Alexander Albon, Romain Grosjean, Hungaroring, 2020

Which of 2020’s seven lost F1 drivers deserve a chance to return?

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Three rookies and one returning driver will join the Formula 1 grid this year. Fernando Alonso is back after a two-year absence, while Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsunoda will all make their debuts.

But four new arrivals inevitably comes at the expense of four existing drivers. Haas pair Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have been shown the door, as has AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.

Three other drivers appeared in races last season as substitutes but will not be on the F1 grid this season: Jack Aitken, Pietro Fittipaldi and Nico Hulkenberg.

Which of these seven drivers who raced in F1 last year deserve a comeback? Join in this weekend’s debate.

Jack Aitken

Jack Aitken, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Aitken only started one race as Russell’s substitute
Jack Aitken stood in for George Russell at the Sakhir Grand Prix and was quickly up to speed in the Williams, coming within a tenth of a second of beating the team’s regular driver Nicholas Latifi in qualifying. A promising start to the race was spoiled when he spun into a barrier in the second half, though he reached the chequered flag ahead of the weekend’s other newcomer, Pietro Fittipaldi.

Alexander Albon

After a 17-round bludgeoning at the hands of Max Verstappen, it was little surprise when Red Bull eased Alexander Albon aside after the end of the season. But it’s fair to question whether he was as well-prepared for the chance to drive for a top team as he should have been. Albon only drove an F1 car for the first time in the month before his debut for Toro Rosso in 2019, and was hastily promoted to Red Bull later that year.

The three other drivers on this list who began last season as F1 drivers all had sabbaticals earlier in their careers. It would be no surprise if Albon, who has shown signs of untapped potential, also makes a return one day.

Pietro Fittipaldi

The grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi did a fair job in his two races as a reserve for the injured Grosjean, considering he had done next to no racing all season and his junior career had not been especially promising. He did, however, finish both races in last place.

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Romain Grosjean

The longest-running driver among the seven, Grosjean made an F1 debut late in 2009, but immediately lost his drive at the end of the season. He finally got his first full-season drive in 2012 and demonstrated speed but also recklessness.

He never fully got his wild side under control, but did amass 10 podium finishes, and was a contender for race wins on occasion. There were only glimpses of that form in his final season in an uncompetitive Haas. Sadly, injury cut short his final season after he survived a horrific crash in Bahrain.

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Nurburgring, 2020
Hulkenberg took a brilliant third on the grid at Silverstone
After being dropped by Renault at the end of 2019, Nico Hulkenberg returned three times last year as a substitute for the Racing Point drivers when they contracted Covid-19. Two of those appearances came at short notice, and one of those was ruined by a pre-race engine failure.

But his performance in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix showed he can still hack it at this level: He qualified third behind the two Mercedes drivers, ahead of his team mate, and kept Lance Stroll behind him until he had to make an extra pit stop.

Daniil Kvyat

No driver knows the feeling of life on the Red Bull rollercoaster like Daniil Kvyat. After gaining a drive with Toro Rosso in 2014 he was hurriedly elevated to the top team the following year in place of the outgoing Sebastian Vettel. Then Max Verstappen arrived on the scene and, four races into Kvyat’s second season at Red Bull, he was sent back to Toro Rosso.

He was eased out of that seat late in 2017, but recalled at the beginning of 2019. However Red Bull showed they had no intention of promoting him back to the top team when the picked the far less experienced Albon to replace Pierre Gasly in the middle of that year. After being comfortably out-scored by Gasly last season, Kvyat has been replaced by Tsunoda.

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Imola, 2020
Magnussen suffered a largely joyless 2020 at Haas
When Kevin Magnussen stood on the podium at the end of his first race for McLaren in 2014, who would have thought that would be his last appearance on the rostrum? It’s been largely downhill since then, mainly due to the quality of equipment he’s had.

