To the untrained eye, it may seem that Formula One drivers simply appear upon their début and vanish into the ether after their career has ended. However, this is Grand Prix Rejects, and a cursory glance at previous articles published on this very website will show that this is not the case.
The vast majority of drivers simply move on to other series once their opportunities in Formula One dry up, and this is certainly true for the less successful of them. As a consequence, it’s not surprising that many of this site’s favourite drivers still find gainful employment long after their last F1 appearance. It’s time to find out just what these old hands are getting up to. This is RejectWatch 2017.
As a brief clarification, Formula One rejects as defined by this site are drivers who entered a World Championship event, but failed to score at least 3 championship points assuming a 10-6-4-3-2-1 scheme. Drivers still active in Formula One are counted and, in Formula One this season, these include (alphabetically): Marcus Ericsson, Antonio Giovinazzi, Esteban Ocon, Jolyon Palmer, Lance Stroll, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein.
Drivers who have recently left Formula One often find themselves in high demand, assuming their reputation remains intact, and more recent departures from F1 often find themselves moving in two general directions: other single-seaters and endurance racing.
With futuristic bodywork, significant investment and great publicity surrounding the all-electric series, it’s no wonder so many former F1 drivers decide to hook up with Formula E, with no fewer than 20 of the series’ 48 drivers having previously driven in the sport’s premier category. This year, along with luminaries such as Nick Heidfeld and Nelson Piquet, Jr., Formula E can count on the reject presence of Stéphane Sarrazin, Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Jean-Éric Vergne, Esteban Gutiérrez, Lucas di Grassi and reigning series champion Sébastien Buemi. Halfway through the season, Buemi is very much the championship favourite, with five wins in six races. However, if more luck falls his way, the consistent di Grassi will hope to take the championship battle to the last round, held in late July in Montréal. This would match last year’s title fight in which Buemi beat di Grassi in the last round in London’s Battersea Park.
Former Manor driver Roberto Merhi has also announced his intention of competing in the series next season, though he is currently competing in the newly-renamed FIA Formula 2 Championship, having replaced Stefano Coletti at Campos Racing, run by noted reject Adrián Campos.
As Fernando Alonso heads stateside for his highly-publicised entry in the Indianapolis 500, he joins a healthy field of expert drivers who have made their career on the blend of ovals and road courses characteristic of IndyCar. This series’ alternative appeal has also attracted a few Formula One drivers over the years, notably including Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to single-seaters following his NASCAR stint. Former Manor/Marussia driver Alexander Rossi won the Indy 500 in a fuel mileage run last year, and was joined this year by full-time drivers Max Chilton and Sébastien Bourdais, as well as Takuma Sato. Bourdais notably started the season strongly with a win in St. Petersburg (Florida), followed by second place in Long Beach. However, his season was ended when a hefty accident in Saturday’s qualifying session left him requiring surgery for multiple pelvic fractures.
World Endurance Championship
Created in 2012, the WEC has established itself as the world’s premier endurance series, although there have been recent issues over field sizes. This year, only Toyota and Porsche are entering credible LMP1 cars (the less said about ByKolles, the better), while the LMP2 field can now only boast 10 cars. The previously larger grids and quantity of available drives have nonetheless made the series attractive to drivers wanting to compete in a high-performance series.
Two races into the season and with the highly-anticipated 24 Hours of Le Mans fast approaching, Toyota is currently leading with the all-reject team of Sébastien Buemi (him again), Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima having won both rounds in Silverstone and Spa. Also competing in LMP1 is three-time Le Mans winner and Caterham’s Francorchamps hero André Lotterer, while Toyota’s part-time third entry features jack-of-all-trades and erstwhile Minardi cameo Stéphane Sarrazin teamed up with countryman Nicolas Lapierre and defending Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto.
