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Drivers who proved themselves again in lower formulae


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#1 Shiftin

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 18:14

Two and a half years ago I asked this in RC. I once again tought it was a stupid question so I named the thread "Allow me to ask a stupid question..." I often think that I am asking stupid questions although I think that I rationally have a point. It just seems so obvious some times....

Anyways, I’ll try to explain it and why I once again post a similar question in TNF.

My reasoning 2 years ago
I’ve always been a fan of Jos Verstappen and when he had so much trouble finding a seat I thought:”Well…, if the drivers in F1 are the fastest in the world why don’t you go back to a lower Formula (or any open wheel series) and prove that you deserve to be in F1 . Must be better than sitting at home looking at the fax. And if you fail you don’t belong in F1 in the first place.”

(a rational thougth, right?)

After the thread in RC I discoverd the following things. I’ll use a few quotes from that time to illustrate

Originally posted by karlth
They have nothing to gain by going to F3000 or CART where the cars are nearly identical and they'd most likely get spanked in their rookie year. The odds of a test driver moving up into a race seat are far greater than for a rival series race driver.

Originally posted by stevew
I always thought that a driver's career goals were to make it to the top. Once they're there and go back to the "minors", their career has started sliding backwards and they'll never get back. I know there have been exceptions.

Originally posted by garagiste
Zmeej has it right, Moving to a lower formula is akin to admitting that you're not good enough for F1.

Originally posted by Brian O Flaherty
To alter a popular adage
It is better to be thought of as a good driver, than to go to F3000 and prove them all wrong.


So my (naive) reasoning once again was...

Originally posted by Shiftin
Well, your statments bring me to a dilemma. All of the time I read that the 22 best (formula) drivers of the world are in F1. So why would it be a problem for them to go to a lower formula (as Karlth said, driving nearly identical cars). Winning should be a "walk in the park" for one of the best 22 drivers in the world in a identical car.


So those were a few answers two years ago and although I think it sucked, I "understand", it's just the way it is now..... but the best drivers are not in F1, I gue$$... However, this reply, convinced me to post the question here

Originally posted by 911
Shiftin,

I think your question is very valid because back in the 60s that's what some drivers did to keep their name in the spotlight if their F1 season wasn't going very well.

I know Jackie Stewart did this in 1967. He did F2 and still did well there while his F1 season wasn't on par. In fact, many F1 drivers did F2 back in those days. The only series that I see drivers doing this today is NASCAR with some Winston Cup guys doing Busch races.

However, today's environment probably doesn't allow for drivers to do that. Why is that? I really couldn't tell you, but it's definitely not a practice that drivers are willing to do or sacrifice. I think it would also help if today's F3000 series was viewed as THE definitive last stepping stone before F1. It seems as if drivers are being taken from many series to get into F1 - F3, Formula Renault & F3000, etc.


So my questions to all you people is...

1) Do you know more examples of drivers who had the guts to do this. Did it work or not?

2) When in the history of OWR did they stop doing this and what do you think was the reason?

Could it be arrogance? Money..? Or is it that in the old days it was easier for a talented driver to impress? Or...... and I am afraid this might be an answer from many.... Talent just isn't enough to drive in F1 anymore.... (though I soooooo hope I am wrong... :| )

I'm curious and very interested in answers from you....

Thank you...!

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#2 BorderReiver

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 18:29

Martin Brundle upped sticks and did Sports Cars at times when F1 didn't pan out for him. I'm not sure if tha qualifies as a lower Formulae though. A different class of racing though certainly.

#3 Shiftin

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 18:33

In case Sports Cars were seen as some kind of feeder series for F1 in those days I reckon it counts.

I did not even cross my mind... :blush:

#4 Muzza

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 18:41

My brief comments:

1.) Ricardo Zonta (who I rate highly) and Enrique Bernoldi (who I don't) are two drivers that took a step back to Formula Nissan once they Formula 1 attempt failed - and this approach seems to be working to both of them.

2.) You said that "Talent just isn't enough to drive in F1 anymore...." - well, I think talent alone was never enough to a Formula 1 driver to succeed. Technical feedback, to mention only one skill, has always been a fundamental requirement to champions, since the early ages of the category (even more then).

3.) I do not believe that the best drivers of the world are in Formula 1 - and I don't think they have necessarily ever been (even in the 1950s or 1960s). Clark, Senna, Fangio were obviously outstanding drivers, but how can I say that Richard Petty was not better than them? (and I am not a NASCAR fan) Or Klaus Ludwig? Or Hannu Mikkola? Or Dan Garlits?