First McLaren replaced him with Alonso, leaving him on the sidelines for a year (bar a one-off substitute appearance). He spent a single year at Renault but was dropped in favour of Hulkenberg. Haas suited him better as a team but they have been in a downward slump for much of the past few seasons. Facing severe financial pressures, both Magnussen and Grosjean were cut loose at the end of 2020.

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I say

Grosjean and Hulkenberg have had lengthy careers and, while it could be argued they never had a chance in top-flight machinery, their best days appear to be behind them.

Kvyat has had some rough treatment at the hands of Red Bull, but hasn’t been able to assert himself over his team mates in latter seasons. Albon’s case similarly highlights the shortcomings of Red Bull’s approach to driver development.

It’s difficult to pass judgement on the efforts of either of the other two substitutes as neither had particularly good equipment to work with nor many races to wield them. But Aitken’s effort in getting within a tenth of a second of his team’s regular driver stood out.

However the driver who I think most deserves a chance to return out of this seven is Magnussen. In qualifying he showed up well against Grosjean, whose one-lap pace has always been strong, and his race pace and race craft are both very solid. He’s spent much of his career in uncompetitive cars, and it’s a shame it appears to be over this early.

You say

Which of these seven drivers would you most like to see back in Formula 1? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Which of 2020's lost F1 drivers deserve a chance to return? (Select up to seven)

  • Kevin Magnussen (17%)
  • Daniil Kvyat (5%)
  • Nico Hulkenberg (35%)
  • Romain Grosjean (3%)
  • Pietro Fittipaldi (2%)
  • Alexander Albon (23%)
  • Jack Aitken (14%)

Total Voters: 322

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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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55 comments on “Which of 2020’s seven lost F1 drivers deserve a chance to return?”

  1. Jonathan Parkin
    10th January 2021, 8:39

    Kevin Magnussen was actually a dns for that ‘one off appearance’ so he didn’t truly race in F1 for 2015

    1. @Jonathan Parkin, I was about to point out the same thing until I saw your post. The chance of him getting to substitute for Alonso in the 2015 season-opener proved useless due to the DNS.

      1. Also: in reality he was not dropped in favour of Alonso, but in favour of Button; and, he signed for Haas before Renault made a decision on him.

        1. It was suggested that Renault had already made their mind up and the offer of a one year contract only was made because they weren’t particularly keen on Magnussen and might even have made the offer knowing he would almost certainly reject it.

          I’m curious as to why Magnussen is being rated so highly though, given that Keith had also noted in his article for the end of the 2020 season that Magnussen and Grosjean were quite closely matched in terms of performance. If that was the case, and if Keith is then arguing that Grosjean was past the peak of his performance, doesn’t than then raise the question of why Magnussen was not able to outperform Grosjean to a decisive extent?

          1. True but Kmag was on the road down called demotivation. Watch him this year. He is a hell of a driver.

  2. I thought kvyat had a very solid second half of the season. If the chips had fallen his way, it could have been him winning in monza rather than gasly.

    If the sport was better run then there would be more teams and all of these drivers might get another chance. As it is, you can well imagine none ever appearing in F1 again.

    1. @frood19

      Yea, I think this too. Kvyat did actually look quicker than Gasly in Italy and had his long stint ruined. Had he been the one to get the luck and lead the race and get the win and Gasly was stuck where Kvyat finished, he would have a total of 55 points. And Gasly would have lost 23 and finished the season with 52.

      And all this will have been was the luck going to Kvyat that race rather than Gasly. Even if Kvyat didn’t win and got 2nd, he would still have 48 points.

      It really doesn’t look this way, but I don’t think Gasly has obviously been far better than Kvyat this season. it is clear he’s better overall, but not by that much. Enough for me to say Kvyat deserves a return most of these drivers I think.

