With Max Verstappen taking a sensational win first time out for Red Bull Racing in Spain, Badger thought it appropriate to have a look at the other men who have made dream debuts for their new teams.
Mario Andretti – South Africa 1971
Mario Andretti enjoyed a rather sporadic Formula One career in the late 60s and early 70s. Instead Andretti chose to focus on racing in America, predominately IndyCar. However a chat with Colin Chapman during Andretti’s first Indy 500 in 1965 handed the Italian born American a shot in Europe. He put his Lotus on pole for his F1 debut in 1968.
By 1971 Andretti had done enough to bring himself to the attention of Enzo Ferrari; the Italian surname no doubt helping him to ensure he made his first Ferrari appearance in South Africa. Qualifying a respectable fourth, Andretti stayed out on trouble on race day as others failed around him to take a glorious maiden win.
Fernando Alonso – Bahrain 2010
In 2006 Fernando Alonso said he would never drive for Ferrari. Four years later he was making his debut for the Maranello squad. The off-season had led everyone to believe Red Bull were hot favourites to grab victory in Bahrain’s season opener; a pole position for Sebastian Vettel did little to change that opinion.
Alonso started from third on the grid, just behind new team-mate Felipe Massa. Alonso got the jump on Massa off the start-line and both Ferrari’s settled down behind the Red Bull of Vettel. A faulty spark plug in Vettel’s Red Bull saw him slow dramatically late in the race and allowed Alonso to jump into the lead. From there Alonso was unchallenged by Massa as they locked down a brilliant one-two for Ferrari.
Alain Prost – South Africa 1993
After a year out in 1992, Alain Prost returned to the Formula One fold with Williams in search of title number four. The team tried to get Ayrton Senna to drive alongside Prost fro 1993 but the Frenchman stubbornly vetoed the deal. Seeing Senna qualify just under a tenth away from him for the South African season opener perhaps justified Prost’s choice.
A very poor start left Prost behind team-mate Damon Hill, Senna’s McLaren and young German Michael Schumacher. A spin from Hill, directly in the path of Prost no less, and a quick attack on the Benetton of Schumacher left ‘The Professor’ a showdown with Senna. On lap twenty five Prost finally made his move on a powerless Senna and proceeded to blast off into the distance. By the checkered flag he was well over a minute ahead of a flabbergasted Senna.
Jody Scheckter – Argentina 1977
Winning your first race for a new team is one thing, but to win your first race for a new team who have never even raced in F1 before is quite another. Yet that is exactly what Jody Scheckter did for Walter Wolf in Argentina at the start of 1977.
Scheckter qualified a rather disappointing eleventh and didn’t really look like being a threat during the race. However a steady drive and woeful reliability up and down the field allowed him to rise up the order as the race progressed. Race leader Carlos Pace began to slow near the end of the race due to sheer exhaustion; Scheckter pounced and took a spectacular win.
Kimi Raikkonen – Australia 2007
Back in late 2006 Kimi Raikkonen was considered the fastest man in F1. His speed was so highly regarded that Ferrari chose him to replace the retiring Michael Schumacher for 2007. As ever a rather non-plussed Kimi didn’t seem fazed at all about the considerably sized shoes he was going to have to fill.
Raikkonen’s first weekend in Maranello red got off to the perfect start as he out qualified McLaren newbie, and reigning double world champion, Fernando Alonso for pole by four tenths of a second. A great launch off the grid saw Raikkonen hold onto his lead with ease on lap one and afterwards he was unchallenged to the checkered flag.
Juan Manuel Fangio – France 1954/Argentina 1956
Fangio is the only man on this list to win his first race for a new team on his debut for them twice. Like Max Verstappen for Red Bull, he won his first race for Mercedes after a mid-season switch from Maserati. The 1954 French Grand Prix was also the debut for a long-awaited Mercedes-Benz car, making the win just that bit more special. Fangio and team-mate Karl Kling would finish a lap ahead of the entire field.
The second time Fangio won on his debut for a team cam under rather more controversial circumstances. The Argentine world champion had joined Ferrari ahead of his home race in 1956. The team dominated qualifying with Fangio a mighty two and a bit seconds ahead of his nearest rival. A faulty fuel pump in the race left Fangio having to swap into team-mate Luigi Musso’s car.
Fangio re-joined the race in fifth place and quickly set about change down the leading bunch of Maserati cars. A quick spin after passing Jean Behra and mechanical woes for the leading three drivers left Fangio in the lead. Maserati tried to protest the win after the race, they claimed Fangio received an illegal push start after his spin while passing Behra. The protest was quickly thrown out and history was made.
Nigel Mansell – Brazil 1989
Mansell was the last man Enzo Ferrari ever personally chose to drive for the Scuderia. Sadly Ferrari’s death in August 1988 meant he never got to see ‘il leone’ drive one of his cars. A tough and unreliable pre-season testing programme meant hopes for the Brazilian Grand Prix of 1989 were fairly low in Maranello. Mansell even joked he had booked an early flight home because he was so sure the car wouldn’t last the race distance.
Qualifying a disappointing sixth didn’t help Mansell’s mood ahead of the race. However the Brit’s fighting spirit shone through and he didn’t give up during the race leading him to score an unlikely win at his least favourite track on the calendar. A first lap clash between Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger in the other Ferrari certainly helped Mansell’s cause. A fantastic overtaking manoeuvre on Ricardo Patrese sealed Mansell’s place in both the history books and the Tifosi’s hearts.
Giancarlo Baghetti – France 1961
Back in 1961 Giancarlo Baghetti went one further than simply winning on his debut for a new team, he just flat out won on his F1 debut! He remains the only man in F1 history to achieve that feat and it’s a record unlikely to be broken any time soon.
Baghetti only qualified in a lowly twelfth place for the French Grand Prix; unreliability up and down the field allowed him to rise up through the order at a steady rate during the race. The three works Ferraris all fell by the wayside, leaving the FISA entered Ferrari of Baghetti to take a quite remarkable win by just a tenth of a second. It was to be the only podium finish of his career.