(I have been many times completely blown away by drivers that never made - and will never make - into Formula 1. Sascha Maassen, Christophe Bouchut, Frank Biela, Alain Menu and so many others)

4.) To me, a driver which is successful in Formula 1 means only that "he (or she) was a great driver with the Formula 1 cars of his (or her) time". Nothing more than that. A Formula 1 title (or more than one, for that matter) does not mean - to me - a passport to the pantheon of Great Drivers of All Times.

But that's just my opinion...

Cheers,


Muzza

#5 Shiftin

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 18:56

Muzza,

I am aware of Bernoldi and Zonta, but so far it hasn't really brought them back in the cockpit of a Mc Laren, Ferrari or Williams... Though I respect them very much for doing so! They show that racing is more important them than "being considerd a F1 driver".

But were there times in history that their actions were the obvious thing to do for a F1 driver who failed on his first attempt? (after bad luck, bad equipment etc...)

#6 canon1753

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 19:11

Alex Zanardi went from midfield F1 to CART and won two titles and then back to F1 (and then back to CART).

Teo Fabi F1 to CART to F1 to Sports Cars

Mansell :p F1 to CART back to F1..... :lol:

Eddie Cheever F1 to Sports Cars to F1 (to CART then IRL)

There seemed to be a bunch who did that in the 80's/90's timeframe, but I'm drawing a blank.

#7 Alan Lewis

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 19:31

Derek Warwick also did "the Sportscar thing".

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#8 j-ickx-fan

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 22:35

I too don't think Sportscars or other series are lower class than Formula 1. Another good example is Jacky Ickx. After he failed with Lotus in 1975, he drove lower class F1 cars (Williams-Wolf and Ensign) but succeded in Sportscars as well as in Can-Am in which he won the title in 1979. He even become Endurance World Champion in 1982 and 1983. Until this year, he had the record of the most victories in Le Mans 24 hours.

#9 ensign14

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 23:07

The two that immediately came to mind were Roberto Moreno and Pierluigi Martini. Both had disastrous Formula 1 debuts, DNQing in cars readily able to qualify - even for (comparatively) new bugs (as Geoff Lees, Ayrton Senna and Stefan Johansson proved) - and Martini was a positive menace with the Minardi in 1985.

But both rebuilt their reputations elsewhere (CART and F3000) and came back to F1 much better prepared. I remember staring with some amazement at Teletext one night to see GP results from North America with "6 P Martini (Minardi)" on screen; the first ever point for the Faenza equipe, from a driver that had not driven for them for a couple of years, and who I never realized was back in F1.

I wonder how much Jochen Rindt's F2 drives kept him in the thoughts of F1 managers.

Another successful one was Mike Hailwood, who did not make much impact in the 60s, but won the Euro F2 title and nearly a GP.

But the most successful was surely Peter Revson, unless I am missing someone obvious? A few desultory drives in the mid-60s, back to USAC, and then back to F1 as a race winner.

Problem now is that once you leave how do you get back? At least in the days of NPQs there were seats available for those with a modicum of talent, even if it was only the second Rial or the Eurobrun. But you were THERE and with the chance to impress (Damon Hill in the Brabham, for example). Nowadays, if you're someone like Bernoldi, which drive do you go for? You can only buy into Minardi with a fortune, and you'd need it for 2-3 years to hang on for someone like Trulli or Coulthard to blot their copybook and drop out. And even then I doubt that anyone is looking for Bruni or Baumgartner to drive their cars.

#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 23:29

Jochen was in F1 during his reign as King of F2. He just showed a spectacular ability to join the right team at the wrong time ..... don't forget he left Brabham at the end of 1968 for Lotus, then almost left Lotus at the end of 1969 to return to Brabham, who could arguably have given him a WDC-winning car in 1970 too.

I'm surprised no-one mentioned Tom Pryce yet ....

In an earlier era, Varzi rebuilding his pre-war career in Voiturettes after his drug problems and then returning to winning form in post-war GPs.

#11 Muzza

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 23:35

Originally posted by ensign14
[...]Problem now is that once you leave how do you get back? At least in the days of NPQs there were seats available for those with a modicum of talent, even if it was only the second Rial or the Eurobrun. But you were THERE and with the chance to impress (Damon Hill in the Brabham, for example). Nowadays, if you're someone like Bernoldi, which drive do you go for? You can only buy into Minardi with a fortune, and you'd need it for 2-3 years to hang on for someone like Trulli or Coulthard to blot their copybook and drop out. And even then I doubt that anyone is looking for Bruni or Baumgartner to drive their cars.


Good post as usual, ensign14,

...And you gave yet another reason why I so much miss years like the 1989-1990 season, and having 40 entries in a Formula 1 weekend.

