Top ten: Driver-team reunions

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Two Formula One drivers have been reunited with their former teams this year: Kimi Raikkonen is back in Ferrari red and Nico Hulkenberg has returned to Force India after a year away.

When a team and driver rejoin forces, they know what to expect under these circumstances. Many of those who did reunite went on to win races and championships together. Here are ten of the best.

Juan Manuel Fangio

Maserati, 1953-54 and 1957-58

Juan Manuel Fangio first joined Maserati as the reigning world champion in 1952. But he crashed heavily in an early season non-championship race at Monza, leaving him with neck and spine injuries which ruled him out of the season.

He made a triumphant return the following year, winning at home in Argentina which began a string of six wins in seven races which delivered his second title. The following year Maserati’s famed 250F replaced the A6GCM and Fangio won with it at home and at Spa-Francorchamps – before jumping ship to join Mercedes and wrap up another title.

Mercedes’ withdrawal from motor sport in 1955 following the Le Mans fatalities led Fangio to a one-year marriage of convenience with Ferrari. Following that he returned to Maserati in the 250F. This produced his fifth world championship in 1957 and great, final championship victory at the Nurburgring, vanquishing two of his previous employer’s best drivers in magnificent style.

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Jacky Ickx

Ferrari, 1968 and 1970-73

Jacky Ickx’s first full season of competition with Ferrari in 1968 was a revelation – he was on the podium in his third start at Spa and scored a superb win two races later at Rouen in France. Despite the team’s decision to skip that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, Ickx remained in contention for the championship with three races to go. A broken leg sustained in a practice crash in Canada caused by a sticking throttle ended his title bid.

Ickx switched to Brabham the following year for sponsorship reasons, but the season after that he was back in a Ferrari. By now the Scuderia had ditched V12 power for Mauro Forghieri’s flat-12 unit in the effective new 312B chassis, and three wins in the last five races gave Ickx second in the championship. But under the circumstances – champion Jochen Rindt having died three races before the end of the season – it would have been a hollow triumph had Ickx won it.

That proved the high-point of Ickx’s Ferrari return, though he won again in the next two seasons, the latter one of his many celebrated performances at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Ferrari stayed away from the race the following year, so Ickx made a one-off start for McLaren. He returned to Ferrari for a final start at Monza, where he limped home a lapped eighth.

Alain Prost

McLaren, 1980 and 1984-89

Alain Prost’s debut season at McLaren was not a productive one. They failed to score a podium finish all season (for the last time until 2013) and Prost suffered a series of suspension failures, one of which left him with a fractured wrist. Small wonder he jumped ship to Renault at the end of the season.

After narrowly losing the 1983 title to Nelson Piquet, Prost returned to the now TAG Porsche-powered McLaren in 1984. He stunned Niki Lauda with his speed but his wily team mate clung on to take the championship by the smallest-ever margin of half a point. Prost turned the tables the following year however, finally sealing the title, and impressively retained it in 1986 against the might of Williams-Honda.

The arrival of Ayrton Senna at the team in 1988 put Prost’s relationship with McLaren under strain. He took a third title in 1989 after cynically colliding with his team mate at Suzuka, then left for Ferrari. But despite that acrimonious parting he came close to returning for the team once more in 1994, testing the team’s Peugeot-powered car, before deciding to remain in retirement.

Nigel Mansell

Williams, 1985-88, 1991-92 and 1994

While Prost nearly made a second comeback for the same team in 1994, Nigel Mansell did – with Williams.

Mansell was championship runner-up in 1986 and 1987 in the team’s Honda-powered cars, but during a tough 1988 with Judd engines he signed for Ferrari. An unhappy 1990 led Mansell to announce his retirement, before deciding on a return to Williams. It was a smart move for although unreliability compromised his 1991 season Mansell dominated the following year with the FW14B.

But with Prost lined up to arrive the following year Mansell high-tailed it to IndyCar and won the title at the first time of asking. Struggling in 1994 he jumped at a Renault-initiated invitation to make a few guest appearances for his old F1 team, culminating in a final victory at Adelaide.