      1. I Agree!

  3. Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Magnussen & Grosjean had good careers, plenty of races, some highlights (podiums, well bar Hulkenberg), some low points, but at this moment all of their replacements look like more promising prospects (ok maybe Mazepin not so much). Even looking at the rest of the grid, only Latifi stands out as a definately worse driver than them. If this was 2010 and we had 12-13 teams instead of 10, they would be perfect candidates for those back-backmarkers like Virgin, Caterham & HRT… good racecraft and plenty of experience to help develop these teams.

    Aitken showed some promise in his one-off, i would consider replacing Latifi with him, buuut there are more promising drivers coming up the ladder that deserve a shot like Illot and Schwarzman etc.

    Albon on the other hand, i still think he’ll make a return to AlphaTauri next season (2022). He’s still young and he can easily bounce back in the right enviroment like Kvyat & Gasly did in AlphaTauri. Plus i believe Gasly has set his sights on a bigger team for 2022 (Alpine ?) and Red Bull will call Albon back in the AlphaTauri.

    1. I think you have nailed it with the backmarkers comment. I completely agree. F1 need those teams, well, not those of 2010 in particular, but similar ones. Many people hated them and said they were not F1 worthy, but F1 needs more seats, and more teams. Actually we have only 5 real teams, the other are all “B” or “C” teams from the “big three” and remember that two of these three can pull out anytime.

      Specially now, that we have a blooming of feeder series and a big boom of sim-racing series, and there are plenty great drivers climbing the ladder, more seats in F1 are necessary

  4. John (@barbsandwich)
    10th January 2021, 9:14

    In the current grid, Kmag deserves to be there. But all of the drivers in the list deserve to be in F1. More teams or 3 car teams please!

  5. Jack Aitken aside (as we don’t know enough about him), i’m not massively upset at losing any of them, yes Kevin, Nico and Romain spent most of the time in uncompetitive cars, but they did get plenty of years to show something more than I think they ultimately offered. Alex and Dannil have had the opportunity in a competitive car (albeit somewhat abbreviated, and up against Max). Of the seven, I just wish Hulkenberg had a got a quicker in almost a decade of F1.

    I wouldn’t mind any of them coming back, I think they’re all decent drivers, but I’m more interested in how Yuki and Mick are going to get on.

    1. Kvyat NEVER went against verstappen at red bull, and many people forget he was actually competitive, made a couple of mistakes and was demoted: verstappen was looming and it wasn’t a bad choice to promoted him immediately for red bull, but still kvyat performed better than any of the recent drivers at red bull.

      1. Apologies @esploratore I phrased that terribly, I meant ‘up against’ as in Max’s performances to take Dannil’s Red Bull seat, not that they were teammates. And yeah, I think he’s quick, sadly his F1 career might be remembered by Sochi, first lap, Vettel complaining to Christian and him being dropped. Which isn’t fair at all.

  6. Tommy Scragend
    10th January 2021, 9:17

    No surprise that Hulkenberg is leading the poll. He spent his career flattering to deceive. Not a single podium in 179 starts… maybe he wasn’t actually all that after all? OK he never had a top car but even so, if he was the amazing driver that everyone makes him out to be, you’d think he could have dragged one of them up to third at least once in his career.

    1. Well that one time he got a top car in LMP1, he did win the 24h of Le Mans

      1. @paeschli he was part of the winning team, but most of those within the world of sportscar racing attributed the victory more to Earl Bamber and the stints that he put in for the team overnight than to anything that Hulkenberg did in particular. It’s not to say that Hulkenberg didn’t pull his weight either, but there was a perception that he did get a disproportionate amount of attention for the role that he played within the team.

  7. Only Aitken and Fittipaldi should be on the list. The other ones have all had their time to prove that… they didn’t prove.

    Especially Hulkenberg whose around since 2010 with not a single podium to his name.

    I went for Fittipaldi, fast and clever bloke, junior series champion and all-rounder driver

  8. I say I agree about Magnussen. I’d like to see him racing in front as a seasoned veteran. He’s got speed, guts and, most importantly, ruthlessness for track position. Fierce as him, only Verstappen and Perez I’d say. That is the kind of variety fans should give credit for.