I am still to find anyone that has had active participation in any form of motorsport discipline that can subscribe to the "vip/mob"-approach that govern Formula 1 today, which states that "of course, only a few priviliged deserve to be part of the [erm] Pinnacle of Motorsports".

Frankly, only those that were able to find a millionaire niche within it - Ecclestone, Mosley, Ferrari, Dennis and co. - are those that can justify such a policy.

Bring back Connew!


Muzza

#12 petefenelon

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 01:36

How about Westley Barber? Stepped back from a mediocre two-year campaign in F3 (he arguably went in too early, after being overhyped after winning in FRenault Campus) to FFord..... which (after a year out) got him back into FRenault....

I was sorely disappointed with his FFord performances. Someone who'd been through the intense schooling in racing that the Elf/Renault Campus programme put drivers through, and had done two years of F3, should've been FFord champion. Eighth was sub-mediocre. I think it was about then that he stopped being spoken of as a comingman.....

#13 petefenelon

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 01:39

Originally posted by ensign14
the chance to impress (Damon Hill in the Brabham, for example).


I'm inclined to think that Damon's Brabham outings had little to do with his Williams drive. His extensive testing for Williams had much, much more to do with it. (cf Coulthard's unexpected promotion into the team from test-driver).

About all one could say about Damon's Brabham outings were that he was a determined and tenacious guy who worked hard while the team was falling apart round him. The car was so dire by that point that I don't think much could be inferred about his racing abilities - although his unlucky but quick F3000 campaigns and his Williams testing gave the hint that he deserved to be somewhere better.

#14 petefenelon

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 01:45

Originally posted by Muzza
My brief comments:

4.) To me, a driver which is successful in Formula 1 means only that "he (or she) was a great driver with the Formula 1 cars of his (or her) time". Nothing more than that. A Formula 1 title (or more than one, for that matter) does not mean - to me - a passport to the pantheon of Great Drivers of All Times.

But that's just my opinion...


Muzza


I'm broadly in agreement with this. Someone who's only won races in one type of car isn't a "complete" driver. I think to be a true great you've got to have excelled in a couple of disciplines. Sadly this means it's difficult to elevate many current GP drivers to the pantheon because we've never seen them in anything other than over-downforced, over-tyred single seaters with too many gizmos.

Sure, some of the "technicians" in F1 these days probably have it in them to be truly great drivers, but I'd believe in some of them a lot more if they had a Le Mans win or three under their belts.....;)

#15 Jimmy Piget

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 08:29

Without checking :

Philippe ALLIOT, from RAM, back to F3000 and then to Ligier (replacing the hurt Laffitte in 1986).

Stefan JOHANSSON, DNQ from Shadow 1980, back to F3, then F2, then back to F1 with Spirit (1983).

Trevor TAYLOR, trying to rebuild his carreer (after the BRP disband) back in F2, then to F5000, but never succeeded to come back (bar the Shannon failing).

Rupert KEEGAN, down to Aurora after Hesketh, then back to F1 1980 (for nuts).

Jean-Pierre JABOUILLE, back to Renault F2 in 1975 (after a one-off drives in 1974), later F1 in 1977.

Patrick TAMBAY, in CanAm 1982, after being sacked from McLaren late 1979 & from Ligier late 1981.

Alan JONES, to F5000 after team Hill being disbanded late 1975.

Guy EDWARDS, down in 1975.

Pierluigi MARTINI, Geoff LEES, Vern SCHUPPAN, Patrick DEPAILLER, Jean-Pierre JARIER, Henri PESCAROLO, François MIGAULT, ... But all of them after one-off F1 drives.

#16 Ross Stonefeld

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 09:17

Zonta is the only current guy off of my head, which is mroe impressive given todays different racing scene

97 - F3000 champ
98 - FIA GT champ
99 - BAR
00 - BAR
01 - Jordan test driver, subs for Frentzen
02 - Formula Nissan champ
03 - Toyota tester
04 - Toyota tester, subs for Da Matta


Still only 28...

#17 ensign14

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 10:34

Originally posted by petefenelon


I'm inclined to think that Damon's Brabham outings had little to do with his Williams drive. His extensive testing for Williams had much, much more to do with it. (cf Coulthard's unexpected promotion into the team from test-driver).

Mmm, but in the Brabham he showed he was quicker than Eric van der Poele, who was no slouch with a good F3000 record. If he had been outdriven by Eric I doubt that Frank would have given him the drive.

Perhaps better examples would be Keke Rosberg, from Fittipaldi to Williams, or even Mika Hakkinen; of course Schumi needed a one-off drive in a team that had struggled through pre-qualifying that year to make his break.