Mario Andretti

Lotus, 1968-69 and 1976-80

Lotus handed Mario Andretti his F1 break but he only made a handful of starts for the team initially – and sometimes had to wield the technological dead-end that was their four-wheel drive car.

His return in 1976 came as team principal Colin Chapman was attempting to lift the team out of a slump. The 77 slowly came good during the year – particularly when Chapman hit on the idea of attached aerodynamic ‘skirts’ to it, introducing the revolutionary ground effect to Formula One.

Andretti romped to 1978 title driving the 79, which exploited ground effects even more effectively. He was joined by another returning Lotus driver, Ronnie Peterson, who tragically died the day after Andretti won the title following injuries sustained in a start-line crash at Monza.

Mario Andretti

Ferrari, 1971-72 and 1982

A decade separated Andretti’s return to another of F1′s great teams – Ferrari – who his childhood hero Alberto Ascari won the championship with twice. Andretti had won first time out for Ferrari at Kyalami in 1971, but only did a partial campaign for them over two seasons due to other racing commitments in America.

Andretti left F1 after a disastrous 1981 campaign for Alfa Romeo, but made a one-off start for Williams at Long Beach the following year after Carlos Reutemann’s retirement. Later in the year Ferrari found themselves without either of their original drivers following Gilles Villeneuve’s tragic accident at Zolder and Didier Pironi’s career-ending shunt at Hockenheim.

Andretti made an heroic return, putting his car on pole position at Monza and finishing on the podium. He retired from the final race back in America but enough had been done for Ferrari to salvage the constructors’ championship from a heartbreaking season.

Gerhard Berger

Benetton, 1986 and 1996-97

Berger drove for four different teams in as many years after arriving in F1. But with the third of those – Benetton – he became a race-winner, thanks to an astute gamble on his choice of tyres at the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix.

This was the team’s first victory as well. And following Berger’s return a decade later he also achieved his and Benetton’s final wins with a superb drive at Hockenheim in 1997.

Gerhard Berger

Ferrari, 1987-89 and 1993-95

Berger’s stints for Benetton bookended two spells at Ferrari. He rounded off the 1987 season with back-to-back victories at Suzuka and Adelaide for the Scuderia and looked like a tip for the 1988 title – until McLaren turned up with the devastating MP4-4 and blew everyone away.

Nonetheless Berger was the only non-McLaren driver to win a race that year and it was the one that mattered – the home race at Monza, less than a month after the death of Enzo Ferrari. The following year he sustained burns in a horrifying crash during the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix, and though he was soon back in the car he later admitted he was never quite the same driver.

He left the team at the end of the year for a three-year stint at McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna. Ferrari lured him back in 1993 and the following year he ended their longest ever winless spell, one which had lasted almost four years.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Jordan 1997 and 2002-03

Giancarlo Fisichella impressed in his first full season with Jordan in 1997 with podium finishes at Montreal and a rain-lashed Spa, and a bid for victory in Germany that was thwarted by a puncture.

Manager Flavio Briatore moved him into his Benetton team the following year but the team were on the wane. By 2002 he was back at Jordan, but the promise of the Honda-engined car was never realised.

Surprisingly it was in his third year with Jordan using Cosworth engines that Fisichella finally took his first win – although it wasn’t awarded to him until several days after the race. He was originally classified second in Brazil after the rain-hit race was stopped early, but once the rules were correctly applied Fisichella was deemed the winner instead of Raikkonen. He subsequently made a return of sorts to Benetton, now rebranded as Renault, in 2005, and won twice more.

Fernando Alonso

Renault 2003-06 and 2008-09

Fernando Alonso shook the F1 establishment with Renault in 2003 the way Sebastian Vettel would eight years later at Toro Rosso. Flavio Briatore’s latest find became the youngest pole sitter and youngest race winner that year, and two years later was also the youngest driver ever to win the world championship.