    As for the others, I think both Grosjean and Hulkenberg are still deserving of a seat. Their lengthy career without flashing results isn’t solid argument if we remember two of most recent crowned champs bar Hamilton and Vettel kinda had similar background: Button and Rosberg. Ok, Button had already won races but there were people writing him off when Brawn GP came dazzling everybody. Well, I’m sorry that apparently those three won’t have the same luck or opportunity ever again.

    That, however, is something Albon can root for, because at least he has time and a certain branch team to, who knows, take him back in.

  9. It baffles me that Hulkenburg is written off by lots of people for not getting a podium. For the majority of seats in F1 solid consistency is more important than the odd spectacular race. Take Kvyat as an example – he’s a driver that on his day excels – and that’s been shown by the odd podium here and there. For most teams though a driver solidly coming 5-8th every race is much better than Kvyat getting a podium once a season but routinely coming 13-14th.

    1. Those two are the standout drivers for me. I’d have both back and they’d make a good pair of teammates. Hulkenberg might be faster on average but he has a history of making mistakes when he’s near the front. Kvyat on the other hands seems to come alive the closer to the front he gets.

    2. @shadow13
      “For the majority of seats in F1 solid consistency is more important than the odd spectacular race.”
      Is it?
      If you were interested in sponsoring an F1 team, would you choose a team that always finishes 5/6/7 or would you rather sponsor a team that most of the times finishes 7/8/9 and an occasional podiumfinish?

      I’d rather choose the latter.

      1. Yes, but more points = more money at the end of the season. It levels out at the end of the year.

  10. It could still happen that Hamilton should be included in this list. Then I’d pick him.

    Further, I would like to see Albon in the AT; it was refreshing to see how Gasly recouped himself.

  11. I voted for Alex Albion. His career has been pretty brief and he’s not been given as much as a chance as most of the others. He drove at RedBull this year but everyone knows that car is built around Max’s desires and preferences.

    On occasion he looked pretty competitive especially with his close quarters racing. I don’t think Red Bull is the ideal home for any inexperienced driver though.

    Of the others, Aitken is a young driver but we have not seen enough to tell how good he might be.

  12. None of them. If they were good enough they would be in F1.

    It’s also quite ironic, that Red Bull is always put down for giving their young drivers an actual chance in F1.

  13. Well, thats an easy one for me: none. Perhaps with exception of Aitken, who doesn’t belong in this line-up. They overstayed their welcome, especially Grosjean with at least two years

    1. Come to think of it, I would add Stroll, Latifi, Nikita, Bottas and Raikkonen to the list

  14. Went for hulkenberg, who doesn’t seem to be good under pressure cause he never got a podium, but he’s also typically unlucky, and podiums aside his performance is good enough to be worthy of a shot in a top team, not a case red bull was thinking about both him and perez and ended up getting perez, who capitalized on podium chances more.

    Apart from that I also voted for magnussen cause he never had the right machinery, people keep saying haas and grosjean are terrible, forgetting they’re driving the 2nd worst car, people keep making allowances for vettel cause he drove the 2020 ferrari, so why not magnussen?

    Finally voted for kvyat cause he performed better at red bull (where it matters) than anyone apart from vettel, verstappen and ricciardo, not exactly easy competition, he did much better than gasly, albon and obviously hartley, and was unlucky that when he was around verstappen was looming, so ofc red bull took the first chance to get ricciardo and verstappen as a very strong line up, however later on he didn’t perform as he should have in toro rosso, someone who got pretty close to ricciardo should’ve been able to beat gasly or albon.

  15. Two of them can get a chance when Nikita and Max are let go from their teams.

  16. Aitken, Albon, Hulkenberg and Magnussen.

    Aitken – Qualified well against Latifi, if he is good enough for a seat then Aitken is. If only he had as big a chequebook!

