F1 is a ruthless sport, everybody who watches it knows that. Because of this, not all great drivers have an opportunity to drive in a top team. Here are 5 of the best racing whose talents were consistently overlooked.
- Martin Brundle
Teams: Tyrrell, Zakspeed, Williams, Brabham, Benetton, Ligier, McLaren and Jordan
Current Sky F1 commentator and 1988 World Sportscar Champion Martin Brundle was one of the best racing drivers of his generation. He took Ayrton Senna to his absolute limit during the 1983 F3 season yet somehow never got to drive for the top team of that era.
Despite racing for McLaren, Williams and Benetton during his career, he always raced for them either before or after their dominant periods. 9 podium finishes are all the Norfolk born racer can show for a Grand Prix career spanning 12 years.
However, those that know about his results out of F1 know how good Brundle really was. With his 1988 World Sportscar Championship and 1990 Le Mans 24 Hour victory, Brundle enjoyed considerable success in motorsport.
- Jean-Eric Vergne
Teams: Toro Rosso
The Red Bull young driver program is famed for bringing talented youngsters through the lower formula and giving them a shot in Formula 1. Drivers like Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and most notably Sebastian Vettel have all gone on to become stars of the F1 world.
Other drivers have not been so lucky. Jean-Eric Vergne is one of the most recent examples of the ruthlessness of program. After three consistent seasons at the midfield squad after being overlooked by two of his teammates for the Red Bull drive and then by Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen for a race seat in 2015.
Bad luck followed the Frenchman throughout his career and unfortunately, he is yet to return to the sport after his demotion in 2015.
- Robert Kubica
Teams: BMW Sauber, Renault
The story of Robert Kubica’s career is not of wrong choices within Formula 1 as he was only raced from mid-2006 until the end of the 2010 season. It was his decisions outside of F1 that led to the lightning fast Pole never reaching the top spot he truly deserved.
A rally crash in February 2011 cost Kubica the most of his peak years in the sport and has left him only partially able to use his right arm. After topping the first pre-season test of the 2011 season, Kubica wouldn’t drive an F1 car again for another 6 years.
The sole victory at the Canadian GP in 2008 is all that Kubica has to show for his career so far and that is not reflective of the Polish driver’s ability. However, a recent test with the Renault team suggest that a potential comeback is on the cards and we may yet see what the Pole could have been.
- Sebastien Buemi
Teams: Toro Rosso
The second driver from the Red Bull junior program to feature on this list, Buemi was a promising prospect when he debuted for Toro Rosso in 2009. After three seasons at the squad the Swiss driver was dumped for the aforementioned Vergne and took refuge in the World Endurance Championship where he went on to win the championship in 2014.
Also winning the Formula E championship in 2015-16, Buemi has shown he has the talent for Formula but unfortunately for him he was never given the opportunity to show what he was capable of in a top team.
At only 28 years of age there is still a slim chance of a return to F1 but with teams favouring younger drivers it seems unlikely Buemi will ever get the opportunity to showcase his true potential.
- Nico Hulkenberg
Teams: Williams, Force India, Sauber and Renault
Despite still currently racing in F1 as of the 2017 season, the Hulk is yet to have driven in a top team in his F1 career. An exceptionally versatile driver, the German has proven himself capable of at the very least being a match for all of his teammates so far.
The German driver may not have even scored a podium in his F1 career to date, he is accomplished outside of F1 with an exceptional junior career. That is without even mentioning his one-off appearance at the 2015 Le Mans 24-hour event, which he won.
At this stage of his career, Hulkenberg needs to be looking at getting himself into a top team before he joins the likes of Martin Brundle as being known as F1’s nearly man. With time on his side, one can only hope the German gets the chance sooner rather than later.
Article by Adam Ashmore (@GeorgeAshmore_)