He then stunned his team during the off-season by announcing he would move to McLaren in 2007. Despite his impending departure, a switch from V10 to V8 engines and fierce pressure from Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, Alonso retained his crown the following year.

His spell at McLaren lasted just one, highly acrimonious season, after which he returned to Renault and Briatore. Unfortunately this period of his career is best remembered for that controversial win at Singapore in 2008 after team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr was ordered to crash to help him.

But Alonso also produced many excellent drives in generally uncompetitive machinery, including a brilliant second 2008 win at Fuji the same year and a third place at Singapore the following year which was far better than the dreadful R29 deserved.

Over to you

Name more successful driver-team reunions – and give your view on Raikkonen and Hulkenberg’s returns to their previous teams – in the comments.

F1 top tens

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Images © Maserati, Williams/LAT,, Pirelli, Renault/LAT, Ferrari

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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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48 comments on “Top ten: Driver-team reunions”

  1. petebaldwin (@)
    10th February 2014, 12:19

    Lewis Hamilton – McLaren 2016. *Taps nose*

    1. That would be great wouldn’t it.

    2. I thought it would be Alonso – McLaren 2015! :-P

      1. Felipe Massa – Ferrari?

        1. If that happens I’ll eat my hat.

      2. With Ron Dennis running McLaren, Alonso will never return back!

      3. @bascb @idr well spotted ! :P

        1. ha! Gee, I am a visionary @fer-no.65, @idr :-)

        2. Never say never again….

    3. We’re all missing the obvious here!


    4. Lewis Hamilton and Kev Magnussen driving for MTV McLaren Honda? That would be fun :)

  2. I always enjoy these top 10s. How about top ten team drivers who got slowed down the most due to having a child? Vettel recently had one so…maybe?

    1. Massa is definitely one. We will see what happens to Vettel later.

  3. Not a strictly F1 reunion but Jean Alesi re-uniting in mid-2001 with the Jordan team with whom he won the 1989 F3000 championship and who were inspired by Jean’s success to move up to F1 in 1991.
    He arrived for the last 5 races of the season and was more on pace of team-mate Trulli than Frentzen who has been in the car all season(and 2 previous seasons). This coming from a completely different car that didn’t even have power steering, and only a crude traction control.

    Unfortunately, as Jean Alesi fan, this move only made me to hate Eddie Jordan, who didn’t re-sign Alesi for 2002, for Takuma Sato and the vague promise of continuing receiving works Honda engines past 2002 which everyone bar Eddie knew was a pie in the sky, given their relationship with BAR being strong already in 2001, and BAR having more money. Still, at least that gave me something enjoyable to watch during the tedious 2004 season-Eddie Jordan’s demise!

  4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen returned to Sauber at the end of 2002 after having spent six years at Williams, Jordan, Prost and Arrows. He went on to score a podium finish in the 2003 USA Grand Prix, right before the end of his F1 career. Sauber turned out to be his first and last F1 team.

    1. Nice one, I almost forgot about that!

      1. in doing so it split up massa’s 2 spells at sauber.

    2. HHF scored Sauber’s first podium finish in F1 at Monza 1995 & their last (pre BMW takeover) quite rightly at the 2003 Indy GP.

      Nice little bit of book-ending there :)

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    10th February 2014, 13:03

    I raelly hope Hulkenberg keeps climbing up in the pack. I wish he can get a win this year, especially considering that the first races may well be a “lottery” and also considering that maybe RedBull and Lotus won’t be ready to win in Melbourne. That makes only 3 teams, not 5, potential winners in Australia: McLaren (my predictions go to Button for the win), Mercedes and Ferrari. A rainy race during this season, or some teams misintepreting the fuel consuption, tyre consumption or just an unlucky glitch, and Hulkenberg should be there to win.

  6. I would call Alonso’s return to Renaul as failure, instead of success, because the car was a dog and his 2008 Singapore win does not shine in his CV.