    Albon – Not the best qualifier but he does have good race pace and has shown flashes of real talent. Not being Max Verstappen isn’t really a good enough excuse for him not to be in F1 because who else is really a Verstappen level talent? It’s like asking for a grid of Jim Clark’s and that isn’t possible!

    Hulkenberg – Showed he is one of the best in the business with his cameos this year. It is a sin he hasn’t got a seat, he’d do good things in a Haas, Alfa Romeo or a Williams.

    Magnussen – He’s a character and he has a great all out style that usually sees him perform well in races. He’s too good to not be in F1.

    As for those who I think shouldn’t return:

    Fittipaldi – He was pretty anonymous in the races he did do. Can’t see anything to indicate he would be doing anything other than just filling a seat until someone came along with a big cheque to take it from him.

    Grosjean – I usually defend Romain, but I think it was the right time for him to end his F1 career. The way it ended was sad but it is what it is. It could have been so much better…but it could also have been a lot worse.

    Kvyat – Again, I usually defend Kvyat because I think he’s got a lot of speed in him, but far too often this season I forgot he was on the grid. He deserves to find a drive with a team that wants to have him in the car, hoping he lands a decent IndyCar or WEC drive.

  17. Honestly, the only one I would be making a case for is Hulkenberg, who I still believe is quite underrated and can definitely perform better than what he was able to show during his career.

    All the rest I feel had opportunity enough to show their worth and aren’t really a step or more above the current crop of drivers, pay-drivers excluded.

  18. I would say Vandoorne is the lost driver that most deserve a second chance. Yes, he was annihilated by Alonso, but that was a very difficult car and he had little testing, and against one of the all-time best already entrenched. I bet most on the list above would have fared the same in that McLaren.

  19. Albon, Hulkenberg & Magnussen.

    Albon’s a lot better than deserving a 2 year F1 career. Hulkenberg always deserved a car better than he had and the same could be said of Magnussen, who also never had a strong machine.

  20. I’m going to be boring but everyone of them deserves another chance. Everyone fought hard to get to that level and everyone has won at least in the junior series.

    Unfortunetly it doesn’t always go like that and someone else gets their seat. 5 of them have finished in the top 4 at the top level. Both Aitken and Fittipaldi were solid in their debut.

  21. I voted for everyone except Grosjean and Kvyat.
    Concerning Magnussen: From what I remember, he left Renault on his own rather than got axed per se. He opted against continuing because he would’ve only received a one-year contract, and he wanted at least two.

  22. Literally none of them.

  23. Aitken deserves Latifi’s seat.

    Albon deserves a second chance like Gasly’s.

    Kvyat improved a lot but I put him in the same group as Grosjean or Magnussen. They are done with F1.

    Hulk showed what he can do at Racing Point and it’s one of my fav drivers so sure, he deserves another go.

  24. 10 years
    0 podiums
    Hulkenberg’s popularity is mind boggling. There’s really no excuse for his record. He’s choked every time he had a chance.

  25. The only one I’d really like to see back is Hulkenberg, I’ve always had a feeling if he could just get it to click he could have a spectacular season, maybe the lay-off would be what he needs to find his mojo.

    I did vote for Kvyat as well though, he might have been outscored comprehensively by Gasly this year but their performance was pretty close and I feel like he’s matured into a much more consistent racer. You could say the same for Magnussen actually, but I think Indycar will suit him so it doesn’t feel like he’s losing out.

    The two young guns I’ve ignored because I haven’t watched enough lower formula to get a read on their talent, and they didn’t do anything particularly impressive in their short time in F1.