#18 Ian McKean

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 10:56

I think this is a very good question, Shiftin, because after all racers are meant to love racing. After the war we saw Nuvolari in a Cisitalia, Wimille in a Simca Gordini etc. It worked for Andre Agassi, who went back to the Challenger series when he hit rock bottom and got back to the majors with dedication and hard work. Why couldn't Pat Cash be bothered?

I disagree with this idea that racers should retire at their peak. They don't do it for us they do it for themselves because they love racing and competing. Wasn't it great to see (well not in person unfortunately) past masters Stig Blomqvist and Hannu Mikkola and Malcolm Wilson out on the R.A.C. rally? I bet each was just as keen to beat the other as they were in the 1970's :D

#19 ian senior

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 11:13

Originally posted by Ian McKean
[I disagree with this idea that racers should retire at their peak. They don't do it for us they do it for themselves because they love racing and competing. Wasn't it great to see (well not in person unfortunately) past masters Stig Blomqvist and Hannu Mikkola and Malcolm Wilson out on the R.A.C. rally? I bet each was just as keen to beat the other as they were in the 1970's :D [/B]

I do agree with this, mostly. If, say, Graham Hill had retired at his peak ( the end of 1969?), we would never have seen him win at Le Mans and complete what has been argued about endlessly as motor racing's triple crown (WDC, Indy and Le Mans). On the other hand, we would also have been spared seeing his sometimes woeful performances in later years. But Graham stayed in F1 because he wanted to, and why not? The trouble is, it's his later performances that some people remember, and they did tarnish the reputation of a driver who at one time was quite clearly one of the best in the world.

It's very much up to the driver, and this applies equally to other sports - think of all those footballers who drop down to lower leagues after a career at the top level, simply because they still love playing and they can do a decent job at a level where the standards are not so exacting. There have been, and still are, many racing drivers whose F1 career time-expired, but still compete successfully at a lower level. Good for them.

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#20 Vitesse2

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 12:15

Ian: while I'd agree that Graham should (on sentimental grounds) have retired earlier, I think there's a pretty convincing case that can be made against some of the machinery he had to drive (and his own somewhat strained relationship with some of the Walker team mechanics). In 1970 he was running a Walker Lotus 49 - not the quickest of cars by then. In 1971 the BT34. Then the "development" of that, the BT37. Then the unproven Shadow DN1, in which he did no better or worse than the works drivers. Then the Lola T370, built by a company that hadn't done an F1 car for a decade .....

In more competitive machinery in F2 he showed a lot better form.

But this is O/T. Sorry, Shiftin.

#21 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 12:36

It's also true that this was all post-two broken legs...

A driver not in a competitive position might well reconsider how hard he should push once he's had that experience.

#22 subh

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 12:37

It’s not the same, but similar...

Neil Hodgson moved down from World Superbikes to the British series. He went on to win that, then moved up to WSB again and ended up winning that series, too. (And that got him into Grands Prix again, where he’d been before all of the above.)

#23 Wolf

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 13:16

Shiftin- I like those suggestions (obviously, not by You) that competing in lower formulae should be beneath a F1 driver... :p A while back, there was a concept of graded drivers- that prevented 'successful' drivers from participating in certain lower formulae to alow newcomers to prove themselves. It seems old GP drivers were so daft, and unaware of their star-qualities, that they wanted to race even in lowest formulae- even when things were going good for them. Who'd want to see two-times world champion (like N. G. Hill) competing in F2 anyway*? In a way, many drivers were proving themselves continually (not just again when they lost chance to drive in F1)...

* arguably, many of us would like another two-times world champion not to have competed in such races- on Hockenheim, at least... :(

#24 petefenelon

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 13:21

Originally posted by Wolf
Shiftin- I like those suggestions (obviously, not by You) that competing in lower formulae should be beneath a F1 driver... :p A while back, there was a concept of graded drivers- that prevented 'successful' drivers from participating in certain lower formulae to alow newcomers to prove themselves. It seems old GP drivers were so daft, and unaware of their star-qualities, that they wanted to race even in lowest formulae- even when things were going good for them. Who'd want to see two-times world champion (like N. G. Hill) competing in F2 anyway*? In a way, many drivers were proving themselves continually (not just again when they lost chance to drive in F1)...

* arguably, many of us would like another two-times world champion not to have competed in such races- on Hockenheim, at least... :(


I liked the way grading worked. It meant that the top men could still play around mixing it with the journeymen and comingmen in F2 for fun and beer money but didn't trouble the championship, and it kept them out of "training" formulae like F3. I also like the way that grading covered not just F1 but a range of major international races!