    1. But he did win the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix on merit

      1. No way without the help of double Mclaren car pushing Kimi into the grass.

        1. Thats racing for you.

          1. He went against the conventional strategy route to get the jump on Robert in the pits and then put in a string of stunning laps to beat Kimi and Kubica. And the strategy call was his own.

            A stunning drive on the day one of his very best.

        2. Alonso’s 2008 victory at Japan is one of the more impressive wins in recent F1 history.

          His entire 2008 season, really (especially from Hungary on), was what reaffirmed his reputation as the class of the F1 field, particularly as that year’s WDC fight was won and lost a handful of times by both Massa and Hamilton with ugly driving.

  7. @osvaldas31 – While I agree with you on:

    his 2008 Singapore win does not shine in his CV.

    I disagree on:

    Alonso’s return to Renaul as failure

    His 2008 Fuji win shines on his CV very brightly, as do a number of the performances he pulled out of the R29 in 2009. It was by no means success – especially compared to his previous stint with the team – but given the cars he was given – and the performances he pulled out – it was far from a failure.

    1. @bradley13 I agree with you and Keith. It was not a success for Renault but Alonso drove some of his best races in 2008-9

  8. How about Webber and Jaguar, now Red Bull of course.

  9. How about Derek Warwick.

    He had a couple of stints at Arrows across the late 1980’s, returning back in 1993 with same team.

    1. What sticks to mind about warwick, is the accident at monza with the lotus. That moment, captured my imagination. To a certain extent was the same as in 1976 when lauda came back from the dead. Saving distances. It is the kind of mentality that hooked me to the sport.

    2. I wouldn’t exactly call anything involving Arrows “great”

  10. Good article to read on a Monday, just waiting to hear something more about the Lotus outing. I must admit that I was rather shocked with a couple statements in this otherwise straight forward article, the first is just an observation, it’s written above

    vanquishing two of his previous employer’s best drivers in magnificent style.

    I would say that it is also truth that Fangio did managed to always get the best equipment at the best times, if you compare Fangio with Ascari in the same equipment you will find that Ascari beat Fangio more times than not a fact preached by Roebuck, that said Fangio was the man his choices and regularity are to praise. The 2nd statement the one that it is more of personal view by the author rather than an actual fact is as follows

    He took a third title in 1989 after cynically colliding with his team mate at Suzuka

    Perhaps the end result was showed how cynical the collision was but there is no proof that the collision was provoked by Prost, also to this day Murray Walker still denies that it was intentional unlike the several collisions Schumi had.

    1. @peartree he did turn in very, very early and his eagerness to get out of the car seemed to be an inclination that he has done what was necessary to win the championship.

      1. @vettel1 Some say he turned to soon, Walker and Hunt at the time disagreed, they saw it as Senna’s banzai move, I don’t know what happened and that’s my point there’s no consensus there is no solution and it’s unlikely there will ever be and I cleared that up above, the end result was beneficial to Prost that’s a fact. If I recall correctly Prost had a seizable advantage over Senna so I don’t think we can withdrawn profound rationalizations from those couple tenths of a second, and we shouldn’t if no one has reached a verdict yet it’s for a reason and it’s pointless to try It’s not like we really own it in us to know what happened.

        1. If I recall correctly Prost had a seizable advantage over Senna

          Exactly. One of the biggest misconceptions I see is the idea that Senna would have won the 1989 championship if it weren’t for that collision (which I think was a racing incident), or his subsequent disqualification. But it was neither here nor there, as he lost the championship by 16 points (retiring again in Australia) anyway.

  11. @keithcollantine You forgot the great Graham Hill, he raced in 58, 59 with Team Lotus and then again in 67-69 this time not only he scored for Lotus he won his 2nd world championship. There must be others but I’m a big fan of Graham Hill so I remembered this one but not the dates I should stress Wikipedia for those.

    1. @peartree Yep Graham Hill should definitely be in there, he saw Lotus through some of their darkest days.

      1. Ironic Damon had to do the same for williams. And had it not been for Michael would of taken the title too.

        Graham really did keep that team going when Colin was considering walking away. Hill is one of the most underrated men of the sport.