Jean-Éric Vergne and Lucas di Grassi join Buemi and Sarrazin as Formula E drivers also competing in WEC, driving for Manor in LMP2 and AF Corse in LMGTE Pro respectively, though di Grassi has yet to compete this season. The LMP2 field also features Bruno Senna competing for Vaillante Rebellion in a historically-charged entry with Nicolas Prost and GT veteran Julien Canal, and the LMGTE-Am Aston Martin Racing entry features the recently-profiled Pedro Lamy along with Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana. They are also joined by HRT and Lotus driver and Channel 4 commentator Karun Chandhok, driving in LMP2 for Tockwith Motorsport in select races.
WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
The series, better known as the IMSA GT Championship, is notable for containing the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, attracting numerous part-time drivers as well as the more regular GT crowd. As well as the likes of Giancarlo Fisichella and Christian Fittipaldi, Jan Magnussen (father of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen) is completing a full season in the series, now in his fourteenth year representing Corvette. With two class wins in the GT Le Mans category, he and teammate Antonio García are currently leading the class championship.
The marquee races in Daytona and Sebring also attracted other GT and endurance regulars, such as Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin and Bruno Senna in the Prototype class, Pedro Lamy in GT Daytona and Sébastien Bourdais, who won the GT Le Mans class of the Daytona 24 with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller. 2004 Minardi driver and teammate to this website’s favourite Hungarian Gianmaria Bruni has left behind a 10-year stint with Ferrari in GT racing, which led to two WEC titles in 2013 and 2014. He is set to begin driving for Porsche beginning in June this year.
European Le Mans Series
This championship, run by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, serves as a low-cost alternative to the WEC, and benefits from a healthy field over three categories filled with amateurs. Making a return to full-time competition this year is 60-year-old Dutchman Jan Lammers, competing for Racing Team Nederland alongside Frits van Eerd, the founder of (and driver in) the BOSS GP series for recent second-hand single-seaters. Van Eerd is a notable fan of Minardi, having recently organised a demonstration of many of the Italian team’s cars in Zandvoort. The pair, so far, has finished eleventh at the 4 Hours of Silverstone and tenth at the 4 Hours of Monza, both times out of 11 finishing teams in the LMP2 class.
Asian Le Mans Series
Consisting of events in the Far Eastern countries of China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia from October to January, ALMS can provide a way to keep up form over the off-season in a generally weaker field, and attracts a significant number of GT and prototype drivers. Monegasque GT specialist Olivier Beretta finished joint second in the GT standings in the 2016-17 edition by winning the GT class at Buriram, while the Sepang race was won by an Audi team featuring Minardi driver-cum-A1GP race winner Alex Yoong. Vitantonio Liuzzi also made a guest appearance at the Buriram round, where he finished seventh.
The Blancpain GT Series is the latest series to lay claim to being the premier Grand Touring championship in the world, and has the FIA backing to prove it. Stéphane Ratel’s acute marketing nous and the attractive mix of sprint and endurance races have led to an impressively large and talented racing field. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT notably features the all-reject pairing of Will Stevens and Markus Winkelhock in sprint events (though they’re split for endurance races), while Olivier Beretta competes in the endurance events for Spirit of Race (sic), an off-shoot of AF Corse, in the Pro-Am class. After a rocky start to the year, Stevens and Winkelhock scored a podium in the main sprint race at Brands Hatch, but the rejects remain otherwise scoreless thus far.
The Blancpain brand also operates the Blancpain GT Series Asia, operating on a restricted schedule and mostly with local drivers. This hasn’t stopped Team WRT from sending Will Stevens there to compete part-time with Taiwanese teammate Jeffrey Lee. He is joined in the field by full-time driver Alex Yoong, both driving Audi R8 LMSs, albeit for different teams. Both opened the season with minor points finishes in Sepang, though Yoong followed this with a podium at Buriram with teammate Alex Au.
Stéphane Ratel also runs the Intercontinental GT Challenge, encompassing races longer than the 3-hour and 1000km races of the Endurance Cup. This year, it includes the Bathurst 12 Hour, 24 Hours of Spa, California 8 Hours in Laguna Seca and Sepang 12 Hours. The series has a very changeable roster of drivers, but the entry list at Bathurst included familiar faces, such as Markus Winkelhock in an Audi, as well as Pedro Lamy and Mr. DTM Bernd Schneider in a Mercedes-Benz, joined by Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana. Czech driver and former Prost substitute Tomáš Enge drove a KTM in the GT4 class.
