Formula 1

How have the current drivers debuted in Formula 1?

The most valuable chairs in world motor sport but how have they obtained one and at who's expense?

Ever wondered what has enabled the current field of Formula 1 drivers to obtain a spot on the greatest stage in world motor sport? While it is easy to say that every driver has replaced whoever was at the team previously, it is even more interesting to track where the opportunity for that seat became available. This is particularly the case when the driver being replaced is moving on to another team to replace another driver. So who really have today’s current drivers replaced? While some are quite simple to track, others reveal some interesting stories of season’s past.

1. Sebastien Vettel

Vettel, unlike most drivers in Formula 1, debuted in his first race at the 2007 United States Grand Prix at the Indiannapolis Motor Speedway for what would be a one off drive before making his full-time debut four races later in Hungary for Scuderia Toro Rosso. His emergence in Formula 1 came at the hands of Robert Kubica who suffered an horrific accident at the Canadian Grand Prix which, had it not been for the advanced safety features in modern Formula 1, would almost certainly have resulted in a fatality. With eighth place in the United States Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest points scorer ever in Formula 1, bettering the record set by Jenson Button at the 2000 Brazilian Grand Prix. It is important to note however that Vettel wouldn’t have obtained this record were it not for the change in the points system at the beginning of 2003. Vettel would be older than Button when he obtained his first top 6 finish at Monaco in 2008. The German’s debut for Toro Rosso towards the end of 2007 came at the hands of Scott Speed, the last American to race in Formula 1. The rest they say is history.

2. Mark Webber

Mark Webber debuted for Minardi in 2002 replacing Fernando Alonso who left Formula 1 to take up Webber’s role as the reserve driver for the Renault F1 Team. This was made possible as both Alonso and Webber were managed by the Renault F1 Team manager Flavio Briatore.

3. Jenson Button

Jenson Button debuted for Williams at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix where he replaced Alex Zanardi who had his two year contract terminated early due to his poor performances in 1999. Button was chosen for the drive in favour of Brazilian Bruno Junquiera.

4. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton debuted for McLaren at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix effectively taking the second drivers seat alongside reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso. So while Alonso effectively replaced Kimi Raikkonen at the team, Hamilton replaced Pedro De La Rosa who had substitued for Juan Pablo Montoya who had left the team in favour of a career in NASCAR racing. This decision opened up the opportunity for Hamilton to make his Formula 1 debut.

5. Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso debuted for Minardi at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix replacing the Argentinian Gaston Mazzecane. The Spaniard would revert to a testing role for 2002 at the Renault F1 Team before becoming a driver for the team in 2003. While Alonso replaced Jenson Button at Renault, it was the retirement of Olivier Panis from BAR that provided the position for the Spaniard to resume his Formula 1 career. 

6. Felippe Massa

Felippe Massa debuted for Sauber at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. While Massa entered Sauber as a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen, it was the retirement of Mika Hakkinen from McLaren that provided the position for the Brazilian on the grid. In 2003 Massa took up a role as the Ferrari test driver, returning to Formula in 2004 to replace the retiring Heinz-Harold Frentzen.

7. Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher debuted for Jordan at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. In one of the stranger circumstances, Schumacher replaced the Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot who had been arrested for spraying CS gas into the face of a London cab driver earlier in the year. In a recent interview with F1 Racing, Gachot recounted his amazement when he was handed a two month jail sentence for the offence which he had been asured would not take place. For the following race, Schumacher would controversially switch seats with Roberto Moreno at Bennetton for the Italian Grand Prix.

8. Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg debuted for Williams at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix. Whle Rosberg replaced Nick Heidfeld at Williams, Heidfeld replaced Felippe Massa at Sauber, who in turn replaced Barrichello at Ferrari who ultimately replaced the under performing Takuma Sato at Honda who would opt for a career in Indycar.

9. Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen debuted for Sauber at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. Raikkonen’s appearance on the grid came as a replacement for the retiring Pedro Diniz.

10. Romain Grosjean

While 2012 marks the beginning of what will hopefully be his first full year of Formula 1, Romain Grosjean debuted for Renault at the 2009 European Grand Prix in place of the under-performing Nelson Piquet Jnr. Following his removal, Piquet would reveal to the FIA that he deliberately crashed his Formula 1 car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix under the instructions of Pat Symmonds and Flavio Briatore. For 2012 Grosjean replaces Russian Vitaly Petrov who has not been renewed by the recently renamed Lotus outfit.

11. Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta debuted for Force India at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix replacing the underperforming Vitantonio Liuzzi who in turn replaced Bruno Senna in the revolving door that is the Hispania Racing Team.

12. Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg debuted for Williams at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix effectively replacing Kazuki Nakajima who was no re-signed following Toyota’s decision to no longer compete in Formula 1 motor racing.

14. Kamui Kobayashi

Kamui Kobayashi debuted for Toyota at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix in place of the injured Timo Glock following the German’s accident in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Following Toyota’s decision to end it’s Formula 1 program, Kobayashi moved to Sauber in place of Nick Heidfeld who was believed to have been at the end of his Formula 1 career at this stage before his late return to the team at the end of the season in place of Sauber’s number 1 driver Pedro De La Rosa.

15. Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez debuted for Sauber at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix in place of Nick Heidfeld. While Heidfeld would drive in place of Robert Kubica following the Pole’s pre-season rally accident, at the time of signing with Sauber Heidfeld was believed to be at the end of his Formula 1 career.  

16. Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo debuted for HRT at the 2011 British Grand Prix in place of the under performing Narain Karthikeyan. Ricciardo will commence his first full season for Toro Rosso this year and replaces Sebastien Buemi at the Faenza based team.

17. Jean-Eric Vergrne

Vergne will debut for Toro Rosso this year and replaces Jaime Alguesuari at the Faenza based team.

18. Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado debuted for Williams at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix in place of Nico Hulkenberg. Despite taking pole position in the second last race of 2010, Hulkenberg was controversially dropped in favour of the Venezuelan who brought much needed funds to the team in the shape of oil company PDVSA.

19. Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna debuted for HRT at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix which was the first race for the brand new team and enabled an extra seat on the grid. In 2011 Senna drove for Renault in place of the under-perfiorming Nick Heidfeld who’s Formula 1 career appears to have ended. For 2012, Senna replaces compatriot Rubens Barrichello who looks to have almost certainly ended his career having competed in 322 grand prix.  

20. Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen debuted for Renault at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix. Kovaleinen replaced double world champion Fernando Alonso who moved to McLaren, replacing Kimi Raikkonen who in turn would replace Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. Michael Schumacher’s first retirement enabled Heikki Kovaleinen to enter the Formula 1 grid.

21. Jarno Trulli

Jarno Trulli debuted for Minardi at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix replacing one of the many drivers being hired by the Italian outfit towards the end of 1996 including Pedro Lamy and Giovanni Lavagi.

22. Pedro De La Rosa

Pedro De La Rosa debuted for Arrows at the 1999 Australian Grand Prix where he finished an impressive 6th on debut. De La Rosa replaced Pedro Diniz at Arrows who in turn replaced Johnny Herbert at Sauber who moved to Stewart Grand Prix in place of the under-performing Jos Verstappen. After racing for Jaguar, De La Rosa was test driver for McLaren, receiving a race seat at the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix replacing the injured Juan Pablo Montoya. In 2006 he would again return to Montoya’s race seat following the Columbian’s decision to pursue a career in NASCAR. At the end of the 2006 season De La Rosa resumed his test driver position until he returned to a race seat with Sauber at the beginning of 2010 replacing Robert Kubica who replaced Fernando Alonso at Renault who replaced the outgoing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari. In 2011 De La Rosa replaced the injured Sergio Perez at Sauber for the Canadian Grand Prix, following the Mexican’s injury at the Monaco Grand Prix. In 2012 De La Rosa replaces Daniel Ricciardo who in turn has replaced the under-performing Sebastien Buemi at Toro Rosso. Thanks to the sacking of Verstappen, the injuries and retirement of Montoya, the sabatical from Kimi Raikkonen and the sacking of Sebastien Buemi, Pedro De La Rosa continues to reappear on the Formula 1 grid.

23. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Vitantonio Liuzzi debuted for Red Bull Racing at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix where he took over the seat from Austrian Christian Klien in accordance with an agreement that both drivers would get to race the second car during the year. For 2006 Liuzzi was given a role at Scuderia Toro Rosso which had bought out the Minardi team and not renewed the contracts of its previous drivers. While still having a contract with HRT for 2012, Liuzzi has still yet to be confirmed as the second driver alongside Pedro De La Rosa. 

24. Timo Glock

Timo Glock debuted for Jordan at the 2004 Candian Grand Prix, finishing an impressive 8th, in place of the under-performing Giorgio Pantano. After failing to sign on for 2005 Glock pursued a career in indycars before returnign to GP2, eventually signing with Toyota for the 2008 season. Glock replaced Ralf Schumacher who was not renewed by the team and subsequently retired from the sport.

25. Charles Pic

Charles Pic will debut for Marussia this year and replaces Belgian Jerome D’ambrosio believed to be as a result of superior financial backing.

So there it is, the differing reasons for how and why each of the 24 drivers contesting the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship made there way onto the grid.



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