  26. Coventry Climax
    10th January 2021, 14:49

    Newcomer or leaver, of the lot, I think probably only Tsunoda deserves to get a chance in F1. Schumacher is only hyped into his seat, cannot see him amaze me.
    Albon never had a real chance, given his preparation time. Would have been nice to see him back at Alpha Tauri and get himself together again, like Gasly. Give him a better chance to succeed at it than Vettel at AM too.
    I’d give Aitken and Fittipaldi the benefit of the doubt, only if there weren’t any other options.
    The rest have had ample time to prove themselves or, like Alonso, are too old. I’d rather see new guys -or girls!- getting a chance.
    Can’t see Grosjean coming back, he is a threat to himself and others, as is Magnussen with his do-or-die style.

    1. Back in Bahrain it looked like Grosjean tried to let himself go…

  27. to me, none of these.
    I would say, unironically, Vandoorne. and maybe even Kubica. Alonso and Russell might both be too harsh a comparison to be fair

  28. There isn’t one on this list of seven that deserves another seat. They had their chance then, but their time is gone now.
    Hulkenberg impressed as a sub early in 2020 and at the same time race after race Albon failed to make much of a difference. Of these seven on this list where is it possible to find a seat? I don’t see anywhere in 2021 there is is a place for them unless a driver find himself in the bubble suddenly. Just like Sergio then the others who were pulled or self pulled from the next race because of Covid.
    I won’t feel bad for any of the seven. They unfortunately had their moment in the seat like hundreds before who then became mobile chicanes and back markers. Mostly because the cars weren’t good enough. So this is Formula One and this is what happens and has happened every year for the past 7 decades.

  29. I don’t think Grojean wants to race anymore. He almost got killed.

  30. Unfortunately, the poll did not allow me to select ‘none of the above’, so I selected Jack Aitken. I’d much rather see Nyck de Vries or Robert Shwartzman given a drive. I watch F3, F2 and F1 and I don’t think any of the 7 listed drivers exactly sparkle. Certainly not at a consistency that merits an(other) F1 seat.

  31. My vote goes to Hulkenberg, because he had an impressive qualifying in the 70th anniversy Gp, and in case some team needs him to score some solid points

  32. petebaldwin (@)
    10th January 2021, 19:22

    There’s 7 names there who realistically all deserve a further chance in F1 but looking at the list of 2021 drivers, I can only see 3 who don’t deserve another season in F1. There are a few questionable ones like Vettel but despite his dip in form, he at least deserves a chance at a fresh start to show if he can still do it or not.

  33. José Lopes da Silva
    10th January 2021, 19:42

    My vote goes to Fittipaldi. He went very well, given his context.

  34. My vote is for Albon and Hulk.
    Indifferent to Kvyat and Mags.
    The rest, I wouldn’t miss at all

  35. I voted for the 2 rookies because frankly the rest are chaff that had their chance to show their performances and fell short imo. I see Hulkenberg once again vastly overrated for driving around scoring points in midfield cars that are expected to score. Cant think of a single finish where he outperformed the car, his time has gone, give the new talent a try.

    1. I can think of the one time Hulkenberg overperformed in some 180ish races. His pole position in Brazil ten years ago showed real raw speed. He definitely should have some podiums by now, Perez scored several in the same car. He had his ten seasons of chances, and nothing came of it.

  36. Sorry that Magnussen is out og F1.
    Real racer … Give him a car… And you will see Real racing!

  37. I think Kvyat, especially in the second half of his season, more or less matched Gasly on pure pace albeit not always put his races together as nicely. Still, I think he deserves a future in F1.
    Albon definitely needs a new shot, and I could see him partnering Tsunoda in AlphaTauri in 2022 if Gasly either moves up to Red Bull (again) or joins another team.
    The 3rd driver to really impress me was Jack Aitken. Poor F2 season, but close to Latifi from the start in a car he’s not driven.

    The others then? They’re too old and have never really shown that they have the final step needed to excel, except for Fittipaldi who I don’t feel is up to the standards of F1.

  38. Magnussen. He deseves to be in formula 1.

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