    2. Agreed, not to mention he was Lotus’ biggest rival in four or five of those years.

  12. Won’t you consider the 2008-09 season that Fisichella did with Force India (Jordan’s reincarnation)

    It was a successful reunion too. Fisi got force india a pole and would have won the race if not for Raikkonen’s KERS.

  13. Small typo: “Fernando Alonso shook the F1 establishment with Renault in 2003 the way Sebastian Vettel would eight five years later at Toro Rosso.”


  14. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    10th February 2014, 16:06

    Grosjean to “team Enstone”. The name is different, but it’s mainly the same team. Considering he was against Alonso at first, and against Kimi on the second time, it’s remarkable to see how he improved from prone-to-crash to prone-to-podium.

  15. Andretti actually won the championship in 1978 driving the 79 for most of the year (11 races/ 5 wins) rather than the 78 (5 races/1 win). The 78 was a dominant but unreliable car in 1977 where he finished third behind Lauda and Schecter despite having the most wins

  16. The 1st. thought that popped into my mind was; Ferrari dont need to supply customer cars, they can just resurrect Maserati and Alfa Romeo F1 teams!
    Further thought; 3 teams with a $200m. budget cap all with the same parent company has great potential synergies.

    Last thought; An article(s) on the great and not so great engines of formula 1 should be of interest to all.

  17. Juan Manuel Fangio first joined Maserati as the reigning world champion in 1953.

    I think that’s meant to say 1952, @keithcollantine

    Some very good names on here, I do hope Hulkenberg’s return to Force India and Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari do prove successful!

  18. Nice top 10 article!

    Raikkonen: I think this will be largely a damp squib. He will get beaten pretty comprehensively by Alonso, but there’ll be a few podiums along the way, I’m sure. He will retire after the 2015 season after a decent spell back at the Prancing Horse.
    Hulkenberg: This was probably the wisest choice out of the three he had last season (Sauber, Lotus, and FI) although I would’ve liked to have seen him stay at Sauber. He’ll continue to impress, and despite having a very good team-mate in Perez, I think he’ll largely have the better of him. His first podium(s) are surely not far away with a decent VJM07. He could leave for McLaren after one season (again!) though, or to Ferrari after two. Whichever it may be, he will have won even more admirers in his 2nd spell with Force India, I’m sure.

  19. What’s interesting is how easily drivers used to be able to change teams. If you look at the top 10 drivers in the 2013 championship (by racing seasons, no testing):
    Vettel – 1.5 seasons Toro Rosso, 5 RBR
    Alonso – 1 Minardi, 4 Renault, 1 McLaren, 2 Renault, 4 Ferrari
    Webber – 1 Minardi, 2 Jaguar, 2 Williams, 7 RBR
    Hamilton – 6 McLaren, 1 Mercedes
    Raikkonen – 1 Sauber, 5 McLaren, 3 Ferrari, 2 Lotus
    Rosberg – 4 Williams, 4 Mercedes
    Grosjean – 0.5 Renault, 2 Lotus
    Massa – 3 Sauber, 7 Ferrari
    Button – 1 Williams, 2 Benetton/Renault, 7 BAR/Honda/Brawn, 4 McLaren
    Hulkenberg – 1 Williams, 1 Force India, 1 Sauber

    Barring Grosjean and Hulkenberg, each of those drivers has gone through a long period of lock-in with one team. Is that a reflection of the fact that there are far fewer teams on the grid than in the 70’s, therefore the engineering talent is much more concentrated? Or is that the nature of modern driver contracts? I mean, Hakkinen spent 9 years at McLaren and Schumacher had 11 at Ferrari. Did they create the type for the current drivers?

  20. Johnny Herbert moved from Team Lotus (via Ligier) to Benetton in late 1994 to be number two to Michael Schumacher after having made his debut with Benetton in 1989. He won at Silverstone and Monza in 1995 to finish a career best fourth in the championship that year.

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