In F1, unlike any other sport, it’s tough for one competitor to replace another if a situation was to occur. Some cars are built around one driver and when something happens to him, it takes an even bigger driver to step into those shoes and do well.
Before Kamui Kobayashi was reknowned for his do-or-die overtaking moves he was a struggling GP2 driver with ties to Toyota. When Timo Glock shunted several times in Suzuka (of all places) Kobayashi got the chance to step up to a race seat to replace the injured the German in Brazil.
Holding off a charging title challenger in the shape of Jenson Button was quite the debut, as was finishing in the points in another battling display in the season finale in Abu Dhabi. A seat at Sauber beckoned after Toyota pulled out, and a fan favourite was born.
Patrick Tambay/Mario Andretti
To say 1982 was a tragic season for Ferrari is a massive understatement. A gentleman’s disagreement between drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi in Imola was the start, and was to get worse when the Canadian driver was killed attempting to beat his team-mate in the following race in Zolder. Pironi was then to be involved in a start-line accident in Canada that cost the life of young driver Ricardo Paletti, before having having an accident eerily similiar to Villeneuve’s that ultimately cost him his career.
Patrick Tambay, who had been chosen by Enzo himself to take Villeneuve’s seat, drove with conviction to win at a sombre Hockenheim. As the season continued, the Frenchman grew into the role of team leader, which was then supported by Mario Andretti, who took a stunning pole and third place in the Italian marques backyard of Monza. Ferrari secured the constructors title at the end of the year, but it paled in comparison to what they had lost.
Not many drivers get the chance to step into a Ferrari seat, let alone the Red Baron’s itself. Kimi Raikkonen made a go at it and secured a World Title, but after the German legend took the well-wishing of “break a leg” quite literally at Silverstone in 1999, another Finn would get the chance to fill the pretty big shoes. Mika Salo had already made a small cameo that season subbing for Brazilian Ricardo Zonta at BAR.
Taking the opportunity to shine, the Finn lead at Hockenheim and duly handed over a guaranteed race win to team-mate Eddie Irvine to continue the Irishman’s title challenge.
Another podium would follow at Monza, even beating Irvine in the process, and a Sauber contract for 2000 was earned.
The saying of “every cloud has a silver lining” could be changed to gold when the smoke cleared in Canada in 2007, after a replacement was needed for BMW driver Robert Kubica.
The Pole’s high speed smash meant Bobby K was sidelined for the next round in Indianapolis, so a 19-year old German was chosen to deputise while he recovered. Qualifying seventh, and finishing eighth, this driver became the youngest ever to score a World Championship point, and earned himself a contract at Toro Rosso for the rest of 2007 (ousting Scott Speed) and also for 2008.
The driver’s name? Sebastian Vettel.
Bertrand Gachot never set the F1 world alight. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Belgian would’ve been nothing more than a footnote if it hadn’t have been for a fateful argument with a London taxi driver the involved CS gas and a two month stint in prison.
When Mercedes offered Eddie Jordan a tidy sum of money to race an up and coming driver by the name of Michael Schumacher, the Irish team owner snapped up the cash. In his very first qualifying session in an F1 car, Schumacher beat his more experienced team-mate Andrea De Cesaris and lined up 7th at Spa.
A burnt clutch ended his race before the end of the first lap, but Benetton decided he was a star in the making and promptly snatched him away from under Jordan’s nose.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Every driver who gets a chance to step up usually does well….and then there’s Luca Badoer.
Handed a Ferrari race seat after Felipe Massa’s accident in Hungary, the Italian qualified last in Valencia, and was caught speeding in the pit-lane on Friday practice FOUR times. He didn’t fare much better in the race, finishing 17th after being hit by Roman Grosjean (talk about ironic).
After another lacklustre display in Belgium, he was dumped for Giancarlo Fisichella, and retired from the Ferrari test driver role in 2010, after 12 years.