It is quite rare these days for a driver to be sacked mid season, and indeed from a top team, as mid season changes are usually done by the smaller teams with decisions dpenedant on finances.
Red Bull have broken that trend by sacking Daniil Kvyat, but a cynical person could say it was merely a convenient piece of timing which allowed them a big enough excuse to bring in Max Verstappen before he is poached by Ferrari as was expected at the end of the season.
The series of events allowed us to look back at some of the previous sackings in Formula 1, and putting Kvyat’s Russian GP antics into perspective.
We’ve thought of six of the best that we can remember.
ANDREA de CESARIS – LIGIER 1985
Andrea de Cesaris from Italy, also known as Andrea De-Crasheris for a career full of incidents and accidents, had moved to the French Ligier team in 1984, and was in his second season with the team when he got frog marched. Whilst showing the immense speed that he no doubt had at his disposal, it was intertwined with events that he earned his unkind and unwanted nickname.
His team boss said when discussing Andrea’s dismissal not long after the Austrian GP – “I can no longer afford to employ this man” – pretty good reason really.
The final straw moment is conveniently pasted below.
PHILIPPE STREIFF – LIGIER 1985
Same team, same season, same result. Having disposed of Andrea de Cesaris, they hired Philippe Streiff to boost the all French Ligier-Renault with another French driver.
In his desperation to continue in the drive for 1986, the younger of the Gallic pilots made a clumsy attempt to overtake his team mate into the Adelaide F1 track’s hairpin. With so few cars in the field it looked like the French team had thrown away their 2nd and 3rd places and the huge haul of points. Thankfully Laffite in the second placed Ligier could continue, as did Streiff. On three wheels for over a lap. The tri-mendous effort was not enough to avoid the team owner’s wrath and exclude him from the future drive.
RENE ARNOUX – FERRARI 1985
Not a good year for drivers in 1985. The Frenchman, who had won GP’s with Ferrari and was close to a Championship with the Italian team in 1983, turned up for the opening race of 1985 and even finished fourth. But by the next race he was gone, by “mutual consent”, which usually means he got the arse but no one wants to admit it. Rumours of romantic involvement with someone he shouldn’t have, or substance abuse have been thrown around, but the term mysterious circumstances is the common reason given.
Coincidentally he ended up at Ligier from 1986 until his retirement in 1989, but no wins or podiums came, and he was lucky to score any points after 1986.
ALAIN PROST – FERRARI 1991
Another Frenchman at Ferrari given the boot.
Prost was harshly seen as a whinger in Formula 1, a reason that has cost him any real legendary status amongst Formula 1 pilots, despite his overall record being favourably compared to Ayrton Senna.
Fresh from a tangle with Senna to end the 1990 Championship, big things were expected from the 1991 Ferrari. It delivered very little and it was Prost’s first winless season since his debut season in 1980.
Maybe that disappointment could have had some accompanying constructive criticism, but Prost compared the car to a fire truck, and by the last race in Australia in 1990 Ferrari had enough and Alain Prost’s name was taken down from the garage, and he was told to go and get fire-trucked.
Last laugh for Prost who won another Championship with Williams, whilst Ferrari had to wait for Michael Schumacher in 2000 for another Champion.
IVAN CAPELLI – FERRARI 1992
Another Ferrari driver, but this one was more sad than in anger. The Italian was signed after several years of amazing feats with the Leyton House March team, but he was to cost Italians a chance to drive for the famous team again with as he endured what could be described as one of the worst seasons of all time in 1992. He scored 3 points with a 5th and 6th, and whilst that is worth much more in this era of generous allocations for point scoring, it was seen as a disaster. Especially when compared to the lesser experienced Jean Alesi who scored two podiums in the same car.
He was sacked with two races to go, so for the second straight year he missed Japan and Australia. The previous season he stepped aside to allow another driver have a go such was his generosity having already signed the Ferrari contract. Good people are not always rewarded.
MARCO APICELLA – JORDAN 1993
Whilst not technically a sacking, there was very constant moving of F1 drivers in the 1980’s and 1990’s, with it not being unheard of that teams would go through five or six drivers in a season. Usually depending on budget, some teams would bring in a driver for a handful of races, or in the case of Marco Apicella just one.
Coincidentally he was ultimately replacing Ivan Capelli who sought refuge at Jordan in 1993 after his sacking at Ferrari above.
What makes Apicella’s story the most intriguing of all the 50 + short term drivers of the last few decades? Well because his career is popularly referred to as the shortest career of all time. Given his chance at the Italian GP, he qualified 23rd and made his way to the first chicane a few hundreds metres down the road with the rest of the field. Unfortunately for him the first chicane was as far as he would get in this race, and ultimately his career as he was replaced the very next race. His career is measured in metres.