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In the brutal world of Formula 1, there are far more hard-luck stories than tales of success.
For every Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, there are many more episodes of unfulfilled dreams. That is often simply to a driver underperforming amid a pressure-cooker environment while others were simply not up to the job in the first place. Some have just been unfortunate to arrive in the wrong team at the wrong time. Others have been harshly spat out without being given a fair crack of the whip.
Here are 10 former F1 drivers you’d probably forgotten about and what they’ve been up since their time at the top of motorsport came to a shuddering halt…
READ MORE: Five British F1 drivers you completely forgot about – and what they are up to now
The Spaniard was one of the unfortunate souls to race with backmarkers Manor Marussia, a graveyard for many young drivers' F1 hopes.
Merhi was dropped for the final five races of 2015 season, with Alexander Rossi taking his place. Merhi then turned his hand to other categories, racing in Formula E and Formula 2. There was a brief return to F1 circles in 2019 when he signed as a development driver, although bizarrely his contract prevented him from revealing which team he was employed by.
Last year he ventured Down Under to compete in the S5000 Tasman Series, a single-seater category, while this year he has been racing in the Japanese SuperGT championship. Earlier this summer, the 31-year-old made a surprise return to F2, driving for Campos Racing at the Austrian Grand Prix meeting in place of the injured Ralph Boschung.
After a year as a Williams test driver, the Brazilian landed a full-time driver with Sauber for the 2015 season. After a strong year, he was retained for 2016, but was replaced by Pascal Wehrlein for 2017.
He moved into other series and enjoyed success, winning the US-based IMSA Sportscar series in 2018 and 2021. He has also won the Daytona 24 Hours and the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races.
His rivals in IMSA have included former Williams and McLaren F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Nasr had another crack at single-seater racing with Formula E in 2019, competing in selected races without scoring a point.
A former rival of Lewis Hamilton in the junior categories, the German competed in 128 grands prix for the Silverstone-based team under various guises, Midland, Spyker and Force India, with limited success.
In fact the most memorable moment of his F1 career arguably occurred in a Shanghai nightclub in 2011 when he left then owner of the Lotus team, Eric Lux, needing 24 stitches in a neck wound after striking him with a champagne glass.
Sutil apologised and insisted the incident was unintentional. He continued to race for Force India that season but after he was convicted for GBH and handed a suspended prison sentence in early 2012, he was dropped by the team, only to return for 2013. He joined Sauber for 2014 but was dropped at the end of the season and joined Williams as a reserve driver.
Little has been heard of the 39-year-old since then, although he is known to have an impressive classic car collection. In 2020, he reportedly crashed his McLaren Senna, a limited edition sports car, into an electricity pylon in Monaco. The car suffered significant damage but Sutil escaped from the wreck unharmed.
Giedo van der Garde
The Dutchman was at the centre of one of the most bizarre driver/team standoffs in F1 history. Van der Garde joined Sauber as a test and reserve driver for 2014, taking part in three practice sessions. During that season he was promised a full-time drive for the following year, only for Sauber to announce Marcus Ericsson and Nasr as their drivers for 2015.
Van der Garde was having none of it and filed an international arbitration complaint with the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution, which was upheld. On the eve of the season opener in Melbourne, his management filed an application in an Australian Court to enforce the Swiss order. Again, it went in his favour, meaning he was legally entitled to drive, although Sauber appealed against the decision on safety grounds.
Van der Garde brazenly turned up in Melbourne, race suit and all, meaning in effect Sauber had three drivers for two seats. The saga saw Sauber not take part in the first practice session of the weekend, prompting then F1 overlord Bernie Ecclestone to intervene.
Ericsson and Nasr did compete in the second practice session with van der Garde agreeing to drop his demand to race in Melbourne. The parties eventually reached a settlement, with Van der Garde reportedly receiving $16million (£13m) in compensation.
Van der Garde was linked with a return to F1 with Marussia, but instead had a brief spell in endurance racing, competing in the European Le Mans Series in 2016. He has carved out a successful media career, working across several Dutch TV shows between 2015 and 2021 as a pundit. He now works for Dutch sports channel Viaplay as an F1 analyst.
