March 26, 2023

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5 bold driver transfers that paid off and 5 that didn’t

Emerson Fittipaldi: From Lotus to McLaren before 1974.

Emerson Fittipaldi made his F1 debut with Lotus in 1970 and in his only fourth race became the first Brazilian Grand Prix winner. A couple of years later, he set another record by beating Jackie Stewart to become the youngest (at 25) driver at the time to win a Formula 1 world title.

However, in 1973, in which Fittipaldi and his new Lotus teammate Ronnie Peterson both fought for victories and took points from each other, Stewart stole the title from under their noses. Frustrated by the situation, Fittipaldi made a lucrative deal with McLaren and their new main sponsor Marlboro before the 1974 season.

Money aside, switching from the 1973 Constructors’ Championship-winning team to a third-place team was a bold and ill-advised decision, but it paid off when Fittipaldi edged out Ferrari rival Clay Regazzoni to claim his second title. By the way, before the last race they had an equal number of points.


Niki Lauda: contract with McLaren for the 1982 season.

Niki Lauda was a two-time world champion when he decided to retire from F1 during practice sessions at the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix. He told Brabham team boss Bernie Ecclestone that he no longer had the desire to continue racing.

That was until a few years later, McLaren executives tempted Lauda back behind the wheel. With the Austrian’s aviation business up and running and his passion for racing seemingly rekindled, Lauda returned to the Formula 1 grid in 1982 – Marlboro played a key role in driving the story forward.

Lauda hit the jackpot when McLaren introduced the powerful Porsche-powered MP4/2 in 1984, and the Austrian beat young teammate Alain Prost by half a point for the title. Prost won the next two titles for McLaren, and Lauda retired from F1 for good at the end of 1985, now a three-time champion.


Nigel Mansell: From Ferrari to Williams before 1991.

Having twice won championship runners-up with Williams under dramatic circumstances in 1986 and 1987, and after a painful 1988 season when the team ended its partnership with Honda, Nigel Mansell looked for his fortune elsewhere where he might have a chance to win the elusive World Championship. . The title he so longed for.

The move to Ferrari brought a few victories, but the power of McLaren (along with Honda) made winning the title out of reach. It didn’t help that Prost became the de facto number one driver in 1990. With Williams doing well again, Mansell returned.

After being close to Ayrton Senna and McLaren in the 1991 FW14 made by Adrian Newey, Williams took another significant step forward in the 1992 season. Much of this has been made possible by technologies such as semi-automatic transmission, active suspension and traction control.

Mansell was unstoppable, and he won the world title, which he had been chasing for so long. In 1992, he scored almost twice as many points as his teammate, championship runner-up Riccardo Patrese.

Michael Schumacher: from Benetton Ferrari before 1996.

Before Michael Schumacher’s dominance with Ferrari, the German won his first pair of F1 titles with Benetton, beating Williams rival Damon Hill in the 1994 and 1995 seasons (remember the dramatic crash in Adelaide?).

A move to the Italian team in 1996 marked a new chapter, but it took five seasons under the watchful eye of Jean Todt for Ferrari to return to regular victories. Although Schumacher’s suspension in 1997, a tiny loss in 1998 and a crash in 1999 could take us to a world of if only.

It was 2000 that would eventually mark a turning point as Schumacher overcame McLaren rival Mika Häkkinen, captured Ferrari’s first title since Jody Scheckter’s success in 1979, and started a streak that stretched into 2004, bringing the German to a record seven titles.

Lewis Hamilton: From McLaren to Mercedes before 2013.

Lewis Hamilton broke into F1 with McLaren in 2007, nearly winning the title in his first season. A year later, he won his first championship, beating Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in an extremely dramatic final.

However, rather than continue their championship success, McLaren endured a nightmare year after the 2009 regulation change. In 2010, Hamilton was closest to the title in the following years in the British team, and in 2011 and 2012 there were only separate victories.

It is said that it was after he retired from the lead at the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix that Hamilton made the decision to join Mercedes, having been charmed by then-team principals Ross Brawn and Niki Lauda. Their plans for the coming turbo era were quite convincing.

At the time, many people wondered why he would switch regular title contenders from McLaren to a team that finished fifth in 2012. As will soon become clear, the promises of Brown and Lauda came true when Mercedes did a great job with the change in regulations and became the dominant force. Hamilton has won five titles from 2014 to 2020, and is equal in total with Schumacher.

Failed Transitions

Emerson Fittipaldi: From McLaren to Fittipaldi Automotive before 1976.

While Fittipaldi’s move from Lotus to McLaren paid off handsomely, the same could not be said for his subsequent move to the team he co-founded with his brother Wilson, Fittipaldi Automotive, for the 1976 season.

After winning two world titles and many races with Lotus and McLaren, his time at Fittipaldi Automotive was a constant battle for small points and earned him only two podium finishes in five years of competition, with one of his few highlights being a second place at the Brazilian Grand Prix. 1978.

A modest 10th place in the 1978 championship standings (and 17 points that year) was Fittipaldi’s best achievement before he retired from the sport at the end of 1980.

Nigel Mansell: From Williams to McLaren before 1995.

Amid a public squabble with Williams over a future contract and the threat of a reunion with former Ferrari teammate Prost Mansell withdrew from Formula 1 and left for the US in 1993, taking part in IndyCar.

It didn’t take long for the Briton to get used to it and he took pole and victory in his debut race. At the next stage, he had a nasty crash, but then scored four more victories and outstripped Fittipaldi in the fight for the title. Mansell also came close to triumphing at the famous Indy 500 race.

Nigel returned to Formula 1 at Williams in 1994 after Senna’s death, driving several races. He had pole position to his name, as well as a victory in the last race in Adelaide. However, despite this victory, Williams decided to give a chance to young David Coulthard, who became Hill’s teammate in 1995.

Mansell decided to move to McLaren, but unfortunately for the driver and crew, he couldn’t fit into the MP4/10B’s narrow cockpit and the Briton had to be substituted for the first two rounds. When he was finally able to race, Mansell was constantly dissatisfied with the car’s handling and retired from Formula 1 for good after a couple of difficult races.

Damon Hill: From Williams to Arrows before 1997.

Hill was another driver who won the championship for Williams and left immediately after, as Prost, Mansell and Nelson Piquet had done before him.

After considering offers from several teams, Hill signed with the Arrows, a team that had only scored one point in 1996 and had yet to reach the top step of the podium in nearly 20 years of history.

With a Yamaha engine and tires from Bridgestone, Hill barely qualified for the first round of the season and scored only twice in 17 championship races.

One such race was the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Bridgestone had an advantage over Goodyear, allowing Hill to qualify third and take the lead on race day. Hill was in the lead until a hydraulic problem canceled out his efforts – this allowed his former teammate Jacques Villeneuve to win.

Fernando Alonso: From Renault to McLaren before 2007.

Fernando Alonso made headlines in the winter of 2005/2006 when, shortly after winning his first world title with Renault, it was announced that he would join rivals McLaren in 2007.

When he moved to his new team, the Spaniard was already a two-time champion, winning the title in 2006 against Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. But what should have been a dream and a continuation of a winning streak turned into a nightmare.

With the Spaniard partnering with GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton, who had been producing strong results since the first race, tensions at McLaren soared as the two racers battled for the title and took valuable points from each other. A series of conflicts, including a bizarre qualifying incident in Hungary and off-track drama with a spy scandal, only added to the spiciness of the plot, and Kimi Raikkonen ended up beating both Hamilton and Alonso for the title by one point. Alonso returned to Renault in 2008, while Hamilton stayed at McLaren and won the title.

Sebastian Vettel: From Red Bull to Ferrari before 2015.

Sebastian Vettel won four championships in a row with Red Bull from 2010 to 2013, but with the advent of the era of turbo-hybrids in Formula 1 in 2014, this series was abruptly interrupted – rivals from Mercedes seized the initiative.

While the German’s new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo fared better in the face of regulation changes that season with three wins and five more podiums, Vettel had to make do with just four podiums and within a year he began to think about his future.

In the end, the appeal of the Ferrari offer won out and Vettel left the Red Bull family that had brought him to Formula 1 – he joined the Italians in 2015. Seb won five podiums in the first six races.

But Mercedes were stronger that year and failed to compete for the title. As failed in 2017 and 2018, when a series of errors by Ferrari and Vettel led to the fact that they missed their chances. Six years later, like Alonso before him, Vettel left Maranello without a title.