Not enough seats to go round

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Super Aguri are gone and the F1 field has shrunk down to 20 cars, increasing the competition for any seats that might become available.

That’s bad news for some of the promising drivers squeezed out of the sport who might have hoped to get back in – to say nothing of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, left without drives following the loss of the team.

Which of F1’s recently departed drivers do you think deserves to get back in Formula 1? Here are my pick of the drivers who do, don’t and might deserve an F1 seat.

Worth another shot

Justin Wilson
Minardi 2003, Jaguar 2003

Thought Lewis Hamilton’s start at Sepang last year was good? At the same track five years ago Wilson started 19th and by the end of the first lap was eighth. His tall frame made finding F1 cars that fit him a challenge and he headed off to Champ Car after being dropped by Jaguar in favour of…

Christian Klien
Jaguar 2004, Red Bull 2005-06

Red Bull rushed the Austrian into F1 in 2004 at a cost of $20m when the Austrian plainly wasn’t ready. Considering he was a gearbox failure away from beating team mate David Coulthard to third in the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, I think they dumped him with unnecessary haste as well.

Vitantonio Liuzzi
Red Bull 2005, Toro Rosso 2006-07

Another victim of Red Bull’s peculiar approach to driver management. Showed flashes of promise (remember his pass on Michael Schumacher?)

Anthony Davidson
Minardi 2002, BAR 2005, Super Aguri 2007-08

Takuma Sato may have scored the points at Super Aguri last year but Davidson impressed me more. Unfortunately his strong qualifying performances usually put him in harm’s way on the first lap.

Franck Montagny
Super Aguri 2006

Solid French talent who only got seven races for Super Aguri in 2006 before getting dropped for not being Japanese.

Over and out

Takuma Sato
Jordan 2002, BAR 2004-05, Super Aguri 2006-08

Ollie’s running a poll about the Japanese driver on his blog. I wrote on there: “He had a chance for Jordan. He had a chance for BAR. And he had a chance for Super Aguri. Most people don’t get one chance, never mind three.” I think the most telling thing about Sato is that he’s started 90 Grands Prix, every one of them with a Honda engine, and yet they didn’t think he was good enough to put him in their works team. ‘Nuff said.

Zsolt Baumgartner
Jordan 2003, Minardi 2004

He plugged away to get a point at Indianapolis in 2004 but… no.

Ralph Firman
Jordan 2003

Comfortably handled by Giancarlo Fisichella.

Antonio Pizzonia
Jaguar 2003, Williams 2004-5

Williams rated him as a test driver but his race performances left a lot to be desired. Made an embarasingly awful return to the European scene in GP2 last year, and was dropped by Giancarlo Fisichella’s team after scoring one point in five races.

Sakon Yamamoto
Super Aguri 2006, Spyker 2007

Apparently he’s a good DJ.

Christijan Albers
Minardi 2005, Midland F1 2006, Spyker 2007

Considerable self-belief undermined by errors of the ‘left pit lane with fuel hose attached’ variety.

Giorgio Pantano
Jordan 2004

Has now started 64 GP2 races in addition to his 34 F3000 starts. If he was F1 material, someone would have twigged by now.

Maybe, maybe not

Tiago Monteiro
Jordan 2005, Midland F1 2006

My impression of him is permanently skewed by the fact he was smiling on the podium at Indianapolis in 2005. He might have been better than I allow myself to think he was, but judging by his alarming WTCC performance at Valencia the other week, perhaps not.

Gianmaria Bruni
Minardi, 2003-04

In his brief F1 career he suffered a pit fire at Monza and had a wheel fall off his car twice at Shanghai. Come the 2004 season finale in Interlagos he refused to get in the car at one point during qualifying. Subsequent strong performances in GP2 and the FIA GT championship suggest he deserved better.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Not enough seats to go round”

  1. Jonesracing82
    29th May 2008, 8:11

    i’d give markus winklehock another go, he did lead his only race in a spyker! in a race where many others fell off the road!

  2. A mate of mine, who works in a lower formulae of motorsport, told me at the time that the Race Engineer of the second Jaguar F1 car wasn’t all that highly regarded.

    I don’t know how true that is, but if it is then it certainly accounts for the F1 racing careers of Wilson, Pizzionia and Klien.

    Justin Wilson, I thought, always got a bad deal. He came into F1 with no funding and, along with Jonathan Palmer, came up with the unique solution of selling shares in his own career to raise money for an F1 seat.
    Wilson did a lot of good things in F1 that seemingly didn’t get noticed by other teams.

  3. Jones – Agreed on Winkelhock!

  4. Robert Mckay
    29th May 2008, 8:51

    Ah, Tiago, celebrating that podium in the Indy 6 car race like a victory was misguided, to say the least. In an ideal world a lot of those names would get another shot, but we need some more cars for that…if I have to pick just a couple Wilson and Davidson definitely deserve another shot, though I suspect only the latter really has a chance.

    And can I add Robert “Doorknobs” Doornbos to the maybe, maybe not list?