Who is your favourite former F1 driver? Tell us in the comments section below.
The Frenchman impressed for Red Bull junior squad Toro Rosso in the early 2010s. However, the rise of some young upstart called Max Verstappen saw him shunted out of the team for 2015.
But when Sebastian Vettel announced he would be leaving Red Bull for Ferrari, Danil Kvyat was promoted from Toro Rosso to replace him, leaving the door open for a Vergne reprieve. However, he then announced he would be leaving the Red Bull programme entirely, with Carlos Sainz taking his seat at Toro Rosso.
Verge went on to have a spell as a Ferrari test driver and a successful career in Formula E, which he won in 2018 and 2019. He remains in the all-electric series and has also signed for Peugeot’s World Endurance team.
Another driver who has been in the Red Bull stable. The Swiss driver raced for Toro Rosso between 2009 and 2011 before he and Jaime Alguersuari were replaced by Daniel Ricciardo and Vergne for 2012. Buemi became a test and reserve driver for the main Red Bull team, a position he held until the end of 2014. He returned in a similar role in 2019.
He has enjoyed great success in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship, winning the former in 2016 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota four times. Buemi is statistically the most successful driver in Formula E history with more wins, pole positions and fastest laps in the series than anyone else.
An impressive junior career, which saw him snapped up by the McLaren Young Driver Programme, never translated into F1 success. It must be said timing wasn’t on his side when he replaced the retiring Jenson Button as Fernando Alonso’s teammate.
McLaren, along with engine partner Honda, were in disarray, although Vandoorne matched up well to Alonso, scoring 13 points to the Spaniard’s 17 in 2017. McLaren switched to Renault engines in 2018 when it quickly became apparently that their problems weren’t all down to its powertrains. Vandoorne ended that season 16th in the standings as he and the retiring (for now) Alonso were replaced by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
Vandoorne retained links with McLaren and has worked as a simulator driver for the Woking squad as well as being named one of its reserve drivers for 2022. Vandoorne is also a Mercedes reserve driver and is currently racing for the Silver Arrows in Formula E.
A driver who was ditched not once but twice by the unforgiving Red Bull driver programme. The Kiwi was an official reserve driver for both the main team and Toro Rossi at the start of 2010, as well as competing in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.
However, after failing to win a race in the second half of the season, he was let go and went on to do some simulator work for Mercedes. Hartley got another chance with Toro Rossi at the end of 2017, replacing Pierre Gasly for the US Grand Prix before being confirmed as a full-time driver for 2018, alongside Gasly.
However, he was spat out again by the Red Bull system a year later and became a development driver at Ferrari before a brief spell in Formula E. Having won the World Endurance Championship in 2015 and 2017, he is back in endurance racing and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time in 2020.
Yet another former Red Bull junior, the Spaniard made his F1 debut with Toro Rossi at the age of just 19 in 2009 after Sebastien Bourdais had been dropped by the team mid-season.
He kept his place with the team for 2010 and 2011, with a best finish of sixth at the latter year’s Belgian Grand Prix, before being dropped. Alguersuari dipped his toe into Formula E but after an unsuccessful 2015 campaign he announced his retirement from the sport at the age of just 25, poignantly declaring he had “fallen out of love with his girlfriend”. He went on focus on a career in music as a DJ.
As mentioned above, Bourdais was ditched by Toro Rosso midway through the 2009 season. There had been high hopes for the Frenchman who had won the US Champ Car series in four straight years from 2004 and 2007.
He was teammate to Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull’s B-team in 2008. Bourdais actually qualified fourth for the Italian Grand Prix that year, which Vettel memorably dominated in wet conditions to take his maiden F1 win. But Bourdais picked up just points that season – compared to Vettel’s 35 – and was already under pressure heading into 2009, a year he wouldn’t finish with the team.
He has since won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and returned to America, where he most recently raced in IndyCar with AJ Foyt Racing last year. He confirmed that would be last season of full-time racing in the series but didn’t rule out returning for selected races like the Indy 500.
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