24 Hours of Le Mans
Yes, the longest event in the Triple Crown of motorsport is part of the World Endurance Championship, but the sheer quantity of one-off appearances ensures that it warrants its own section. Aside from the aforementioned WEC drivers, Le Mans attracts entries from IMSA, ELMS and Blancpain, resulting in the appearances of Jan Lammers in LMP2 (co-driving with van Eerd and Rubens Barrichello), Jan Magnussen and Sébastien Bourdais in LMGTE Pro and Olivier Beretta and Will Stevens in LMGTE Am. The race will take place on June 17-18.
International GT Open
Not to be confused with the Intercontinental GT Challenge, this series is a Europe-wide offshoot of the Spanish GT Championship and runs concurrent to the Euroformula Open Championship. A relatively minor championship, it is nonetheless graced by the presence of Vitantonio Liuzzi in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3. After the first two races, held in Estoril, he and teammate Hiroshi Hamaguchi are joint ninth in the standings. Tomáš Enge will also be competing in the upcoming round at Spa-Francorchamps.
This multi-class series acts as a loose collection of 12-and-24-hour races, of which very few teams enter more than one or two. None of the full-season competitors are F1 rejects, though this year’s cameo appearances have included Jean-Éric Vergne, Bernd Schneider, Tomáš Enge and 67-year-old Dutchman Michael Bleekemolen of RAM and ATS fame, driving a Seat Leon TCR.
ADAC GT Masters
As well as his Blancpain commitments, noted Formula One race leader Markus Winkelhock is competing in most rounds of the premier German GT series for BMW Mücke with Filip Salaquarda. Winkelhock only rarely performs well in the series, with five recorded podiums since 2011, and so far this year has scored 6 points in four races, a seventh place finish in Oschersleben.
It is not lost on the more erudite motorsport fan that there is a whole separate racing scene in Japan, comprising both GT racing and single-seaters. The former category is represented by the Super GT Series, which not only features works Toyota driver Kazuki Nakajima, partnered by former future USF1 driver James Rossiter, but also fan favourite and Super Aguri driver emeritus Yuji Ide, driving a Bentley Continental in the GT300 category. Nakajima has started the year with a fifth place and a race win in Autopolis, while Ide has had a rather subdued beginning to the season, finishing the first three rounds in 20th, 16th and 19th places respectively.
The top series of the Japanese open-wheel ladder, Super Formula (formerly known as Formula Nippon), has its fair share of recognisable names, with former F1 drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Narain Karthikeyan and Red Bull Junior Pierre Gasly all entered. The main contenders, though, are Kazuki Nakajima and André Lotterer, both previously series champions. Nakajima has started the season strongly with a victory in Suzuka, with Lotterer fifth, emulating the current dynamic between the two in WEC.
Super Taikyu Endurance Series
This championship features three-hour races and is considered an alternative to Super GT. It has a wider range of classes, including ST-TCR for touring cars corresponding to TCR regulations. Former Prost and Minardi driver Shinji Nakano competes in this category, driving a Honda Civic with Shinichi Ito and Shinichi Ebisawa. They are favourites for the ST-TCR title, having finished second and first in the first two rounds.
Audi R8 LMS Cup
Alex Yoong‘s partnership with Audi stems from his participation in this East Asia-based series dominated by Yoong since 2014. Although Alessio Picariello currently leads the standings after two races, Yoong remains a strong contender having won the second race, setting the stage for a thrilling championship battle between the Malaysian veteran and the young Belgian.
Stock Car Brasil
Considered to be the final resting place of many Brazilian racing drivers, Stock Car Brasil is the most highly rated Brazilian championship and can boast the presence of Rubens Barrichello. When it comes to rejects, the series can also count among its ranks former Jaguar and Williams driver Antônio Pizzonia, who was roundly criticised earlier this year for causing an accident with Lucas Foresti in Velopark. Pizzonia’s record in Stock Car Brasil is inconsistent at best, and aside from a second place scored in Santa Cruz, he has not recorded another top ten finish in the first six races.
