and BAR. Though it doesn’t quite qualify for this topic, it was something that irked a lot of the teams at the time and potentially hindered moves up or down the pitlane.

    I don’t actually recall Webber being that bad at Williams, what was it that made you think it was a bad idea? Did he have options elsewhere?


    Prisoner Monkeys

    Mark Webber to Williams- it seemed like a match made in heaven, but it was a bit of a disaster. He was fast on his day and unlucky with the car a few times, but he should’ve done so much better. I never thought his reputation would have survived that so well, but we all know what happened next…

    Webber’s options were either Williams or Renault. If he went to Renault, he’d be abused as all Alonso’s team-mates were under the “leadership” of Flavio Briatore.

    Jenson Button to Benetton- OK, so the car was terrible, but that doesn’t explain how he got his butt so comprehensively kicked by his team mate, especially since said team mate was a bit of a journeyman. That said, he was on the pace again in 2002… strange

    Button got swept up in the lifestyle of a Formula 1 driver more than the actual job, and it kind of went to his head. It took him a little while to find his way, but once he moved to BAR, he’d matured a lot.

    And looking at his 2001 results, he and Fisichella were quite evenly matched, with the exception of that podium in Belgium. Button was usually only a place or two behind Ficishella except for Brazil, where he was four places back and France, where he was five places back. And of all his retirements in 2001, only two – Hungary and Belgium – were due to driver error.


    Ned Flanders


    Yeah, but being ‘only’ a few places behind Fisichella is nothing to be proud about. Besides, back in 2001 a few places on the grid often equated to several tenths of a second. But as you implied above being the no 2. driver in a Flavio Briatore run team means you’re always going to struggle. I can barely think of a handful of seasons in the past two decades where both of Benetton/ Renault’s have been on the pace.


    Senna was obviously going to be a controversial choice. I’m not so much saying it was a bad move- Williams were the best team on the grid in the early 90’s. I think it’s just that I always associate Senna with the good times at McLaren. Imagining Senna at the wheel of a Williams still seems so alien to me, and it has such negative connotations.

    And Webber- well, people seemed to think Webber and Williams would fit together like hand and glove. Webber just seemed like a Williamsy kind of driver somehow. But then he was outscored by Heidfeld in 2005 (until Heidfeld’s injury) and finished no higher than 6th in 2006. I’m not saying it was a bad choice, it just could and perhaps should have been so much better

    Mansell- well, from reading his autbiography his departure was a combination of both money squabbles and fear that Prost would ‘manipulate’ the team as he did when they were teammates at Ferrari. Who knows how accurate this is though- that book is basically a 300 page Mansell propaganda pamphlet. (Still a good read, mind!)



    I’d add Warwick’s decision to stay with Renault instead of moving to Williams for 85 season (Williams than took Mansell instead).



    A few Finnish ones…

    Rosberg from Williams to McLaren in 1986. Okay, Prost did win the championship meaning it wasn’t a bad car, but Keke had spent all those years developing the Honda engine and it finally came good. IIRC one of the reasons for the move was simply that Keke wanted to see another (top)team.

    JJ Lehto & Benetton in 1994. A move that destroyed JJ’s career in F1. Of course most (if not all) of it was due to the injuries suffered in pre-season testing and the way too quick return, but JJ could’ve easily driven for many more years in good-ish midfield teams.



    A controversial one would be Barrichello to Ferrari. I don’t know what other options he had when he left Stewart but surely he’s got a second fiddle tag that’s stuck with him right through to the Brawn year.

    That said, however, he won races and raced some very good cars.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.