Curtailed Career – The Most Disappointing Drivers in Motorsport


Jolyon Palmer (GBR) DAMS 2014 GP2 Series Champion. GP2 Series, Rd11, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 21-23 November 2014.

 

Take a deep close look, analyze it, cross check it with everything you know about the driver in this picture. Once you’re done, answer me this question: Does this surprise you? Yes is my bet, especially if you are not a follower of GP2 (now called Formula 2). If you still somehow fail to recognize who in the blue Earth is that man, his name is Jolyon Palmer and he is now a Formula 1 backmarker.

Considering how well he performed in GP2, it is a shocker to see Palmer consistently in the midfield with a very mediocre career so far. This got me thinking, are there any other disappointing drivers in motorsports? Well, the results didn’t disappoint me. There are plenty of others but I am going to cover up some of them in this following article.

1. Allan McNish (ALMS to F1)

This man has one of the best records in the endurance racing world with 1 WEC title and 3 ALMS titles. To add the cherry on top, he also has 3 24 Hours of Le Mans class wins. A move to F1 might make a fruitful journey in his career, wouldn’t it? Not quite. In 2001, Toyota entered F1 with big ambitions. Of course, what is an F1 team without a driver? So, with McNish’s connections with Toyota’s sports car team, he became an obvious pick for the newly formed Japanese constructor.

However, Toyota’s TF101 car proved to be a very average car, with McNish failing to score points in any of the season’s 17 races.

McNish’s 2002 campaign wasn’t a better one with yet another season without scoring points. McNish and Salo were replaced by Olivier Panis and Cristiano Da Matta for the following season.

2. Sebastien Bourdais (CART to F1)

We saw how well Nigel Mansell did in 1993 when he departed to America to race in the PPG IndyCar Series. We also saw how well Jacques Villeneuve did in 1996 when he departed to Europe to race in Formula 1 from CART. So, a transfer from CART to F1 and back wouldn’t be too hard, eh? Well, we saw how terrible Michael Andretti did 1993 with McLaren. Bourdais? Equally bad or maybe even worse.

Sebastien Bourdais is a 4 time CART champion, he did it consecutively in 2003-2007. In 2008, he got a seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso. In STR he was partnered with Sebastian Vettel. And boy, did Vettel absolutely annihilated Bourdais’ performance. Bourdais never scored points in his Formula One career. His performance was so woeful compared to not only Vettel, but also Sebastien Buemi. In mid-2009 Jaime Alguersari replaced him and Bourdais went on to the unified IndyCar series.

3. Dario Franchitti (IndyCar to NASCAR)

Sticking with the American open-wheeled series theme, we head to Dario Franchitti. Several open-wheel drivers have ventured to the stock car racing world like him, most notably being Juan Pablo Montoya, who actually won 2 NASCAR Cup Series races in his stock car career.

Franchitti’s NASCAR story wasn’t quite as happily ended like Montoya’s. Franchitti made his NASCAR debut in 2007 in the Truck Series with Ganassi-backed Cunningham Motorsports team running the number 41 Dodge Ram. He would finish in 33rd position. This was a bitter beginning of a bitter story. He then earned a drive in his IRL team’s NASCAR division, Chip Ganassi Racing driving the number 40 car. Franchitti however, would lose his Cup Series drive mid-season after the number 40 team was disbanded by team owner Chip Ganassi due to a lack of sponsorship. He would later continue to race in NASCAR but this time in the lower Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) before fracturing his left ankle in a big crash at Talladega.

 

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