The Argentine counterpart to Stock Car Brasil and celebrating its 80th year of existence this season, this championship is now host to Norberto Fontana and Gastón Mazzacane. Fontana is a former series champion, having won the title in 2006, but has had a difficult start to the year. He is only 29th in the standings, while Mazzacane’s better form puts him in a current seventh place.
A lesser-known rival to Turismo Carretera, Turismo Nacional also benefits from the presence of Norberto Fontana, who is dividing his time between the two series, as well as that of former Minardi prodigy Esteban Tuero, who finished tenth in the championship in 2016 but is yet to make an appearance in 2017. Fontana, with two participations in the series this year, is currently 33rd in the championship with six points to his name.
Some drivers have also decided to enjoy some less serious drives, racing in less competitive series or trying something more unconventional.
Karun Chandhok, evidently preferring to keep up his form with lower-stakes racing is now competing in LMP3 Cup UK, where he and teammate Steve Tandy opened the season with third and fourth places in Donington. The #7 T-Sport pair were sitting second in the championship before last weekend’s Brands Hatch round.
Mid-90s reject giant Andrea Montermini still competes part-time in the American SprintX GT Championship Series. Earlier this year, he won the first race driving a Ferrari 488 with Daniel Mancinelli against highly-rated GT drivers such as Jörg Bergmeister, Laurens Vanthoor and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Michael’s son).
Aside from his GT commitments, Jan Magnussen still finds time to drive in the Danish Thundersport Championship, a touring car series he won in 2012 and in which he has won 23 races since 2014. He won two of three heats in the opening round at Jyllandsringen, and will be competing in select races.
Another touring car specialist is BTCC, ETCC and WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini who, after the departure of Lada from WTCC, found himself without a race drive for 2017. Instead, he is now the lead test driver for Hyundai’s upcoming TCR programme, though he has not abandoned his search for a full-time race drive.
On an even more local level, Michael Bleekemolen, strong from an appearance at the 24 Hours of Dubai, is aiming to complete yet another season in Clio Cup, where he is entered in both the Benelux and Central Europe series. He has yet to compete in a race this year, though, and the date of his first entry of the season remains unclear.
Having made the transition from asphalt racing in 2013, Scott Speed is now in his fifth season in the Global RallyCross Championship, which he won in 2015 and 2016. The man who was, for a long time, the last American F1 driver started the season with victory at Memphis ahead of main rival Tanner Foust. Another podium in Louisville puts him in the current championship lead.
Completing the trifecta of driving in single-seaters, endurance racing and rallying is Stéphane Sarrazin. The Frenchman has been entering select World Rally Championship events since 2004, and this year, he duly finished ninth in the Tour de Corse, scoring two championship points in a Skoda Fabia.
Last but by all means not least, Franck Lagorce has diversified his business interests since retiring from full-time motorsport in 2003. The Frenchman, a former Ligier driver, now acts as a driving instructor, TV commentator, car reviewer, management consultant, urban marketer, events organiser, drone pilot and DJ, under the names DJ FL and MC Franck Lagorce. During the winter, Lagorce competes in the ice-racing Andros Trophy, notably alongside Olivier Panis. He finished fifth in the 2016-17 season after narrowly losing out to Jean-Baptiste Dubourg in the 2015-16 title race.
This article only included competitive motorsport. Of course, more F1 rejects remain active in other aspects of the automotive and business worlds. The vast world of historic racing has recently seen appearances from Paolo Barilla and Gianfranco Brancatelli, for instance. Yet more drivers are not currently racing, but may be returning in the future. Resident Twitter hero Giedo van der Garde is now a GP3 driver coach, and all-around hero Alex Zanardi has not announced racing plans for 2017, though he remains successful in hand-cycling and passionate about the sport. Expect him to get in a racing car again before the end of the year.
There is life after F1 after all.