High expectations for drivers

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    Ben Needham

    I was reading an F1 Racing article about Kevin Magnussen, where they asked him about his father, Jan. I remember a big expectation being placed on Jan’s shoulders when he entered the sport full time for Stewart. Sir Jackie labelled him “the most talented young driver since Senna”… a tag which he failed to live up to and he was let go in favour of Jos Verstappen the next season (whose son Max arguably IS the most talented young driver since Senna!).

    It got me thinking about other drivers who came into Formula One with a great reputation and failed to deliver on it. Perhaps Alex Zanardi’s eagerly anticipated return for Williams in 1999? How about the story of Tommy Byrne, the co-author of the book: The Greatest Racing Driver You Never Saw!

    I’m eager to find out about/remember others who sit in this category… any thoughts!?



    @Ben Needham
    One that comes to mind from a long time back was Michael Andretti when he joined Ayrton at McLaren in early 90’s (1992 maybe?). Comes from good stock and his Dad a WDC and the guy can obviously point a car in the right direction (aka world class driver) but he really struggled in F1 for some reason and also had some bad luck. From memory only lasted 7 or 8 races.
    This may have been a catalyst in F1’s “we are better than you” mentality?!

    Were you thinking drivers that came in with a big rep and were axed, or those that come in with a big rep but underachieved for so long but kept a seat in F1?
    If the latter there are many!



    What about Schumacher?



    Jan Magnussen definitely. Heinz-Harald Frentzen also never lived up to the expectations (apart from the weird 1999 season where he was a championship contender until Nürburgring); the often repeated line about him was that he was faster than Schumacher when they were teammates at Mercedes in the early 1990s.

    Nick Heidfeld is also someone who was somewhat hyped (being sometimes referred to the young guy who would replace Coulthard at McLaren in 2001/2 – that of course never happened as Häkkinen retired), but then just never really delivered. He had an excellent season in 2001 along the then-rookie Kimi Räikkönen, but it was Kimi who got the promotion to McLaren, not him, leaving Nick to basically see out his career in midfield cars apart from 2008 Sauber-BMW.


    Ben Needham

    @evilhomer – I was really thinking of anyone, whether they got axed or maintained the seat. Michael Andretti is a great shout… but then he was lined up against Senna! Tricky for anyone.

    @kaiie – I remember Wendlinger as well as Frentzen being touted as another big thing… though he never got the opportunity to show it really after his Monaco crash in ’94 so perhaps we can’t count him. Frentzen only really had a Championship-worthy car in 1997 but couldn’t deliver (as Keith’s 1997 articles are showing). 1999 was stunning and after that he never had a great car.

    As for Heidfeld, he was desperately unlucky not to get the McLaren seat when Kimi did, as I felt they were a match in 2001. Heidfeld compared himself well to Alesi, Raikkonen, Massa, Villeneuve, Kubica… still underrated in my opinion.



    Ben you may even say Jean Alesi didn’t quite live up to his talent and grabbed just 1 win in 200 odd starts. Made a stellar start in 1989 and it was Phoenix he was trading the lead with Senna while driving a Tyrell (with a new stepped-up nose) and was looking to be the next big thing. Go to Ferrari and as we know they like drivers to be no.1 or no.2. He deserved more wins (well no-one deserves wins, but you know what I am saying).

    And while I would never consider this guy to have under-achieved but Gerhard Berger was a guy born a few years too early or too late- could have taken a title but was always up against Senna, Prost, Mansell & Piquet. 4 drivers you want to trade blows against.

    As you said in your original post some drivers come in with a huge hype but the problem it never comes from the driver but team owners and the like (maybe to justify their decision). JYS talked up J-Mag to no avail, but Ron Dennis did the same to his lad K-Mag after talking so highly of Checo just to give him a crap car then kick him to the curd as “this opportunity was too good to give up” to then kick K-Mag to the curb 12 months later. Team owners/managers know that this hurts the drivers future stock & they don’t care, but I guess Ron did ring around to help grab Checo a drive after a very late dismissal (glad Checo has recovered so well :)


    Ben Needham

    @evilhomer – some really good point. I definitely agree that Alesi underachieved but he was desperately unlucky both on track and off track. His car failed him while in leading positions so often while in the Ferrari and also in the Benetton a few times. Alesi had the measure of Berger in my opinion, and Gerhard won 10 races, so it can’t have been a lack of talent. When Alesi signed for Ferrari he also had to worm his way out of a Williams contract he had already signed… a team that went on to near enough dominate the next 5-7 years. Poor Jean…

    Regarding the recent McLaren driver changes, they really did give the youngsters a kicking didn’t they? It has to be said though, I’d personally bin off most drivers if Fernando Alonso suddenly showed an interest.




    Yeah Alesi didn’t lack talent, just wrong place at the wrong time and some bad team choices like Alonso. Martin Brundle was the same, maybe the best F1 driver not to in a GP, turned left when he should have gone right. That said I would start 158 races and not win one to have his net asset position :)

    Ron was right- K-Mag or Alonso……….. sorry Kev! But most thoughts at the time was JB was almost done so give the young guy a go let JB go run, swim & ride around the world (all respect- my business partner done a half Iron Man last weekend – not for me LOL).

    I guess on McLaren’s previous form all eyes on Stoffel now. He has not been overly impressive but also needs some time to get things happening – Ron is gone so maybe have a breather Stoff!!

    Going opposite your original thread but I think one of late drivers who certainly should be in F1 is Jean-Eric Vergne. Its was he, Dan & Kimi for the Red Bull seat, he lost it, did nothing wrong then was out. As A Daniel fan I was glad he got the job but always felt JEV got stiffed by the Red Bull machine like so many previous!!!!

    Just a thought has any driver ever got sacked by Torro Rosso and got another drive in F1?? I cant think of one??


    Ben Needham

    @evilhomer – the only one I can think of is Vitantonio Liuzzi, who ended up in a Force India for a while before a quiet spell at HRT. Other than that there’s Speed, Alguersuari, Buemi, Vergne who all disappeared… the latter three all deserved better, but particularly Vergne I feel.

    Hope to see him back soon (maybe in a Williams?).

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