  5. Cooperman – That’s very interesting about the engineer…

    Robert – I liked Doornbos in Champ Cars because of how he wound up Bourdais, and his win at Mont Tremblant in the wet was excellent.

  6. Franck Montagny topped the timesheets last year in ralf schumachers toyota.
    the man clearly deserves a seat.

    chortle chortle at doorknobs, you’ve made my day.

  7. Anyone remember Alex Yoong, Minardi.??

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    29th May 2008, 10:00

    i think wilson does deserve a shot again, he did well for jaguar.

    i think sato proved he wasnt really top f1 standard in 2004 when jenson button finished 3rd in the WDC with something like 8 podium finshes and 1 pole position (i think) he ended up 8th in The WDC with 1 podium. not good enough with the then 2nd best car on the grid.

    i think ralph firman was shocking and alot of the other drivers you mentioned were only there because they brought sponsors to teams struggling for money, like jordan and minardi

  9. Pizzonia clearly deserves another chance ahead of Davidson – Pizzonia used to regularly outpace Ralf and One-Problem during testing for us, befoe being screwed over by Jaguar and then being used as a half-term replacement by us, whereas Davidson has done virtually nothing except be fast as a third driver (where he could use full revs while everyone else was limited)

    Still think we should have given him (Pizzonia, that is) the drive ahead of Heidfeld for 2005.

  10. Also, what about Narain Karthikeyan – he outperformed Monteiro until Kolles decided he didn’t like Narain. Maybe he’s an outside bet for the Force India seat should they drop Sutil/Fisi retire any time soon?

  11. Narain Karthikeyan?
    he’s rubbish, he can pull out some fast laps, just not consistently.

  12. What about Cristiano Da Matta? His first year was good.

  13. From the drivers listed above I would like to see Liuzzi getting another chance.

    I am not sure what to think of Davidson, he never really impressed me but I admit I never paid that much attention to him.

    I do miss Sato, we do need some entertainment :-) .

    So, whom from he recent F1 drop outs we haven’t listed here yet:

    Patrick Friesacher – hm, no …
    Nicolas Kiesa – hm, no …
    Yuji Ide – :-)
    Alex Yoong – he is better commentatator than driver

    How about these guys:

    Scott Speed
    Ralf Schumacher
    Juan Pablo Monoya

  14. Rohan do you work for Williams? What do you do there?

  15. Robert McKay
    29th May 2008, 12:04

    Good call on da Matta, James B. He was better than that year at Toyota suggested. As was, in my opinion, Allan McNish.

  16. How about Danica Patrick?
    She didn’t test well for Minardi a couple of years back but it must have been a publicity shot by Paul Stoddart – how many drivers used to test well for the Minardi team?

    Danica’s just started winning in the US. If Bernie’s intent on peddling F1 around the world to increase audiences, he could do worse than get some female F1 drivers involved.

  17. Robert McKay
    29th May 2008, 12:10

    …and milos, Scott Speed should be brought back for the brilliant Team Radio comments that guy gave us, at the very least :-D

  18. Cooperman – I was mainly thinking of drivers who’d already been in F1 but had been dropped. I’m going to do something on other drivers who should be in F1 soon. (You’re thinking of Katherine Legge with the Minardi test by the way).

    Of the new suggestions so far I think:

    McNish – Maybe
    Da Matta – Maybe
    Karthikeyan – No
    Speed – No
    Yoong – Do you have to ask?
    Ide – Stop it! You’re killing me…

    Milos – I’d ignored the older ‘retirees’ but as I’ve said before it would be great to have Montoya back.

  19. Keith, alas I don’t work for Williams. I’ve just taken to saying “us” (meaning Williams) as one would when talking about the football club one supports.

  20. I think everybody is being pretty harsh on Tiago Monteiro. Yes, the USGP of 05 was hugely embarassing for the sport in general, but Tiago raced his Jordan to third on merit. It wasn’t his fault that the Michelin runners weren’t able to compete.

    Good on him for making the most of a result that will never come his way again.

    And lets not forget, in his rookie season, he brought the car home to be a classified finisher in just about every Grand Prix. More than can be said of many fresh fish.

    As for the rest of the list, Liuzzi and Davidson definitely deserve another shot.

  21. I was impressed with Monteiro’s behaviour on the podium precisely because he remembered that it was, at the end of the day, supposed to be a race. If everyone else had remembered that, then we wouldn’t be discussing that podium now because the race would have occurred in a reasonable manner. There are a lot of people who would have been unhappy with him if he’d not celebrated his podium when he got there (as well as a lot of people who were unhappy with him for being so exuberant under the circumstances), so whatever he did on there was bound to be controversial…

    Apart from that (and thinking Sato would be a good team leader for a small team, if such a vacancy becomes available in the future), I would agree with Keith’s list.

  22. Scott Speed – he never really got the hang of circuits, he should have been put into GP2 first.

    Ralf Schumacher – I think he has potential in the right car (why isn’t he on Ferrari’s books?. But he’s gone to DTM and will probably enjoy it more.

    JPM – had his moments, but a bit like Villneuve and Speed, he never fully got into the F1 mentality for some reason. I hope he is successful in NASCAR.