These days a Superlicence is pretty much a binding statement that F1 is your Be-All-And-End-All for the season.... then again there's nothing particularly "super" about some of the drivers who get them.

#25 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 13:23

Was not Formula Junior the first category denied to 'graded' drivers by decree?

#26 petefenelon

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 13:34

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Was not Formula Junior the first category denied to 'graded' drivers by decree?


Yes, I think so. Another contributory factor towards the accessibility of 1.5l F1, given that FJ was really the only single-seater formula below it?

Moss still used to do the odd 500cc F3 race when he was still racing in GPs!

I think the ban on graded drivers moved on to F3 after the demise of FJ.

#27 Clatter

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 13:46

I always thought the main reason drivers used to race in more than 1 formula was money.

They didnt earn anywhere near the amounts that a modern driver does, plus there were not as many races. Therefore they needed to enter additional races to keep their income up.

#28 Wolf

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 14:15

Clatter- I don't think so. I have a feeling that people like Moss (who was a big earner, in those days) would have paid to drive, if need be- but seeing they got paid, it was logical to try to earn as much possible from something they'd do for free... I highly doubt that purse for FJ race would be anywhere near GP, anyway.

Pete- not to mention the fact, that new drivers would get the chance to measure up against established drivers; on one hand, talent scouting was in that respect easier, and on another it was morer fun. Nature of the beast has changed so much, that (I think) nowdays drivers sign 'exclusivity' contract in F1- that they wil not race anything, anywhere (unless approved)- maybe it's just the way teams protect their 'investment' (from injury, or loss of PR appearances). Even F1 has stooped so low that they (I've heard of such case) offer(ed) TV rights for F1 with a big discount if TV station in question signed it would not broadcast any other car races live. :

#29 ian senior

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 14:18

Originally posted by Clatter
I always thought the main reason drivers used to race in more than 1 formula was money.

They didnt earn anywhere near the amounts that a modern driver does, plus there were not as many races. Therefore they needed to enter additional races to keep their income up.


Money may have been a factor, but it was by no means the only one. There were many non-championship F1 races in days of old; add those to the total number of grands prix and you wouldn't be too far off the number of races we see today. Don't forget that in today's world, F1 drivers are often precluded by contract from racing anything else during the GP season.

No, they raced other cars because they simply wanted to race as much as possible, in anything, and they enjoyed trying their hands at other categories. It made them better and more rounded drivers too.

#30 Shiftin

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 15:19

Thanks for the replies so far, interesting stuff...

But what do you mean with "one-off" drives? I don't understand...

#31 Jimmy Piget

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 15:49

Example given :

Jean-Pierre Jarier had a March 701 only for the 1971 Gold Cup race & the GP d'Italia.
He was not a regular F1 driver for the 1971 season.
That's what I call a "one-off" F1 drive.

#32 Shiftin

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 16:11

Thank you! Now I understand.... :up:

#33 Shiftin

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 18:29

Originally posted by ensign14
Problem now is that once you leave how do you get back?


By winning as much as you can and show the bosses in F1 that you are better than the highly rated talents in F3000 or somewhere else. I agree it's a risk but I think testing or sitting at home doesn't bring you in a race seat fast... (this doesn't count for rookies). It just looks like there are testers and racers in F1. Just wondering what the better option is, testing or racing in a lower class...

#34 LB

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 18:55

Dave Coyne went up and down the lower formula ladder so many times you would think he was a window cleaner. He won the EFDA F3 cup in 1987 the Formula Ford festival in 1990 and raced in F3000 in 1991 I believe he runs on short ovals now.

#35 ensign14

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 21:34

Originally posted by Shiftin


By winning as much as you can and show the bosses in F1 that you are better than the highly rated talents in F3000 or somewhere else.

But you can't do that...look at guys who have won in the "step down" formulae - Bjorn Wirdheim, Sebastian Bourdais, Heikki Kovalainen, Bernoldi, Toccacelo - they are as good as anything in F1 but is anyone interested? The only one really creating a stir is Vitantonio Liuzzi and it has been obvious he is something special for some time.

#36 canon1753

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Posted 03 December 2004 - 17:04

(Maybe this would be a RC answer but...)

I think we don't see this as much due to the fact of the death/dearth of serious prototype/sportscar racing today. You have an Audi drive or no one notices. CART/IRL is not a proving ground for F1 anymore. So the career path now is junior fomulae- then bring money or get a test deal and be in F1.

This career path has led to an almost colorlessness to anything on an international level below F1, which is too bad for us all.