Thu, 21 Jan 2021

Feature: Six of the best F1 stand-ins

Xinhua
04 Dec 2020, 15:51 GMT+10

By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth

BEIJING, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- With Lewis Hamilton having been laid low with COVID-19, Formula 1 paddock gossip this week was dominated by the news that George Russell would be drafted in to replace the seven-time world champion at this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix. No longer hamstrung by the limitations of his recalcitrant Williams, the highly-rated Russell now has a great chance to race at the front in the all-conquering Mercedes W11.

As Jack Aitken steps up to replace Russell at Williams, and Pietro Fittipaldi fills in at Haas for the injured Romain Grosjean, this weekend's race will feature three stand-in drivers eager to show what they can do. With this in mind, Xinhua takes a look back at some of the most notable substitute appearances in F1 history.

2020 - Nico Hulkenberg

The most recent F1 supersub, Hulkenberg was left without a drive after being dropped by Renault in 2019, but earned an unexpected reprieve early in 2020 when Racing Point's Sergio Perez was forced out after contracting COVID-19.

Having previously driven for the team, Hulkenberg was an ideal replacement, and though mechanical problems prevented him from starting the British Grand Prix, he finished a creditable seventh in the following weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Later in the year, with Perez's teammate Lance Stroll also hobbled with the virus, Hulkenberg stepped in again at extremely short notice for the Eifel Grand Prix, finishing a fine eighth despite missing all the weekend's practise sessions.

2009 - Kamui Kobayashi

Kobayashi earned his F1 break in 2009 when a bad crash forced Toyota's Timo Glock out of the season's final two races. The Japanese driver drew the ire of that year's world champion Jenson Button with some aggressive driving in his debut at Brazil, but a mature display saw him finish sixth in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ahead of experienced teammate Jarno Trulli.

Plans for a full season with Toyota in 2010 were dashed when the Japanese squad elected to pull out of F1, but Kobayashi's displays earned him a seat at Sauber and laid the foundations for a solid four-season stint in F1, in which he notably finished third at the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

2005/2006 - Pedro de la Rosa

Following a few forgettable years in F1's midfield with Arrows and Jaguar, De la Rosa moved into a testing role for McLaren that seemed to signal the end of his racing career. However, the Spaniard received an unexpected recall when a shoulder injury kept Juan Pablo Montoya out of the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix. Despite not having raced for over two years, De la Rosa set fastest lap on his way to fifth place.

Better was to come when Montoya suddenly retired from F1 midway through 2006 and De la Rosa was chosen as his replacement. The Spaniard was a consistent points scorer and took his only career podium finish with a mature drive to second place in the Hungarian Grand Prix, before returning to testing duties at the end of the year.

1999 - Mika Salo

After leaving Arrows at the end of 1998, Salo found himself without a drive for 1999. But after three races as a stand-in for BAR, the Finn was parachuted into the big time after Ferrari's Michael Schumacher broke a leg at the British Grand Prix.

Finally in a competitive car, Salo made the most of his opportunity, comfortably leading the German Grand Prix before moving over to allow teammate Eddie Irvine to take the win, and also finishing a solid third at Monza.

Though Schumacher returned to the seat after six races, Salo at least found himself back on the grid full-time in 2000 with Sauber, followed by a two-year stint heading up Toyota's nascent F1 project.

1994 - Nigel Mansell

Having romped to the 1992 world championship with Williams, Mansell elected to leave F1 and move to the American Indycar series for 1993. But after the death of Ayrton Senna in early 1994, the 41-year-old Mansell was tempted back to Williams for four races that didn't clash with his stateside campaign.

Though he retired from his first two rounds, Mansell took a spirited fourth in Japan and won the season-ending Australian Grand Prix after title rivals Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher collided.

The Briton's return to form saw him sign for McLaren for 1995, but an unhappy partnership lasted just two races before Mansell walked away from F1 for good.

1991 - Michael Schumacher

Yes, even one of F1's all-time greats began life as a stand-in. The German's big break happened at that year's Belgian Grand Prix, when the Jordan team found itself in need of a second driver following Bertrand Gachot's bizarre imprisonment.

A Mercedes sports car protege at the time, Schumacher got the gig after having assured Jordan that he knew the track. He did - but only as a spectator! But after learning the Spa circuit on a bicycle, the German astonished all observers by qualifying seventh, four places ahead of experienced teammate Andrea de Cesaris.

While Schumacher's race would end on lap 1 with a broken clutch, the Benetton team had seen enough and swooped in to secure the German's services on a permanent basis. 306 races, 91 wins and seven world championships suggests this was a gamble that paid off.

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