    Davidson does deserve another go, but since he never really got very far, I see him becoming a distant memory

    Sato – is far more likely to be partnering Jenson or Rubens next year (since Honda like to have Japanese drivers around)

  23. Speed did do GP2 – he was third in 2005 behind Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen, although he somehow managed to do it without winning a race…

  24. You say Tiago was smiling? he was estatic. For a few moments I had a feeling he had won a very tough race.

  25. I don’t think we’ll see Wilson back in F1 again, simply because he’s now with Newman/Haas/Lanigan and, after a pause while they get their heads around their new machinery, he’ll be up there contending for the IRL title. Which means he’s as likely to seek an F1 drive as Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon are.

    The best of the ex-Minardi drivers, I reckon, is undoubtedly Robert Doornbos – he’s shown pace and competitiveness in both F1 and Champ Car (compared with his team-mates, anyway) and if I was setting up a new team and had my pick of recently ex-F1 drivers, I’d grab him like a shot.

    The other I’d chase is Alan McNish, who I think was cruelly used by Toyota, but I doubt he’d want to shift from where he is, either. I mean, he wins races, right? Why give that up?

    I think we’ll see Davidson again, but only in the way we saw Alex Wurz again – after such a long period as a test driver that everyone had forgotten he existed, and he’d forgotten how to race.

    Klein’s under-rated – he’d be worth re-hiring. And Karthikeyan won a couple of races in A1GP – his problem is fragile self-confidence, not lack of ability.

    Liuzzi has never impressed me, but I’ll give him a fair chance if he steps up into a race seat again and see what happens. Montoya never did either, and I see he’s now throwing a strop about his team… some things never change. Depressingly, Albers has finally found a team-mate he can beat in Katherine Legge.

  26. Out of all the names mentioned by Keith, I think Davidson has a good shot at getting back in through a testing role, at least. Many of the others drove in F1 before I started watching the sport, so I’m not truly qualified to make an assesment on many of those names.

    As for Speed, he was dismissed from STR just as I took up an interest in F1. It disappointed me a great deal that the only American on the grid was pushed out of the sport, and far too soon according to many of my friends with more F1 experience. He’s currently enjoying the stock car life here in the US, and I think JPM fits into the same catagory- they find NASCAR and the like more relaxing and less stressful than the F1 life. I woulden’t bet on seeing any of them back in F1 anytime soon.

    With only 20 cars on the grid, and with many teams developing their own talent in the form of Hamilton/Vettel/etc.. it may be tough for many of these guys to get another shot.

  27. Andy – I don’t recall Albers having much trouble beating Monteiro at Spyker, or whatever they were called that year. Was rather shown up by Sutil though.

  28. I think Sato deserves another shot, but if one more team goes, you/we may end up with 27 cars on the grid. 9 teams each fielding 3 cars?
    That would be interesting.

  29. How about seeing Black Jack Villeneuve back in F1?
    As long as he doesn’t sing, that is ;)

  30. An excellent list and a few wonderful obsservations.

    How about two drivers that probably will never get a shot but would be such fun (and interesting) to see try???

    Tony Stewart – can just flat out drive anything on wheels and be quick.

    Jeff Gordon – legendary car control by NASCAR standards. Also pretty good turning left AND right.

    I’m not saying these guys would be running at even near mid pack or anything, but I would love to see how their skills translate to F1

  31. Do miss JPM…
    remember how he toy around with michael schumacher..??
    he do bring some entertainment to the sport..

  32. Of the list, I honestly believe Davidson and Liuzzi will find the way back to F1.

    Justin Wilson may stay in Indy if he adapts to ovals and the sport actually begins to grow, otherwise I think he might have his age against him as well. Same goes for Montagny if I’m remembering right.

    I agree strongly that Sato, Yamamoto, and Albers are definitely finished, and it’s too bad; they seemed to be nice guys, but the results just weren’t there for them.

    Villenueve is finshed because he wants to be finished.

    Somebody tell Vince T that Jeff Gordon tested already, I think he just doesn’t want the F1 lifestyle.

  33. Good stuff Vince T! Tony Stewart dose indeed have the natural gift of speed, but I believe his fitness standards are a bit below F1 driver spec, so I don’t know if he’d want to make the commitment. Gordon is a much more realistic chance- he did jump in JPM’s Williams a few years back at Indy for a few laps, but I don’t think he’ll leave the relaxed NASCAR life for a shot at F1.

    While I don’t see any of these guys making a move, I know Kyle Busch is planning to test in F1

  34. Sorry for hitting the send key too early… Kyle Busch is planning to test for Toyota in the off-season, and at 23, he’s got time to build a championship career in NASCAR before perhaps trying his luck in F1. Still, I don’t know how much winning on the ovals of NASCAR would give him in a pursuit of an F1 seat.

  35. “Tony Stewart dose indeed have the natural gift of speed, but I believe his fitness standards are a bit below F1 driver spec”

    HA!!! I just saw him on SPEED this morning…you are right on with that one!

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