Untapped Potential – F1’s Most Talented Underdogs


F1's Most Talented Underdogs (Article))

At the beginning of the year, Antonio Giovinazzi greeted Formula One with an appearance in the paddock replacing the injured Pascal Wehrlein for the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix. Surprise, surprise. Giovinazzi showed his worth by managing to qualify in a Q2 position in his debut, P16 to be specific. “But Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth on his debut, what made Antonio Giovinazzi’s 16th place qualifying special?” you might ask. Well, he done so in a Sauber. He outqualified Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen, two competent F1 drivers.

However, he is still a substitution driver and he is just a test driver for now, leaving his potential talents waiting to be fulfilled. He was dropped after Wehrlein had recovered from his injuries sustained during the 2017 Race of Champions.

That event brought me an inspiration: why don’t I write about other unfulfilled talented drivers? And so, this introduction section has been going for three whole paragraphs, no need to make it longer.

1. Jean Alesi

Jean Alesi was, and probably still is, one of the most popular and well-known Formula One drivers. His debut went on by a storm of a drive in a fairly mediocre Ford Cosworth powered Tyrrell at the 1989 French Grand Prix, making an appearance as a substitution for Michele Alboreto. At one point of the race, he ran as high as second place before finishing a very respectable fourth. An impressed Ken Tyrrell would promptly sign the young Frenchman an eighteen-month contract on Tyrrell.

While Alesi was seen as a talent of the future, his start as a Formula One driver was somewhat fortuitous. Prior to the 1989 French Grand Prix, Ken Tyrrell had signed a deal to run Camel cigarette sponsorship on his previously unsponsored cars. However this caused problems for Michele Alboreto who was personally sponsored by rival cigarette brand Marlboro. The sponsorship clash forced Tyrrell to release Alboreto and find another driver and Alesi was signed as his replacement (ironically, Alboreto lost his Marlboro sponsorship soon after and would end up driving for the Larrousse team who just happened to carry Camel sponsorship on their cars).

The following season, Alesi continued to impress. At the US Grand Prix, he had a race long battle with a McLaren. And not just any McLaren, that McLaren driven by Ayrton Senna. He had the talent to fight with the Brazilian but he didn’t have the car and he eventually surrendered the lead to Senna and coming home in 2nd.

Luck was never on his side throughout his career. His days at Ferrari and Benetton were spent during both teams’ downfall era. Even after his signing to backmarker Prost, he still continued to impress by scoring points in the undoubtedly slowest car of the field in 2001 before his retirement.

2. Ivan Capelli

Having driven for backmarker AGS part time in the 1980s, Ivan Capelli signed with British constructor March in the 1988 season. His car, the March 881 was designed by Adrian Newey. Yes, the Adrian Newey, the same chap who designed things like the Red Bull RB7, the Williams FW18, and the McLaren MP4/13. The Newey designed 881 was mated to a Judd V8 thus making the 881 a rather underpowered car in the 1988 grid.

Capelli’s best finish was second place at the Portuguese Grand Prix where he finished behind Prost. Ever respectful, Capelli even referred to the then dual World Champion as “The great Mr Prost” in post race interviews. Even better was ahead for the Italian when he became the first non-turbo driver since 1983 to lead a World Championship Grand Prix.

However, a turnaround in form happened in the 1990 French Grand Prix. Capelli led Gugelmin in a Leyton House 1–2 throughout much of the race. Gugelmin finally retired, and Capelli was overtaken near the end by the Ferrari of Prost with only 3 laps remaining. He would went on to finish a strong second. Revisions to the car had made it more competitive (ironically Newey left the team shortly before the race to join Williams), but it was the billiard table-smooth track which allowed the result. Despite some promising showings at Silverstone and Hockenheim, the remainder of the year was unfulfilled.

A promising 1992 was in Capelli’s hands as he signed with Scuderia Ferrari to partner Jean Alesi. However, their car, the F92A was a disappointment. Losing motivation and struggling to adapt with the new atmosphere in the new team, Capelli was sacked before the end of the season.

3. Martin Brundle

Yes, this is the same Martin Brundle that you see every Grand Prix doing the Grid Walk on Sky Sports’ coverage. Of course, if you aren’t familiar, you’d think that Brundle is an F1 legend whose wardrobe is filled with victory trophies. Not quite. In fact, he holds the record of most Grands Prix entered without leading a single lap with 165 Grands Prix entered.

Comments 0

What's Your Reaction?

Cute
1
Cute
Fail
1
Fail
Lol
1
Lol
OMG
2
OMG
Win
2
Win
Wtf
1
Wtf
Yaaas
3
Yaaas

Comments

comments

log in

Don't have an account?
sign up

reset password

Back to
log in

sign up

Captcha!
Back to
log in
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Poll
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Story
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
List
The Classic Internet Listicles
Video
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Audio
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds