21 November 2013
Brazilian Grand Prix: Six of the Best: Bad Career Moves
With a lot of seats still up for grabs in 2014, Crash.net columnist Will Saunders takes a look at some dubious driver decisions in his latest 'Six of the Best' feature...
With the rumour mill at its most fervent as the season reaches its climax, and the driver roulette wheel of Formula One fortune still spinning as multiple racers scramble for coveted seats on the 2014 grid, Crash.net takes a look back at six memorably bad career moves which definitively proved that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Jean Alesi (Ferrari, 1991)
Very few F1 drivers have ever made a first impression quite like Jean Alesi. From his stunning 4th place on debut for Tyrrell at the 1989 French Grand Prix to his sensational duel for the lead with Ayrton Senna at Phoenix in 1990, Alesi was seemingly destined for superstardom from the moment he set foot in a Formula One car.
Alesi's hard-charging, heavy-drifting all-action style enthralled fans with its passing reminiscence to the maximum attack ethos of Gilles Villenueve, and Alesi coupled his heart in mouth driving with a notorious heart on sleeve Latin temperament.
At the end of the 1990 season, in which Alesi had regularly driven the Tyrrell to places it had no right to be in a performative sense, the young French-Sicilian received firm approaches from two leading teams: Williams and Ferrari, as well as an offer to stay with Tyrrell for 1991.
With Nigel Mansell moving from the Scuderia to Williams, Alesi's choice was between partnering the Englishman at the Didcot marque, or following the emotional pull of inheriting the spiritual legacy of Villeneuve at Ferrari, racing alongside three-time world champion Alain Prost.
Williams, who were gradually returning to competitive form after three fairly fallow years following the loss of Honda engines, saw their credentials for 1991 further bolstered by the recruitment of an innovative young designer by the name of Adrian Newey.
Ferrari, on the other hand, had competed for the 1990 championship to the penultimate round with Prost, and, spearheaded by one of Formula One's pre-eminent drivers, looked poised to challenge strongly again in 1991. Prost had won at least one race per season every year since 1981, so it was inconceivable that the Frenchman wouldn't be driving winning machinery.
Taking what seemed to be the logical choice for his head and his heart, Alesi signed for Ferrari. Little could he have known that the Scuderia were about to embark on a nearly four year winless streak, and that Prost would be fired by season's end for publicly lambasting the car as a 'truck'. Meanwhile Williams enjoyed a renaissance in 1991, and by the second half of the season were comfortably the fastest car on the grid as Mansell chased down Ayrton Senna for the World Championship.
In 1992, Ferrari would sink to a new low, Alesi scoring just 18 points in a dismal season while Williams produced the FW14B, one of the most dominant cars in Formula One history which saw Mansell cruise to the title in then record time and style. Alesi would only ever win one race, a tear-stained spiritual epiphany at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1995, but had he taken the plunge with Williams it surely would have been so, so many more.
Nelson Piquet (Lotus, 1988)
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